Archives

Just for You.

IMG_5518

My husband and I recently gave ourselves the gift of a few days in Yosemite National Park. There were jaw-dropping vistas, cliffs so dramatic they make you weep, waterfalls that remind you how mortal you are, and rivers and trees that murmur the blessings of Mother Nature to you, welcoming you home. All of it is so special and remarkable that you feel that you are the first, that this is a gift just for you.

The city smut sloughs off of you and you can clearly feel your exhaustion. You hadn’t been aware of how depressed and isolated you had become. The separation from anything real snuck up on you, seeping in insidiously until you had lost hope in this current, science-denying country of ours, and assumed everyone but you saw Mother Nature as a big ol’ whore to be pimped to the highest bidding john.

But you look again, and miracle of miracles, you realize there are others. Many others. “Oh,” you say with tears of surprise and relief in your eyes as you see that someone else cares, “I thought I was the only one left who gave a shit.” There are many who have come to be in this sacred space to remember who they are. People who realize that without wilderness, we can never know ourselves, or our place in the world. Individuals, like yourself, who value the world as it is rather than reducing it with their small-minded greed to a disposable commodity.  People who know that we have fucked up—big time—but it’s not yet too late, not quite, and they will not let her die without a fight. These people are the planet’s medics on the battlefield, the last line of defense against the disease of the uncaring ravagers and pillagers. We humans, meant to be the stewards of nature, have instead wounded the world, lost our way, but there is a path that leads back. It’s a sobering thought that the world will not be healed in our lifetimes. Bringing back a healthy environment will take generations.

Which is one reason that, as much as I love my own experiences hiking or exploring or just admiring, I get a real visceral thrill when I see and hear children’s enthusiasm that matches, or even exceeds my own. I love sharing my meager knowledge, or pointing out a deer in the trees, or maybe encouraging them to take off their shoes and feel the cold water and smooth stones of the creek on their feet. If they don’t know it, they can’t love it, and if they don’t love it, they won’t protect it.

When I was a small child, my mother said she had to get a hold of me if we ever went somewhere high with a view because I would race to the edge with my arms flung wide and scream at the top of my lungs. Every daring glimpse of the cosmos was a gift, just for me, and I took it.

My mom called it energy, and it was, but it was something more than just my personal energy, more even than childish unbridled joy. It was a few precious seconds of connection with the swirling, glorious infinity of nature and the universe. I know that feeling, I remember it. I still get it, though people freak a bit if, as an adult, I launch myself to the edge of a precipice and scream. I don’t know why—just one of life’s many mysteries. So I’ve learned to temper my reaction, sadly, but my husband still gets a hold of my belt when we get close to high, open places. He is wary of my impulse to be out in that air, to experience sitting in the twenty story windowsill or on the edge of bridges. Both of which I’ve also been known to do, feet dangling over the width and breadth of San Francisco bay, or the lights of a city night.

In that same spirit I have twirled on rooftops, waltzed on the Eiffel tower, whooped with bliss on the African Savannah, hummed with the crickets in the forest at night, leapt from a rocky cliff into the chill of the magnificent Pacific, and laid down in the rain with my face up to the sky, watching the water fall. Note, it’s important to squint when you do this, it makes it easier to keep your eyes open.

And why? For life, to feel the whorl and tides of unmitigated force and vitality. It’s a precious gift and I damn well am going to open it every chance I get.

Possibly the only thing I enjoy as much as gulping in bliss and nature is watching and hearing kids do it. Their enthusiasm is endless, not unlike my own, and their expressions have not yet been tempered or their unchecked joy corrected, limited, and restrained. Their awe is unbridled and infinite.

Sometimes, probably unfairly, it makes me nuts when people treat an outing to someplace like Yosemite as a photo shoot for their kids. Reining them in from the hugeness of the experience to try to contain it in a few thousand pixels. I get it, we all want to document our experience and to share it, but not at the cost of the kids discovering it while they’re there.

So it’s nice to find a balance. I was at the base of Yosemite falls and a mom with two boys, very young, maybe 3 and 5, was trying to line them up for a photo, drawing them away from the toddler-mind-blowing reality in front of them. Away from the now for a future reward. The younger boy slumped, hands hanging almost to his knees as he moaned, “Why do we always have to take a picture?” His older brother, no doubt sensing the inevitable and wanting to get it over with, threw an arm over his little brother’s shoulder and drew him close. Turning their backs on the object of delight to pose for mom, he explained, shouting over the roar into his brother’s ear, “Because these are memories.” As he said the word ‘memories,’ he stretched the last syllable, turning the eee sound, into a big smile, which he turned toward the camera. Click, and they were back to the moment where they belonged, exhilarated at the sheer thrill of the explosive power of falling water. They leaned over the stone bridge and screamed into the crash of impact and danced in the magical mist that engulfed them.

And that’s our life, sometimes we take the gift of now, and sometimes we wrap one up for the future into a tiny computer file to look at later and bring the memories and the sensations of something grander than ourselves back to us when we sit at our desks or in the carpool lane. A gift of now for the future, just for you.

I suppose that’s what a great family trip in nature is, a gift for now and for later.

