March 6, 2012
In 2000, I began working for a book publisher. At that time it was just two men in a tiny room like your grandma’s attic. They did the most amazing books, lavish tomes reminiscent of a time when publishers only printed in Italy, when books could be sold for $85 a pop without a blink. It was a time when artistry was matched by luxury, riding high on the wave of the late 90s. Money was in the air and it smelled like flowers and cigarettes, beautiful and addictive.
When I joined the company they tripled their output from 7 books a year to 20, like no sweat, now we got three people. I knew a little something; key word in that sentence: little. The year before I had been a secretary, all stilettos and pencil skirts and phone etiquette. My training as a receptionist paid off; well that and my knowledge of Sunset Boulevard; you can’t imagine how that impresses the right people.
But after a year as a secretary, there was no forward motion. And I had already gotten my boss fired, and the new guy, he was nervous. I was a revolutionary in Chanel lip gloss. I have always believed in infiltrating the system because I know how systems work. Better to be on the inside, fuckinn ishh up, than to be on the outside, knuckles sore from knocking on a door that won’t open up.
So yea, the job as a secretary wasn’t going anywhere, so I did one of my classic exits. Within the month I had a new job. I was working for this tiny publisher, the only girl. And it was there that I learned everything. It wasn’t just that I spent nearly a decade with them, it was that as soon as I got there, I had to jump in the deep end. Sink or swim. Aint no one gonn rescue me.
So me, what did I do?
I learned to swim. I learned to dive. I learned to hold my breath. I learned to survive. To thrive. To live. I had no idea what I was doing and I had no one to teach me. But that’s okay. I don’t do mentors. I have an intuitive resistance to hierarchy. I despise people who think they know better. Ohh, don’t even get me started on the politics of indoctrination in schools.
I learn through experience. And I learn through books. So it’s not totally ironic that before I became a writer I was a publisher. I learned the industry, from the inside out. I know all kindsa dirty secrets. I know where the bodies are buried. I know how it works. I have no illusions. But best of all, I know marketing. I know brand building. I made myself a brand before I had a product to sell.
Which is funny, because I don’t have an MBA. When, at three months, I was appointed Marketing Director, the only word I heard was: Director. Ohh that filled my ears with the dulcet tones of Power. For me, Director was Dictator spelled with different letters. Because apparently, not only should I not be anyone’s underling, but I should not be their boss either. (smile)
A couple of days after my appointment, I remember walking down 17 Street when this thought occurred: Mmmmmmarketing?
Didn’t know what it was. Had no knowledge whatsoever of business. Now, normal people, they might investigate. But not me. The thought of learning business filled me with a kind of horror, like I would become One of Them. A suit, with a noose around my neck. That’s what I see when I look at ties, all the better to kill yourself.
So I resisted hegemony. I chose not to educate myself through the obvious channels. Instead I decided to base my knowledge of selling on my love of buying. I am a consumer. I love to shop. I mean that with all my heart. I feel like a hunter. And I am very good at my job. I buy the best gifts. I give things on the regular. Because I am very American like this: You are what you own.
But that’s another essay for another time. Right about now, I got something else on my mind. I learned how to sell because I took down the wall between us and them. I sold to myself, because I always knew, I would buy these books if I could afford them. But I couldn’t—because I worked in publishing.
With the mindset that there is no Them, there is only Us, I approached the business of publishing with seeing myself in everyone. I wasn’t there to make money. I was there to be the change I wanted to see in the world. I discovered, to my great surprise, I was a populist (and not an elitist, as I had imagined). That revolutionary spirit came out. I wanted to knock down walls. I wanted to destroy the space between subject and audience. I wanted to take art off its pedestal. I wanted people to see themselves when they looked at art. Because I don’t believe in demographics. I believe in the universal spirit.
I know me. I fit in no box. I cannot be contained and I resist labels. What most people have said is, I have never met anyone like you. Which seems self-evident. I mean, there is only ever one of us. But I didn’t understand exactly what it felt like to meet someone for whom there is no point of reference until I met him. The man who has inspired my second book.
Yesterday, I dug up the file I began a month or two ago. I began it at the time I thought I would quit my novel. I began it as a way to let me off the hook. And I wrote for one day, and then I stopped. I could not forsake myself. I went back, I finished the novel. But now, I must let it sit. Because I have learned that rest is as much a part of growth as action is.
So I dug up the file, but I didn’t read it. I just started writing because it has been much too long. I had no idea how much I missed it. Writing, it is the air I breathe. It is the food I eat. It is like exercise, if I don’t do it, I feel the atrophy. I get restless, I get sick. There’s too much that has to come out. And no longer can I stop it.
So I wrote. And then I went out. And that was good. I got away from it. And I did something I haven’t done in a very long time, and that reconnected me to myself. And then, I went home, but before I went, I stopped off to pick up dinner, and as I waited for it, I read the file. I read the words I wrote last month. And it was a revelation. I barely remember writing them. So I read as though I was not the author, but a reader. And it was… so.damn.good. And I walked home, head held high, eyes to the sky, thanking God for allowing me the opportunity to live free.
February 29, 2012
Emotions flow like a fountain of champagne. Golden bubbles, bright and fun turn to tears of joy and sadness and love. It feels like PMS but it is not. It is the confluence of events, everything all at once. It is loss and gain and new beginnings and new endings. It is everything and nothing and confusing energies.
I have completed my first novel. Sweet relief. I have set the words on paper, though I am sure I shall continue to edit it. Refine. Polish. Straighten it out. Total OCD, that editing is. Can I make it tighter, so tight it springs like a drum cloth or a virgin or trampoline? Undoubtedly, I am a Virgo. This is my nature. For fun, I clean other people’s closets. Nothing makes me feel better than total feng shui.
It has been nine months. Exactly. My little baby has been born. This morning I sent the complete manuscript to the person who inspired me. To change everything. To let go. To release myself from everything that has ever held me down.
It’s funny, funny ha ha and funny strange, because I never really believed we would be cool again. I never thought that I could handle having him in my life, cause he knows, he saw me fall on my face, not once, not twice, but like every other month for a year. Tripping over my fantasies, missing what was real.
But what’s real is that he is here for me. Not just for this novel, but for the new one I am about to write. It’s not even a novel, it is a memoir. Killer Bitch Transformed by Unrequited Love.
