Monday, February 7, 2011

the old man and the red sweatshirt woman

i keep playing it back in my mind in slow motion. in real-time, though, it happened so quickly. the roar of the crowd. the pounding of footsteps on pavement as racers held the finish line in their sights just fifty yards ahead. metal crowd separators stood between us and the runners in the lanes leading them just fifty yards ahead to the finish line. on the far side, separated by red ticker-tape were the marathoners in their own lane. on the near side, closest to me were the half-marathoners, so close to finishing, yet so far away. my eyes scanned for a single familiar face as i stood on my tippy toes and watched too many strangers to count run by.

a man in his late fifties or early sixties as he came into my sight, as if i was meant to see him. just as he passed my foothold in the crowd outside his running lane, i watched his body pause and head almost snap back. he dropped to the ground and i saw, heard, felt his head smack the asphalt. his body lay limp for a single second before he began to convulse. is anyone else watching this? i looked around as the women huddled next to me in search of their own family member or friend looked on in horror. several runners stopped and kneeled next to the man, unsure of what to do or how to help.

i gasped for air, feeling claustrophobic but unable to move or look away or close my eyes. someone yelled for a medic. the man seized again and i felt tears streaming down my face, and a rock in my throat, which must've risen from the pit of my stomach where it sat quietly just moments before. a medical team arrived and asked everyone to step away. people around the man scuffled and scattered. a woman kneeling next to the man did not get up, but continued whatever she was doing. a medic must've asked her to step away again, because she yelled, "i'm a nurse and a paramedic, i know what i'm doing!" more scuffling as the medic came in closer and allowed the nurse to continue working while he asked her questions to understand the man's situation.

i looked on and saw the man had stopped moving. complete stillness. a woman next to me said, "oh god, i think he's dead." i don't know what possessed me to look back over but when i did i saw the man lying limp, except for the movements from the nurse performing cpr on him. i turned away and didn't look back.

just as i turned away from the scene, erin returned from her search for our first friend to cross the finish line to report that she lost him in the chaos beyond the finish line. she asked if i'd seen our other friend and i said, "no," then explained that a man had passed out right in front of me, cracked his head on the pavement in seizures and now they were giving him cpr. tears had been on my cheeks, but now i couldn't contain my sobs and erin pulled me away from the crowd to console me.

i sobbed uncontrollably in her arms for what seemed like forever, thinking to myself, stop being so stupid, dian! you don't even know the guy. i paused for a moment, lifted my head and said, "i can't see that man die, we have to go now," then dropped my head again and wailed more sobs into erin's shoulder. she tried to honor my request and back me away, but my legs would not move.

once my emotions were somewhat under control, we walked forty feet closer to the finish line and stood back from the fence, where we could still see racers pass by, but where the crowd also blocked my view of the man and his cpr administration. i stood facing the race lane, near catatonic as visions of my father flooded my mind.

seizures in the hospital. seizures that started in the early afternoon and got progressively worse until 3am, but didn't subside completely until after 6am. seizures i documented from 10pm to 5am, cataloging length, intensity, and interval. seizures i witness alone while the rest of the family slept comfortably in their beds like i'd asked them to. seizures i thought i'd moved past, more than five years after his death. seizures i now knew i would never forget.

just to my right, a woman in a red sweatshirt slunk down to her butt and held on to the legs of a woman in a white sweatshirt standing next to her to keep her from falling completely to the ground. the white sweatshirt woman removed her sweatshirt, folded it up and put it under the red sweatshirt woman's head for comfort. a police officer walked past and asked the women if they were okay. he spoke into the speaker/microphone attached to his shoulder, an extension of the walkie talkie on his belt and calls for paramedics.

just after an ambulance pulled up to the scene, erin overheard someone say something about an iv. she looked over to the area the medics had been tending to the man to see the paramedics were preparing to load the man onto a stretcher. the red sweatshirt woman next to me seemed to be fine, although she would also be loaded onto a stretcher for further precautionary evaluation.

it was super bowl sunday, and we had plans to watch the game at a friend's house later in the day. the thought of laughing and cheering being anywhere other than on my couch with my girl and my dog made my stomach churn. erin canceled our plans on my behalf and held me tight. my heart pounded as i thought about the man getting on the stretcher and being taken away. i was relieved to think he'd survived. a wave of tears came and i let them. no sobs, no sounds, just tears, and the slight rise of another lump in my throat. both the tears and the lump subsided within sixty seconds and i focused on the race again, attempting to pause the loop of my father's seizures.

