Thursday, December 31, 2009

Once in a Blue Moon

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

Blogging During that Swimming After-glow

Tonight is the last night of the year and a blue, full moon. After our swim just now, Pat told me that the last one occurred on New Year's in 1990. God, I was 24 then and I'd never trade now for then, even as I seem to be going through a mid-life-what's-my-legacy struggle currently.

Back then, my pet, Gwen, was a Siamese fighting fish in a simple, small, glass fish-bowl, or had she already died by then? Gwen was the only other living being in my home then, which was an efficiency apartment in Chicago on Marshfield St. near Ashland Ave. -- a block from the Y, where I swam, and three blocks from my therapist.

My love-life was super-active, but not yet happily so. There was a series of lovely women with whom I became involved at that time, but none who compelled, or was compelled by, me ultimately.

By the second month of 1990, I would leave my job as a client rep for Video Monitoring Services, figuring I would enter a prestigious English Ph.D. program...except after I left my job, I learned that all of the programs to which I had applied had rejected me.

In short, by the start of 1990, I had no love, no job and was renting a sad, little home.


Compared to 1990, 2010 is miraculous:

For nearly two decades so far, I have had Pat's dedicated love and she, mine; nearly 20 years of continuous, meaningful employment, including a six-month assignment in India and business trips to a huge number of exciting cities around the world; a home I'm proud of, and which we're working toward owning through our mortgage, compared with my renting 20 years ago; 3/4s of a Masters degree from the best school in its class and one of the best schools in the world; consistently healthy eating, where it was not prior, that is, where it included too much sugar prior; two lively cat-siblings as pets; and more. All of this should be instructive, i.e., it should help me remember the proverb that it's always darkest before the dawn. Of course, there were two sad times: my inability to become pregnant and my being diagnosed with otosclerosis, which meant that I could go deaf at any time with no warning. Neither of these were predictable events.

What could the dawn of the next 20 years bring? I'll respond in the order I think it's chronologically-likely: even more of a sense of purpose in my work at IBM, e.g., expanding the number of people my work helps, and its scope still further; the completion of my Masters program; watching our niece Zoe and nephew Zach each graduate from high school and go to college; having some of my writing published; visiting Israel with Pat; marrying Pat legally; re-learning trop (cantillation) and chanting from the Torah at our synagogue; watching our nephews Sam and Max graduate from junior high school, then high school and then go on to college; seeing the four nephews and niece finding partners with whom to settle down; becoming great-aunts; losing family or friends to illness or old age; continuing our swimming throughout our later-years; and at least a couple of sad, unpredictable events, God forbid, but it's natural that they would occur, unfortunately.

Never will I consult a psychic, as I'm superstitious; nor am I comfortable with having suggested what's possible in the future myself as I did here, but I also think that it's probably a good idea to have a vision of what I'd like to do and see in the coming years.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Vacation Reflection

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

Too Much Time to Think?

"I don't like vacations. I'm not good with so little structure. There's too much time to think," said a friend the other day.

I agree with the huge expanse of thinking-time...not that I'm not always thinking, but with less compulsory activity, there is indeed probably more time than is comfortable for thinking -- and feeling, in my case.

"You only have to die. Everything else is a choice," Pat quoted to me from one of her college-friends the other day.

Typically, I don't think I'm death-obsessed -- at least not about my own -- but I guess it is part of the root of this depression I've been feeling, now, as I'm aware of being squarely in mid-life (at 44.5 years old). What will be my legacy, since I can't live on a bit through children of my own? What will I have to show for my life?

This morning, a colleague tweeted, "I wonder why I want more than I have." In response, I commented, "I wonder why I have more than I need." I wish I remembered that routinely, how lucky I am. Walking to the Broadway theater last night to see "A Little Night Music" after dinner at a luxurious restaurant -- our early New Year's Eve splurge -- Pat looked at me as the wind whipped our hair and declared, "We have a good life."

I smiled and agreed.

If only I could feel that way routinely. My therapist said to me last time, "Most people feel tense some of the time and relaxed the rest of the time. With you, it's the opposite...."

It's true that I am driven: driven to control my environment; driven to be perfect; driven to feel good enough; driven to express myself; driven to desire accomplishments I probably won't have; driven to self-flaggelate; driven to fear the worst; driven to feel ashamed; driven to compete unrealistically; driven to stand out; driven to fit in; driven to feel loved; driven to feel valued and respected; driven to feel physically-fit; driven to hope for inspiration; driven to be useful at work; driven to be kind at home; driven to enjoy beauty and humor....

Where does all that drive take me? Did I already write about feeling like a fragile, tiny, buttercup-sized flower that nonetheless seems able to break through the cement sidewalk above it? I figured that out recently, that I am my own cement, and I am also the flower. Thank God for the flower, and yes, I think I did write about this previously, as I think I also mentioned my kind, middle sister's reaction to it: "I prefer to think of that flower as simply a blossom at the top of a strong, tall tree that's breaking through the cement," or something along those lines. What a great vision.

If you've read this far, both of us might need a pick-me-up/morale booster. I put these affirmations together several weeks ago and I forget to look at them routinely, but as I read them now, they make me feel better and maybe they'll help you feel better about my prospects for happiness, too; only a few of them are more aspirational than currently true, and I'll asterisk those -- I am:

  • Creative
  • Loving
  • Remarkably resilient
  • Brave
  • Smart
  • Kind
  • A mensch
  • Earnest
  • Disciplined
  • Loved
  • Enthusiastic
  • Funny
  • A leader
  • A natural educator
  • Calm*
  • Inspirational
  • Good-looking
  • Conscientious
  • Cheerful*
  • Visionary
  • Undeterred*
  • Unfolding.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

It's Relative

I'm not talking about when one is entrusted with necessary secrets by another, e.g., when a friend confides in another and asks that friend not to reveal what he or she has told him or her, or when one is entrusted not to give away trade secrets by one's employer.

I'm talking about my natural orientation and sense of what is private and what is public. To me, the less that is private, the better. I'm not sure if it's a case of trying to make up for a decade of secretiveness, from ages 11-21, when I was resolving my sexual orientation, and so I'm super-open altogether ever since, or that I'm no different than the most private of private people, i.e., that I wish I could control people's information about me (not to flatter myself that people seek it routinely, but...) and I just use an opposite strategy to the private peoples': I tell everything I can think of, so that no one can catch me off guard and reveal something that I did not want revealed.

Someone marveled recently, "When I began analysis [(therapy)], I was so reserved and so afraid to let go of that reserve. You seem able to share everything so readily."

Well, expressing my thoughts is relatively easy, I agree, and probably is even a compulsion at times, e.g., this entire blog is evidence of that, but sharing my feelings is much harder. Recently, I told a former girlfriend, "I always wanted you to show me some tenderness -- verbally -- and you never really did." That was so hard for me to say aloud. I don't think I ever put it that directly before, or at least not since we were together. It was a pure feeling, and not just a thought, and therefore much, much harder to express.

What Is and Is Not, Off Limits

Friends' secrets and job secrets are unmentionables, but otherwise, I don't think anything I want to share needs to be kept private. Paradoxically, I'm pretty sure I have an disproportionate sense of shame due to perfectionism, and so maybe this defensive entry about feeling that it's my right to share so freely is a strike at that perfectionism-shame cycle.

What is the purpose of privacy? To keep people intrigued; to avoid anyone, feeling ashamed....Other reasons don't come to mind.

What is the purpose of visibility? To help others and myself feel less alone in the world, and to help people learn. For example, my grad school launched "Pocket Knowledge" a couple of years ago, which features papers by faculty and students, and on which any faculty and student is welcome to post. I have posted some of my best papers on it, but relatively few of my colleagues have done so. I asked the librarian who helps troubleshoot the site why that is and she said she believed it was because people were afraid of others, stealing their content. Oy. I don't even think that way. And that's a third reason for my preferring the public to the private; I prefer that my stuff see the light of day and that it be useful to others, rather than that it be hidden, in the event that it's misused. I guess that's the risk-taker in me, and my abundance, rather than scarcity, mentality.

Visibility trumps a sense of intriguing, personal mystery for me, too, and I do try to follow my own rules of maintaining friends' anonymity, so that their shame, if not always mine, is not risked.

"You want to be known," my therapist said. I think I shared this here before; she continued, "Most people want to be known, but have given up; not you. That's hopeful." I have chutzpah and a big dollop of self-absorption that makes me believe that people are interested in knowing me, all the more so, the more honest I am.

Self-revelation is also meant, I'm sure, to weed out the less intense among people I come across, to socially engineer future encounters, i.e., if I scare you with my openness, and we have a choice of speaking again or not, then we don't need to have exchanges ever again.

Facebook apps are like astrology forecasts in my experience and so not something I take very seriously, yet one of them is about characteristics people have labeled as among my strong-suits and the chief among them is "Trustworthy." If I take the app at all seriously, I conclude they feel that way because I'm so open about myself that they trust me more than the usual as a result.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hot War

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

Scene: A YMHA in New Jersey; Time: Christmas Day 2009

Me: "I'll be bringing my mother in through the back-door, so that she has a shorter distance to the locker room; she's disabled."

The Russian-accented, older-male receptionist: "Nobody comes in through the back."

