Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Who

A day of holding two truths at the same time. I spent the morning unpacking boxes of books and music. All my CDs that I haven’t listened to in 3 ½ years. Instruments I haven’t played in as long. A stereo system. The components of a life I used to live. I found very few things I wouldn’t like to live with now, and felt grateful to be taking these parts of my life back out of boxes. I alphabetized my CDs on my rack, and once they were all in order, I reached for the first one, the alpha CD, the music I’d like to be first back in my ears after all this time. It will come as little surprise to people who have known me a long time that that CD was ………………………………………………

Wait, do you want a moment to guess? ……………………………………………….

Yeah, you were right. Quadrophenia. (Which, BTW, is about to have a big screen run at BAM next week.)

There are men high up there fishing,
Haven't seen quite enough of the world,
I ain't seen a sign of my hero,
And I'm still diving down for pearls.
Let me flow into the ocean,
Let me get back to the sea.
Let me be stormy and let me be calm,
Let the tide in, and set me free.
I'm flowing under bridges,
Then flying through the sky,
I'm travelling down cold metal
Just a tear in baby's eye.
Let me flow into the ocean
Let me get back to the sea
Let me be stormy and let me be calm
Let the tide in, rush over me.
I am not the actor
This can't be the scene
But I am in the water,
As far as I can see...
I'm remembering distant memories
Recalling other names.
Rippling over canyons,
And boiling in the train.

Just wait til I unpack my vinyl. That first album will be …………………………………

Wait, do you want a moment to guess? ……………………………………………….

Yeah, you were right. The Who by Numbers.

Some people seem so obsessed with the morning
Get up early just to watch the sun rise
Some people like it more when there's fire in the sky
Worship the sun when it's high
Some people go for those sultry evenings
Sipping cocktails in the blue, red and grey
But I like every minute of the day

I like every second, so long as you are on my mind
Every moment has its special charm
It's all right when you're around, rain or shine
I know a crowd who only live after midnight
Their faces always seem so pale
And then there's friends of mine who must have sunlight
They say a suntan never fails
I know a man who works the night shift
He's lucky to get a job and some pay
And I like every minute of the day

I dig every second
I can laugh in the snow and rain
I get a buzz from being cold and wet
The pleasure seems to balance out the pain

And so you see that I'm completely crazy
I even shun the south of France
The people on the hill, they say I'm lazy
But when they sleep, I sing and dance
Some people have to have the sultry evenings
Cocktails in the blue, red and grey
But I like every minute of the day

I like every minute of the day

So after the pure me joy of listening to the greatest rock opera of all time, I packed up some stuff and joined Nina and Mickey who were already over helping Dana and Kathleen dig out from the flood. And as we sifted through soaked mucky silty clothes and papers and books and other ruined belongings, I realized that Dana and Kathleen were suffering a loss in direct relation to the delight of my morning. They would never again open a box of these items with the same sense of reunion that I had gotten to experience.

And my heart broke a little bit for them, and my heart filled a little bit for me, and I held both of those truths at once.

This week’s middah (mide) was, in fact, Truth: Say nothing unless you are sure it is 100% true.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Ariel texted to ask how I was, and I texted back to say I wanted to go out for a walk, and she texted back to say so did she, and then we were together in person instead on text and walked around for about 3 hours—it was quite safe and mild for most of the time, as the rains started to fall harder and winds started to blow harder, and we dropped in on one friend after another, and as we approached Heath's house, the neighbors were out dealing with a junk wood tree that had uprooted so we dug in and helped them break off and bag up the sucker branches and cut up and tie up the bigger branches until the job was done and we all shook hands and we went along our way. Along the way we stopped in a 99 cent store and bought 2 jigsaw puzzles for Robbie and Malcolm and then were heading to Abigail's when a giant branch cracked and fell 1/2 block ahead of us, and that's when Nina headed to her house and I stopped in on Abigail and then tucked warm and dry into mine.

But those hours wandering around the growing storm were joyful and beautiful and yielded a couple videos even.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Relax, just relax

It's odd to write a post about a calm Oakland morning while in the Brooklyn bluster of Hurricane Sandy, but that's where I was then, and this is where I am now, and here I go.

I stayed on East Coast time the whole time I was in Cali, which is to say the entire 44 hours. That meant that I went to bed early and woke up before it was light. The day I left, I woke up at 4:30, and I wrote and packed, and then I decided to go out for a run in the dark, quiet Oakland streets. Running doesn't tend to bring me pure joy because I first have to contend with sore knees and tight hips, but as I was running along, I suddenly had the realization that I could relax. Relax while running. I don't think I ever considered this before. And as I went along, I first relaxed my calves, and then my shoulders, and then my hips, and then my quads, and then my mid back, and literally just like being in some yoga relaxation class I went through my whole body WHILE RUNNING and it was amazing. I ran along like that until my lungs got too tight, and I tried to relax them, but that didn't go as well.

But while I was running, and smelling the eucalyptus and seeing the first light start to form in the sky, I had a deep sense of well-being, which I might also be a sense of joy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Redwood Regional Park

I woke up very early, on east coast time, but I had gone to sleep early too, on east coast time -- so I felt alert and full of energy and ready to run up to the hills. But first I had to call the airline to change my flight to avoid flying back into the hurricane, and that ended up being a 2-hour (but successful) endeavor, start to finish. When I got done, I almost stuck around the area I was staying in because I heard there is a phenomenal farmer's market, but then I remembered that I've been to many a phenomenal farmers market, and I have never been hiking in this park. So I drove up up up into the hills, and pulled into a damp parking lot at Redwood Regional Park.

As soon as I got out of the car, I was overcome with the memory of places like this from my time living on the West Coast. I think it's the combination of the morning chill and the saturated aroma of sage, madrona, eucalyptus, and oak. What a powerful sense memory, and an incredibly feeling of well-being.

I started to climb.

And climb.

And take deep breaths.

And climb.

And climb more.

And more deep breaths.

And with each step, the feeling of well-being deepened, until I heard a big sound. I turned around, expecting to see a person. But I saw nothing.

I kept climbing.

I started to see tracks like this.

Could it be a mountain lion?

Didn't I see something about mountain lions when I started out walking? Why didn't I pay attention to it? I wasn't even sure what you are supposed to do when you encounter a mountain lion.

I kept climing, and so did my anxiety.

I saw more tracks.

