Tag Archives: family

New York State of Mind

photoI guess I’ve never thought of myself as a real New Yorker. I was raised an hour north of Manhattan, and I had ample opportunities to visit the city for a variety of reasons. But, other than watching those twins crumble with the rest of my Midtown co-workers and finding unity inside the chaos, I never identified with the New York mentality, attitude, or aesthetic.

Los Angeles felt like home the moment I stepped foot on the Left Coast. I bathed in the energy and the crunchy, earthy attitude, and wrapped myself in the beachy progressiveness that permeates SoCal living. But, I never realized how important a role my Northeast concrete played in that foundation.

See, whether I knew it or not, New York pumped a lot of grit and grind into this blood and inside these bones. It made me street smart, tough, and able to see directly through the smog-sized fog of bullshit that hangs over this city like a storm cloud. I knew when people were lying to steal more fuel for their personal rockets, and I learned to never give the benefit of the doubt before it was earned. I gravitated toward a predominantly East Coast-rooted group of friends, and I’d bet that wasn’t due to freak coincidence.

But, having recently returned from my annual US Open pilgrimage, where I was able to take in the joys of family, unimpeded roads, and…rain, I have felt so far from that giant security blanket near the Hudson. Plane rides provide the illusion that we’re not on opposite sides of the country, but the brevity of travel can’t make up for the reality of miles.

I will adjust, as my history has shown. I will embrace all the benefits of evading fall and winter weather like a clever cat burglar sitting in the sun with his spoils. But, this renewed appreciation for my provenance will remain.

Thank you, New York, for mapping my route and filling my tires. Your infused weight has grounded me beneath this persistent charade.

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Sharpened Perspective

Thank you for being a wonderful mother

It’s often too easy to get lost in the mundanity of daily life. The interval between turning a white noise sleep machine off and turning it on again can feel like a timeless loop of repetitive habits, vibrating on skipping needles, powered by hamster wheels.

My Groundhog Days are normally of little concern. I accept that baby steps lead to Olympian leaps, so I tackle my routine tasks and always sweat the small stuff. As a writer and proofreader, details are kind of a big deal. These are my cards, and I’m happy to play them.

But, sometimes—even when the marathon tennis sessions have beaten my body and emptied my energy reserves—I find myself squirming inside my skin for a change of pedestrian pace.

Normally, I ignore these impulses and continue punching computer keyboards in my never-ending attempt to accumulate tension headaches. But, two weeks ago, I was delivered a surprise fuel injector in the form of a fellow tennis aficionado from NY with the desert on her mind and a pro tournament in her sights.

Mom knows just when to rescue her overthinking, word wrestler of a son from his stationary bike, and exactly how to throw some excitement and a change of scenery into the mix.

It was just what the proverbial doctor ordered, and I was able to unplug and detach from the busy, serpentine track of LA life.

My chiropractor believes that the mountains in Palm Springs have a way of inexplicably extracting the stress from our bodies and, although I don’t normally subscribe to  teachings of the mystic variety, I’d have to agree with him.

So, now it’s back to work and back to that hamster wheel. But, like mainlining lemon-lime Gatorade, I feel refreshed and ready for the race ahead.

Thanks, Mom…for always knowing what I need, even when I don’t.

Beneath the Heft of Hourglass Sand

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“The sweet is never as sweet without the sour.”

A few days ago, I woke up with the unfortunate impulse to reach for my phone for some helpful advice. Still half-asleep, I found myself dropping into a familiar Google search sinkhole of facts and opinions, unsubstantiated claims, and broad generalizations. But, between the lines, I found pieces of heart-wrenching truth.

See, I live with an incessant worry about the future. Now, I’m not speaking about the glorious, hyper-technological, world-revolutionizing future. All notions of our impending singularity do nothing but paint a Jack Nicholson-sized joker smile across my mug.

What I’m referring to is a future of dwindling time, limited resources, and the daunting prospect of uncontrollable aging. I don’t sit, wrapped in a panic poncho, because of concerns about my own mortality. I never much feared or questioned death. I see it as a necessary component of the cycle of life and I will face it with as much bravery as my age and mental capacity can muster.

My fear and—more specifically—my sadness live under the weight of losing my partner.

It’s always been just Mom and me. I don’t have any siblings and I reside in a city 3,000 miles from any member of my family. I only get major holidays and my annual summer trip to connect through a means other than Skype, and her 30-year head start is beginning to feel like a lead I can’t catch.

So, I thought I would research the notion of caring for an aging parent as an only child. It took less than three results for me to realize I had bitten off a much bigger quandary cookie than I wanted to swallow. It was fear wrapped inside of speculative projection. This was no way to start a day and, contrary to popular belief, streaming tears don’t help lubricate a sun salutation.

The role-swapping will be one of the more difficult transitions. As I’ve mentioned before, I often feel like a young kid walking around playing pretend in a grownup world. To not only own the idea that I am an adult, but to take full responsibility for the physical and emotional well-being of the one person who wore those gloves so perfectly seems like some Copperfield-level form of deception. I’ve been awarded the job and I’m utterly unqualified.

