Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I am a woman in love...

When I met him several years ago, it was love at first sight. Actually, it was lust at first sight. Whatever it was, I felt it the first time I saw him. He was the perfect specimen. Handsome. Great smile. Bright. All put together.

I knew from the first day that he was unclaimable and untameable, but I am a woman with high hopes and great expectations where my powers of seduction are concerned. As persistent as I have been, he has been equally resistant. He has never wavered from his original stance: there is no hope of any kind of lasting, permanent, or exclusive relationship between us. Even though I suspected from the beginning that this would turn out to be yet another one of my impossible relationships, I fell hard for him anyway. And I have remained a fallen woman ever since. Sadly, I have no idea exactly how he feels about me; he has spent more than a decade carefully crafting vapid and indecipherable answers to my direct and divers questions.

We share one of those relationships that defies definition. Friends? Confidants? Paramours? Lovers? Soul mates? None of those terms is adequate. None is broad enough. None is refined enough. The English language is restricted and restricting at times. Spanish and Italian have words that more closely approximate our special connection, but are hardly worth listing here because I would have to define them with those same inadequate, inapproximate English words.

Communicating with him isn't easy; he is a slow responder. Impatient soul that I am, I am usually the one to initiate contact. Most of the time, I do not even wait for a response to one before I launch another one his way. I keep no secrets from him; I cannot think of anyone or anything important in my life that I haven't told him about. I cannot say the same for him; he doesn't reach out to me nearly as often as I reach out to him. And when he does, he doesn't reveal as much as I want to know. He's the elusive, intangible one.

Eventually, when he feels like it, when he isn't busy someplace else with someone else, he responds. His counterreplies are literally sweet nothings - as cliche as that sounds. His messages are enlightening, but unintelligible. I send dozens of questions to him that I hope and expect him to answer and receive smiley faces and blank stares in return - if I receive anything at all.

Then, as suddenly as he appears, he disappears, and darkness reigns supreme yet again. For days, weeks at a time. Nothing I do or say or write lures him out of hibernation. I can do nothing but wait.

Even though weeks often pass without any indication that he remembers me at all, when he shows up, I am  never disappointed.  Never. Waiting for him is, indeed, the sweetest sorrow of all. His presence in my life, veiled though it is most of the time, is one of my life's greatest pleasures - and one of its most undeniable addictions. With the jitteriness of a drug addict waiting for the high to take effect, I anxiously await his always perfectly timed, preposterously short-lived reappearances in my life.

I'd be lying if I said that I don't often fall asleep with his name on my lips and the image of his face in my mind. I'd be lying if I said that I don't often fantasize about the next time I will see him - even though I know exactly when that will be.

He is the love of my life. He is a friend to my mind and my soul. He has power over my emotions and my body and my spirit. The saddest truth of all is that I am certain he doesn't know any of this. In actuality, he has no idea that I exist.

I saw him again today. Not only in my dreams this time, either. In real life. I was out on my early morning walk, pumping my pink 2 pound dumbbells furiously. I crossed one of the intersections in my neighborhood, looked over my left shoulder, and there he was - as alluring, enticing, seductive, heart-stoppingly gorgeous as ever.

High above the rooftops and church peaks hung my friend and companion in all his glory...
The Full Moon.

What? Who did you think I was talking about???

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Women on the move...

We left for Washington, DC, earlyTuesday morning and returned Friday evening. We walked and hailed cabs and took the bus and the metro. We went to bookstores and restaurants and museums and even a Trader Joe's that was two blocks from our hotel. We saw senators on the street and toured the West Wing of the White House. Eight hundred forty two minivan miles later, my journal is full of receipts and postcards and empty sugar packets and stories of amazement and wonder. My mind is full of memories and questions and dreams for future travel.

When I travel, my soul follows at a distance, catching up to me in places and at times that I least expect. "Soul lag" is the name a local writer gave to a poem published in Skirt Magazine. That's exactly the right name for what happens to me every single time I hit the road. There is a distinct moment when I feel my soul catch up with my body. It is nearly indescribable, that moment, but it is also undeniable. Suddenly, I find myself quietly, happily, peacefully, gratefully saying, "I am here. I am here. I am here." Over and over.

