ghost pressure.

yesterday morning i woke up and decided to go to the city. after spending 11+ years living there, san francisco is as much “home” to me as my true home town. the difference being that my family still calls my home town home and no one that i know lives in san francisco anymore (because it is now entirely populated by millennial millionaires who can afford to pay the millions that it takes to live there). while i wasn’t raised in san francisco; i certainly did a lot of growing up there.

i grew up in a verrry small town in the foothills of northern california. my back yard was pretty much a forest. i spent winters snowed in; went multiple days without power; learned such transferrable skills as how to build a fire and make a pipe out of a soda can. time is oddly slow in the town where i was born. everything moves at a softer pace. moving to the city should have been a shock to my senses; but somehow, it wasn’t. there is something about the city that makes sense to me. something that feels right. a rhythm that is more in line with my own. i like the pace of it. i like that it moves in a steady stream; which i am able to jump into or out of. the city has changed enormously in the 7 years since i left; but the geography of it is forever embedded in me. i know that city like the back of my hand. now that i live in a quieter place; i still get a certain restlessness that can only be soothed by the city.

when i lived there, i would always walk around with headphones on. i liked disappearing into a soundtrack of my own choosing. i liked being in the thick of the crowd; lost in the shuffle. what i most enjoyed was finding empty spaces there. the deserted financial district on the weekend. union square at 7am- long before all the shops opened. dolores park on a cloudy day. running along typically crowded streets that were emptied for street sweeping. grace cathedral at night. ameoba records right when they opened; while all the employees were still shaking off their hangovers and their patrons were still sleeping theirs off. i moved through the city like a ghost; and that was a comfortable position for me.

there is still an element of that that is comforting to me. when i go now, it is early in the morning on a saturday- one of the only times that traffic in the bay area is light. i know the exits; the back streets; where the parking spots can be found and the opening times of the shops. i don’t wear headphones anymore. i walk around listening to the dinging trolleys and squeaking breaks & elctro-crackle of the busses; the rants and raves of panhandlers and hobos; the confused chatter of tourists and teenagers looking for photo ops. i basque in the neon white of the giant h&m and let myself try on the most ridiculous outfits i can find. i climb the heavy concrete stairs at urban outfitters and curse the slickly reproduced remnants of my youth on display there. i roll up my sleeves and dig into the musty racks at thrift town. i shake my head at the freshly installed rows of condos and ultra modern ultra curated versions of shops that used to be. i walk with the quickened pace of someone who has somewhere to be; someone with no time to waste. i get in; i get out. i speed past the lines of stalled traffic heading into the city on the bridge as i leave.

what i realized yesterday was just how comforting it is for me to visit that sort of innominate world. the city has a sort of delphic quality to me; and it also provides this paradox of familiar and unknown. the ability to be there while not being there. there is something so exquisite about that kind of loneliness; and it feels like a luxury that i no longer have. i wouldn’t trade my life; but being mother- being front and center for a family and community takes a lot. sometimes it feels good to disappear for a little while; into the long shadows of deco green and slate gray neo-gothic spires; to haunt those old alleyways and bask in the glow of red fabric lanterns hung from winter bare branches and the discovery of forgotten treasures.

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diary.

breathing a sigh of relief that january is done. this one was really a doozey. however it is sooo not lost on me that each year, right at the bitter end of january the clouds part for several days of crazy freaky gorgeous warm weather. it always happens when i am at the end of my rope with relentless colds and flus and bad hair days; when i am so tired of putting on the same winter coat every day; of piling on all the blankets and waking up to freezing floors; of watching the weeds take over my yard as the rain gutters fill up. every year there comes a streak of bright, sunshiny days that make me want to take to the streets & DANCE. it doesn’t last long- just long enough to catch my breath before the real rainy season begins. but i am so very grateful for it this year; because it is happening right now; and it could not have come at a better time. hope the sun is shining on you, too.

 

on winter.