But I am getting ahead of myself. I had a point. He said to me today that I would look back on the process of writing my first novel as one the more fulfilling times in my life. Perhaps. I don’t know. I’ve produced so many things it is hard to say that the act of creation is in and of itself fulfilling. I find it confusing, complicated, emotional. I find it challenging, triggering, difficult. I find it powerful, insightful, inspiring. But most of all, I find it completely humbling.
Because I don’t know what I am doing. I never do. I didn’t study any of this. I don’t have a mentor. I make it up as I go along. Jump in the deep end and swim. Or dog paddle. Or tread water. Or get it up my nose. I mean that’s okay, except the chlorine burns.
In the process of writing I discovered things. Like the fact that it is not me writing any of this. There are times when I write by hand in my journal, pen to plain white paper, always unlined. And as my pen moves across the paper I feel the distinct sensation that I am not writing, I am tracing the outline of words that are already there.
And that happens when I type. When I write these thoughts, more often than not, they are not even mine. They are told to me. They are in the ether. I just need to tap in and let them flow through me. Like I am a medium.
And sometimes I assert my will and I write what I want to write and the next thing you know
I find myself stuck until I delete thousands of words. It doesn’t even hurt though it is strangely disconcerting. Trimming the fat, it is what I love. But it takes a humble soul to let it all go. To cut and paste it into another document called Extra Close. To cull from that excerpts for this blog. Because, repurposing serves a greater purpose. This morning I looked at today’s Extra Close and I found exactly what I needed. Two short paragraphs to soften the impact of the ending.
But it’s not the writing nor the editing that has transformed my life. It is that word, that thing that is do or die.
I’ve always had it—for other people. I’ve given of myself in huge ways to my own detriment. I put others before me, at every opportunity. I built them up because I was a co-dependent freak show who believed, If I make him successful, he will never leave me.
Only I got that wrong. Every time. It got to the point that I finally met someone to break me of that nasty habit, that need to enable, to create dependency, to practice the pathologies I was taught. The man I met, he broke me of this and in doing so he gave me the greatest gift of all.
But now, ahh, he’s in the ether and I have to let go. To release myself from this need I have to keep him close. Cause… that’s a story for another time. But that’s part of the up and down of today’s vibe. I want him to know. I want to share this with him. I want so many things. None of which I can have.
Except this. This moment. This victory. This thing I did, it taught me the thing I needed most of all. Commitment to me.
February 24, 2012
My childhood is filled with images long gone. Images of pastels and sunsets and chiffon. Images of baby’s breath and flowers behind the ear, of flowing dresses and stacked heels. Of men in white suits and women in color, of dances that held hands, dips, and spins. Of romance, exciting and new. Of cruises and discos and fantasies, too.
Saturday Night Fever, Dance Fever, Solid Gold, The Love Boat, and, of course, Fantasy Island. These forever informed my aesthetic. Diana Vreeland may have never said these words but I attribute them to her because I imagine I read them in her memoirs. It was something to the effect that what we see in the first five years of our life forever defines our style and I was a child of the Seventies, loving every moment of it.
It was a time before crack, a time before AIDS, a time before computers, a time before all of this. Can it be that it was all so simple then? Perhaps because I was young. It was a time before the darkness and nightmares would come. It was a time when anything was possible, and so it was. And I, born to some great reward, knew all of this.
My earliest memories are of walking across our black and white tile kitchen floor with a dishrag draped around my neck like it was a mink stole. I walked up and down, back and forth. I bet I would have walked on tippy toe if I knew such a thing were possible.
Back then I didn’t watch TV. But I went to the movies and there I saw things that I believed were real. By the time I had a TV, I was convinced. There was no such thing as fiction. It was all reportage. And so it is that I watched shows like Fantasy Island believing in the possibility that dreams could come true, understanding at the same time that one had to be careful of what they wish for. For what we imagine in our hearts will heal our soul may actually be the thing to bring about our downfall.
I know this now, three decades later, but knowledge and fantasies are not bedfellows. I mediate between what I have learned and what I wish, finding the space in between them that is me—and no one else.
Heels were my life, until they were not. And then they were replaced with Nikes and Timbs. But in the past year, the heels have made a return, because no longer do I need to be on the run. No longer is comfort my priority. I have returned to my world, my fantasy. A world where there is no rush, nor hurry. There is only this day and what I want it to be.
And in this day, I have the ultimate luxury. I have time. All the time I need. And with this time, I take care to spend it wisely. I spend it on the things that make me feel happy. And one of those things is beauty. Beauty comes from within, and finds manifest outside. For how I appear is how I feel, and when I am in heels I feel on top of the world.
There is something about those extra four inches that changes everything. My energy comes alive, my body slows down. Walking is no longer a matter of getting from one place to another. It is simply a matter of being alive. For in each step I know exactly where I am. I am not lost in thought or fictions of the mind. I am here and now and radiating this immediacy that is so very intimate I notice the heads spin.
All of my life I have attracted attention. When I was young, and angry, I changed its energy. I made it a bad thing and everyone responded in kind. And even when they meant well, I threw up a wall and this made them angry, because they were denied. But as the wall has come down, I have allowed myself to connect. It is not my fault that they are interested. It is simply who I am, and how I be, and I know this. In a city of eight million, I draw notice.
And the heels, they change everything. They change my relationship to the ground, and to all that is upon it. And so it is with great pleasure that I introduce the spring 2012 Rocket Dog collection, inspired by one of the greatest shows of all time, Fantasy Island.
February 10, 2012
Here’s the thing about abuse. It doesn’t end. It rewires the brain in ways that I do not understand. Paths to healthy responses have been obliterated. Paths to self respect, self esteem, self love, all gone. The understanding of the value of the self, and its place in the world has been corrupted in ways that go far below the surface and to the center of it all. The expectations for what life should look like, for how people are supposed to behave, are as perverse and distorted as reflections in fun house mirrors. And here’s the most terrifying part: everything you do is setting you up to fail your heart’s only dream.
I have only ever had one birthday wish. It started when I was five. Five. I don’t even know what happened them, but I was already operating from loss. I was asking the Universe to grant me one thing, just one thing that would allow me to feel love. The last time I made that wish was the year a man hit me. Since then, I’ve asked for nothing on my birthday.