erin's face lit up and she screamed our friend's name. i followed her lead and found myself surprised to be hooting and hollering right along with her, "wooohoo! yeah, you did it!" in between whistles and clapping, the ring on my middle finger slapping up against the bones on the inside of my palm. erin grabbed my hand and asked if i was ready to go find them.

i was ready. ready to leave the man in his ambulance on his way to recovery. ready to leave the red sweatshirt woman in the care of the white sweatshirt woman and the paramedics. ready to leave my father's seizures and my heavy heart at the finish line and move on to whatever was next.

we found our friends, congratulated them on their half marathon finishes, and chatted for an hour before heading back to our respective homes. erin and i stopped for lunch on the way home and i continued to process the morning's events. i apologized for bringing up the man and the sound of his head hitting the pavement and his seizures again, but i needed to process it all, rather than let the tape of my father's seizures continue to loop in my head. she held my hand and let me talk, let me cry, let me be.


as i sit here this morning trying to put everything together and make sense of yesterday's events, i'm struck by just how random life really is. that man woke up yesterday morning to run a half marathon, and instead got within fifty yards of finishing to be taken away in an ambulance, barely clinging to life. a woman woke up yesterday morning, put on her red sweatshirt to cheer on a friend or family member, and passed out on the sidelines, missing whomever she'd been cheering on.

and me, i woke up thinking i'd do some cheering, some eating, some more cheering and more eating, surrounded by friends. instead i was reminded of just how fragile life is, how sacred the space on my couch is, and how my memory isn't about what's important, but what's impacted me the most, no matter how much i try to forget.


sometimes we're the old man who's so close to finishing, and life takes over with its own agenda. sometimes we're the woman in the red sweatshirt who pushes herself too hard for the sake of another, doing more damage to ourselves than good for another. and sometimes we're the innocent bystander who watches it all and tries to piece the learning together for the good of us all.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Detox Tea, Unknown Release, and Being a Better Person for No Apparent Reason at All

it's been windy most of the early afternoon. rainy most of last night, although just enough to send a few drops every other second maddeningly down the rain gutter from the top of the second floor to the base of the house, just outside the bedroom.

haven't been sleeping well lately. been drinking detox tea this past week and i believe it's working. slowly, but surely. i listened to a detox meditation track a couple of days ago while i focused on a single word: release. it worked.

i bawled uncontrollably for nearly twenty minutes. other than the tears and gut wrenching cries, i have no idea what i released. i was grateful to be at home alone. grateful to have a puppy to lick my tears when it was all over. and grateful that i didn't feel sad or weepy for a single second after the meditation was over.

detox. i almost don't know what i'm detoxing from. i know i have things to release, i can feel it in my bones. i just don't know what i need to release. i'm fine with not knowing. it's kind of like tossing a box in the garage after not opening it for two or twelve years.

i can sense i'm in the middle of a great shift. i'll look back on this period in my life and know that this was when things started to change for me. again. funny thing is, i thought things could only change for the better when everything was falling apart. it's almost odd that nothing is falling apart, and still i'm in deep need of release, in this deep bend into a shift.

i'm tired of spending time on things that don't matter. i'm tired of making up reasons to do things, as if they do matter. i'm tired of idolizing a minimalist life. i'm tired of walking along pretending i'm getting accustomed to all the changes in my life over the last few years. i'm accustomed. and it's time for more change, more growth.

in a space of clarity around what's important to me: family, friends-that-are-like-family, animals-that-are-family, my health, laughter, being myself, and growth, i see spaces of comfort, spaces of resistance, spaces of longing, and room for exploration.

this is no mid-life crisis. i am not leaving anyone, i'm not dissatisfied with my life or relationship, and i'm not in need of a brand new shiny car to prove to myself that i'm not getting any older.

i just want to be a better person today than i was yesterday. and a better person tomorrow than i am today.

it's not that i'm not good enough or that i'm trying to be perfect. i guess it's more that gravity is what it is, and i feel pulled. i am not a moth pulled toward a flame, drawn to my own demise by forces i don't understand. i am a person pulled toward the universe, drawn to my expansion by my own intuition.

i don't need to fall apart to understand that. at least, not today.

