Friday, October 19, 2012

A Parental Visit

Parents worry. It's what we do. They do. I saw mine last night in NY for dinner. We were celebrating my mom's 70th birthday. It's been a while since we've all been together. Their visits have waned of late. Not sure why. A minor tiff with my brother? Wanting to be asked more? Just busy? Not 100% sure really. And of course, I haven't exactly made the effort to get back to Philadelphia lately with my kids. In between all the work travel, getting on a plane to use up well earned vacation days in Philly is not my idea of a good time. We went to Maui instead. I'd invited my mom but she declined. It's a long flight. I can't leave your father for that long. Blah blah blah. It's Hawaii! C'mon!

Dinner was nice. We talked politics. They've become more staunchly liberal in hating Mr. Romney; in the face of Mr. Mormon their love of Obama has grown. Mine too. They are disgusted by the rampant and palpable racism that seems to drive Republican pundits' hatred of the President (go Mom and Dad!) They are proud in their non-racism, proud (as they should be) to defend a smart black man who looks a heck of a lot like their grandkids will when they grow up.

We also talked about Sandusky (ew...bad dude) and the relationship between THAT pedophile and the ones from my own sport. Did we have any culpability in not turning them in? Yes. I'd say so. I was a kid bordering on adulthood. I wish I'd done more.

We talked about movies. (See Argo, don't see The Master.)

Most notably they welled with tears upon my just sitting down at the table. It's been too long. I am happy. There are developments in my life - love, primarily - that they haven't appropriately shared in but are thrilled about nonetheless. They were clearly worried about me before; and maybe aren't so much anymore. I have someone that will take care of my heart. What parent doesn't want that for their kid?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

To Share or Not To Share

I've always been kind of a sharer. Perhaps an over-sharer - with my friends at least. And I suppose even with strangers. I will admit I'm not always the best at sharing with my partner (hate that word but can't locate another at the moment). That's not what this is about though. More on that in another post. Suffice it to say there are a whole host of reasons why sharing in love has become quite difficult for me though I am fighting like hell to reveal my most over-sharing transparent self in my relationship. Back to my point...

Privacy has never been a major concern. It's just not something I think about a ton. I don't mind not having much of it. I give up a great deal of it willingly, every day. When I was writing my book there were more than a few moments when I took pause and said to myself: I probably shouldn't share this. It's humiliating... or It's ugly. Not a side of myself I want to show.

But I came to the conclusion that the ugliest parts, the most shameful bits, were the parts that I most had to lean into. To share with the most honesty. I find salvation, communion when others share their darkest moments. I inhale memoirs to find these tidbits. It is in Mary Karr's Lit or Caroline Knapp's Drinking A Love Story (despite this list I don't actually have a drinking problem) or listening to Brene Brown talk about her own battles with shame that I find connection. And I feel less ashamed. Less alone. So I figure if I can do this, others who read what I write (no matter how few) will connect and their own shame may dissipate. And I write about personal stuff because it helps to dissolve my own gut ripping self-reproach and gloom. It's as if the air hitting the words diminishes the sharpness of the thing itself.

And so it's just become second nature. To share. To over share. I've paused at times and thought to myself: can this put me in a bad position professionally? Perhaps. The people I work with, for, near may not think highly of a serial blabbermouth. But I said to myself long ago, if anyone wants to banish me for attempting to become a half way not shitty writer, for revealing things that matter to me, that hurt me, that make me joyful, then I suppose I need to rethink my profession. If writing stuff is as important to me as my career, then I should be able to do both at the same time. And I am oh so grateful that I have been afforded that opportunity.

As I was talking to a colleague the other day she was telling me she'd quit Facebook due to privacy concerns. She didn't want work friends friending her. She didn't want everyone knowing everything. She didn't want Facebook knowing everything. I get it. But it's so not me. I stopped in my tracks for a moment to rethink my approach. Am I crazy? Where are my boundaries? What kind of narcissistic exhibitionist puts it all out there, all the time?

I suppose I'll regret it one day - and I have at times when I've "over-shared" something that wasn't necessarily mine to share - but I think any regret will be minor and fairly recoverable. It's a purposeful choice to live my life in this way, to share my thoughts to dissipate the shame. And it works for me.

I'm not talking about posting pictures on Facebook. Who cares. I like to post them so my mom can see what's happening with my kids. I'm talking about sharing all the icky stuff. The sheer panic of being alone for the first time in my adult life. The desperate loneliness of not seeing my kids from Sunday to Tuesday and being terrified they will never want to return to me. The nearly intolerable blackness that overwhelms upon ending a marriage despite knowing it's the right thing to do. The piercing self-disgust of knowing I didn't do it in the right way, if there can be one. Writing about all this stuff makes it a little less hard. A little less frenzied and frantic and devastating and miserable.