Today I had a vision of how I got to where I am. Seeds of hatred and humiliation and malevolence were sown into me. I was forced to watch those seedlings turn into saplings and taught how to tend them so that when they became trees I could do it all on my own. I no longer needed anyone to wash my brain for the work had been done. The ancestral curse is real, and I bear its legacy with deepest of regrets. My inheritance is a forest of dead trees. No leaves, no fruit, no carbon dioxide consumed, no oxygen produced. Just massive trunks and the deepest of roots, this is what I was given by those who chose to bring me into this world.
Two years ago, I began to chop down some trees. Exhausting work, believe you me. But I didn’t realize nothing would change unless I extracted the stumps, tearing them out of the earth by the root the burning it all in a pyre to purify the spirit of demons (i’m just sayinn). But that’s the grand finale. For now, I’m standing in front of barren fields littered with dead trees and stumps. The farther I go, the more committed I become, but the deeper I go, the more painful it is.
I am discovering things I do not understand. Like how I do not know what is real. And how I have no plans. About how I was miserable living my life as a lie, but without the delusions and denials, I have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. I have discovered how few people want to participate in this conversation, so it is a blessing that I have learned to write. Maybe it’s easier to read than to hear. Maybe it’s better to do more with less and be confident in that. It’s the Unamerican Way. And that’s my path.
So here I am with dead trees and empty land and sadness and disappointment and the ability to see all the mistakes I have made and the pain that comes as a result. But the pain is not just the pain of making a mistake, but the pain of knowing I knew the truth before I lied to myself. But here’s where it gets weird. The truth terrifies me. I have a visceral fear of retribution and that does terrible things to my soul. It makes it so that I do not trust or value myself.
………………..it is here that I begin, facing down my fears, walking through the fire time and time and time again until the forest is clear and the soil is ready for me to plant pure and healthy seeds for the life I deserve to live.
February 10, 2012
We were told to journey to the lower world where we would meet our spirit guide in animal form, and ask to be taken apart. So down I went, all the way down, until I encountered the tiger and so it began. As soon as I got the words off my lips, I saw the tiger lunge towards me with his jaws open wide. The fangs bit down into my neck, snapping it like a twig and within second I was headless, laughing at the intensity. It tickled in a way that I cannot explain. Like the tiger knew, the first order of business was Off with her head!
I watched as my head rolled down into a ravine and through the landscape. I wanted to turn back but the tiger insisted I focus on watching my head roll away. So I stood patient and watched as my head then slipped into a stream and I felt the tiger telling me, Watch. Look at your face. See how it is floating away.
The tiger would not let me turn back. I stood watching it go, until it was so far away, it was out of eyesight, and there was no more of my ego. Then I saw my body laying upon the ground, so peaceful in its headless state, I knew the tiger was an expert at his work. I held my breath as I watched the tiger lift a massive paw, then point a single claw. This claw was traced in a straight line down my chest and from this one scratch, my ribs opened up and out came my heart, like a Valentine, beating its wings like a butterfly. It flapped and fluttered and floated softly away. As I watched my heart soar free, I felt a sense of inner peace. All was wonderful, and I was at ease.
I looked at my body, now headless and split open, and I watched the tiger with a little bit of trepidation. What would be next? I did not know. The tiger circled me a couple of times until he settled himself at my waist, and lay down alongside me, remaining at alert. I knew he was finished, and I knew what he said, without uttering a single word.
Get rid of your ego.
Set your heart free.
Protect your body.
This is the path to liberty.
“Has anyone ever proposed to you?”
We are standing on the Brooklyn Bridge, which I like to think of as an extension of my inner space. I’ve walked that bridge so many times, I’m in countless tourist photographs. I have always been alone, walking back and forth, the music in my iPod blaring in my ears, the beat pounding through my feet, the rhythm swishing through my hips, the energy sparkling at my fingertips. As I walk, I think less and less, until my body becomes one with my mind, and pure feeling sweeps through me.
I walk the bridge in solitude. I am gone, empty of all self, a shadow passing across the earth, leaving no traces of my path. But now I am not alone and I am still. I am not walking, I am standing by the arch with a powerful man, looking at the sky as the sun sets. There are big splashes of orange and cream mingling in the darkening blue, and I am reminded of the cover of a book from my childhood. It was this same view, looking down the East River and into the Harbor, the vast sky open to the possibilities below.
The wind is blowing and my hair whips across my face, golden curls making a statement without saying a word. I do not disturb them. I let them dance. They are free, live wires that have yet to be spent. I feel myself retreat, as the answer to this question forms upon my lips. I want to spit it all out, the pride and the disappointment. I want to pretend it doesn’t hurt.
I don’t like this. I don’t know how to be this honest with anyone, including myself. I feel like a failure in a way I cannot explain. My chest is aching and my jaw feels tight. I have a horrible urge to walk away. But I stand still, looking at the creamy clouds as my hair runs wild. I finally answer, “No” without looking at him. I don’t want him to see my eyes.
“That’s because they can’t handle you. They’re pussies,” he says with a grin, unexpectedly getting my attention once again. I turn towards him slightly, vulnerable and amused. I don’t want to understand what what he is saying or why he brought this up. I have to change the subject. So I start rambling. About the government and contracts and laissez faire; I am reaching, stretching, desperate—anything to throw up a wall behind which I can hide.
I’ve been thinking about what I really want and what is going on, and I have been shocked to discover how much of my life has been a lie. I get that I had to do it to survive. i get that I have a visceral fear of retribution for speaking the truth, which is why I have to write. I get that the path to healing means reopening the wounds and washing them clean, sewing them back up and leaving them in peace. And I can do this, even though it is a path fraught with dark shadows and restless ghosts. Only I cannot do this alone, and that’s what makes this so challenging.
I never dreamed of marriage, of weddings, of any of that. I saw marriage as a trap, a net, a web in which I would be caught, ruled, dominated, controlled, until I was right back where I started, desperately trying to escape from hell.
I never saw the correlation between my horror of marriage and my interest in sociopaths. In derelicts. In dirtbags. In the homeless. The SSI beneficiaries. The empty drains strapped to my bank account. I found men who possessed all the proper qualities: entitlement, contempt, misogyny—and none of the pesky trappings of success. I was picking men I would never keep—men who were took everything they could, until one day, there would be nothing left to take.
