Thursday, July 30, 2015


I avoid writing about work here, mostly because that tends to put people in hot water (dooce is rare bird who can bounce back from that--but then again she is the exception to most rules about writing about yourself on the internet). But not writing about the good things, when they are good, seems a waste. And I worry, ironically enough, that people who read this blog think that all I do is worry, when that is not true. There is a lot of light in my life, and I want to share more of it here, with you.

A scientist-turned-strategist colleague shared a New York Times article by Oliver Sacks, an NYU School of Medicine professor and author, with me and another writer over the weekend. He often forwards articles about genes, cancer costs, new discoveries--whatever might be useful for communicating with prospective donors.
As death nears, I am surrounding myself, as I did when I was a boy, with metals and minerals, little emblems of eternity.

His message simply said: Wow.

You should read the article--we all should, every year, every birthday--but to summarize: Sacks is grappling with his mortality, having recently been given a metastatic cancer diagnosis, and he turns to the concrete, enduring nature of the physical sciences for comfort.
At one end of my writing table, I have element 81 in a charming box, sent to me by element-friends in England. It says, "Happy Thallium Birthday," a souvenir of my 81st birthday last July.
The other writer--whom I deeply admire, not least for her keen strategic eye, but also because she is a fabulous and kind person--wrote back and said: Certainly as we age we become more unstable (at least in our corporeal body), as do the higher atomic number elements. In our youth, we have been the airily confident oxygen (8) and the intolerably caustic sulfur (16). Now it's time for me to embrace my fissionable future, I guess.
Have I mentioned I work with really smart, amazing people?

I wrote back: All of this beautiful talk has put me down an internet rabbit hole researching Gallium. Looking for meaning on Wikipedia for my 31st year--this is what this job is doing to me!

Of course, neither of them know about this blog, where I have been searching for meaning since I was Iron (26)... which (I'm sorry, it's too perfect, it cannot be helped) is "in the first transition series." I refrained from making a Breaking Bad reference before I hit send.

Fabulous-and-Kind wrote back: Soft and silvery and not naturally occurring in nature? That does sound a little like you. And next year you'll be a semi-conductor!

I have carried a Joseph Campbell quote with me since I graduated college: If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be. (Fittingly, Campbell studied biology and math but found he preferred the humanities.)

I had the last sentence of that quote on my graduation cake, and I have always clung to it: I thought of the "doors" as opportunities, and if I just believed they would appear, they would.

And they have, my goodness, they have.

But this email chain also made me glad for the people these opportunities brought to me, and the ideas they have introduced: different ways of seeing myself, and my surroundings, and the world at large. The people that make me stop in my tracks with gratitude, who make me think via their thoughtfulness, whose belief in me makes me believe, too.

Windows, if you will.

P.S. Why Time Flies -- you'll want to check this out as well.

Monday, July 13, 2015

With Arms Outstretched

My palms had been turned inward in the yoga classes I'd dragged myself to. There is a belief in some yoga circles that the direction your palms face is the direction your energy will go, outward or inward, and I'd needed to retain my own energy lately, so I'd needed to believe that, too.

I used to "dedicate" my practice and send energy to my mom, the guy of the moment, or the person I cannot reach with my words. But not lately. Lately I'd been greedy, self preserving, hoarding the love and the light for myself.

The city had been closing in on me. Elbows in my ribs on the bus, someone around seemingly every corner, oops, sorry, excuse me, goddamnit I exist! We were in our umpteenth month of renovation in my lobby at work, temporary walls blocking the light and filtering us through changing mazes like cattle.

Our office was coming apart at the seams, all of us desperate to come out on top of the fiscal year, a hill we weren't sure we could mount. My hands were clenched every time I looked down, my anxiety tell, and I felt like any moment I might start beating my chest with them like a caged animal.

The #firstworld #whitegirlsbelike #millennial problems were piling up, and then I was pushed off the edge by a wolf in sheep's clothing, this time in an array of perfectly pressed Ralph Lauren button-downs. The kind with the collars I can't help but fuss with, that make flirting, and apparently letting your guard down, so easy.

I kept telling people "I need to go home. I'll be so refreshed after Michigan" but I lost track of whether I was promising them, or myself.

I read paperbacks on the porch instead of blogs on the bus, had conversations about French fries instead of fiscal years, muddied my hiking boots instead of searching I was seeking higher ground.

I didn't find it, not the peace I was after, or the momentum. Not the rest, or the meaning. I wish I could say that because this post is written in past tense, that I let go any, that I shrugged off any of the worry, or felt like I was over the hill in any regard other than just feeling plain old.

I filled my tank a bit, stretched my legs, fed my soul in the way that only best friends and back roads can, but I am really no better prepared to climb than I was a week and a half ago.

But I can say this. I've turned my palms toward the sky, in a very I-Know-What-You-Did-Last-Summer kind of way. 

Your move, Universe. I've given you all I've got.

It's sixteen miles to the promised land
and I promise you, I'm doing the best I can

I visit these mountains with frequency
and I stand here with arms up

Now some days they last longer than others
but this day by the lake went too fast

And if you want me, you better speak up, I won't wait
so you better move fast
--Rilo Kiley, With Arms Outstretched