Find me here for a bit

Find me here for a bit  http://robertagale.tumblr.com/

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November 22, 2011 at 9:11 am Leave a comment

Congratulations! That’s great! I have to hang up and be depressed now

I just hung up the phone with someone I love who told me some wonderful news, and now I’m crying. Not with joy—although I’m honestly so deliriously happy for this person I could hug them through the phone and buy them a double ice cream sandwich— but with despair. Despair because their success is a stark reminder that my own life is a ball of confusion— and it’s no one’s fault but mine.

Through years of meditation, I’ve come to understand that my personal sadness in no way takes away from the happiness of the occasion—I can feel happy for them and sad for me at the same time—life is full of such dualities. I also read somewhere (I pick up so many disparate sources it could have been the Dandy Dime for all I know) that if such wonderful opportunities arise for people in my life, it means that opportunity exists somewhere in the universe for me as well.

Then why do I feel like such self-loathing piece of shit lately? This is the second time this week I’ve heard wonderful news from people I love about their success— the cumulation of everything they’ve worked so hard for—and they’ve done it all by themselves.

And these are people who deserve good things, not some assholes who’ve screwed everyone they know, only to stand proudly on top of the heap of broken bodies they’ve left in their wake.

But lately, each time I hear stories of great personal success, it only makes me more lost and less sure of my own path than I’ve ever been before.

I’m happy for you, sad for me. I’ll only tell you the first part, because although you’re close to me, I don’t want to spoil the moment. Not now.

When I do tell you I will say, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

I’ve heard that one before—either coming out of my mouth when I broke up with someone because I wanted to sleep with a different person, or filling my ears when someone I was with wanted to do the same thing.

Somehow it sounds worse this time because the subject is my own lack of self-worth at such an advanced age, as opposed to just wanting to have the same body part of a different person inside of me.

All the stuff I thought I was over- my dad’s suicide when I was a kid, family violence, emotional and physical abuse— all the stuff I thought I covered in therapy decades ago and then left behind because I didn’t want my past to be an excuse for my present—are multiplying like negative integers in a countdown to one of the most painful periods of my life.

Why, you ask? How could such a seemingly strong and (sorta) funny woman feel so much pain?
A student once asked the Buddha, “Who are you?”

“I am awake,” he said.

I bet that really fucked with the student’s mind for awhile, but I always wondered if the awake stage made the Buddha more bummed out until he was past all the crap.

I’m the Buddha in purgatory. The pain I feel is all the more palpable because I’m more awake than I’ve ever been before.

Yes, I know this inner insomnia is magnified by the result of a lifetime full of toxins sweating out with the help of multiple hot flashes. I know, too, my mirror in the sun is the double black diamond run, the vertical drop of bipolar genes—the gift that keeps on giving. I know that this too, shall pass. I will wake up tomorrow and the sun will be shining and it will be another cool, perfect desert day, and I’ll get out of bed and feel great— or not— but I will feel differently than I do right at this moment.

The only constant is change, and as trite as that saying has become due to overuse (thanks a fucking lot, Oprah!) it is the only truth I know, the only one I really believe, the only one I put my faith in.

Yes, I do dance with faith at special events, but not in the traditional sense. I tried that, but the only thing that improved was my faith-faking skills.

As I got older and less tolerant of self-deception, I decided I would come out as faithless, until a person much more accepting of life than I gave me the only definition that has ever made sense. “Faith is the belief that everything is workable.

It means that no matter what comes my way—be it wonderful or terrifying—I can deal with it in some way. I can look at it, I can make decisions about it, I can chose to be sad or happy about it. Like a lump of Play-doh, I can form into anything, then squash it back and begin again.

Of course depending on my hormones and genes, this faith can muddled or intensified. Today, I’ve chosen the latter color chip to decorate my interior.

Where do I go from here? What do I do? How do I define myself? Why don’t I feel rooted? Why do I feel like I’m not doing enough? Why can’t I make my mark? What is my raison d’être?

