What now?

Day 30: one thing you’re excited for

Today is the last day of my 30 day writing challenge. When I began this journey, I didn’t have very much confidence in my ability to actually do 30 pieces based on 30 different prompts. I think that’s why I chose to do this in the form of a blog. I needed something to keep me honest. Now, at the end of the challenge, I’m so proud of myself for doing this and sticking to a piece of advice that a friend once gave me: a writer writes. If I want to be a writer, I have to write. The prompts weren’t always inspiring, and some of the pieces they’re based on aren’t particularly inspired. But I wrote them. Even when I didn’t feel like it, I wrote them. Even when I didn’t think I had anything to say, I wrote them.

For the last 30 days, I wrote because I want to be a writer. Just like all those days I spent hours practicing my instrument, I spent time trying to hone my craft. I didn’t always hit home runs. There were several ground balls and a few sacrifice flies. But I kept at it and didn’t give up. I know it’s just a little writing challenge and not the great American novel, but I’m incredibly proud of myself.

What I did not anticipate was the response to my blog. My very first post of the challenge, The Evils of Facebook, got over 150 views. I was really excited that anyone wanted to read what I’d written. After all, just as music is meant to be heard, writing is meant to be read. I enjoyed looking at the daily statistics for the blog: how many views there were and where the readers were. People in Hong Kong, Australia, India, Mexico, Sweden, France, and the U.K. have read my blog, in addition to the folks in the US and Canada. Some posts had very few views, but others did pretty well.

Day 29, 21, was the real winner, though. At last count, it had over 200 views from people in six different countries. I think I only have one or two posts that have done better in the three or so years I’ve been blogging. That’s exciting to me. People are reading my blog! Maybe more people will begin to follow my blog now that I’m writing more regularly. That would really be amazing!

I originally thought I would want to take a break from writing after doing it for 30 straight days. Imagine my surprise when I woke up today and felt disappointed the challenge was over. I don’t want a break. I want to do more, write more, and tell more stories. Knowing that people are reading encourages me to keep writing. Looking at my stats tells me what people want to read and what they find less appealing. The pieces seem most well received when I tell relatable real stories or when I give my perspective on things like race. Folks aren’t really interested in my more “listy” posts, with one notable exception; my piece ExFiles was rather popular and it was written in list form.

The pieces that are hardest to write because they expose some really personal stuff seem to be the best read. I find that interesting. Readers have reached out to tell me how much they relate to my personal stories. It’s humbling to know that my exercises in self-reflection have touched others. In my work as a musician, I have always hoped to move my listeners with my performances. I’m thankful that I now have another voice with which to move an audience. The feedback I’m getting tells me that my voice is starting to be heard.

So, I am excited to keep writing. I am excited to see if folks will keep reading. I am hopeful that people will want to read more. This challenge has taught me so much, but I have so much more to learn. I’m excited to see where this journey will take me next.

To all who came to read my thoughts, thank you for your support and for encouraging me to keep going. Please keep reading. I’ll keep writing.

21

Day 29: the night of your 21st birthday

That was a LONG time ago. I’m surprised by how dim a memory it is. I’m amazed by how the events of adulthood — marriage, children, career — can blur the memory of the very beginning of that adulthood. I don’t remember most of my birthdays, really.

I do remember some of the circumstances surrounding this event, though.

I turned 21 in 1989. That day in early June, the Ayatollah Khomeini died. That day was also the beginning of the the brutal enforcement of martial law in Beijing. Within a year after my 21st birthday, the Berlin Wall fell (11/9/89) and Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years (2/11/90). The world as I’d always known it was changing. As I was turning 21, I entered a new phase of life in a world that was brand new in so many ways. It was a time of infinite possibilities.

Seven months before my 21st birthday, I got engaged to my beloved husband, John. It was just after I’d voted in my very first Presidential election. It was 1988 and I’d cast my vote for Michael Dukakis. We all know what happened…

So, I approached a milestone birthday as an engaged woman in turbulent times. I’d just finished my 3rd year of college at Oberlin and I was looking forward to spending the summer at Meadowmount Music School in (far) upstate New York.