Another patron, a guy my age, is walking past, as I yell down the hall at the receptionist while walking away from the receptionist: "In all the years we've been here as members, you've never been friendly or helpful to me or my partner. Never once said hello back to us. Now, you're going to be *un*helpful?"

"No one comes in through the back," he says, walking toward me, suddenly purposeful.

I keep walking away.

He follows me down the hall to show me that there are wheel-chairs and she can be wheeled to the locker room. Ugh. This is not how we did it last time and I don't want my mother to have to be wheeled in.

"My mother uses a walker," and I mime, using one myself, in case he doesn't know the English word for "walker," "and she needs the walker in the locker room to get around. I've already asked the lifeguard to let us in and he said yes."

"He should not have agreed...but ok. Go ahead," he says.

I don't believe that he's really going to let us come in through the back, but I drive us around anyway. The lifeguard has agreed to meet us at the door at 12:10 pm. I look at my watch upon our arrival. It's 12:11 pm. Ugh, we're late.

My mother waits in the car, since it's too cold outside, and I pound on the metal door with my leather-gloved fists.

No response.

I rattle the door as hard as I can.

No response.

I kick the door hard with my left UGG-booted foot.

No response.

The next time, I kick it so hard, I feel something burst in my second toe. Thank God, it's just a blood-vessel, which will mean just a bad bruise, but it's tender enough to make me favor my right foot and to get in the car and speed off toward the front of the building.

We conclude that the officious jerk of a receptionist has prevented our entry.

I pull my mother's walker out of the trunk and I spot a familiar face, one of the office-workers, I think.

"Do you work in the office?" I ask threateningly.

"No, I don't," she responds in a thick, probably-Russian, accent. By the time we walk and roll-walk down the hall, getting ready to let the receptionist have it, the Russian patron has reached his desk and is chatting with him in Russian.

"Why didn't you let us come in through the back?" I practically yell as we're coming down the hall.

Another question to the receptionist from my mother: "What did you do in Russia?"

"You have no right to ask me what I did in Russia."

"Well, you're being terribly bureaucratic," we agree, and the patron snorts with laughter.

"What are you laughing at?" my mother challenges her.

"I have a right to laugh. It's none of your business why I'm laughing."

Don't talk to my mother like that, I think, and yell, "It's none of your business why we're talking with this man!"

She laughs some more and my mother and I head toward the locker room.

I go into the pool to see why the lifeguard never opened the door and learn that I was standing at the wrong door simply. The receptionist had indeed relented. I'm filled with shame about our calling him out around his Russian heritage.

Oy. Russian-on-Russian violence, it was, since all of us came from Russia originally.

I re-enter the locker room to tell my mother what happened and the Russian woman strides to her locker just as I'm explaining. I interrupt myself and address her: "It was my fault, not the receptionist's. I was at the wrong door."

"If you ever talk to me that way again, ever ask me why I'm laughing again, I'm going to call the police! I have a right to laugh."

Oh, God, she's not hearing anything. She's furious at us. All of this was just meant to be a tension-releasing interlude -- the swimming -- and now, I'm more tense than I can remember.

Oh, well. Press on. My mother tells me that she will meet me shortly, to go ahead and I'm nervous about leaving the locker room, since the Russian woman saw where we put our lockers and we have no locks. What if she takes our clothes? What if she sets them on fire?

"She won't dare do anything," my mother whispers to me, "We'll know it was her."

"But we won't be able to prove it."

My mother insists I go ahead. I'm torn. I need to go apologize to the receptionist before the patron tells him that I knew I was wrong and he thinks I'm apologizing just because I had to...but I'm in my bathing suit and don't want to walk through the facility in just my bathing suit, and I don't want to get dressed again. And my toe hurts, and should I even be swimming, having injured my toe? It's just a bruise. You'll apologize later, I tell myself and go ahead into the pool. He's in there, where I've never seen him before, walking around.

OK. Be brave. I walk over to him, and he's eye-level with my nylon-covered small chest, and I feel more naked -- and am -- than I've ever felt in making an apology:

"I'm sorry. I was wrong. I thought you had told the lifeguard not to let us in --"

"No, I told him to. You were at the wrong door --"

"I know, and I'm sorry. I should never have spoken to you that way."

"It's all right," he said, and I felt better and worse at once, and still totally naked.

"Thank you," I said and got into the pool, and stood there in the lane next to Pat, waiting for my mother to enter a couple of minutes later; he was gone by then.

My mom rolled her walker along the pool's edge, wearing a stylish, black Gottex bathing suit and bravely got into the cold water, where she does her exercises happily for the next many minutes.

A little while after my mother's entry, the Russian patron comes in and chooses the lane next to mine; there's just a lane divider between us. By now, I am calmer, being in the water, though I notice myself swimming harder and faster than typically, probably trying to release the surge of adrenalin that came from the fighting, and bizarrely trying to prove, I think, that while I'm a nasty person, I'm a proficient swimmer. Great logic.

About 10 minutes in, after ignoring her whenever we're doing the breast-stroke toward each other, i.e., after consciously avoiding eye-contact with her and smiling only at Pat -- who has blissfully missed the whole episode, since she went ahead into the pool and has been swimming the whole time -- I look over and say, with goggles still on, but I think she can see my eyes, "I'm sorry for the way I spoke to you and I hope you'll forgive me someday."

"It's all right. Just enjoy," she says and smiles a genuine smile. And our clothes were not a pile of ashes when we returned to the locker either.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Cross-country Skiing Adventure

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

Brief, but Sweet

What an excellent afternoon I've had, thanks to a satisfyingly arm-wrenching amount of exercise on my cross-country skis. I wore my iPod and ski-goggles and still felt the wind, burning the exposed part of my cheeks, just like when I played in the snow as a kid or went down-hill skiing throughout my adolescence. And it's the most powerful feeling I know to walk with my left arm slung over the front half of my skis as I walk to and from my destination with them perched on my left shoulder. Just like with rollerblading, probably, I think I look so much cooler than I do when I'm carrying the skis so cavalierly....

The sun was bright and the air was colder than I expected. Cars passed and I wanted to be seen, but didn't look at the people in them, as I didn't want to seem less cool by doing so.

If I could play in nature daily, I'm sure I'd be calmer and more satisfied with my life.

Here was the musical score for my adventure:

  1. Your Woman - White Town
  2. Everything You Want - Vertical Horizon
  3. Ice Ice Baby - Vanilla Ice
  4. My Boo - Usher & Alicia Keys
  5. Automatic - Ultra Nate
  6. New Year's Day - U2
  7. Pride (In the Name of Love) - U2
  8. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking for - U2
  9. Spread My Wings - Troop
  10. All I Do is Think of You - Troop
  11. Bonita Applebum - A Tribe Called Quest
  12. Fast Car - Tracy Chapman
  13. Talkin' Bout a Revolution - Tracy Chapman
  14. The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) - Tom Waits
  15. Life Is a Highway - Tom Cochrane
  16. Hello It's Me - Todd Rundgren
  17. No Scrubs - TLC
  18. Voices Carry - 'Til Tuesday

Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me with Science" is continuing on my laptop where my iPod left off. It reminds me of dances during my senior year of high school, after my dad of blessed memory died. Music is so hope-delivering. Teena Marie's on now: "I Need Your Lovin'" -- bought it twice by mistake, but it's so good, maybe I'll listen to it twice. Reminds me of rollerskating at 15.

"Square Biz" by Teena Marie came next, in '81 and was an even better roller-skating song. Lady T's "Lovergirl" came out my sophomore year at Michigan and it reminds me of going to the town's lesbian bar at the time, the Rubiyat, as clandestinely as possible. Watched, mesmerized, as a smooth-dancing brunette led another woman around the dance-floor to it.

Tears for Fears' "Shout" came out the same year and it told me persistently to "Shout, shout, let it all out...." I didn't listen for another three years, when I finally came out as lesbian to my family. Fortunately, no shouting was involved.

T.V. Carpio was introduced to me just a couple of years ago by a colleague at work. He told me she sang the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to another woman heartbreakingly, from the movie, "Across the Universe;" I still need to see the film.

I'd like to say I recall hearing Sylvester's "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" in 1978 when I was 13, but I'm not sure that's true. Still, as soon as I did, it became a favorite and is playing on my iPod now. "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega reminds me of living with my first girlfriend on Roscoe and Broadway in Chicago, even though "Luka" was the song that came out in 1987, when we lived together. "Tom's Diner" came out in '84 apparently. Till reading about it on Wikipedia just now, I never realized that it was referring to the restaurant near my partner's aunt's home. Pat's aunt died in 2006, but I still pass the restaurant all the time on my way to class at Teacher's College.

What memories will I recall in 2029 (God willing) about the music I'm listening to in 2009?

My Prescription for Happiness

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

The Top 10 Ingredients

  1. Be helpful to someone else daily
  2. Stay connected daily with Pat and others among my family and friends
  3. Eat healthily -- I do so, except that I still eat a bit too much at meals occasionally
  4. See the humor in daily living and laugh daily
  5. Swim three times a week
  6. Blog twice a week
  7. Go to therapy once a week
  8. Do my best work and schoolwork and let go of perfect success
  9. Recognize my excellence while forgiving myself for my mistakes
  10. Leave room for serendipitous fun/culture/magic/adventure daily, even if it's just radio-music.

