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Susan K. Coleman
Every time I sit down to write one of these entries, the first words that pop into my head tend to be dark, heavy and drear. I don't know why. That's just not me anymore. No more gothic, black drama. I feel a lightening coming on, a shift more towards the full color spectrum, rather than the monochromatic existence I had been living. Black is so severe, so off-putting. There's a richness in earth tones and subtle blues, a comfort. I can wrap myself in them and not feel that they're a thick, impenetrable layer between me and the world.
"I swear, if you ever touch me again, I will have the cops on your ass so fast it'll make your head spin!"Josie spat these words out at Sam as she ripped the trailer door open, slamming it against the end table where Sam's beer stood. Once outside, the dust kicked up and irritated her already tear-stained, puffy, black and blue eyes. She wiped her nose with the back of her hand, lit a menthol cigarette, and rubbed that same snot-covered hand through her wrecked hair. "Shit"she said out loud, to no one in particular. "Mother fuckin' shit.-
This winter has been strange. We've seen all kinds of extremes: spring-like temperatures quickly followed by record-breaking snowfalls. We keep fluctuating between the seasons, never sure whether the day requires a heavy coat and mittens or a light jacket and umbrella. I have to wonder how this affects the trees and plants. Do they feel the unseasonable warmth and sense that it's time to start sprouting leaves? I can never remember whether this is brought on by warmth or the increasing amount of sunlight. Nevertheless, I hope it happens soon. I need some new life, some growth, some springtime optimism.
Tonight I actually attended a party that I enjoyed. Normally, I feel uncomfortable at parties. Others mix so well, talking with as much ease to people they've only just met as they do with people they've known for years. I'm generally more reticent. But I met some lovely people tonight, had some wonderful conversations and felt unusually comfortable in the crowd. I enjoy parties, where I can come away thinking, "What a lucky person to have such nice friends."I would like to be able to celebrate in my home, so that others would say "What nice friends she has.-
Today is Sunday, March 12, 2006 and I am catching up with my entries. I hate to not finish something I've started, especially when there's that pesky little statistic that shows up on this site at the end of each cycle - "XX finished of XXX started-. My friends would say that I'm expert at starting projects I never complete: the baby blanket for the friend, whose child is now one year old, the knitted satchel, that was to be a Christmas gift back in 2003 (or was it 2002?) and the sweater started in early 2002 that I'm currently unraveling.
Tomorrow is my 37th birthday. I have high hopes for this year. For years now I've been convinced that the combination of the numbers three and seven would bring a strong positive influence: born on the 7th day of the 3rd month, I won't have this juxtaposition again until (the powers that be willing) I turn 73. Even reducing the year of my birth 1969 to a simple number: 1 + 9 + 6 + 9 equals 25, reduced further: 2 + 5 equals 7. Seven is a good number for me. I hope it will be this year too.
Tuesday, March 7th is my birthday, but as I'm writing this entry on Sunday, March 12th, I can't really capture the actual feeling I had that day. The facts are: came to work in a good mood. Though my boss was ill, she came to work and presented me with a lovely box of chocolates she purchased on a recent trip. Flowers also arrived that day. After work, six of us sat down to drinks and food at a crowded Chelsea pub. And at some time in the course of that evening, the wife of my former boss passed away.
The death of someone I know last night has left me shaken today. The news came the morning after I was out celebrating my birthday with friends. As I raised a glass to my new year, with the hopes of new beginnings and joyous events to come, someone I care about was suffering through the last moments of a loved one's time on this earth. I don't know what words to offer him for condolence. They always sound so practiced to me. "My deepest regrets-, "My sincerest sympathies-...these sentiments don't really convey much more than what is required by etiquette.
Death has such a strange effect on people...not the people that have died, but on the living that remain, who had some sort of knowledge of the person who died. On the one hand, some who grieve are experiencing intense sadness over the loss of a close family member or friend. Others, who had been acquainted with the deceased to a lesser degree, also feel the loss. Then there are those, who grieve by association. They might have known the spouse, children or parents of the deceased, but had never met the person in the casket at the memorial service.
Today was the funeral. I drove up with a friend and former coworker. The service was so full, a second room was opened for people to sit down in. Lots of folks showed up from the office, which was nice. The words spoken by the deceased's friend, sister and daughter were extremely moving, leaving no eyes dry in the congregation. I did not attend the internment or reception afterwards at the home. Just seeing the casket being carried out to the hearse brought back memories of my grandfather's funeral, watching the box holding his remains being lowered into the ground.