Friday, October 8, 2010

a mother's love reflected

it's amazing to me how fuzzy everything gets when i try to look back on the past. memory no longer has a bright eye but a faded smile, or is it a grimace, a wince, a sober silence locked away while i swallow the key and peer beyond a ship over a foggy ocean?

i'm writing stories of my childhood in working on my next book. stories of my mother's desperate tries to be a good parent, of my desperate tries to be a good daughter, and stories of failing miserably, both her and i. but we were only human, what else could we expect?

i look back and see a mother who was trying so hard to be liked, to be loved, and by people who didn't know how to like or love anything or anyone that wasn't money in the bank, a sly, stiff drink, or another man who knew how to handle his power. she wanted to be loved by people who tried to love, but were just no good at it, so i think they stopped trying, only my mother never seemed to notice. this is the problem with always seeing the good in people.

we hold these truths to be self-evident, but we shield our eyes from the light of that truth and look away when it's too hard to bear. so many times i see a mother who could have changed everything, and refused to try until it was too late, and that last attempt did, in fact, change everything.

but i can't imagine a life that was changed by an action that never happened, a life that never was. i used to dream of a place where my mother was still alive, where she cared more about me than she did about being loved by people who would never love her, where she cared more about herself than being wrong. but i know this place does not exist, and so i stay in the world i've created, here in the now, the present, the life of love and truth and what's real, and right here in front of me.

love never dies. only people do. i love my mother even more fiercely now than i ever have before. in part because i love my self more fiercely now than i ever have before. i recognize that her actions did not reflect her love for me, only her lack of love for her self. i don't pity her, i learn from her, and i love her. as i always have, as i always will.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

And So We All Grow

the days go by slower and slower,
and still they seem to be gone in a swallow.
the sun rises, the sun sets,
the tides ebb, the tides flow,
the moon waxes, the moon wanes.
the same cycles over and over again,
and yet,
we are never the same person,
over and over again.

we say we haven't changed,
but we always are,
we always do.
we say we want things to remin the same.
we say we want stability.
what we want is change because what we want
is growth.

but remember when we were growing up
and our bones hurt
because they were growing
and changing?
that's the way of life.
it's not meant to feel good all the time,
it's meant to be lived.

we go through life standing up and sitting down
and building up and tearing down
and sitting still and standing tall
and raising fists and raising masks.
we are who we are each day and on and on,
and that person is never again
the same as we are right now.
we are like the glass of wine that is different with each sip,
as each moment the air changes the flavor of the grape.
the layers are exfoliated by oxygen and movement,
and oh so are we.

something is wrong when we want things to stay the same,
when the status quo is enough,
when it's all we strive for.
something is right when we're in search of something more,
something greater,
something different.

we are not unhappy with who we are or where we are,
we are simply curious beings, and want to know what else is out there.
we want to know how things work,
understand the meaning of the unknowns of the world.
this does not make us pessimists or unfaithful,
this makes us the curious children we were born as,
and maybe some of us
just forgot how to be curious.

maybe it felt good to know something
and so we got stuck in knowing
and being inside the box of understanding
what was happening.
and so we got comfortable and set up camp
and forgot it was camp,
and stayed forever.

we are living in our mud walls,
thinking they are concrete.
the walls of our minds are not concrete,
they are matter.
they are fluid.
they are ever changing and curious.
they are always seeking more.
they are always hungry for what's next.

and we are not dissatisfied when we are curious about what else is out there,
we are in fact so satisfied,
that we can't help but want more of that satisfaction
of finding out
what else will work
in our lives.

i believe this with every fiber of my being.

so this is the way of the world.
the river flowing, up and down and in and out.
the river dries up, the river overflows.
the river beholds an ancient truth of allowing what is to be, and seeing what else is up around the bend.
the river is all knowing and wise.
and it is fed by its mother,
the ocean,
and it feeds its mother,
the ocean.
and it all comes from the same place,
the wonderful vast universe of water and evaporation
and clouds and rain,
the cycle that began it all that we know almost nothing about,
it would seem.

and so we wonder,
what is next
and because we don't know,
we have fear
because we have forgotten what it's like to be
we have been taught to fear the unknown,
rather than embrace it.
we associate the unknown with dark alleys
and scary men with no boundaries.
we associate the unknown with lies and bitterness
and fake smiles to take something from us.
it's not that we ought to believe everything we hear,
or walk down every dark alley.
it's that we ought to trust ourselves,
our gut,
our intuition,
and still
move forward.

maybe it means choosing a different walkway or person to work with,
but it can't mean choosing the same old familiar things
day in and day out
simply because it's what we know.

when we set out to strand ourselves on an island of the unknown,
bring with us those things, those people that are familiar to us,
that give us comfort.
and so we still grow,
we still change,
and we grow
with those familiar people,
with those comforts of home,
and so they grow, too.

and so we all grow.