If I could follow this prescription, I am convinced that I would never feel depressed.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Flickering Candles

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

Not So Far This Year

Pat and I've been twisting blue bulbs on a plug-in Chanukah menorah this year, rather than lighting candles so far. Still, it's fun to keep it in the window of the guestroom upstairs for cars, passing through our neighborhood to see, and for us, when we go out and come home.

I wish the cats could sing along with us. Our friend Mary kindly sent them a couple of Chanukah gifts again this year. They are our children...who, please God, will let us sleep till 6 am tomorrow.

It has been sweet to sing the brachot (blessings) with Pat nightly. I wish my college friend Robyn were here to march around the living room, singing "Maoz Tsur Yeshuyati" at the top of our lungs like we did when we lived in Chicago.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Flickering Lights

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

Lending Urgency to My Blogging Desire

Will we have a power failure during this first bit of 2009 snow? Will I be able to complete my blog-entry before the lights and network shut off?

Will I have enough time to write about how a friend feels that I can help him achieve immortality?

And how sisterly and overwhelming at the same time it felt to go to a Korean spa with my two sisters last weekend, being naked in front of one another for the first time ever in one case and in another, for the first time, since childhood, and also in front of a number of gorgeous strangers?

Will I be able to write about my sadness at my mother's transition to car-less-ness? Even as I know it's safer? And even as I consider what a big change it is for someone like her, who has been such a free spirit historically?

Will I manage to express the pleasure I felt, reading about Meredith Baxter in "People" magazine, including the sweet pix with her partner and children? Will I be able to explain why the pleasure is a mix of team-spirit pride and desire? Will I be able to describe how she was a vague object of childhood attraction for me, ever since "Bridget Loves Bernie?"

Will I have time to express the depth of my nostalgia for the neighbors who were my childhood friends, their parents, pets and lovely nanny? All prompted by a Facebook exchange earlier today with the friend who is my age and who also recalled our winter-time fun together?

How can I blog about all of that before the lights go out and the network goes down? Or before my appetite for dinner distracts me too much to continue...which it is now doing?

Thursday, December 3, 2009


The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies. Be Known

My therapist earlier: "You yearn to be known, and everyone does, but a lot of people have given up and don't even try [to be known]. You do. You're hopeful."

I think from now on, I'll include only the semi-flattering stuff from our sessions, or won't write about the sessions at all. I've been going for a month, twice a week, since Week 3, for a total of six sessions so far, and it's a treat.

As my friend urged me, I'm trying to bring *every*thing to my sessions and to use them as a relationship-lab. I've also stopped taking notes for later during the sessions. I was self-conscious and not fully present when I scribbled.

I *will* mention that I told my therapist that Meredith Baxter's coming out made me desirous and hopeful -- that she reminded me of Pat, and that just knowing about her self-awareness made me feel re-excited about my own self-knowledge.

We also talked about how I'd like express fewer thoughts and more feelings both aloud and in my writing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

It's That Time of the Year

I'm feeling especially grateful, thank God, that:

  • Pat and I are happy as a couple and essentially healthy
  • Our mothers are still alive and alert and funny and brilliant
  • Pat and I feel devoted to our siblings and apparently, vice versa
  • Our nephews and niece are growing up interestingly and express their love for us
  • I have a job
  • My job is stimulating and enables me to experiment with how adults learn
  • I am healthy enough to exercise regularly
  • My therapist is good and costs so little thanks to a generous benefit from my employer
  • This week is a vacation-week
  • I'm doing really well in grad school and still primarily enjoying it
  • Our planes were on time and there was not terrible weather for our flights so far
  • Phoebe and Toonces, the cats, have become our beloved daughters
  • I have brilliant, loving friends whose friendship I enjoy whenever I avail myself of it
  • My school-reading is done for the semester and I can read for pleasure solidly from now till January
  • I feel free to be myself.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

Gaining It and Recognizing the Gain

"I'm going through something painful with my mother, too," said a colleague with Aspberger's the other day as I was on my way to visit my mom in the rehab facility. "She's got dementia and doesn't remember well," said my colleague about his mom and then, "My father, actually, has forgotten that she will be turning 85, and says she's 83. And I'm a person who cares a lot about numbers. She's not 83. She's nearly 85." As he spoke, he stared anxiously at my throat, which unnerved me. Finally, I touched it and found that my necklace was askew. I re-centered it and he stopped staring and seemed to relax a bit.

Thank God I do not have Aspberger's, and thank God my mother has no dementia.

Rehab Encounters

Yesterday, at lunch with my mother in the rehab dining room, I met a 100-year-old woman, who looked 80 at most, and then later, in my mom's room, a nurse from another country, whose daughter was given a total scholarship to Loomis Chafee, but for whom it's a dilemma, since culturally, it's anathema for the daughter to go to boarding school and be away from the family.

And I met my mother's former roommate, who called her a devil, since my mother is not Christian, and then also a greyhound, who is on the rehab floor to provide affection-therapy for the patients. I stole a few pets from the dog while waiting for the elevator. The greyhound was not as silky and as furry as our kitties, but she was still comforting.

My mom hasn't yet found anyone to sit with during her meals. The 100-year-old woman could become a friend. She'll have to see. Meanwhile, my mom told me that the prior day, she sat down across from a woman, who didn't acknowledge her, so my mother said plainly, "Are you anti-social or do you have Alzheimer's?" The woman did not register the question, and my mom said, "When I got up, she gave me a smile; you know, they're in and out [with Alzheimer's]."

I wish I could find the energy to make the trip more often to spend more time with my mother; I can hardly stand that she feels lonely, but I guess it's also because I can't stand the idea of being alone myself.

Till My Sister Gets There

My sister Deb will bring her kids to see my mom today, around 2 pm, so I called this morning to keep her company for a bit meanwhile.

"It looks like a beautiful day outside," my mom said.

"It is. It's warm. Pat and I raked leaves and it was fun this time, since she's taking her tree-identification class and was pointing out all of the different leaves while we raked."

"That's what I had with your father. I was never bored."

I'm not surprised that they were never bored. My mother and I laughed and laughed at lunch yesterday and she kept grabbing the University of Wisconsin Bucky Badger I brought for her to her chest, so it wouldn't hurt so much when she did. (My mother's a U-W alumni club life-member.) "What did you say when your roommate called you a devil?"

"I told her she was lucky that she didn't have a roommate who was a lawyer. Now, she's telling people that I said I would call the cops, which I didn't say."

I also read her the NYT article on Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks and we cracked up.

Minutes ago, I switched over to e-mail to see the latest in my in-box and saw a note from a friend and colleague about her father's passing from a sudden heart attack, including wake information.

God, we never know how long we have and every funny conversation I can have with my mom is a blessing.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How to Get More Out of Therapy

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

Bring Everything. Don't Be Defended.

"I can't wait to see how this shows up in your blog."

"Don't flatter yourself."

"Oh, I just assumed you posted every interaction."

Only the ones that inspire all right, I was inspired by the conversation I had with a friend, and so yes, here comes excerpts from it:

"The biggest risk of blogging about your therapy experience is that you will dissipate it. You'll blog about what you felt, but didn't say instead of bringing it to your therapist. You need to bring everything because then it's transformed from 'just talking' to being about a relationship. It's like object lesson in relationships. A lab."

"Ugh. I don't want to tell her that I felt her eyes were glazing over as I talked last time. I felt ashamed when I walked out for boring her. I don't want to have to tell her about being distracted by her attractiveness. About my competitive feelings."

"She needs to know: That freaked me out. I was afraid to go there. You're such a rich collection of things -- and further ahead of a number of people, who would not even recognize the feelings you've already recognized."

"Why do you like therapy?"

"I like crackling with the edge of my own understanding. It's like a good seminar, an amazing blend of intellectual and self-educating. I like the multi-facetedness of it -- that it can be about my work...and my childhood. There's no such thing as a tangent."

"Am I failing if it takes 20 years?"

She laughs, "I don't even think that way. [In sessions,] you're looking at *everything,* but not in an annoying way. For me, it starts like beads on a chain, usually processing the previous conversation. And you talk about what's in the room. Good ones will comment on what they're noticing."

"It sounds slow."

"I know. You're less patient than I am."

"And I don't want to tell her that it annoyed me when she asked me to think about whether I could change."

"She's heard it all. Whatever's going on, you'll project it onto your therapist."

"I have such unappealing stuff to project."

"Well, that's the difference between it being a matter of coasting vs. being super-challenging. If you feel edgy, that's it....The more you can feel while you're sitting there, the better."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Analyzing Myself with a Little Help

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies.

Dropping into the Middle of Therapy

"You don't want to adapt, or you say you can't....So you are just hard-wired to be verbose?"

"Yes, congenitally. I don't want to learn to be succinct. [It's too hard.]"

"What if you could get a bigger repertoire?"


"These things you're telling me, they've probably been with you since the beginning of time, right?"

"Yes." [So how can you possibly think you're going to help me change them?]

At the Session's Start:

"I think this is interesting."

"It is."

"Last time, you nodded so understandingly -- or maybe that was a standard nod -- when I talked about breathing, and how I forget to when I'm afraid....And, also, last time, when you said you thought I'd win the competition, that is, that I'd tell stories and gain nothing from you, so I'd win, I was taken aback. Did I sound like I was trying to compete with you, or was that your stuff?"