Why do I feel like everyone but me has it together? (I know this is just not accurate, but it does makes it the second duality of this post, for those who are counting.)

No wonder this existential breakdown seems like Deja Vu.The questions are similar to the ones I asked myself at 18, but 37 years on, the answers are just as elusive.

Now you know why I call menopause Puberty 2.0.

At least I’m not bleeding—externally, that is.

October 9, 2011 at 6:38 pm 5 comments

Bake this for Amy Winehouse

If only I had baked my banana/apple/cranberry/nut bread yesterday. If only I woke up yesterday instead of today and thought, I really want to bake today. I want to bake something that will shake off my blues and share it with someone to make them happy, too.

If only it was yesterday, I would have gathered the flour, sugar, fruit, and all that stuff in little boxes and bottles that you need to bake, tossed it in a big bowl, mixed it by hand; ingredients spilling over the kitchen counter and creating a comfortable mess; then picked up the phone, cradled it between shoulder and ear while I scraped the batter into a loaf pan, and called Amy Winehouse.

Amaleh (1), I’d say, I want you to come over, I’m making that bread you like, the one that’s sort of like Jewish applecake. C’mon, I know you’re not feeling great, but trust me, one taste of this with a schmear of butter, you’ll be singing like a nightingale on an all-night bender again. Then Amy would come over, sullen and harsh- hadn’t slept and eaten in days. But by her second cup of coffee (decaf—her choice, not mine) and a few slices of bread, she’d loosened up—smiled even. Well sort of.

She’d open up to me about her poor choices in men, the aborted European tour, the pain of being booed on stage, the rehab attempts, her dad and mum, her manager, her excitement over her new album that’s almost finished, and her fear that she’ll never be able to replicate her success of a few years ago. Then she glanced up at me and just as quickly looked down into her cup.

I’m only gonna tell you this because I know you’ve been stalked by one before—I know you’ve kept yours at bay but I can’t,she sobbed.

She started slowly but quickly ramped up to speed freak velocity as she confessed it was inside her since she could remember— a formless, shapeless monster bigger than her body and soul—stalking her, keeping her up nights, writing and singing her songs, soaking up drugs, fucking the wrong men.

Mamaleh,(2) she said, it’s bashert.(3) I’ve got too much in me to live— too much stuff.

At this point, I would hug her and she’d cry in my arms then I’d take her to my therapist, who would put her in rehab once again. They’d put her on just the right mix of mood stabilizers and anti-depressants so she could she’d stay clean, marry a nice guy, put out a shitload more critically acclaimed albums, win a bunch more awards and die in Boca Raton at 94.

But yesterday I didn’t make my banana/apple/cranberry/nut bread, nor did I call Amy Winehouse. Instead, I alphabetized my old albums and finally threw away the moldy covers that were destroyed in a flood in the basement of a Baltimore rowhouse I bought in 1990 so an abusive boyfriend would stay with me.

Today, before I even had chance to think about mixing dough, I woke up to my husband shouting that Amy was dead.

Her parents will cry, fans will hold vigils, a critically acclaimed new album will be released, and she’ll be the newest member of the “Dead at 27” club, a prestigious group of musicians that includes Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Gram Parsons. A group that I suspect, all had that same “thing” inside of them, a thing was too much too concentrated, and leaked out much too quickly to be spread out over a normal lifespan.

So today, the day my Ameleh was released, pick your favorite Amy Winehouse song and go bake something, be it bread or life itself.

As for me, just because I think Amy would appreciate the metaphor, I’m goin’ to pick flowers up on Choctaw Ridge. And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Yiddish Dictionary for goys and those who don’t live on the east coast. As an Ashkenazi Jew, Amy would have known some Yiddish.

