A few lifetimes ago I found myself at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel with my driver’s door smashed in so badly that it could barely stay closed. Two of NYPD’s finest (and finest ;) extricated me out of the passenger’s side. One went over to handle the other driver, the other had me lean against the trunk and asked me if I smoked.
I hate that I blurt things out at the most inappropriate times, in the most inappropriate contexts - school functions, formal dinners, funerals and FaceTiming the former president of Israel (ask me about this one).
With summer around the corner (in this corner of the world), there’s a lot of talk about being your best self, which somehow links to self-care and self-love, both of which can lead to self-meanness, which then calls for self-compassion. So before we drive all of our selves completely crazy, here’s a breakdown of what’s up, and why it doesn’t really matter.
There’s a word that separates Your and Self - a word that allows you to set your goals, commit to your workout, juice your greens, save your money, hit your target, meet your soulmate, meditate to keep calm and carry on in pursuit of your best self. Whereas being yourself doesn’t require anything - not a dash, not a comma, not a space.
My swinging occurs almost everywhere else — in my food, in my mood, in my parenting, in my productivity. Some days I️ go full throttle, others I️ stay down low. Also known as black-and-white and ‘woah, you are too much!’ what I️’ve never been called is middle-of-the-road.
Panic is how I would describe it. The feeling I had when presented with my cake and candles and the moment to make my wishes (oh yes, even at fifty, I take my birthday wishes très seriously). Panic because nothing came to mind. I felt full. Full of food and drink, yes, but also full in that place that always has a yearning. That low-level hum of wanting more. That irritating itch of desire that feels unscratchable. That void which drives my drive, my ambition, my force. Devoid of the void, I am...fine?
I’ve been reflecting on my fiftieth for some time now. Taking stock of my life, going over what I have accomplished, grieving all that I have not, reflecting on time that has past that I will never get again. Some say age is just a number, but in the game of life, resources are limited, and age is a barometer of time, a measure of how much has gone by and what is still left.
I got married 21 years ago today. That’s 21 years of struggles and stress, celebrations and surprises (some more pleasant than others). 21 years of my belly growing, my heart expanding and my tolerance increasing as I learned to make room in and around myself for the (amazing) people that I share my life with.
21 years of figuring out how to compromise, to share, to think of others without losing myself.
The problem with getting what you want is that there is always more want underneath. Once you satisfy your appetite for food or for things or for power or for experiences, your desire becomes unleashed. There is more to want. More to yearn for, more to long for.
Grief has no rationale. It doesn’t care how old they were, how ill they were, how close you were.
Grief grabs you at your chest and squeezes relentlessly, just a moment longer than you think you can hold with a sudden and momentary release so that you can inhale sharply before you’re squeezed again. (Best to have a paper bag nearby to help with breathing.)
Ten years ago we moved back to NYC from the suburbs. While there, I had promised myself that when we returned, I would run in Central Park every day. On our first day back I stepped into the park at West 79th street. That’s when I saw her.
I haven’t been to LA in 25 years. It’s not personal - we’re just not a match(a). I used to come here for work and race back home when I was done. The place was pretty, but fake, plastic-y, a watered down version of its magical onscreen presence. The people felt the same as well - all smiles but little more - with one of my least favorite questions making me feel like work is the worth here, and little else. I opted for New York and its absolute reality.
Lest this be our first meeting, let me bring you up to speed: I spend hours thinking about my self. I mean, I spend hours thinking about others as well, but overall I am pretty self-ish (and proud of it, too - it took me a long time to get this way.
It’s time for your year-end review. The one where you go over all the stuff you got done (or didn’t), the weight you lost (or gained), the promotion you got (or got passed over for). It’s time to go over all of the things that happened this year (can you believe it?) and reckon with the fact that the year is now over (can you believe it?).
Tis the season for gifts and giving and, by that count, receiving. We are well-instructed in the art of giving and somewhat practiced in the grace of receiving but know little about how to ask for what we want.
I know this because I keep looking at them as if I am a scientist studying the art of manicure. When in actuality I am a writer practicing the art of distraction. (In fairness, I don’t need much practice in this, I’m pretty good at it.)
My friend L and I caught up last week. Her nanny had left to tend to family matters, and L hadn’t hired a new one yet. “What surprises me is not how much I’m enjoying being home with the kids, but how much I want to be home with them. I’ve always loved working - I never thought I would want that.”
This weekend I hung out with a dozen parent volunteers at a campsite: preparing fire, food and fun for 150 campers. The kids had a great time and so did we - enjoying the instant camaraderie that comes when you’re volunteering.
When I first considered running the NYC Marathon, I asked around for some advice. Tom’s turned out to be the most useful: “Run. Follow the training.” The training, it turned out, was where the transformation happened.