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Archive for the ‘Valet Battleship Parking’

There’s A Post I Won’t Publish

August 27, 2010 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Coal, Faith, Family, Filmmaking, Going Home, Happiness, Health, House, India, Living, Love, Meditation, Molly, Mom, PlumTV, Uncategorized, Valet Battleship Parking

A few days ago I received a message about something very painful that happened in the past, something that I had done. The event was horrible and was my fault, but what had led up to it was just as horrible and hadn’t been my fault, but the message I got didn’t mention any of that. It just tore open the old wound for all to see.

I’ve been exhausted. Like, really, really, hit-the-wall kind of exhausted, and so when the note came I faltered a little bit because I didn’t have any resources, any strength, to bear up against it. Now, after a few days and some small successes, I’m feeling much better, much stronger, and the note doesn’t have the same impact. I can see it for what it is now: just a big mistake that will end up hurting the writer far more than it ever could me. That said, the note did change something profound in me. Something snapped and finally released, and as I finished reading I knew it was time to put some things away.

I’m apparently going on a long trip, but I think it’s one of mind and not of body. My meditation practice slipped in the last two weeks because we’ve been working just too damned hard. The President & First Family have been on-island and we’ve been all over them, filming, editing shows together quickly, and wringing ourselves out. Well, it’s done now. The “Obama Shows” have aired and the crazy summer season is drawing to a close–which is why I can write this from home at 9:30am on a Friday. :)

One of the things I have to put away are the cats. I spoke to the Animal Shelter here and will likely be dropping the cats off in another week and a half. This will be terribly difficult for me. I care for them very much and am not, as we know, at all good with letting go of things I love. But I don’t want to care for them any more. I just don’t want to. They’re hard in terms of upkeep, and remind me too much of a past I want to turn away from so I can finally move forward in a brand new direction. I’ve been in limbo for over two years. Two years. A lot of that was the economic crisis, but at least 50% was due to raw wounds that have been taking too long to heal.

In mid-Sept. I’ll finally “move” back home and have some serious time to work on the coal film. THAT’S where I live now: in my work. I’ll try to craft a happy life despite the hole in it where Mom used to be, but the main focus will be doing what I do: making stories that I hope will have some impact on even just a few people. And I’ll travel. I’ll go to all the places Mom always talked about but was too afraid to visit. I’ll stay longer than one does for “vacation,” and I’ll get to know new cultures.  I’ll read and I’ll write, and make sure–as much as I can–that my friends are healthy and know that I love them.

We’re all in limbo, in transition. Chogyam Trungpa, the late Buddhist teacher used to talk a lot about negative/uncomfortable emotions being preferable to straight-up happiness because there’s so much energy in them. He said it’s better to walk right into the center of ill feelings and just hang out quietly because what you’ll learn will blow your mind.

Bon voyage, everyone. :)

Address the Front

August 17, 2010 By: admin Category: Faith, Family, Filmmaking, Going Home, Happiness, Health, House, India, Living, Love, PlumTV, Unemployment, Valet Battleship Parking

"Untitled" by ImaginationRoom (http://imaginationroom.posterous.com/)

I don’t know where to start. This morning I’m feeling a lot of fear mixed with stress mixed with the intellectual knowledge of peace and relaxation. This job is just too much, I think. There is literally NO BREAK. I have one or two weekend days each week and they don’t even help me to catch up on sleep anymore. Tina was right, I need to train someone to share the load. I thought I had been doing that. Looking back now at May, June and the first part of July, I can’t understand at all how Hannah survived overseeing the show as well as ads creation. Insanity.

I spoke last night with a woman who is back from the brink. She has Lyme disease and mercury poisoning, but because she has a lot of money, she is alive. I’m afraid to watch the documentary about Lyme that she financed. I’m afraid for my friend Su, who has Lyme, and afraid for myself that I may not have the courage to help her the way she needs to be helped. At the moment I am stressed out enough just watching over my own life. The mortgage. Always the mortgage. But for me that struggle is worth it because I am surviving and my house is my life-raft.

