"Dear Prudence" by Amanda Grieme

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dear Mother Fate ...Artist

4/24 - Artist
Dear Mother Fate -

You are most certainly a woman, fate. I refer to you as a mother figure because men are such linear thinkers; you couldn’t possibly be masculine. You are way too multifaceted to be male. I picture you as a beautiful, spider-like woman with long, flowing hair, an ageless face, wide, soulful eyes, and an intelligence that is almost tangible. After all, you are the artist who weaves this most remarkable web called life. I picture you as an apprentice to spirit, discussing a creation whether it be animal or human, and choosing the fabrics, rich silks, and threads to create the tapestry that dictates fate.

When we pass on, I envision you blanketing each being in your work as a comfort until the next plane. Each work is like a snowflake; there are no duplicates. And when each being moves on to their next plateau, you take its blanket, and gently quilt it into a fantastic tapestry called existence, and weave and unweave like Penelope to capture the lessons learned in each life, changing the blanket with each beings evolution. No being the same, no fate the same.

The most beautiful work to look at must be how you intertwine lives; the tapestries must creep together like ivy vines, and fit together like puzzle pieces. I wonder if we can follow the evolution of soul mates through your work by studying the repetition of colors and materials that you use. I see emotions represented by things like Gerber Daisies for happiness, and sadness by weighty black smoke, and contentment by crystal blue water, and confusion by ants, and liberation by butterflies. How amazing it must be to see all these things interwoven into one small moment.

When our paths crossed, Jack and me, I think that you must have chuckled as you weaved confusion, attraction, and forbidden into our blankets, now linked with soulful fabrics. After our first awkward meeting in a crowded high school hallway, neither of our lives were ever the same. That was the first stitch, combining my fabric of discontent and sadness to his; the patchwork must show two quilting patches of black smoke and fog, swirling together in slow spirals. Then there was the office job that I acquired during my free period, where I would answer phone calls, and assist students and parents with school busy work. My first day on the job, I was peering through the front glass windows, leading into the High School lobby, and Jack, then a green-eyed stranger caught my eye. We both smiled familiar grins and waved, only my heart skipped a beat; I felt uncomfortably giddy. That must have been where you weaved a rope of dancing fireflies and pink silk into our slowly braiding tapestry.

I tried to shake off the unorthodox tinge of a crush on this younger stranger, but his discovery that I worked in the office window everyday at 1:30 created a series of silent waves and smiles through the glass that would brighten my sullen mood daily; I looked forward to it.

And then one day Jack walked in, or should I say sidled in, twitching nervously before he was diagnosed with Tourettes syndrome; the safety of the glass panes were history. He leaned awkwardly on the front counter, and I jumped up to help him, losing my clog under the desk on the way, laughing awkwardly while trying to slide it back onto my sweaty foot. I nonchalantly wiped my nervous hands on the back of my plaid, wool skirt and I stuttered a “hi there,” trying to speak like a teacher and authoritarian, but wanting desperately to just reach out and push his wavy brown shaggy hair out of his frightened eyes. He wasn’t scared of me, but something had him in shackles. He smiled a crooked grin, and I studied his face, feeling self-conscious about my freckles and unwashed ponytail as we looked at each other for what seemed to be forever.

His entire face smiled and I melted; I pictured the lines in his face as an old man, and how handsome he would be; dramatic etching around his mouth and eyes, on his thin cheeks and under his high cheekbones. He looked much older than his years. My heart realized, that moment, that in the large scheme of things, earth years meant nothing, still my mind couldn’t make sense of it.

There are certain roles that I knew that I was to adhere to, and I prayed that my feelings for Jack, then a mystery, would simply dissipate; after years of missed opportunities, rash decisions, and ill-behavior as a result of my being bipolar and self-medicating, I finally felt like I was doing something right for the first time; I was an English Teacher and a Theater Director in a High School; I had benefits, a paycheck every two weeks, a new car that didn’t require constant maintenance, a boyfriend who I lived with and sometimes laughed with, new clothes, a new respect from others that I had never experienced before:

“So what do you do?”
“Me, oh I’m a teacher.”

It felt good to say those things, I felt like I was finally cleaning up my act.

Oh Mother Fate, you really got a kick out of that didn’t you … me standing there feeling self-conscious and staring at Jack who felt equally as strange.

“Can I help you?” I said, angry that I sounded like a store clerk, afraid that I was too formal.

“Yeah,” he stammered, “I just have to leave now for an appointment. My mom should be outside waiting.”

I was completely lost in his awkward gaze, then silence. I forgot everything, and he just looked at me.

“Oh …” I laughed. “Sorry! I must need coffee, just sign here.” I pointed to a sign-out sheet, laughed awkwardly, and snorted a little. I don’t think he noticed, at least he pretended not to.

“Okay, well have a good day Miss Guida,” he said as he walked out the door.

“You too, Jack. Good luck!”

"Good luck? Why the hell did I say good luck?” I thought to myself.

I excused myself from the office for a moment, and went into the faculty bathroom to beat myself up a little, and to make sure that I didn’t look totally horrible. I sat in a stall, buried my head in my hands, and cried like a baby out of complete frustration, embarrassment, and uneasiness, repeating “Miss Guida, Miss Guida.”

When I got up to fix my face, I chastised myself in the mirror, growling, “Stop it Ana; Don’t fuck up again, Ana.” I was greeted by a fellow teacher who caught me in mid-sentence, so I immediately feigned a contact lens problem, even though I have never worn them in my life.

It seemed that the more I tried to fight it, the more I felt. It was different; I knew him. That is where you must have sealed the circle connecting our tapestries with the brilliant color of hope, because after that incidence, even though it was contrary to my newly found rational judgment persona that I had recently developed, it was all that I could find myself doing.