My thoughts are all over the place this month, so why shouldn't my entries be as well? I was so quick to jump in with such optimism and "can do"attitude. Watching one of those PBS motivational speakers (fund drive time again), I thought I could take the recommended steps and simply my life, motives and ambitions. And, simply wanting it badly enough might be the key to it all. I would meditate, I would connect with energies I don't fully understand, but which must be good and pure and at the same time keen on listening to my woes.
This week has felt like two. Starting off with a birthday and an after work get-together I was only marginally looking forward to. Would much rather have come home and listened to some music, cuddled a cat or two. Segue to the death of someone I know and a sadness for the family she left behind that's much deeper than I could have imagined. This was followed by a funeral and sitting shiva, where I found myself among a room full of mourners, who were strangers to me. Family crying, friends kindly, helplessly offering "If there's anything I can do...-
Overheard in Grand Central Terminal: "Anything that hurts that much has to be good for you."The discussion was about some torturous exercise routine. Hardly something I'd be concerned about now. But I couldn't help repeating the line to myself over and over again as I walked to my office. "Anything that hurts that much has to be good for you."Is all this pain and suffering really just meant to make us stronger? Is the universe's master plan really that fucked up? I hate to believe it, but still..."Anything that hurts that much has to be good for you.-
Spent a very therapeutic evening uploading photos taken Sunday at the New York Botanical Gardens. Even this visit, to such a beautiful place for such a lovely event (the annual Orchid Show) brought with it some melancholie (spelling intentional). I had made this visit in 2005 with my friend and his wife, back when her cancer treatment seemed to be providing her with a fighting chance. Nevertheless, once among the flowers and trees and plants, I found that the visit did give a significant boost to my mood. It was a dreary, drizzly day, so the gardens were not crowded.
Woke early this morning after going to bed much too late, but felt incredibly well rested. Neither of the cats slept with me at any point during the night, which means I wasn't constantly contorting in an attempt avoid kicking or otherwise disturbing one of them. Unfortunately, as I pulled the curtains in the bedroom, I couldn't help thinking, "I feel good this morning. I wonder how long before this day goes all wrong."I'll try not to think that way and just enjoy the feeling. I think, wearing my long, loud plaid skirt will help me stay happy today.
We sat together on the front porch. He said to me, "I've had 8 years to prepare for this. I knew it was coming. But I just wasn't ready."He doesn't seem the type to be comfortable with overt expressions of concern, so I said nothing. Guests trickled in, his son came out to check on him. "Already hiding out here dad?"He said it wouldn't be long before he'd find himself outside on the curb, escaping friends and relatives inside. All I could do was squeeze his hand as he stood to go back and face the inevitable, inescapable.
I have a crush on someone. When I know I'm going to see him, I take particular care to dress in clothes that flatter my figure, I give my hair that tousled, free-and-easy look and I apply small amounts of makeup to give my face a healthy glow. Even when I don't know that I'm going to see him, but run a certain risk of bumping into him in the train station or around town, I go through these same steps. I guess that's not necessarily a bad thing. Even if he doesn't notice my efforts, maybe someone else will.
"You'd be a lot prettier if you'd just smile."Maybe today, something happened that put me in a thoughtful frame of mind. Something that preoccupies me to the point that I don't feel like smiling at every stranger I pass on the streets. I think I'm pretty regardless of whether I'm smiling, happy, sad or undecided. Pretty is a state of being, not a swish of the makeup brush or a certain lighting that puts a flattering hue on the cheekbones and accents the curve of the neck. Beauty is much more real and far less transitory than these things.
My friends are insane. There's the paranoid one, who thinks the doorman is vandalizing her car, just because he once told her he owns a gun. There's the one who's just joined the witch coven and believes that her group can change the earth by casting spells. Another one sees little beyond her own small sphere of interest and can't even offer words of consolation when I tell her of the death of a friend. A fourth is just completely missing in action, having let my birthday pass without notice. I need to attract more positive, sane and giving energies.
He jumps up out of the bed to go close the terrace doors. The breeze has become chilly, and the air moving through the small quarters into the room where we'd been lying is damp and smells sweet-salty. Not unpleasant, but a shock on skin warmed by the heat of another body. He stands looking out through the glass doors at the ocean. I know he's happy, I know I've helped make him happy again. We'll sit tonight and watch a movie. Wrapped in a light blanket, held in his embrace, content to drift off to sleep in his arms.
Dream #2: We're sitting next to one another on the train, heading somewhere secluded for a long weekend. I'm looking out the window and knitting, he's reading some recent non-fiction hardcover. The comfort level is at the point where there's no need for constant conversation. Pauses and silences are not awkward, just natural and pleasant. We enjoy the closeness of the train seats and intimacy of traveling together. His hand reaches over from time to time to caress my knee, at which point I turn to him and smile. He always tells me how pretty I look when I smile.