There’s a little more to the story.

John was not the first man to ask me to marry him. That distinction went to someone I’d met and fallen for — hard — the summer between high school and college. That relationship had changed me in really important ways, and I was sad when it and the summer ended. The following summer, we met again and the relationship resumed. It wasn’t the first time I’d been in love, but this relationship was intense and passionate. He was two years older than me, and much less of a wandering spirit than I was. For him, life was simple: go to school, meet a girl, fall in love, get married, get a job, live happily ever after. At the end of the summer, I had to return to school and he was staying put. I didn’t know how to merge the life I had at college with the life I had with him, but I tried to hang on despite the distance. We talked almost every day.

Then, one day he asked me to marry him. He had already turned 21. I was only just 19. I completely freaked out, and I stopped calling him. I dodged his calls. I just couldn’t say what I knew I had to. I knew it would break his heart. So, in the boneheaded play of the century, I started dating someone else. That was how I ended the relationship. I was young, stupid, and scared out of my mind. I ran rather than talk about it.

I came to find out that just a few weeks later he met someone else. They started dating and it became serious. When I screwed up the courage to finally call and apologize, I got the cold shoulder. When I saw him for lunch a couple of months later, I got two shocks: he was joining the army and he had asked her to marry him — the night before. I deserved every bit of the pain that news caused me. He threw it all in my face and then rubbed it in. I had never known him to be cold or cruel, but he was both that day. I couldn’t be angry with him for it. This was his response to what I’d done and I’d earned his wrath. So I took it.

John and I were engaged less than six months later.

Fast forward to the spring of 1989. Within a few weeks, I received two things in the mail that rocked me back on my heels: an invitation to his wedding, and a letter from him sent from boot camp. I had assumed that the wedding invite was the final fuck you flourish meant to hurt me. The letter told a different story.

He was lonely and scared. He was worried that he was making a mistake by getting married. He wanted to talk to me.

He wanted to see me.

My heart was beating like a drum and my head was exploding. There was no way I could see him again. I couldn’t do that to myself, to him, to her, or to John. If we saw each other, everything would be an enormous emotional mess. No, I couldn’t do it. No. No matter how much I may have wanted to reach out to him, I knew it was dangerous and foolish.

I never answered the letter. I put it and him away, presumably forever. There was only one thing left for me to do. I had to survive his wedding day. I wasn’t going, of course, but the day would be a difficult one. It was exactly one week after my birthday. We had spent his 21st birthday together, as well as my 19th. I spent my 21st birthday doing stuff I don’t remember now. I’m sure it was a lovely day, and I suspect that I spent it with John. There were other things on my mind and my life had gone on. I had moved on.

The day he got married, it was clear to me that I had not moved on. I spent that day alone in my room, crying like a baby. In my mind that part of my life had been over for a long time, but the last piece of my heart broke for him that day. It was over and there was no going back.

I cried all day and then I was done. It was over.

John and I married almost three years later, ten days before I turned 24. We’ve been married nearly half our lives.

About 21 years after I ended that relationship, we got back in touch through an odd set of circumstances. I had tried to find him over the years. I needed to apologize. I finally got my chance. I am forever grateful for that. I did not want to carry that around with me for the rest of my life. It was generous of him to listen to me and allow me to set that burden down. It was even more generous of him to forgive me. What a blessing that was.

Looking back, I can see how much I didn’t know at 21. I was smart in an academic sense, but I was so innocent and naive in the ways of the world. I did so many stupid things. I used to have many regrets from that time. I have learned to let regret go. I have learned to forgive 21 year old Lisa as I can clearly see her now through my 47 year old eyes. My life was all ahead of me then, and I had no idea what that meant. I wish I could talk to young Lisa and help her understand how much life would mold and shape her over the years. I wish I could hold her close and kiss her tears away. She had so much to learn.

