Music of My Life

I’ve often imagined myself walking through the streets of Manhattan, a la Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” with a cup of coffee in my hand and the refrain of “Moon River” playing over me. Or I was more like Mary Tyler Moore, tossing my Tam o’ Shanter cap in the air to the tune of, “You’re going to make it after all.” Continue reading

Mama’s Eyes

Mama’s Eyes

Once again it is May. Seems to come every year at this time. Winter’s grasp finally gone. Somewhere Corn flowers and Stargazers are in bloom. Somewhere a baby Blue Jay is spreading its wings for the first time. Days get longer, evenings warmer. Salty ocean air feels good on my face.

So why is there a pall hanging over me this month? Why do I feel this heavy pang?

Oh yes. This is the month my mother died. A shock, a jolt, a stupefying blow to my gut.

I didn’t see it coming. Continue reading

The Road Taken: Swimming Upstream

Chapter 10:  It sucks to be me. That’s what I kept telling myself when the happy wanderers arrived at our doorstep. Joanie and Spock. Only Joanie wasn’t so happy.

She was practically in a tailspin from having driven seven hours straight without stopping.

Salmon, swimming upstream.

“Damn that Spock,” blurted Joanie, as she dumped her suitcases and shopping bags in the middle of our living room floor.  “The toilet wasn’t working on the RV and I told him I needed to pee, but he kept saying we’re almost there. Almost? That was 5 hours ago!”

She hugged me tightly. It’d been a long time, and I stiffened slightly. She must have felt it, because she put her hands on my shoulders and looked me squarely in the eye.

“You’re not still mad about the trip, are you? I told you I’d pay you back.”

She was referring to the $250 I’d given her to put toward the purchase of the RV so we could go on our cross-country trip. Only she canceled the trip at the last minute.

“Hey, what kind of place is this, anyway? What happened to the sunlight?”

Joanie had just noticed how dark it was inside our home, even in the middle of the day.  I switched on a light, and pointed Joanie in the direction of the bathroom. Meanwhile, G and Spock were brought in the rest of their belongings.

“So what are your plans, Joanie?” I asked as nonchalantly as possible, as soon as she came out of the bathroom.  “Now that you’re here, I mean.”

She looked at me askance. “Well, we’re taking the RV up to Vancouver, BC, for some sightseeing. Why do you ask?”

Spock walked in, carrying yet another box. He shot a wary glance at Joanie who ignored him, then said,

“Don’t worry, Monica, we’re not staying here. Just leaving our stuff. G said it’d be ok. When we get back from British Columbia, we’ll find a place and be out of your hair.”

I liked Spock. He was a mild-mannered, easy going sort of guy. He was also completely devoted to Joanie. You could see it in his eyes, the way he looked at her.

“With any luck we’ll even find a place close to you, so thanks for letting us keep our stuff here,” Spock added with a wink.

I looked at G who simply shrugged. “I didn’t think you’d mind, so I said it’d be ok.”

“Of course, it’s ok,” Joanie interjected. “Monica doesn’t mind.” Then, looking at me directly, she added, “And don’t worry about the RV money.  I’ll pay you back as soon as I’m able. Promise.”

Joanie came from money.  Her parents owned land in the Rockies, including a few buildings in downtown Denver, so she never lacked for it. Which was why she and Spock didn’t have to worry about working. Joanie had a trust fund and that gave them plenty of leeway to follow their dreams and whims. Like moving to Seattle.

While G and Spock gathered their gear into the room that was supposed to be our study and guestroom, I pulled out a Carly Simon album, “No Secrets” and placed it on the turntable.  Joanie dug through one of her suitcases and grabbed a sandwich-sized bag of pot. Sitting down at the kitchen table, she rolled a joint, with the precision of a Cuban cigar maker. Ah, memories of college started flooding back! I realized then that some of us were still stuck back at school.

I could not roll a joint to save my life, but Joanie was a professional. Back and forth she rolled until she had a very tight joint. Licking the edge, she lit it, took a hit and passed it to me.  I shook my head.

She looked surprised. “Come on. Let’s have some fun!”

“Joanie, I have to work tomorrow.”

“Oh, whatever.” She shrugged and took another hit.

I could hear G and Spock in the other room, heaving and stacking boxes.  “Let’s put this one on top,” G was saying.

Joanie leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes. I calculated how soon before she’d be having the munchies. No doubt, once the boys finished organizing, they’d be getting high too. In anticipation, I pulled out a box of sesame crackers from the cabinet, along with some Swiss cheese and leftover salmon filets from the fridge. G and I had gone, the day before, to Pike Place Market and stocked up on our favorites, salmon being one of them.

I had never tried salmon until I moved to Seattle and now it had become our mainstay. Salmon–grilled, baked, fried or smoked. Alder wood smoked salmon was by far the best. Seattle seemed to be the salmon capitol of the world. You could even watch them swim upstream at the Ballard Locks, not too far from where we lived. Fascinating creatures, these salmon are, determined to go against the grain, pushing upstream, against all odds, just so they could lay their eggs.

As I carefully placed the crackers on a plate, and sliced the cheese, Joanie said abruptly, “You know, if I didn’t have Spock, I might be married to G right now.”