I wish I could say that I feel the same level of happiness and contentment in my daily life - and sometimes I do. Often I do. But when I am on the road, when I am a woman on the move, emotions are more intense. Hunger and thirst are deeper. Longings are stronger.

Lavinia Spalding's book, Writing Away, is my current travel writing infatuation. She wrote: "Any way you look at it, travel stirs us up. It's a stimuli smorgasbord with a menu of curiosity, frustration, self-consciousness, bliss, courage, vulnerability, stress, alienation, titillation, fear, loss, boredom, lust, loneliness, awe - you name it."

Two women-sisters-friends on the move. How happy we were...

The view from the entrance to our hotel. I would soooooo love to live in one of those houses.

Sitting in the President's chair in the Situation Room. Making a point.
Pretending I know something when in reality, I don't know anything at all.

Having snuck out alone one morning for coffee, I did what I do best.
I drank and I wrote.

One of the gorgeous patios in the National Gallery.

I love to travel. I love what it teaches me and how it challenges me and how it has made me into the wandering, wondering, dreamy, curious, stirred up person I am today.

John Steinbeck wrote: "People don't take trips; trips take people."
This trip has certainly taken me - in many ways, in many directions.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Call of the Road

Part of my problem is that I love to travel so much. I am a nomad at heart, a wanderer, a pilgrim, a traveler. I could live out of a single rolling suitcase, the overhead bin sized suitcase, for weeks at a time. I don't eat much. I don't need much space to sleep. What I need is freedom. Free time. Museums to ooh and aah my way through. Churches to light candles and say prayers in. Bridges to cross. Streets to roam and get lost in. Not only an empty camera memory card, but also a brand new travel journal to fill. An ample supply of colored markers. The rest is negotiable.

When months pass without me answering the call of the road, my mind wanders. My soul wanders. My thoughts wander to people and places far away. I lose my bearings here in my hometime because my inner compass, my internal GPS is desperately trying to orient me on the streets of Madrid or Rome or New York or San Francisco. But none of those places are options for me at the moment.

For now, Washington, DC will have to do.

We leave tomorrow morning, my daughter and I, for a four day trip to our Nation's Capital.

We will spend an hour or so on an evening tour of the Nation's House on Wednesday night. I soooooooo hope that the President and/or The First Lady make a surprise appearance while we are wandering about in the West Wing...

We will wander through the National Zoo and the National Cathedral and the National Gallery of Art. (Why does everything have such regal and noble names? Can pandas and pews and portraits truly be National?!?)

We will weep our way through the Holocaust Museum and alongside the Viet Nam and Korean War Monuments.

We will most likely overeat and overheat.
We will most likely overspend on food, drink, and souvenirs.
We will most likely underestimate how far one monument is from another.
We will most likely underappreciate the wonder, the splendor, the import of it all.

But none of that matters right now. What matters to me most right now is this: after far too long, I will once again be answering the unrelenting, undeniable, immutable, incommutable Call of the Road.

Traveling mercies to us.
And to you, wherever you are right now and wherever you are going.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My 700th Blog Post

Yes, this is my 700th post. I've had a lot to say over the past six years or so.
But today, this week, of late, I find myself without much to say.
Senza parole.

So, I'm going on a lion hunt.
I'm going on safari.
Not sure when I'll be back.
Or if I'll be back...

PS. I ain't scared.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Untitled - Part 2

"I will hold on to hope for you."

This is what Gail said the day I told her what I was going thru. The biggest crisis I have ever experienced in my 33 years of existence. I didn’t understand what she meant, mainly because at the time, I had lost all hope. I nodded in disbelief. She held my hand and said it again, but this time, she looked directly into my eyes. I have to confess that up to that point I didn’t know what to make of Gail and our friendship. She has already established that during our first encounter I mentioned I wasn’t looking for any new friends and that I was perfectly fine with the few I had. In my defense, I have been hurt by friends in the past and was just trying to protect myself, for lack of a better excuse. But she wouldn’t take no for an answer, she was determined to prove me wrong, to show me that friendship was still possible. Her persistence frightened me as much as it captivated me. I am enormously glad that she didn’t give up.

What she didn’t know was that I was very impressed with her. We did have a lot in common, and there was an undeniable sense of peace in the tone of our first and very long conversation. But the idea of inviting her in to my life was one I didn’t even want to consider.