"I *am* a very competitive person, but I'm not sure it was mine because usually, when it is, I have to think about what happened for days.

At the End of the Session

"See? I did it again. I do that to therapists. I just talk & talk & talk."

"Well, we need to know your story."

And then, since I had not really let her get a word in edge-wise for nearly 45 minutes, she responded to my observation about the breathing problem:

"The reason I shook my head so vigorously about the breathing is because it's so common."

"Can you fix it?"

"Usually, it fixes itself when you get to the bottom of the anxiety."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It Might Not Be My Mother's Fault

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Recall for Bad Accelerators

Most important is that my mom's mobility is only temporarily impaired. Still, it's hopeful to learn that there's currently a question of whether the car had a faulty accelerator and caused the accident.

In any case, my mom's still laid up in the hospital and rehab for at least a couple of weeks, and she will not heal for up to eight weeks.

"Oh, God," I said to Pat when I first learned of my mom's cracked sternum, "She's already got a bad back --"

"Her sternum is her front, not her back," Pat explained.

"Oy, so now a bad back and a bad *front*. My poor mother."

My mother looks injured, with a mottled, right hand that's full of swelling and a silvery finger-splint on her index finger. And every time she moves, she yelps due to the sternum-damage.

This morning by phone:

"You sound better, Mom. You were a bit morose yesterday."

"Because I had had no sleep. How was I morose?"

"Well, you were needing to be convinced that it made sense to hang around for Max's and Sam's Bar Mitzvah [in two years]."

"Yeah, well --"

"And I need you to stick around for my Masters graduation."

"Don't make me laugh, Sarah, it hurts."

"I'm not joking."

"Kayla's coming today."

"Yeah, and I'll visit you after my therapy session tomorrow evening."

"Oh, good --"

"So that'll mean you'll just be on your own on Thursday and Friday, but we'll all see you over the weekend."

"Well, they're moving me on Thursday to the rehab anyway."

Writing this, I'm haunted by the nurse who offered yesterday, "The people I've seen do best in the hospital are the ones from ethnic families. They might not even understand English or what's going on exactly, but they're here with food and everyone's in the room continuously. Sometimes, they spill out of the room."

I recall, thinking at the time that the nurse was no doubt right and that she had better not use that as an excuse and blame us, if my mother's health failed, God forbid.

Yesterday morning, I called the local U.S. Post Office to request that my mom's mail be held for eight weeks.

"We hold it only for 30 days. Let's cross that bridge if we come to it, though."

In response, I felt both hopeful and worried. Did the postmaster mean, Your mother might be better by then, or God forbid...?

When I told her my mom's name (Edythe) and address, she said, "My mother's name was also Edith."

"You said, 'was.'"

"Yes," she sounded like she was smiling wistfully.

"I'm sorry to hear it."

The Scene

In the afternoon, I picked up the police report from the Bedford Street station, got directions from a lovely police officer and then drove to the scene of the accident to see it for myself.

There is another Stamford, which I never really noticed as vividly prior. Once I drove under the I-95 overpass, the sky and land suddenly opened up and I felt like I was in the Hamptons or any beachy area. I drove past the convenience store, where one of my best friends who lived in that neighborhood and I used to hang out when we were 11. She would wear her sparkly "Yes" rock-band T-shirt and look so cool and I would feel like her nerdy sidekick.

And then I kept going down Shippan Avenue, till it was time to turn down a street and see the aftermath. I took two camera-phone pictures, but my phone doesn't enable me to upload the photos. It was terrifying. The stone-wall had a bite-shaped chunk taken out of it, the width of my mom's car, and I saw that behind the wall was a 20-foot+ drop down to the owner's property. Thank God the car got caught on the wall. It creeps me out, writing about it.

My mother had a friend, whose car was hit earlier this year, and he is paralyzed from it. Thank you, God, that my mother was not more hurt than she was. And thank God I have therapy tomorrow eve.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

My Mother Had a Car Accident

Thank God, again, no other cars or people were involved.

[Strange man's voice answers my mother's cell-phone.] "Hello? Yes, well, I'm the paramedic, who brought your mother in [to the Emergency Room]."

"Thank you. Is she able to speak?"

"Yes, she's upset, but here she is:"

"My hand's deformed."

"What do you mean by deformed, Mom?"

"My hand's deformed."

"Twisted, like you broke it?"


"What else hurts?"

"My stomach. It must have been from the air-bag. I hit a brick wall."

"They said it was a stone-wall, Mom."

"Right, a stone-wall. I was turning out of Don's driveway and was on my way to Carolyn's for dinner."

"How fast were you going?"

"Must not have been that fast or I'd be dead."

"Well, luckily, a stonewall gives. A brick wall, less so. I'm glad you're able to talk."

"Yeah, well, my brain is fine, I think. They're going to do a blood test and CAT Scans and they're not sure they'll keep me overnight, but it's already so late and the tests will take hours."

"Well, Deb's [my oldest sister] almost there, so don't worry. She'll take you home if need be and stay with you."

I told Pat that when I told my mom Pat's theory, about her stomach hurting from the seat-belt and air-bag, my mother said, "I'm glad Pat has a theory, but she's not a doctor."

"Actually," Pat said, smiling in response, "I am," ["...just not a medical one."]

How comforting to have a cat to swaddle. She's lying on one of my sweaters and I just tucked one of my sweatshirts around her, which she seems to be relishing (a cat's version of relishing is that she doesn't bolt away from me and the covers).

God willing, my mom will be 84 on the 20th. All of us are feeling guilty. My mother had invited my sister Kayla and her husband to the concert after which the accident happened, but my sister had declined, saying she was too tired.

"Oh, Kayla, don't be silly," I said and then related how I had thought nothing of asking my mom to drive to Greenwich and home by herself in the dark the other night, to meet me for dinner prior to my therapy session.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Craving Hope

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

It's a Genuine Jones

Is that what therapy really is, at bottom? Paying someone to pay focused, platonically-loving attention to my thoughts and feelings?

Who wouldn't crave that? I'm wishing it were next Wednesday already.

Meanwhile, I'm lucky to be having a faraway friend, arriving at our home on Friday eve. Friends pay attention to each other, too, so that should tide me over.

Things that don't worry me as much or sadden me as much do so in times like these: Pat's gums are deep-red. It's not fair. She flosses religiously and brushes and mouthwashes nightly and yet, she might have gum-disease. What else could it be?

Two or three times, I've had a nightmare, where I lost my teeth. It was devastating each time. Please, God, don't hurt Pat's gums and teeth further. Please let the doctor give her a non-surgical cure on Monday. Amen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Relative Geyser of Hope

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Not That I Admitted It, or Necessarily Recognized It at the Time

She was good-looking; attractive face; nice haircut; older than I; not short, but small -- super-slim; I felt big next to her; her handshake was not firm, but was warm; a wedding ring made of side-by-side diamonds; a super-fancy watch, the brand of which I didn't recognize, other than that it was more than I could afford; a purposeful walk, but not quite a lesbian gait; tan corduroy vest; construction-paper pumpkin on her office-door; fancy office with brick walls and three little windows above my eyes' reach to see outside...and vice versa -- reminded me of windows in a TV jail-cell; a book on the desk that looked like a novel, but couldn't quite read the title without being obvious; she pulled a chair up and put up her feet, which were clad in dark-brown, glossy-leather, flat ankle-boots; she leaned her notepad on her knees and began taking notes, which made me feel important; I couldn't help noticing the hip and leg closest to me as she began writing, but shooed away my distraction.

"I'm going to take some notes, too," I said. "I've never done that in therapy, but I think I want to now." (Either it made her uncomfortable, or she didn't care.)

"I just think that when two people are in a room and one is the focus of attention, good things can happen," said this new therapist when, if I remember correctly, I asked her why I should believe in therapy.

"I just come in and I tell stories. That's all I've ever done with a therapist. They're entertained -- not to flatter myself -- but what did I get?"

"Telling stories is good. Constructing a narrative is an integrative experience."

"What does 'integrative' mean in this case?"

"You talk about things that are disparate and it might not be an 'Aha moment,' but you might feel better or click at a deeper level."

(Now, *that* would be a relief -- to see connections I hadn't thought of...but I didn't tell the therapist that.)

Earlier in the session:

"How does your fear manifest itself?"

"...whenever I can't yawn, I know I'm in trouble. I used to run on a treadmill for 30 minutes -- not fast, but still, I hardly breathed while doing it. That's why swimming's so good. I *have* to breathe. I forget to breathe." (She's nodding like she actually understands me! That's comforting.)

More: "I'm afraid I'll lose my house. I'm afraid my mother will die, and then my partner, and then I'll be alone. I'm afraid there won't be another great act in me. I hate imagining 10 years into the future, but I can't stop doing so."

"It sounds like it's extremely hard to be you. What do you do to self-soothe?"

