Lessons from baseball?

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, May 29, 2016

Aside from hearing the cheers from the old Seattle Sicks Stadium (where Jimi Hendrix played in 1970) down the road a mile from the house I grew up in, I’ve only ever rubbed up against baseball a few times in my life. It just has not been part of the curriculum.

My dad was a football and tennis player. One brother was a runner. The other was a brain. My sister lettered in boys. I was not allowed to do sports on account of their toll on academics, so any knowledge of baseball for me was strictly anecdotal, academic or from television.

It’s 1981 in New York. I reconnect with one of my oldest friends in the world, and he invites me to a Yankees game, complete with press passes. I never understand how this particular friend, an actor, wrangles things, but he always does. I am excited to be drinking a free beer as tall as my head and the afternoon passes by in a pleasant, sunburn-y blur, the sound of fans cheering and bats cracking in the background. So this is baseball, I think to myself. Nice!

Because I’m not really a drinker, I manage to get on a #6 express train going the wrong way, deep into the Bronx. I slump onto a bench not noticing much until someone with a bike gets on the train, urgently points out my mistake, and tells me to get off at the next stop and find some NYPD blue to escort me to the other side and onto the right train. Which, sobering up quickly, I do.  Baseball game #1, lesson learned: Drinking and not driving don’t necessarily mix, either.

Fast forward 20 years, to 2001, back in Seattle now and buying tickets for a Mariners game. Along with the rest of humanity, it seems, we take public transportation down to Safeco Field. We think we are arriving in good time, but as we wend our way up to the Everest-level nosebleed section and are about to pop through the door-hole, there is not a single sound to be heard. It is utterly, eerily quiet: somehow we have arrived dead last, the stadium full to the brim and the first pitch about to be thrown that very second.

Celine, 8, who has never seen 40,000 people gathered before, stands frozen, and we have to drag her to the seats, explaining, as if to an alien, how baseball works. I note the differences 20 years have made. A big screen. The wave. Salmon burgers instead of hot dogs. Baseball game #3 (or so), lesson learned: It’s fun occasionally to blow a child’s mind, especially inadvertently.

Recently, we find ourselves driving past Coors Field in Denver and on a whim walk down and buy cheap tickets from someone hocking them right outside the gate. The seats are really low and right behind home plate, and we get ready for a walk down memory lane.  Aside from the fact that it’s a terrible game (hence the great seats), we find the Jumbotron overwhelming, with its contests and advertisements and the cameraman’s relentless crowd scanning. In the purple and black fanscape, the one food I notice a lot of is nachos. Pumped cheese and corn chips. Oh, and gigantic sodas, even for little kids (what are they doing here on a school night, anyway?).

Stop being so critical, I tell myself. Stop being so old school and enjoy this scene as if it were a fascinating movie about people who seem normal but already live in a science-fiction future where men with beards and knickers are worshipped for their prowess with a cowskin-covered orb and a stick.

There are a lot of foul balls. The most exciting thing by far about this baseball game is imagining catching one of these right out of the sky, like the lucky stiff who actually does to the right a couple sections. Baseball game #5 (or so), lesson learned: Pay attention to what is actually exciting you.

From Buzzfeed (a popular social news website) I learn that in the pantheon of baseball fan archetypes, I am The Completely Clueless Fan, the one who understands 14 percent of the rules, whose motto is “Why did he do that?” Yes. And, for me, the takeaway is always something completely unrelated to the actual game. But there is this one thing I really, really, like.

I like it when the super successfully thwacked up ball snaps every single person to attention — when, in the same breath-held moment of anticipation, they are captives of the present moment, in a state of suspended animation, jaws slack, eyes riveted, poised. As if anything could happen. Obviously, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, if you’re a baseball fan. But for a clueless one, not bad, right?



RDHTMOM meditation

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, May 15, 2016

Recent sighting: a little red Chevy with the license plate RDHTMOM. Behind the wheel is a 40-something brunette with a medium bob and bangs.

Take a deep breath as you grip the steering wheel, and squeeze hard, hard as you can. Harder. Harder still. Aaaaand release. Feel the blood flow into your fingers, and then send your fingertips up, glancing at the color of your nails. Revlon, Wintermint — an icy shade of blue-green that smells delicious. Scented nails, and not a chip or flaw to be seen! Breathe in Wintermint. Relax.

