“You don't just get things” - Life Lessons From a Dog

Some of you may know about my annoying dog voice. No really, it’s squeaky and babyish and irritating,not to mention crass (more on this blog). But my dog doesn’t mind.

When she wants something (food, or…food), and starts salivating when she hears a bag crinkle or a can open, I tell her “Gemma, I don’t care about your feelings!” Which of course is the farthest thing from the truth. gemma begging

I interchange this sentiment with, “Gemma, you don’t just get things.”

It occurred to me the other day, on the heels of some disappointing news that this wisdom applies to more than just a dog begging for food. It applies to us humans. I see parents imparting this on their kids all the time, or at least trying to. Saying no to requests. Like my parents used to say to me when I wanted my fourth sleepover in a row, or a ride to the Rockaway Mall so I could get blue mascara or a second ear piercing (never happened).

“But why not?” I would bemoan.

“Because I said so,” my father would say. Or just, “Because.”

“Ok but give me a reason,” I would negotiate.

“I don’t have to give you reason.” Which would send me off to my room in a crying tizzy.

It only took me close to forty years (like a Jew in the desert who needs reeducating) of tough experiences, of random occurences and unexplainable events, to realize that most of the time, there is no reason.

Most of the time, we don’t just get things. We don’t just get everything we want.

It prompted me to ask myself, what is my “thing” – the main narrative of my life? The thing that I wanted most, that sticks out above all others? My learnings, my writings, have all been divorce and remarriage centric. My first marriage, which consumed my being for all of my twenties and most of my thirties, was my “thing” and when that was no longer, the balance was later righted by finding and getting the thing I wanted (and worked at) the most. My husband, my soul-mate.

But in the other areas of my life – be it my job, or my writing, or even the expected succession of life stages that many of my friends have (marriage in your early thirties, time to hang out, followed by kids) – things don’t always go my way. Or success proves elusive. Sometimes all the hard work I put in, the whining, the yearning and straining – or attempting to manipulate and negotiate events in my favor – doesn’t beget results.

And when that happens, it sucks. It hurts. The thrill and joy of attaining the thing we want most – has an equal and opposite shitty feeling. But maybe that’s the point. It cultivates a deep gratitude.

We don’t just get things – at least not all of them. Maybe we just get one of them – the most important one. And that’s enough. It’s plenty.

But Gemma? I lied. She totally gets everything she wants. All the time.

The real reason behind my writer's blog-block.

Sunday. Just the thought of that word evokes feelings of long brunches, calling mom, and snuggling up on the couch to watch bad TV. For me, it’s blog day. If I haven’t written a blog by Sunday, or haven’t come up with a topic for one, I don’t panic, but I do feel an urgency to get something posted. As most bloggers will say, does anyone really notice? Do they even care? But I do.
So here I am, at 8:30 on a Sunday night, with nothing to say. I was about to post a column I wrote last month – from my back blog of ideas – for times like these. But it didn’t feel right. It felt dishonest. It occurred to me that it’s not that I don’t have anything to say, but that I’m actually not quite sure how to say it, or if I’m ready to.
I met someone. Five weeks ago. I’ve mentioned him briefly in my last few posts, unsure if the relationship was going to develop further, and I figured I’d cross the blog bridge when I got to it. And now I have. 
As I suspected, meeting him changed my outlook. I went to South Beach over the holidays. When I booked that trip, I was single, post break up, and intent on living it up and potentially meeting someone. http://bit.ly/h3tBfz  But after meeting this guy, my agenda changed. I thought we wouldn’t talk while I was away, but we ended up speaking every day, and by the time I got back to NY, we had fallen into a groove. We’ve spent almost every night together since I’ve been back.
So am I in a relationship now? It looks that way. Since I was married for so long, and have only had one significant relationship since (where we were friends first), this kind of progression is new to me. I’ve never actually been with someone whom I went on a date with, then five, then started to lose count, as the relationship organically deepened in a mature and romantic way.
Is he a cub? Well, he’s 9 years younger than me, so technically you could say he is. But when I am with him, I forget. He is wiser, more confident, and manlier than some men in their 40s and 50s. I’ll reserve that topic for a later and more in depth post, but for now, yes, you could say that after my public declaration that I will no longer date younger guys, here I am, doing it again.  Do I feel bad about it? Not at all. Not yet anyway.
Is he, or rather is it my surprise (and joy) that I am suddenly in a relationship, the reason I was stuck today and unsure what to write about? Probably.
Although I write this blog under a pseudonym, many of you who read it know me and are my friends, so this is new territory for me and my blog. I haven’t yet figured out whether I can continue to write about my romantic life, when there is actually someone I care about in it. It’s not the same thing as blogging about a blind date gone bad, or even an ex. This guy knows about my blog, and at my behest, respectfully does not read it.  He doesn’t want our dating to stop me from writing honestly, and he said he doesn’t mind if I write about him, as long as I don’t use his name. But the question is, do I want to expose myself, or taint the delicate stage we are in, of a new blossoming relationship, by putting it out there?
And lastly, I wonder, does it change the focus of my blog altogether, if I’m no longer single?
So I’m asking for advice from my readers. What do you think? Is it time to bring other benign topics back (like Mom, for example), or since the guy is saying he doesn’t care, should I just go for it?