Upon thinking this through - again - I feel reaffirmed in this choice for myself. And I find myself in a bit of a conundrum as I embark on a new life with someone who values his privacy, our privacy above most things. I love that he feels this way. He cherishes the moments we have as ours and ours alone. But I find myself at a loss for words as I sit down here now because I don't want to violate his sense of privacy to share my own happy, my own angst, my own anything because what's mine is ours now. But I still want to share. Something.

I will re-navigate these waters. I will find the right balance. I won't violate his trust. But I will find a way to use this approach that works for me, this telegraphing of emotion to free myself of humiliation and remorse, this sharing that softens the edges of my own dark moments, this self-centered amplification of my joy... I'll work it out. We'll work it out. Together we will balance his need for privacy with my chronic urgent compulsion to blab.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


This past weekend was my 20th college reunion. At the risk of sounding, well - like everyone, I can't believe college happened 20 years ago. I've been to every reunion so far seeing as I live fairly close to campus. A quick 40 minute drive provides no reason NOT to go. And I loved college. For me, college was a turning point. It was for many, I know. But for me, it was the first time I was not a gymnast. I met people with varied interests. I was perceived as someone who could do things other than flip. I developed an identity that would be more me than the one I already had.

I loved seeing everyone this weekend. I've stayed in touch with many friends since then. But we are never all together. What a treat.

I still consider the friends I made at Stanford some of my best. I was privileged to have met some of the most interesting people I know, to this day. Smart, ambitious, kind, funny. June who runs the Ted Conference. Alex who writes New Yorker cartoons and other more widely seen and read commercial things. What a group!

And what luck that they let me in to this bastion of intellectual endeavor (the #1 university the year I was admitted), in all likelihood because I was good at doing tricks on the balance beam. Not that kind of tricks. A more altogether useless kind.

I waited every day to be found out. To be identified as the mistake. To have some official come knocking at my door and say: I'm sorry. We're going to have to ask you to leave. You are simply not smart enough to be here. Somehow I escaped that fate by secretly studying when everyone else (in the Humanities) seemed to skate by. People in pre-Med studied. People in Engineering studied. But not people in Communications (what's that?!) or Political Science (my two inauspicious majors - I added a second out of sheer fear of being lame).

The Tuesday night before the weekend of the reunion I saw my first Stanford friend - Lance. He lived in my freshman dorm. We became friends fast. We dated. He came out. It set me up for a life of falling for gay men. We're still friends. Though Lance is the type that is friends with EVERYONE so it is always hard to know where you stand. Am I an acquaintance? Am I the BFF? Does it matter?

Here's us with the (my) boyfriend:

Daniel, the boyfriend, is the brother of a fellow Stanford-ite. My class. He came with me to all the festivities perhaps thinking that there might be a person or two he'd know from having visited. That turned out to not really be true but he was a good sport, smiled and met everyone. And read a book when it all got too boring. I can't imagine how boring it was to watch me ... "Hi! [hug] How are you? Where do you live these days? How many kids? Ok I see _______! Gotta go!" But he did it. With a smile.

This guy is a keeper. As everyone noted.

I spent Friday night and most of Saturday with "my girls". We talked, we laughed, we made a little fun. We investigated the passings of the short list of those identified as no longer with us. Not uncommonly, I suppose, a large percentage of the deceased died by suicide. I guess at this age, what could still be considered "early death", accidents and suicides are often the cause.

We were grateful to all be together. They loved Daniel, of course. And this part - the more intimate part with "the girls" - was conceivably less boring for him as these ladies know his brother. We were "of a group" - one of the ladies having actually dated the brother. Yes it's all very weird. But makes sense in a karmic kind of way.

There were many locals in attendance. We promised to hang out soon. We may. We may not. I will inevitably continue to see the ones I see and talk to already. Sweet Rae. June of Ted fame. Lance, my first gay. Fraize, when I visit Chicago which I assume will happen more now (more than never) as Daniel's parents live there.

I have no grand point to make here other than to say I love my friends. Stanford provided me with the opportunity to meet some truly remarkable people. I'm honored that they let me in and that these fine folks have opted to stay friends with me through thick and thin.