Could I do this job again next summer? I might not physically or psychologically be able to handle it. If Courtney stays then I could train her in May and June and then, hopefully, something will have turned for me so that I can leave as Hannah left this past July. I just can’t imagine doing this all again. Not without someone like me to share the full load.

I saw “Eat.Pray.Love” last night–the Hollywood representation of one of my favorite books. The movie, frankly, sucked. I’d needed it to not. I’ve needed some kind of heart vacation for a while. Not romantic, something to help me feel at peace. I stayed in the movie while others left, not because I had hope, but because the images, at least, were something I’ll be able to hold on to later. And, hell, Julia Roberts is pretty, so…

There’s no one way to tell a story, but if you’re going to try, you have to settle on a direction. The director of Eat.Pray.Love, I think, shot a 6-hour film. Pity we didn’t see that version. Another film, “The Kids Are Alright,” reinvigorated my love of movies and visual story, and showed a decent, hard-working, loving family. Two lesbian parents and their teenage kids. I thought ti was wonderful. A friend thought it was insulting to lesbians worldwide because of something that happens in the story. Her anger and staunch position nearly destroyed the tender story for me. I got sad listening to her just not letting it go. There isn’t just one way to tell a story, and so you shouldn’t get mad at one interpretation.

I’m exhausted. This post is one, fucking stream-of-semiconsciousness, isn’t it? Sorry about that. I’ll try again tomorrow. If anyone sees a thruline here, please comment so I’ll know what the hell I’m talking about. :)

Cheers.

An Exhausted Soil

April 04, 2010 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Beer, Faith, Family, Going Home, Happiness, Health, Living, Love, Meditation, Mom, Valet Battleship Parking

Love will push through winter like first buds in spring through an exhausted soil. Remnants of leaves hang on in their dried weightlessness hoping for one more chance to not be raked away. The truth is in the loud and easy calls of the birds so comfortable in this urban area that I wonder if there were always houses here. Structures. The sounds of nature today consist as much of childrens’ voices, lawnmowers and the din of cars as they do the wind in the grasses, bird whistles and the deafening silence of stones.

I will be carried away in this soft wind by my busy mind, so agitated by the slowness of a Sunday. I’ll pick up on smells and think of movement when what I should do is stay and read just one more story…

I can’t say whether I’m afraid of death or not. Until it’s at our doorstep, who could? What I can tell you is that in this place of stillness and peace I feel the presence of love and life and happiness and gratefulness and hilarity and joy and the knowledge that death is real because I was there. I held her hand the day before she died and continue to bear witness by being her mirror. The new entertainment will be the standing still, and for that I need no one’s permission.

This Is

March 29, 2010 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Filmmaking, Happiness, Health, Living, Love, Meditation, The Film, Unemployment, Valet Battleship Parking, Video

Whenever I feel afraid–and for me fear is always about the lack of control over my responsibilities, like not having a job so I can pay my bills–I gather my “totems” (usually books) and place them all around me, like a child playing with blocks on the floor. I set my mind to “accomplishing.” “Today I’ll read from each of these books and by the end of the day or middle of the day I’ll know what to do.” At least there’s a chance I might feel better…

In the last several months I have applied to hundreds of jobs and gotten responses from less than ten. My resume, if you haven’t seen it, is fairly extraordinary. I’ve done some amazing things and worked at a lot of impressive places and done well there, so it’s shocking to me that I have been passed over so many times. It is certainly wearing me down. Maybe that’s why I’ve thrown myself headlong into this film about coal–to keep my mind and body occupied so I won’t dissolve into despair. Truly, despair isn’t very “me,” but this economic crisis time is strange and powerful enough that I wouldn’t be shocked about a lot of shocking things happening all around me.

Last night I finished Isabel Allende’s beautiful, funny memoir “The Sum of Days.” Its a reflection of the lives of her family members in the thirteen or so years since her daughter, Paula, died. Isabel is looking at her “tribe” and trying to make sense of her own life and choices in the face of everything that happens within the group. Not surprisingly the book is gorgeously written and very candid. I like books like that most of all. I don’t see a need for hiding, especially the raw and ugly stuff. My greatest emotional liberations have come when I admitted I did something and then apologized for it.