Succsexy. Because success is sexy.

It’s one of those cute little words I thought up tonight that is probably funnier in a group setting, like the long dinner I just had, but I’m still giggling as I write this (could be the wine).  It started because I was explaining how I just started watching Californication, and how sexy I find Hank Moody to be. Yes, he’s classically sexy, but I stumbled because the first thing I wanted to say was he is sexy because he is a successful author. But the words came out all jumbled together. Classic Freudian slip.

I remember when “ugly sexy” was a big thing in the tabloids, or Hollywood, or wherever. When all these “ugly” or unclassically handsome movie stars were hot. They were called “ugly sexy.” Like Al Rickman, way before he was cast as Snipe in the Harry Potter movies (does this show my age? No matter). Okay, how about Harvey Keitel when he stripped naked in “The Piano”? So that was before your time too. But you get my point.

Now there’s a whole new breed of men! Or not. They’re the ones in their forties, fifties, and sixties…Powerful agents, CFO’s, partners in Wall Street firms, Chefs, or even famous published Grandpas. Wait, is Steve Jobs succsexy? With a name like that, he was never meant to be poor and unemployed. My point is, a successful man is and has always been sexy to women. This is not a newsflash.

I met two men tonight at a friend’s birthday dinner. This is a good friend of mine who I’ve known for years, who is established in his own right. But I never deemed him as one who frequented succsexy circles. But the friends that joined him were. On the surface (or on a Jdate profile), I’d dismiss his pals as regular Joes (I think that was one of their names). But no. One of them, a conservative looking fellow in his late twenties, when I asked him, “So what’s your deal, tell me real quick,” did so as follows:  “I graduated West Point then went to Columbia for my MBA then became a Vice President at Meryll Lynch and I just bought a house in the Hamptons.” If that guy isn’t going to have fun this summer, banging every Cougar in Southhampton – having some serious succsex – then I have it all wrong. And all along, two other men, who confirm my theory, were dining at the table next to us. Chris Noth and Zach Lalalapolis, the funny hairy Greek comedian from “The Hangover,” who no longer needs a last name because he’s been indicted into Succsexy’s Hall of Fame (I didn’t mean to rhyme just then.)

But are successful women sexy to men? That’s what I want to know. I mean, they are sexy from afar. If you have an interview with them, or see them at a movie premiere or in high heels representing you in your divorce. But I’m wondering if men want to actually marry them. Is a powerful women too succsexy for a long term relationship?

Does succsexy work in reverse? Did it ever?

It would be nice to bring succsexy back (okay I said it).

And all along, I've been married to my novel...

