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Archive for the ‘House’

I’m Looking At You

April 07, 2012 By: admin Category: Family, Filmmaking, Happiness, Health, House, Living, Love

I finally understand what the Buddhists mean when they say “learning to stay.” In my case it does seem as if I’m translating it literally, but that’s only because not everyone can see beyond the surface.

I’ve been studying and studying and studying for YEARS. Odd, I know, for a woman who almost flunked out of both high school and college. True story. To say that I was never close to those things is to deny the truth in order to feel less bad that I was passed on and helped enormously because I’m pretty, privileged, and White, but that’s not what this post is about…

Mom used to get so pissed about me being “a late bloomer.” I would “simmer” on life decisions and it drove her crazy. I tried and tried and tried to get her to see into me, see how I saw things–we were so kindred I thought it was a given–but she couldn’t. One of the greatest realizations I ever came to as an adult was finally admitting she didn’t see the world the way I did, that she never could, and that that was okay. BUT!, while she was alive, I never stopped trying…

My simmering has finally come into it’s own. I can call it up at will now, and it’s never wrong. I simmer on something until the only answer possible–the RIGHT answer–comes through, allowing me to move forward and act with confidence. I’m speaking, of course, of filmmaking. The technique sometimes works in social life, but as there’s a lot more at stake in those situations, it can also become MUCH more difficult to grasp and sway… :)

Lately, I’ve been simmering on my next films. There are three, in particular: “Viriditas,” “Coal 2,” (admittedly, a shitty working title), and “In The Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried.” The last one is a short fiction film, my first foray into non-documentary, and is based on a short story I do not yet have the rights to. I keep promising myself that once I shoot some scenes I’ll edit them, craft them into perfection, and then contact the author to see about finishing it. I have high hopes. The writer is an incredible artist, and also a bit of a loner so I think she’ll vibe with my lonerness and get what I’m going for. And, anyway, it would be a good vehicle for her–I’ll argue–to tour with to teach, give lectures, etc. “Contrast the written with the film,” something like that…

In the last few days I made a decision so many of us never have the luxury to make: I’m going to stay right where I am. Literally. I’m going to do everything I can to not move to San Francisco for a wonderful job with wonderful people that would pay me a shitload of money. Why, you ask, am I being such a dumbass? Cuz it’s the right decision, and not a dumbass one at all. I have deep family and friend ties here, opportunities to make beautiful films, a house I can’t stop adoring, a chance to fall in love…

My whole career I’ve made choices based on money, ignoring quality of life. Quality of life eventually always showed up because I was young, energetic, and still striving for something to call “an achievement.” But that struggle is thankfully over. When SOMA GIRLS aired on PBS nationwide a few weeks ago, including the venerated WGBH, I was done with struggling. “The achievement” had been attained. For most American documentary filmmakers, having your film on PBS is the great goal. Having your film on one of the big PBS stations like WGBH, is summiting Everest. And so as a result of this milestone I have decided to stop worrying about my career. Completely. I have a career, and one that’s been legitimized by the mainstream. Any artist telling you that that’s not a little important is either Jean Michel Basquiat or lying.

So, then, it occurred to me that if I don’t have anything to strive for, I can do anything I want. No more looking over my shoulder, second-guessing, blah, blah, blah. It’s time to stop working only 50% for others and start working 100% for others. I want to take responsibility for being a resident of this time, and choose to use my filmmaking skills exclusively for good. And to me, “for good” means moving viewers emotionally. There’s no feeling like changing someone’s mind about themselves for the better. I seem to have a gift for that and I wanna take it out for a spin…

 

No More Haze

February 04, 2012 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Faith, Family, Happiness, Health, House, Living, Love, Molly, Mom

For such a long, long time, I’ve been unable to see the way others see. There’s been a haze, born in my heart, that affected my vision. I literally saw things and felt them as if at a distance. A friend recently told me “You dissociated,” but that word has a lot of power for someone else in my life, and anyway, I have no idea what it could mean for me. All I know is that on Thanksgiving I could suddenly see and feel again.

Something happened on that day that doesn’t need to be detailed for the result to be conveyed here. I was hurt in a small, really, insignificant way, but that very moment somehow broke through years of piled-up hurt that were causing the dissociation and haze-vision. I went home that night and cried the way I cried in Molly’s arms months after Mom died. I fell through my front door and collapsed on the stairs in convulsing sobs. It was painful, but also so so FREEING. I could feel all this weight and negativity and guilt and pressure, etc, etc, etc, leave my body and mind and when the sobbing was done, I could see again. I looked around the house and I could finally FEEL myself in it. It was incredible.