1.Ameleh: In Yiddish, leh is added to the end of a name as a term of endearment

2.Mamela:Yiddish for Mother, or a person who takes the place of a mother

3. Bashert:Predetermined, fate, meant to be

4. Goy: Non-Jew

5. Ashkenazi:Jew whose ancestors were from northern and central Europe

July 23, 2011 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment

test

I only watched about a half hour of the Oscars.

After the cute opening with the almost too charming co-hosts, James Franco and Anne Hathaway, came the avalanche of names. Like a reverse McCarthyism, everyone wanted to be on this list. But this time, the only people shunned were the nervous, sweaty, winners behind the mic who forgot to call out everyone they knew.

On the minus side, I had no idea who won anything but Best Supporting Actress, the award that always comes early in the game, the granola bar we’re given to scarf before the long trek.

The outsized plus was missing Gwyneth Paltrow singing whatever song it was from “Country Strong.” (What is up with people who like her? She has no discernible talent other than ruining Cee Lo Green’s performance of “Fuck You” at the Grammys.)

After sitting though countless 3-4 hour Thankfests, I offer my five-second idea for shortening and improving the Academy Awards: Simply forbid any winner from naming names.

I could give a shit about the 28 people from producer to caterer that the winner feels compelled to mention. And god forbid if they forget to thank their family—every website and Entertainment Tonight-type TV show will rake ’em though the coals for being heartless.

Instead, why don’t the producers insist that each winner actually come up with a few sentences that mean something?

Radical? Not Really. If the 83rd Academy Awards truly wanted to pay homage to the past, they would have blown off the 10-second black and white clips of previous shows and taken a page from the time when winners actually gave heartfelt speeches of substance.

No, it doesn’t have to be political, like the comment from Charles Ferguson, director of “Inside Job” He reiterated the message of his Wall Street  documentary by commenting, “Three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by fraud not a single financial executive has gone to jail—and that’s wrong.”

Nor does it have to be a grateful thank you as Lee Unkrich, the director of Toy Story gave as he announced, “Thank you to audiences all over the world who came out in historic numbers and embraced a movie about talking toys that hopefully had something very human to say.”

And the recipient is not required to be witty and self-effacing like David Seidler, winner of the Original Screenplay Oscar for “The King’s Speech.” “My father always said I would be a late bloomer,” said the elderly Seidler, “I believe I am the oldest person to ever win this award. I hope that record is broken quickly and often.”

But it sure would be nice.

And those poor local news people would be able to start the evening 

June 16, 2011 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

Puberty 2.0: Menopause

Find me here for a bit-

http://robertagale.tumblr.com

May 30, 2011 at 1:05 pm 1 comment

Naming Names at the Oscars 2011

I only watched about a half hour of the Oscars.

After the cute opening with the almost too charming co-hosts, James Franco and Anne Hathaway, came the avalanche of names. Like a reverse McCarthyism, everyone wanted to be on this list. But this time, the only people shunned were the nervous, sweaty, winners behind the mic who forgot to call out everyone they knew.

On the minus side, I had no idea who won anything but Best Supporting Actress, the award that always comes early in the game, the granola bar we’re given to scarf before the long trek.

The outsized plus was missing Gwyneth Paltrow singing whatever song it was from “Country Strong.” (What is up with people who like her? She has no discernible talent other than ruining Cee Lo Green’s performance of “Fuck You” at the Grammys.)

After sitting though countless 3-4 hour Thankfests, I offer my five-second idea for shortening and improving the Academy Awards: Simply forbid any winner from naming names.

I could give a shit about the 28 people from producer to caterer that the winner feels compelled to mention. And god forbid if they forget to thank their family–every website and Entertainment Tonight-type TV show will rake ’em though the coals for being heartless.

Instead, why don’t the producers insist that each winner actually come up with a few sentences that mean something?

Radical?
Not Really. If the 83rd Academy Awards truly wanted to pay homage to the past, they would have blown off the 10-second black and white clips of previous shows and taken a page from the time when winners actually gave heartfelt speeches of substance.