But, I can’t say all the literature was discouraging. One story emphasized the sense of relief the author felt being able to control the care and health trajectory of his mother. He wasn’t lost in sibling bickering and he didn’t harbor the resentment that can arise from feeling like no one else is pitching in to help. He was able to direct every aspect of her treatment and could ensure her best interests were protected. Obviously, bearing the full brunt of responsibility isn’t easy, but knowing that each detail is carefully coordinated can help avoid a messy meal made from too many cooks in the kitchen.

Reading this information wasn’t a relief. I still walk toward the future like an ice skater checking the depth of a frozen lake. But to know that there are people out there grappling with the same doubts and fears made me feel less alone and momentarily quelled my trepidation.

This isn’t painless. It’s not supposed to be. When you care about someone else’s life more than your own, there is an inherent price tag on that love. If something is worth preserving, it has value. If that value is greater than the premium you place on yourself, all your cards are on the table. It is the very meaning of vulnerability, and it’s terrifying. But, attempting to control the uncontrollable is an exercise in futility.

Enjoy each and every shared moment, and savor the small stuff. The rest is just an illusion.

Now, it’s time to take my own advice.

Fatherless Figuring

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The only thing that I can even remotely relate to the notion of having a child is someone handing me a scalpel and asking me to perform a complex medical procedure. It’s wildly intimidating, I’m completely unqualified, and a human life is at risk.

For those of you with children, this concept probably seems absurd. You’d argue it’s the most natural, most biologically-hardwired thing in the world. You barely remember a single day before parenthood provided you with purpose, granting you a gift that made you feel alive and empowered. You were waiting, wandering without focus, until you were blessed with this tiny bundle of instant selflessness.

I get it. Well, I get the general drift. But, I just can’t seem to choke down all the Kool-Aid.

I imagine a number of factors are to blame. I’m an only child. I grew up without a father. I think the survival of the planet hinges on population reduction. Blah, blah, blah.

But, recently, I had a mini revelation. I’ve lived (for longer than I care to admit) with the general belief that serious life decisions and responsibilities are handled by adults. Grownups are experienced, knowledgable, and capable of tackling whatever unplanned catastrophes happen to surface. They can get married, buy houses, have children, organize barbecues, and generally have a damn fine time.

Well, now I’m considerably deep into this “adulthood” everyone keeps talking about, and I don’t feel I have even the simplest skill set required to navigate that world. So, since I live in a constant state of contemplation, I’ve arrived at a couple of conclusions.

1) It’s difficult to foster someone else’s childhood when you still want to revisit your own.

-Many thanks to Mom for this one. Ages 0-18 were a self-actualized dream come to life…full of wonder, hope, love, excitement, and security. Sure, there was one major bump on that perfectly-paved road, but that’s why George Hansburg made the pogo stick.

2) You can’t have a kid when you still ARE a kid.

-Obviously, this isn’t true. Every major city in America proves this thesis false on a daily basis. But, I’m referring to a state of mind. Undoubtedly, there are some who would argue I’m a 90-year-old man, living in the body of a weird, writing hermit. However, habitual handcuffs and erratic sleeping patterns aside, I watch the world with the same discerning eyes I had at 15. Maybe everyone feels like that. There’s a saying that we never realize we age until we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror. Well, that may very well be the case. Regardless, these teenage peepers still see the news of impending fatherhood with the same, balanced mix of pity and terror. It’s not celebration. It’s sympathy.

But, I suppose there’s some future awakening or dormant life event waiting to flip those tables and make me one of the “normals.” Anything is possible.

For now, I’ll continue to stay in awe of these crazy youngsters and their fancy adult lives, living like an old man with a teenage heart.

RSVP + 0

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The anxiety-inducing realization that the only thing accompanying you to most social functions will be a hefty gust of wind whipping through an empty passenger’s seat is a daunting prospect. But, in a world of significant others tagging two steps behind to every conceivable soirée and backyard barbecue, the unescorted visitor is often met with sideways glances, overcompensating high-fives, and hearty hello hugs.

But, why is that something seen as sad? We’re okay. Granted, the first few seconds from the car to the front door of the house, bar, restaurant, coffee shop, graduation ceremony, funeral, etc. are instant pulse raisers. Fight or flight takes the wheel and tries to steer us back to safety. Sometimes it’s even enough to make us call the whole thing off and dive into another Netflix Portlandia marathon. But, after the initial awkwardness, the party pieces fall into place and everyone settles into a communal space. There was a reason we decided to attend. We like these people. These are friends with shared histories and they’ve seen us at our best and worst. Sure, they’re dropping off into family mode faster than flies stuck in a Raid cloud, but that doesn’t mean we’re lost on an island of misfit toys.

We’re just as funny and personable as ever. Besides, maybe the fact that we’re not spending the entire time bickering about some mundane squabble we couldn’t leave at the house, or chasing behind a two-year-old with a penchant for destroying anything at adult knee level, makes us the more desirable company. Let’s face it. Freedom packs some serious appeal, especially to those who have lost it.

So, let us embrace the solo label, wearing it like a crown of independence. We are the kings and queens of our sequestered castles.