Drop your shoulders and glance in the rearview mirror. Is someone driving too close behind you again? Gently signal and glide peacefully into the next lane, breathing in through the nose, and out through the mouth. From the lower belly, to the ribcage, then to the upper chest and throat. Just like they taught you in that yoga class.

Now, turn the AC off and open up your front windows four inches. With another deep breath, enjoy the feel of the warm wind messing up your hair. Yes, both a red hot mom and a regular mom might do this. Relax your whole regular-mom face. Take off your sunglasses. Shake your head. Remember yourself at around 8 years of age when the world was your oyster. Pretend you see your best friend coming toward you on her blue bike and smile that winning smile, ear to ear.

Turn off the radio — since you never know which station to play, anyway. There’s too much pop in country, and not nearly enough country in pop.  You have no clue what red hot music would be — and maybe never did. If your phone is on the dash, which it probably is, pick it up and toss it onto the back seat; because even if your phone does contain your life, do you need every square inch of it at your fingertips every second of every day? For that matter, wouldn’t it feel good not to have so many contacts? Or so many apps that your 10-year-old has to show you how to use? You hate Candy Crush. Your favorite app is Goldfish Pond because it sits there and shimmers, and when you touch it, it ripples. The fish glide. You can change the Japanese background pattern but that’s about all. Genius.

If you were going to design an app that was meant to make people happy, what would it be? Something like Pond. A blue sky with a random crow flying by?

Whichever way you were going to turn next, get ready to turn the other direction. Yes, you are going to go the other way. Not to the bank. Not to Safeway. Not to the school to pick up the kids. Instead, you are going to make that wrong — but very right — turn. Sink deeply into your bucket seat and adjust it back a click, letting your head tilt back with it. Say the words, “Oh yeahhhh,” just like in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” your favorite movie of all time.

Look around, noting beautiful things in this unfamiliar neighborhood. A budding rose bush. A dog sitting on a porch, wagging its tail. There is goodness here. Breathe in and out, and undo that top button of your jeans. He’d love you even it they weren’t so tight.

Of course, he thought you’d love the license plate. And the car. Because when a woman turns 40, and her two kids are already looking at her, like, “she’s old, she’s my mom,” she needs a pick-me-up. He was trying to make you feel good, tell you no need to worry. So you put on a show and acted pleased, despite the fact that you adored that 2001 white Suburban because it was smack dab in the middle of your comfort zone.

Now, your license plate makes every single person behind you speed up to check you out. And that forces you to look straight ahead, sunglasses on, as if you’re too cool for school, but really what you are is mortified. Belly breaths all the way around the block — a complete circumnavigation until you are calm.

There. Now, pull your shoulders up to your ears and let them drop. Then, do it again, only this time shrug lightly, holding the shoulders up in a lilting way, and smile that winning smile. That’s your move, Redhotmom. Shrug-and-smile.

Because then, when someone is giving you that sideways glance from the next lane, instead of being an imposter with a vanity plate that screams, “Look at me,” you’re the bright- eyed woman with the windy hair who shrugs and smiles every time, as if to say, “He thinks I’m red hot, and I just don’t have the heart to tell him otherwise.”

Tiny buds

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, May 1, 2016

Five years ago today, my husband died.

My daughter was about to graduate high school, turn 18, go off to college and start her life. She had weathered his diagnosis of melanoma and seen him through 17 months of struggle and regimen, pain and hope. She had weathered my moving out of the house for six months, as I worked to figure out what was wrong with our marriage, even as he was trying to cope with his health. And she weathered my moving back in after our reconciliation, which coincided with the discovery of a tumor on his spine and subsequent neurosurgery and hospitalization. She was there with me at the end when he died at home, his brain overcome with lesions.  She saw him struggle for his last breaths — a 53-year-old heart that was not ready to stop.

We sleep in the same bed for a month afterward to heal the trauma of his death, and then we begin the complex and unpredictable process of grieving.  We compartmentalize, keep busy. I pack up some things and leave others alone. She works; I work; we exercise. The permanence of the situation becoming clearer, we began to truly feel the gaping hole a daily familiar physical body leaves after its disappearance from Earth. I wonder how so many people on the planet can be going through the same grief. So much loss, so many holes — more holes than people, it seems.

When she leaves for college, I am alone in my house. I put in a new bathtub and get in it every night to play Words with Friends, 10 games at a time, for the company and to keep things very, very simple. I go to work. I feel the love of my community.  I listen to my daughter tell me about her new girlfriends at college, strong, smart, beautiful young women with whom, by the grace of God, she bonds. One of them has lost her father recently, as well, and there is additional support and understanding. I feel she is being watched over.