I wanted to keep going because I wanted to REACH THE TOP, because I am just a little bit goal oriented. I knew I wasn't too far, because I was getting closer and closer to the tree line, and also, the trail I was on was called Bort Meadow Trail, and I had not yet come upon a meadow. But I saw more tracks.

I kept climbing.

Finally, I saw some people coming down the trail—the first people I'd seen all morning—and I noticed that I felt some comfort in numbers, so I took a last look at the view, and I turned around and headed down.

Not that I couldn't encounter a mountain lion on the way down the trail, but if I did, at least there would be some people there to help do something about it.

Down was just as beautiful as up—more so maybe, because the sun was coming up over the trees, and throwing down beams of light on the path.

And of course it smelled just as glorious going down as it did going up. And the light kept streaming through.

And then about 1/2 hour later, I was back at the trail head, and read the sign I had only glanced at when I was just starting out.

I still didn't know if the tracks were from mountain lions, but I did learn that in case they were,  I did the right thing to stick close to the other people.

It was a beautiful hour in the woods, but more than the sights, and more than the feeling of climbing up up up up up, if I could bottle that fragrance and bring it back with me, I would. Does anyone make a perfume called chilled Redwood morning?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gluten free Oakland

I arrived in Oakland after 5 hours in a plane from NYC to Phoenix (where I was determined not to spend money that might support the anti-immigration forces) and then another 2 hours to Oakland. There was WiFi on the longer leg, and I did some enjoyable live blogging about the woman next to me who was reading Fifty Shades, and when the battery on my computer gave out, I re-read a book I loved the first time I read it: To the Wedding, by John Berger. I re-read the entire book in almost exactly the time it took to fly to Oakland -- putting it away in my bag, tears in my eyes, as we made the descent.

When I got to Oakland, I rented a car and I drove to Mich and Vered's house, with the goal of getting right out to Redwood Regional Park for a hike, with a plan to run up to Berkeley afterwards for hippie vegan dinner at Cafe Gratitude. What I wasn't counting on, however, was the fact that my iPhone was almost out of charge, so I wouldn't be able to get directions to any of these places. So instead, I drove over to Mariposa Bakery to pick up some dinner for later, and then brought my phone back to charge while I went out for a walk around the neighborhood.

As I was out walking, I thought some more about the elusiveness of joy, and why enjoyment—literally the embodiment of joy—is easier to grasp than joy itself. I enjoyed reading the book, but I didn't feel joy, because I was sitting cramped on a plane. I enjoyed the walk I was taking, but it was also kind of weird and suburban and I still don't really understand Oakland. It's wonderful to be out of New York, but I'm here for a sad occasion, and also Mich is out of town for her birthday.  I was thinking about all this as I walked up the hill back to Mich's house, and also, I was thinking, uncharacteristically, how much I would like a beer, and how great it would be if I could find a gluten-free beer. In fact, I had put some money in my pocket when I went out walking, in case I found a store with a beer, but I did not find a store with a beer. In fact, I did not find a store at all.

When I got back to Mich's house I popped my GF bagel in the toaster and put my little salad into a bowl that's related to the bowls I have at my house (Mich and I each grew up with Stonehenge dinnerware -- her with Wild Oat and I with Sun, and now we use these dishes as our every day dishes.) I opened the fridge to see if maybe there might be a GF beer, and there was—a New Planet 3R Raspberry Ale. As I sat down at her table,  I realized I was feeling a touch of actual joy -- in Mich's house, with her childhood dishes, with a GF bagel and a GF beer, and the chance to wake up early and go hiking.

Sometimes it turns on a dime. 

Friday, October 26, 2012


I can't write much because I have to pack for California, but in the middle of a full day of work I managed to carve out about 20 minutes to slip into the shvitz in the locker room at work. It was warm, it was relaxing, and it was a little annoying when women would open the door and hold it open too long before deciding if they were coming in or out (thus letting out the heat, and letting in a blast of chilly air.) But it was warm and it was relaxing, and I got a good sweat, and I did the yoga pose called "legs up the wall" which is reverses your lymphatic system and is supposed to be good for you.
As usual, it was certainly for me and me alone, but it didn't really approach the level of what I would call Joy. However, I am still not convinced though that Joy lies outside of me in these activities, and not within -- regardless of where I am and what I am doing. I'm hoping to discover the answer to that question over the course of this year.

(With apologies to people who read my blog during my Never Done year, when I spent tons more time writing up my posts.) 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Contact jugging


I spent an inordinate amount of my youth balancing things on other things. Often I was balancing my body on things, but sometimes I was balancing things on my body. My first trip to the emergency room was when I was rolling around the house on what can best be described as a giant toilet paper roll. Imagine a roll made of cardboard 2 inches thick, with a diameter of about 18 inches, and a length of about 36 inches. I used to stand on it and walk around the house, as if I was log rolling. I did it for hours at a time -- just as I walked on stilts and rode a unicycle and jumped on a pogo stick for hours on end. Then one day it slipped out from under me, as it was bound to do eventually, and my foot went through a glass window pane, and I ended up with a few stitches. Still, I climbed back on the cardboard roller.

Later I learned to juggle, which I find to be incredibly fun and focusing, but I never tried contact juggling. Watching this video, I was surprised I never tried. So of course, out came the tennis balls and I spent an hour trying to master some contact juggling tricks. It'll be a while before I release my own YouTube video, but I completely enjoyed myself.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shadow post

When I wrote the Never Done year blog, when there was something too private to write about publicly, I wrote a shadow post. Yesterday's significant joy-me time is not for the public eye, but I can attest that I took a long walk slash short run in the morning before work in a most perfect Fall morning down tree-lined, sun-strewn streets. In fact I walked/ran down to the Newkirk Avenue post office, and I put my absentee ballot in the mail, which was not only for me, but for the entire count—although I'm sure that my ballot did not bring joy to approximately 49% of the country.

Meanwhile, my private thing brought me great joy and will hopefully manifest into more.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

File that under Hammocks

It's been a while since I've taken a step back and given a little perspective on how this practice is going for me. It's nothing short of transformative. In a few short weeks, I've come to understand the value of not only having a break during the day that is just for me, but also a longer break of at least 1/2 day at some point during the week. I'm also starting to get it how restorative time during the day and week connect to needing even longer breaks for vacation at some point in the year.