And I did this because I was stuck. I wanted to resolve my problems by proxy. I was always trying to correct the copy because the original could not be changed. The other night I heard the words: A deadbeat. A stalker. An imaginary boyfriend. That says more about me that I can bare to hear.
I’ve gotten it so wrong, I no longer know what is right. I’ve lost trust. Not in men, but in myself. I don’t know what is real, and what is not. I don’t know how to be, because I have never been. I think things are “supposed to be” a certain way because I am conditioned to believe in fairy tales and myths. I should know better, but I don’t. I know less than nothing, I know the wrong things. I am so filled with misinformation, I could write a book about it. And I just might.
As I think about Form Follows Function, I come to a strange place. I’ve always thought I did a good job at defining myself as a woman based on my own desires, but it appears that I have been misguided. I’ve been defining myself not on my terms but in reaction to my environment. Much of my understanding of self has been a rejection of what has been forced upon me. And much of it has been muffled, the sounds of the lost hiding in shame.
I dream of who I might be, rather than who I have become. I dislike my discomfort, my fear, my desire, my need, my sadness, my confusion. I’d like to be someone else. Someone who didn’t feel so threatened. The deeper I go, the more courage is necessary to just be… myself.
February 8, 2012
I was an avowed atheist for the better part of my life. I was that arrogant kind of atheist who looked at believers as weak. I felt I was alone in the world, that death was the end, that there was nothing in the Universe that cared about me or had my back. But in hindsight I realized that was all a projection of my self image. The only one who had abandoned me was me. But I only came to this revelation after something that happened last June. One night feeling hurt and lost, I opened my heart ..
I mean God didn’t say Yup. He might not have said a word. But I knew He was there, so I kept talking. My first prayer.
Next day on the street, I was walking ..
You’re still here ?
That is sooo cool.
That was when I discovered faith. And the willingness to believe without proof forever changed me. A side note :: I don’t mean to say that God is a He or even that God’s name is God or if there are other Gods or not. I told my girl I found God. She said, Oh, you’re going to synagogue! You know I almost retched. I said, I found God, not religion.
Religion makes me nervous (as hell). Religion is man. Religion is like me with deadlines and schedules and rules and expectations and pressure and control issues and circular logic about why this is for “the greater good.” Yea, girl, if it’s so good, why does it feel so bad? Cause pain is a red flag telling us something is wrong with the beliefs that we hold.
Yet .. I dig community. And I think that’s why religion exists. Because we are a social animal, and we survive because we live in groups. There is a church I love. I used to go as an atheist for the choir and found the sermons to be wonderful. So I gave it a whirl and went a few months back and it was deep. The Rev said, “God is not Christian. He is bigger than that. but we come to him as Christians, because that’s how we know ourselves.”
(And some of us are none of the above.)
What you believe is a manifestation of your character. Some people vibe with many Gods because of something in their character that needs to connect to the vast network of power in the universe. And they don’t (want to) connect to a centralized power because it’s focused intensity makes you uncomfortable. Similarly, people who (want to) connect with centralized power need the absoluteness of One, because the vast panopoly of power makes them uncomfortable with the multiplicity that exists within themselves.
To me, energy is all the same thing. It’s just how we express it that makes us distinct from the next person. And in the process of distinction, we use words to distance ourselves from the original as a way to understand (which is a form of control) it. And once we use words, to label, to pray, we are moving ourselves away from the essence of the spirit, which, to me ..
Ahh, how dear. Here I am trying to find a way to verbalize the ineffable…
February 7, 2012
It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function. This is the law.
—Louis Sullivan, 1896
I’ve been thinking of form because I’ve gotten it wrong. Rather than looking at who I am, I decided to be who I imagined I was. And that got me places and it got me things. It got me trouble and it got me praise. But all told, it did not make me happy. And that’s because I didn’t function properly when I took on someone else’s form.
Someone once told me he took that path of least resistance and when I heard his words, something hit me (like a brick). Smashed across the skull was the only was I could jar myself loose from my fixed notions of This is how it is because that’s what I think, and my thoughts are my word, and my word is my law.
Only there is a higher law, one that precedes me every time. The law of the Universe, of Nature, of God. It is The Law of The Way Things Are No Matter What You Think They Are Or Want Them To Be. In this case, form ever follows function, and the best place to begin is to be aware of who you are, not who you wish you were.
I’ve always held that I am a writer, and the more I practice, the more assured I am that quitting my job in the middle of a recession to find my true self was the best thing I’ve ever done. Only, as a writer, I allowed myself to be brainwashed by the idea that some animals are more equal than others, because I wanted to be George Orwell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, Edith Wharton.
I held the novel in the greatest esteem, so way up there on a pedestal I was more likely than not never to engage in order to keep it the perfect dream. Because I didn’t want to fail. I didn’t want to let myself down. So I didn’t engage until I had nowhere else to run, no chance to hide anymore.
And I went for it. I put my heart and soul into the book. But it kept escaping me, evading me, making me feel incomplete because it was not meant to be. Undoubtedly, I could do it for doing’s sake. But it has taken me the better part of my life to let go of being an opportunist because no matter which way I tried to slice it, it was not an ethical thing. Doing for the sake of doing is a dangerous path.
Undoubtedly, telling anyone I know that I have decided to stop writing my novel will be met with all kinds of response. Though I hardly think anyone will stand up and cheer, Do You Right, Gurl!
Because we’ve been brainwashed to believe in the idea of completion, the handmaiden of opportunism. But I know that for me, growth can only come in learning how to walk away. To release. To let go. To find peace in the incomplete. To see that my success is not taking truth for failure, but finding my way out of the maze itself.
Because that’s what so much of this is, a maze, a trap. It’s the way that we deny our true nature, trying to please other people. Yes, that’s a weakness. My desire to please. Brought about by the fact that I never could make them happy. Because they are miserable people. But as a child I didn’t understand this. I so loved everything about life until I was taught not to.
In aiming to please others, I got something I never had. Love. Or at least I thought it was, but it was conditional. It was built upon my doing, rather than being. But I thought if I continued to do, the love would keep coming. And it did, until the price to pay got so high that I was forced to finally walk away.
And in walking away from the person I was not, I realized I had to find the person I was. And that’s what all of this has really been about—but how many New Yorkers could handle the concept of self discovery on its own terms. Must do. Must create. Must advance. Must produce. Must show. Must prove. Must tap dance.
