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.