None of that was on my radar at 21. It was just a birthday that told me I was adult now. It was so important then. It seems so silly now. Perspective is a wonderful thing.

Word

Day 28: the word/phrase you use constantly

“That’s attractive…”

Yeah, that’s the phrase I use the most. The sarcasm is pretty palpable, I think. Even with all my recent attempts at self-improvement, I still have a pretty wide sarcastic streak.

Actually, this phrase is not originally mine. I learned it from my birth mother, back in the days I thought she was my aunt. I remember the first time she said it to me. I was wearing an outfit that she found…questionable, shall we say. Out came the infamous phrase, sweetly melodious and dripping with sarcasm.

“That’s attractive.”

Maybe I was too young to fully understand that she was expressing disdain rather than appreciation for my burgeoning fashion sense. I probably took it as a compliment and said thank you. I was a pretty literal kid when I was younger (maybe that’s where my boy gets some of that). Sarcasm was lost on me.

Then, puberty hit and I became the latest adolescent temple to snark.

I guess I discovered my love of language, poetry, and music around that time, and sarcasm was just the cherry on top. Somewhere in there I started to use my mom’s signature phrase. Thus began my lifelong career of witty quips, double entendres, and sly bon mots. “That’s attractive ” became the strongest weapon in the arsenal.

Man, I was a real bitch sometimes. There are moments I look back and cringe at some of the things I said (I smile sometimes too). My words were often shot out like machine gun fire, fully intended to cause harm. Some of those words were part of profane tirades. Some of them were part of witty repartee used to flirt with boys I deemed worthy (read as smart as me). Words became my shield and my weapon. They created a distance between me and the rest of the world that I was convinced could hurt me. Any messy situation from a bad grade to a bad outfit got the same response.

“That’s attractive.”

Life has a funny way of teaching us multiple lessons over the years, all from the same source. I hear far too many of my words come out of the mouths of my own children. Sometimes I smile. Usually I cringe. I have no one to blame but myself. My own mouth has doubled back to bite me in my own ass. All I can say is,

“That’s attractive.”

Fashion 

Day 27: what you wore today

Ooh, I love clothes! I’ve always had a pretty eclectic sense of personal style, from the tailored to the tacky (think David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel). Right now, I’m in the process of cleaning out my closet and giving/throwing away a bunch of stuff. My wardrobe is hardly what anyone would call whittled down, but it has certainly been streamlined.

Since today was Sunday, I wore two outfits: one for church and another for after church. I like to get dressed up for church. Maybe that’s a remnant from my upbringing of “girls don’t wear pants to church” (I argued that point within an inch of my life, but some of it stuck). So, this morning I tried to put my best foot forward. I picked out a sweater I hadn’t worn in a couple of years — hunter green with a button up funnel neck — and a black pencil skirt. I wore black tights with my favorite black leather boots (flat soles and lots of funky straps and buckles). I also wore the Gucci watch I got as a present, a brass cuff bracelet, and long fringy gold earrings. I never wear makeup and today was no exception to that rule. I did, however, break out the leather gloves I almost never wear. I really put in some effort.

Right now, I’m wearing the outfit I changed into when I came home and started cleaning bathrooms: blue joggers, and black t-shirt that says “Keep staring… I might Do a Trick”, and an oversized grey Oberlin College sweatshirt with all the ribbing cut off (a la Flashdance).

Just like I said, from the tailored to the tacky. Fashion to Rebel Rebel. Still me, whatever the style.

ExFiles

 

Day 26: things you’d say to an ex

Whoa. This is some heavy shit. I have a few exes, and I’d say something different to each of them. I’m still friends with quite a few of them, which shows that both parties involved grew up at least a little bit.

So, what would I say? I don’t want to go all Adele on them, if you feel me, but there’s still some pain and anger lingering in a couple situations. I’m almost 50 and I’ve been married — to one of my exes, actually — for almost half my life. What’s left to say?

I don’t want to name names or kiss and tell, but here are some thoughts.