Today is rainy and so I can’t work out in the newly cleared garden. Nik was here over the weekend and helped me rake. By being gentle, she first motivated me to not be afraid of starting the garden project. She sees, even this early in our relationship, how much starting something new sometimes scares me. My mind works in an odd way with new projects–I have no trouble starting, I just sometimes have trouble feeling it’s okay to start. I worry that if I’m starting this new thing it means I’m taking time away from finishing something else, but, truly, I’ve never had a problem getting things done. When I was little Mom said that Michael would never start his projects and I would never finish mine. She was talking about homework, but it’s a good analogy. 😉 My first therapist–the great Joan in NYC–thought for a while that I might be ADD, but I shrugged that notion off. I’m not ADD, I’m just organized. 😉

Anyway, so I had a block about starting the garden project that I think was fear of being alone. I think I shy away from some tasks or projects because I’m afraid of doing them all alone, when that’s usually how things end up anyway. I always do my projects alone.I don’t want to all the time, but that’s what happens. People aren’t as motivated or passionate as I about getting something done and done well, so I end up working alone. TV I can handle in this way, more domestic-like projects I guess are tougher. This is something I’m trying very hard to work on in meditation: to be okay with the journey being largely or occasionally solitary. The motivating, mind-opening phrase is “the path is the goal.” Isn’t that marvelous?

Right out of college, after only one year, I gave up on acting as a career because I saw quickly that I wouldn’t be able to make a living from it, and that I’d have to do A LOT of bad work and work with bad people until I finally found something fun. But then that fun would only last three months at best. The thought that I’d have to look for work every three months was enough to make me understand that there was much more to life than that kind of suffering.  So I moved to television… 😉 A much more satisfactory metier…

My meditation practice, and Isabel’s way of writing, focuses on staying right where you are and looking at THAT, just that and nothing else. Don’t let your mind wander. Isabel has this wonderful paragraph toward the end of the book where she describes the abusive inner monologue that greets her every morning: “Don’t eat the bread, do you think the weight will fall off by itself? You’ve been writing for over twenty years and still you haven’t learned anything…” etc. I don’t do that to myself, I’m much kinder about my accomplishments, but I do tend to think of my world too small. I forget where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’ll be going soon and allow myself, instead, to get caught up with “what if?” Dreaming. Dreaming when we’re asleep is fine, but “What if” doesn’t exist and has no value when we’re awake. Only “this is” has value, only the knowledge of love has value, and so today I will try to stay in the present, learn something, and reflect on all the love in my life. That’s enough for one day.

Dear Mom: Where I’m At Today

March 18, 2010 By: admin Category: Happiness, Health, House, Living, Meditation, Mom, Unemployment, Valet Battleship Parking

It’s been a while since I’ve written, I know. Don’t scold, you didn’t even like that I was blogging at first. I’m well, or well enough given the ever-present money problems. Yes, I WILL be going into one of my IRAs if things get even worse, but there’s still some time to wait to see if “anything turns.” I love phrases like that, don’t you? They imply some kind of beneficent moment of fate, like The Angels of Mercy are going to come swooping in and change everything for the better. Not to be cynical, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Still, it’s hard to complain a) when I have so many gifts, and b) when Spring is about to burst here in New England.

Laura said last night “At least we don’t live in a dirt hut.” She’s not unemployed but not as employed as she’d like to be and so she’s doing what she usually does in frustrating times like these: she picks a topic and goes to the library and gets every single book about it. This time, the lucky topic is Montana. I’ve never known or thought that I would ever know this much about Montana but when you have a walking, talking encyclopedia you do take stuff in. One piece of news is that Montana settlers used to live in dirt hut because they were warmer. There are few things that truly shock and/or astonish my sister-in-law and the stalwartness of these Montana settlers is one of them. They lived in dirt huts and eked out a living on hard, cold, wide land. Yeah, I don’t really have much to complain about.

Anyway, I’ve got to go but wanted to share about the Montana thing, and to let you know that I was alright.