Maybe it's a little like getting addicted to a drug—as your body starts to get some, it starts to want some more. (Maybe there's a more positive analogy I could draw.) But the point is, for someone who is set to Go, without much Ready or Set, let alone Stop, it's important to start building the new neural pathways that allow me to slow down and restore—and that allow me to expect to slow down and restore. (To that end, I'm going to star taking those fantasies about a snorkeling vacation more seriously.) 

I did a couple things just for my own selfish joy yesterday. I watched an episode of My So Called Life and took a bath in the morning. (Not at the same time.) I came home early and went for a walk in the neighborhood, and met a bunch of my neighbors hanging out outside together. That made me realize how nice it would be to be home in the late afternoons/early evenings—when the kids are out building go-Karts and learning to ride bikes. I went through some files, and found one called Hammocks.

I feel like that just about sums up the reality of and my aspirations for my life. I have a file called Hammocks, but I don't have a place to put a hammock. I'll get right on that.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The rehearsal room

I had to get to work by 10:30 AM in order to do something quite small yet vital, and then I didn't really need to be there til a little before 2. I had plenty of work I could do in those hours, but I wanted to try to find something to do that would take me out and away on the beautiful day.

The thing is, what was going on at work was too interesting to leave. We had three exceptionally good actors —Jeffrey DeMunn, Geneva Carr, and John Horton—and extremely talented playwright and director—Deb Margolin and Mark Brokaw—and they were rehearsing for a couple hours before the public presentation (which I thought was going to be up on its feet, but which turned out to be a reading.) The level of discussion about the play, the stakes, the characters and their inner conflicts was engaged at the highest level, and I realized that I didn't really want to be anywhere else other than
in the room with these folks, remembering what brought me to New York in the first place, and how infrequently I actually get to create theater any more.

As it turned out, there's a fair amount of Yiddish in the play, and I was able to do Yiddish pronunciation coaching with DeMunn and Horton (it took much better with the former than the latter) which was an unexpected and delightful contribution to be able to provide. I also had a good talk with DeMunn on a break about finding the stakes in the play. All this was enough to remind me why I came to New York in the first place, and frankly, how far I've drifted from the work I love.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hands in dirt

I've been wanting to get to my garden for at least a week, and when I woke up it was an incredibly beautiful day, and I didn't have to leave for work til 4 PM, so I went across the street with my gardening box, and went to town. I pulled the plants that had done their time. I picked, I mulched the garlic, and I did a general Fall clean up. I mean, it's a pretty small garden so none of this took too long, but it yielded big: two bags of kale, a bag of collards, a bag of arugula. October 20, and I was out gardening in shorts and a tank top. (I also passed a milestone in my relationship with my excellent neighbor, who grew up in the warm climes of Jamaica, when I got to make fun of him for wearing long pants, boots, sweater, jacket, and hat in the 70 degree weather. He told me everyone makes fun of him for this.)

So much more I could say about this time with the plants, being alone with hands in dirt, the quality of the enjoyment I get from growing my own food, and more. But I've decided that I shouldn't spend so much time writing up these posts when I am in the middle of a work jag that it compromises how much sleep I get—let alone how much time I get for enjoyment of life. So trust me, it was restorative on many levels. And I had a green lunch.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Our offices close at 4 PM on Fridays, but I had a 9 PM event. I had lots to take care of, as evidenced by the boxes, cookies, seltzer, wine, check request forms, programs, etc strewn around my desk area. And what did I do? I went to see Argo. I got back with plenty of time to put together the 9 PM event, and I stayed at work til almost 11 PM, but in the middle there, in a break from the rain, I walked down to Lincoln Center and slipped into a late afternoon movie.

I LOVE going to the movies alone. It's truly personal time -- just me and the story unfolding (and the man next to me who talked to the screen and the man on the other side whose wife on the other side of him is so allergic to apples that when I took a bite of my apple in the middle of the show, he asked me to put it away.) Like I said, just me and the story unfolding, in the late of the afternoon, when I could have stayed at my desk, but I (and I am proud of this) realized I had another choice.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Knitty City

When I applied for my job, the person interviewing me asked me if I was good at running a program, from soup to nuts. I remember she gave the example that while I'd be working with artists at a creative and personal level, I'd also be shlepping the seltzer and wine (and cups and napkins) and making the online room booking reservations. I said I was good at that, and that I in fact preferred it to sitting at a desk all day long. And I wasn't lying.

I'm in the middle of my social justice Jewish performance festival, which means I'm in production mode, which means there's a lot of working with artists at a creative and personal level at the same time as I'm shlepping seltzer (literally -- from Trader Joe's because the online order didn't arrive on time) and much has been going beautifully, and also there has been a truly funny comedy of errors. So when the office printer jammed for the 8th time in 5 days, and I needed to make color copies for that evening, I decided to just take them out to Kinko's. Which is one of the good things about doing everything in my job -- because it was beautiful outside, and I wouldn't have necessarily otherwise gone out in the middle of the day.

I had a lot on my plate, but I was also going to be working very late, and I realized that this was my moment to take some Happy time for myself. I didn't know what or where, but I knew when -- it had to be then. So I cast my eye about for opportunities, and started thinking about how when you're looking for joy, your observation takes on a different sheen -- almost like an addict looking for a fix, or to put it more positively, an optimist looking for something good to happen. And then it happened. I walked past Knitty City, and I got that little feeling I've been getting lately when I know I found my time, and I walked in.

At first I just looked at yarn, without a goal other than to enjoy the yarns. I felt the Angoras, I squeezed the silks, I got a sense of how the store is laid out, I shook the buttons, and eventually I wandered over to the patterns. For me, the patterns are the like the warning track: watch out ... you might get involved in a project here. The yarns are all so beautiful and overwhelming that I can just look at them and take in their mass splendor, but the patterns are Things To Make, and get my mind clicking. I haven't been knitting lately, but I used to be a wonderful knitter. I used to make sweaters and ponchos and skirts and all sorts of things. I've never been a mitten or sock maker, but rather big things with cool patterns. But I don't have time to do big things with cool patterns right now -- unless I want to shlep them on the subway, and I don't. So I homed in on fingerless gloves, and then I zoomed out on fingerless gloves slash arm warmers. And I found some with lace patterns and I found some with intricate cables and I found some with all the things that used to attract me as a knitter, but then I found a simple ribbed design, two colors, cuffed over the elbow. Love at first sight.

