Category Archives: Explore

Setbacks and surgery…

New Year’s Eve, let’s try venturing out, sure! In the spirit of cliff diving and taking chances, and sometimes you soar and sometimes you crash land, the test of my resilience arrived via a proverbial slap upside the head, out of nowhere.  We’re at a Santa Barbara resort party, chatting up a table of friendly Northern Cal folks, on a break from the 4 months of construction dust at home. I’m wearing those shiny black ‘f*ck me’ stilettos from a decade ago. The warning sign was there:  on the way into the party I hang heavy off David’s arm, those suckers were slippery.  No amount of scuffing those bottoms on the sidewalk makes them any stickier.

In the lifetime before this one, Dave and I took Latin dance classes.  We were so dedicated we sought out a weekly venue to practice our moves.  (And let the negotiations begin! Why, I ask, does the man always lead?! I’m uneasy with capitulation.) I have a selection of “sticky” bottomed shoes at our Florida place that still haven’t made their way to CA. 

You know where this is going, right?

Ah, yes.  Combine our rusty middle-aged minds and muscles with an overflow crowd and a DJ that adds a ‘salsa’ beat to every single song and the resurrected ‘who’s the leader here’ minor league arm wrestle and suddenly I’m spinning from an insistent turn of his arm but so is he, in the opposite direction.  

When I reach for him, whoops, he’s gone.

Suddenly, I am splayed on the dance floor. Shoulder in excrutiating pain. No recollection of the journey  from upright. Those goddam shoes! 

Doctors and MRI and Xray and finally, 3 weeks ago, I end up with surgical repair of the torn tendons, no choice in the matter.  Recovery, however, is my payback, my slap upside the head, my wake up. 6 weeks immobilized, 3 months of PT, 6-12 months to recover range of motion and be pain free.  No, I’m not frigging kidding. (And yes, you hear that right, house under construction for another 6 months, no kitchen, 600 sq ft of living space…)

There will be setbacks on every road, uh, huh.

Most disappointing, I’ve had to postpone an 8-week novel workshop with Joshua Mohr.  (Yes, my Stanford mentor and 1st novel editor, but also all-around-macho guy who advised my Stanford thesis, like, I don’t know, weeks after his stroke and heart surgery. Google Josh Mohr, read his memoir Sirens. Explain a few little tendon tears to guy like that?!) 

I was once macho! 2006 I had my cancerous left kidney and adrenal gland removed less than a month after my total right hip replacement! Sure, a few extra liters of blood required, but I paid our biweekly company payroll on time. In 2014, when I was hospitalized with a mysterious infectious disease and dangerous blood levels, I did payroll from my hospital bed via my cellphone hotspot. (It was anaplasma, a tic-borne illness. Antibiotics to the rescue.)

Anyone who’s had this damned shoulder thing will tell you the post-surg is worse than the injury. My sister urges me to give myself a break. The night-time “discomfort” brings me to tears of frustration. I refuse oxy, it just ain’t worth it.  And each bleary-eyed exhausting day seems to crawl further from full recovery.  I hate, hate lack of productivity.

This is my test.  

I have had the illusion of satisfaction, jobs well done, perfection (nearly) reached, and then…exchanged my life, world, home and vocation for another 3,000 miles and eons away.  Keep moving, keep striving, reaching for the brass. No, nope.  Stop.

It was different somehow, when my work was for others; that 25 years was an uber personal obligation but I wasn’t on my own. Now, the everyday is a fight for the motivation, an exhortation to myself and to no one else, to summon it, summon up the courage and the inspiration and the words, form the sentences and the thoughts and build a world on the page. No one waits for it.  Except me.  

To fight past all of that and THEN have to grit my teeth and stretch my arm and tethered tendons and pop another 800 of Advil and 1000 of Tylenol and wonder if the hurting is the good kind or the bad, doing too much kind, and the niggling “what are you doing? Who says you can write” mice start peeping.  

If I give myself a break, will I ever go back?

And after quitting my job, uprooting my life, and at last, at last finding the thing I love-and-was-always-meant-to-do, my heart breaks and I cannot bear the thought.  I don’t have any choice.

