Do we see what we want to see?

I’m guessing that only my mother noticed that I skipped last week’s post, but I have a good reason.
I’m in the middle of my second book, thanks to NanoWrimo, November book writing month, which forces you to write 50,000 words in 30 days (that’s about 170 pages double-spaced, fyi). As of an hour ago, I’m at 44,000 words, but with the work week coming back with a vengeance tomorrow after the bubble of a holiday, I’m hoping I will knock out another 6,000 before Thursday. I won’t be done with this draft though, but I’m on my way.
A few months ago I wrote a post, entitled “How do we know what we need?,” and this month, I knew I needed a solitary vacation in order to write my book. A friend of mine graciously offered me her house in the Hamptons, and instead of going away with friends to a sunny locale for my first week off in a year, I rented a car and took my dog to a writing vacation.
My dog grew up in LA. She loves the slippery leather of cars, and she loves the outdoors. If only she could have helped me with directions. I couldn’t find the house at first, and it was getting dark. I circled the poorly marked streets several times, only to discover that the house was at the end of a narrow dirt road, resembling a windy hiking trail.
It was beautiful, two stories, and all glass, the large yard encircled by a chicken wire fence (which my dog promptly slammed into, before taking a retarded skate across the covered pool). After taking my bags upstairs and turning on all the lights, I realized how silent it was; just the wind rustling the trees. My stomach sank, and I had a jolt of apprehension thinking of whether I would fall asleep that night. “This is the setting for a horror movie,” I thought. “Who does this? I’m weird.” My dog licked my face and grunted. She didn’t care that I was scared, but I was glad she was there anyway.
I woke up the following morning to shrieks. I sat up. “An animal is getting eaten right now!” was my first thought. When I looked out the window, my breath caught. A formation of twenty massive black birds, the size of chairs, were standing in the leave littered front yard. I’d post a picture of it but I couldn’t get the sliding doors open in time and my Blackberry got the flash of the glass door instead, just as the birds moved off. I tried googling “big black birds..Hamptons” afterwards, but I’m a bad googler, and later I wondered if I had imagined the whole thing. I’m guessing they were a “murder” (apropos?) of crows, but I preferred they be ravens, as my first book is littered with raven imagery. I wanted to believe this was a positive omen – supporting my writing.
The next three days proved to be heavenly. My dog and I went to the beach, and as she ran around like a psycho, eating random dried up wood and sand, I came up with the structure for my book. I wrote for four hours that afternoon, and then took a good book with me to a restaurant so I could read in peace at the bar. Silly me. Some twice divorced real estate guy in his fifties with OCD (he told me so) chewed my ear off instead of his steak, and an old man (a regular) ate my French Fries.  When I asked them why there was a painting of a crow (or a raven) on the wall next to me, whether that bird was common in the Hamptons, they looked at me like I was the crazy one. But they couldn’t convince me that it wasn’t another sign, of some kind.
So I meant to talk about this last Sunday, but I was busy living my life I guess. For Thanksgiving, I went to my sister’s house and as she was putting the turkey in the oven, I showed my father the shitty picture of the birds on the lawn, and asked him what he thought they were.
“They’re wild turkeys,” he said, matter of factly.
“No… are you sure they’re not ravens?” I asked, hopeful.
“Definitely turkeys,” he said, and patted me on the head.
Leave it to my practical father to burst my convenient little fantasy, I thought. But as I sat around the table with my parents, my sisters and their children shoveling turkey into their mouths, I was filled with gratitude. 
Just like I felt when twenty turkeys woke me on that beautiful fall morning with the promise of good things to come.

Return of the Cougar

When I started this blog, some readers took issue with the term “Cougar.”