I dropped the cheese slicer and looked at her quizzically. She looked so comfortable and at ease in my small kitchen, that seemed to be shrinking with every second passing. I could hear Carly Simon singing, “You’re so Vain,” and I wondered for the umpteenth time, exactly who she was singing about.

Joanie continued. “Yep, freshman year, G definitely had the hots for me.”  She said, “Hots” slowly, mouthing the word in an exaggerated way, then adding coyly, “We made out once and, well, you know.”

I felt my cheeks burn. I didn’t know what she meant or why she was telling me this.  But before I could say anything, G and Spock sauntered in. Spock turned to Joanie and asked,

“Babe, you talking to me yet? Cause we’ve finished unloading the RV and I’m ready to get high.”

Joanie gave a little Cheshire-cat smile and nodded. She handed him the joint. Slowly, he inhaled, then passed it on to G.  I watched G take a hit, hold it for a few moments, then gradually, he blew it in my face. I didn’t say a word. G then bent over and gently kissed my forehead.  And when he did, I’m pretty sure he didn’t notice, that inside, I was swimming like a salmon. Upstream, and against a rush of cold water.

Missed a chapter? You can read past installments, by visiting the page, titled, The Road Taken.

Songs in the Key of Divorce

When I was a kid I’d imagine a soundtrack to my life, just like the people in the movies. When Audrey Hepburn goes traipsing through the streets of New York, Henry Mancini‘s haunting melody, Moon River, follows her all the way to Tiffany’s. It’s the same for John Voight and Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, only this time it’s Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talkin’.

So why not a soundtrack for me as I jauntily made my way through the streets of Flushing, New York? No such luck.  Henry Mancini wouldn’t give me the time of day. Ditto for Harry Nilsson. And forget John Williams. My Star Wars theme song just wasn’t in the cards.

But then something happened when my divorce was larger than life—consuming every waking moment—and haunting my dead-of-night dreams. Hands down, this was one of the most agonizing, unforgiving chapters of my life.

And so I invented my own soundtrack.  One created out of necessity, to help me cope and find sanity—and a bit of comfort, too. There are many stages in divorce and, lucky me, I didn’t miss a single one. So herewith are the songs that accompanied me during each of these phases:

Phase One: Shock, Denial  – Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You

Whitney Houston’s songs in The Bodyguard soundtrack got me through this stage. I was still having strong feelings for my ex, despite his shameless ways. I was still in denial that my marriage was over and my damn heart wasn’t ready to believe the worst, let alone move on. Perhaps, I needed Cher to yell at me to “SNAP OUT OF IT!” Sans that, Whitney voiced my emotions best.

Phase Two: Mourning – Carly Simon’s Coming Around Again

This was the period when Carly Simon’s songs from the film, Heartburn, became my constant companion. In Heartburn, Meryl’s character is pregnant and married to Jack Nicholson, a louse who cheats on her. Boy, could I relate! I wasn’t pregnant but, at the time, my youngest was still in diapers. A lot of the songs on this album are empowering, including my favorite, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, which is a twist on the childhood ditty. Coming Around Again gave me the kind of hope that springs eternal, representing my “I’m-a-survivor-like-Meryl-Street-in-Heartburn” period. It also showed me that the only solution to my divorce hell was the one that involved leaving my marriage behind, and moving on.

Phase Three: Rebuilding and S-l-o-w-l-y Moving On – Sting’s album, Ten Summoner’s Tales.

Can you believe I never listened to Sting before my divorce? Sure, I was familiar with The Police, but  Sting was already on his own and my marriage was unraveling around the time that this album came out. These songs put me in a different state of mind, making me feel like I was worth something. Sting’s music helped me rebuild my shattered self-esteem. Songs like, She’s Too Good for Me and Fields of Gold.

Phase Four: On My Own – U-2’s Joshua Tree

Pre-divorce, the only Bono I knew of was Sonny. But Bono of U-2 fame became my latest obsession after hearing a duet he sang with Frank Sinatra on, I’ve Got You Under My Skin. And boy, did Bono get under my skin, with his ultra sexy, bedroom voice.  I couldn’t get enough of this guy and then my friend Hellen, told me about U-2 and gave me the Joshua Tree CD. One play and I was smitten. Three songs made all the difference for me:  Where the Streets Have No Name, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, and With or Without You.

Phase Five: The Single Life—or to Hell with Being Married! – Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell II

Some may find this hard to believe, but during this time, I became a Meat Loaf junkie. Bat Out of Hell became my anthem.  Thanks to a gym I belonged to, where they’d play Meat Loaf constantly during some intense step classes, I became a dancing queen, finding new joy in my singleton life.  Best songs on this album include: I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That), Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire, and Good Girls Go to Heaven (Bad Girls Go Everywhere).

The songs I chose to listen to became a part of my therapy and ultimately contributed to my healing.  So for all of you currently going through your divorces, or just thinking about it, now you have my “Divorce is Hell” playlist to add to your iTunes library.  Consider it my gift to you. Trust me, you’ll feel better.  And, you’ll also owe me one. So, you’re welcome.