Exactly one year to the day after his passing, my throat swells up — I can’t swallow — and I go to the local doctor for a strep test, which comes back negative. Because it has a tendency to, my story spills out, and I ask the doc if he believes in metaphors. Gently, he says he does. “I guess I can’t swallow something,” I sum up. There’s something lodged in my throat; it’s a lump the size of a walnut, stuck there. In a moment of grace and epiphany, I realize what it is I cannot swallow: The idea that my widow’s year is up, that I will be asked to get over it now and move on. Once I grant myself a little more time, I get better.

That same month, I reconnect with a man I’ve known for 20 years.  My daughter watches, heartsick and angry that I’m seeing someone so soon after the death of her father. She watches us struggle through early days, two middle-aged people trying again. Meanwhile, she meets someone, and begins the first major relationship of her life with a sweetheart her father would have liked. She attends her own mother’s wedding and finds herself in a family larger by three adult stepbrothers and a 6-year old stepsister. She weathers the jealousy of her mother in another mother role, and then just barely weathers as she watches her mother sell the house she has called home her entire life.

Against all odds, she opens to a new stepfather and begins to develop a real relationship with him, despite the hole her own father has left. She asks me what if she isn’t grieving right. Why doesn’t she cry more, is there something wrong with her? Why does it seem, in some ways, to get more real and painful the farther out?

Meanwhile, I take the pulse of my own grieving, even as I begin the journey with a new partner once again. We buy land and start the process of building a house down the road, in a fresh place. Life moves us forward like a river, heaving underneath, bigger than us.

Amidst it all, the coexistence of things mystifies me most: the goodness of finding companionship again, for instance, even as I continue to dream of the man I spent 26 years with, trying to resolve in sleep what I cannot in my waking life. It is hardly parsed out into easy beginnings and ends; things overlap. How do I create a peaceful container for all the splashing, mixing and overflow?

Here on the cusp of my daughter’s 23rd birthday, I’m grateful for the beautiful gift of watching my child choose light over dark again and again. Her father would have admired this. What I hope I have given her is a sense that life is big, bigger than we can know; and every time we open our hearts to new growth — tiny buds sprouting from what appear to be the bare twigs of winter — we heal not only ourselves but also those lucky enough to be around us.

Cat interpreter

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, March 20, 2016

Wills, our willful orange tabby who just turned ten, has an interspecies interpreter at home. That would be me. I am the language specialist who delivers in English what this feline is “thinking” — or whatever crazy, mixed-up thing it is they do with their 30 grams of gray matter, which is, actually, organized quite a lot like the human brain

I come by the genes honestly, as my mother worked intermittently for the French Consulate in Seattle doing both written translation and simultaneous interpreting. It was superb job for her: She probably had the most academic brain of anyone in the family despite a schooling career cut short by the financial necessities of her family. She joined the Paris workforce in 1936 at the age of 15 and never looked back.

Though she flunked English in secondary school (bad teacher chemistry), she was meticulous and had a natural command of the language, which turned her into a really good translator. She’d also had the first 10 years of married life in the States to practice her writing skills, since she was writing to my father — who was in large part away, on tours of duty — nearly every night. Those who have learned a foreign language know that writing is an ocean away from conversation.

Besides all that, she could think like a lawyer, carry on like a diplomat and pull things off (she successfully presented herself in court as an attorney in her twenties while working for an insurance company in Paris). I remember her telling me later in life that for the sake of the meetings she was facilitating, sometimes she would soften or bend the translation to make sure that those speaking had the best opportunity for success.

At the time, I thought it was dishonest, that the clients were being cheated, misled. Now, of course, I think it was brilliant: the idea that relationships need mediation in the real world. How about when two people actually do speak the same language? Or how about when the two in the relationship are from different species? All brilliant!

Yes, I do realize I’ve written about this particular cat before. The cat from hell, the princess, the boss. The one who gets cream in the morning. And housemade cat food. The cat sitters I’ve had to cajole into caring for her. The long explanations about how her hissing is an everyday sort of sound. The one who can’t be down for the night unless she’s in her own room, with the door closed. The one who will stand at the top of the stairs waiting for her bedtime escort, preferably the man of the house, to take her down, but only after nice words are spoken and in the correct tone.

