Tag Archives: Settling in

Intensity. Immersion. Whoa.


Ever wake up and wonder how you got yourself into this situation?! You know you brought it on yourself, you chose deliberately, your instinct led and you followed, and yet here you are, overwhelmed and blown away and crazed.

10 days to go on the novel edit. 40? 50? pages more. 3 weeks in the new house. 20+ boxes still unpacked. Zero contractors booked for the reno.

There’s part of me that LOVES the hormone rush of too much: too many piled-up deadlines, too many amazing choices, too much to do. But, then there’s the moment of breath, the little break, and I remember the loveliness of just contemplating. Allowing a little space.

How awesome is it that I can have both?!

I’m in the final push of an 8 week editing stint with the incisive and brilliant Joshua Mohr. Since January 4th, I’ve revised 150+ pages of the nascent novel about two sisters. The last section begins today. This is my few hour break.

Revising a novel is like directing your huge, extended family of cats—squiggling, hungry, demanding, petulant, joyful. The calico just turned up his nose at the canned food, the kittens are tearing up your favorite down comforter, the mangy one won’t stop his damned yowling (hisss, stop!) the siamese winks in silent judge-y condemnation.

Live, sleep, eat, breathe, dream Jenn and Polly. (Well, not much sleep, actually.) And then, every now and again, the cats all lift up their faces, the sun shines, and the chorus sings. The story hums. The words coalesce.

And then there’s the move. Smack dab in the middle of what requires intense concentration, 24/7 focus, we close on a complicated escrow, extract ourselves from faculty housing, retrieve belongings packed in May from storage (oh, that’s why one should copiously label the boxes…) and then proceed directly, don’t pass Go, to the Move From Hell. “It’s a 45 minute drive from Palo Alto to Moss Beach. It’s been 3 hours. Where the f*%K are YOU?!” “No, man, the beach is west. west. Not east.” “It’s been 4 hours. What the hell are you doing in Richmond?!”

David thinks they’re selling our belongings out of the back of the truck. I’m noodling on how I’m gonna get Jenn and Polly to do what I want. Trying to get David to stay calm.

Five and half hours later, as the movers arrived with our stuff in the pitch dark, the power went out.

Oh, did I mention the 45 mile an hour wind gusts?

When the lights flickered back on soon after, the entire neighborhood’s bundle of communication cables lies over our driveway and across the moving truck. The already tearful driver completely freaks out. Jenn and Polly gotta wait. PG&E is “aware of the problem.”

So, it’s the end because it all works out. The GPS-inept driver doesn’t get a tip, but he gets a hug, our stuff is safe and sound, and I live in the most amazing place in the entire Bay area. We’ve bonded with the neighbors over the Comcast cable re-wiring week long debacle. David loves having a commute again, and the drive “over the hill” to Palo Alto is one of the most beautiful on this earth. The weather ranges from sunny to foggy to rainy to windy and back again. The ocean and El Nino produced “big waves” and Mavericks surfing dudes converged about a mile from us.

Every day here has the potential for intensity. Eyes wide open.

So, I have both: an intense emotional and intellectual immersion in writing a novel, and a physical and spiritual intensity in my real world.  Yep, I choose this!


Rebound Relationship!

Here I am, emerging from the frenzy of a new love affair, trying to catch my breath.  

Immersed in the new relationship—swept off my feet by stimulating conversation, by surprising introductions to new pals, by soul-satisfying food and drink and scary-but-exciting forays—I can’t help but think now and again of my former love(s), our old life.

In fact, this last week almost everything new has a reminder of the old.  

Even though you all know the last time I was actually in a real “rebound” was, eh-em, the late 70’s when David and I had that year long breakup senior year, and you might be rolling your eyes at my tortured metaphor (what do I remember of such things, right?), the parallels are striking.