“Please,” I pray to Mother Nature, “please let the children remember. Let them love you so that they find the courage to protect you.”

And she whispers back to me, “It is in their soul now, it always was, but here they have found it again.”

Then, being Mother Nature and a bit unpredictable not to mention snarky, she adds, “And it’s on mom’s cellphone, so…you’re welcome.”

Then she winks and fades away with the most glorious sunset that ever was, to work her magic on the twilight.

 

Just for me.

 

 

Shari, April 11, 2018

 

Advertisements

Losing Diamonds, Finding Love

 

IMG_0519

getting it right

 

We were in Hawaii when my sister’s first husband proposed to her. She didn’t know it was coming, but I did, so I took my four year daughter and followed them out to the beach where we could watch from a discrete distance. Creason was so amped up with keeping a secret that once he dropped to one knee she took off running toward them before I could stop her. After a quick glance at her aunt’s hand she turned and came running back. As soon as she was within shouting distance, she yelled, “He gave her a ring with three sparkles!!”

Sparkles. Call it like it is kid, three sparkles.

My first two husbands didn’t bother to get me a ring. The first marriage was over in a year or so, and I was glad to be clear of it. An expensive ring wasn’t that important to me as a ‘thing’ to own, but as time went on with husband number two and I gave up career opportunities to grow, deliver, and raise two beautiful girls, I realized that it would have been nice for their father to have taken the trouble to maybe make me feel like he noticed the imbalance of that equation with an effort at making me feel appreciated. It didn’t have to be anything expensive, even though he could easily have afforded it, just having him put the thought into trying to make me happy would have been nice.

So for twenty something years I bought my own diamonds while I was working and attending events where I could justify wearing such a thing, even if that justification is as weak, lopsided and pathetic as a two-legged table. Come on, nobody needs a diamond, the money would be far better spent feeding hungry children or a college education. (He didn’t pay for the college either it turned out, if only there had been some clue!)

Yet most women—well, privileged American women—expect a diamond as an engagement present. Out of three marriages, only my third, current, and final husband bothered to observe the tradition, and he, in classic Joseph style, did it right. Popped that little black velvet box open in front of my eyes while we were making love, thank you very much. My ring is a very special piece, and it only matters that I know that. I do not wear it to impress anyone else. He could not have found anything to make me feel more like his treasure.

See, there are big-but-flawed diamonds, there are the ‘we got money very recently so I have this impressive looking but lower quality yellow’ diamonds, mostly favored by women who bling their cell phones and carry tiny trembling canines, and then there are the only thing I wanted. A pre-blood-diamond, brilliant color, flawless quality, uniquely framed by a magnificent filigree nineteen-twenties Cartier setting. It brings me joy every time I look down at my hand, because of what it represents, love, romance, commitment, and most importantly, that I am a precious to a gem among men.

So, when I recently left a rope of diamonds necklace in a hotel in San Francisco and realized it wasn’t coming back, it was a twinge, but not worth hysterics. It’s just a sparkly thing after all. Okay, about fifty sparkly things, but nobody’s ill or dying, I won’t go homeless or not eat, and the looser my neck skin becomes the more I wonder about the wisdom of accenting it anyway.

Then, in the same week, I went to pick up a prescription and was told that my health insurance had been cancelled. Surprise! The promise of medical care is a much scarier thing to lose than diamonds, trust me, just ask the millions of Americans who will be joining that group soon. Phone calls to find out what had gone wrong and why I hadn’t been notified were fruitless, or went unanswered after holds exceeding an hour, so I set out to find the physical office and people whom I hoped could explain.

Three locations, two building complexes and several waiting rooms later, I was told that my insurance should actually be valid, the only problem was that no one had finished the paperwork transferring it from southern California to Central California, though it had been ordered over a month before and was ‘on someone’s desk.’ So, I was currently uninsured due to a clerical error. If I had come down with a staff infection, been shot by some NRA sponsored mental patient, or been hit by a drunk driver, I would have been shit out of luck and financially ruined. Ah, America is number one, I do NOT think. ‘Oh well,’ seemed to be the general attitude of those allowed to screw us for profit. I was informed that I could call tomorrow and try to get someone to fix the situation, (remember I was already on hold for over an hour more than once with that very same number before finally giving up) or I could wait among the several dozen people in the waiting room for someone who could finalize it today.

Feeling strangely untrusting, call me crazy, I opted to wait so I could vent at someone’s face. The building also housed a clinic and the large waiting room in which everyone had been given a number that came up on a screen when the powers that be deigned to see you—much like the DMV, was filled with melting down children, parents clinging to their last nerve, hacking coughs, angry and frightened citizens with issues like mine, and a sprinkling of the homeless who were there for some agency of some sort.

It was this last category that fascinated me. I watched as one man, probably in his early seventies, carrying a huge, dirty backpack, greeted several other of this forgotten tribe. Without exception hugs were given, concern was expressed, help was offered if possible, but more often it was condolence or sympathy. Things are tough out there on the street and, no matter how much people like us pretend not to see the suffering, it doesn’t make it any less brutal for them.

