Thursday, December 31, 2009

The resolution of vulnerability

In searching for Regina Spektor's song, "Hero of the Story," from the 500 Days of Summer movie soundtrack, I came upon dozens of young women who have recorded their own covers of Regina Spektor songs and posted their videos on YouTube. You try: Compare Regina's original to the cover and tell me what you think:

The original:

The cover:

For me, the cover won hands down. There's something so vulnerable about the girl performing the cover. Maybe it's her pet parakeet shrieking in the background. Maybe it's her dorky red polo shirt. Maybe it's because she rarely looks up, but when she does, she looks right into your eyes. Maybe it's because she reminds you of all the drama girls you've ever known, the girl in your second grade class who already had perfect pitch.

The Internet has created an open mic night for anyone with a wish to be a performer. My whole life I wished I had a singer's voice. Instead I have a writer's hand. Luckily, both are ways of sharing and showing that vulnerable side.

Last night I had dinner with my cousins, Susi and Sylvie, who are also two of my closest friends. A couple of glasses of wine in, I found myself confessing secrets I'd been keeping to myself the past month. The result? I woke up this morning feeling not necessarily better, but certainly more honest with myself.

So for 2010, perhaps a good resolution is to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. I'll try harder to share my innermost thoughts with you here at Sally's Circle, and I'd love if you tried to share more with me, either in the comments or via email.

Wishing you hugs and happiness in the new year,


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

When the road is paved with question marks

Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to see into the future.

In 2nd grade, Mrs. Rosen called me "Miss What If" because I asked a lot of questions to help me determine all the possible outcomes of a situation. Example: "What if we can't hand in our homework because tomorrow's a snow day?" Follow-up question: "What if the next day's also a snow day?" Sally did not like Mrs. Rosen's nickname for me. She thought it was an undeserved stigma. I always wondered if there was some truth to the name.

In 6th grade, I realized Mrs. Rosen didn't hold all the answers -- the fortune teller at the Gold Coast Flea Market did. For $5, the lady in the tapestry skirt told me I'd get married at 24 and have a baby at 26. At age 11, that sounded pretty accurate. Now, at age 27, unmarried and unchildrened, and with the Gold Coast Flea Market conveniently out of business, I'm pretty sure I can't get a refund.

As an adolescent, I thought obsessively about what I'd look like and what my life would be like at 17. I thought that was the perfect age. It turned out to be the age that Sally was diagnosed. After that, I stopped looking so far into the future. It seemed to be bad luck.

But here I am, at 27, and still I'd like to know what the future holds. Wouldn't we all, I suppose? When I gaze into my crystal ball, however, all I see are question marks. Will I get married? Will I have kids? Where will I live? Will I change careers? Question marks everywhere I look. And it bugs me.

I know deep down that that's what life is: a series of question marks that gradually get answered. Sally wrote it to me once in a letter when I was 13:

I wish I could impart to you some very important wisdom -- on how to live your life, on whom to love, on whom to choose as your friends, and on how not to get hurt. But, unfortunately and fortunately, there is no secret formula for success. You, alone, will have that adventure -- that wondrous adventure called life. And remember, life is always filled with unexpected surprises!

I read this letter whenever I feel a little lost, and even 13 years later, it still rings true.

How do you deal with all of life's question marks?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sally and the very odd dream

Sally visited me in my dream last night. But it was a very odd dream.

In the dream, I had to go to the hospital for a series of tests. The doctor started describing the tests to me. "In the first test," he said, "I'll inject dye into you and you'll have to tell me if you feel a painful sensation all through your body." Yikes. He injected me and sure enough, it hurt like a beast clawing my insides. Luckily, the pain didn't last very long. He got the result he needed and we moved on to the next test.

"In the second test," he continued, "I'll give you instructions and see if you can carry them out." Well, this test seemed far easier. "I'm going to give you this ketchup bottle and then" -- his voice cut out. His lips were still moving, but it was as if the audio had been cut. Instinct told me to scramble off the doctor's table and start running, but I didn't know what I was supposed to do. Scraggly, long-haired men jumped out at me, and I squirted them with ketchup, thinking maybe that's what I was supposed to do. I kept running and squirting until finally the nurses stopped me, brought me back to my original room, and tried to settle me down, but I was very upset.

That's when I noticed my mom and dad were huddled in the corner, whispering to each other and obviously very concerned about me.

"Mom, what are you doing here?" I said, shocked. "You're not supposed to be here."

"Missy," she said, sternly. "If something really serious is going on, I'm going to be there."

The dream ended abruptly. Half-asleep, I reflected back on the dream. Sally believed that when the dead appeared in your dreams, it meant they were coming to visit you. I believe that, too. So does Dad, who said he dreamed about Mom the last night he slept in the house before selling it.

The dream reminded me of a poem that Laura's mom gave me after my mom died. The poem is called "Footprints in the Sand" by Mary Stevenson, and it's often recited to people who are going through tough times. In the poem, the man sees two sets of footprints, his and the Lord's, but during tough times he only sees one set of prints. He asks the Lord, "Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?" The Lord replies: "The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I carried you."

Perhaps Sally, all 5-feet-1-inch and 104 pounds of her, is offering to carry me. Thanks, Mom.