On a side note, divorce was not an uncommon theme at this reunion. I suppose it's the time. Many married in their early thirties. We're in our early forties. Ten years? If it's not gonna work it is time to call it. The admission was often met with an almost congratulatory tone. The tone of those that know that marriage can be hard. And sometimes it's too hard for it to be right or worth it. I'm in awe of those who still make it work. Good pickin'.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

So Long Olympics

I thought I'd have something to say about the Olympics. But I don't. I strained to find something to say. I watched. The Fab Five were Fab. McKayley Maroney should have behaved better but she didn't. She's just a kid. Oh well. I have no issue with the Flying Squirrel's hair. Who cares about her hair? She defies gravity. I have no beef with Usain Bolt for his perceived arrogance or confidence or misguided means of celebrating. Whatever it is.

They are athletes. They have superior physical capabilities. Sometimes the foolish ones come to believe they are superior humans but they learn with time. The humble ones are grateful and will go on to do interesting things beyond athletics, lead fulfilling interesting lives. Some will struggle to find out what's next. Some will capitalize on their star stature. Most won't because there won't be anything to capitalize on. "I went to the Olympics for archery." ; "Oh" ; "Yeah"... doesn't get you much really. Though it should always bring a tremendous sense of pride. And I suppose it will.

I don't think they're heroes. I don't think they make history as is oft uttered by the commentators. (Except maybe those two black power track guys from back in the day.)

Tommie Smith and John Carlos
at the '68 Olympics

They have remarkable physical aptitudes, unrelenting tenacity, endurance beyond what most can fathom. The ones that win, the ones that don't. Even the ones that don't make the Olympics but almost do. What's truly intriguing to consider is what they will do with that perseverance beyond athletics. Anything? I hope so.

They are exceptional athletes. No more. No less. I do love to watch them. I marvel at their grace, strength, persistence and sheer gutsiness.

The closing ceremonies are utterly unwatchable. I'm going to do something productive instead.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Bye bye Khakis

I've been in Mexico City for the last two days with my friends and teammates from Dockers. We've made a habit of having these once a year, get the whole team together sessions and we plan our marketing activities for the upcoming year. Blah blah. Boring work talk.

So this was my third one. The first one was in Madrid and I was moving out of the house I shared with my husband and children upon my return to San Francisco. It was a contentious meeting and I had a horrific experience waiting for me at home. A life altering, sad, devastating cluster fuck. My husband and I would have to tell our children that their parents weren't going to be together anymore, I would have to pack up my shit, I would have to leave the apartment I'd lived in for 8 years and a man I'd lived with for just about 15. Needless to say, that meeting was fairly brutal.

The second one was in NY. We worked better together as a team. I had a year of single-hood under my belt so I didn't feel like crying all the time. We had some fun.

And now the third. I'm happy and in love. These people, this team...they are my friends. They are being recognized in the organization for having done great work and operating like a team. And we got done what we had to for the week in a collaborative manner. We challenged each other but never dismissed each other. We worked quickly but in a well informed smart way. And they wished me farewell (see picture of my gift below) as I move on to my next endeavor.

I'm feeling corny and sentimental! I love these people! And I think, in the words of Sally Field, "You like me. You really like me!"  Unless, of course, they are blowing smoke up my ass which is absolutely a possibility but I'm going to choose to believe that that is not the case.

Goodbye Dockers. Hello internet. I will miss khakis and wearing the pants. Though I'll still be here at Levi Strauss and Company - going on my 14th year!

What a lovely place to find myself. Embraced by my work family. Having done a lot of hard work - both professionally and personally. That has paid off.

Happy girl.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Not terribly active these days on the writing front. I was just about to sit down and write "I'm taking a break from this thing for a bit so I can stop feeling guilty that I'm not writing anything". But then I peeked at the "stats" - something I don't do all that often - and it appears there are people that actually read this. Which I find flabbergasting. But reason enough, perhaps, to try to write something now and again.

I'm a tad torn about continuing for a few reasons:

  1. I started writing this because I was in a death spiral of doom, hence the sub-title by way of explanation: "a don't panic log". At my most anxious and sad and desperate, I found if I wrote down how I was feeling it dissipated enough to muddle through. It was my friend Kristin that suggested this approach and she was right. I could have just gotten a journal, I suppose. But the act of admitting shame and sadness publicly, for me, is what helps normalize it. Keeping it to myself just doesn't work as well. Somehow giving it air brings it down in intensity a notch effectively diffusing the angst and despair. 
  2. I'm no longer in a death spiral of doom. So perhaps the need to do this is no longer there. But maybe I can just make it about something else? Like happiness? Which surely will ebb and flow. 
  3. I say things that are private. Which, when they're just about me is fine. But when they involve other people ... it is not so fine. And I've botched this line on more than one occasion and hurt people I care about. So given that it seems I'm a little unclear on the line (I'm learning), maybe I should just hit pause.
  4. There are people reading this that I had no idea would ever even care. There are people I work with that have referenced it in passing. What? Goodness. Embarrassing. But perhaps OK. I said to myself when I started (thinking no one would ever read it except Kristin who suggested it) that if anything I wrote about got me in trouble at work then that probably wasn't the place for me to work anymore. I don't write about work stuff that is confidential or even sensitive. So why should they care if I write about stuff that is personally confidential and sensitive? Seems to me it isn't their business. And they don't care. Whew. All of that said, it is a little disconcerting to think about colleagues that I sit in status meetings with and do power point presentations to reading the sex entry I wrote a few months back (and have since taken down for a whole host of reasons). Alas... I'm pretty OK with it. 
I'll ponder this for a moment. I'll likely continue as at the very least it keeps my mind limber in a way that my real work does not. The more I write the more I write, I guess. 