 

 

winter is difficult. full stop. each year i dread it, and each year i vow to try to do something about it. something to make it less of a drag. all of the things that make it such a drag: the bad weather; the cold; the lack of sunlight; the sicknesses- they feel heavy. but each year i get through it, and the first flashes of spring; the first warm days of summer; they feel so much lighter; like shedding the weighted blanket of winter that covered me. they seem to easily erase the winter past. it becomes a blur in my memory; like a trip to the dentist that felt like hell whilst sitting in the chair getting my teeth drilled on, but forgotten after the novocaine wore off.

yesterday as i was sitting with my son while he whined and cried for attention that i felt unable to muster; i let out a deep breath and realized: this is it. this is winter. i am in it. after a lengthy 2+ week winter break from school, my son came down with a terrible cold on the day that school started again. then, i came down with the cold. then, his therapist came down with it. on top of his nagging cough, my son started getting nose bleeds. on top of the terrible cough and nose bleeds, he is also going through a mysterious bout of diarrhea that has lasted close to a month. then, i awoke this morning to find my son had projectile vomited all over himself and his room. to recap: 3 weeks without school; cancelled therapy; a cold; constant nose bleeds; diarrhea; vomit, and my own cold. my son is beyond tired of being cooped up at home, but we can’t do anything about it. we are grounded. i see his speech starting to disappear into lazy babble; his anxiety over going places rising to match his level of boredom. and i, in my weakened state, feeling incapable of denying the constant craving for dark chocolate that i have been dealing with since the holiday season began. this is it. this is winter. nowhere to run.

last night we watched an episode of the show black mirror, where a worried mother has a tracking chip implanted into her 3 year old daughter. it also allows her to “filter” out disturbing things. when the girl walks past lunging barking dogs; sees a violent interaction; or sees someone upset; something explicit or someone having an accident; the image and sound are blurred out. the girl doesn’t experience anything negative. as she grows up she develops aggressive, violent behavior; and acts out sexually and with drugs. all of the things that she was protected from sort of explode inside of her. it felt pretty profound, this metaphor laden show. a mother trying to protect her child from bad experiences, from negative feelings; from all of the things that we cannot escape in the world and within ourselves. no matter where you go, there you are.

just before i got pregnant, i had decided on a new tactic to avoid christmas and beat the holiday/winter blues. i was going to start an annual tradition of going to a tropical climate every year at christmas. i would use my vacation time each year to spend a few days alone in the sunshine instead of dealing with mouthy relatives; card tables stacked with fatty, sugary foods; all while feigning delight over redundant, impersonal gifts. but by the next christmas, i was at home with a newborn. my plan of escaping winter would never come to be. that first winter as a newborn i saw my son in agonizing pain with colic as his digestive system; seemingly under-developed, tried to adapt. with his first winter colds he was paralyzed, curled up in a ball on my lap. the first time that he threw up he screamed with anger and confusion over what was happening to him. i could see how his body was just forming; learning to process those things; his immune system building itself.

for the past few weeks i’ve been using a therapeutic light lamp that simulates daylight. every morning when i wake up i sit at the kitchen table with the lamp on for about an hour before my son gets up. this is my way of trying to combat the winter blues this year- a little faux-sunshine. while i can’t say it has magically transformed me into a ray of sun and erased winter from my psyche; it has taken the edges off of my moods. allowed me a little clarity; the ability to stand back and notice myself in the thick of things. i look outside and see how much the plants have needed the rain; how everything is now a vibrant shade of green. how my son now treats colds as an annoyance instead of an attack. how much he appreciates school once he returns from time off; how the teacher and the toys and songs and games there feel new again once he’s been away from them. i see how winter serves as a black background to the rest of the seasons- how it makes the colors of spring & fall pop; how living through the cold makes the warm feel somehow warmer. my new motto is this too shall pass. for now, there are oversized sweaters and over the knee boots; pink camelia & azalea bushes; simmering pots of pozole;couch snuggles under faux fur throw blankets; and clear plastic raincoats.

these days.

00-tout-okeeffe-closet

georgia o’keefe’s closet via vogue.

my husband and i have been doing a lot of cleaning out around the house lately. he totally re-did our laundry room storage area and put in open shelving (’cause he’s cool like that). we also re-arranged our son’s room, after sorting through the mountain of christmas gifts that he received and thinning out the herd. then we tackled our shared closet and cleared out quite a bit of old t-shirts, records and abandoned running shoes aka junk. i love the feeling of clearing clutter, it somehow has the ability to make me feel like my life is not a spinning spiral of cray and everything is going to be ok. here are some things that are catching my eye of late.