That evening after I stayed after for play practice, I walked out into the night parking lot sprinkled with a handful of cars belonging to custodians and myself, maybe a lingering coach of some kind. I dropped my life as a teacher into the passenger seat, and I slid into the driver’s seat, took a deep breath and tried to bury my feelings somewhere in my soul.
I wiped a few lingering tears, and tried to concentrate on the life that I knew in the little mountain town in PA. I turned the ignition, and clicked on the radio:

“Coming up The Police, Led Zeppelin, and Boz Skaggs.”
“What a mix,” I thought as I stuffed my mouth with bubble gum, trying to kill my urge for multiple cigarettes. And as I pulled onto the interstate, the low drown of The Police’s, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” cradled by Stuart Copeland’s reggae drums overcame the silent air in my car; “Young teacher, the subject of schoolgirl fantasy.”

Now that was a dirty trick Mother Fate; that song sent me into yet another tailspin. Granted I realize that I could have simply changed the station, but secretly, as you know, I enjoyed the drama; there just wasn’t enough in my new life. That must have been the moment where you stuck the embroidery needle into the tapestry for the moment, to call it a rest. I felt the prick, and heard your giggle.

Tell me Mother Fate, do you do all of this for the sake of your own entertainment? Are we simply your pawns, your puppets, your dolls?
Regards, Ana

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dear Jesse - Slumber

The Evening of 4/8
Dear Jesse – Mirror

I’ve spent the last twenty to thirty minutes staring at a reflection of my own pupil on the inside lens of my glasses. I swear that you can see the cells move around in the ebb and flow of my eyeball; it almost looks as if I am looking at DNA dancing around beneath a microscope. It’s mesmerizing, especially when I can almost shut it out like a shutter lens with my eyelashes. They slowly swallow up the image like a Venus fly trap, or if you’d prefer a less gruesome description, like the body-size feather fans of a Burlesque stripper. Sneaky; Feminine; vicious. I know that I’ve experienced this phenomena before, but while in bright sunlight, wearing sunglasses. I probably was out enjoying the weather, not sitting Indian-style on my couch with big, brown, stinky Sherman and two cats, wondering why I cannot sleep, again, for the fourth night in a row.

Sherman is sleeping like a bear, and may I add snoring like one, too (not that I have any clue whether or not bears snore). But he is very bear-like; you haven’t met him yet. He is spread out next to me, all 120 pounds of him, and he looks like a big, chocolate teddy bear, but smells like a sewer. He’s so adorable, and so full of love that I don’t mind his stink. He’s got a boxy Chocolate Labrador face, and a very stout build with beautiful fur, huge paws, and a rolly-polly belly. He is so sweet.

Before he fell asleep, he was cleaning my cat, Mimi. She acquired that name because of her uncanny ability to meow incessantly at the most inappropriate hours of the morning; usually she’ll begin to run in circles, scratch the furniture, climb the wooden beams, and meow at the top of her lungs while on my chest, with her needle sharp stickers piercing whatever I have exposed under the blanket; screaming Mimi. But what can I expect, she had a tough beginning; she was a garbage dump cat at a bar where I worked, and she and I befriended one another when I would sit on the pavement at 2:00 am, feed and pet her after work, before my long journey home. And what do you know ...one day she followed me to my car, meowing the entire way. I’m a regular goddamn Snow White. Right now she sleeps sweetly, like Sherman. Her tabby ears glisten from being groomed by him. Cat’s look so peaceful when they sleep, all balled up. She looks so comfortable.

Okay I’m not alone. The fish are awake, although I’ve never noticed any different. Do fish sleep? They must, although don’t they have to be in constant motion to ensure oxygen through their gills? All I know is that Mini and Maude are seemingly doing what I was doing for twenty to thirty minutes; they’re swimming in tandem around and around the base of their tank looking at their reflections in the glass. It’s sad really ...I should go turn off the light on the tank so that they cannot see their reflection anymore, but I’m afraid they will think that they lost their friends on the outside. I’ll just let them live the illusion, besides it is tremendously entertaining for both me and Gato, a fantastic, old long haired tabby cat that resides here as well, who I love. She belongs to Cala, Jack’s sister; when her home was pulled out from beneath her, she brought Gato to live with me. She’s an old, wise cat, and keeps screaming Mimi in line. She’s spread out on the chest next to the fish tank, with her little face just resting on her outstretched paw, watching the dizzying fish like I am. It seems to be tiring her; her big yellow eyes are slowly disappearing behind kohl black lined Egyptian-looking frames. And...she’s asleep. Maybe if I stare long enough, it will put me to sleep, too.

Thinking of you, Ana

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dear Dr. Freedman - Knots

4/5 - Knots
Dear Dr. Freedman –

I found the perfect description of what a bipolar mood swing feels like, and although I could probably do it justice in my own words, I feel that Kafka’s description in the introduction to “Metamorphoses,” although it was probably not meant to represent a mood swing, is in fact a fine parallel to my severe chemical changeability, or that of anyone else who suffers from this affliction:

“When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin. He was lying on his back as hard as armor plate, and when he lifted his head a little, he saw his vaulted brown belly, sectioned by arch-shaped ribs, to whose dome the cover, about to slide off compared with the size of the rest of him, were waving helplessly before his eyes. ‘What’s happened to me?’ he thought. It was no dream.”

What do you think? Perhaps this could be a new, innovative approach for you. You could sit your patient down in the comfortable leather chair in your office and ask her/him to close her/his eyes, and you could read that passage, aloud. Then, you ask how he/she can relate to Kafka’s description. I’m sure that the results would prove fascinating. Move over Freud...Jung, and all of your psychobabble cohorts. Make room for Freedman! I realize that it seems as if I am being facetious, but I think that there is some truth to all of this. Why can’t literature, art, and music be used as diagnostic tools (minus the ink blots)? They are all used as therapeutic tools. For instance, my gynecologist has a Monet print above her examination table, and I swear that gazing at it makes placing my feet in stirrups with pot holders just that much more bearable.