In the weeks since then I’ve been on a high of living in the present moment. It really is as exhilarating as all the yoga and meditation books say. :)

So, a breakthrough, indeed. Today I can read painful things from the past and not fall down. I’m looking toward the future, MY future. I have no plans, and it’s just fine. Kind of a funny, unexpected, but none-the-less joyful phase I’m in.

“A Vision In A Dream. A Fragment.”

January 20, 2011 By: admin Category: Boston Beats, Family, Filmmaking, Going Home, Happiness, House, iPhone, Living, Love, Meditation, Michael, Unemployment, Video

This will be a very “meta” post, as I originally wrote part of the below in an email to my aunt, and then added to it a preface that I then, along with the email, published onto Facebook. It now here, in it’s entirety, with yet a new preface. A Pre-preface?

Anyway, I think the message contained herein should be shared far and wide, and so I’m publishing on the interwebs in the two places where I know it’ll do the most good. :) Enjoy.

“Hey everyone. This is my first FB note. It’s actually an email I wrote to my aunt who is a dream worker. I am adding it here because my situation is universal, and I thought maybe some of you are feeling the same way. I thought sharing might help some of you to not feel so alone and scared–as I do sometimes–and might help me let go of some of the hope I have that I will be able to keep my sweet, safe life exactly the way it is right now: sweet & safe. I’ve been studying Buddhist meditation and philosophy for over a year and have been resisting the concept of impermanence since the beginning. :) I guess sharing this note is my way of finally accepting it.

Anyway, I hope you can get something out of this. This is a terrible, terrible time for so many of us, but something I’ve learned recently is that the love in the artist community here in Boston is a-s-t-o-u-n-d-i-n-g. You all have helped me so much I almost don’t know what to say except that I am grateful. You are all so beautiful it actually brings tears to my eyes as I write this, and makes it sooooo clear to me why I’m a filmmaker: I have a classic excuse to stare at all of you FOR HOURS, and have the skills necessary to help share your beauty with the world. :)

Enjoy, and thank you so much for your grace and vulnerability. We are giants. :)

With love,

Alexia

“I had an intense dream the other night that I haven’t been able to forget. Thats impressive for two reasons: 1-I haven’t been dreaming much in the last few weeks, and 2-I think I can count on one hand the dreams that have lingered in my mind days after having had them.

The dream is very simple in imagery: my iPhone broke. That’s it. Here are the details…. I was talking with someone about the iPhone being very rugged, and that I’d dropped it a lot and had only incurred minor scratches and cracks. As I was talking I accidentally (truly an accident) dropped my phone. It crashed to the floor and looked fine from my vantage point of just bending my head to look. But then I bent my whole body to pick it up, and when I grasped it I saw that it had been split in two, vertically. This is almost completely impossible for an iPhone. In order to achieve this kind of break, you’d have to put the phone between two vice grips and forcibly snap it. Even then, you’d never get the straight-up-and-down break that I got.

I picked up the phone and rose. The edges of the breaks were jagged, but I could still push the pieces together and have them fit. So I did just that, and what do you know, the phone still worked. I had to hold the pieces together very tightly, but my friend and I thought it was pretty amazing that it still worked even in that scenario. Still within the dream, as I looked down at the blinking, broken phone, I thought to myself, ‘Well, there it is, I have to get the new iPhone 4.’ 😉

That was the end of the dream.

There was an ominousness to that last thought, however funny, about needing to get the new phone. This thought has it’s origins in my very scary economic situation… For two years I haven’t been buying anything. At all. Food and gas and the occasional beer. That’s it. I haven’t gone out to eat, haven’t gone to the movies, haven’t bought a book, haven’t gone to see any of my friends’ bands play if there was a cover charge. The only times I’ve left the house, actually, have been when I was able to arrange for several meetings and events to occur on the same day so I wouldn’t waste gas. You get the idea… My current iPhone-a used one given as a gift to me from Michael (my brother)-has been testy and slow for over a year. I have needed a replacement for a long, long time, but haven’t dared spend $300 to get it for fear of not being able to make the following month’s mortgage payment. This is a fear that’s been with me for a while. It’s no longer a paralytic fear, but still there none-the-less.

Anyway, the fateful day has finally come: it’s January 20th and I don’t have enough money to pay for February’s mortgage so I have to open up one of my retirement accounts. I only have two and the one I’ll be opening was started for me in 2003 when I was at Harvard-Smithsonian. They contributed to the fund, I never did, so, in a sense, all the money in there is “free.” Taking any of it out, though, before I’m 65, will incur a tax penalty. So for something like $4000 I have to remove $5000 and lose $1000. Again, as this is essentially “free money” I’m not stressing too much. I AM stressing about what will happen if I don’t get a job before April 1st. Because if that happens, then it will mean that I have to go into my second retirement account, the only one I have left, the one I’ve been adding to and growing since I was 23, and the one that I hoped would be my nest egg. If I have to go into that one, then the small life I have come to know, the tiny life here that I have worked and saved so long to build around me, will slowly evaporate.

