Looking Out

“You should commit publicly to finishing your book by May,” my friend said to me today.  “That would force you to get it done.”

As he talked, I was scrolling down the forgotten chapters of my Russian memoir.  I looked at the date when I started writing it.  2011 is a frightening number.  Almost three years have gone by.  I don’t know when I gave up on it, but sometime, in the midst of the mess that my life has become, it became irrelevant.  Often, I remembered it and sometimes mentioned it, feeling the pain of failure in my gut.

Just the idea of having to finish a book by May, only having written seven, and not well edited chapters, was impossible.  I would have to be insane to commit to something like that.  But rumor has it that Shelley wrote the first draft of Frankenstein in under a week.  I wish, and at the same time, fear that I could suspend myself into a writing bubble for a whole week and do nothing and think of nothing except my life.  Because writing this would just be a long meditation on that.

I don’t know why I want so much to write this story.  My friend, Saul, recently said it best and luckily New York Times thought so too.  “Writing was not a matter of taking a prefabricated thought and setting it down on paper, but using the act of setting words down on paper to determine just what that thought might be.”

There is a duality in all of us.  We live only with ourselves but in many ways, we know ourselves least.  I have become fascinated with myself in the mirror.  I often catch myself during a busy workday.  There I am.  I look different to myself than I thought I looked.  Everyone in the office could see me, except for me.

In conversations with people, I can see their strengths and their weaknesses clearly, but I know that they don’t see what I see.  In the same way, I don’t see my own.  We are strange creatures, physically forced to look out with our eyes instead of in, even though, looking in, solves so many of our problems.

I wish to write this book, so that I have a long chance to look inside, to dissect my innards and to release the stench that rotting memories could cause.


2:30 pm

Today, my sister, Lena, was born.  Happy Birthday, Sorella.  I say a silent thank  you each day that you and I get to share this life.

Ones die and others get pregnant.  New beings, scratch their way out of their shells.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Actor, Dies at 46

Why was he unhappy?  Wasn’t his life and his work fulfilling enough to at least keep him alive?  My perception of happiness is as shifty as my moods, and the knowing that they are changing still lead me into suffering.

I saw the movie “Her” last night.  There were lines from the movie that emerged in my mind, even though they seemed insignificant at the moment.

“I just want some joy in my life,”  Amy’s character said in the movie.  The simple phrase that touched me.  I want that too.

Time is the greatest organizer, said Mark Twain.  No he didn’t, I am thinking about that today, but H.L. Mencken said, “Time is the great equalizer in the field of morals.”  Either way, time is moving underneath my feet and I feel the momentum of it pushing me into unknown places.

The difficult things in my life have led me down a strange path.  The stranger it is, the more conscious I become of myself.  The more conscious, the closer that I become to feeling crazy.  Sometimes I don’t recognize myself.  I look for myself in old photos.  Who am I?  Who was I there?  What was I feeling?  And if I still don’t know myself, how can I know another human being.

I remember the shallow thoughts of my younger days.  I also remember my depth when I was small.  Some decisions were hard but, they were worthwhile.  Leaving Wall St. was what I needed, even though Mama wailed into the phone, when I announced the news.  I waited until the day I was going to quit to tell Mama and Papa, otherwise I risked being persuaded out of my whimsical impulse.

“Olga, the economy is not doing well.  Do you think it’s a good idea to start your own business now?”  Bulent, one of my senior bosses said with his Turkish accent to me in our final meeting, playing the role of an immigrant, who made it in this land of riches.  He towered over most men who came near him.  He was a handsome fellow.  I was twenty-two and he was thirty-eight, his hair already grey and two kids in New Jersey.  I was scared to become him and I was scared not to become him.

I can let someone down just by being me.  Should I grow up already or will I stay within my childish world of magical thinking.  It’s time to grow up and swallow my pride and say,  I am sorry.  I am sorry, please God grant me forgiveness.  You are the ultimate forgiver and encompass the power to restore forgiveness onto me from all beings.  We are one, and I forgive myself with my breath that keeps me in this life, even when it feels unbearable.

Sometimes, I am jealous of the “normal people.”  The ones I think have it figured out.  They live in nice houses, with nice furniture and have pasta for dinner with no vegetables and they don’t complain about it.  But not me.