No, it doesn’t have to be political, like the comment from Charles Ferguson, director of “Inside Job” He reiterated the message of his Wall Street documentary by commenting, “Three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by fraud not a single financial executive has gone to jail–and that’s wrong.”

Nor does it have to be a grateful thank you as Lee Unkrich, the director of Toy Story gave as he announced, “Thank you to audiences all over the world who came out in historic numbers and embraced a movie about talking toys that hopefully had something very human to say.”

And the recipient is not required to be witty and self-effacing like David Seidler, winner of the Original Screenplay Oscar for “The King’s Speech.” “My father always said I would be a late bloomer,” said the elderly Seidler, “I believe I am the oldest person to ever win this award. I hope that record is broken quickly and often.”

But it sure would be nice.

And those poor local news people would be able to start the evening news on time.

February 28, 2011 at 11:22 am Leave a comment

Biting the Dust

I finally went to the Safeway today.  There was a time when it was as anonymous as any Safeway in the United States. But as I stand behind police tape with others who came to gawk, mourn, or just be here, I realize it will forever be known as THE Safeway; the place of mass death, of a young man spitting madness in the form of bullets, of screams, of error, of heroism.

It took me days to get up the courage to get near here, but I knew I had to go. I wanted to go back to the place where just the day before the shootings, judicious use of my  Safeway club card prompted the casher to say, “Mrs. Gale, you saved seventeen dollars and twenty-two cents.”  I wanted to stop soaking up every TV news report,  get my ass off the couch and stand on the same asphalt that the killer did when he when he raised his gun.

Healing is different for each of us, but its necessity brings together those who might never cross paths or exchange a word. It turns indifference into the hug I shared with the woman who stood next to me as the network satellite trucks provided the only shade in the desert midday.

“God bless you for coming here,” she told me, and at that moment I loved her.

Much in the same way that Tucsonans couldn’t begin to understand what it was like to be in New York on 9/11, those who don’t live in this community have no idea what it feels like to be here right now–and what it’s felt like for the past week. Omaha, NE, Killeen, TX, Binghamton, NY, Carthage, NC, Columbine– and other communities where large numbers of people were just doing people things when they were shot dead– have never felt closer to my heart.

We breathe the air the killer breathed. We look at the same desert-blue sky. We drive by the shooting site or the hospital or Gabby Gifford’s office every day on our way to work or school or errands. We know a victim. Or someone who knows a victim. Or someone who knows someone who knows a victim.

I picked up my glasses today and was handed them by a girl who lives a few houses down the street from the accused gunman, Jared Loughner. She’s known him since elementary school and saw him the evening before the shooting.

“He was walking with his head down and we said ‘hey,'” she told me.  “He didn’t answer, so we said ‘hey’ again and he finally said ‘hey.’ But he didn’t look at us.”

That morning, I hiked a dry wash near my house. The Sweetwater is named for the few times each year it churns with runoff from monsoon rains rushing down from the Tucson Mountains. I found a rare flat rock, one that I would usually take home and toss on my pile of other cool rocks on the back porch. Instead, I took it inside, and in black magic marker with my left-handed scrawl, wrote in Hebrew and English  “Gam zeh ya’avor–This too, shall pass.”

This saying–attributed to Solomon or Sufi poets, depending on who you ask–is my mother’s favorite, and she applied it to everything from a scraped knee to my dad’s suicide. It never made me feel better, but it always made me feel like I’d survive.

I walked around the perimeter of the shopping center. All the stores except Safeway were open, and people were eating lunch, shopping and doing the kinds of things that people do when they’re not being slaughtered.

I found a lush mesquite, one of the generic desert trees that, combined with a mini-rock lawn, make up most of the oases in Arizona parking lots. I placed my rock at the base of the tree next to a bouquet of wilted red roses. As I walked away,  I saw a videographer move his tripod in for the kill.

January 14, 2011 at 8:54 pm Leave a comment

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