Oddly, the intensity required to make a new life:  remembering how to get to the market on unfamiliar-slowly-becoming-familiar roads, reciting to myself the new neighbor’s name and occupation for recall next meeting, glancing around carefully every time I walk through the door—here’s where the keys go, the shoes, the empty grocery bags—this requirement to be “on”, to be present and vigilant and “in the moment” is quite exciting.  Like a new relationship.  Especially when almost every day there’s something new.

The new life crowds out the necessary mourning for what’s now gone.  (And that old guy, he’s not goin’ away. He might have hooked up with a new girl, but he’s still there. My old house, my old business, Massachusetts, yep, all still there.)  I can soothe myself with the thought that I’ve moved on, too, look at this great life, this beautifully perfect 70’s sunny Northern Cali day, our dinner at the Peruvian place to watch the sunset over the Pacific, the bike ride tomorrow through un-discovered parts of campus, next week’s Writer’s group meet-up.

But, I’m a bit bereft,  and can’t help uttering “it’s not the same…”  Just like last time, when I was 17. 

(Here’s David trying to make it better for me, the porch before and after:)

  Hey, at least we don’t have snow!  Here’s the “old” guy:


But what is it REALLY like to live here? The Stanford Cult

For weeks and months I lay in bed at night trying to imagine what Life would be like in Cali (oh! see how I’ve picked up the local lingo?!)  

I pictured hours at my writing desk alone—David working long days at his first new job apart from each other in 25 years—with a mixture of trepidation and pure joy.  I remembered quite well the astonishing cornucopia of fresh veggies and fruit when we arrived in LA in 1980 (um…remember cellophane tomatoes and enormous heads of tasteless iceberg lettuce at the Purity Supreme in Bedford circa 1970’s? Ugh!) I resolved to break my tendency-t0-isolation and reach out to my Stanford Writing friends, and friend from High School Laura and her Mom, Ruth. And, I bookmarked writing workshops and classes in San Francisco for the Fall.

K?  All set!


There’s all manner of time-sucking stuff, still, that doesn’t just magically disappear.  I know full well from our too-close acquaintance with 12 steps and such that there’s never a “geographic solution” to life’s stucked-ness, that to really really move yourself from point A to off-the-alphabet grid you have to open up your veins and be willing to actually live dangerously.  Do new things.  Be willing.

But we need a couch, and have to sign up for Health Insurance, and I’m not seeing through my left lens well so I gotta find a new glasses place that takes our new insurance (Yes! Benefits! Joys of leaving self-employment behind!) and what about a dentist and didn’t someone say there was a Farmer’s Market and how come the Whole Foods here kinda sucks and another email from Stanford via David (“will you deal with this for me, honey?)

OH! The ultimate time-sucker:  Stanford “sweetners”.  What’s that, you wonder?

So, in addition to Life/Health/vision/dental, free gym, 36-lane pool (52? 70? it’s huge) on the biggest college campus in the western hemisphere in a bucolic setting with the smells of Euctalyptus drifting heavenward as smiling happy bikers whizz by, the high-priestesses of Benefits gotta hook us in.  Sweet!

There’s classess and personal fitness coaches and cell-phone discounts and hi-speed internet with free HBO, SHO, Encore…not to mention museums and meditation spaces and a meditation walking maze/circle (an outdoor one and an indoor one)…free breakfast at the Faculty Club…tuition for children to age 40—yeah, that’s FOURTY at any accrediated university…cash for completing a Health Survey…talks and concerts and football games…


(I just signed up for a CSA…they’ll deliver veggies and fruit TO MY DOOR from their organic Farm every Tues night for $33.  And eggs and honey and other stuff.)

Why would anyone ever leave this place?

And this is how they get you.  Is every cult member a skeptic at first, like me? Even while I exclaim about another new “sweet” I’m bemused by my own rapturous response (organic farm to table, oh my!) whilst the love grows…

And David’s not immune, either.  Two nights ago he dragged me back across the street to campus to his afternoon find—next to the Masoleum:

I know, right?  It’s a volunteer-run cactus garden behind the Child Psychiatry building (irony intended?)