Having taught Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” student reactions that I witnessed to many scenes in the book were very telling about the individual’s state of mind. My favorite one in particular that I feel would be most useful to your profession is the scene in chapter thirteen where Holden Caulfield has just ordered a prostitute from the elevator man, and while he’s waiting in his hotel room he confesses out of nervousness that he is a virgin, while his mind is racing about his experiences with tricky bras, and back seats, and stopping when a girl asks you to stop. He half-heartedly figures that a prostitute will give him some practice at the art, or at least some relief from his floundering mental state:

“Anyway, I kept walking around the room, waiting for this prostitute to show up. I kept hoping she’d be good-looking. I didn’t care too much, though. I sort of just wanted to get it over with. Finally, somebody knocked on the door, and when I went to open it, I had my suitcase right in the way and I fell over it and damn near broke my knee. I always pick a gorgeous time to fall over a suitcase or something. When I opened the door, this prostitute was standing there. She had a polo coat on, and no hat. She was sort of blonde, but you could tell she dyed her hair. She wasn’t any old bag, though.
‘How do you do,’ I said. Suave as hell, boy.
‘You the guy Maurice said?’ She asked me. She didn’t seem too goddamn friendly.
‘Is he the elevator boy?’
‘Yeah,’ she said.
‘Yes, I am. Come in, won’t you?’ I said. I was getting more and more nonchalant as it went along. I really was.

She came in and took her coat off right away and sort of chucked it on the bed. She had on a green dress underneath. Then she sort of sat down sideways on the chair that went with the desk in the room and started jiggling her foot up and down. She crossed her legs and started jiggling this one foot up and down. She was very nervous, for a prostitute. She really was. I think it was because she was young as hell. She was around my age. I sat down in the big chair, next to her, and offered her a cigarette.

‘I don’t smoke,’ she said. She had a tiny little wheeny-whiny voice. You could hardly hear her. She never said thank you, either when you offered her something. She just didn’t know any better.

‘Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jim Steele,’ I said.

‘Ya got a watch on ya?’ She said. She didn’t care what the hell my name was, naturally. ‘Hey, how old are you, anyways?’

‘Me? Twenty-two.’

‘Like fun you are.’ It was a funny thing to say. It sounded like a real kid. You’d think a prostitute and all would say ‘Like hell you are’ or ‘Cut the crap’ instead of ‘Like fun you are.’

‘How old are you?’ I asked her.

‘Old enough to know better,’ she said. She was really witty.

‘Ya got a watch on ya?’ She asked me again, and then she stood up and pulled her dress over her head. I certainly felt peculiar when she did that. I mean she did it so sudden and all. I know you’re supposed to feel pretty sexy when somebody gets up and pulls their dress over their head, but I didn’t. Sexy was about the last thing I was feeling. I felt much more depressed than sexy.

‘Ya got a watch on you, hey?’

‘No. No, I don’t,’ I said. Boy, was I feeling peculiar. ‘What’s your name?’ I asked her. All she had on was this pink slip. It was really quite embarrassing. It really was.

‘Sunny,’ she said. ‘Let’s go, hey.’

‘Don’t you feel like talking for a while?’ I asked her. It was a childish thing to say, but I was feeling so damn peculiar. ‘Are you in a very big hurry?’

She looked at me like I was a madman. ‘What the heck ya wanna talk about?’ she said.

‘I don’t know. Nothing special. I just thought perhaps you might care to chat for a while.’

She sat down in the chair next to the desk again. She didn’t like it though, you could tell. She started jiggling her foot again - boy, she was a nervous girl.

‘Would you care for a cigarette now?’ I said. I forgot she didn’t smoke.‘I don’t smoke. Listen, if you’re gonna talk, do it. I got things to do.’

I couldn’t think of anything to talk about, though. I thought of asking her how she got to be a prostitute and all, but I was scared to ask her. She probably wouldn’t’ve
told me anyway. ‘You don’t come from New York, do you?’ I said finally. That’s all I could think of.

‘Hollywood,’ she said. The she got up and went over to where she’d put her dress down, on the bed. ‘Ya got a hanger? I don’t want to get my dress all wrinkly. It’s brand-clean.’

‘Sure,’ I said right away. I was only too glad to get up and do something. I took her dress over to the closet and hung it up for her. It was funny. It made feel sort of sad when I hung it up. I thought of her going in a store and buying it, and nobody in the store knowing she was a prostitute and all. The salesman probably just thought she was a regular girl when she bought it. It made me feel sad as hell - I don’t know why exactly.

I sat down again and tried to keep the old conversation going. She was a lousy conversationalist. ‘Do you work every night?’ I asked her– it sounded sort of awful, after I’d said it.

‘Yeah.’ She was walking all around the room. She picked up the menu off the desk and read it. ‘What do you do during the day?’

She sort of shrugged her shoulders. She was pretty skinny. ‘Sleep. Go to the show.’ She put down the menu and looked at me. “Let’s go, hey. I haven’t got all -‘

’Look,’ I said. ‘I don’t feel very much like myself tonight. I’ve had a rough night. Honest to God. I’ll pay you and all, but do you mind very much if we don’t do it? Do you mind very much?’ The trouble was, I just didn’t want to do it. I felt more depressed than sexy, if you want to know the truth. She was depressing. Her green dress hanging in the closet and all. And besides, I don’t think I could ever do it with somebody that sits in a stupid movie all day long. I really don’t think I could.

She came over to me, with this funny look on her face, like as if she didn’t believe me. ‘What’sa matter?’ she said.
‘Nothing’s the matter.’ Boy, was I getting nervous. ‘The thing is, I had an operation very recently.’

‘Yeah? Where?’

‘On my wuddayacallit – my clavichord.’

‘Yeah? Where the hell’s that?’

‘The clavichord?’ I said. ‘Well, actually, it’s in the spinal canal. I mean it’s quite a ways down in the spinal canal.’ ‘Yeah?’ she said. ‘That’s tough.’ Then she sat down on my goddamn lap. ‘You’re cute.’