The elderly homeless man started a conversation with a nice family sitting near him. They looked a little uncomfortable but were very polite to this cheerful, well-spoken elder who primarily addressed the son, a young man of maybe 14. I truly wished I could remember all that was said. He talked about how lucky the boy was to have a family who loved him. I started to listen when I heard him ask the kid if he knew he was loved. When the boy said yes, the older gentleman said, “That makes me so happy. That makes me all waggily in the tail.”

The phrase caught my attention and I started to pay closer attention. Here was this man with nothing, literally, but the clothes and the pack on his back but I’ve seldom seen a more positive person. I wish I had written down all he said, but it went something like this.

“I know I’ll find love today and everyday, and when you know that, it gets easier and easier. When I get something to eat, you know what I do? I go out and find someone to share it with. It might be cold by the time I find someone but that’s what makes my day, I know I will find love.”

After a few minutes he was called in and stood up, bracing himself to shoulder that heavy pack. I stood up as well.

“Sir?” I called. He stopped and turned. I opened my wallet, pulled out a twenty and said, “Please get yourself something to eat and find someone to share it with.”

I was so moved by his grace and plight, that I had to turn away quickly to hide my tears. But he followed me and when I sat down, he bowed graciously. “Thank you, thank you,” he said, with a huge grin. He turned to the family and bowed slightly to them as well. “Wonderful to speak with you,” he told them, “You are a beautiful family.” Then he turned back to me. “Bless you,” he said, but before he could say anything else, my number was called and I escaped before openly weeping with shame that in this country of obscene wealth, so many people sleep on the concrete in the rain.

The administrator who helped me was wonderful, kind, patient and we shared some amazing stories while she completed the paperwork, I thanked her for the help and the conversation and went on my way.

As I climbed into my car I thought again about the diamonds that I lost, and felt nothing. Yes, they cost money, yes they are gone, but I would not waste life looking for them or regretting their loss.

So this week I lost some diamonds permanently, my health insurance temporarily, and I found someone who lives with the conviction that he will find love if he looks for it. I found someone who believes that love is ever-present, even in the darkest of situations.

A man who will never have diamonds or gold.

Or even a warm, safe place to call his own.

His smile and his clear-eyed kindness woke something in me.

It gave me a gift, a treasure, a memory.

Of this amazing human who spends everyday looking for love.

And today, like everyday,

He found it.

 

Shari, January 3rd, 2018

 

Please Forget Me When I’m Gone.

IMG_4414 (1)

Where the sidewalk ends

 

I watch a man, a father I think, pushing a baby in a stroller who is maybe a year old.The father rolls his son right to the edge of the sidewalk overlooking the crashing surf below so that there is nothing but salty air between the child and the sea. He crouches next to the child and points out over the shimmering water. There are no words, nothing but the gesture, yet that simple wave of an arm is a lecture on eternity, a tutorial on infinity, of all things. It is a master class in perspective.

Later this day, I stand in line at the grocery store. There are several people ahead of me and only two checkers open in the village-sized store. The older woman ahead of me who is blocking everyone from passing because she seems unaware that anyone else exists, begins to complain loudly. This is an outrage, she complains, she has valuable things to do with her time. Her cart is filled with wine and expensive specialty items. And still she complains. When she looks to me to bitch along, I say, “I have been too many places where parents cannot feed their children for me to complain that I have to wait a few minutes for all of this.” I wave my arm in direction of the unbelievable bounty and choice available to us. “Whenever I have to wait,” I tell her, “I remind myself how fortunate I am to have so much abundance.”

Her face twists in sour indignation, but before she can wind up to vent off more entitled outrage, I shrug comically and say, “Hey, how else you gonna’ keep your sense of humor?”

What I really want to do is scream at her, “There are hungry children on the street outside! They will go to bed hungry!” But it will do no good, this woman has no experience in her ken that allows her to shrug off even this slight inconvenience because she has no gratitude for what she has, who she is, where she lives, the privilege she was born into, nothing. She has a grossly limited perspective. She knows only that the world is ‘supposed’ to be the way she wants it to be, the way it has always been for her.

It’s really such a very small way to think.

How do you change that in a ‘me first!’ society? Can you teach empathy? The issue, of course, is that it’s a matter of standards and awareness. To what do you compare any given thing? Do you see yourself as a member of a vast universe or as the center of the only story you know. The creator or the victim?

Let’s take my writing career as a sample. I have published eight books, I’ve had many people enjoy them very much, (which is the best metric for me), I’ve had glowing reviews, and I adore creating other worlds and lives. I am lucky. Compared to someone who has always wanted to write but who has never had the time, the agent, or the publisher to do so, I’m a success! Whoo hoo, go Shari!

But, if I look at the fact that I’ve never had a best-seller, I’ve never had a movie made from one of my books, and I’ve never been featured in Oprah’s book club, then I’m a resounding failure. Boo Shari.

So what do you think? I think it’s writer’s choice whether to call myself a winner or a loser.

Okay, I know some of you are choosing the latter description with a little too much enthusiasm, fair enough. That propels us into the realm of judging our worth based on what other people think about us, but that factor is so unknowable and immeasurable that the science to gauge it hasn’t been discovered yet.

So let that go, for now, focus on the question of whether you think yourself a success or a failure. Should you be happy with your lot in life or distressed?