"...Not a lot....I have Pat, who's very funny -- but God knows what it has cost her to be so supportive....I have two cats who help a lot....I have my mother and sisters....I actually like focusing on writing papers for school....My one drug is TV; I totally tranquilize myself with it...and Facebook. I have 700+ friends on Facebook [-- I look over and see her eyebrows rise; she seems to be marveling, rather than judgmental, but I can't be sure]. I don't really keep up with world news; I prefer to look at Facebook friends' news and it's a lot to keep up with....I read the odd book, but mostly, they're school-books...."

"Do you have friends?"

"I do, but I don't really spend time with them." Then I said that I "don't cultivate" them, but what I meant was that I don't maintain my friendships like I should, i.e., I don't tend to them.

After mentioning, parenthetically, that my dad died when I was in high school:

"Did your mother re-marry?"


"What happened to your father?"

"He died of bile-duct cancer, within six months, when he was 56."

Still later:

"Am I addicted to suffering?"

She was doubtful about the concept of a suffering addiction and added, "One of the ways you take care of yourself is to beat up on yourself....It's a habit."

"Can you help me?"

"I don't know, but you're hopeful in that you're looking for help."

"I'm not hopeful. I'm desperate."

"You don't need to be hopeful to get help."

"When I was looking randomly at the list of local therapists in my insurance network, I noticed that one of them called out her specialty in helping gay and lesbian people, but I'm actually at a point where the lesbian part of my identity is less important than my professional identity.

I used to need help primarily about feeling good as a lesbian, and now, I need help feeling good in my life's purpose....Um, I can't fathom that you're homophobic, but I guess I'd like to know if so, so I can leave now if that's the case."

"It used to be that homosexuality was considered a perversion --"

(Oy! Where's she going with this?)

And then she continued without ever answering my question directly, "When you were talking earlier about going to a lesbian therapist who had helped get homosexuality removed from the DSM list [of mental disorders], I was reminded of a book I'm reading, *Boyhoods,* by Ken Corbett -- the partner of Michael Cunningham, who wrote *The Hours,* and how Corbett feels that everything is really part of a continuum -- how a boy who wears a tutu provokes people, who wonder: Is he going to be gay? Will he be an artist? A sensitive guy? Transgender? And how it doesn't really matter; he writes with feminism and queer theory in mind --"

(She just passed a test unwittingly by saying, "transgender," rather than "transgendered." People who have a clue/who have read about GLBT/LGBT issues, know that transpeople are "transgender," not "transgendered." Phew!)

"...I'm kind of old-school....Just as I am a very identified Jew, I'm a very identified lesbian. Even as I know that categories aren't all there are, I'm more comfortable with them."

The therapist said fine by her shrug, rather than by her words.

And you didn't answer my question directly, and I'd expect you to have *some* homophobia --"

She nodded.

"But as long as you're not [actively] homophobic...."

She nodded again.

At the End of the Session:

"So how did I do?"

"You did well," I said quietly without looking up. We arranged a time for next week and then:

"How about me? How did I do?"

"Can I be frank?"

(Oh, God, what devastating thing will she say?) "Of course!" I looked over at the book on her desk then.

"I think you're going to have a problem sticking with it, since you've had bad experiences in the past."

"I don't think your prediction will be true."

"If you could see me in my private practice, I'd recommend twice a week."

(Oh, God, I must be super-sick!) "Why?"

"Because I think that 45 minutes once a week lets you reconstitute yourself [too much in between sessions]. Despite all that you've told me about how you feel, you're a very high-functioning person; you're sophisticated and I think you'll [become defended by going so long between sessions]."

(God, twice a week sounds *great*!) "Well, I probably can't afford it, and besides, I'm compulsively busy, so I don't know how I'd fit in two sessions, but...."


"Well, thank you; see you next time," I said, and felt an awkwardness and a sacredness at once.

The book was *The Elegance of the Hedgehog.* When I got home, I googled it and felt a surge of hope, that maybe a new set of ears -- trained ones, attached to a person with apparently good taste in fiction -- could do me good.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fighting a Taboo

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Having Second Thoughts

...but I have to combat them. I'm feeling ashamed:

Why do I need to tell the world what I'm thinking? Why *isn't* a private journal-entry relief enough? And yet I know I'm not alone in my human struggles. Or maybe this is my repeated test to confirm that I'm not alone.

A friend of Phoebe -- Toonces was not similarly fond of him -- disappeared apparently. My partner Pat saw a photo of him up at Shop-Rite; his name is Brien and he lives on Alexander Ave., down the street. He weighs 13 pounds. The photo features Brien, reclining on an indoor couch. We only knew him as "the gentlman caller." He used to visit the girls at the sliding glass door of our house. I can't imagine him indoors....If only he had stayed indoors.

Pat just turned to me and said, "Sydney died."

"How do you know?"

"It says, 'RIP, Sydney,' on Jan's site."

Sydney was a miniature pinscher. She had a brain tumor. She was hyper and warm and wiry and affection-loving. Thank God, k'ayn ayeen ha'rah/minus the evil eye, Pat and the kitties and I are physically healthy. I just need to get mentally healthy again. Pat continues to be Pat, funny and supportive and my best friend, and I'm so grateful.

My dad of blessed memory's 27-year Yahrzeit (death anniversary) was yesterday. And yesterday, my mom's therapist called with a recommendation for a therapist I could meet. It felt like both of my parents were taking care of me yesterday. Tomorrow evening is my first meeting.

I am skeptical, but hungry for hope.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 2.5

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Don't Worry, and Unexpected Encouragement

In my previous entry, I meant to mention that I plan to try working with a therapist again. I had seen one since college, depending on where I lived, and until several years ago, but probably, I was not ready prior, as I always felt like most often, I just went in there and told stories and entertained us...or myself, anyway.

So we'll see.

Something helpful happened already as a result of last night's blog-entry. A colleague from work wrote to me and relayed, though our life circumstances differed from each other, the colleague felt that the colleague could have been the entry's author.

Certainly, I wish this mood on no one else, but since at least one other person in the world has told me that this person could relate to my account, I feel less alone in the struggle and I hope my colleague does a bit, too.

Day 2 of Freedom

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Inspired by My Friend Helen

Pat has gone to pick up the stray mini-pumpkins from last night's jack-o-lantern lighting fest at the Presby Iris Gardens and I can see from the web-cam that she has her work cut out for her.

My friend Helen has been blogging super-honestly and it's heartening to read -- picks me up, even when the entries are sad, and makes me feel more connected to humanity. I'll try to follow her example:

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm known for my enthusiasm. So how can such an enthusiastic person be depressed? It's a good question, and it *is* unnerving to be so, as I'm used to being easily delighted, highly-appreciative, observant of my surroundings and generally ready to laugh when provoked.

Thankfully, Pat still can provoke me. From the silly to the hilarious, Pat can make me giggle. Yesterday, during a lower-than-typical point -- my period had finally arrived -- I heard a huge diesel engine expelling exhaust on our street, and said, "What's that?" even as I knew.

"It's me," Pat said. That's just silly. And from a few weeks ago, a friend of my mom died, who she never allowed herself to be romantic with, as she believed he had served in the Norwegian version of Hitler Youth as a kid. When he died, Pat said, "He may have been an anti-Semite, but he was *her* anti-Semite." Hilarious.

Do I feel free, coming out as depressed? Sort of. I'm grateful that my employer does not discriminate based on genetics -- and though I've got no proven connection between my genes and this depression, somehow that non-discrimination policy is encouraging me to be myself.

I woke up, reasoning, hardly anyone reads your blog in any case, Sarah....No offense meant to anyone who does, and thank you for doing so. In other words, if I weigh what it has been costing me to stay silent, rather than write and share my actual feelings against playing it safe and avoiding this topic of prolonged sadness, I feel less ultimately vulnerable in choosing to share it.

The other day, I was speaking with a friend who will be visiting us from a faraway country. I have not seen my friend in years. She was joking (or not) about how she'd need to abstain from chocolate, so that she wouldn't be heavy when she saw us.

I told her, "I wish my head weren't so heavy. I don't think I'm the person you remember first meeting anymore," and then I began to cry.

"Oh, Sarah, I haven't yet made my flight-plans. Let me know if you want me to take an extra day off and we can just sit in the house and talk if you need to."

I didn't accept my friend's offer, and then I almost wrote to her later, agreeing. Discretion won for once, though, and I opted to let her go home on schedule.

I need to thank God that this depression isn't grandly-justified, and really, is probably based on low-humility; I thought I would be further along in life by now -- even saying that aloud makes me feel ungrateful. It's irrational, as on the one hand, in my early-twenties, I couldn't imagine what the future held, and certainly didn't expect it to be what it has become -- with a partner of 17 years so far; and a chunk of time spent in India, doing meaningful work; and being cat-parents to two sister-cats; and being a highly-successful grad student; and being the aunt of four great kids; and living in a gorgeous town in a great house, but still....

I care too much about what others think of me; I'm not yet a famous writer; I did not have a child organically or otherwise, and haven't yet determined how in any case to leave a meaningful legacy; and in my ego-centric mind, I thought I'd be more famous generally by now. I think these are my main reasons for the depression.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Freedom's Just Another Word..."

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

What's the Worst That Could Happen?

What's the worst that could happen if I revealed my sadness further? And basically admitted that the mood from my last blog-entry, where I became happy again, was just an interlude? What's the worst that could happen if I said I've been feeling depressed for some time?

I can hear my mother now: "Why tell the world?"