Because once the veil is lifted, how can you relate? How long can you continue to pretend and deny and say everything is fine…
February 1, 2012
There were years where I barely ate. I liked to call myself anorexic lite, but I wasn’t suffering from body dysmorphic disorder. Sure I thought I was fat. What white girl does not? But I didn’t not eat because I thought I was fat. I didn’t eat because my life was spiraling out of control, imploding like a black hole.
I felt helpless. A mess. Anxious, stressed. That’s how I get, when I’m falling apart. My stomach shrinks into a tiny knot. I can’t be near food. Cannot bear the smell. My throat is dry. I can’t get anything down. And anything I would put inside wants to come back up. But I’m not bulimic. O well…
Instead, I run on cortisol, adrenalin, the hormones of stress. They are so powerful, I always forget. When they take over I am a slave to their demands. And they love to live. It becomes a cycle, the thoughts creating emotions releasing hormones creating thoughts releasing emotions… and so it goes.
The only positive side effect? I would shrink down to a size four. Not an American size four. That’s really a 10. But a European size 36. Ohmagosh, how glorious it was. Of course, it wasn’t cute. I wasn’t fit. I was flabby. But I didn’t care. I could wear anything I wanted and that’s all that mattered.
And so it was that I would keep myself underweight. That one benefit of anxiety made me happier than anything else in my life. But the truth was, it was no good. It made me sick. Not only my body but my soul became malnourished. I couldn’t process anything except negative thoughts. And that’s a vortex of pain. A never-ending spin cycle of demons and monsters. And to these ghouls I could only react. And overreact (tho bless your heart, don’t tell me that).
But all of this was simply a distraction from the facts. Things were bad, real bad, but I didn’t know how to deal with any of it. I couldn’t be honest with myself, and that’s where I failed. So instead of the truth, I surrounded myself with rationalizations (lies) for why I lived the way I did.
But mostly I avoided my life. And I did it the best way I knew how. I created drama and I played the scenes like Sarah Bernhardt. I also numbed myself. In drugs and drinks and shopping and sex. Then I found a job and I became a worlkaholic so I didn’t have to be alone with my thoughts.
I was smoking cigarettes for nourishment. It had gotten so that I was a hazy shade of faded. A pale imitation of myself. I channeled all of my energy into building walls around my heart—and then running head first into them.
The only thing that truly made me happy was the fact that I was thin. Skinny. Slim. And even though I didn’t have a true eating disorder, I understood what it was all about. Control. The only thing I could control was what I did—or did not—put in my mouth.
It’s the disease of affluence. The disease of repression. The disease of progress. The disease of liberation. It is the inability to be at ease in your own body unless it is sickly. And sickly is beautiful to the pathological mind.
Denial is my pleasure. Withholding is my power. To say NO is the ultimate form of control. I deny myself. I deny the world. NO was my favorite word for a very long time. It was the only power I had to shelter myself from the pathology in which I was raised. The only thing I could do was tune out, drop out, cut off. To engage was a danger of the first order.
And with my denial came a strange form of strength. It was the belief that I could control my destiny by negating everything in my path. “I know what I don’t want” was my mantra. But what I did want I was too scared to say. Truthfully, honestly? I open my red moleskin to Sunday, January 22, 2012. That’s when I finally was honest and spoke from my heart. I told myself exactly what I want out of life, and with that came a freedom from everything that has ever happened before.
Okay, that’s an overstatement. But in essence it is true. Knowing what I want has changed the way I look at the world. I could operate from a place of NO and continue along my path, only that never made me happy. A martyr, I am not (any longer).
Instead I am choosing to operate from a place of YES, which is very new. In fact, I never even thought this as an idea until I wrote those words (just now). YES, oh my, where will this lead? I have no idea but I feel good about my decision. Because finally, I trust me.
Funny thing is, I’m like a fish outta water over here. A fish that has decided it wants to grow legs. I’m feeling for that first guy who crawled on to land, that evolutionary pioneer who decided it’s time to take things to the next level. The revolutionary. The true spirit of the universe. The one who takes the risk so that all others may follow in his path.
I know how he feels. There’s a bit of this floppy mess. Sometimes I am scooting along, sometimes I am gasping for breath. But somehow I am fortunate to have met someone who cares. And in his light I have found the strength and courage to be kind to and patient with myself.
And for that, there are no words that could ever convey the gratitude in my heart. Though, you know, I’m gonna keep writing. Because writing keeps me together—or, at least, prevents me from falling apart.
To bring it full circle, I sit here with my stomach gurgling madly. It’s trying to digest a glass of water. Feed me, Seymour, it grunts insistently. Because, you see, the first thing to which I have committed in the Year of the Dragon is a juice cleanse, which is much more challenging than I had imagined. I thought, I could not eat, no problem. But apparently I cannot do that when I am happy and calm.
Not eating is the strangest thing. It has a power few things possess. And it has results that are unlike anything I have ever felt. Because I am getting nutrients, probably better quality nutrition than when I ate food. At the same time, hunger is real. And it is also an illusion. The body follows the mind. The mind follows the body. They’re actually the same thing. We just like to pretend they’re separate.
The first day of the cleanse reminded me of quitting smoking. I want to eat. Shut up. I want to eat. Shut up. Internal dialogue ad nauseum. Then the cravings came. It was bizarre. My mind and body were sending me these messages, acting like the juice cleanse was forever, and I’d never eat again. I started fantasizing about food. In ways I’ve never done before. I had to step quickly past the corner Chinese spot, as though that was a temptation. The heavenly smell of vegetable oil? The games my mind was playing.
To combat my cravings I put on my jeans. They fit a little too snuggly and that made me upset enough to commit. I’m a 26. I’ll be damned if I’m anything else. But today—on Day Four—the jeans fit perfectly. It makes me never want to go off this cleanse, but that might be a little extreme. Still, I wonder how long I can make it happen. I’m committed to a week. But perhaps I can go longer. Because today is the first day I’ve felt like myself for as long as I can remember.
I have that crazy energy, that whirlwind spinning. I will have to take myself for a walk just to burn some of it off. That and hit this juice spot. They’ve got Green Lemonade. I don’t think you understand just how happy that drink can make a person feel.