And THEN I got to go back to the yarns and look at them with purpose. And I do love looking at yarns with purpose. I wanted soft soft soft. Angora soft. But Angora wasn't right for these, so I went to the Alpaca, and chose a dark smoky blue and dark smoky gray in a sport weight. (A project! A project! I have a new project!)

All that in the middle of a production day! (It's good to take breaks in the middle of the work day. It's good to take breaks in the middle of the work day. It's good to take breaks in the middle of the work day.) Sustains you for what's to come! And it DID come later, and I was ready for it with equanimity and humor.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Paper by paper, reconnecting with my self

For the first time in 3 1/2 years I got a peek inside some of my files that have been in storage. Now, you might ask why I need them if I've lived fine without them for that long - but have I been fine? What I got to look at so far are my incomplete creative projects. Plays, screenplays, musicals—and all the hard copy research and notes on drafts. I've been saying for some time now that my life has been on hold, and reacquainting myself with my projects was like reacquainting myself with myself. I'm looking forward to spending more time with myself. 

Also, I feel like there should be a joke here about binders. But I promised myself this was going to be a quick and dirty post, and I wasn't even going to worry about writing it well. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

WIth apologies to Yankees fans

I'd like to apologize in advance to my friends who are Yankees fans. And I don't mean that snarkily or gloatingly. I actually mean it with heart. Because at the end of another long day, when I had finally finished work and finished my phone calls and finished eating dinner and finished cleaning up from dinner and then it was time for the debates and I hadn't taken time just for pure selfish joy, I realized I could record the debate and watch it later on tape delay, and instead watch the Tigers tromp the Yankees. And this made me happy. And this is what I did.

There is very little that calms my soul and clears my mind like watching some baseball, unless the Yankees are involved, which usually means that it agitates my soul and fills my mind with all sorts of wasted grief. In fact, I can't say that I have ever in my life had the opportunity to watch the Yankees with such a high level of confidence that it would not be a stressful experience for me.

So I settled into my comfy chair, and tuned in around the third inning when it was still 0-0, and watched as the Tigers climbed to 1-0, and then to 2-0, and I just smiled. By then I started feeling some pressure to be in synch with the rest of the country watching the debates, so I switched over and watched it on tape delay while reading people's Facebook updates, which was hilarious -- knowing Romney was going to say something about binders full of women and green cards stapled to diplomas before it happened, but having no idea what that could possibly mean. Now, just because it was hilarious does not mean I enjoyed it or it felt like it was all for me. In fact, it was great to feel the difference between watching the ball game and watching the debate. I kept getting up. I needed a snack, I needed to pee, I needed to stretch, I needed to go file something. What I really needed was to get away from the tension of the argument and my sketchy feelings about one of the candidates. And in feeling the contrast, I got to feel how comforting it had been to just sit back and watch a predetermined game play out.

PS, I want to go on public record and say I take NO joy in Jeter being injured.
PPS, I switched back to the end of the ballgame after the debate and got to see the Tigers win. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

There's nothing like re-reading a great book.  I mean, you already read it so you already know you like it.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Much of the book describes the coping mechanisms of someone who probably has autism. One of his coping mechanisms is to do math in his head so he won't feel overstimulated in public places. One of my coping mechanisms not to get overstimulated in public places (ie, subway) is to read. So I was on the subway, trying not to get overstimulated, reading a book about someone who does math to not get overstimulated. Oooh, meta.

But also, the book is good enough that it took me beyond coping with the city, and into the realm of losing myself in a great character. I found it in a box I opened up that was labeled Jenny General Fiction. The first thing I saw in there was the beautiful edition of The Brothers Karamazov that my mother gave me for my last birthday she was alive for. Wikipedia tells me that it's about the ethical debates of God, Free Will, and Morality. I wouldn't know, because I haven't read it yet. The Brothers -- along with most of my good reading materials -- have been packed away for years. Unpacking boxes of books is full of incredible treasure and comfort and memory. Also, it's full of whatever it is to find a daunting Russian novel from my deceased mother. (Dauntingness? Daunt?) So I looked at the the Brothers, and I got daunted, and I reached for something smaller and more paperback, and I came up with the Curious Incident.

And I sat right down on the rug and started to read. No, I started to re-read. I re-met Christopher, and I re-met his father, and I re-met his wonderful teacher Siobhan, and I recalled that he hates yellow, and that he heats up his strawberry milkshakes, and that he does complicated maths in his head, and that a good day is when he sees four red cars in a row on the way to school, and a bad day is when he sees three red cars in a row, and a very bad day is when he sees four yellow cars in a row, in which case he doesn't talk to anyone, eat any food, or take any risks all day long. When a school psychologist (Mr. Jeavons) points out that this is not logical, Christopher responds:
I said that some people who worked in an office came out of their house in the morning and saw that the sun was shining and it made them feel happy, or they saw that it was raining and it made them feel sad, but the only difference was the weather and if they worked in an office the weather didn't have anything to do with whether they had a good day or a bad day. Mr. Jeavons said that I was a very clever boy. 
May we all see four red cars in a row today on our way to wherever we are going.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I started the day with a walk in the rain

I woke up. It looked like this out my window:

I got dressed and got Pamela and Tetley (the best dog ever) and we went out for a walk. It looked like this: 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My home town

I love my home town. No, I really love my home town. Winding roads, acres of conservation land, apple orchards, extreme religious movements; it's got it all.

I woke up with too much to do. Unpack, unpack, unpack -- first of all. But also, phone calls and work and gardening and house cleaning and writing and all that life maintenance stuff we have to squeeze into the weekends. So when I found out that Karen and Claire (and Andy and Katie) were together in Massachusetts, I started to plot my escape from New York.

Turns out it didn't take much more than suggesting a rendez-vous to go apple picking in Harvard. And so Josh and I woke up and hit the road. The drive from New York is stressful stressful stressful annoying annoying annoying stressful annoying glimmer of hope nice patch of birch trees wish I was there already getting closer I love it around here breathe deep this is my territory here I am home home home home home.

The stress at the start is worth it because I know how great it's going to be when I get there. I guess that's what's great about being a person instead of, say, a dog, who doesn't know what's at the end of the rainbow. This trip was different from most because I didn't plan it at all, and I didn't tell anyone who actually lives in my town that I was coming. I just got in the car and drove -- radio playing, northward bound.  As we got closer we started homing in on a plan: Karen, Andy, Katie, Josh and I would meet at crazy Phil's, state cider champ, to pick up some unpasteurized cider. Phil only had a little cider left (it was a very tough year for apples) so he was limiting how much cider people could buy at a time. We got three 1/2 gallons (bound for my freezer) and headed over to Doe's Orchard to pick apples.