Each person’s answer depends on what test they use to arrive at an answer. And what’s your time frame for this assessment? Is it what you are experiencing in this minute that counts? The last year? The bottom line of a balance sheet of your total life? And what goes into that accounting? Money made? Happiness felt? Relationships failed? Tears wiped from another’s face by your compassion? Will there be a statue of you or your name on a bridge when you’re gone? What standards apply?

Watching that man with his son on the edge of the ocean was such an amazing reminder to me to look up, to see and imagine the possibilities beyond my limited vision, to remember that there is so much more out there.

I don’t believe in bumper stickers or tattoos, because I have changed my mind so very many times, and I hope I always will, because the option to that is to stop learning and stagnate, fester, and rot. But if I were to have any kind of constant message or symbol to remind me who I am and what is important, it would be one simple word.

Mortal.

This too shall pass.

Ironic, I know, the idea that once I’ve rotted, or hopefully been scattered as ashes in some magnificent redwood glade, I will be far more enlightened and connected than in life. I don’t necessarily believe in life after death, but I do believe that energy and love never die, just morph into something new that is absorbed into a universe hungry for the infusion. I for one will be grateful to return when the time comes, I hope. It does not frighten me that I will be forgotten. It makes no difference to me at all. But making the world a better place while I am a part of it— that is everything.

Try it, for one day, instead of constantly needing to tell yourself how important you are, how fabulous, how great, and especially instead of having to think yourself more important than others, think this…

You will die. All this will be forgotten. It’s just a matter of how long. Even those who are desperate to believe they will be remembered (be immortal) throughout history must face the fact that all human history will eventually end. Even this planet. Only the echoes of our energy and our love will remain, reborn and blended into something new, something even more wonderful.

So, for today, be mortal. Run to the edge of the ocean, or the top of a tall building, or stand in the rain, or listen to Mozart and weep, and know that this moment is magnificent. Say hello, offer a kind word, slip a twenty in a sleeping homeless person’s shoe, laugh like a child.

It isn’t what you absorb, but what you project that matters.

It isn’t how you are remembered, but how you are that counts.

So count yourself lucky.

Stop complaining.

Know that your breath is shared by seven billion other people.

Seven billion.

We’ll all be gone before too long.

Leave something of worth, something more than a memory.

And when I’m gone, if you do think of me, I hope you smile.

And then forget me.

I’m okay with that.

I’m already part of you.

 

 

Shari. October 12th, 2017

 

 

 

 

Sexier than Thou. An Effed-up Value.

Mein Herr, chair

Tired of being compared to a barnyard animal for those extra pounds? Sick to death of being ranked against every other woman at your office, school, or neighborhood? Infuriated by the fact that men routinely troll strong women of amazing quality, intelligence, and skill with hateful rhetoric based on physical appearance? Then why, when women are more than half the population, do we put up with it?

Beyond that seemingly simple concept, there’s more. Somebody please explain to me why, as sisters who can only benefit from raising our sex as whole, do women perpetrate this crap? Why are we encouraging our country to stay this adolescent?

I don’t want to sound too harsh, but…a nation where the value of half its population is commonly and frequently ranked according to our ‘fuckability’ by the less enlightened of the other half is clearly a country that should be sent packing from pre-school with a note. “Until Sam can treat his classmates with respect, he needs to stay home.” The things we teach our children should make us hang our sexist heads in shame. It’s like our entire adult population never got out of junior high. Sorry to reduce it so far down, I know that there are many terrific men out there, I know that tens of thousands of women and men are working hard to change this mentality, but this is an essay, not a novel or a dissertation, so I only have so many words to make a point.

I’m not saying that admiring someone’s appearance or appreciating sensuality is bad. It is not bad. It’s human, and feeling lust is in our DNA. Procreation is a powerful engine. I am a big fan of all things sensual, from fun flirtation to up against the wall, sweaty, growling like a bobcat passion. I can look at a gorgeous woman or man and think, “Damn, she/he/she-he/whatever, is hot!” and appreciate the moment. That’s not what I’m talking about. What I am talking about here is being reduced (read that as—demeaned, lessened, lowered, relegated, otherwise ignored, or any other version of being put in a lower place) to existing solely for someone else’s gratification. I’m talking about perpetrating the myth that the most important thing a woman can be, the thing that women envy her for the most, is attractive to men.

Frankly, it pisses me off.

And this isn’t new. From the time I was a very young child, I was taught that being pretty was special, it was valuable. Television, magazines and the people in my life backed this up again and again until I was sure I had absolutely no right to ever be unhappy or feel lonely, even as conventional thought isolated me more and more from what I knew in my heart and soul was the truth. So, I’ve been pissed off for a few decades now.

The truth is that while looks are fun, they are not important. Being handsome doesn’t uplift or sustain you in any way. Being considered attractive can have its place, like making people smile, or showing off this year’s fashions on the runway but as a value it isn’t real and it certainly doesn’t form a foundation for anything worthwhile.

I’m older now but I think I have a reasonable grasp on this subject. Yes, I was on the cover of Playboy several times, yes I made a lot of money modeling lingerie, and then being the actress with the ‘good body’ in many films and TV appearances, but it wasn’t always comfortable for me, I was more than tits and ass and I knew it. A glance at my resume will not tell you how many jobs I refused because I thought they would be degrading, not to me, but to women in general.