"Mom, I tried writing it by hand in a journal and I got no relief."

I'm not really even sure how this depression became sticky. I've had plenty of sad moments across my life-span so far, but this moment has stretched. Was it from since we left for India? Since we got back? Since my mom had her car accident and convalescence two Marches ago? Since I saw "Snow Cake" the other night? Since my friend Susan interviewed me earlier in the week, anonymously, for her class, about how adults make changes, and about a change I was unable to make over the past two years, and which I'd wanted to, and how not being able to made me feel?

What's the worst that could happen? What's the worst that could happen if I didn't tell you?

The worst that could happen has been happening:

I've been too ashamed of my depression to blog, since I didn't think I could blog authentically without acknowledging it. The Lady Liberty bobble-doll on the shelf above my desk is smiling and nodding her head in approval at my honesty.

Why couldn't I go to the pumpkin-lighting at the Iris Gardens with Pat this evening? Why couldn't I have the weekend off instead of having to write a literature review for school? Why can't school be over? What will I do without the stimulation I get from there once I graduate?

Why can't I sleep better? Why is my pre-menstrual time so dark, so often? Why doesn't expressing my gratitude pull me out of my mood? Why isn't swimming helping? Why do I feel so vulnerable, describing all of this? Why does it give me a bit of relief at the same time?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Don't Stop Believin'"

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Unbound from Self-bondage

Occasionally and usually playfully, I acknowledge my self-absorption, and am pretty certain I've done so right here in this blog. Early this morning, though, it didn't feel funny.

Blame it on too little sleep; no swimming; working by myself at home too many days in a row; missing the cats after getting into a nice rhythm of having them around me all day while I worked; recent reminders of personal disappointments, e.g., not having succeeded in conceiving a child -- unwittingly, a colleague invited me to sit at the IBM table at the upcoming "Working Mothers" magazine gala...whatever the reason, I was in a dreadful mood as I drove to work this morning. Dreadful.

Driving over the Tappan Zee Bridge, the sun was just beginning to rise and I saw some pinkness on the horizon and even as I registered its beauty, it made me sadder. I was actually moved to pray to God aloud by myself in my car. And it would be neat if I could tell you I heard a disco-fied version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" after praying, but I'm not sure that's true.

As I heard the song, I recalled how much an adorable colleague from BlueQ (IBM's Canadian GLBT employee networking group) relished the song -- how she lit up when she heard it during the reception of a conference we were both attending in Austin last fall. Thinking of the colleague and her sweetness distracted me momentarily, but only momentarily.

Only one other piece of the morning cheered me briefly; as I put on my necklace while getting ready, I thought of my friend Radhika, who had given it to me when Pat and I lived in India in 2007. And then I was sad again, as I missed her.

The day would have to be just something to get through.

And then this afternoon, I spoke with colleague and friend. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the birthday of the baby-boy she lost shortly after child-birth. I was staring into the fall foliage, disturbed by the unkindness of nature as I listened to her confide in me.

"The better part of me feels like I should just shut up and listen," I said, "But I want to tell you that the closest I can come to empathizing is by thinking of how I felt, realizing that I couldn't have a baby -- well, I suppose I still might have been able to have one if I had gone to extraordinary measures, but after nine IUI's...well, still it's a lack, more than a loss....Well, it's a loss, but of what I never had, whereas your son was already a person with a personality. I'm sorry. I don't know what to say."

I told her I loved her when we hung up and I do. And I wish that people's love and high, high regard for my friend could heal her magically, but what would healing mean in this case? Surely, it should not mean a dulling of her memory.

Connecting, Not Isolating

While listening, of course, I also realized how small my bad mood was in the giant shadow of her justified grief. It did not make me feel better to hear of another's misfortune so much as it restored me to my most loving self, being able, mostly, to listen. I've written here before about my favorite saying from Ethics of the Fathers: "Al tifrosh meen ha'tsibor."/"Don't isolate yourself from the community."

Probably, it's my favorite because it's a challenge for me at times not to do so. I'm an extrovert, but also sometimes, I think my extroversion is just an aggressive shyness, which I've written about here before, too.

In talking with that friend -- who would be justified in wanting to isolate from the community -- I was inspired that she was not doing so; I did not need to be cocooned in my own crummy mood....I don't think any of this part was conscious at the time.

Talking with my friend and then also being scheduled to join two different virtual community meetings today for work, my self-bondage was further freed. In both meetings, I asked questions that made me feel so much more connected to this world, and potentially, might have even been helpful to the other participants.

Why Self-destruction Doesn't Pay

My sadness and self-destructive impulse, if I think about it, began last night -- not long after receiving that gala invitation -- and I recall now that I tweeted, "Enjoying an escapist mood." Fortunately, the escape was through TV, rather than an even more tranquilizing substance...and fortunately, that's as self-abusive as I ever get -- using TV to distract me from my own life when I'm feeling scared or sad.

Now, of course, I'm feeling defensive, and like I need to qualify that not all of my TV-watching is so that I can become tranquilized (though probably, it's true more often than I'd prefer to admit).

I digress. My point was going to be about the value of resisting self-destructive impulses. I'm so glad that I felt present and useful at work. By the time I left the office, I was able to notice and be grateful for the foliage, the unseasonably warm evening and that it was still light out. Almost never do I get to leave during classic drive-time.

The down-side of leaving at prime-time is the traffic, but the huge upside is the special mixes of music that one of my favorite radio stations, 107.5 WBLS, plays at that time. My mood lifted high up during a series of favorites, including:

TLC's Creep and then Alicia Key's "Teenage Love Afair."

The part about staving off self-destruction hit home as I was driving back over the Tappan Zee Bridge and this time, the sun was setting, and this time, I was able to love the purple-orange, stacked-striated clouds. They reminded me of our kitties' fur or Halloween-hued whipped cream, and I enjoyed imagining raking my hands through them.

Upon reflection, another song broke my sad mood this morning for a few minutes: "I Need Your Lovin'" by Teena Marie. And when I got to work, a colleague had posted the following status in his Sametime instant message updater:

"Chieli haunt my dreams..... I love you and your light-jazz stylings welcoming me to another new day while I am waiting for a 6am conference call to begin." That made me smile, so I guess God was listening to my car-prayers.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Serendipity of Phoebe

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

My Luck and a Cat

It seems like days since Phoebe wanted this much affection. Of course, she waited till I was wearing brown corduroys to perch on my lap. I *was* going to blog about being able to catch up on the rhythm/patterns/interests of an ex-girlfriend's life through Twitter, but this cat-affection is moving me more right now.

(The Twitter thing, I realize, might sound like stalking, but it's not, really; I woke up the other day and saw that she was among my new followers on Twitter and so I clicked on her profile and read her 60 or so tweets, and they gave me peace and relief; her micro-blog reflected the reasons we were ever together and validated my choice of her for that time in my life, even as they also validated our choices of different partners ultimately.)

She's purring so loudly -- Phoebe -- while her other mother sings in the shower off in the distance. Her little limb -- Phoebe's -- just slipped off my leg, and so I can tell she's falling asleep, and the purring is fading.

Two mornings ago, I had the worst nightmare, that I was in a colleague's car with both cats and the colleague wouldn't keep the doors shut, and the cats kept trying to exit the car. It was a dreadful feeling, imagining that if the cats got out, I'd never see them again, as they would dart off on some chaotic quest. They are not outdoor-cats, but they "hunt" birds and squirrels in our yard through the glass doors routinely.

Thank God, I woke up with Toonces doing her daily march over us, to wake us for feeding time.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Out on a Saturday Night

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions. Second Life

Mitali aka Pat and I went out for the evening with my childhood friend Amarynth aka Amy last night, in Second Life. Mitali was relatively new to the environment, but definitely had just the right spirit. Here she is, with horns and wings, posing by Amarynth's rooftop pool:

[19:10] Amarynth Emmons: what sort of skin would you like?
[19:10] Mitali Wycliffe: Stripes
[19:10] Amarynth Emmons: dark? light? blue? lol
[19:10] Mitali Wycliffe: Blue!
[19:10] Amarynth Emmons: let me see if i have a blue that's transferable
[19:11] Mitali Wycliffe: I should wear shorts so people can see my blue skin.
[19:11] Amarynth Emmons: hehe
[19:11] Amarynth Emmons: actually if your skin is modifiable you can make it blue
[19:11] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: with stripes?
[19:11] Amarynth Emmons: no
[19:12] Mitali Wycliffe: I found a hat.
[19:12] Amarynth Emmons: stripes would have to be part of the skin or done as a tattoo
[19:12] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: charmante
[19:12] Amarynth Emmons: lol

We also took a stroll around the Beyond Space and Time exhibit at the Forbidden City:

[19:44] Mitali Wycliffe: is this IBM?
[19:44] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: actually, this is not
[19:44] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: This is the Forbidden City
[19:44] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: in China
[19:44] Amarynth Emmons: neat!
[19:44] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: (an exhibit)
[19:44] Mitali Wycliffe: cool
[19:44] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: that IBM helped with
[19:44] Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven: want to walk around?
[19:44] Amarynth Emmons: sure
[19:45] Mitali Wycliffe: hey they bow when you click on them
[19:48] Virtual Forbidden City Calligraphy Kit owned by AM Radio gave you 'Virtual Forbidden City Calligraphy Kit' (

Hope-filled and Greedy Still

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Inspired and Wistful in Parallel

About four minutes into the video of the President Obama, speaking last night on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) inclusion, I began sobbing. My tears were triggered by the president's commitment to end discrimination against us; he said, "This fight continues now and I'm here with a simple message: I'm here with you in that fight."