And of course, there are these Olympics to comment on... 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I'm back

I've been away. Took a break from writing this thing. Not on purpose. Life just happens. Lots has happened in the last few weeks. Lets see...

Not at all least important, I had a little health scare (mom - I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to worry). Suffice it to say there were ultrasounds and all manner of pictures taken and scared looking technicians that all resulted in a "You're fine!" prognosis. Whew. I'd convinced myself (while remaining very calm) that it was not going to be good. That I was finally happy - REALLY happy - and so the shoe would now drop. Work is good. I have it all in perspective. I work hard, love the people I work with, have new opportunities, feel respected... can't beat it.

I have a writing opportunity (which I need to hunker down and take advantage of) - I've been asked to write a young adult series about the dark side of gymnastics. I've done some chapters. But I need to speed it up! Agent likes it. All bodes well.

And I fell in love. Madly. Can't write, can't do much of anything but be with him and ponder my good fortune.

I thought I didn't get to have this. I thought: I'm a lucky girl. Great job. Successful. Able to provide for myself and my family in ways I never thought possible. I have two charming, smart, interesting, healthy children - we have fun and we explore and talk and laugh constantly. They can be total pains in the ass too but mostly, they are golden.

I have a "hobby" I love - writing. (Recently my youngest asked me what my hobby was... "Work?" he said...nice) And I've found some success at it. I have beautiful, amazing, large quantities of friends from all the corners of my life - work, gymnastics, college, high school, dance class, San Francisco randoms. Close friends. Kind, invested friends who support me and show up when I need them. As I do for them. I have a terrific family. A brother that can't be beat. Who showed up every day after my divorce and helped me out and hung my television and talked to me and made me food and listened to me cry. And cheered me on. A sister in law who did the same and tolerated a weepy, always around sister in law in the form of me. And two - soon to be three - nephews who squeal my name when I show up... Aunt Jen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So I don't get love. Ok. I can be happy anyway. I enjoy my time alone. I love reading and writing and going to movies. I'm on my own, I'm not alone. My mantra. I'm at peace. And I was.

And then there he was. In the wild. Not on-line. I met him at a reading of a mutual friend. Perfect. We both love books. He asked me out. We had a date. That was it. I was done for. Either done dating or serious heartbreak. I didn't admit it to myself right away. How could I? Only crazy people, obsessive romantics, fall in love on the first date. I think I maybe waited til the second date. Patient. Hah.

I never knew that kind and smart - really crazy super duper smart - came in one package. With the right amount of darkness. I thought I had to give up one or the other. Pick, Jen, kind or smart. Which one? I didn't know intensity could happen with calm. In a person or in a relationship.

He wouldn't have made it through my filters on-line. Never married. No kids. I thought these things were important if I expected to be understood. I wouldn't have made it through his either. I was - am - too old. He's not a youth chaser. Just didn't want a 39 year old childless woman desperate to get married and have IVF twins before it was no longer an option.

And yet I've never felt more understood. Life circumstances don't create understanding. It's unaccountable really, what draws people to each other. How they, how we, just know when it is IT.

Every time he says something kind - which is often - I think he's being sarcastic. That's how crazy I am. I'm starting to get used to it though and now I can at least not say, "Are you fucking with me?" every single time he utters a kindness. I can take it in and feel grateful. And feel understood. And loved. Never pressured or controlled. Heard. Taken in. He doesn't want to move the pieces around. He takes them all in - as they are me - and he says: I wouldn't change a thing. I don't need you to want differently, be different, express yourself differently. Just be. It is more than enough for you to just be you. It is everything.

There is nothing he could tell me that would scare me off. And he says some scary shit about the past. Or what would be scary to other gals. It all makes me love him more. Not the stuff itself. The openness. And maybe even the stuff itself. Who knows.

It's unaccountable really, what draws people to each other. And in this big insane world, it is amazing that two people ever meet each other. The confluence of circumstance required for that to happen is remarkable.