Papa got mad at me one time because I served soup before herring, I got angry in return.  Meanwhile if I go to his house and the eggs are not organic, I sigh.   That’s not happiness.

Happiness is letting joy in, or having capacity to let joy in, but it’s also feeling ok when there is no joy, when I feel sad and angry.  When I look in the mirror and frighten myself.

Last night I looked in the mirror and saw myself.

the Hat

The problem with having expensive things is loosing them.  

I got a nice hat recently.  A part of myself felt like I was the character in Bob Dylan’s song, the one with the leopard skin pillbox hat.  I felt cool in my wool, tweed brown, bowler hat with feathers on the side.  I put it down on subway seat next to me, waiting for the Q train and took the train to the City.  I only realized that it was gone when I was crossing Manhattan Bridge.  I wonder who is wearing my hat now.  And I wonder if they feel as cool as me.  Maybe even more, because they got it for free.  

It’s only a material possesion, I thought, but how much better would it be to walk into the party with my special hat on.  

The ego is a powerful dream that gives stregth and torture.


Alyssa’s brother

Alyssa’s brother died.  Beautiful Alyssa and her only little brother.  He was strong and handsome when I met him years ago.  They were born eleven months apart and called themselves Irish twins.  Cancer is an epidemic of our time.  Cholera, black death, Aids, but where is Cancer on this list.  Cancer has no bounds anymore, it takes anyone of any age.  We sit quietly, scared that it might take one of us and it does.  It took my precious Lucy and now it has taken Alyssa’s brother only at thirty-seven.  But no one blames Cancer, it is life we blame.  It is luck, or fate or God that we blame.  It is not fair, it is awful that a young man with two small kids, only one and three years old, should be taken like that.

What is going on?  And why are we half awake.

“Oh, That is sad. That’s tragic,” the ones who didn’t know him say.

I only met him few times, but his light was strong enough to bring me to a day of mourning today.  I picture his wife, who I met when they were still dating, she had a great vibe and I picture her face now, imagining what she must feel.  His family can’t be the same.  His children will grow up without knowing their amazing father.

They recently bought their dream house, Alyssa told me, and on his last day, he went to sit by the lake outside his home.  He finally made it.  He wanted to be in nature.

It it is painful to watch life unfold in vicious ways.

God, do you hear us?

Whatever love I have, I send it out to your mourning families.

Before I heard the news today, I was frustrated about my day.  I lost my hat yesterday and later last night, I lost one of my gold earrings.  How could I loose so much stuff in one night, I thought.  So many things that I loved.


Today I was sick again.  My body had chills and fever and my chest was full ungodliness.  I used to be a sickly child, my mom said.  I didn’t go to kindergarden because I would get sick so often, so instead I stayed home alone or with my grandmother.  Yes, sometimes I was left alone when I was six years old.  I have memories of wandering around our apartment in Vinnetza, Ukraine.  I would sit on the window sill for hours and watch people.  I studied their faces, their moods, what they were wearing and who they were walking with.

I remember, on my sick days, my mom getting me tea and checking on me.  I laid quietly in my bed or on the living room couch, so I could watch TV.

Today was another reminder of that time, but there was no one to take care of me except for myself.  That’s the cruel lesson of life.  In the beginning, you are sheltered by your parents but then, you are just left with yourself.

Now on sick days, I like to do an inventory of myself.  It’s not a good time for inventory because the perspective of a sick mind is much gloomier than that of a healthy one, but who has time for life’s inventories on a healthy day.

New York life is busy and I feel like I am running, not sure where to or where from.  But today, I am alone.  Alone with my thoughts, checking if my worthlessness is still there.  It is.  Checking if there is any hope.   There is.  Days like today, I think of Lucy as lucky for dying so early.  She doesn’t have to deal with all this life crap.

Life has so much crap.

Then I look at the school yard outside my window.  The kids are playing.  Each one in their own world.  Each one, a growing universe.  There are two girls speed-walking circles as if they are forty-year-old women.  There is a boy who is all alone.

It’s all going to be ok.

Rest In Peace Lou Reed