Sunday, January 25, 2009

We Are All But Actors on a Stage

When my then-husband called it quits in the summer of 1999, my sister-in-law encouraged me to talk with his first ex-wife. K was curious, my sister-in-law said, to compare notes. So I gave her a call.

We talked for about two hours.

Ten years later, I find that K, a poet (a talented one at that; M picks good wives, as I've told him), has written our conversation into her book of poetry.

It's due to arrive from Amazon tomorrow, but I have been able to find some of it on the Web. The main section of "The Paragon" is a collection of 42 sonnets titled, "His Next Ex-Wife."

It's been 10 years since we split up -- nearly 20 for K -- and I still became faint reading about my life, from someone else's perspective.

I had to order it, in hopes that maybe K's poetry would help me understand my own life.

It is, however, exceedingly strange to read. Take this excerpt from a review, for example:

And what setting could be better than the California of legends with its new-world wines, self-consciously healthful cuisine, superimposed track of Sex,
Lies & Videotape and cameo appearances by Barbie, Mr. Spock and The Frugal Gourmet? ... But just when the biting recreations of "made-for-TV-drama" resemble Hollywood scripts too perfectly, a complex picture underimposes itself beneath the film. This undercurrent cannot be paraphrased and its grief is real.

That would be my grief. Her grief. Ours?

Funny thing is, I fictionalized K as well, in a short story I had published in my graduate literary magazine. Escher is working overtime here.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Nothing Much Happened Today

I was 10 when I got my first diary for Christmas. Its cover was soft orange faux leather with the word "Diary" written in gold script. More than likely it came from Woolworth's or Di'Iorio's, a variety store where my mom worked at the time. There is a feeling of power a little book like that and a writing instrument inpart. But also an odd sense of obligation. After dutifully filling up January's pages with my fifth-grade dramas, the entries became more sparing, until a nagging sense of guilt would lead me to write in big letters over the span of several days or weeks something like, "Sorry, Diary, nothing much happened today. I will be better about writing in here. Sorry sorry sorry!" All the while remaining unclear on the concept that no one gave a hoot whether I wrote anything. Strangely, however, I feel a similar urge to apologize when I haven't written in my blog. What a vain, silly sense of self-importance!

Anyway, for what it's worth, here is my first entry of the new year. I feel an unexpected sense of relief that the holidays are over, though like my sister I don't care for years with uneven numbers. And not because anything bad transpired in 2008. To the contrary, I was quite fortunate, especially given the state of the economy. I fared well at work, got a cheap interest rate on my mortgage, began to mend fences with my family, enjoyed Christmas -- for the first time since college -- with a blood relative and, finally, adopted a rescue Peke I named Lucy (see pic). Oh, and I returned to church, Catholic, St. Monica's up at 23rd and Geary.

People who know me are surprised I go to church. They ask me why. Sometimes they don't wait for an answer and proceed to list all the things wrong with organized religion. I'm not even sure myself exactly why I sought out the church again, after spending eight years in Catholic grade school followed by an excruciating four in an all girls Catholic high school and many adult sessions with psychotherapists in which I worked to exorcise the feelings of guilt and inadequacy that Catholicisim arguably implanted.

Here's what I know: Mass was the one place I sat still with my parents, sharing an experience, for more time than any occasion other than, perhaps, dinner. I have few links to my past like that, and none that is as comfortingly the same as when I was a kid. It is the one place my parents don't feel like a dream I made up. In fact, you could say that it was more unusual that I didn't go to church for so many years, it is so familiar. Now, I can't say I believe every tenet of the faith -- heck, it's difficult for me to simply believe in God -- but there is the nut of something there that centers me. In any case, it's an escape where I can turn off my cell phone, listen to stories, sing, smell incense and fall back into ritual as if it were the Snoopy sheets on my trundle bed at 837 Lehigh. I like being part of a community. And if it allows me to take time to contemplate my life and my actions, and how I can bring joy into the world around me, I think it's worth it, regardless of anyone's feelings about organized religion.