Sure, there are plenty of cues that are easy to interpret. She stands at the sink if she wants the water turned on. She actually hangs on the ledge of the door if she wants out (sometimes continuing to hang as it swings open). Putting her paw on your lap if she is going to attempt blessing a human lap with her kneading paws and an eventual plop-down.

But what about the more subtle things, things maybe only a person who has served her continuously for ten years could know? A short while ago, after some slightly erratic but not unfamiliar behavior, I tell my husband the cat is embarrassed.


-Yeah, she’s embarrassed. Because she asked you to open the door but then couldn’t make herself go out. So now she’s pretending to go nuts, but it’s just a cover. She’s mad at herself. Embarrassed at being such a wimp.

This elicits a delighted sort of snort. Weeks later he works cat embarrassment back into the conversation.

How I can overlay my human emotions on this eight-pound whack job in a cat suit? Whatever I’m doing, I seem to be doing it more the older she gets, maybe as her curlicue tendrils of thought become more familiar. Maybe as my mind is cat-melded into deeper comprehension. Or maybe it just makes all her ridiculous behavior somehow more acceptable to me, if I parse it out into a Henry James or Jane Austen version.

Ten years after going to pick her up in Norwood (on account of my daughter’s 13th birthday and her desperate need of an orange cat and a notice in the paper that very day that said “Free orange tabbies”), I am still trying to get a handle on this redheaded dictator who showed up without an interpreter.  I’m doing whatever I can, and as I know my mother would have had it, to make sure we have the best opportunities for success.


Breakfast of regulars

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, March 6, 2016

I am eating cereal, something I rarely do these days, but the cupboards are bare, so I am shoveling it in standing up, contemplating the nature of Os and going into a familiar routine I call The Visiting Alien, this time honing in on cereal and breakfast.

Here I am, eating a bowl of finely groundup non-wheat formed into the shape of rings that are floating in nuts that have been pressed into a white milky pool of liquid. Should I have two pieces of puffed up slabs of non-wheat that I slide into a vertical cooker and slather with fat, or one? What kind of hairless animal am I, and what is this thing called a spoon? How did I get here?

How can such a box of airy cardboard line an entire aisle of something called a food store, be deemed sustenance, and cost $3.99 for about 12 cents’ worth of ingredients? And then we inject it into our bloodstream right after a jangly beeping alarms us into morning consciousness?

Cereal box graphics are the baseball cards of my youth. Corn Flakes, Grape Nuts, Cap’n Crunch, Quisp and Quake, Rice Krispies, and all the rest. My father occasionally eats Bran Buds, the closest thing to particleboard single-stomached bipeds can endure. And my mom, a French woman for whom cereal is just one more mysterious mainstay of a young and misguided nation, pours boiling water over her Shredded Wheat, drains it, and eats the soft paste hot (which is quite good, actually, with a little cream and sugar).

I am never anything more than a serial cereal eater, going from one brand to the next, never truly and completely satisfied. I am a fickle breakfast eater, as well, a penchant my daughter inherits at a young age, with her smoothie periods, fried egg periods and oatmeal periods. She recently reminded me, shaking her head, that we actually fed her French baguette and a bowl of hot chocolate for months on end one year.

This glycemic felony, instigated and committed over and over by me, has to do with my own nostalgia, my own French-girl years, my own bowls of chocolat chaud and tartines. At least she doesn’t have Carnation Instant Breakfast period to recover from. Nor has she endured the great Tang swindle, the sugary orange drink of astronauts. (“Tang sucks.” —Buzz Aldrin.)

Maybe I have been a fickle breakfast eater because I am still looking for the perfect morning meal. Not that there have not been some that stood out; there have been many.

Best service: Amsterdam. Delivered by the hotel owner up steep stairs on an antique tray, in a room full of antiques.

Most surprising: Breakfast served to 900 daily at Disneyland Paris. Fantastic coffee out of machines. And people of all nationalities breaking the rules and making sandwiches out of the breakfast cold cuts as they head into the fray.

Most nerve wracking: Navajo Lake, many years ago, as four of us fire up the espresso pot before climbing El Diente, my first 14er, crampons and ice axes in hand.

Most beautifully wheat-free: Chewy tapioca pancakes and fried eggs in Rio, and thick delicious juices made of mysterious fruits.

Most plentiful: Breakfast buffet at The Lodge at Vail. Gigantic bowls of berries, a sushi station, a smoked fish station and everything else under the sun. By day two, we are jaded. Lesson learned.