She made me so nervous, I just kept lying my head off. ‘I’m still recuperating,’ I told her.

‘You look like a guy in the movies. You know. Whosis. You know who I mean. What the heck’s his name?’

‘I don’t know,’ I said. She wouldn’t get off my goddamn lap.

‘Sure you know. He was in that pitcher with Mel-vine Douglas? The one that was Mel-vine Douglas’s kid brother? That falls off this boat? You know who I mean.’

‘No, I don’t. I go to the movies as seldom as I can.’ Then she started getting funny. Crude and all. ‘Do you mind cutting it out?’ I said. ‘I’m not in the mood, I just told you. I just had an operation.’
She didn’t get up from my lap or anything, but she gave me this terrifically dirty look.

‘Listen,’ she said. ‘I was sleepin’ when that crazy Maurice woke me up. If you think I’m –‘

‘I said I’d pay you for coming and all. I really will. I have plenty of dough. It’s just that I’m practically just recovering from a very serious-‘

‘What the heck did you tell that crazy Maurice you wanted a girl for, then? If you just had a goddamn operation on your goddamn wuddayacallit. Huh’

‘I thought I’d be feeling a lot better than I do. I was a little premature in my calculations. No kidding. I’m sorry. If you’ll just get up a second, I’ll get my wallet. I mean it.’”– J.D. Salinger

Do you see what I mean? If a patient could empathize with that passage, and could feel the sadness in the green dress hanging in the closet, rather than simply seeing a missed opportunity for a roll in the hay, it could be a tell-tale sign that he/she has a heightened sensitivity and is prone to recognizing sadness in the inanimate details of life.

For example, I remember when I was living in Hoboken, NJ, and working in NYC, what someone else may have found as excitement in the fast-paced sidewalk traffic, and countless expressionless faces moving quickly to a destination, I found to be the loneliest that I had ever felt. I never understood how so many souls could pass each other without acknowledging one another. The people on the subway and the PATH rarely made eye contact with one another, and that made me desperately depressed. I couldn’t just ignore it.

I remember sitting and watching reflections of faces in the windows behind them change from shadow to blanch with the passing light in the train car. If I stared long enough, I would sometimes see a grin or the color of a person’s eyes hidden in shadow, or a book. Each move was calculated, and designed not to disturb, come in contact with, or include any person in her/his vicinity. Granted, I was suffering from an untreated mental illness, and perhaps I wouldn’t have been so sensitive to these seemingly mundane things if I had been properly medicated at the time, but all I know is that when I would exit the train, and would make my way up the tunnel, tinged with the scent of city, distant hot pretzels, and urine, I understood why Toulouse Lautrec painted prostitutes pulling up their stockings instead of beautiful landscapes or still life; he, too, must have seen depth in sadness. Perhaps it was overwhelming to him, too.

Regards, Ana

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dear Ellijah - Sweet

4/5 - Sweet
Dear Ellijah –

I’m studying a picture that you made for me last year, framed in black and hanging above my window. It is definitely one of the dearest, most beautiful and most telling creations that I have ever seen. I remember that I unwrapped it, and was blown away by how thoughtful it was; there is nothing more beautiful to me than a child’s handmade creation, namely yours. “Wow,” I said, staring at the picture, riddled with splashes of red and black, and blue, and yellow, and purple on white, with a perfect “EL” floating in the left hand bottom corner. You ran over to me, and sat on my lap to tell me all about it; “That’s you, and that’s me, and that’s a boat and we are floating.” You pointed up to the upper right hand corner and said, “that is the sun, and those are storm clouds, but we are safe together because our boat is rubber.” Your mom winked at us and said, “I think that Ellijah just learned about that at nursery school.” I’ll never forget that, or the serious look in your eyes when you explained your creation. Thank you.

You were about three, and had just witnessed me falling apart over Jack. I tried to hide it from you, standing in your kitchen, confessing my anguish quietly to my sister, but you stared up at me with your beautiful green-blue eyes, and little nose peppered with sunlight framed by summer blonde hair, tugging on my green bikini bottom. “Ana, don’t cry. Ana, Ana ...”. You tried to get my attention, but I was too self-absorbed, confessing to my sister that I have been in love with a guy ten years younger than me for a year, a former student, and we weren’t getting along. Your mom just stood there and listened to me, without judgment, and consoled me. I’ll never forget it; she was beyond kind, and I was distraught.

You then disappeared for a moment, and came back and said, “these are for you Ana,” and you handed me two magnets with beautiful angels on them. I leaned down and gave you a huge hug and told you how much I loved them and you said, “they are guardian angels.” “Thank you so much,” I told you, and lifted you onto my hip to assure you that I was going to be okay. Usually you would have had enough of being held after a minute or so, but you held onto me tightly, talking a mile a minute trying desperately in your three year old kind of way to change the subject, to make me laugh like the Ana that you love.

Please forgive me for subjecting you to my heartache El; I swore when I held you for the first time, and inhaled your intoxicating baby-scented skin, that I would never do anything to speed up your childhood. I hope that you hold onto it, love it and live it like your favorite soft blanket, your mommy’s scent, your father’s laugh when he hold’s you upside down, and your little sister’s wiggle; don’t ever let go.

Love, Ana

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dear Spirit, God, Universe, Goddess, All-Knowing Entity, Prayer Collector, etc. - It

4/5 - It
Dear Spirit, God, Universe, Goddess, All-Knowing Entity, Prayer Collector, etc. -

Will I ever know what to refer to you as? I guess that it doesn’t matter, as long as I know that you are there, wherever there may be. It’s definitely not one inch above my reality; I think that’s where the restless souls reside, a.k.a. the unresolved ghosts. I’m thinking that you are everywhere at once, like Santa Claus. It’s possible; he has helpers to assist him in his yearly task, your helpers must be angels who take on human or animal form. How else could you reach your arms all around Planet Earth? That is quite a stretch.