In the dream, when I looked down at my phone I thought: ‘If you hold it together very tightly, it’s definitely still a phone, but you can’t ignore that if you let go… it just won’t work any more…’ “

Enter Title Here

September 14, 2010 By: admin Category: Filmmaking, Going Home, Happiness, Health, House, PlumTV

I remember it clear as day. As if it was childhood I was calling back. For so long I lived alone without a care in the world…

But those were the days before The Economic Crisis, before “9/11,” before i lost my job, my relationship, and my home to a world falling apart.

How many of us are there? How many of us 40-somethings struggle to “put something together” to make a living? How many of us have moved back in with our aging parents? The luck ones, I think.

Anyway, the summer bandaid job has ended and I couldn’t be more relieved. I thought working at Oxygen, a startup REAL network, was tough, but the standard 16-hour days at Plum TV on Martha’s Vineyard put the big city network startup to shame. In my last week, the week where we covered the local film festival, I worked 82 hours, and then came back to the office and had my soon-to-be-ex boss tell me I took on too much, that I wasn’t a good delegator. Jeez, if she’d wanted the show to suck, she could have just told me. I would have happily delegated what she she’d wanted me to. But that wouldn’t have helped. Then I would have been beaten down and fired for not doing a good enough job.

Sometimes production is just hard, and if you’re not in production what’s even harder is understanding why it’s so hard. My EP is a good woman and a good manager, but she’s not a producer and I guess that’s where she and I got tripped up. There were just some things she wouldn’t understand unless she did them.

Anyway, greener pastures. In my own EPs words “At least you’re getting out.” Indeed. Plum is cute, but they’re spending their money unwisely, as I suppose many startups do. I hope I get a chance to start a company so I can how tough it really is. I’m curious because it seems as though if you’re detailed and efficient about how you spend your budget, and don’t let your ego get in the way, it should be fundamental.

Anyway, I’m off to pick up my fixed car. Then to the Mac store to pick up my new HDs, then back to the house to pack, clean and apply for an LEF grant for my next film “18 Months.” No, it’s never too early to start working on a new film. :)

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.

In Your Eyes

June 10, 2010 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Family, Filmmaking, Going Home, Happiness, Health, House, Love, Meditation, Molly

Love, I get so lost sometimes.
Days, hours, and this emptiness fills my heart.
I want to run away, drive off in my car.
But whichever way I move I connect to the place you are.

Spoke with an old friend last night over Skype. She’s in LA. We don’t chat or see each other enough, so these occasional communications are vital and soothing. We both feel that there’s something fucked up going on in the world, in the air. Everyone around us seems depressed or in some difficult transition. To me, it feels like we’re all evolving. The astrologers say so. They talk about some cosmic shift in the planets affecting everyone and forcing change. Well, I’m kinda done with change myself. I’d like my fucking status quo back, thankyouverymuch. I had a home, a love, a job, a life. Hell, I had a dog and two cats! I still have the two cats, but I miss walking the damned dog, even, though, back then in The Life, I resented it at times…

When is this “weather” going to break? What have we done? You can’t move about your normal life anymore in the U.S. and not think about how the oil spill is going to affect you. Recently I filmed a bunch of fish markets. Most of them get their fish from fishermen who fish the Atlantic. That means that soon those fishermen are going to be running into oil. I looked at one man, one fish market owner, and thought about how long his family has been doing this–selling fish. His livelihood and those of his children and grandchildren could be disastrously affected. They must have all of their investments in fish.

In mid-April, before I came down to the Vineyard to do this job, my sleep pattern changed. I now get up at 5:30am whether I want to or not. I fall asleep roughly between 9 and 9:30, and by 6:30 I’m back from my daily run and having coffee. Nothing precipitated this change except for massive doses of anxiety and stress. I was TERRIFIED to make the move. Terrified I’d be giving up my house, terrified I’d lose everything, terrified I wouldn’t remember how to work in an office with other people. All those fears are mostly gone now, but I still wake up at 5:30. Also, I’m sad. Just sad, sad, sad. I realize I’ve been sad since the last year in CA, when things got just awful between Molly and me. And now, today, I miss her like an organ that was ripped out of me. The difference between then and now is that I can feel that place in me healing–scabbing over. There’ll still be a scar forever, but, like all scars, I’ll learn to live with it. I’m learning to live with it. It sucks out loud, but I’m learning to live with it. One of my solutions seems to be dreaming of her every night. Solution? Torture? Who fucking knows…

I’ve never been not happy for this long, and I hope it’s all just a phase, just a “transition,” as the astrologers say. I don’t know how much more of this shit I can take, or how much any of us can take.