This cleanse detoxes. And that’s what I’m starting to feel. Thin is wonderful. It is motivation. But clean is real. Clean is freedom from all the lies. The misery that is self inflicted because we live in denial. And that’s part of why I don’t want this to end. I have the most incredible feeling of clarity. Of peace. Of energy. Of freedom. Which is not to say I am pure. Only that I am on a path that is liberating me from the person I’ve been.
Which I remind myself time and again when I dream of guacamole…
January 30, 2012
January 2010: Things fall apart. Everything is coming undone. It’s making me sick. Nervous. Afraid. I’ve taken to crying in the shower cause I think I won’t be heard.
I kept it moving. Ninety miles an hour on a gerbil wheel. I hadn’t stopped, not even when I lost everything. I take that back. I didn’t lose a thing. I sent it back. I walked away with my head held high, proud ass bitch.
But yea, I did lose something. I lost my way. I had gone off the path in 2007, but I was so burnt out it was all the same. I had been going through the motions. It had gotten so I no longer had to think. That’s not life. That’s death on two feet.
But those two feet, they didn’t stop until they couldn’t go on. Everything began to crumble and I couldn’t hold it together anymore. I didn’t want to break up during the holidays. I couldn’t deal with that. Instead we got a Christmas tree that withered before our very eyes.
It had been a long time coming, the break up to a relationship I held together with scotch tape. It had been over for nearly as long as it had been good. But I refused, literally refused, to deal with reality. And I’m good at that. Being single-minded and all. Ahh, single-minded, a euphemism for OCD get out my way, y’all.
January 2010: I finally broke. I was in the shower crying when I saw the gerbil. He was laying beside the wheel, which had come to a full stop. The gerbil had X’d out eyes, just like in cartoons. And as he lay there, near death, I saw his tiny paw firmly gripped the wheel. He couldn’t let go of the thing that was his demise. And it broke my heart to see what attachment to self destruction really means.
Not that that stopped me. That’s when I took up drinking. I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol for five years, though I can’t say that being sober did me any favors. I had begun drinking a glass of wine here and there throughout the autumn, but when the fall came I stepped my game up to hard liquor to numb everything.
I remember after one particularly gruesome scene, I slunk into the kitchen and stole back to the bedroom with a bottle of Jack Daniels. And I did shots straight outta the bottle, chest convulsing silently. I couldn’t cry freely. He couldn’t deal with it. Though I get it. Back then, I would fall apart like I was two years old.
So I choked on my sobs as I ran shots down my throat and this feeling of Janis swept over me, and I knew what that meant. I fell asleep to bad dreams and I awoke to tears and more shots. And I slunk back into the kitchen with the bottle, returning it like nothing ever happened.
I took up drinking. Martinis until he left. Then martinis after he left, until one night I felt cracked out. This wasn’t drunk. This was high. I had been in so much pain I couldn’t tell how bad the medicine was. Til I started to get better, then I switched to red wine. White wine. Rose. Didn’t matter. Just pour it. I was getting used to hangovers anyway.
It had gotten so drinking was the thing I organized in my life. Who would I see, where would we dine, two or three glasses was fine, four or five times a week. It got so the feeling of drunk was the best thing for me.
I was numb. I was happy. Because nothing mattered anymore. It was all just a bad joke. Or maybe it was a good joke. I was a fun drunk. Never angry or moody, just happy not to feel the misery of my life.
This went on for two years. I know this to be so because tonight I realized, I don’t go out drinking anymore. I don’t feel that need to erase, to obliterate, to forget what I stand before. I’m not scared of the past. Though yea, I get a lil nervous about the present. But not enough so that I need to remove myself from my life. Not so much so that I lose days of energy dispelled over long and lonely nights.
I thought about what this was. Where did the page turn? Back in December, some heavy ish went down. And it caught me out there, hard. I wrote about it, just to get it all out. Though I don’t really have any answers for what happened. Only the clear understanding that I have to let go of anything that hurts.
But it’s more than that. It is finding something I’ve always wanted but never understood. It’s the only thing that matters to me, the one thing I could never hold. Love. In the biggest possible sense. The force, the energy of life, the power to heal all wounds.
January 26, 2012
My Blackberry was on death row but I didn’t let that stop me. Though that little clock icon, I hate it. Tick tick tick like a time bomb. But I told myself, “This is a lesson in patience.” And also humility. Because all I was doing was taking notes, and really, that’s a little weird. To whip out my phone and write things down as though I were reporting on.. err… yeaa. But I am glad I did because otherwise alla it, I woulda have forgotten.
So here goes. Notes on San Francisco. Annotated, of course.
~ We’re driving through the park. I look up and we’re on Sunset Boulevard. Clearly we’re on the right path.
~ Behind the ropes at the Fraenkel Gallery with Darius Himes, thinking how incredibly chic it all is. And thinking of a story for La Lettre with the Director of Publications.
~ Jim tells me he always wanted a mistress so he could spoil her. I gotta tell you, he’d do a good job. It’s not just that he has great taste. It’s that he knows what a girl wants. Jewelry and perfume and photographs of herself. I literally wore out the Tiffany teardrops he gave me. They were simple. Nothing like the chandeliers and Christmas ornaments I usually rock. And don’t you know after our trip to the Piedmont, Jim topped himself off by pulling out a Gucci bag. Ain’t that some ish. Yea. Here’s where it’s hot. I’m cold, I’m rockin my Claw Money sweatshirt and the double Gs match the Claw perfectly. And it’s subtle enough to be understated, which is good cause all my accessories are magenta.
~ These people are cray. It’s raining. It’s 45 degrees. And they are swimming in the Bay. Running barefoot in the park. And me, I’ve got to stop making excuses for being lazy.
~ “San Francisco looks good in the rain. New York just looks dirty, like a homeless man getting hosed down.”
~ The Piedmont. Where do I start? The fan earrings. I never bought them before. I wasn’t ready. But I gave it a whirl. I went for magenta and black. But I couldn’t stop thinking about them. So I went back. For turquoise, silver, and lilac. And what do you know? They go perfectly with the flowers in my hair, and that’s a hard thing to match because… it’s starting to turn into a bouquet. A garden. Undoubtedly, I’m going to take it too far. Because I was thinking of birds for weeks, and then I get to the Piedmont and there they are. But not just birds. They also have bees. So now it’s flowers and birds and bees and me, going nowhere. I mean, maybe to the post office?