All my love, A`lex

Dear Mom: The Glorious Craft of Silence

March 05, 2010 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Family, Food, Happiness, Health, Humane Food, Living, Love, Michael, Mom, Valet Battleship Parking

Dear Mom,

First of all let me say that I know you’re dead and that if you were in some way able to read this know also that you’d find it annoying and silly. Well, this is my process, something I’d like to try, and so I ask for your patience and kindness. You know how slowly I come to things, so just let me do it. It’ll likely work itself out in a reasonable amount of time so there’s no call to go batshit at this stage, okay? Thank you. 😉

Anyway, I’m writing today because there’s someone I want you to meet. She’s amazing, and we’ve been seeing each other for a little while now, although scheduling has made any regular gettings-together a challenge. She’s younger than me-surprise, surprise-and also in the film business. If you saw her you’d be struck first by her beauty and then by her fitness, but you’d also want to feed her. Due to her open spirit, joie de vivre, ease around others, HUGE sweet eyes, and general soulful attractiveness you’d be compelled to hug her and that’s when you’d have a teeny-tiny meltdown. “You’re too skinny!” You’d yell, and then would look at me accusingly, as if I was somehow responsible. I’d give you The Hand and say we were off to the beach. You’d take a breath and respond in that mock-threatening way that’s always made scarier by your accent, “Okay, but when you get back I’ll have a BIG LUNCH ready.” Then you’d wink at her and turn back to baking bread.

Later, while she was in the shower after the beach you’d whisper questions to me. “How old is she? Where does she come from? Her eyes are so beautiful, but there’s a sadness in her. Is she alright?” Your instant concern would be genuine and so I’d know I’d chosen well. When you care that early I know someone is special. I’d answer all your questions and allay your fears, and then would tell you that Michael liked her a lot too, even though he’d only met her twice and then not for very long. We’d talk then about how perceptive the three of us are when it comes to people and then, a bit satisfied, you’d get up and finish making her lunch.

When she sat down, after a nice, long, hot soaking in the outdoor shower, you’d place before her The Largest Sandwich In All The World and would respond to her shocked look with one of your own stern ones that said, in no uncertain terms, “You’re going to eat ALL of that.” You have a way of wielding all your Latin energy, Mom, that I’m hoping I’m learning. It’s a powerful and fun skill to have… 😉

During lunch you’d want to know about her past, because those big, soft, gentle eyes that show everything would be breaking your heart. For reasons she couldn’t completely express, she’d tell you everything and in the course of the conversation the two of you would fall head over heels for each other. The ease created would allow the conversation to shift from family and history to gardening and food and flowers. That’s when I’d lose you both and would just be hanging on for dear life, hoping to understand something, anything before the day was out. She’d tell you what she knew about growing things in the shade and you’d tell her how finicky some of your favorite plants were. You’d bond on tulips, and prepare herb gardens in your imaginations. You’d laugh like schoolgirls when something resonated, and each make promises to connect in the Fall to dig in the dirt.

And I’d watch it all, finally, for once in my life, at ease from not needing to say anything whatsoever…

Burns

March 02, 2010 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Faith, Happiness, Living, Love, Molly, Unemployment, Valet Battleship Parking

The sting is ever-present. I can’t hide from it or it would be as if I’d scarred my face and pretended nothing was different. Everything is different. You wear shoes in for so many years, take the time, and then are told they don’t fit you… when you know they do.

I wear my scars on the bottom of my feet so no one can see.

Scents

February 25, 2010 By: admin Category: Coal, Faith, Filmmaking, Living, Unemployment, Valet Battleship Parking, Video

Since I bought my house there have been items and places on the property and on me that smell like skunk. It’s a semi-permanent thing. “Semi” because once I finally block up the accesses to the crawlspace under the barn where the little buggers live, the smell will fade over time (to be replaced by other more pleasant ones, I hope). But for the time being some piece of me or my life will smell like skunk.