When you grow up in an apple town, you don't actually go apple picking at the big orchards. Instead, you have some trees and your friends have small orchards, and you end up with plenty of apples. It wasn't until I moved away that I ever went back and went picking at the big orchards -- Carlson, Westward, Doe. The thing about the big orchards is that they almost make you feel like a tourist, but also -- they are vast and beautiful. Rows and rows and acres and acres of trees bearing Empire, Rome, Cortland, Macoun, and other varieties I don't think of as real apples, but who am I to judge if someone likes a Red Delicious?

We got some bags, and we headed in to the orchard, and all those doubts I've had about whether or not I can find joy were far far from my mind, because I was in my deepest place with my deepest people -- elbow deep in apple trees, laughing and tasting and (ssshhhh) sometimes climbing.

After a while Claire showed up with her daughter Camille and her friend Nora, and everything good about the day so far got even better. More bags, more apples, more trees to climb. Camille said she felt like skipping through the orchard, and we were off. When we got to the bottom of the hill, we had found the Empires, way down in a corner we hadn't explored.

And the day got even better from there. We walked in Holy Hill -- conservation land that I adore. The leaves were turning some, but mostly they were crunchy under our shoes, and the light coming through the woods was just perfectly Fall. I even got to see my sister for about 10 minutes, when she came over to meet us for a bit before we headed out to get some dinner in a nearby town.

After dinner, Josh and I still didn't know if we were going to stay up in Harvard or drive back to NY. He has a gig in the Bronx on Sunday afternoon, so we have to get back pretty early. But we thought we'd see if our good friends wanted overnight guests. We also thought we'd see a movie. We also thought we'd drive home. We had called our friends earlier in the day, but they weren't home. With nothing to tether us, we decided that it felt so good to be home that we'd just trust it, and stay the night -- even if we had to end up in a motel somewhere. We were just about to go to a movie (Argo) when our friends called and told us to come on over.

So we headed back to Harvard through the back roads of Berlin, and on our way, the sky started to flash. At first I thought it was the start of an electrical storm, but then as we came over the crest of a hill, we saw it: a full fireworks display, in the middle of nowhere, for as far as we could tell, no reason. Just a beautiful Fall night in Central Massachusetts.

I know this post is reading more like a diary entry than an essay, and I'm not making deep connections to mussar middot (this week we are on Patience: Do not aggravate a situation with wasted grief) or to much of anything, actually. I think what's happening is that I'm just relaxed and happy to be here, drawing joy and comfort from the beauty of the home I grew up in. And for today, that's enough.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pearls of Wisdom

And then this: I found myself in joy in the middle of work. Well, at the end of work. 8:30 PM, Friday night, shabbes dinner slash performance as part of my new social justice Jewish performance festival  listening to Juliette Holmes tell a story about the first time her (African American) parents voted, in the face of repeated attempts by others to suppress of their vote. Sitting with 50 other people who all wept at the same moment when she brought the story home: at the age of 93, her mother voted for the first African American president of the United States. Thinking about how every single one of us has dozens of stories that could matter to every single other one of us, if the stories were well-crafted, and if we were truly open to hearing each others’ stories. Happy to look around and be with the community in the room. People I’ve known for years from one place, and for years from another. People I’ve been getting to know since I started at the JCC, and people I was meeting for the first time. Wondering what our stories are, the people in the room together. Hoping that one day everyone there gets a chance to tell. 

Friday, October 12, 2012


It's dawning on me that this new practice is more pressure than the Never Done project was, because I didn't have to enjoy all the new things I was doing—I just needed to have never done them before. It's sobering to discover how few things actually bring me joy, and how hard it is to work one of them into a day. I have discovered that something might bring me joy (reading a great novel) but not if I'm reading it on a crowded subway. Still, I do read great novels on crowded subways, because it makes the crowded subway ride better, but it doesn't bring it up to the level of joy. So then that means that the whole point of the practice is to get away from the crowded subways (and my desk and other responsibilities) long enough to do something in a place that I do enjoy.

I didn't do a great job of it yesterday, but here's what I did do. I had a bunch of postcards for my new social justice Jewish performance festival I needed to bring around to synagogues, but also had a lot of work to do at my desk, so I kept putting it off, which really means I kept doing other work that also needed to get done. Then something very frustrating happened, and I decided to go take those cards around. The first drop was successful, but the second (and as it turned out, third and fourth) turned out to be unnecessary. Someone else had already done it, but hadn't told me.

As I was went along 67th Street, I was thinking if there was a way to turn this work walk into a pure selfish joy walk. I went past Lincoln Center, and saw an ad for their behind-the-scenes series of Broadway-bound musicals, and remembered that I have been meaning, for literally 5 years, to subscribe to Encores! at City Center. I stopped by the box office to subscribe about a month ago, and they told me I had to call—but then I got too busy with moving and the rest of life to do it. But the poster reminded me, and so I picked up the phone and called while I walked.

The end of the story is that I finally got my own tickets to a series that always makes me happy. I love love love love love love love old musicals, and there are tons of them I don't know, and I love love love love love love it that Encores! puts forgotten shows back up on stage. I mean, I didn't even know there was a Superman musical! Most of the time when I go to see an Encores! production, I am shocked that I recognize so many songs, when I didn't think I knew anything about the show. It's surprising how many wonderful songs come from forgotten musicals.

So the end of the story is that I finally got my own tickets to a series that always makes me happy. Getting there wasn't so sweet. The guy on the phone made it a point to tell me that 1) there are people who have been subscribing for 30 years who have better seats than I will, and 2) they will have seniority over me when they want to get new seats, and 3) it's good that I'm subscribing now because in 30 years, I might have a chance to get a slightly better seat.  Oh, New York. Only you can suck while being great, and talk about how much you suck while being great, and simultaneously try to convince people that if they just stick around 30 more years, and if they're lucky, you might not suck quite so much. But we put up with you because you're so great, right? I mean, you're really so great! I mean, you keep telling us how great you are, so you must be SO GREAT!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My So Called Life

I've always been a person who needs some time to myself in the morning. I haven't always been a person who gets time to myself in the morning, but I like to let the static come into focus before having to interact with other people. My mother was the same way. My predominant memory of mornings in my house growing up were of my mother coming into the kitchen to get coffee and sneaking back out, hoping nobody spoke to her. Before we were old enough to get our own breakfasts before school, my dad used to make us cheese toasts (cheese on bread, melted—and often burned—under the broiler.) When my dad was traveling and my mom was on duty, he breakfasts might have been better, but not the conversation.