~ A couple of things I have learned. San Francisco is the land of outdoor earrings. And weed smokers. And people off their meds. “I’m going to have to give you a ticket,” a woman told me on Haight Street. Yep.
~ At the end of Haight, an egret landed on the roof with a spectacular view of everyone cruising up and down the avenue. It gave us the side eye, taking in the scene, as though it could easily swoop down and steal a muffin right out of my hands. I’m looking at it until we walk into Amoeba, and then I am talking to myself, out loud I mean, saying, “What does it mean?”
“It’s art,” a guy says to another guy. But he just answered my question…
~ new books: Letters to a Young Novelist by Mario Vargas Llosa, Poems by Rumi, The Tao Stories of Chuang Tsu, The Words by Jean-Paul Sartre, The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton, and The Touchstone by Edith Wharton. Shout outs to Dog Eared Books, Green Apple Books, Kinokuniya, Park Life, Upper Playground, and of course, The Phoenix Hotel.
~ and then there was the lilac sky as we drove to the airport. San Francisco giving me my send off. Thank you for all that you are.
January 26, 2012
San Francisco is my Hamptons. It’s my weekend getaway. It’s my idea of the country, which goes to show, the New Yorker is an odd breed.
I hadn’t been to SF since 2007. I got caught up in other things. So caught up I couldn’t bring myself to get away from it all, if only for a few days. That’s the thing about vacation. I don’t do it. I’ve never known how to stop. And now that I have, I’m just confused. So I stick to what I know, my trips to SF. But the end of an era has come, and for having lived it, I give thanks.
I’m a tourist. Unabashedly. Take me to LA and I want to go to Hollywood. Take me to SF and somehow we end up at Fisherman’s Wharf. Sure, I’ll say we need to go to Ghiradelli’s, but that’s just a front. I want an Alcatraz t-shirt. I do! But they don’t have the one I want.
Somehow, I am stuck to the idea that things don’t change, well, things change but merchandise remains the same. That the awesome t-shirt I found in 1995 will still be on sale. But stranger things have happened. So it’s worth the shot. Besides, Jim Jocoy and I have it down to an art.
We hit Amoeba and scored some CDs. Because the weather was gruesome so we did a lot of cruising on heated car seats. Listening to Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man, Curtis Mayfield’s Shaft, Bobby Womack’s Across 110 Street, and James Brown’s Black Caesar. And don’t you know the soundtracks scored—and underscored—everything about the trip? It seemed like wherever we were, the soundtrack set the mood perfectly, until even the traffic on the way to the airport was a moody, brooding, powerful—yet peaceful—experience.
I’d like to say I went to SF for New Year’s but I didn’t plan it like that. It just so happened that New Year’s was on Monday and I could enjoy that. Being in SF, I had distance from my life. It’s also that Jim and I have spent a decade doing trip in SF, and I could see how much life has changed from when we first began to where we’ve come. And somehow that was possible by visiting my old haunts and seeing them with fresh eyes.
And that travel though time also applies to my travels through space, and by looking at my life from three thousand miles away, I was given the gift of clarity and of the courage to be honest with myself. And I wrote in my journal exactly what I wanted. And it was strange, to speak from my heart. Because there were no strings, no expectations, no ulterior motives. Nothing but love and respect and trust.
So yeaa, I went to SF to get away, only to find myself. It’s the year of the Black Water Dragon, and that is a blessed thing. Dragons are power, strength, and good fortune. And though they are considered to be mythological beings, I believe they are real. Not real in the sense that we’re going to go find one and bring it back to a lab and cut it open and study it and classify it and say this is proof of truth. I don’t need that kind of empirical data to know what is in my heart.
Dragons are real. Jim is a dragon. And he didn’t even know. Or he forgot. Because things like this matter, and they don’t. But once I saw that, I realized exactly what it was.
To live a charmed life is a choice. It is a commitment to good vibes, a free heart, and an open mind. It is loving what you are given—for better or for worse. It is making the most of your talents, your experiences, and your circumstances—without compromising your integrity. It is having the strength of character to say I was wrong, and to right yourself without further adieu. It is grieving the loss then letting go. And into that void comes something so much greater, so exactly what you want and need and never knew. Because the Universe knows your heart and the only one holding you back is you.
January 18, 2012
I love books more than most anything else. Books are more than mere objects, they are repositories of soul. They are a wealth of knowledge, of expression, of creativity. A great book is one that you revisit time and again throughout your life, marveling at how much more can be gleaned from the latest read. Each time we visit, a deeper understanding occurs—of ideas, of style, of the larger world. The beauty is that the book has not changed, not one bit, but as we evolve, we can find something new, something powerful, something meaningful in it.
To me, that is what makes capital A, Art. The way in which the work expands our perceptions of the universe. Whatever our perspective, wherever we might be, a work of Art has the power to reach us, to provoke us, to teach us. And books, whether they are based in text or images, take us on a trip, a journey, of a spiritual dimension.
I’ve always worked in books. It’s where I am meant to be. And now, at the dawn of the new millennium I see the medium transforming before my very eyes. And once upon a time, I feared what was to come. Partially because I love the book as an object unto itself. Being a collector, I want to experience books as part of the physical world.
But the other reason I feared the adaptation to the digital world was because of a vision I had many years ago. This was around ’95, when I got America Online, and discovered the way in which the Internet worked. I didn’t spend a lot of time on the web. Having a modem was no fun. But I understood intuitively that we were entering the Digital Age.
I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t see the steps, but neither was I looking. The only thing I saw, that vision, was the very end, because I needed to know this. I had been working on my first novel, a thing that never came to pass. I had been having this need to write to create eternal life. I wanted my book to be This Thing. The thing that survived me. My child, I guess…
And that sort of pressure, that is immense. And I put it upon myself, or rather my ego did. But one day a thought occurred to me. The book would not give me eternal life because… it would be digitized. It was going to be digitized, like all expressions of humanity. All thought, all knowledge, all discovery. It would all exist, but only in a digital realm. And once day, it would all disappear. The End.
I saw it, in as much as it could be seen. I saw the brightly lit screen disappear in a moment. From light to darkness. And that was the end of that. Not the end of mankind, but the end of life as we knew it. Like the library at Alexandria, it would be destroyed and could never be replaced. The difference between now and then? We live in a global village.