Monday, August 23, 2010

what's hers is hers

my girl's grandmother passed away this week. mum. i only met her a few times. she's the kind of woman you instantly fall in love with. proper in her manners, sweet in her demeanor, and fierce in her love and respect for her granddaughter.

the last time we saw mum was over skype. she was in aww at how the picture on the screen was really us all the way over here in california. she got to "meet" jackson and share a space of love and smiles over the mysterious waves of the internet. for that, i will always be grateful to skype.

it kills me to see my girl's heart so broken. i don't know what to do for her, i don't know what to say. i can go through my own pain, but how do i just sit here and let her go through hers?

i'm trying not to let my grief overshadow hers. this is her loss, and even though i feel an ounce of it, too, i have to remind myself of my role in her grief: support; love; kisses; space; shoulder; tissue giver; ear; head rest; and more love.

i can't speak to what she's going through because i know we all process grief differently. i can only marvel at how she's actually processing it. it's so different from my own family's way of getting through death. they cover it up with "being strong" and "sucking it up" and "moving on".

erin said, "i'm gonna call my mom now," after spending a few tears on my shoulder. a few years ago i might have been jealous that she has a mother to call. today i was grateful. grateful that she has a mother to call, grateful that i just adore that mother, and grateful that their relationship is one where they can process through their grief together. it's a special bond, and i'm grateful to be a witness to it all.

true strength shows up in feeling the pain and moving through it. true strength shows up in breaking down and letting it all out whenever that wave hits you. true strength is moving through it, whatever it may be, and not figuring out how to maneuver around it.

i'm eternally grateful for this gift of being able to see erin's true strength shine. and a little piece of me hopes i never have to see it again.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

750 words write mind

this morning i did a little word-association exercise via

as i read through the 750 words, some combinations made sense while others seemed to come out of nowhere. i tried not to repeat any words, but even after reading through the list a couple of times, i began to see words melding together and my thoughts drifted to other words i could have used instead. the mind of a writer, indeed.

tired. weary. gray. hot. slummy. wild. heart. brilliant. being. ornery. flagrant. foul. chicken. bugawck. lenient. principal. order. way. stuff. turkey. thanks. many. lots. parking. beach. sand. ocean. waves. baseball. sports. announcers. costas. rica. quote. letter. blog. paragraph. seo. daily. new. keyword. adword. google. adhere. blunt. brief. point. boxers. hanes. shirts. bacon. wrapped. present. christmas. mom. dad. cancer. life. death. grandma. grandpa. old. new. baby. twins. boys. born. living. still. calm. peace. tranquil. serenity. movie. lines. ropes. carpet. red. pop. corn. blue. chips. stock. market. store. ralph. grocer. butcher. play. kids. playground. swings. summer. swimming. pool. lifeguard. station. hut. ramp. on. off. freeway. lion. cage. roar. anger. freeing. liberation. 2010. y2k. bozos. earthquake. water. shutoff. valve. gas. fire. burn. ash. smoke. cigarette. stink. lungs. rot. decay. cay. timoty. island. trees. palm. coconut. frond. pineapple. hawaii. vacation. surfing. honolulu. relax. chill. solitude. massage. warm. cozy. cove. rocks. salt. fish. shark. dolphin. anew. seek. ice. fall. pick. battles. wars. wage. economy. down. south. north. pole. arctic. bears. polar. iceberg. warming. global. earth. planet. green. cycle. bike. walk. carbon. footprint. reduce. around. high. crack. home. less. restrict. aware. awake. arrest. police. car. truck. suv. trip. drive. road. asphalt. concrete. jungle. monkey. chimp. words. sign. language. shift. thinking. believe. animal. nature. instinct. intuition. gut. wrench. plumber. pipes. clogged. twist. snake. swamp. aligator. crocodile. chocodile. junk. eat. ack. hack. vomit. sick. heal. meditate. mind. brain. activity. stagnant. bliss. achieve. excel. blow. corporate. exact. enough. never. much. always. depth. need. skill. cohesive. communicate. swear. passive. agressive. type. keyboard. click. tap. nudge. push. pull. ebb. flow. speed. meth. capital. washington. dc. comics. books. cartoons. daffy. duck. bugs. bunny. wabbit. elmer. glue. hold. together. smile. laugh. one. all. we. us. our. common. ground. electric. youth. elder. generation. x. y. chromosome. genetics. healthy. disease. decide. choice. pregnant. not. early. late. embryo. life. rights. taken. away. afar. women. man. stick. stone. break. bone. fix. necessary. no. leave. now. alone. free. bird. fly. plane. superman. superhero. out. crowd. afraid. allure. magazine. pages. rip. shred. tear. up. aloof. sacred. feminine. genuine. real. authentic. you. yourself. have. pink. nose. edge. inside. outside. fear. claw. scratch. door. foot. wedge. butt. pant. leg. naked. truth. elephant. room. lie. white. slave. driver. daisy. miss. pushing. under. six. feet. grave. digger. shallow. rain. feel. drink. one. more. grace. gone. camera. canyon. left. sunset. rise. occasion. falter. help. hand. finger. nail. head. own. responsible. child. latchkey. pots. pans. cook. self. alcoholic. mother. cows. moo. hill. pout. shit. lip. steal. thief. heart. whisker. thick. poke. through. me. jog. mile. eight. seven. countdown. celebrate. party. 1999. over. under. gamble. lose. nothing. back. shirt. shoes. flip. flop. waver. waiver. clause. contract. deal. card. cookie. crumble. behave. consequence. yawn. teeth. growl. bark. carve. name. love. knife. sword. daggar. cuts. deep. seated. set. broken. doctor. nurse. soccer. bask. glory. raise. arms. glee. sing. pop. culture. cult. classic. shining. jack. dull. boy. donor. marrow. plates. blood. family. ties. thicker. bleed. red. rant. rave. reviews. moral. judgment. ethic. vote. judge. save. constitution. civil. case. hook. sinker. comedy. show. tell. ask. don't. realize. blinders. horse. ass. tail. swat. flat. tummy. saggy. boob. tv. program. remote. control. authority. fought. law. won. johhny. cougar. melons. camp. tent. stake. mallet. mullet. lame. hair. trim. lesbian. landscape. brow. furrow. gag. spoon. shoplift. pootie. jerry. tom. couch. crazy. misfit. mishap. weave. web. charlotte. genius. bar. draught. beer. lite. miller. case. pillow. fight. cat. dog. jax. clean. floor. termite. gross. expensive. homeowner. overrated. adulthood. middle. school. junior. senior. college. exam. pass. fail. learn. succeed. grow. align. forage. plunder. blunder. mistake. con. pro. football. american. rugby. hairpiece. trying. false. sense. security. guard. shot. heard. round. gimme. putt. tee. fairway. chunk. shank. alley. dark. lit. bounce. baller. sorbet. champaign. mimosa. sunday. morning. ease. bed. enjoy. sleep. flail. try. cling. blanket. belong. curse. goat. bambino. little. tiny. teeny. weenie. button. penis. nah. fold. over. comb. iron. towel. toss. salad. dressing. showers. benches. hurdles. marks. slim. chance. go. 200. dollars. cash. cool. dirty. money. rich. wealth. health. self. esteem. colleague. boss. blink. tipping. jeans. tennis. billie. holiday. paid. month. year. sail. around. bay. idea. lab. science. major. english. minor. math. journal. accountant. log. irs. tax. honor. values. pilot. force. army. navy. marine. biology. bigger. aware. mindful. action. authentic. reality. dreamy. mac. book. author. wannabe. gogo. stage. cheer. friends. core. abundant. everything. willful. disaster. wonders. plight. mankind. neanderthal. study. discovery. national. international. worldly. trotter. basketball. dribble. wipe. moist. cake. chocolate. vanilla. creamery. cheese. house. indeed. ownership. wood. fence. glass. ceiling. feminist. movement. classy. broads. understand. seek. knowledge. accept.