Most comforting: Buttered bagel and a coffee, light, from the coffee shop near my job in New York. The bagel is buttered, then toasted on the grill. The coffee, of course, comes in a Greek “Happy to serve you” cup.

Most deeply rooted: Boxed tartines (ready-made toast) and hot chocolate at my grandmother’s small house in Cognac, age 5 or 6. Walking around on the cold tiles with my woolen slippers on, feeling utterly content.

Most consistently thrilling: Any cup of coffee or tea sipped outdoors, first thing, in the morning chill of the mountains.

Most perfect, to date: A big café on the west coast of France, with a black and white tiled floor, at least a hundred chairs, a shiny brass bar, chandeliers and waiters in white jackets. Café au lait, assorted croissants and brioches with butter and jams, and orange juice. Comes with watching the world go by, and it never, ever disappoints, despite piles of wheat.

Nowadays, of course, there are trendy breakfast options for even the most fickle. Ultra juices, smoothie bowls, overnight oats, breakfast parfaits, chia puddings, anything with matcha, savory pancakes, breakfast cookies, avocado toast, Paleo breads.

Me, I have been thinking for many years of a traditional Japanese breakfast. Rice, miso soup, fermented soybean, rolled egg, maybe fish, and green tea. It may mean simply that I have scores and scores of mornings of sugar to counteract. Or — better by far — it may mean a trip is in my future. #hopeso

Dzubble dzutch

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, February 21, 2016

Dear 11-year-old self,

I’m writing you a letter about jumping rope — double Dutch, to be exact. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about the last 10 years, for whatever reason. Yes, 10 years. They go by fast. I have not been cogitating on jump rope, but rather I’ve been noting its recurrent presence in my consciousness. (No, I’m not dumbing this letter down for you, by the way. You’ll just have to do your best with it, big words and all.)

I’m writing you because I know you’re out there somewhere, suspended in time like a hologram, even though it’s beyond me to comprehend how. Nothing is showing up under this rubric on Wiki-How — one of my favorite places on something called the Internet — where you can learn pretty much everything there is to learn. But not quite.

Wiki offers an intro to astral projection, for example, which would take me out of my body to look down on my current body, which might eventually get me to some overview of all the different selves in time. There’s a Wiki explanation on how to embrace your inner child — but that also is not the same as sending a missive to your ever-present pre-teen. They have “How to send a message forward in time,” but nothing about sending one backwards.

Anyway, if you get this letter, you’ll know your 57-year-old self has found you, and you’ll get a sense that maybe every version of your/our self is fully realized somewhere in the Big Right Now. For you, it’d be like an episode of the Twilight Zone, which scared you so much, you’d watch with your hands over your eyes. If you get this letter, you’ll go, “Wow, I’m 57? That’s ancient!” And because I’ll attach a photo (because memory doesn’t work both ways), you’ll then go, “Whoa, too much information!” Believe me, it’s not. What’s too much is how fast time goes by and the mystery of our life’s trajectory, which is like the flash of a comet’s tail streaking across the sky.

As I write, I see you in my mind’s eye. I see the scab on your knee right below where that jumper Mom made you hits. That red and blue plaid jumper you wear all the time. Zipper up the back, white blouse underneath. You don’t wear any jewelry — nothing. You’re either wearing sneakers or some Oxford-type shoe, and they’re pretty well worn. Your hair’s short and tousled and your eyes, notably different colors, have not started to even out yet. Next year, things will all change with Converse and Adidas and Pumas and hot pants and ripped jeans, but that has not happened yet, not in 5th grade. Your 6th grade teacher, Mr. Singleton, has not yet had a heart attack and died in the middle of the year. You haven’t started feeling either super cool or utterly wretched yet.

It’s May in Seattle and it’s breezy.  Despite Vietnam and Woodstock and Nixon and Apollo 11 and the very inception of things like the Internet and microprocessor, things are a lot simpler in 1969.  For you, even though a certain essential quality of childhood has started to fade as puberty begins its sneaky approach, things are still rivetingly adamantine. Look the word up.

I remember your infatuation with that boy, M.K. I remember recess, with its obsessive sessions of tetherball, foursquare and Chinese jump rope and double Dutch. The concrete of the playground, its yellow lines, its jungle gyms and the garbage blown up against the outsides of the chain link fence, where we’d reach our fingers through to pull out gum wrappers for making those chains, also zealously crafted day after day after day. Girls huddled together and then racing around like little flocks of birds. The intense focus of endless days of Chinese jump rope, and then double Dutch.