  • I loved you once, with all my heart.
  • You broke my heart, but I forgive you.
  • I knew you were gay, but I didn’t care.
  • I still think about you sometimes, and always with a smile.
  • You taught me a lot about myself.
  • You made me so mad I wanted to kill you.
  • That was some really mindlessly awesome sex.
  • That was some really pathetically lousy sex.
  • Remind me again how drunk I was?
  • I should’ve called the police after the first time you hit me.
  • You’re a rotten bastard and I hope you rot in hell.
  • You raped me.
  • I can’t believe you tried to kill me.
  • How did it come to this?
  • Do you even remember our relationship?
  • We split and you started dating that cow?
  • You don’t marry your rebound, honey.
  • That was the sweetest summer of my life.
  • You made me feel like a princess and I always remembered that.
  • What were we thinking?
  • Love is some complicated shit.
  • You chased me and then you dumped me, then it was somehow MY fault?
  • What took you so long? What were we waiting for?
  • I could barely keep my hands off of you.
  • I’ve never felt that way before, or since.
  • What can I say? The first cut is the deepest.
  • We were so young.
  • Oh my God, I was so stupid.
  • I’ve always wondered what you saw in me.
  • I only remember the good times.

The most important thing of all is what I’d say to the most important of my exes:

  • I’m so glad you didn’t give up on us.
  • You have the patience of Job. I can’t believe you waited this long.
  • You were there when I finally landed. Thank you.
  • You had a vision of you and me that I couldn’t see at first. I see it now, and it’s beautiful.
  • I’m sorry it took me so long.
  • I’m sorry I hurt you.
  • I’ve loved you so long I can’t remember when I didn’t.
  • Thank you for asking me to marry you. I’m glad I said yes.
  • I can’t imagine life without you.
  • I’m so happy that we get to grow old together.
  • Thank you for the life we’ve made together.

And I’ve never loved anyone more than I love you.

Weird

Day 25: 4 weird traits you have

I have come to really hate the word weird. My son, who’s at the mild end of the autism spectrum, has been characterized by many as weird. He is different. He is not mainstream in his thoughts and behaviors. He’s socially awkward and has a hard time relating to his peers. Frankly, he’s really kinda like a teenage boy but much more so. When I think of him, I find the adjective weird to be very hurtful and excluding. Being weird separates him from the world rather than making him stand out in it. He doesn’t want to be separate. He just doesn’t know how not to be.

But this isn’t about him. This prompt is supposed to be about me. That’s an even harder pill to swallow. I see a lot of me in my son which both worries and encourages me. I’ve managed to overcome a lot and have a full and rich life, so there’s hope for him. But at what cost? What odds did I beat? What color was/is my freak flag and how high did it once fly?

Weird and wacky me stuff:

  1. I have this foot thing. I love to have my feet rubbed. I love to get pedicures. I pick at my toes when I’m barefoot as a nervous habit. Then there’s that little shoe problem I have… You get the picture.
  2. I collect Royal Albert china. That is actually an incredible understatement. I am obsessed with Royal Albert china. I have nearly 450 pieces that I’ve collected over six and a half years. Yeah, I’ve got a problem.
  3. I binge watch Law & Order. No, really. It connects me to NYC during the time I lived there (I was there 1990-2008 and the show ran 1990-2010). I probably watch 2 episodes a day. Everyday. Thank God for the DVR!
  4. I love to knit, which isn’t weird. I also love yarn — again, not really weird. Unless, of course, you consider one thing I do when I choose yarn. I sniff it. I LOVE the smell of lanolin and wool! What a wonderful and comforting smell.

I’m sure that more time and thought would yield even more weirdness about me. We all have our own particular kink.

Missing You

Day 24: Something you miss

Wow.  There are a lot of things that come to me.  Perhaps I need to make a list rather than try to put one topic into paragraphs.