So I turned into my mother. (Although I'm not a coffee drinker.)

If I'm the first one up, I sneak around hoping nobody will see me til I can get into a room by myself. I sometimes like to read in the mornings, and I sometimes like to write, and I sometimes like to stretch, or watch an episode of something. If I lived alone, I'd probably like to cook or hula hoop or play music or go outside and garden, but that might mean running into someone, so I tend to take my morning time sequestered.

But on mornings that I do get time alone, I don't always get time for pure selfish joy. I said I like to write or stretch or watch something, but I often end up paying bills or catching up on email or putting away clothes I dumped on the floor the night before, and the night before that, and the night before that.

After I finished The Wire, I wanted to start something new and different. I think it's because Homeland is back on that I got inspired to go watch My So Called Life, which I never watched in its short-lived life, and I've never seen since. One of the most talk-about, oft-references shows of all times, and I had never seen more than a clip. So on my first day back to work after yet another Jewish holiday, I woke up extra early and I watched the pilot. I met Angela, and Rayanne, and Ricky, and Jordan. I actually remember hearing about Ricky and Jordan back when it was on and my young friends watched it, so I almost felt like shaking their hands and saying it was a pleasure to finally meet them. The show's dated, but young Claire Danes is fantastic, and I got to snuggle under the covers on what turned into a very long and relentless day once I got out of bed, and lose myself in TV for an hour.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

50 of the World's Last Great Places

So I don't want to be a total downer, and I certainly don't want to be a NYC-hater, but I feel like I've lost track of half the goal of this practice since I got back to New York. It's been incredibly meaningful, useful, and illuminating to take time every day to do something just for myself, but I'm not so sure I've felt any joy since coming back to the city. I'm not positive I haven't, but I'm not sure I have. I'm clear that taking the time for pure selfish joy has been better than the alternative—to do nothing for myself—or to not even try to find joy.

I've also noticed that this project makes for a much duller blog than the first one did. It doesn't leapfrog so easily to other of my life experiences, and it doesn't lend itself so easily to explore the mussar mides (middot)—although I'm not convinced it won't eventually do those things. 

And with these thoughts streaming around my head, I sought something for the day. Even though it was supposed to be a day off, I had a 10AM meeting, and a bunch of work I had to squeeze in throughout the afternoon. I also had therapy in the city, errands to run in Brooklyn, and the last of the address change administrative work from my move. I had hoped to go apple picking or something fun and outdoors, but most of the day turned into a work and busy work day. Also, it was super chilly in the apartment (and out) so I was doing all this in a hat, scarf, and gloves (inside and out) which didn't add to a sense of relaxed well-being.

And so when I saw the National Geographic on the newsstand—50 of the World's Last Great Places—with a photo of the Rock Islands of Palau on the cover, I bought the magazine on impulse. Experience pristine locations! Discover unforgettable landscapes! Explore unspoiled environments!

I spent the next 45 minutes flipping through the pages, drawn in most deeply to places with green waters and high cliffs, and also to the Northern climes with rust-colored forests and massive glaciers.
I thought about the last Big Trip I took, when I cashed in all my inherited (from my mom) AmEx miles and went to France and Sweden (green waters! high cliffs!) I thought about the places in the world I've never been. All of Asia except Sri Lanka, all of Africa, Australia, all of South America except Argentina, most of Central America except Mexico and Honduras, all of Eastern Europe, much of Western Europe .... so many places I've never been, fewer that I have. And I thought about what it means to me to be able to understand the world by seeing it. I thought about my friends who travel a ton, and I thought about my friends who rarely or never travel -- either by choice or by lack of access. And I thought about Humility -- this week's mide, which asks us to seek wisdom from everyone, and I thought about how useful I find it whenever I leave the US, to seek the wisdom of the rest of the world. Even just being exposed to the rest of the world is humbling, let alone actually getting a chance to learn from people.

Now that I'm writing this, I also question the entire paradigm of the magazine, because among the places I know nothing about but look spectacular on their pages, they include the Florida Keys, which I wouldn't exactly call pristine and unspoiled. So then, what's Palau really like? What about the fiords of New Zealand? But while I was immersed in it, I was just letting myself be transported away from NYC, and into these beautiful aquamarine places. Maybe I can find joy in NYC after all ... when I'm dreaming of leaving for someplace that looks like this:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's sometimes hard to tell

It's not hard to do things for myself in a day, but it is sometimes hard to do things that bring joy.

Like, for example, I had another Jewish holiday off, and I finished unpacking the kitchen, and I finished unpacking my bedroom, and I took a walk with a friend and I made dozens of change-address calls, and I paid bills, and I even went to simkhas toyre in Grand Army Plaza with a bunch of Brooklyn synagogues all participating together, and the whole point of simkhas toyre is to be joyous. I was absolutely glad I was there, and I was glad I was there with my friends, and I even danced with the toyre for a little while, but I don't think I was actually there just for myself, and I think I have too much of a troubled relationship with religion to have it be an uncomplicated experience of pure, selfish joy.

So maybe part of this practice is going to be about peeling away complicated relationships, so I can  experience joy more easily. Maybe if I could calm down the voices in my head that question and critique, I'd become happier. Maybe a way to calm down questioning and critiquing voices in my head is to keep experiencing joy.

And maybe part of this practice will be exploring why I sometimes feel like it counts more as an experience that's all for myself if I am choosing it over something else I am obligated to do, or if it's up against what other people want to do.

And maybe another part of this practice, like was the case in the Never Done practice, will be noticing that I don't always have to go out and create an experience, but that I can discover that something I've happened upon is actually for my own pure, selfish enjoyment.

Like watching this Lego video of The Wire (which you should only watch if you don't mind learning things that happen in all five seasons) which Logan sent me when she found out I had finished the series, and which made me late to simkhas toyre, and which I thoroughly enjoyed watching.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Stay at home Sunday

I came up against one the hardest things I tend to come up against. I got three excellent social invitations throughout the day -- some were made well in advance, and some came up as the day went on, and all of them were with people I would have loved to spend time with -- and I really needed to stay home. I also got a phone call from a friend I love, but it came when I was in the middle of writing something for work, and so I had to let it go to voicemail.