Nowadays, there are double Dutch championships all over the world. There are kids whose feet move so fast, they hold one riveted, in rapt attention, as if the world’s state of balance is directly dependent on their solid footwork.

So here we are heading for spring, and I’m thinking of double Dutch again.

I am conscious of the incredible poetry of two ropes going opposite directions and a jumper hopping in — jumping, jumping, jumping as the rope’s arc peaks and then drops to touch pavement before scooping it all up again. The beauty of arms rhythmically moving in circles, catching bits of sky and bringing it down as the jumper keeps perfect time. Dzubble dzutch. Dzubble dzutch.

Just asking you to hold that one in your heart.

Sincerely yours,


[Author’s note: “Dzubble dzutch” were words coined in 1981 in “Double Dutch Bus” by Frankie Smith and later The Gap Band. Classic!]

Sign of the Dove

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, February 7, 2016

It’s the early 80s and it’s New York City, still a gritty place with large pockets of swank. I’m a single girl, a young woman who doesn’t hang out in bars much. I have very little money because I work in publishing, an industry notorious, especially back then, for a small modicum of glory and a large amount of low pay. I have tried on yet another brand new oxymoronic look – thrift-store preppy –and I’m still not sure about the Fair Isle sweater and penny loafers.  Not that it’s any more of a stretch than the baggy, bleached Mexi-ponchos I’ve renounced, from my So-Cal college years.

According to my Social Security profile, I make about $9500 per annum during the Bantam Books era and spend roughly $500 on my monthly rent, in an apartment I snag only because I have bribed (unsure how) the newspaper stand guy to give me the real estate section on a Saturday night before the front section of the Sunday paper comes in.

God, I love having an apartment of my own on the Upper East Side, though, even if the bathtub is in the kitchen and the toilet is down the hall. It’s perfection, being in, watching black and white movies on my little TV, hearing sirens, staring through the bars on the windows at the lights of the big city at night. Even getting rejections from the New Yorker…. It’s all so — New York. Anyway. The downside? I’m lonely. I have to force myself to go out and meet people: and how is that going to work?

How will it work when virtually everyone in New York is taken? Not only that, the couples, that are everywhere as far as the eye can see, are perfect couples. Look at them, walking arm in arm in Central Park as the maple leaves swirl and crunch underfoot. And sharing popcorn and Junior Mints at some foreign matinee. Look at them huddled under a single umbrella as they brave the wind to get to the Guggenheim where they will appreciate works of art and then duck out to have a late night snack. Look at them on ferries staring into the distance at the Statue of Liberty, and marching across the Brooklyn Bridge, and window shopping at Bergdorf’s at Christmastime.

What a delicious, dangerous, and easy seduction it is to romanticize everything, from the togetherness of couples to the loneliness of a single person: and I do!  Around Valentine’s Day, when the romanticizing comes to a head, I hole myself up and watch whatever the old movie channel feeds me, falling in, head first, stuffing the gullet of the monster of fantasy. How it should be. How it isn’t. That addictive combination of storyline and brainwashing and vulnerability and hope and constant comparison.

Years later, I give my disease a name, Sign of the Dove Syndrome, after the a restaurant in New York (closed in the late 90s, replaced by a high rise) that I pass and stare at longingly as I walk the 45 blocks home from work, a restaurant filled with elegant people all presumably behaving in better than average ways. In the spring, the gauzy curtains billow and blow out into the street at East 60th, affording glimpses of the enviable world inside. Men in yellow paisley ties. Women in belted dresses and pencil skirts.

What I don’t realize at the time… is a lot! For instance, I don’t realize that for every single man or woman desperately seeking companionship is a companion desperately seeking something more or seeking freedom. That virtually 100 percent of the time, I know nothing about the people I have imposed life stories on, that it has no bearing on any kind of truth except this truth: that I am fantasizing and making stuff up. Something I am quite good at.

Years and miles removed from New York and still in recovery from a life fueled to some degree by fairytales, and fantasies, rom-coms, and popular songs, I am finally beginning to really believe that the romance of life is for the taking – for anyone at all to take — whether we are happily or unhappily attached or happily or unhappily single or somewhere in between. That romance at its best is simply enjoying the great unfolding drama of life – with less longing for what we don’t have and more relishing of what we do.

(And sometimes we have chocolates to relish, it’s true. Whether you buy them yourselves or they’re bought for you.)