I cried for the whole 37-second standing ovation he got for that message, and beyond it. Finally, respect and acknowledgment of my humanity from the top leader of my local world. Yes, I'd like to think of myself as a global citizen, but I am also American, and to hear my leader say that he values my people and me was a form of delivery and redemption. Seriously.

In my life, I have suffered indignities for my sexual orientation -- nowhere near as awful as others among my people -- but definitely, I have felt second-class for it.


My sense of redemption is incomplete, though, as I have transgender friends and if I'm psychic -- haven't yet checked with any of them -- they were unable to feel as celebratory as I felt, listening to the president's messages, since he did not explicitly include them when he spoke of the Employee Non-discrimination Act, though I was happy he at least spoke the words, "Transgender" and "gender identity" upfront.

Knowing how bad it feels to me to feel like a second-class citizen, how good can I feel if we don't all get included in parallel? The single-most frustrating feeling in the past several years has been people's request for my patience around gaining full citizenship, particularly regarding the human right to marry my partner of 17 years. And last night, I was still denied that right, since no explicit commitment came from the president around marriage for GLBT people in same-sex relationships.

And now, I cannot in good conscience be among the GLBT people who ask the transgender among us to hang on, first things first. If they're like me -- and I think that they are very much like me, since I believe that discrimination of transpeople comes from the same place as homophobia, i.e., a fear of people's criss-crossing and trespassing on established gender borders -- probably, they are also tired of hearing people, denying their priority, which translates for me as denying our humanity.

Still, Ground Was Broken Last Night

My father of blessed memory grew up in Washington, D.C. and maybe that's part of my association; I won't try to explain it rationally: Missing my father, since I was 17 when he died, I do search for father-figures mostly unconsciously as I go through life and last night, it was like having my father stand up for me, be there for me, even express love for me. How can I be comprehensible around these feelings?

I guess, metaphorically, there is no one more like a current father in my life than the leader of our country, which I did not recognize till my gratified tears came last night. The president, whoever he or she is, is like another parent; infantile or not, I do look to the president to help take care of me, I now realize consciously.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Created My First Art-object...

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions. Second Life

Fairly often, my IBM colleague Robi Brunner hosts a field trip in Second Life for interested IBMers. Today, I was inspired to create my first even remotely artful object.

Happily, my friend and colleague Maria Izabel Vinha Vieira aka Sharon Schmertzin in Second life and I aka Katzenelenbogen Koolhoven in Second Life both were on the field trip together. Maria Izabel lives in Brazil and we have never met in real-life, but we have worked together in Sametime 3D, OpenSim and Second Life.

I took a snapshot of Maria Izabel/Sharon and me, sitting on the shiny, red cylinder that I built (I'm on the left, and we've captured a rare moment, where either of us is sitting still):

In fact, other than Suzy Deffeyes, Mike Ackerbauer, Bernie Michalik and Robi, and my friend Amy from childhood, I've never met any of the friends/colleagues with whom I've been most active in-world. And I feel at least as close to them as to some of the colleagues I see face-to-face routinely, whether or not we work closely together. What does that mean?

Sometimes, I wonder how shy I would feel if I met Chuck or Amy or Maria Izabel or Andy or Karen or Silvia or Thomas in real-life. What would it be like to face a version of Chuck that didn't include skin-covered spikes, coming out of his forehead? How would it be to meet the appealing and graceful Jacqueline's real-life alter-ego, Amy?

For the record, I have neither a pony-tail (the default hairstyle for female avatars in the corporate version of Second Life) nor a Swing Out Sister bob in real-life. And I'm not even sure that any real cat has an elbow, which is the English translation from Yiddish/German for my avatar's first name.

When I asked once, Maria Izabel told me that she dresses artfully in real-life, too, but still, how would I feel if we were witnessing the actual version of each other? Does Silvia really wear elaborate dresses from the 1700s and Indian saris day-to-day? Is Andy as fit in real-life as his virtual version? Probably! How realistic is Karen compared with her avatar? Is Thomas Su as suave as Thom Thom Tigerpaw?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Feeling Like My Mother's Mother

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

...and I Cannot Protect Her

I'm in Costco, picking up bulk-items for my mom, who cannot lift them and bring them into her home. Some of the packages are bulkier than my mom at this point. God willing, she will turn 84 on November 20th.

The same afternoon, I call my mom to confirm our meeting-place for dinner that night.

"The plans have changed," my mother says, "I cut my finger while cutting off the ends of green-beans and it bled for an hour, so I called an ambulance and they helped me at Emergency. Meet me at the JCC [Jewish Community Center] instead and we'll go from there."

All evening, I feel like I want to protect and nourish and entertain my mother. That's funny because during my commute that morning, I'm thinking, I'm so tired and all I need to do is get through the day and dinner, and then when I drop my mom off, I'll sit with her on her couch in the living room where I grew up, and then put my head in her lap to rest for a few minutes before heading home.

First, we have to go to Costco. My mom doesn't want to come into the store with me. I'm ready to get her walker out of the trunk, but she asks how to recline her seat, so she can nap.

"Is there anything else you'd like me to get?"

"If they have any of those little dill-pickles," she says.

I smile.

"What? You *asked*."

"I know. It's fine; I'll try to find them," I say, and I walk over to a shopping-cart with tears in my throat.

My mother is fast asleep when I return. The car-light jars her awake. "They didn't have the pickles, did they?"

"Yes, they did," I say, holding up two giant jars, filled with little, baby, pickles.

My mother's face lights up.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

5770, Here We Come!

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

What Whitney Houston and Cantor Max Fuchs Have in Common

Last night, Rabbi Kleinbaum struck me as the "Ellen" of the Jewish Queer world and also as my conduit to God, a striking combo. The bigger and less traditional the crowd, the funnier she is. She is so funny from the bimah that when she introduced the "Achot K'tanah" as a traditional melody from Casablanca, a number of the congregation laughed, thinking, I guess, that she was referring to the classic film.

At the outset, Rabbi Kleinbaum set the life-is-hard-but-redemption-is-possible tone for the service, discussing how, right where she was standing, earlier in the week, Oprah had interviewed Whitney Houston. Our High Holiday services require no tickets -- unlike nearly all other synagogues -- and so they are too big to hold in our regular setting; Rosh Hashanah services are held at the Town Hall and Yom Kippur services, at the Javits Center.

Whitney's misfortune, said Rabbi Kleinbaum, was that -- like a number of us -- she yielded to her self-destructive impulses, but in her case, she had to do it in the glare of the spotlight, since she was a celebrity. During her riff about Whitney Houston, she got a little edgier than I've ever heard her be and, though I'm sure unintentionally, her narrative almost seemed a bit dismissive of human frailty to me; by the end of her statements, she brought it back home to how any of us could relate to the struggle of being self-loving vs. self-destructive and, I thought, redeemed herself.

The "conduit to God" feeling happened at that point, and then again when right before we sang "Yigdal" as a congregation, she mentioned "The New York Times" article from that day's front page, about Cantor Max Fuchs. I knew that if I heard his voice, singing "Yidgdal" on Nazi soil, with bombs going off in the background, I'd be even more moved than I was in listening to her speak about it. And so I was when I went online today to find the clip (see link above to "Cantor Max Fuchs").

As we sang "Yigdal" ourselves, I thought, what a contrast: a platoon of young, Jewish men, who had survived the Omaha Beach landing, if I remembered correctly, singing during battle compared with more than 1,000 queer Jews and our non-queer, non-Jewish friends and family, singing the same piece of liturgy in post-9/11 New York City, relatively so much safer, if not yet having achieved first-class citizenship.

The Other Useful Message of the Evening Came from Rabbi Cohen

Rabbi Cohen related the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's exploration of the river that the Lenape Native Americans called Muhheakantuck to our need to appreciate our surroundings and be far more observant than we are. She spoke of Spencer Finch's installation on the High Line, which represented how the water of the Hudson River (formerly known as Muhheakantuck) looked to the artist at 720 different times of day.

Rabbi Cohen also spoke of ben ha'shmashot, the time between sunset and nightfall, as a time of uncertainty and also possibility and asked all of us to be more alert to possibilities, or at least that was my interpretation. I loved the reminder. Finally, she spoke of the wonder renewed in her life as she and her husband saw the world through their baby daughter's eyes during this, the baby's first, year. Rabbi Cohen explained that among the baby's first words was, "Wow!"

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What Makes for Gender, or Race?

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Culture Is King and Queen

A colleague was telling me about the National Graphics special that I missed last weekend, on the Genographics project for which IBM partnered with National Geographic. He was saying that so many of us hail from the same place originally that race is not really what differentiates us from one another. Rather, our cultures make us different from one another.

Similarly, Peggy Orenstein's article from today's NYT magazine reminded me that culture is what makes men men and women women. Coincidentally, I received a TrueChild donation request today as well. The organization's premise is the same; our culture breeds stereotypes of what is feminine and what is masculine.