We’re guilty too, we girls. Come on ladies, buck up and admit it. We perpetrate this ridiculous shallowness. Not by choosing to dress or act ‘sexy’, that’s our right damn it!, but because we allow men to make us compete with other woman in this very limited arena. And, more insidiously, because we actually buy into it, convincing ourselves that we are better than someone else for something so shallow. Men have been using that weakness to make us fight against each other since the days when man caves were a primary residence—their bad. But when women willingly climb into the ring—our stupidity.

Talk about setting ourselves up for a fall. There is always someone hotter and younger coming along behind you dummy. And no matter what, you will age and no amount of money or plastic surgery will keep you 22 and your butt high. I mean, what the hell ladies? Talk about setting yourselves up for a fall. Not much job security in putting your eggs in that basket.

I don’t even want to go into the political aspect of this right now. The fact that women vote for men who would dismiss them as worthless and disgusting based on their faces and bodies is a whole other subject that leaves me wanting to bounce from one side of my living to the other smashing my fists through the dry wall, and since I’m living in a rental right now, I’ll reserve that rant for later.

Just because a woman is ‘attractive’ or ‘sexy’ in your opinion does not mean that she does not have other worth, or even that she appreciates or invites your assessment. If you want to feel smug because a woman your boyfriend once leered at has gained weight, go for it. Just remember that it’s a tiny fraction of who she is, but your need to put her down there is a huge part of who you are.

Oh sure, who am I to talk? I did plenty of nudity in films, but I never took a part that was just me taking my shirt off for the titty count. The ‘titty count’ is how I would refer to the fact that, when I was a working actress, a movie had to show tits three times to get a foreign distribution deal. Often with smaller movies that’s where filmmakers made their money, and I didn’t begrudge them that, but I wouldn’t be only that. The role had to be worth it in some way, an acting challenge.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s awesome fun when you keep the power of your sexuality, but it’s soul crushing when you are expected to give it away.

In my first starring role there was a huge, fight-slash-attempted-rape scene that was written to be played completely naked. I felt helpless and dirty about it. Not because of the nudity per se, but because of the insinuation and context. I had it out with the producer and director and told them that I would not do that scene naked, they screamed and hollered and threatened to sue me, but I held my ground. A week later, when the mandatory prison shower scene was being filmed, I stripped down to skin, climbed in under that luke-warm water and dutifully lathered up. The producers had been expecting me to refuse to do the scene, they even had a lawyer on the set. I remember the confused, but happy, look on the director’s face when we finished shooting the scene and wardrobe brought me my robe. I said to him, “Do you understand now? I have no problem with nudity or sexuality, but I have a serious problem with using rape as an excuse for nudity and arousal.”

And you should too.

Conversely, there was a moment in ‘Caberet’ when, dressed in very skimpy black lace and thigh high boots, in the middle of the outrageously sexual song ‘Mein Heir’ I would pause, nail the audience with a sly smile, then rise onto my six inch heels leading with my pelvis while raking, no, daring the audience with my eyes. I didn’t even think about it until the choreographer came backstage and said, “Do you have any idea how powerful you are in that moment?” It hadn’t occurred to me to look at it like that, but after that night, it got better. Yes, it was fun to own my character’s sexual prowess, but it was way more fun to belt the songs, to dance with talented dancers, to act the scenes with emotion that wrenched and exhausted me until the show finished with me a depleted heroin addict close to death.

But enough of me justifying and rationalizing, back to the point. Women are wonderful, soft and sexy and strong and ruthless. We are smart and kind and cruel. We are doctors and authors and teachers and politicians and even murderers. But still, any time someone feels the need to be negative about a woman, deserved or not, the default insult is almost unfailingly about her appearance.

Time to rise my darlings. Enough of this BS. I appreciate a gorgeous woman in a sexy setting as much as anyone, because I’m not homophobic and women, all kinds, shapes and sizes of women, are sexy. And while I appreciate a gorgeous man as well, I don’t have the need to reduce them to sex toys either. I get it, my darling romance writer friends, it’s our turn to objectify men the way they have us, but do we need to? Hopefully the answer is no.

If you won’t put your foot down and refuse to enter that bogus arena for yourself, do it for your daughters. If you don’t have any daughters of your own, do it for everyone else’s.

Stand up for us all by refusing to put a woman down for her appearance. If you need to criticize someone’s appearance, check to be sure why you feel compelled to do so, and maybe find a more intelligent thing to say.

Maybe the world deigns that you are ‘attractive’ and maybe it doesn’t. Who gives a shit?

Not me. Not any more. I gave up that competition and started to look for what was worthy inside of people long ago. I not only saved my sanity, my life went from a mirror to a kaleidoscope of light and color and heartfelt connections.

I’m not buying into that bullshit I was fed for one more minute.

Because people are remarkable.

Even the good-looking ones.

But not just them.

Look deeper.

Love more.

Because you’re worth it.