hedden3full

Dr. of Animal Science and professor at Colorado State University and autistic, Temple Grandin said “Nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be.” This is the simplest I’ve ever heard The Golden Rule described. It’s not enough, apparently, to let people know that they have to be kind, you have to paint them a picture. Dr. Grandin’s phrase is as clear a picture as there is. Just watch any National Geographic special about animals in the wild and you’ll get the idea…

Nature is on my mind today as it has been almost every day since my unemployment-forced convalescence began. It’s because when I wake up I can see it and hear it all around through the many windows in my house, and because the business of nature has permeated my smell. Smell is identity. It can pinpoint time and place, and sometimes emotion. Sometimes a scent on me will be the inspiration for me to change my attitude. If I’m dirty I shower, sure, but that’s not it. Sometimes I’m perfectly clean and shower anyway because I need that fresh, organic shampoo smell to clear my mind.

I’ve been wound-up pretty tight lately because of the unemployment. It seems that no matter how many resumes I send out there is no work for me. It used to be that I could figure out what I was doing wrong, what I was saying in a cover letter that I shouldn’t say, or what I should remove from my resume to make myself seem a little less experienced (read: “expensive”). It is just fact that I’ve been doing what I do as long as I’ve been doing it, but that’s not what employers in this economy want to hear. They want to hear that you’re “inexperienced” (read: “cheap”), but have been working at this thing long enough to… you know… know everything.When I first got into filmmaking you had to have experience as a producer. Then you had to have experience as a videographer. Then you needed to know how to edit, which made you a Preditor (Producer/Editor). Then you needed to know how to create basic graphics. These days, if you can’t do all of these things as well as know a fairly large amount of motion graphics, you’re considered unhirable.

When I was at AOL I was hired as a video producer/editor. When the economy started to tank, my budget was slashed. No more video. So with the help of my immediate boss, I learned to blog and kept my job for another year. When the economy sank even more our uber boss put up another set of hoops. I jumped through them all. Whatever was required I learned not only how to do it, but do it well. I worked my fuckin’ ass off and got good at a lot of things. When I lost my job I took the time to made two documentary films and today, still unemployed, I am hard at work on the third. I work my fuckin’ ass off.

If our societal systems can’t figure out how to use people like me in the day-to-day improving of the world, then i think it’s time to reboot or rebuild the systems. We’re doing something very wrong if people with such skills can be tossed aside. Truly, I’m no different than anyone who can do something well, or anyone at all, really, because I believe that everyone is good at something. If nothing else, everyone is passionate about something and that’s a start to being good at it.

Temple Grandin saw that cattle were unhappy in the rectangular pens they were being held in, so she designed pens that catered to what made them feel good. If there was another Noah-like flood, the day the water recedes and people are allowed back on land they’ll ask each other what they can do so society can be rebuilt. You’re a carpenter? Okay, you go over here. You’re a priest? Great, go over there. You can make a mean chicken catchitori? Perfect, please design us a kitchen. You’re a documentary filmmaker? Thank goodness, we’ll need someone to look around at what we’re doing and write it all down so we remember.

I have value, and so do you.

The Month of Magical Thinking

February 10, 2010 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Faith, Family, Food, Happiness, Health, Living, Love, Molly, Mom, Valet Battleship Parking

The worst night of my life I was alone. Mom was dying and I was the only one from the family in the hospital with her. Molly hadn’t arrived yet from CA. It was late, after 9:00pm, and a little while after I’d held the phone up to my nearly comatose mother’s ear, on the request of my father, so that she might hear the concert he was attending–a concert in which my brother and sister-in-law were singing, and a concert my father was trying to convey to my mother by holding his cell phone up in the air to catch the songs. That was the night I fully understood my parents’ relationship. Only then.

I hung up the phone after giving my father the sad news that Mom hadn’t made any response at all. She’d just laid there, out like a light. What I didn’t know until a little bit later, maybe an hour, was that the nurse–a new one. Not one of our familiar and favorites–had possibly dosed my mother with too much of something, and that that something may have put my mother into a coma. I don’t think I’ll ever know the truth of that, but what I do know was that the most genuine moment I have ever exhibited was also that night. It was when I felt my body scream “STOOOOOOOP!!!!!” as the interns assigned to her ward tried to revive her with what seemed like Draconian methods. Of course they weren’t Draconian, they were what you do to get a pain response so you can see if the person in front of you is really there or if she’s been turned into… a vegetable.