751: want.
752: more.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Year Ago on DRW: Lather, Rinse, Repeat

August 11, 2009:
I just finished the book. My emotions are all over the place. I cried this morning because Erin walked past me as she got ready for work. Which is what she does every morning, but this morning I wanted her to stop. To stop and look at me. Notice that tears were welling in my eyes. Notice that my emotions were too raw for her to get ready for work. I walked around the house. I fed the cats. I sat on the bed. And when she walked in to get dressed, I could barely get the words out, "I'm feeling a little emotional today." I cried in her arms and didn't know exactly why I was crying. Guess I didn't need to know.

This morning I printed a copy of the book and handed it to a friend to give me some feedback. I'm headed to Kinkos as soon as I'm finished with this blog and printing off six more copies. One for Texas, One for Orange County, two for Long Beach, one for Studio City, and one for Venice Beach. Some are giving me technical feedback of, "take this out, put that there, add more here," and some are giving me real life feedback of, "this really spoke to me, wish there was more on that."

My emotions seem to be bred from fear. Fear that it's all crap. Fear that I just spent three years putting my soul on paper and it's not going to amount to anything. Fear that I'll get ripped to shreds in the feedback that I've gone and asked for. I realize the fears are unfounded, even irrational. The important thing is that I'm processing through it. Feeling the fear, addressing the fear, and moving forward anyway. It's the only way to let the fear go. It will come up again, I'm sure of it. No life is sans fear. And when it does, lather, rinse, repeat.
The book has since taken on another series of rewrites and is hoping to be edited again soon. This is the kind of book I can't rush, and still I know it's dying to be ready by all of your eyes.