Week after week, we met at least two times, and I failed miserably at every attempt to walk away from her. She kept surprising me with her honesty, her insightful questions, and her ability to understand almost every situation. One thing that caught my eye was how much she pays attention to details, how much she observes. I’ll give you an example: Only a handful of people know that I was born left-handed and that at the age of 5, I learned how to write using my right hand, and I’ve done so ever since. Most of the time I use both my hands equally, but there are certain occasions where my right hand simply does not respond, and my left one reacts naturally. In all my 33 years, Gail has been the one and only person to notice that I am in fact left-handed. That might not mean much to you reading this, but to me, it meant a lot. I was finally convinced that I was in front of true friendship.

Although I did not recognize it at first, I later discovered that Gail is one of those people that come into your life to stay. After all the work she did to become my friend, the least I could do what to let her in on a little secret of mine. I said to her: “I want you to know that there is absolutely nothing you can tell me or do that would ever shock me or change the way I feel about you, I will never judge you, no matter what you do or say. Keep that in mind at all times”. She smiled and replied: “Yes, ma’am.

I must agree with Gail, our friendship hasn’t always been easy or smooth. I was terrified of “it” and once even asked her to please walk away. I know what you’re thinking: What kind of person does that? Why does she put up with me? I can only answer the first question, after a few really bad experiences my heart was in pretty bad shape, and I was convinced that in the end I would end up getting hurt yet again. But to my surprise, and showing tremendous determination and loyalty, she disregarded my invitation to leave and said: “I will not be the next person you push away”. I was shocked. She then gave me the opportunity to explain myself, which by the way, was really hard to do. I thought I was going to have to apologize a million times, but once was enough; she accepted my apology and smiled. The rest is history, I guess.

But the story hardly ends there. As a matter of fact; it was only the beginning of this wonderful, nameless, powerful, life altering adventure. We began to walk this road side by side. We have laughed together and also cried together. We have told each other many stories of childhood, university study, travel, friends we’ve had, and people we have loved. We don’t know where it will take us but we are enjoying every second of it.

Then life interrupted. This life is so unpredictable. One day I stumbled and fell in the middle of the road, and with me, my whole world came crashing down. I was forced to face the truth, to go into the basement of my soul and do a spiritual and mental “spring cleaning” right in the middle of June. Denial was no longer an option or a way of life. Needless to say I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it, but at the same time, my thoughts, memories, feelings and emotions were fighting their way out. One afternoon right before Italian class, I confessed all my secrets to the person I least expected I would ever tell. Everything was out in the open. I was exposed - and it felt great! For the first time in a very long time, I was able to breathe without my invisible respirator, my airways were finally clear and so were my eyes and the rest of my senses.

A few minutes later, I heard those words for the second time: “I will hold on to hope for you.” I cried and simply said: “Thank you.” I was not really sure what to do next. The following two weeks were awfully challenging. I was in the middle of an emotional tornado, trying not to lose all my earthly possessions, while holding on to whatever I could. I am not very good at reaching out to people for help; even when I want to, the words just don’t come out. But this time, I knew I had to do something, I felt my life was on the line. I asked for help. I called my closest friends, and they gave me all the love and support I needed. They still do. They are praying for me right now.

But I have to give credit to Gail. She held my hand the entire time. She prayed for me. She sat with me in silence. She had tissues on hand every single time I cried in front of her, and there were, without a doubt, countless times. She also looked me in the eye repeatedly and said, “You will get thru this, I promise.” What was even more astounding is the fact that she gave me the courage I so desperately needed to reach out to the people even closer to me, my own family. The outcome has been very positive: the tornado has finally passed and peace has been restored in my heart.

So there you have it folks. This is the second part of this journey, the one where my friend Gail picked me up after I fell and helped me get back on my feet. The one where I understood that it’s ok to ask for help, that freedom is around the corner, and we just have to keep walking until we find it, that good things happen when we take chances on people. I am extremely grateful for this mind-blowing friendship and I don’t think I could ever find the words in any language to express my gratitude. I am doing a lot better these days, my wounds are healing nicely, but I know this path has many more twists and turns still to come, I will do my very best to be ready to face them and to prepare myself for whatever is next. But what a relief is to know that I no longer walk alone.

PS. If you don't know where part I of this series is, please go here to read it.