Shari, September 13th, 2017

 

Tapestry of Lives

IMG_3465

Wrapped in on of my Treasures

 

There’s a thrift store I frequent in the little town of Felton CA. In this one stoplight town, in a barn-sized store, at a square counter, works a woman. At first glance she is unremarkable. She is pleasant looking, but not beautiful. She is older, but not old. She is smart, but not genius. Unremarkable.

Except by me, who is about to remark on how very remarkable she is.

Everyday she stands at her post helping people, checking them out with their purchases, showing them the discarded treasures in the glass countered case, directing them to the location of a desired or hoped for item. It’s all second hand stuff, and most of the people who come here do so because they can’t afford to go anywhere else. Some of us could, but prefer reusing and recycling the endless hoards of things that flow through our lives, or we prefer hunting for treasures to the instant but empty gratification of ordering on line. We like the personality of things that have been gently used and loved by others. There’s something special about reading a book and finding a notation in the margin calling attention to a particularly poignant phrase or startling fact. I especially love when people look up a word they don’t know and scribble the definition to one side. Vocabulary speaks volumes. I guess that what it’s for.

I remember my great grandmother, Edith, crocheting and knitting and quilting even at 100, binding together thread and fabric to make beautiful, useful objects that comfort and embrace her family to this day. I have two of her beautiful crocheted blankets and they are family treasures.

But some people stitch things together in a different way. They use words instead of a crochet hook. They let their actions and their empathy create their art. The woman at the thrift store spends the majority of her work time chatting with people. She speaks to each and every customer, even if it’s only briefly. Some, mostly those who seem alone, she goes out of her way to notice, especially the elderly. Calling to them by name if she knows them or asking questions and drawing them out if she doesn’t. “Did you get the water heater fixed?” or “How are you today? Are you staying cool in this heat? You be careful out there.”

The questions matter, of course. But far more important is that she listens to the answers. She ‘oohs’ over phone pictures of dogs and grandkids, she delights in people’s little joys and offers small, but sincere, sympathies, she encourages, hopes, and includes.

So today, when I was leaving I noticed a trinket in the case that was pretty, and I asked about it. She said, “It’s nothing very special, I’ll let you have it for two dollars.”

I said, “Thank you,” and then, feeling that was inadequate, I added, “and thank you for being so kind to everyone who comes in, it really makes a difference to us all.”

She pulled off her glasses, looked me in the eye and said, “I think that’s why I was put on this planet, to be kind to people from a humble place. To…let them know that they are…” she lost the thread, and I picked it up, knit one, pearl two.

“It is something to be ‘seen.’” I told her. “It means a lot.”

She nodded, feeling our smiles link together into lace, the simple words used as stiches that bind random lonely moments into shared experiences. I think she was grateful for the words, but I couldn’t really see clearly as my eyes were tearing up. Such awareness moves me, and I left grateful.

Because, you see, without people like her, those who see everyone as part of the pattern, we would all be tattered scraps fraying in the wind. All of the threads that knit together to make a community, or a family, or a friendship, would lay discarded, tangled, and useless.

But when we care, when we see others, our empathy grows. We begin to bind together, to strengthen from single human strand to twine, and on to sturdier and stronger rope, until we have a bond so strong that we can build with it, sometimes we can make an intricate work of art, and sometimes we can make a tow rope to pull a truck out a ditch, but either way, it takes more than one thin strand.

You are not alone. Why pretend there is strength in that?

Every refusal of someone else’s worth weakens your fabric, leaves you unfulfilled, another project undone, another possibility lost.

I may not have the patience or the skill to make an actual quilt, but I see my life and my exchanges with friends and strangers as a virtual quilt. Every time I stop and speak with someone whose appearance frightened me and find they are kind, I add a panel. Every interaction I notice between others embroiders another flower onto the blanket that lies lightly over my shoulders.

And when I die, I will be wrapped in that gorgeous shroud of moments, knitted together into a tapestry that was my life.

It will not unwind, it will not fade, and it will shimmer even as my memories die away with me. Only I will see this actual blanket, only I will be wrapped in it, but many of the panels or woven scenes will be shared, they will be part of others’ stories as well.

Thank you for seeing me.

Thank you for sharing your silk, your wool, the very fabric that is you.

I see you.

 

Shari, August 27th 2017

Skipping Middle Age

 

IMG_1480

older and softer

Recently I posted a picture of myself with no make up or photo shop tricks, and a fan from my movie days commented, “Wow! You look so different.”

Really? I look different than I did thirty-five years ago after teams (meaning multiple people in each) of hair and wardrobe and makeup and lighting and camera experts worked on me for hours to get that perfect shot?

Shocker.

Now, I don’t think he meant it meanly, but it gave me pause. Should I be insulted? No, because he’s absolutely right. Should I be amused? Oh yeah, because it feels much better (and is much smarter) than feeling hurt and indignant for denying the superior forces of gravity, time, and ‘nature’s changing course, untrimmed,’ as young Will would have put it in a sonnet.

Face it. Or should I say, Wrinkly face it. I look different and you will too.

Because it goes like this—and really quickly by the way.

You’re young, you’re naïve enough to get away with stupid mistakes, (live and learn, you shrug as you laugh off getting called out for pretending to be an expert on some shit that turns out to be some stranger’s dead wrong opinion you overheard in a coffee shop) you’re healthy, you’re gorgeous…

and then you aren’t.