  1. My grandmother: her voice, her giggle, her food, her unconditional love, her advice.
  2. My dad: there’s so much I never said and I’ll never have the chance.  I have to live with that, and it hurts.
  3. My babies: mind you, they still live with me (for now — one’s off to college soon), but I really miss them as babies.  I know babies are labor intensive and exhausting, but my kids were beautiful and amazing and I wish I’d enjoyed that time with them more.
  4. New York: yes, I’ve been saying that for over seven years, ever since we left.  The New York I moved to in 1990 no longer exists.  Hell, the NYC I left in 2008 no longer exists.  I miss the raw energy of the City, with all its creativity and crazy.  I miss the feeling that making it there was the end all and be all in the life of an artist.  Now it’s just an expensive and sanitized Disneyland full of chain and big box stores.  The little businesses and restaurants are closing.  People in other parts of the country don’t seem to understand that NYC had its share of mom and pop stores too.  They’re gone now.  It’s so sad that it makes me cry.
  5. My hair: this always happens after I cut it short.  It’ll pass. I’ll grow it long again and then cut it all off again, all in 7-10 year cycles.
  6. My friends: my social life here in Ohio is very different from the ones I’ve had pretty much anywhere else.  I miss the closeness I enjoyed with my neighbors in New York, and with my colleagues.  People keep to themselves and their families more here.  It’s hard for a person like me who’s used to creating her family wherever she calls home.
  7. The over 40 family members and friends who have died since 2008: among them were my colleagues and mentors from my NYC music scene days, along with treasured members of John’s family and my own.  It got so bad at one point that folks were passing away in groups of three within a week for a while.  There’s been a lot of loss.
  8. Ethnic diversity: I miss riding the subway with Orthodox Jewish diamond merchants, Mexican mariachi bands, old ladies in saris, and Korean restaurant workers who smell like kimchee.  I miss that feeling of each subway car being a mini United Nations.  I miss living somewhere where catching a cab is a magic carpet ride that might take you to the middle east or sub-Saharan Africa.  I miss readily available sushi delivered to my door so many times that the restaurant sent me not one but two Christmas cards.  What I really miss is that Arabs are just another group of people in NYC, and not viewed and talked about with suspicion and trepidation.  In NYC, folks were folks and we all lived, worked, and co-existed without too much trouble most of the time.  I’m not that dark, but I’m often the darkest thing in the room around here.  It’s gone from being annoying to being just plain infuriating.
  9. The ocean: I’m an east coast kinda gal.  I need an ocean.  This Lake Erie beach shit is NOT cutting it.
  10. Cheese steaks, hoagies, bagels, (real) pizza, pastrami, egg creams, and Sabrett’s hot dogs: ‘nuf said.
  11. The feeling that my entire life is ahead of me: at nearly 48, that’s not really true anymore.  Sure, there’s a lot of life left for me to live, but I’m rapidly approaching the time where I will have lived more than half of my life.  I may live to be 96, but I doubt I’ll live to be 120, if you catch my drift.  I’m not 40.  I’m not 30.  I’m definitely not the wide eyed 24 year old I was when I last graduated from something (Juilliard in 1993).  More than ever, the phrase life is too short is becoming truly meaningful.
  12. My uterus: another odd thing to say, but still true.  We parted ways nearly two months ago.  I don’t miss how it was in the final days, but I miss feeling like I’m whole.  I miss the possibility of having more babies.  My two are awesome, but I have always regretted not having more children.  Having my hysterectomy ushered me into a new stage of life that there is no way to prepare for — very much like becoming a parent or losing a parent.  There’s no way to explain how it feels.  It’s just the new normal.  Most days it’s okay, sometimes even great.  Then someone brings a baby into the room and I start to cry.  It’s hard to change how I see myself, but I’m trying.

I miss you all.

I Don’t Like You

Day 23: A family member you dislike

Again, only one?