So I get up off the dance floor, paste a smile on my humiliated face, yank my hemline south, and utter no regrets.  Those shiny black “f*ck me” shoes?  F*ck them.

  

Seals! Let’s live here!

One of the best things about having company is the joy of showing off this place, of reliving the experience of the new.  Elise, as everyone knows, has an entirely unique take, passionate and aware in ways I’ll never be.  She loves this earth as much as anyone I’ll ever meet.  What a gift.  I’m sad without her, the trip too short, but now I’m reveling in the physicalness of Northern CA, most particularly the amazing smell of this place—Eucalyptus and forest, the sea salt air.

She came along on a house tour (because, you know, life marches along!) and explored a neighborhood with us and now I’m in love with that place. The housing market in this area is what it is—I’m hopeful (as in, becalm my pounding heart) but realistic about extreme long shots, bidding wars, everything going for over asking.  Cross your fingers for us!  Most of all, we must be patient.  

Just a few minutes walk from the house, though, putting aside all anxieties of CA housing, we came upon the Seals.  Sharon and Michael, David and Amy, remember this? When we first arrived in CA it was one of the first amazing little finds, this marine sanctuary hidden along the coast. And, then to top it off, an astonishing forested walk high above along the bluffs.  Wow.

In between the house hunting roller coaster ride, David and I (as we will) are intensely focused on our work—I’m obsessing over final draft of a short story and have returned to the novel-Sisters saga of Jenn and Polly, and he started another clinic schedule in Capitola, gave a Grand Rounds talk at a nearby hospital and met with his truly gifted mentor a bunch.  Elise’s visit reminded us both to stop for a moment, breathe, take it in, and always always be grateful.

   

  

  

  

   

  
  

On an Explore…

So, here we are.  What an extraordinarily beautiful place, almost an assault on my sensibility. I seem to be in a constant state of awe, especially on our weekends road trips; the week days are for grounding-time, or at least an attempt at some kind of regularity and routine.  If there could be such a thing at this point in the Cliff dive!

(A cloudy day or two, but mostly I’m on the upswing of a big draft, caught the wind, amazed I’m still flying.)

After 25 years of routine…a comfort in so many ways, that email routine, the downloading of banking transactions routine, the working ridiculous hours at the business-I-founded routine, you know, we all do it, settled and stifled all at the same time…I still relish a good daily habit.

So, every morning, coffee, goodbye to David, my relocated desk facing the Stanford West greenbelt, astride (well, okay, that’s a bit horsey) settled into my awesome too-expensive desk chair that David gifted me, writing computer opened, I write.  

The current project is Revision of the novel (as yet, unnamed, I’m waiting for the inspiration, the exact turn of phrase to leap out of the depths of the book) and this phase, the phase I truly dreaded with a soul-deep sigh, oh, ugh, those words again, that story again, so sick of Jenn and Polly, sisters and their poor choice of men and unwanted pregnancy, all that drama, turns out to be PERFECT!  After my two-month mentoring with Joshua Mohr, the final phase of the Stanford OWC two year journey-finished in June, this book has a structure!  Holy Cow!  Everyday, the book leads me, everyday I have a place to start.  And then a place to go to.

And if that isn’t the biggest awe-inducing thing of my life, even bigger than that amazing view of the Bay atop Portola road, the wide expanse of the Bay from the Bridge across it, that fog tinged sunset rolling in across a sudden break in the redwoods, or even (really) the fact of my being in California (!!), then surely the idea that it’s my story that leads me, me leading me, instead of me following, well.  

I’m speechless grateful.

And the pics? I know, right?  All you MA and FL and across-the-country family and friends, you just gotta come out and visit, they just doesn’t do it justice.

First weekend, over the Bay bridge to meetup with David’s brother Daryl for a native-tour of Berkeley. Then, over the hills in the opposite direction to Half-moon Bay. Second weekend, down to the Santa Cruz area (yikes, sorry no pictures but really amazing…next time) and back over the mountains at sunset to Palo Alto.

   
    
    
    
    
    
 
So, you’d think, after 5,000 miles in the friggin’ car, I’d be like, “no, nope, nada” but actually….this is me hell-bent determined to avoid the insularity of the routine world, to embrace the Northern Cal “sure, why not?!”  At least for the moment…

xxxooo

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