Now, when I say I "needed to stay at home," it's with an emphasis on the word I, and not the word need. Which is also to say that I realized I needed some time to myself. Sure, I had to do some more apartment unpacking, and sure I wanted to cook for the week (granola, greens gratin, potatoes from the garden) and sure I had to do some work for the JCC, but mostly I was able to notice that I needed some time to myself -- resting, reading, taking a long hot bath. Just time without moving, without working, and most importantly -- without being responsive to other people, even people I love being responsive to.

I'm hoping it's a turning point that I'm able to notice I need this. I'm hoping that I start to notice that I need regenerative time to myself every week, or every day, and that I develop some kind of healthy meditation habit or something. But most of all, I'm grateful that I'm slowing down enough every day to notice that the old yapping voices are quieting, and that it's good to be alone with myself every now and then.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I ordered the dandielion greens

I've been hearing about Tanoreen, a wonderful Palestinian restaurant in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, for years and for one reason or another procrastinating going there. Then, last Spring I saw an Amazon Local coupon for $40 towards food and drinks at Tanoreen, and I snatched it up. And then I let it sit in my inbox for 6 months until it was the last weekend before it would expire.

My friends will confirm that I'm not a procrastinator when it comes to work and other obligations.  I'm not even a slip-under-the-deadliner. I'm not a need-to-ask-againer. I'm an ahead planner, early-deadliner, do-the-hard-thing-firster.

And so why do I put off doing the things I want to do? Why do I let Groupons and Groupon-like coupons almost (and sometimes actually) expire? Why did I have to pay to upgrade my hot air balloon Groupon to a permanent reservation so it wouldn't expire when I failed to use it during my Never Done year? Why have I still never been to Block Island? Why haven't I been running since I went back to work? Why did it take me ten years of living in NYC before I planted a garden? Etc.

Of course I'm hoping that this year of selfish enjoyment will kick the shit out of this pattern of mine -- and that I'll act on my desires more quickly and assertively than my track record would indicate I might. And so, as you have guessed, with the Tanoreen coupon expiring Sunday night, I called and made a reservation for Saturday night. I invited some friends I haven't seen in a while, and some friends I spend time with more often. One said yes right away, some said no right away, a couple could come but not til too late in the evening. So in the end, it was me, Josh, and Bobby -- which turned out to be just perfect.

We arrived at the restaurant and were led to a beautiful corner table, and here's where the part comes that I want to write about. There were three of us; I'd never been out to dinner with one of them; and I knew exactly which side dishes I wanted: a sauteed dandelion dish and a roasted cauliflower dish with tahini and pomegranate sauce. I was happy to be flexible about the other dishes, but I knew I wanted these. What I'm proud to say is that I didn't equivocate. I didn't say something like, "What sides would you guys like?" or "I'd like to try these, but if there's something else you'd like, I'm open."

Instead, I just sat down and told them that I was ordering these two dishes for the table. And you know what? It felt great. I didn't really care if they didn't want them -- I could make a meal out of cauliflower and dandelions, and it would have been fine with me if they would have ordered other side dishes. And I didn't really care if I seemed pushy -- I was the one who knew about the restaurant, bought the coupon, and invited them both. But as it turned out, they were both delighted with the choice, and when it arrived, with the exquisite flavors. And as it turned out, although the rest of the food we chose was wonderful -- especially the baby squashes stuffed with lamb and rice -- nothing was as sublime as the cauliflower and dandelions. Except maybe the mint lemonade with rosewater.

This gets me thinking about the differences between being clear and decisive vs being controlling and needy. I wasn't raised to be very good at knowing or stating my needs, and now I'm the kind of person who tends to get awkward and sort of defensive when I try. I'm also the kind of person who equivocates on what is a need. I don't really need that, because I can actually get along without it. I more want it. But it's OK if I don't get what I want because it's important for everyone to get what they want. And still, it's much easier for me to define something I want (cauliflower) rather than something I need (dinner?) I'm getting a little lost in this paragraph, but I know I'm trying to say something about how it's actually good for my friends and family and co-workers -- in addition to it being good for me me -- for me to now myself, know my needs, know what I want, and be able to say it clearly. It appears to have been good for the table at Tanoreen.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Be happy and rejoice

I think it's fair to say that I wouldn't take the subway to hang out in the Bronx after work when I have an early morning the next day if I didn't either really have to be there or really want to be there. Suffice it to say, I really wanted to be there—there being a yiddish zingeray (singalong) in some friends' sukke up on Bainbridge Avenue. I think it's probably about the 10th year that I've been there—there getting more and more comfortable over the years. It's been an awkward place for me to be over the years. First, I had barely ever heard of, let alone been in a sukke before. Second, the crowd is fluent and native Yiddish speaking, and even though I understand most everything, I don't speak at the same level as most of the folks there. I used to try and feel awkward. Now I speak Yiddish when I'm comfortable, and English or French (depending on who's there) when it's more comfortable. And over the years I've grown more comfortable asking things I don't know or understand, and so this time for the first time I was comfortable enough that I asked a friend how (and why) to shake the esrog and lulav, and when it got passed around, I shook them for the first time. (Shehekhianu.)

Anyhow, this won't be a long post, because I got home late and I got up early, but in the morning, when I was in the sukke on the roof of the JCC for a staff breakfast, I learned that we have three obligations on sukkes: 1) to dwell in the sukke
2) to wave the four species which make up the esrog and the lulav, and
3) to be happy and rejoice

So by the time I was on my way to the Bronx at night, I got to think about what it means to have an obligation to be happy and rejoice. I mean, you can theoretically obligate someone to rejoice, but can you obligate someone to be happy? For the purposes of my pure, selfish enjoyment project, I decided I needed to be happy and rejoice because I want to, and not because the Jewish religion and/or culture obligates me to. And so, of my own free will, I rode the D train north, to friends, food, singing, and much rejoicing.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The joy of life and the duty of life

One of the things that's going to be different about this year's practice than the Never Done year's practice is that it is going to turn out to be cumulative, which by definition the Never Done project couldn't be. In my first week of pure selfish enjoyment I've taken a beautiful walk, taken a bath while listening to Springsteen, gone to a party, had dinner with friends, watched the Wire, and listened to WNYC. And noticing I enjoy those things, I've taken more beautiful walks and more baths, listened to more Springsteen and more radio, watched more Wire episodes, and had more dinner with friends. And so it seems that in my first week of my new practice, I am already expanding my life enjoyment exponentially.