Seriously though, there isn’t just one person that I loathe and everyone else is okay.  I can’t say that there’s anyone in my family I truly dislike.  I dislike certain aspects of most of my family members’ behavior or personality, but as a whole I either like or tolerate pretty much everyone in my family.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I mean, come on.  Even if I really did dislike a family member, do you really think I’d throw it up on a blog post?  Unless I get a book deal with the prospect of having a NYT Bestseller on my hands, I’m not sticking my neck out quite THAT far as a writer yet.

Still, there are tendencies about a few members of my family that irk me.  Badly.  Badly enough that I may share some of those traits here without any names.  Remember, I gotta see and talk to these folks again at some point, and I’m not into the awkward family holiday thing…

Passive aggressive behavior: let’s just say this is a behavior that I married into rather than grew up with.  I’m from direct people who say what’s on their minds — sometimes far too much, too loudly, and too often.  When I communicate, I’m not interested in screwing with your head.  I want you to understand me.  So this behavior was not only annoying as hell, it was confusing too.  As of today, I can’t see that this is something that has passed on to my kids, so the bloodline may be dying out.  We’ll see.

Lying: this one I am very familiar with since, well, birth.  Some were lies of omission, and some were just big ole whoppers.  They mostly came from one person close to me who, of course, claims these lies never happened and that I’m crazy (that was another hallmark of my childhood that I’ll get to later).  The lies were such a big part of my growing up that I’m not really sure I understood reality as a concept until I was in my 40s.  No, I’m not joking and that’s not an overstatement.  It took me a while to figure out the real truth about myself in a lot of ways, and it was a hard-fought war.  I’m pretty sure I won.  At least I hope I have.

Denial: deep, painful denial of shit that was so obvious it was insane.  My parents (that’s as personal as I’ll go with this) were the king and queen of denial, to the point that stuff didn’t exist if they ignored it or said it didn’t happen.  Revisionist history was the specialty of my parents, especially after I grew up and was no longer afraid to tell my story from my point of view.  So, the catchphrase was, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.  That never happened.  You’re crazy.”  I heard that so many times, I began to believe it.  That was the root cause of my long battle with mental health, but we all have those, don’t we?

Unwarranted advice giving: this comes from a number of sources on both sides of the family equation.  Folks, I try to only give helpful advice, as in the kind that neither assumes you’re stupid nor talks to you like you’re 3.  Please don’t give me advice that sounds like you think I’m an idiot.  If I’ve been married longer than you, or you’re on spouse number 3 and I’m still married to the only person I ever intend to marry, please don’t feel obligated to give me marital advice.  I may not be the woman you want to marry because I don’t (fill in the blank) the way you like, but someone wanted to marry me and he’s still happy I said yes.  Clearly, I’m doing something right.  So drop it and keep it to yourself.  I’m good.

Fear: this doesn’t sound like such a bad thing on the surface, but fear has kept a large chunk of my family from doing much of anything.  They often live in the same houses forever as the neighborhoods around them crumble and decline.  They don’t travel — not even outside of the city they live in.  They say disparaging things about other groups of people, not out of hate but out of fear of the unknown.  To these folks in my family, I have always been something between an adventurer and a lunatic.  I have traveled abroad quite a few times, I went away to college, I lived in NYC (thought of as Sodom and Gomorrah by members of my family), and I married outside of my race.  Clearly I’ve lost my damned mind!  To this day, I’m not sure how I lived my life surrounded by this fear and still managed to accomplish all I’ve done.  It’s a miracle, truly.

All these traits and character flaws are not from one person in my family, but they touch on the personalities of several of them.  Over the years, I’ve learned to overlook some, speak out against some, and just plain tear my hair out over others.  Family is something I take very seriously, so it takes a lot for me to just write somebody off — but I’ve done it more than once.  Some toxins don’t get to live in my life, no matter how much I may love their source.  Dislike is the limit for me.  I don’t want to make it to hatred.

 

Random

Day 20: put your music player on shuffle and write the first three songs that play and what your initial thought is.