“You’re too young to be a Cougar,” and “Cougars are trampy women in their fifties who hunt young guys and just use them for sex,” are some comments I received early on.
My rebuttal was:
1- Cougarism has less to do with age and more to do with having an affinity for younger men whom tend to have less baggage, and are more emotionally available (not to mention, not married.)
2- Hunting is in the eye of the hunter (and huntee). Just because a woman happens to fall for a younger guy, that doesn’t make it some strategic conquest.  They might actually be good together.
3- While I may have had several young boyfriends, I surely never planned it that way. I liked those guys for their personalities (and other things), not their ages.
4- I’m a Cougel anyway, the sweet and mushy kind with old-fashioned Jewish origins.
OK, so none of those relationships worked out so well, and lesson learned, I made a pact to start opening myself up to more age appropriate men. My Jdate profile specifies my ideal match as “34-52.”
But that doesn’t stop the cubs from knockin, or change the fact that some men simply prefer older women. I’d like to believe that those that do are more mature. Women their own age don’t challenge them, or have enough going on in their lives to keep the relationship eventful (drama?) and rich (unstable?).
I guess it is inevitable that after a potential relationship with an older man imploded, I’d start idealizing the appeal of my ex-cubs and consider reaching back out to them. It’s impossible not to compare, or to come off one relationship and react to it by thinking your previous ones had more to them than you realized.
Coincidentally, the young finance cub (“YFC”) I met last month must have sensed where my head was going, because he started texting me again (I was not responsive to his earlier requests).  He didn’t play games or bother with passive aggressive subtexts. He simply wrote: “YFC seeking fit Cougar for libation.” Followed by: “When can I take you out? Let’s make this happen.”
That kind of stuff (humor and candor) goes a long way at any age. But especially for someone ten years my junior….
…who looks fifteen years my junior, I realized when I met him for a drink.  Was it in my head, or was the bartender looking at us funny? And then I saw some colleagues I know having drinks at the other end of the bar, and I considered hiding.
Conversation flowed. Great guy, I thought. The kind of guy with promise for the long term.
I’d go out with him again, but I should I? How many times do you have to burn your hand on the little stove, I thought, before you stop touching it? (I might have even said this to him after our second mai tai).
But “we’ll see,” “you never know,” etc. are my new mantras. Read: openness.
For example, the other night I went to a Jewish Fundraiser (I was invited last minute) at a Greenwhich Village club. I’m normally reluctant to attend such functions because the women there tend to look like they spent days getting ready, hair perfectly curled, and I usually feel like the odd tomboy out. But I was open. You never know, right?
I ended up hanging out with the cool girls at the coat check. And then an employee at the club started chatting me up. He was moving garbage pails around so I’m guessing he wasn’t the manager of the establishment. He was stocky and bespectacled, and in his early thirties.
“I like Cougars,” he said to me.
He proceeded to explain why he loves older women (I happened to agree), that he had been in the military, and has a wife and four children.
“What are you doing here?” he asked me. “You don’t seem like the other girls in there.”
“No kidding,” I said.
“Listen. Go out with me. Winter is coming up. I can keep you warm at night,” he said.
Luckily I could cut to the front of the coat check line without any problems.
So is the Cougar back?
Well I’m definitely not hunting young cubs, but seems to me they couldn’t care less.

Balance. What does that even mean?

Balance. I’ve been struggling with it for months. How do I find time for my job, my friends, my family, furnishing my new apartment, dating, and last but not least, my writing? (and to those of you reading this who have kids too, I’d love to know how you do it!).
Yes I know I blog every Sunday, and it counts as writing, but having survived the process of writing a novel, of seeing a story come to life – in the absence of that, I’ve been feeling flat inside. Like a light has gone off inside my soul (cheesy though it sounds).
“You have no balance,” people have said to me. “Duh,” is my response.
But how does one find it?
I think that sometimes we perceive “balance” as this tangible thing that’s playing hide and seek with us…that’s lurking just around the corner. “If only I could just run right into it, then I’d feel better.”
But of course, that never happens. We have to create our own balance, from inside, via the choices we make, the things we say yes to, and maybe more importantly, the things we say no to.
When I started writing my first book almost four years ago, I had to train myself to say no. I had to respect my personal time, and protect it, whether anyone understood or not. It wasn’t easy at first.  I told my parents, sisters, and friends to pretend that I was getting my law degree part time, on evenings and weekends, and that I wouldn’t have the luxury of hang out time until I was finished. Which came eventually – two agonizing years later.  But it was worth it in the end.
And now? I’m doing it again.
For months now, I had been anticipating the month of November (a coincidence that the word “No” is in it?). November is “National Book Writing Month,” otherwise known as “NaNoWrimo.”  All you have to do is sign up, and then write about 1600 words a day, which multiplied by 30 or so (I’m bad at math), equals about 50,000 words. An entire book.
Sounds easy, right? Or frightening and utterly insane?
Every morning for the past six days (since Nov. 1), I have been getting up early (7am is early for me), and instead of going to the gym, I go to my writing gym (a café). When I first sat down and opened my laptop, I had nothing but a concept, but here I am on Day 6, and I have twenty pages of something that sort of resembles a story. That’s more than I had a week ago. I think some of it sucks. In fact, I know most of it does, but as I write, everything around me disappears. And when I get to my office at the same time I have been for the last nine months, I feel lighter. I feel fed. In other words, I found balance.
A week before NaNo started, as I anticipated beginning, little things around me started to shift. I felt a “click” in my job. I was settling into my new apartment. It started snowing and I felt less obligated to go out all the time. Things didn’t work out with JDate guy. It was as if the universe was listening to me, and decided to give me a break. It rearranged the furnishings of my day to day, and made space for me. But I had set it in motion.
One day at a time. 1600 words at a time.