Tonight the seriousness of human relationships, of love, comes into full view. The title of this blog post is a play on the title of Joan Didion’s heartbreaking and beautiful memoir, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” in which she recounts the year after her beloved husband, John, died suddenly of a heart attack. When I returned to CA after Mom died I read that book over and over. I read it so much Molly asked me to stop, suggesting that “dwelling”–which is what she thought I was doing–wold only hurt me more. I didn’t stop. I just hid my reading of it from Molly, and that’s okay because until she loses her mother she won’t understand that what I was doing was grieving and trying to make sense of the senseless, of the loss of a great love.

The title of the blog post was changed from Didion’s original by Molly. She is using it as the title of a new album she will be writing and recording this month as part of an online contest called “The RPM Challenge” in which musicians are given 30 days to write and record a full album of ten songs. It’s very exciting and a good way to motivate yourself. Friends of ours did it last year and their album did very well.

The reason for this post, or part of it anyway, is because of what Molly wrote in the box describing her upcoming album:

“The Month of Magical Thinking is a meditation on my last relationship and why it took me five years before I could successfully end it and the abuse that went with it. I will be writing a song a day exploring my pain and loss and where, not quite a year afterward, I am now. This is how I will process my journey, by coming forward with it, finally, in song. I hope that my journey will inspire others to free themselves from abuse.”

Interesting that this is what should greet me upon my return from a weekend of meditation. Is the universe chatting me up again, perhaps?

Romantic relationships are the toughest ones of all in large part because there aren’t witnesses to everything. Only the two people involved really know what went on between them, and sometimes that’s very hard to bear. For a long time I needed validation from those around me that I wasn’t insane to be so hurt and changed and exhausted by my relationship with Molly, but I’m finally over that. I know what happened, as does she. My hope once was that we’d have a chance to talk and clear the air, finally get some closure. But her calling me an abuser crosses too big a line for that to be possible now. I know there are some things I’ve written about her in this blog that Molly disagrees with, but I never described her as being clinically damaging to me in any way. We fought a lot. Our relationship, despite the huge amount of love, was very hard. That’s all.

I am still in love with Molly, but I’m handling it. Mostly I’m just letting time pass knowing the feeling will fade eventually. It hasn’t yet been one year since we broke up so there’s more waiting to be done, but I’m confident now that the day will come when Molly is a distant memory. It’s the nature of things. Like death.

Since there is no response I could make to Molly in reaction to her horrid accusation, I have chosen to just close the door and only remember the love between us. There was a lot of it for enough time that I have some wonderful memories. I loved filming her performing, and loved waking her up in the morning. I loved making her soup when she was sick, and loved getting up early to drive her to work. I loved her funny, odd little sounds, and the way she’d stay up until dawn watching YouTube videos of other musicians. I loved how she loved food and marvel at her ability to taste every spice and flavor in a bite. And I loved sleeping with her. Climbing into bed and wrapping my arms around her as we drifted off will be one of the best memories I will ever have.

I’ll miss the moments of trust, which became too few; and the rare, rare moments when she took my hand or kissed me in public. I will miss her amazing driving skill, for she literally saved our lives more than once on the L.A. freeways. But most of all I’ll miss the sound of her noodling-away on her 7-foot concert grand piano as she worked out a song. I will forever miss the beautiful person I fell in love with. She is extraordinary and good and funny. I will wish her happiness and joy every day until I die.

A photo I took for Molly's last album, "November Antique."

A photo I took for Molly's last album, "November Antique."

The Living Room, written & performed by Amanda Palmer.