Number one: Beethoven Late String Quartets performed by the Emerson String Quartet; Quartet no. 13 in B flat Major, Opus 130: Adagio ma non troppo, Allegro

I love Beethoven and have since I was a small child. His music is an amazing combination of rhythmic drive, harmonic richness, lyricism, and wildly contrasting emotions. As a violist, I love to play and perform Beethoven’s music, but I particularly love his string quartets. These late ones are especially rich and play a pivotal role in the development of the string quartet later in the 19th century.

Number two: Paul Simon, The Rhythm of the Saints — Spirit Voices (work in progress, bonus track)

For my 41st birthday, John bought me the newly published book of Paul Simon’s lyrics, but there was much more to it than just that. One of his co-workers is married to a musician who has worked with Paul Simon for many years. So, John gave her the book, she gave it to her husband, he took it to NYC to a recording session he was doing — with the illustrious Mr. Simon himself. When asked, he very graciously consented to sign my book. All this went on without my knowledge. The book alone would’ve been a wonderful surprise, but the inscription and autograph inside on the title page nearly made me faint. It is one of the most meaningful and special gifts anyone has ever given me.

Number three: Jethro Tull, Aqualung

Oh my God, I’m laughing out loud on this one. I haven’t heard this one in a long time. This takes me right back to high school. My fondness for Jethro Tull, Yes, and Genesis can be traced to a boy I met in ninth grade. He had skipped two grades in school, so he was only 12 at the start of that school year. He was one of the smartest kids I ever knew, truly wise beyond his years. We used to get into lengthy conversations about music and he would make me cassette tapes of the stuff we talked about. I may even still have a few of them. Just thinking of Jim makes me smile. I never told him how much I appreciated him or what a big impact those conversations had on me.

Bonus track number four: The Beatles, Money (That’s What I Want)

Yes! I love The Beatles, especially John Lennon. This is, of course, a remake of a Berry Gordy tune that was one of Motown’s first hits. It’s an oldie and a goodie!

Five Fears

Day 19: five fears that you have

Heights: I can’t even look at movies with sweeping views of heights without getting that tingly feeling in the backs of my legs. Heights have always terrified me, mostly because I’m afraid of falling from them. Think Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Yeah, that’s me.

Death: even though I am a person of faith, with all of the requisite views and beliefs of Christianity, I am afraid to die. Why? Lack of faith? No, I don’t think I’m lacking in that. Perhaps it’s more about my overall fear of the unknown than anything else. Life is hard, but at least I know what happens to me in life. I’m not familiar with what happens during the process of dying. That moment of transition between life and death is frightening to me.

Harm coming to my husband, children, family, or friends: my hubby travels a lot for work and I’m a nervous wreck every time he flies. Maybe it’s because of 9/11. John and I were living in NYC at that time, along with our 3 1/2 year old daughter. I didn’t fly for 4 years after that. Watching John or Imani go through the security line at the airport gives me chills. Knowing that Iain crosses the street alone at a busy intersection frequented by tractor trailers makes my heart stop. Anything could happen, and I can’t stop it. Worrying won’t change anything, but I still do it.

My son’s future: will he be able to go to college? Live independently? Have a career? Marry and have a family? Those are all enormous question marks for him. We know how much better he’s gotten since he was diagnosed with ASD at age three. I’ve always believed that he could have what others might call a “normal life”, and I still believe it. But what will it take to get him all the way there? Are we on the right track? Only time will tell, but it’s a nail biter waiting it out.

Failure: I wrote a blog post about failure once. I should probably go back and read it again. I have been trying, unsuccessfully, for years to change careers. I am beginning to worry that the change will never come for me. Right now, I’m stuck in a job that has no security, no benefits, low pay, and no future. And I’m about to send my firstborn to college in the fall. I need a chance, an opportunity. I need to put down the instrument and move on. My career has prepared me to do just about anything. I’m afraid — terrified — that I will never be seen as capable of any other work. The older I get, the more afraid I am. I fear my window of opportunity is closing fast.

My life isn’t ruled by fear, but I do try to be honest about what scares me. I cannot fix flaws I don’t acknowledge.