  1. although i love having an empty space in my closet beneath my hanging clothes, i kinda need a little piece to hold my ridiculous collection of brightly colored/ultra gaudy vintage belts, metallic and hand-made clutches and espadrilles (with varying heel heights). it’s between this brass geo stand from west elm, and (more likely) this wire organizer from target. also eyeing this quilted storage bin and these stackable wood bins for my son’s room.
  2. i plowed through joan juliet buck’s the price of illusion in about a week, i could not put it down. she has had such a super extra remarkable life. artfully told recollections of growing up around hollywood royalty like john (and her best friend anjelica) huston, peter o’toole and lauren bacall. crazy tales about travel, money, power and everyone in fashion from guy bourdin, karl lagerfeld, yves saint laurent and of course anna wintour. romances with the likes of donald sutherland, california governor jerry brown and leonard cohen. and at the center of it all, a complex relationship with her father. one of my favorite books of all time.
  3. current favorite lazy dinner from trader joe’s: roasted chicken patties over zucchini spirals, topped with either almond butter turmeric dressing or vegan kale cashew basil pesto. also fully hooked on their pistachio cranberry bites.
  4. i didn’t really make resolutions this year, but i have vowed to finally start taking care of my under-things. i got myself some new underwear, along with some mesh laundry bags to keep them from falling apart. i feel like a grown up now.
  5. brushing teeth is always a struggle with my son. i got him this dentrust 3-sided toothbrush and he loves it. it covers a lot of territory in way less time, so i can get in and out of there quick.
  6.  last weekend while standing in the candy aisle at sprouts i spotted this jo jo’s chocolate bark with a label that read “kick the craving.” i bought it based solely on that statement, and holy crow, it’s pretty much the best thing i ever tasted.
  7. i love this piece in the cut: 25 famous women on thrift store shopping.
  8. i finally found a non-dairy creamer that honestly tastes and feels like half and half without all the weird corn syrup chemical shiz. praise.
  9. how pretty are these little ballerina heels?
  10. can’t wait to watch the new david bowie documentary: the last five years.

the end.

diary.

here we are winding down december, winding down the year, and yet! time seems strange to me now. november was sort of a lost month for me. much of it spent nursing sicknesses with twin peaks episodes and madonna videos and all of the kings of late night. savoring all of the daylight i can get at and doing my best to appreciate california’s mild winters, as ever. using a rare couple of hours without the kid to sink into cushy seats and enormous tubs of popcorn and my husband’s warm hands at a movie theater. wading into the sea of a most precious sort of nostalgia courtesy of lady bird. december is feeling like the sprint at the end of a marathon. looking back on the year i feel like i amassed some wisdom, but it was hard won. this has been a karmically heavy year for me. a whole lot of reckoning, not unlike the rest of the country. despite this i’m still feeling a bit dazzled by christmas, maybe because of my son, for whom there is nothing more exciting than opening another door on his advent calendar or shouting “hey!” while singing “jingle bells.”

hope your holidays are sweet.

ode to self-care.

self care, a term i tend to be turned off by for its buzz-word-y-ness. a term lifted from the medical world and used in articles about sheet masks and bone broth cleanses and mini-meditations, by and for the luxury wellness/perfectly curated instagram mom legions that spawned from or shot up around shiny haired gwenyth and her solid gold juicer. a term that elicits eye rolls from most men, my husband included. a term that makes me cringe a bit when spoken out loud, but one that i find myself saying in my head, despite all of this.

technically, self-care is how one takes care of their own health, from how they manage chronic illnesses or physical maladies to their diet and exercise routines. over the last couple of years it’s been applied more to the latest wellness trends such as infrared saunas and sound baths and jade vagina eggs, but really it’s about how you keep yourself healthy. how you manage stress and hormonal fluctuations and balancing the million things you have to do each day for other people with the things you need to do to keep yourself afloat.

i remember back in the early aughts when the episode of sex & the city came out where carrie had let aidan move in with her, and she was complaining to her friends about having to share her space with him. she lamented over the lack of privacy and time to engage in what she called, “secret single behavior” or “SSB” if you’re nasty. carrie’s included eating grape jelly on saltine crackers while standing in her kitchen, reading fashion magazines. for charlotte it was examining her pores in a mirror. i think about this when i think about self-care, because to me it’s really the same thing. things we do to decompress, to take a damn minute for ourselves. sometimes they are things we were not allowed to do for some reason, sometimes they are things we do to numb ourselves, but mostly they are things that just feel comforting. i call that self-care.