So far this blog has been about my relationships: with my parents, sisters, young cubs, and with myself. But I haven’t written about the biggest relationship I’ve been in over the past three years, my novel. 
When I first decided to write “The Virgin Wife” (oddly, the title came to me before the story did) it wasn’t what you’d call a decision. It was just a feeling, like an imperative. Something I had to do. I didn’t set out to write it because I wished I could write a novel and look cool doing it, or because it would be easy (hell no), or a saleable idea that could make me famous.  Nor was it a spiteful act against people by whom I felt wronged (we are all guilty of that, understandably so). I wasn’t given a say in the matter. In a way, the book decided for me.  I was about to try to explain what I mean, but why bother when we have Virginia Woolf, who said: “I believe the main thing in beginning a novel is to feel, not that you can write it, but that it exists on the far side of a gulf which words can’t cross.”
My novel is somewhat autobiographical (please contain your surprise), and the desire to tell my story in order to confront and make peace with my past, was a key driver, albeit a subconscious one.  I credit the teacher I had in my first writing workshop, when I still lived in LA, when the story was just a seed, buried six feet under, for inspiring me to take the leap. I believed, like most people do, that what I had been through was not all that interesting or exciting, and why would people care? She said, “You are the expert on your life in a way that no one else is. Only you intimately know the landscape of your experience and the people in your life, your family, your spouse, yourself, and that perspective is unique.” Weird how that was all it took, but yet I went home and wrote the first five pages of my novel that night. Ironically, they are no longer in the book. But writing them crystallized the essence and tone of the book onto the page, and into being.
I moved back to NY shortly after, and spent the next three years working on it. No no, that doesn’t mean I sat at my desk every day for three years. By work on it, I mean it worked on me. It felt as if some kind of eradicable bug or beast had abruptly taken residence in my psyche and could not be placated.  It poked at me, chattered in my ear when I was trying to sleep, made me doubt myself and caused me to be depressed for days and weeks without providing me with a legitimate reason. It performed summersaults and triathlons in the arena that was my head to get my attention while I was trying to be present at work, or out with friends, making me feel and seem like a restless freak.  The only times the book beast was satisfied was when I paid attention to it and took it for a walk around my laptop.  For a few hours, we were in harmony, a happy couple, buzzing together in a kind of meditative bliss.  But then I’d close the laptop and try to go do something else, and the f*cker would resume its tantrum throwing all over again. 
I’m tempted to walk you through the rest of the timeline, tell you a bit more about this beast, my child in a way, and our journey together leading up to where I am today. I could break it down for you into some kind of equation, in the following manner: Shitty pages and false starts = six months. First draft = one year. Second draft = another year. Waiting for feedback = I lost count. But then I realized, that I’m terrible at math. And secondly, in light of the exciting news I got yesterday, the past feels remote. I’m not going to go backwards. I should not go backwards.
I sent my novel out to agents five week ago, after a triumphant cross over an illusive finish line, a perpetually moving target, and waited. In agony. How could I not? You don’t’ plant a seed, research special fertilizer, stand over it and water it, and then finally see it grow, and then not give a shit about its well being. But then miraculously, while I was waiting, the beast finally gave up, shut up, and went to sleep. It was in a coma. Waiting to be called back into action. For this I was grateful. A reprieve, time to live my life, focus on other things (things you have been reading about, because I was freed up to write this blog). But all along, I was waiting. Now I understand why I pulled my back, why my knees and wrists hurt. It’s from all that finger and toe crossing. What kind of superstition is that, appropriate only for Olympic gymnasts?
Then I started to receive some passes. Which sent me down a spiral of despair (duh) and questions such as ‘Will this ever see the light of day? Will all of that soul pouring onto the page and agonizing duels with the beast, ever pay off?’
I had to fly to LA for 36 hours for work. LA is where I used to live, in what I call my “previous life,” where my novel is set. I’ve been here a bunch since then, and this time, when I landed, I felt a release from that life. Nostalgia had been put to rest alongside the beast.
And then, with my phone dying, in my hotel room, I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. Without getting into it, because the details don’t matter, it was from a literary agent who finished my book. She liked it.  She got it. She believed in it.
There are too many intersecting feelings and thoughts about that moment and the hours that followed, all overwhelming and emotional. I don’t have the capacity to explain them here, nor do I feel like trying to put those feelings into words. I guess finally, I want to take a break from that.
Pacing on the thick hotel carpet, then sitting, then pacing again, unsure what to do with myself, of course I called my mother, and my friends. My amazing friends. Especially my girlfriend who is a writer too, the special kind who despite her own successes and doubts, doesn’t have a catty cell in her and is the one who referred me to this agent in the first place. I don’t know many women like that, because they are rare. This isn’t cynicism, it’s called gratitude.
Amidst all the excitement, there was a reoccurring theme, called change. There is a great phrase in Hebrew, “Change your place, and you change your luck.” I changed my place as those of you reading this know. But I don’t think it was about changing my address. It was about its underlying motivation. About changing my attitude, my outlook, and being ready for whatever the universe was going to bring. Actually, I don’t believe in luck. Three times today I heard “all you need is a little luck and timing.” I believe that bad luck exists, and can mess you up. But good luck…it isn’t luck at all. It’s about acting and living according to what we want, from a place of truth and heart, and if we do that, then good things will flow out from there, in the form of this intangible amazing thing we call luck.
This post is a bit of a departure for me. Perhaps a little more serious. It’s late, I’m in a hotel room, and thinking back on the past day and the promise of what lies ahead. I guess this is a defining moment, casting a light on the past, and revealing that I’ve been somewhat adrift. Sometimes, we can’t view it in sharp relief until we’ve reached the next dock, the next place to drop our anchor.
Or in my wise and hilarious mothers words, when she heard my good news, she said, “Finally, finally, Baby Moses has reached the shore.”