Personally, four years ago, I swabbed my cheek, sent it into the Genographics project and learned that I am of Haplogroup K, which hailed from the middle-east...ern part of Africa, or at least that's what I thought when I looked at the map that accompanied my certificate, but perhaps I mis-read it, according to this article...but if not, my colleague had a point. If *I* came from Africa originally, then I know that my origins are not so different from his; he's Black...but maybe when he gets his results -- he just sent his swabs in -- he'll learn that he's *not* originally from Africa.

Also, regarding gender, I *feel* like a woman, but according to my culture, appear to be gender-ambiguous, depending on my hair-length and what I'm wearing. And what do I mean, "I feel like a woman?" All of my answers betray my own sexism, e.g., I feel especially sensitive; I cry readily; I scream blood-curdlingly when I'm terrified; I am visibly, unabashedly tender and compassionate/empathetic. Other than the screaming in terms of pitch, I know that the "evidence" I'm citing here is not/should not be unique to a particular gender...but that's how ingrained my cultural upbringing is in me. I know, I'm an adult and need to take responsibility for my outlook, and reject my culture to the extent it divides genders and races so binary-ly.


The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

...Passed Relatively Averagely

This might have been the first year, where I didn't reflect in writing on my experience/memories of September 11, 2001 on the day itself. Is eight years later long enough for it not to be top-of-mind? Yes.

Is eight years later long enough for me to have let it go and forgotten it? No. During my commute yesterday, on National Public Radio, a reporter interviewed the author of a book about Port Authority employees who saved several floors' worth of people before dying themselves.

And then at 8ish pm, after my overdue haircut and dinner with my mom in Stamford, we drove past the shopping center, where we stocked up on groceries during that day in 2001 -- once I reached her from New York City, where I was working at the time. As I write this, I can still see the black cloud that was in my rear-view mirror the whole way up Madison Avenue from the IBM building on 57th.

Eight years later, my mom is still alive, thank God, and will be 84 on November 20th, God willing; Pat and I spent six months, living in India for my work -- which had its share of terrorism while we were there; I'm in an altogether different mission at work; I completed most of a Masters program; my partner Pat had successful surgery for pre-cancer in her colon; my sister and mother survived breast cancer; I learned to live with Otosclerosis; I became a blogger and micro-blogger; more of a routine swimmer; reunited with a number of friends due to Facebook; celebrated Pat's achievement of Master Gardener certification, including touring her national-treasure workplace, the Presby Memorial Iris Garden, with her; gave up, trying to give birth to a child; stood by helplessly as a friend's new baby passed away; have seen our nephews and niece, growing up sweetly; adopted two cats who are sisters; so far, thank God, have remained employed during this economic upheaval; paid for nearly half of the 15-year mortgage on our home; went on a Western Caribbean cruise with Pat and friends; went to Israel with my mother on a Hebrew University alumni trip; and Paris; Beijing, Shanghai, Bangkok, Madrid and Rome for work -- and Pat was able to accompany me for the trip to Paris and to one of the trips to Rome; became excited about Web 2.0 and Virtual World environment possibilities in a way I didn't think could top Web 1.0, which I was really excited by from 1995-2001; and more, so...

Life has certainly gone on, since September 11, 2001, and mostly, positively. Thank you, God.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Morphing My Research Interests

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

A Comparison with Circa 2006

In the fall of 2006, when I first began my part-time Masters in Organization & Leadership with a specialization in Adult Learning and Leadership, I searched among all Columbia University dissertations for key words, trying to imagine a focus for my ultimate, "integrative project" and listed my free association here.

Today, for fun, I looked at the ProQuest PhD dissertations and Masters theses database, which lists all of them worldwide -- not just Columbia's -- and searched for: "'Second Life' and 'Virtual World.'" There were 11 results total, five of which were Masters theses.

My discovery inspired today's tweet, which asked, "What are you doing?" (Twitter didn't exist, as far as I knew, in the fall of 2006, and I had just then been introduced to Second Life, without yet having experienced it):

"Preferring originality, but so far haven't found any formula for creating writing that is both original and popular." In other words, it's cool that my potential topic (see second idea in my previous blog-entry) has not yet had lots written about it, since it's so new, but it might also be too marginal and insufficiently valued as a result.

At work, recently, a colleague reacted to an unrelated proposal, which I considered much less ground-breaking, saying that it was, "...fine, but ahead of its time." I know that my kvetching about this is reminiscent of the job-interviewee, who when you ask him or her for one weakness, responds, "I've been told I'm overly dedicated," i.e, that's not a weakness. In other words, what could possibly be wrong with being innovative, right?

I remember a colleague telling me he was getting his MBA because he had earned a patent for what was essentially web-TV, and yet no one was interested in doing anything with it at the time; "I'm getting the MBA, so that I can learn how to sell my ideas," he said.

Final Project

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

...Has an Ominous Tone

A year or so from now, I will be working on my final project for my Masters. True to form, I have a wish to get started early, especially because I'm enrolled in my required Research course this semester, and I'd prefer to do all of the assignments with that particular project in mind.

If I could do whatever I wished, without regard to the usefulness of it to my employer, which has generously funded my Masters, I would likely do something on the value of writing one's life-story as an ultimate vehicle for adult learning...and then trading with another and commenting on his or her life-story -- how the reader relates to it, how it differs from his or hers, how it inspired him or her to revisit his or her own narrative and flesh it out.

To what end? Reflection seems the deepest form of learning of any type I've encountered so far in my Masters pursuit. I mean, I guess I'm thinking that experiential learning is step 1 and reflection on that learning is step 2. If there's no written reflection, then the learning is not as deep. Step 3 would be quasi-collaborative, since there would be life-story exchanges happening.

In a corporate environment, though, which is what I'd need to focus on, probably, most people do not feel safe to reflect as openly as they would if there were no salary attached to their learning and reflection on that learning, and so it's probably not an optimally fruitful path to illuminate.

Of Greater Interest to My Employer Probably

Most likely, my employer would appreciate a multicultural lens/theme for my project, since we're such a global company, and that would be probably ensure greater learning by me, too. Wouldn't I love to travel to various locations around the world to do my research, but that's not likely feasible in terms of time or money, and anyhow, don't I believe in the potential of Virtual World environments? Yes.

Why not do my final project on how to use Second Life to build cultural intelligence? In other words, showing how colleagues from different cultures could meet in Second Life and learn about one another's culture to be more effective in doing business with one another. After all, I've already co-designed and co-facilitated a series of such sessions and all of them do seem to improve the participants' knowledge of one another's culture, according to their anonymous feedback.

Where does language fit in? So far, only colleagues who are fluent in English have been observable by me, as I'm no longer fluent in any other language. How could I test how well it worked for people who were fluent only in their own language? And how could people who did not understand one another's language still communicate with one another, to learn from one another? Could they? Could we add some from of machine-generated translator to our sessions?

What would be the point of proving that cultural intelligence could be increased by participating in Virtual World environments, e.g., Second Life? Besides showing how we could save on airplane travel? How would we ensure that participants felt engaged, rather than alienated? Well, in my experience so far, it's the prospective participants who feel alienated by the concept, until they're in-world, participating, and then mostly, they're wholly-engaged.

People are always talking about the need for "accelerated learning" in these times of explosive growth within emerging markets. Can Virtual Worlds accelerate learning? Is the quality as good as the regular-paced learning? What can Virtual Worlds help people learn that they can't learn as well in other forums?

It's September 6, 2009, and I'm glad that I'm registering some early thoughts on my Final Project in any case. It will be fun to look back at this blog-entry once my project-shape is determined, to see how it differed, how it was similar.

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Parting Glances" Circa 2009

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

A Chat with Survivors of the Era

The owners of the B&B, where we're staying in Ogunquit, have a large DVD collection and yet we had seen most of the mainstream and gay titles already. "Parting Glances" was supposed to be a gay classic, and they owned it, and it was one that we had not yet seen, and so we watched it last night.

It was like getting into a time-machine. Ah, so that's how the movies depicted what it was like for the guys when I was trying to find myself as a 20-something lesbian! The B&B owners referred to it as a "sweet movie" in a tender tone and so I was hoping for a highly-poignant film experience.

Really, it was no better than most of the lesbian films we've ever seen, which didn't make me happy, but which was validating, at least, that we weren't the only ones who were so desperate for images of ourselves, being ourselves, that we accepted sub-optimal plots/acting/cinematography just to glimpse people who looked like some of us, living their lives.

This morning over breakfast, one of the owners asked, "What did you think of the movie?"

I didn't want to hurt him or insult his taste, which in every other way, e.g., the landscaping of the B&B and its interior, was lovely -- even stylish -- but I told him that it reminded me of the quality of so many of the lesbian films I'd seen over the years, i.e., not great, but that I could understand how wonderful it felt simply to see two guys simply being affectionate on the big screen.

Yes, he agreed; that was its chief appeal.

Then I said, "And I loved the soundtrack! Whatever happened to the Bronski Beat and Jimmy Somerville?"

"I don't know," he said and broke the spell. We were no longer back in Chicago in the '80s -- or for him, I imagine Pittsburgh; we were dolloping Greek yogurt that I never could have afforded back then into generous bowls for breakfast.