Why stretch that excruciating transition out over thirty or forty years? Why torture yourself by denying the inevitable? Why beat yourself up at every one of those learning curves? All those middle aged ‘firsts’ that smack you upside the head because you were actually delusional enough to think you were going to be young and cool forever.

I’m talking about firsts like:

The first time you realize that cute guy or girl doesn’t just not notice you, they don’t even see you.

The first time you go to your doctor and instead of offering solutions, she just says, “These things happen as you age.”

The first time you get that AARP packet, (and it won’t be your last, those people are ruthless!)

The first time you realize you’d rather sit your ass down and watch kids play instead of challenging them to a race across the monkey bars. (Although I do still love a good playground!)

The first time you meet a twenty-year old who says you remind her of her grandmother. Her grandmother! And you realize you could easily be.

Take some advice from 56 year old who had a really good run in the young and stupid years, and who is now happier than any other time by a factor of at least 10.

Ready? Now focus because this is profound, I mean this is some seriously deep shit. Here it is.

When you get to about 40 say, “Fuck it. I’m old.”

Skip all that bemoaning and worrying, and suffering for the loss of your figure, hair, mind, sexual attraction, ability to blame your youth for your ignorance and/or bad behavior, and being able to read anything smaller than the top line of an eye chart in noon sunshine. And you get to enjoy all this while you gain weight, forgetfulness, jowls, and wrinkles that look like a compressed trail map of Yellowstone National Park complete with accurate topography. And let me tell you, if you’ve never hiked Yellowstone, there are thousands of criss-crossing trails, glacial ridges, mountains, valleys, and not a few geysers.

Brace yourself baby. Your ego is going to take a hit.

You used to eat spicy food, now you can’t. You used to drink all the tequila you wanted and bound out of bed the next day. (Can I get a white wine spritzer?) You used to be able to wear a bikini with pride, now it takes a certain amount of denial verging on belligerence, or at the very least a tankini.

Prescriptions take the place of most recreational drugs. (Notice the use of ‘most’ wink wink. CBDs rock for menopause and arthritis!)

For some unknown reason, you will need to blow your nose all the time. Sure, I had the same problem when I was 18 and 19, but when you snort a gram or two of cocaine every day that can happen. Now, the only white powder I use on a regular basis is Dr. Scholl’s moisture absorbent foot powder.

Dancing until two was an every night occurrence. I’m still up every night at 2 am, but now it’s to go pee.

You have to be on LSD to pretend you are still 29 and expect other people to buy into it. Your thought process there approaches the hallucinatory and the odds are strong that it will be a bad trip.

Let’s look at this from another angle. I’ve always been mystified why women lie and say they are younger than they are. The logic is lost on me. If you are, say, 50, and you lie and say you are 42, you risk people thinking, “Damn, she is not aging well at all!” The best you can hope for is someone complimenting your plastic surgeon. But if you are 50, but tell people you are 59, it’s far more likely someone will think and even say, “Wow! She looks fantastic!” Of course the unspoken finish to that comment is, ‘for her age.’ I mean, if what you’re worried about at my age is people notice that you’re aging—which translates, let’s be honest, to being vain—then you need to think this mo-fo through.

What are you grieving? Oh no, boo hoo, as you age you’ll loose the leering, sleazy admiration of jerks who think you exist solely for their sexual gratification. How ever will you survive the loss? “Alas I confront the gaping void! Such tragedy befalls me! Oh woe, calamity, the end of all I hold dear! Darkness descends, beauty fades and my worth is ended!”

Can we just take a moment of silence for your mental sanity, and your values?

Of course that’s what we get as a country for equating youth with beauty and beauty with happiness.

Talk about setting yourself up.

The moral of the story is; get the f’ over yourself. You are going to age, and as you do so you will begin to disappear more and more in the eyes of youth and a societal ethics you helped to create by valuing your own youth and beauty above things of actual importance. Will you panic and cling to the illusion that you can stop the clock? Or will you relax and enjoy the easy fall into shorter walks and birthday cakes that increasingly resemble burning man less the fun drugs and nudity? What is your option to aging? I’ll let you think about that for a minute.

Got it? Yes, the option is death. And whether you take the longer way or the express, your ticket disembarks at the same destination, so you might as well enjoy the ride.

You get to choose when you make your wish. Will you use that flame to set yourself on fire and end the shame of, dare I speak the word, unattractiveness? Or will you use the light of experience, of years, to be enlightened?

Is there an up side to living to be less physically attractive? What can we learn from all these bonus years on the planet?

Lots. You don’t have to impress anybody, and you learn to be fine with that.

You learn to say, “I don’t know,” and be fine with that.

You learn to be fine, in a completely different way.

You get to be who you are.

Finally, at long last,

You can be who you want to be.

Hello old friend!

Oh, it’s me.

 

Shari, August 19, 2017

 

 

Clawing my way to Happiness.

 

Wow, it’s been a tough couple of months. This election is insanity itself, and as someone who is fascinated by human behaviour both individually and societal I’m having a hard time staying positive.