for me, i get a lot of satisfaction and comfort from cleaning. particularly a clean refrigerator makes me feel like i have accomplished great things. tidiness is very soothing to me. creating order in a chaotic life feels so good. i have been known to clean out closets in times of stress, clearing out kitchen cabinets and laundry room drawers and my son’s toy baskets and hauling all of that stuff to the thrift store feels like a big relief. but i also enjoy eating peanut butter from the jar, putting on lady gaga really loud and trying on outfits, cutting out pictures from old fashion magazines and making collages, bedazzling old pairs of jeans and shoes, putting on a full face of all the makeups i can’t afford at sephora and then coming home to pull weeds (you can call me the fancy gardener). also weird gross stuff like peeling nail polish off of my toenails and trying on the trashiest body-con/slutty teenager clothes i can find at h&m with absolutely no intention of buying any of it.

these are all things that must be done in solitude. the presence of another person would take their power away, render them ridiculous and embarrassing and often impossible (where unruly toddlers are concerned). perhaps having such a limited amount of time to myself has made me more appreciative of these things, has made me recognize their value in a sometimes chaotic life. the world no longer revolves around me, but it’s lovely to take those moments where for a brief time, it does.

the wisdom of no escape.

at the beginning of the summer i felt pretty heavy with worry. i knew a big routine shift was coming with the end of the school year and transition to summer school, and i spent about a month frantically trying to schedule everything to make sure our days would be full. i fought like hell to re-schedule my son’s aba therapy to accommodate his schedule and not lose his favorite therapist, i planned out each day so that things would move seamlessly in the least disruptive way for my son, but of course it didn’t move seamlessly. there were seams. there were rips and tears and holes and finally everything just sort of fell apart. phantom illnesses and reactions i never anticipated happened, and in the middle of all of it my son’s favorite therapist up and moved to southern california (news which the company that she works for failed to tell me until her last day).

when things fall apart i usually find it pretty impossible not to see the lesson in it. i feel like when things hit crisis level, it’s typically the universe shouting at me to pay attention to something. like, now. pretty early into the summer i sensed that something needed to give.

i had a conversation with my oldest friend this summer about walking on eggshells. both children of alcoholics, we spent our childhoods tip toeing around our parents’ moods, doing out best to not make any false moves and set them off. in turn, we both grew up and had babies that had colic. we both spent the first 4-5 months of our babies lives scrambling to keep them from flying into a crying rage (that often lasted for hours on end). we were talking about the cycle of our lives, how we spent out childhoods walking on eggshells and then had babies that made us keep walking on eggshells. and we both wondered how we break that cycle for our children. for ourselves.

my son having colic, and then being on the autism spectrum has left me feeling like i am walking on eggshells for most of his life. it also keeps me feeling like i constantly must do everything perfectly or things will fall apart, and inevitably they ALWAYS DO because there is no perfect anything. there’s no way to keep the world from hurling random snowballs at your head and no way to always duck just in time. and i cannot blame my son for this, because this is the way that i have lived my life for as long as i can recall. this has been my experience of life: you must struggle and sweat and agonize and strive for perfection, and when someone is not impressed or criticizes you or just doesn’t give a rip, it feels like utter and complete failure. and reaffirms all of the beliefs about how flawed i am that are in there mighty friggin’ deep.

so this summer i drove myself nuts trying to line it all up perfectly and it all went down in flames. and what happened is that i was left all alone with my son every day. just the two of us, as it was before all of the therapies and school started. and to my surprise i knew exactly what to do. i just had to be with him and love him more than anything in the world (because i do). and i found that once little things fell through over and over, i finally got to the point where i realized that none of it really mattered. not really. what matters is that i love my son no matter what happens. not much else matters.

what has continually astounded me about motherhood is here is this person who holds this mirror up to all of my deepest flaws and ISSUES and yet, the inclination to bolt isn’t there, not physically. you have to make the choice whether or not you are going to bolt emotionally. it forces me to be present in times where i would normally check out. and no matter how much he pushes my buttons, i still wake up every day honestly stoked and overjoyed to see his face. every day. and i love being the person that he looks at with shock when something hurts him or amazement and joy when something excites him.

what motherhood has taught me is that there’s nothing to do but be here. stepping back and letting things happen and being open to all of it: good and bad and pain in the ass, has made life so much sweeter. sometimes shit goes haywire, and my son has meltdowns, and sometimes he just has good old fashioned tantrums like a 3 year old does, and sometimes i can’t fix whatever is not going the way he wants. but lately i’ve been trying to let those moments happen without adding the stress of my shit on top of it. i’ve been trying to “pause” in those moments where i feel like a failure or like people are looking at me and judging me or whatever, and trying to connect with my son in those moments instead of shut down. i have been looking at my son in those moments and just loving him and wanting to help him get through it. and more than anything, i’ve been having faith that we will get through it. that the storm will pass. and we’re going to be ok.