This is not to be morbid. I don’t have a problem with this. It is the gentle reminder that all we are promised is today and nothing else. It is the way in which my ego has become unburdened by the need for eternal life. It is the way in which I can focus on what matters most at the present time. The novel I am writing now, this exists because it needs to be done. Yes, I would like to publish it, but that is not why I write. I write because I must. Same as I eat, breathe, sleep. I write because there is no other way to live.
Writing is one thing. Books are another. Writing is passion. Books are commerce. Having been a publisher, I am glad to know this. I have seen too many authors who didn’t understand the industry. They had expectations based on fantasy. Ohh and how those fantasies quickly turned into nightmares—I mean, reality.
I have no such delusions about what it means to be an author. It means I have a new job. I’m back in the world of sales and marketing, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part. Yea, I always thought that choosing a publisher was like choosing the man who was going to be the father of your child.
It’s a good thing I inadvertently went this route first. I learned what “I Do” means and what commitment is worth. Business is business. Art is art. And the best thing for everyone is to keep them apart. Otherwise you will find yourself with a broken heart.
Because… books, I love them more than most anything else. I buy them like mad. First and second hand. I go to other cities and I haunt their bookstores. I consume books like water, though these days I’m purifying my source. It’s funny how I can find a book but not be ready for it. Then years later it reappears and it becomes my everything.
I buy books all the time, but I cannot keep them. When I broke up with my ex, I made this vow: I would have no more than 100 books at any given time. That is because I had expanded my collection to somewhere around 500. And whenever I wanted to read a book, I got exhausted just looking for one. With too many options, I could not focus my mind.
The other thing I realized is that the books I love most are the ones I can read over and over again. The ones they will continue to inform my life. The A list is all I want. No A minuses, thanks.
Thing is, what I consider A list changes as I evolve. About a year ago, I wrote my top ten list for La Lettre de la Photographie. Since then, I have given away two of those books because my emotional connections have shifted and what I thought was a reflection of who I was, no longer is. Even the very book that helped me redefine my idea about how powerful a photography book should be no longer lived up to the criterion it set a few years ago.
The books I most love, the ones that I cannot let go, are those created by my friends, the people I love and admire most in this world. I have enjoyed these books for so long that they have become pictures and stories in the album of my life. I believe that the artist is always present in the work they create. Whether they are artists or writers, their perspective, their approach, their voice is distinctly theirs. All art is a self portrait or an autobiography of sorts, a small window into the eternal soul.
January 17, 2012
It was early 2000. Sometime in the spring. The phone rang and I answered it. “Hello, powerHouse,” I said. I used to be a receptionist, so I played my part. Besides, we only had one line. I was new and I realized the best way to find out what was going down was to pick up the phone. Find out who was talking to who.
A voice grizzled and growled on the other line. “Who’s this?” a man asked. Well, well now, I wasn’t expecting that.
“It’s Sara,” I said.
“Hello Sara,” the man said, now sweetness and light. “You’re new there. What are you, an intern?”
Aww hell no, I seethed to myself, full of pride. Ahem. “I am the Marketing Director,” I replied, though I really didn’t know what that meant at all.
“Just the person I want to speak to,” the man went on. “I am Nat Finkelstein. Author of The Factory Years.”
Yea, I knew who he was. I had written catalogue copy for his book. In fact, it was his book that I used for sample copy to request permission to write all entries for the catalogue. You see, I wanted to write. More than anything else. So on a Friday I asked, “Can I write the catalogue?” I was bold.
“Can you?” I was asked.
I considered that. “I’ll write an entry over the weekend and if you like it, I will do the rest.”
I was so excited. I can’t even tell you. It was my shot at the big time, to be the voice of the company. I looked at the list and I felt lost. Until I came across The Factory Years. Then I was home. I sat in my apartment and the first sentence came to me: New York City, the 1960s: Inside a ramshackle studio known as The Factory, the post-war art world encountered the industrial revolution.
I loved that line. That’s the kind of writer I wanted to be. I submitted the copy, and it had passed muster. I was given the assignment for writing all copy from there forward.
So it came to pass that the first author I had spoken to was the one who inspired me to go for what I wanted most. Ahh, Nat, he loved the ladies and he loved to talk. He could not or would not be stopped. He loved it so much he suggested we meet up. Sure, sounds great.
And so we met. I don’t remember what it is we did. All I remember was this one moment in a taxi cab. “So what was Warhol like,” I asked curiously, only to be met with a howl from hell that I did not expect.
“DON’T ASK ME ABOUT WARHOL!”
I know he said more but when his yelled, I went into shock. I didn’t understand at that time what I did wrong. But as I came to know Nat, as the years went by and we established a friendship that transcended the author/publisher vibe, I discovered that the issue was more complex. First, there was the way everyone had been feeding off The Factory.
It’s a strange thing, to have your life’s work defined by someone else’s success. I can imagine that for someone like Nat, there was absolutely no appeal—other than the cash—to that. Then there was the truth about The Factory, which Nat had written in the book, a dark place of vampirical energy, evidenced by the corpses it spit up. And lastly, there was Nat, his life so much greater than the time he spent with Warhol, though I always wondered about that—what was this Coney Island original doing in that vortex of gay males?
As I got to know Nat, I understood what it was. “You know why Warhol had you around?” I asked Nat one night, having that stoned revelation.
Nat looked at me with a mixture of doubt and curiosity, wanting to know what I would say, yet thinking, What the fuck is she talking about?
With the utmost confidence, I continued. “He had you around because you were that powerful, strong, heterosexual male energy. You were the straight guy, the No man, so to speak. You were the only one who would call him on his bullshit.”
Nat said nothing. I knew he liked this. Silence was agreement, that much I learned.
And so in honor of this, Nat’s 79th birthday, I want to send all of my love to the old man from the sea. There’s so much more I could say, ha, I could write a book. Nat is (I can’t say was, because even though he is dead, he is not gone) the real thing. He is strong, powerful, reliable. He is smart, funny, sensitive. He is deep, sophisticated, vulgar. He is the man I love. He is the man who taught me that life is for the fearless. He is the spirit that has taught me death is not the end but a new beginning. Nat Finkelstein is eternal. His magic lives forever.
oh yea, and you can thank Nat for the Fifteen Minutes line.
It was his.
Read the book and find out.