It’s not the politics, it’s not even the supposed policies, it’s the anger, the loathing, the fear, and the virulence spewing from seemingly sane people that has me down. We live in a world where people believe different things, have different visions, and—call me crazy— I think that should be okay.

In the last day or so, I had to come to terms with the fact that I am actually, clinically depressed. My anxiety has been through the roof. It’s major life changes for me as well, selling a home we have built and loved, moving to a new life, the last kid leaving for college, etc, but I’m someone who usually embraces change, in fact, I’m enthused and energised by it!

So why am I so tired? Why do I feel like crying for no apparent reason? Why do I find myself wilting on a step or a rock and holding my head in my hands without knowing how I got there or if I can get up again?

Because I started to lose faith in people. I see people who should be trying to make the world better doing nothing but spreading hate and fear. I see supposed ‘grown-ups’ posting things that are cruel and juvenile with no intention of creating discussion or change, only to insult, hurt, and lash out.

What the hell is wrong with us? And how can we keep hoping and trying when there is so much narrow-minded selfishness and narcissism being shoved down our throats?

My immediate response to this kind of negative personal reaction is to do some good, to empower myself and the world around me with kindness or generosity or charity even. Something, anything, but even that effort has been difficult to muster. We feel so helpless when we continually see people behaving as though their goal in life is to make the worst possible choices for the overall good. When did we become this race that cared for nothing but ourselves?

The answer, of course, is that most of us haven’t. Yes, there is a huge portion of the population, especially I think in our country, who respond from ignorance and fear, I understand that, but what hurls my heart into darkness is watching people make those choices knowingly, gloatingly, gleefully.

The sheer mass of meanness has been overwhelming to say the least. So much so that in the last few days, I’ve actually been feeling tired of life. I’ve been scrabbling and scratching my way up for a breath of decency and hope. Just forcing myself to stand and step forward, to go a little further, to lift my chin a little higher, has felt like pulling a locomotive uphill with a fraying tow rope.

Usually, I’m the one offering a smile or a joke or a compliment. I spend a great deal of my energy trying to make others feel good, and that, much like compounded interest, gives me even more energy and happiness. I’m selfish that way.

So it was interesting to have a day where on my usual errands to the bank, the grocery, the post office and other neighbourhood places, to discover how many people not only noticed I was sad, but went out of their way to make me smile. I now understand the expression, ‘many happy returns of the day,’ because my bonus came in. At the coffee shop, one of the servers made a special effort to call me by name, to sincerely ask how I was doing. The checker at the grocery store who I always chat with came around the counter to give me a hug when I shared that I was suffering what I call, ‘the reds’ (extreme anxiety). The bank manager, who loves my books, actually got teared up when I explained that we were moving away.

And then, with all the perfect timing of the universe, my daughter sent me an essay she wrote for college about me. Here’s an excerpt.

My mom is a truly adventurous person. She will try any food or challenge that comes her way, excluding of course anything that would involve cruelty or is not within reason. Some of my most vivid memories of my mother and her adventures include my sister and I taking the role of the worried parent as my mother attempts some dangerous feat. “Get away from that bear” we would say, or “mom the ice bridge isn’t safe, please don’t… oh god no there she goes.” For all the times she has made us incredibly nervous for her well being, she has also pushed us to always be brave and never shy away from adventure.

What’s funny is that in the end the only thing that really makes me feel in danger is putting myself out there emotionally. Caring. I am not a person who can look away from bullying, cruelty or suffering, and that makes me vulnerable. It takes all of my courage sometimes to stay open, to care, and to not look away from those things.

And it’s true, I am seldom afraid, I always look for the beauty and positivity around me, but lately I have felt utterly drained and sad. Not sad for myself, but for humanity as a whole.

But I realise now, again, that it is time for me to be brave. Time to lean into the fear, the hate, the ignorance, and smile. To cross the ice bridge.

I look at it like this. I’ve said it before…We are all one. Now, if that’s true, then we can look at ‘us’ as ‘me’ and each of the billions of people on this planet are different aspects, emotions, thoughts and traits that make up the whole. If you look at it that way, it seems to me that things are becoming, just maybe, a little bit better. More of humanity is waking up to the fact that we are not alone, that we are not any better, nor more important than any one else. Needing to feel superior is one sure sign that you are not.

So, most importantly, I must be brave in order to be kind, not only to others, but to myself. I must remember that so many of ‘us’ are working hard every day to make the world a more loving place, in so many different ways. Even, or especially when I feel so tired and disappointed, I must make every effort to look up.

Or…I can remember what I saw at the zoo this morning when I was chaperoning my daughter’s class on a field trip.

Two lovely young women, both moms, were there each with one child. A small boy, maybe 18 months old, and a girl a few months less. Both babies were teetering about in that toddler, diaper-between-my-stubby-legs walk, and as I smiled down at them, the boy leaned forward, put a gentle hand on the girls head, and then kissed her on the mouth. Both the moms and I gasped in delight as the little girl clapped her hands and then laid her head against his arm.

That is who we are. That is where we start. Where we go from there, that loving, happy self, is up to us.

Choose well my friends, you are me, and I am you.

None of us are getting out of this world alive, or alone.

Spread some happiness.

What your option?

Shari,  November 3rd, 2016