Anyhow, here is my question. How do I prioritize my prayers? When I say a prayer, I always end up attempting to edit it as I go because I feel that it is not selfless enough. I restart the prayer a dozen times, trying to hold down the prayers for myself, and my thoughts of money. But I know that you can hear truth in thought; how else would you be able to determine whether or not a person is truly good, or a bad seed? There are some fine actors in this world. Perhaps it’s not about language at all, but about the energy that a human radiates. Perhaps that is what you read ...not their thoughts.

Wait a minute! What am I talking about, you’re an all-knowing entity. See, it’s really difficult as a mortal to comprehend your immeasurability. I guess that’s where faith comes in ...and hope. They are such powerful words, and are two of the only words that can sever through skepticism.

Anyway, I have so many people that I want to pray for, but while I’m speaking to you, my mind drifts to war and repression in the Middle East. The injustice there is incomprehensible; I just cannot fathom the suffering. It certainly contorts my priorities, or perhaps it clarifies them. The bothersome metallic taste in my mouth from Lithium, and my negative bank account and inability to sleep sometimes certainly isn’t comparable to living in fear of suicide bomber attacks, gun shot wounds, or impending land mines.

Where are you in the face of war? I refuse to believe that you avoid it, but it is pretty difficult for me to comprehend that you are weaving in and out of all of that fear with a magic wand. Are you there on a smaller scale, like in a letter from home for a soldier, or in a loaf of bread for a needy family, or in the eyes of a young person training to be a terrorist, who has an epiphany, and realizes that something is not right with his learned mentality? Is prayer and collective human thought what you are fueled by? Can it end a war? Dhammapada (ca. 5th century B.C.) once said, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” Is prayer really that powerful?

Love, Ana
Ana's Suggested Read of the Day

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Are you there Briar? It's me, Ana!

The Evening of 4/4

Are You There, Briar? It’s me, Ana.

Do you remember that book? Well actually, Judy Blume entitled it, “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret?" Did you read it, or did you sneak a copy from your sisters and read it with a flashlight beneath the sheets? It was considered borderline racy when we were able to read beyond Dick, Harry, Jane, and Spot ran to the park. It was about the “P” word; as Eugene described with a heavy Brooklyn accent in Neil Simon’s great “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” pew-buh-dee, a.k.a. puberty. It was Margaret’s coming of age story. For any parent who wasn’t particularly well-versed in the art of talking about anything pertaining to pubic hair, menstruation, cramps, crushes, erections, or budding breasts, it was a saving grace; a pre-pubescent elixir to help understand the crop of zits that were sprouting on our cheeks, especially mine. My parents had a very interesting approach to talking about adolescence with me; they simply didn’t. Sex Ed. took care of that.

Remember those horribly embarrassing videos that we watched in sixth grade? Boys were in one room, and girls were in another, but we all came together for the childbirth video; I think that it is safe to say that was education’s vain attempt to prolong abstinence. It was bloody, graphic, full of screams, and one girl even had an epileptic seizure in our class when the baby crowned. Do you remember?

Although I don’t blame my parents for tiptoeing around the subject; I was pretty difficult to talk to at that age; I didn’t speak at all, or I yelled. But most of the time I was being yelled at for my indignant behavior; no one knew it was the unfolding of a disease, not even me. My family simply thought that I was becoming a stereotypical teenage girl, much to their chagrin.

Oh, I forgot ...there was a sex talk. When Jesse and I were about 15 or 16, right about the time that you and Jesse drank strawberry wine and you sucked a ring of hickies around her neck that we tried to pass off as poison ivy to my mom (we were wild as March hares), we were sitting together in the front of my parent’s van, while my mom was driving us somewhere. I remember that Jesse and I were speaking in code, planning our drug/boy fest for the evening, and my mom pulled over the van, turned to us and said, “I’ve got one word for you girls; abstinence.” She then pulled back onto the road, and turned up the radio. Jesse and I looked at each other, shaking with hidden laughter and I whispered, “what does that mean? Jesse replied, “I have no idea!”

The sex talk that really backfired was when I was about five. I remember climbing into my parent’s big, brass bed on a Saturday morning, having already been up for two hours, watching cartoons. The day before we had been swimming at our neighbor’s house, and there was a woman there who was very pregnant and applying Bain de Soleil to her exposed skin; her belly defied gravity. And being the precocious little girl that I was, I sat down next to her, touched her tummy, and asked if a baby was growing inside. She smiled and said, “sure is,” and pinched my cheek. I remember not being satisfied with that. “But, how . . .” I asked. She smiled, putting the cap back on the orange tanning gel, leaned back and shook her straight blonde hair behind her tanned shoulders, winked at me and said, “it’s magic.”

That did it for me, although she wasn’t aware of the depth of my young imagination. At that age, I was convinced that Barbie, who I worshiped, was secretly plotting to end my life via Barbie perfume, and that when the lights went out at night, that the red carpet in my bedroom was a place where all demons resided, and if I stood on it longer than two seconds, I would be dragged down into the fiery recesses of some hell, but my sister was immune. So if I jumped quickly into the room, then onto her bed, and fell into mine without touching the ground beneath us; I was safe. When my sister would growl, “why must you jump onto my bed every night... I’m trying to sleep,” I would simply say, “sorry.” I couldn’t have possibly explained what I thought. I was afraid of reactions even then.

So the evening before the “sex talk,” I had cried myself to sleep, rubbing my tummy, and hiding the tears from my sister. “What if I’m pregnant? She said that it’s magic.” I remember that I convinced myself that there was a baby growing in my tummy just like her; I believe in magic. I crawled between my snuggling parents and my mom said, “what is it sweetie?” “Mommy, how did I get here? Was it magic?” My dad giggled and climbed out of bed, adjusting his boxers and v-neck t-shirt, and lumbered down the hall to fulfill his morning ritual; first stop, the can, second stop, the kitchen radio, third stop, the coffee maker. My mom watched him go, and they glanced at each other knowingly, but she had the look of “thanks a lot Harry,” in her eyes.