Sending positive energy out in the hopes that it returns to me. Projecting love, joy, peace and magnanimity can only result in the receipt of these. We are all being tested, we all must find our path. More often that not, this becomes the path of least resistance. Hours spent in front of the TV, passively experiencing through the flickering forms on the screen. Others' adventures supplant actual activity. What will we have to show for this life when the sum of our efforts is tallied? Will we be rewarded with another shot at existence? Or punished with the same?
The next sound you hear will be my voice telling you to stop acting like a complete victim. You will then awaken into a new life of enlightened reality, where you actually take responsibility for your actions (or inactions, as the case may be) and don't blame others for your own shortfalls. You will realize that you have to work for everything you get in this life, and you will knuckle down and do just that: work. By doing so, you will feel freer than you have ever felt and will enjoy a true sense of satisfaction. Now, WAKE UP!
I decided to give up eating meat. Reactions to this have ranged from, "Yea, I've been considering doing the same thing,"to "I've also been checking food labels more and am trying to be conscious of what I'm putting in my body,"to "OK, and why do you want to give up meat? It's just meat. No big deal."I don't think most Americans really equate the animal with the meal on the plate in front of them. Nor have they ever heard the screams of the animals as their crates are being shoved through the slaughterhouse loading dock doors.
Dream #3: We're walking through a quiet city neighborhood, probably somewhere on the upper west side, enjoying a late summer evening. The air is still warm but pleasant. We reach the Hudson and stand at one of the piers, enjoying the way the dusk settles over the river. We're standing close together, which feels comfortable and safe. He slides his arm around my back and brings his hand to rest on my upper arm. I put my hand over his, and he turns to face me. His eyes have a soft, warm expression. "I would really like to kiss you.-
Thought it wasn't a particularly cold or harsh winter, I have already started scanning the trees for signs of spring. The crocuses have already sprouted, as have some daffodils. But, trips to the botanic gardens are still just exercises in potential. The magnolia at the NYBG is just chock-a-block full of buds. In a matter of weeks, the tree will be an explosion of blooms. I like this type of spring flower. We mourn their early demise, at a time when other plants are still preparing to bloom, but they are a welcome preview of the wonderful things to come.
Twice now one of the conductors on the train during my evening commute has given me a little peppermint candy. As he passes through the aisle collecting tickets, out comes the hand with the peppermint. I look up and get a quick wink. He seems such a nice man, maybe in his 50's or 60's, it's hard to tell. But, he's always smiling and pleasant, always ready with a "please"and "thank you-. I appreciate that in other people, probably because it's such a part of my nature to do the same. I guess that's just how I was raised.
This morning I was awakened by birds chirping. I'm lucky enough, living in New York City, to have very green, natural surroundings. This includes a small park directly across from my building, where the birds perch in the trees. Somehow, I had forgotten to set my alarm last night. I can't ever remember having done that before. I woke at 5:30, turned and saw the clock. Realizing that I didn't have to get up for another half hour, I fell back into a comfortable sleep. When I woke and saw 6:45, I couldn't believe that there was no 6:00am alarm!
My grandmother died today. She was my last remaining grandparent. She had had two strokes over the last five years and was completely physically debilitated. She couldn't really say anything coherent, she could not feed herself, she needed to wear a diaper and couldn't bathe herself. Still, my parents visited her every day at the nursing home during lunch and dinner. She'll be missed by the entire family as that awesome grandma who always laid out the great spread on Christmas Eve, but to my mom and dad, her absence will be much more immediate. Hopefully she's at peace now.
On Saturday my parents will drive from North Carolina to Connecticut. The body of my grandmother is being flown up tomorrow. I'll join them in Connecticut on Sunday, arriving maybe a couple of hours before the wake. The funeral service and internment will be Monday morning, followed by a family get-together at my cousin's house. It's amazing how under such circumstances, under such duress, people manage to sort of mechanically complete all the tasks at hand: all the pre-funeral arrangements, notifying other family members and friends, having to console others when you relate the news of a loved one's death.
This has been a rather difficult month. Although I'm always defending March, because it is the month of my birth, I'm glad March 2006 is over. It's usually not the most pleasant of months, often bitterly chilly, dreary and wet. We're reminded that winter is not over yet and spring still seems so far off. But, in the last week or so, I've seen the first signs of spring. The air today is warm and the sun is out. On a walk at lunch time I saw the tables at the sidewalk cafes were full of diners, enjoying the day.
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