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

ala Nilda

February 03, 2010 By: admin Category: Blogging Dinner, Coal, Cooking, Family, Food, Happiness, Health, House, Humane Food, India, Love, Michael, Molly, Mom, Recipes

Before I go another back-breaking minute of transcribing a long interview for my coal film, I’ll pause to tell you about a treasure I just found…

When Mom died I did three things: gathered all her clothes and jewelry and farmed them out to family, friends, and charities; brought home my third of her ashes (morbid, I know, but I really wanted “her” near me); and collected as many of her cookbooks as I could find. Specifically, I searched for books that had her writing in the notes and margins. Mom thought in recipes all the time and when she had an idea, she’d write it down. Everywhere. There are bits of loose paper, newspaper articles, notecards, and books written all over in Spanish and English. Names of spices and proteins, temperatures, and cook times.

BLURREDcandy-peanut-brittle

Today, as a break from the transcribing and in the name of finding something yummy to make for dinner, I pulled out one of her stacks of random recipes clipped together with a metal binder and looked through them. What I found are recipes and memories:

“Chicken Curry, Juthica.” Juthica is an old family friend and a good one to begin this list with. Mom and Juthica met through their Yale connections in New Haven, CT in the 60s and became good friends. Mom always liked strong, independent, and smart people and Juthica was certainly that. One day while I was in my sophomore year in college in NYC, I got a call from Mom telling me to come home immediately, that she had someone she wanted me to meet. It was in the middle of the week and so I reminded my usually VERY academically-minded mother that I’d be missing a day of COLLEGE if I came home. “I know. It’s worth it. Come tonight,” is all she said. I got on the commuter train early the next day and met Juthica that afternoon. Like my mother before me, I was instantly entranced by charismatic Juthica–a native Bengali of Calcutta–and resolved to help her with the humanitarian aid project she’s started only a few years before. Little did I know that this would be the first spark in a film career that would have it’s first international accolade (“Soma Girls”) because of Juthica.

“Alfajores.” These are basically the cookies to end all cookies. Think of an oreo where the chocolate cookie-part is a butter cookie and the middle squishy part is half-hardened caramel spread. My brother would beg for these.

“Roast Pork ala Nilda.” Nilda was my mother’s name and almost nothing in her repertoire of savory dishes would exclude cumin. That’s where the “ala Nilda” bit comes in, I think. Not surprisingly, therefore, this dish has a bunch of fun spices as well as cumin and on the notecard includes the instruction: “Let sit for ten minutes, then serve with the pan juices.” Neither my mother nor I have ever met a pan of juices we didn’t like. The theory is that if it’s slurpable with bread, it’s “FOOD.”

When I was much older and had only a modest number of recipes that I could cook well, my mother bemoaned her former strictness in the kitchen. Even though she came from a traditional culture where women were suppose to learn the “domestic arts,” she hated having me underfoot when she cooked. True, I did have an annoying habit of grazing as things got prepared (something I also plagued Molly–another fabulous cook–with), but that wasn’t it. I think she just needed her space clear. The kitchen was her church, her fiefdom, her production studio and she needed it controlled in order to create her masterpieces. Thankfully, I have a very good sense of smell and memory for the flavors and dished she created and so even though she made me stand at arm’s length, I saw most of what she did and how she did it.

Today I still cook only a few of my mother’s dishes–I’m slowly building up the amount that I memorize–but the ones I know have their impact. Recently, I made Mom’s Bolognese sauce for Michael and Laura. Michael flipped when he tasted it. I saw the memories and joy fly across his face. It must have been almost ten years since he’d last had it with pasta. That sauce has a Molly memory too: her family loved it so much that they used to commission it. Or, sometimes, when I was making it for just Molly and me word would get around that “Alexia is making meatsauce,” and before we knew it we’d have many more at the table for dinner. :)

Mom’s meals used to feed armies of children in New Haven, mostly Michael’s friends who, if they became “regulars” soon saw themselves being cooked-for specifically. “I’m making the pie for David,” Mom would say of Michael’s best friend. I’d have to have children in order to have those kinds of numbers of people climbing through my house, but when there’s a group event that I’m either hosting or contributing too, I always make something of Mom’s. It’s an easy way to make people happy and introduce a whole new crop of devotees to “ala Nilda.”

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.