So she climbed up in bed, and I snuggled into my dad’s side, still warm from recent slumber. “Well,” she said, rolling over toward me, pulling the cover over her shoulder and smoothing it around me, “You see,” she was searching, “I have a beautiful garden inside my tummy.” She placed her hand on her stomach, and all I could picture was my Nanny and Poppa’s strawberry patch and peach orchard. “Your dad,” she said endearingly, “has a special seed ...and he planted his seed in my garden.” She smiled softly. Thank god she told me that before I discovered Cabbage Patch Kids, or I would’ve wondered why my bum hadn’t been signed. “And that’s how Amber and I were born...” I leaned back and stared at the hairline cracks in the plaster ceiling that looked like my Fischer Price United States puzzle. “In a round about way, yes.” My mom has always loved to speak in metaphors.

I remember that I was satisfied with her response, and began to climb out of their bed, “So there’s no chance that I am going to have a baby?” My mom started laughing hysterically, “No sweetie, don’t you worry.” I didn’t worry for a long time Briar, until one day, a year later, in our first grade class, the same class that we had the circus parade. We were doing an agriculture project, and learning about farmers, do you remember? Each of us received a paper cup from Mrs. Overdorf, and we had to fill it with dirt and corn seeds, among other things. We were going to plant our seedlings outside after we had nurtured them in the window for a while.

I received my cup, filled it with dirt, and panicked when the student teacher, Mr. Santiago came around and gave us seeds to put in our cup. He placed them in my palm, and I kept counting them over and over again, making sure that I knew how many I was putting in my cup before I placed it on the windowsill with the rest. Somehow, I was distracted; I cannot remember if I fell, or if Mrs. Overdorf began to give directions, but I had forgotten how many seeds I had in my hand; I panicked. “Oh no,“ I thought, “I ate one! I’m going to have a baby!”

I swore that I felt the seed trapped in the back of my first grade throat, and I started to cough terribly, in an attempt to dislodge it. When the teacher came over to me asking what was wrong, I started to cry and looked at her desperately, “I think I swallowed a seed!” She ran and got the packet of seeds to look up whether or not they were toxic, while Mr. Santiago comforted me, and Chris Lieberman a classmate and neighbor of mine growing up came up to me and said, “what’s wrong?” “I swallowed a seed,” I said, as if he knew the consequences. He started to laugh and said, “Uh oh, your going to have a big watermelon growing in your tummy and corn stalks growing out of your nose and ears!” With that I cowered even more, and Mrs. Overdorf had to escort me to the nurse’s office, where they asked me why I was so upset; the seed wouldn’t hurt me. “Honey, accidents happen,” said the nurse with the beehive that I always thought was detachable. How else could she have slept at night?

I proceeded to explain to them that I felt that I was too young to have a baby, and I wasn’t ready. They all held back their laughter, and asked me to explain to them why I thought swallowing a seed would make me pregnant ...so I did. I was escorted into another room and given a snack and a blanket to calm me down, while the nurse called my mom from her office. I remember I could hear the nurse speaking in muffled tones between hushed giggles, and 20 minutes later my mom was there to take me home, and to reassure me that I wasn’t going to have a baby. On the ride home, I remember feeling so much better, until I began to doze off and I swore that I felt corn creeping up the back of my throat, and I had a funny tickle in my nose and ears, too.

Who says that physiological ailments cannot be caused by the mind, or healed for that matter? If all else fails, they can definitely be helped by a mother’s kind word, a snack and a blanket. That should be one of the universal truths. Do you agree?
Love, Ana

And to avoid any misunderstandings such as above... Required Reading Recommendation!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dear Briar... Sound

4/4 - Sound

Dear Briar -

The clocks were turned ahead today, and I thought that I was doing alright when I rose from a pile of blankets at 11:00 am, only to find when I ventured downstairs to my parents for a cocktail of coffee, Lithium and Prozac that it was actually noon. That’s a weird way to start the day; my intent had been to wake up relatively early and write, among other things, but to no avail.

My mattress on the floor is just way too cozy, tucked behind a couch, nestled into an exposed stone wall, and hidden from any natural light. I could’ve easily slept the entire Sunday away. It’s rainy and windy, and the sound on the roof is so soothing, especially while nestled into soft striped sheets and my favorite fluffy yellow blanket. My only incentive to venture into the outer world, in addition to the necessity of medication, was to appear alive and motivated to my father who was tinkering around with an ancient Macintosh computer of his, trying to unearth some old Ebay files that he had saved. My dad is up with the sunrise, and sits and listens to talk radio and drinks a pot of coffee, solving all the world’s problems by the time anyone else rises. He scoffs silently at those who sleep the morning away, and I cannot take the feeling of disapproval; even though he never voices it, I certainly can sense it ... unless that too, is a figment of my warped imagination. I’ll probably never know.

Last night, in an attempt to organize this mess of an apartment that I have created, I decided to separate the photo albums from the silverware, and find a proper home for both. In my struggle, I happened upon a photo scrapbook that my sister had created for me many moons ago, and it documented my life up until about age 15. It features my evolution from a sweet, innocent green eyed, long braided tom boy, into a most unattractive and awkward junior high student, complete with a hairdo reminiscent of the 80's band “Flock of Seagulls,” braces, and a nose that was way too big for my confused eyes and underdeveloped chin; I hadn’t quite grown into my features yet. And featured on the same page was your seventh grade class picture...although I couldn’t quite make out your eyes, because the lenses in your glasses had darkened because of the flash, and your expression was that of impending doom (as if the camera was going to attack you at any minute, especially if you showed your teeth).