All Things Merge Into One

January 26, 2010 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Faith, Going Home, Happiness, Health, House, Living, Love, Molly, Valet Battleship Parking

Orchid’s soft, warm little paws press against me as she sleeps. We’re on the couch. I’m doing work and Orchid is purr-snoring beside me. I take a lot of time, regularly, to stare at these little cats, Orchid and Tut, and still, every time I do I wonder at how someone could abandon a living thing. I can’t explain the sense of responsibility I feel toward these guys beyond using the word “unconditional.” There is nothing they can do to feed themselves in my house. They cannot clean their own litter box. And just like us humans, they need affection and compassion and joy. And so I move around doing those things for them as much as possible because in addition to being otherwise powerless, they have given me a lot of joy, compassion, affection, and unconditional love. So I feel I owe them…

znoz

Sculpture by Tara Donovan. Photo by Molly Zenobia. This was the last day we had fun together.

When I was driving cross-country in early June 2008, leaving L.A. for good, I had the cats with me in the car. After one day of being crammed together in the crate in the passenger’s seat of my Honda, it was clear they preferred liberation, so I changed my morning driving routine. After breakfast I loaded them up in the crate, settled them into the front seat and when I knew I had enough gas to go for a while, I let them out to wander inside the car. Freaked out by the motion of driving, Tut instantly disappeared into the guts of boxes and suitcases packed in the back, while Orchid planted herself on a mound of soft things between the front seats but only just enough behind me to be able to look over my shoulder. From this perch she watched the road pass by as we made our way to our new home. I’ll never forget that. She’s only a cat, but was still there with me, present, through the whole trip. She had a strength and a personality and a wish: to be warm, to be near me, and to be free.

I clean their litter everyday because I know how awful it would feel to me to have to go to the bathroom in a “full” toilet. In CA I used to get up early to essentially do the same thing for Molly’s dog. He needed to go out and pee. Like the cats, he didn’t have a choice to get up in the middle of the night and go outside when he needed to, he had to wait for one of us to take him. That seemed so unfair to me that I worked hard to make him comfortable. By way of recompense Bobby (the dog) gave me the joy of his unconditional affection. He would nuzzle me and jump, literally, for joy when I said “walk” or took up his leash (which he didn’t need).

I don’t understand the ability to abandon a living thing. A friend said “It’s called lack of responsibility.” Molly got these cats with her girlfriend before me. They raised the cats together for one year in CA and then I showed up. I’ve never had cats or a dog, but once I understood their needs I accommodated them. If I hadn’t cleaned the litter regularly in L.A. it would have gone for days–over one week–without being touched. Molly just wouldn’t do it and the truth is that when I was working a lot and would come home wiped out, I resented having to clean the litter, so I didn’t. Many times I just let it go. I thought, I hoped Molly would do it so the cats wouldn’t have to step on their own shit, but she didn’t. Knowing they had to deal with that as much as they did back then is why I clean their litter box every day now that we’ve settled into our new place. It’s something so small that makes them feel so safe and comfortable.

I’m working on a lot of heavy meditation concepts today, which is why this is coming up. The work is on compassion and loving-kindness and the main message is that you can’t expect to have any compassion and loving-kindness for others if you don’t first have it for yourself. But the reverse is also true, and therein lies the power of the lesson. If you see yourself not having compassion and loving-kindness for another living thing, then there’s a good chance you’re treating yourself like shit too.

A couple of weeks ago I got a fake apology email from Molly. I say fake because the majority of the email consisted of criticisms about my behavior in our relationship. The rest were antiseptic broad “apologies” about her “role in our mess.” But even given all that was there, for it was an uncharacteristically long email for Molly, what struck me was what wasn’t there. There was no mention of the material stuff we still need to exchange, and no mention about the cats. To be honest, Molly hasn’t mentioned the cats once since last August when we briefly discussed her making fliers we could put up seeking adopters for them after we broke up. We never followed up with that, but even still, once I left CA she never, ever asked about HER cats. Never. As I try to learn about loving-kindness and compassion this is one problem that sticks in my head. How could someone abandon a living thing, and what does that say about them?

Seeing her do this and other similarly baffling things yanked the rug out from under me because I considered this person my soul mate. Molly and I were bonded so powerfully, and still are even though we don’t talk. No matter what happens in my life if she calls and needs my help I would be there like a shot. I love Molly very, very much and hope she too can find her way to loving-kindness and compassion, especially for herself.