In the Studio Today... Painting, Reading & Writing on the Plane

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

I'm on a plane and it's been relatively uneventful, for which I feel blessed.  The worst issue thus far has been a very polite flight attendant, with blue-rimmed glasses that matched her scarf, refunding a man in front of me for a movie he'd purchased that would not play because his tv was not working properly.

I've had a lot of quiet time this week, possibly only the second burst of silence since my twins were born 11 years ago, as my parents have taken them on a cross-country "bucket list" of sorts; last photo they sent me by email was my sons, both smiling, in front of Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.

I am currently writing this with pen and paper, but earlier, I sketched out an idea on my iPhone using the Brushes App.  I had this idea to paint the feeling of losing my Google Glass in a wave and not being able to finish my projects that I had been so excited about.  Just as I was about to add a photo layer with Brushes that would go behind the layer of my drawing, I realized my App did not have that functionality and the photo of a wave pasted itself down on top of my work.  I couldn't "undo". ( I was able to play back the movie on my phone and grab these tiny little screenshots, pictured above).  However, the play button was still functional and I played back the movie from my first brushstroke to my last, watching my drawing recreate itself again, stroke by stroke, color, then shape, then idea... and then I saw the wave photo plop down on top of my drawing, covering it up completely, ending it all.  It was a complete recreation of the loss of my Google Glass product in a mini-animation.  So serendipitous and fitting.  I gave up finishing the drawing for now, and decided to read a book; an absolute rarity in my life as a busy twin mom with no relatives in California, and with a difficult relationship with my sons' father.

I am reading Anne Lamott's latest book, "Some Assembly Required", which I realize now is a week overdue from the Fairfax Library,  but I desperately wanted to read it on the plane so I stole it away with out even renewing it.  Bad.  I feel badly, and I think about how many times my sons and I return our books in late.  We are like the three stooges of tardiness, bumbling through life, just trying to make it through each day in Marin, in our tiny rental with all of us having our own unique challenges.

I see now I have dog-eared almost every third page because I love something Anne has said so much, I want to save it and let it sink in deeper.  For example, she writes of life being either mostly okay or hard and weird and alternating between the two. (p.40)  I really loved the discussion Anne and her son were having about parenting, when Sam talks about forgiveness and the ability to start over.  (p.57-58)

Sam: "It's so incredibly humbling when someone forgives you- I can't ever believe when people forgive me, because you know how badly you've screwed up , and how you've hurt them, and how hard it is for them to be brave enough to find it in themselves to reexperience the pain you caused, and the humiliation that is in them because of you, and for someone to be willing to refeel that much shit again, reexperience it out of not wanting to lose you, means how deeply precious you are to them.  And that's pure gold."

Sam's remarks immediately made me think of my past, my ex-husband who I can only believe is doing okay with what pain I caused him and his family from a crisis I went through after an affair at age 30.  It involved scandal, anger, rage, silence, counseling, hospital trips for severe depression, and the full gamut of an award winning drama.  I had lost my best friend's trust in a huge way, and hurt him terribly and scared and freaked out all my friends and family.  I had to rebuild myself completely, with out his friendship.

In the boom, we had been living life large working on children's edutainment software with many good friends in these companies with us.  We loved having huge vegetarian dinners with our friends who were animators, artists, programmers and musicians; parties with lots of people, but it all turned quickly into a silent and bitter place where I had to learn to live with myself.  However, for this horrible time, I am entirely grateful.  This was before cell phones could allow you to go anywhere alone and still be with others.  I overcame the worst fears and learned to eat in restaurants alone, and go to movies alone.  I learned to find roommates.  I had three different women roommates that year.

After quite a productive summer, trying to meet new people and forget my pain, I came to spend a Fall  in that same space, pregnant with twins and completely alone, with just my dog.  I would play clarinet and piano in the house and sing, alone and pregnant, but singing to my unborn babies.  I bought them musical crib toys: a Sunflower Face for Aidan, and it played "You are my sunshine", and a purple monkey for Blake which played the Lullaby Song.  I would pull those strings and listen to the music and fall asleep, thinking only of my sons.

When I became pregnant with twins unexpectedly, I was not even divorced yet.  No one wanted me to go through with it.  Not my parents, their father or my workplace boss.  I was fired from my full-time job and forced to look for work while 3 months pregnant.  Fortunately for me, Marin County helped me survive.  I answered the sign at the church on SFDrake that read, "Are you Pregnant?  Need Help?"... Yes, I actually called many hotlines, police, family law and child welfare.  I have been very, very alone in Marin and yet always had some external grown-up at the end of a phone call to come to the rescue.  I was able to work with a mother of twin boys who let me work for half baby supplies and half cash.  I learned so much from her family, god bless them.  I also was able to work through a law suit over a three year period to get some money from the company that fired me.  Most recently, I have needed help from Marin again, when my sons' father was not addressing his addictions that he'd had since I began living with him.  He decided he wanted to help after all, since these were going to be his sons, and he has helped.  Believe me, I have needed his help to stay afloat and have enough hands to care for two babies, but I have not needed addiction, fear of being hurt, or lying.  We are in a place of change now, where I have made the choice to move on because it will be better for all of us, but it is still a "day to day" journey.  No one is going to hand us money to live in separate homes in Marin.  Our families are retired and on a budget.  They have helped us so much, but I would never expect them to provide in that way.  I am in a place that I want to stay for my sons, but it is extremely challenging to have the jobs and money it takes to live in two separate homes in Marin County.

With all that I am reading from Anne, Sam, Amy and baby Jax, I am constantly reminded of the struggles I have faced too, and that we are all in this crazy place where sometimes you win and sometimes you get something you didn't expect.  I am 45 years old this year (although I still like to pretend I'm 30), and I read Sam's story of becoming a father at 19 as if it was myself, today.  I still don't have the answers for my family.  I don't know what to expect for my sons, nor can I fathom what the world will be like in 5 or 10 years.  I too rely on my wonderful parents who did have jobs that were stable their entire lives and pensions and who want to give their grandchildren an education.  I think the best we can do is try to care for each other across the generations, and realize we are all in this together and nothing is the same as it was 50 years ago, or even 10 years ago.  Practice random acts of kindness and compassion.  Help each other, and don't give up, even if you are hit by an unexpected wave and lose everything.

For Anne, if you ever see this, I recently heard you speak at Ann Brebner's event for Alter Theater.  You talked about how you felt everyone knows everything about you and you don't want to have to do this any more.  It saddened me quite a bit, and I realized today, on the plane, that you really share with your readers of life, love, your passions and loss in such an artful and poetic way.  I laugh, cry (yes, I cried on the plane today), and keep reading, even as the plane is landing.  I thought to myself, if anyone could soothe me now, in this hard time, when I am afraid too, it is Anne Lamott because she is real, and truthful and honest.  She doesn't hide her life and try to pretend it's something it is not.  She takes away an element of fear we all have, and allows us to write about our own lives, no matter how imperfect they may be. Today, she has a wonderful, extended family to share these important messages.  Thank you, new family.  Welcome, and keep up the good work.

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