Although Bri, your hair made up for one’s inability to see your eyes; it was the dreaded year when you were hit hard with puberty, and your hair became curly, rather than straight and feathered; the transition was tough for you. I remember. I think that you decided to go the safe route with your newly found curls, and when you went to the stylist you simply said, “short on the sides, leave some length on the top and back.” It wasn’t quite like Lionel Ritchie in the “Hello,” video, nor was it like Michael Jackson in his transitional hair phase between “Off the Wall,” and “Thriller.” And it definitely wasn’t a mullet, a style that was synonymous with our hometown, laden with souped-up Camaros and loud hair rock: Whitesnake, Tesla, ACDC.

Even at 12, you had way too much style for that nonsense. It was more like Richard Marx. You remember him, right? He was a lovesong-extrordinaire: “Hold on to the Night,” “Endless Summer Nights,” etc.. He was a huge hit at 80's high school dances, and roller rinks. For a while there, he was even played almost as often as “Stairway to Heaven,” as the slow, last minute make out song of choice, when we searched for the one lonely soul in the crowd, and asked him/her to dance, and awkwardly spun around in a circle, trying not to chew our gum too loud. I remember shifting in order to not to feel a strange protrusion in my dance partners young trousers, or in your case, maybe you attempted to slowly inch your nimble hands down toward her bottom.

Whatever the case may have been, we had one thing in common; when “Stairway to Heaven” sped up, and when we looked around, everyone seemed to lose their “spin slowly in a circle groove,” and they would talk to their partner and make plans for after the dance. “So, what time’s your mom picking you up?” “Do you want to go to McDonalds? I’ ve got some gin in a jelly jar in my purse. We could mix it with soda.” And while we discussed such topics, the lights would begin to come up with, “ . . . and she’s buying the stairway to heaven . . .” exposing those who were passionately smooching on the dance floor and in dark corners of the bleachers.

We had a much less sophisticated group of youngsters that we grew up with in a slate mining town, then say our neighboring Italian town, Roseto, where the private school swarmed with lovely Italian boys. Sometimes their dances would end with something much more hip like “Love Song,” by The Cure. I remember that I thought that simple detail made them a much more exotic bunch.

But Briar, in addition to our fantastic junior high school photos (by the way, we were both wearing paisley button downs in our class pictures, you with suspenders, and me with a fake gold and pearl broach), I found priceless photographs from our circus in either first or second grade. They are priceless! Remember? We had a parade in school, and everyone dressed as a character from the circus. There’s a picture of me in a red, satin polka dot leotard thing, white tights, and tap shoes, and I had my hair down, and a red satin arm garter on; I think I was going for acrobat. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s what I wanted to be when I was six and seven, in addition to a veterinarian. Interesting combination. But you were smiling shyly in the background, with your adorable glasses that you forever loathed, and feathered hair. You were dressed as the strong man. It was so cute.

I remember that I had such a crush on you, that the whole day I kept getting upset if any other girls would talk to you, namely a particular blonde who we went through school with who often had rug burns on her knees and back in High School. She seemed a floozy even at seven. I remember she used to lift up her shirt and show boys, girls, whomever, the content of her pasty, seven year old chest. She would say, "Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these,” and would peel up her Garanimals polo shirt or her baby doll dress. I just couldn’t compete.

Looking at the photos inspired me to burn you a CD, like we used to do for each other when we were in college and in high school; I would make you a mixed tape, but I highly doubt that you have anything to listen to it on any longer. Perhaps you have a Sony Walkman relic stashed in a drawer somewhere, but I’m not going to risk it. Although there is something so innocent about mixed tapes. Forgive me while I reminisce. I cannot help it. I just seem to associate modern audio technology with “Video Killed the Radio Star.” This must have been how photographers felt when digital came out, or how my parents felt when they could no longer buy 8-track tapes for their Buick Electra. Their collection would forever consist of “Carole king: Tapestry,” “Foghat: Live,” “Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits,” and “Captain and Tenille” ...never to be played again.

Don’t get me wrong, CD’s are great, but after two hours of struggling with my laptop’s CD burning program, I couldn’t produce a finished product. I guess it wasn’t meant to be, either that, or I’m doing it wrong. This is a possibility.

I remember once when I was really down, after Gino dumped me, you made me the most fantastic mixed tape that I still have, with everything from Brit Pop to Edie Brickell on it. The cover had smiling faces and clowns all over it, and the inside had inspirational quotes about laughter. It was such a thoughtful compilation; nothing heals better than music as far as I’m concerned. So here is the song list that I put together for you. I was feeling nostalgic. That is my disclaimer:

“Love Song” - The Cure
“Tomorrow Never Knows” - The Beatles
“Mighty Mouse” - Cartoon Theme
“Gidget” -TV Theme
“Never The Same” - Supreme Beings of Leisure
“She’s So High” - Blur
“Kathy’s Song” - Simon and Garfunkel
“She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” - The Beatles
“Just Like a Woman” -Bob Dylan
“Paranoid Android” - Radiohead
“Moonshadow” - Cat Stevens
“3rd Planet” - Modest Mouse
“May This Be love” -Jimi Hendrix
“Janine’ -Soul Coughing
“Ten Years Gone” - Led Zeppelin
“Pretty in Pink” - The Psychedelic Furs

It would have been a great mix. Love, your old friend Ana

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dear Nanny...Feel

4/2 - Feel

Dear Nanny -

I don’t think that you have reincarnated yet; I think that you are existing in ‘Spiritland’ (as Jimi Hendrix referred to it), and you are waiting there for Seneca, a.k.a. my poppa, and your husband of 50 + years. He was a restless soul on earth, so I would imagine that after he passed he couldn’t simply kick back and enjoy the solace, especially when he learned that you had another ten or so years left to live on earth.

I don’t particularly know how the time contingent differs between the two worlds, but it must; I guess that we will never know until we pass on. With his quick wit, penchant for biting sarcasm, and fast hand he probably wanted to jump right into another life, but I wonder what the earth name of his body is now? Or is it possible that he reincarnated into a monkey of some sort? He always loved monkeys; I don’t know how that works.

