Much as we would like to, it is hard to wipe the slate clean with a new year. The ominous cycle of life and death has little regard for calendars or resolutions. This new year, 2016, sounded so sweet--began with a prayer, but seems to have plowed forward with extra vengeance. Loss is our companion, hope is a short straw in a bouquet of funereal flowers. I walk my city often on the verge of tears; the blues touches me like an old lover, and my solitude has become a fragile room of crackled glass.
Mornings wash up on my bedroom shore and bring dream-bottled messages that elude me. Waking no longer gives me relief; I dread meeting people and the news seems at best ambiguous. My friends are burdened and sad; the ones that are not seem disconnected and clueless. Some days I get the sense I know no one, and find less relief in writing. I am overloaded and grieving for too many. Love seems futile and disappointing; against my instincts, I expect things and find them only occasionally in books, in lyrics of people who have long disappeared and left their wisdom and old beauty in vain for a world that texts and posts.
The economy is precarious and unpredictable; markets are manipulated by the masters who profit from them; young start-ups are not fresh ideas but opportunities for venture capitalists to line their accounts with even more spectacular numbers, and create instant billionaires while whole countries are in recessions and hard-working people lose their homes. My neighbor Jamie Dimon earns more in one hour than I earned all year. Some of those hours are spent at lunch, napping in a private jet, having a facial, shopping, texting his decorator.
I was fortunate enough to preview the SAG award films on disc… a little disappointed by the quality of these in general-- and cried at most of them (except the Steve Jobs)… although my son says I've been crying at Nike ads these days. Spotlight was especially upsetting; as a truly single Mom I was extra vigilant knowing fatherless boys are ultra-susceptible to any male authority attention, and found myself chronically scrutinizing coaches, mentors, counselors and even older team-mates.
Children are such special and odd creatures… they come out, like puppies--- buoyant and dependent and so trusting… and at some fatal moment, in a soft or hard landing, they are profoundly changed by one experience or other. We protect them, we nurture them… but who's to say when circumstances-- a fire, a natural disaster, an accident-- brings pain or fear or injury into their lives… unexpected death? In New York, the 9/11 tragedy was a kind of mass loss of innocence.
Personally I love teenagers--- it's such an incredibly fragile time… and there's that moment, for us girls, when we spread our wings a little and suddenly we are swans-- with legs, and evolving bodies and we feel our power, and a certain radiance-- boys admire us, they touch us occasionally and we are electric. I had this odd memory of one of my best girlfriends-- we had constant sleepovers as girls of 14-16 often do, finding the company of our families unbearable without our BFF. I was a skinny teenager, with long colt legs that felt awkward to me, but served well in ballet class. I felt inferior to my curvy older sister who was sexy like a dark Barbie. But one night… my friend's Dad stopped me on the way to the bathroom-- in the dark hallway he started describing my legs and blocked my path with his authorial arm. At first I thought it was a game, but I realized, as I tried to focus on the wall-- his Ivy League diploma in a frame… with a hot shudder that something awful was happening. I could smell alcohol on his breath, and I thought of his grey-haired wife named Mary who went to bed early, looked chronically tired, had way too many children and was not a great housekeeper.
He released me, but a boundary had been crossed. I felt weirdly both sickened and somewhere a little flattered; I knew this kind of thing happened to women and it was sort of a coming of age. When I applied to colleges I skipped his alma mater--- I couldn't erase the sleazy association of being disrespected in the hallway under its name. And it put a tiny 'cap' on my new-found feminine power… it spoiled my joy and changed me. I never told my friend, of course.
We women go through life-- not a single one of us is not disrespected in some way-- abused, touched, threatened. We learn to navigate these episodes for better or for worse. They taint our experience and cause us pain. We choose to keep them silent or tattle and risk being blighted by association-- hated, passed over for promotion, unchosen. Boys, too, have these incidents-- the hideous epidemic of priest abuse seems most evil of all. The really sad fact is these things are waiting out there like traps; our children and babies are often unknowing bait-- and even a small cruelty, a rough hand, an especially harsh scolding-- -these things wreck them and hurt them and confuse and change them, and they are too young and innocent to be able to process this. I often remember my macho older cousin who used to camp in Death Valley with a devoted black lab; one day I discovered him beating the dog mercilessly-- the dog that followed and watched him with complete love. It was a lesson.
What am I trying to say here? That I feel the happy balloon of our world has been pierced and punctured irreparably? That the paradise of beauty of this world is being polluted and ruined-- the ecology spoiled… I can no longer believe in justice and truth and our leaders are greedy power-hungry narcissists and our music heroes are hocus-pocus businessmen and gangsters? Beauty is artificial and religion is an argument, God is holding up his hands, palms up, listening to the whistle of a distant freight train which is carrying some lethal message? I can no longer answer questions, I am losing my faith, unsure that my loved ones will survive the week. And for those of us in psychic or physical pain, for whom life or the ambiguity becomes unbearable… death is not pretty, and it is inevitable and present. Our heroes and enemies die, our lovers leave and our children cry, and we are a little helpless. It's as though the back-current just overwhelms me some days.
And somehow when you least expect it, some fragile slivery moon rises in a black sky like a tilted bowl of golden light and you feel your heart hanging on the edge like a puppet, and the lights of cars on the bridges, entering the city with some kind of hope, like a living toy train set… and you can't look away, or leave… it takes your breath away-- and here you are, between birth and death, between knowledge and ignorance--- and you try to forgive those who hurt you, those who fail to protect you… slightly ruined but still able to cry and maybe even feel some kind of desire for love-- and walk blindly into the cold night.