And then it was my first day back to work. I started the day stretching and writing, and I packed a lunch, and I got to the train on time, and I got to work on time, and one of my favorite co-workers returned to work from maternity leave, and I had 750 emails to catch up on and lots of urgent things to respond to and before I knew it, it was 1:30 PM and I hadn't gotten up from my desk and I hadn't eaten that lunch I'd packed. I went outside, just to see what would happen. I figured I could find something to do on a 30-minute break that might bring me selfish joy. I headed toward Central Park, still unclear on a plan, and on the way I remembered that there's an exhibit the Natural History Museum that I've been wanting to see. It's all about bioluminescent creatures.  I remember the first time I saw bioluminescence. It was 1986, and I was picking up credits to graduate college by taking a summer course in Ecological Agriculture at Evergreen State College in Olympia Washington. A friend took me down to the Puget Sound at night, and I have never doubted the planet's ability to wow me since.

I knew I couldn't stay long at the museum, but I also knew how delightful it would be to slip into an exhibit about bioluminescence for even 20 minutes. But when I got to the admission counter, I discovered it cost $25 to get in, and I only had $20 in my pocket. I showed the guy my $20, and he shrugged. I told him I only had $20, and he told me entrance wasn't based on donation. I even tried again -- and asked if he'd let me in for $20. It wasn't going to happen. So I walked away, and I looked up, and I remembered how much I love the Roosevelt quotes engraved high onto the walls of the entry room. I decided to take some time with each of the quotes, and really let them sink in. Usually I focus on the quotes about children and nature, but this time the one that spoke to me loudest was about being a human in this world.

I'll type it here as he said it, but maybe when you read the words MAN and HE and HIS you could translate that into something that makes room for everyone. Also, the punctuation is as engraved:


The joy of life and the duty of life. Intertwined. I'm going to try to remember that. And I'm going to go back to the museum as soon as I can, with $25 in my pocket.  Well, maybe $30. Shake Shack is on the way.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


It was my last day of vacation slash Jewish holidays before going back to work, and I had a bare minimum bar of moved-in-ness that I wanted to reach before I had to put on my Upper West Side work clothes vs. my moving into a new apartment work clothes.  I also wanted to christen the kitchen (greens gratin, enchilada casserole, mixed berry right side up cake) and I also wanted to break down the cardboard boxes that were cluttering the living room. It was the first day in many that I wasn't lifting a ton of heavy boxes, and I think I felt more weary for having slowed down than for keeping going.

I unpacked a box that I had labeled Ancestral Radio -- intrigued, but unsure what I meant 2 years ago when I wrote that. Turns out it was my mom's Sony boom box radio/CD player that used to play in the background in her big open kitchen/living room.  I plugged it in, turned it on, and it was already tuned to WNYC. I can't remember where I used it (I've stayed in 5 places in the two years since leaving Hoboken) but clearly I have already tuned in to local public radio. I left it on all day. BBC World Service, Brian Lehrer Show, Leonard Lopate, Fresh Air, The Takeaway, All Things Considered. I wasn't always in the same room with these shows, because I was working all over the house, but when I would dip in and join them, it brought me an incredible sense of home-being. I LOVE radio. With the exception of Jonathan Schwartz, I even love bad radio. Radio feels like company like TV can't. Radio can draw you completely in or can float to the background. Radio can be private or shared. Radio was all mine, all day.

(Hard to believe I've lived for so long without something I love so much.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I watched The Wire first thing in the morning

I know this will change once I go back to work – I still have one day off for the sukkes holiday – but for now, doing something every day that is for my own selfish enjoyment is just so easy. With the hours yawning out in front of me – with plenty to do, but also plenty of time to get it done – I woke up, made a cup of tea, sat in my favorite chair that’s been in storage for 2 years, and watched the season 5 premiere of the Wire. By 8 AM, I was in a new Wire world (MILD SPOILER ALERT) ……………………………………………………………………………………………................... the Baltimore Sun City Desk.

I grew up in a newspaper family. Not a city paper, but a weekly rural paper. What the daily people do, well, daily – my mother and her colleagues did weekly. My mother was the editor, and also wrote everything from features to obituaries to news stories. Wednesday nights were late nights when I was growing up; before computers they’d often be at work til at least midnight. If he was home, my dad made our dinner. Sometimes my mom came home to eat and then went back write headlines, do final edits, and stick stories on the layout boards. I loved her work, and know it laid the groundwork for me to become a writer. In fact, my first writing job was as a sports stringer for a Worcester paper – covering high school soccer and basketball.

I never thought about it before, but the first year I wrote the Never Done blog was the first time I’d ever had a daily public writing deadline, and now that I’m doing it again, I feel the same mixture of pressure, responsibility, exhilaration, and by-any-means-necessary – to get the story out every day, no matter what. And it turns out that I love this work too.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I ate dinner with Pam, Robbie, and Malcolm

Pam, my across-the-street-neighbor, called in the morning to ask if I would like her to bring us dinner. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I can’t remember a time I hesitated less before saying yes to a dinner offer. I have been waiting a year to be neighbors with these guys, and I didn’t even know the deal came with lasagna, salad, lemonade, beer, and chocolate. (I could have guessed though. Pam has a habit of offering the shirt off her back. She lent me her bike for the triathlon and the entire training season.) 

When evening came, I cleared off the table and put down a tablecloth – a domestic oasis in the midst of boxes and paper and tape and bubble wrap – and when we set the table with all the food, I suddenly felt like I live in the neighborhood. I’m still pinching myself. After 14 months of waiting, I really live here, with these giant rooms and light streaming in the windows and a dishwasher and a giant closet and broken screens and lots of stairs and no silverware drawer and fig trees out back and my garden across the street in the back of my across-the-street-neighbors’ yard. 

The lesson for me here is that I don’t always have to create my own experiences of pure selfish enjoyment – they can be a gift, and my only job is to accept them. 

(I also think my job is to offer these gifts to others, and I hope to stay good at doing that for my friends and family, but a few days into a year of finding that space for myself, I am happy to focus on the lesson Pam brought over for dinner.)