Perhaps I was a dolphin in one of my past lives, and that explains my passion for the ocean, but my irksome fear of sharks. They are natural enemies you know. Whenever I see a school of dolphins, I can rest assure that there are no sharks lurking in the vicinity; dolphins are the protectors and use their bottlenoses to head-but the sharks noses, the most sensitive part of their sleek and creepy physique, in order to send them away.

I’ve been told that if I am ever encountered by a shark while swimming or surfing, etc., to hit it as hard as I can in the nose; because they have terrible eyesight, and their sense of smell and direction are somehow connected in that region. If you bonk them on the nose, it messes up their sense of direction and they swim off. Step two ...swim like hell to shore, and don’t reconsider venturing back into the water for a long time; Mr. or Mrs. Sharky will be out for revenge -at least that’s what I think.

Anyway Nan, I think that you are waiting on the spirit plane for Seneca, because even souls miss one another. My mom is sad lately, and missing you terribly. Yesterday she confessed that she drove by you and poppa’s old house yesterday for comfort; she just felt like she needed to, but it only seemed to make her feel more lost; between closing her business, my mental breakdown, really high property taxes, unsold real estate, and ghosts lingering in her tired mind, she’s in a fog, worse than a lithium fog. It’s dark, and she has no hope for relief. It’s like she’s grabbing at the brass ring on the carousel, just about reaches it every time, grazes it with her tired fingers, and falls. I feel for her; her depression manifests itself as anxiety, which leads to insomnia. She hasn’t slept properly in nights; I introduced her to sleeping pills, but she has much more sense than I do, and is afraid to become addicted to their seamless effect.

So I asked her if she dreams, and she said that she never remembers her dreams, which is a sure fire way to tell that she is not reaching a REM state of sleep; the dream state. But then she told me that she has dreamed about you, Nan. She said she misses you deeply, and her crystal green/blue eyes ached with a profound, childlike sadness that can only be shown by the post-crying face of a little kid who wants her/his mommy. I suggested that she talk to you, pray to you, and ask for your guidance through dreams. I told her that I didn’t think that you had reincarnated yet, and my mother didn’t even flinch. She believed me.

She said that one evening, years after poppa had died, that she was sitting in the bright light of your kitchen, at the round oak table that
I love and use now, and she attempted to discuss selling the house with you. She asked you why you wouldn’t sell it, and you began to cry and said, “What if your father comes home ...I want to be here for him.”

I think that you knew something that others didn’t, Nan ...either that or you had some unresolved issues with Poppa when he died. Is that why I still feel your presence? Are you waiting for Seneca to come home to reconcile things with a kiss? He’ll come home Nanny, I just hope that wherever you are, sad hours don’t seem long.

And please tell me that this horrible affliction that we share does not continue in the afterlife? I hope not for your sake, Nan. I hope that you visit mom in her dreams. She needs you – Love, Ana

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dear Jimi...Turquoise

4/01 - Turquoise

Dear Jimi -

Was that really you in my dreams last night, or was that just a figment of my subconscious, toying with me? Whatever may be the case, it was a bizarre and incredible dream, full of physical, spiritual, and tactile feelings and color, and emotion, and nonsensical stuff. I remember that I was walking up a country road with my father. It was Bender’s Church Road where I grew up, and as I passed my friend Violet’s home, I peered into the front window (which never actually existed), and like an old Kodakrome negative, I saw her older sister Laura with her beautiful little son, Damon, rise from slumber and catch my eye and smile. They were cast in a strange orange light like an overexposed photograph, and I smiled and pointed them out to my dad, but my arms wouldn’t raise enough to wave to them; I could feel the pressure holding them down.

My father and I then ventured into my big, yellow country home that I grew up in, and there were a whole bunch of people there that I didn’t recognize, sitting in the living room watching television with my mom and Amber, my older sister.

Now, I don’t particularly remember the transition to the conference room on the second floor of my home, but I remember being conscience of the jeans I was wearing, and of a large portfolio of prints that I was carrying, and when I unzipped the portfolio, they were fantastic paintings of you, alive with color, just like your fiancee had painted...and then I felt your presence behind me. I turned and looked, and it was you. I reached out and touched your face, chiseled cheekbones and deep amber eyes, and you smiled shyly. I said, “Is it you?” I was conscious of you in my dream.

You laughed, and said something ...I wish that I could recall. I was amazed that you looked just as you did in photographs in 1969, but you were dressed much more casual. You were wearing a turquoise necklace that lay beautifully against your warm, dark skin resting over your collarbone, a button down black shirt, and a beautiful silver ring. You and I went through the portfolio of photographs, and I kept commenting on how much Jack reminded me of you.

There were other people that I didn’t recognize running around us busily preparing for something, but you and I had this ongoing, unconscious dialogue. The next thing that I recall, we were lying comfortably beneath soft yellow blankets on the floor of some dusky morning light-lit room that I didn’t recognize. There was a washer and dryer in the corner, and I just remember cuddling like children; I could smell your skin, and feel the warmth emanating from your body, and your long fingers held my hands. And then the door opened to the room, and my mother walked in to do some laundry and said, “Oh ...I’m sorry,” noticing that half of you was exposed from underneath the yellow blanket, and you had a bare bum.

I remember... that was the first that I had noticed that you were naked, too. But my mom continued to put a load of laundry into the washer, and slipped out and shut the door behind her. It didn’t phase us.

Next thing I knew you were talking on the phone in my parent’s kitchen, and you were wearing a hat, and speaking in a different language that I couldn’t interpret. Then you were gone, and I was driving through the Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania, where I happened upon the Shawnee Resort...I inadvertently decided to drive top speed through, directly into the Delaware River. So weird. I felt like I had no control over the Volkswagon Beetle that I was driving, and I was headed toward a crowd of people on the bank of the river, so I used my power, moving my arms in some strange manor, and I flew above the crowd, and above the river. All of the people below me in boats looked up in peaceful awe, and one woman said, “oh look, it’s one of those new flying bugs.” And I felt safe.

Thanks for visiting. Love, Ana