That Which Has Been Your Delight

I don't remember a lot about the night before my Grandpa's funeral.  In accordance with Catholic tradition, we were at the funeral chapel holding what's called a Rosary, where the deceased person's loved ones (the Catholic ones anyway) get together to pray on his or her behalf.

What I remember from that night were the tortured noises coming from my Grandpa's then-girlfriend, Dolores, who'd flung her body across the casket--like a woman straight out of a telenovela.  She made wild, guttural sounds--banshee-like, agonized.  It was a wailing, really.

It was the sound of loss.

I remember glances exchanged between (particularly) my female family members.  I remember disgusted whispers.  To this day I don't know whether those looks and disapproving whispers had to do with the sounds themselves--quite dramatic and unfiltered when compared to the more reserved outward mourning of everyone else there--or the fact that they were coming from a woman whom most of my Grandpa's loved ones had yet to accept as part of his life.

Maybe it was because I was his granddaughter, one generation removed from my Mom's, from those who still had difficulty picturing my Grandpa with anyone other than my 8-years-deceased Grandmother.  Maybe it was because, since I can remember, I've always felt I had one foot inside any given situation and one foot outside--the disinterested observer, looking in.  Whichever it was, I was not bothered by Dolores's display.  On the contrary, I felt myself drawn to it.  It was almost like a power source I felt I could draw from.  It was just so, so raw.  So unapologetically passionate.

It was the sound of loss, yes.  But to me, it was also the sound of love.


When I was in high school, I was introduced to a book called The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran.

It was full of some of the most beautiful poetry I've ever read, and one of the very memorable pieces I read was the following, the main character's (the "prophet's") view on joy and sorrow:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was often times filled with your tears.And how else can it be?The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain...
...When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.   

I think of those lines often when contemplating loss.  I think about how little I've felt or mourned the loss of things.  I've never loved things.  But now, when I contemplate the idea of lost loved ones, I can't help but remember that my sadness is felt in proportion to the joy I felt in their presence and which I may have experienced, generally, through having known them.


Two weeks ago I was out to breakfast with my family.  We were talking about parenthood and I suddenly found myself with tears in my eyes.  Specifically, my heart was heavy with the kinds of doubts that often plague parents: the second-guessing of my disciplinary decisions, the constant questioning whether or not, in every turn, I've done right by my son.

The emotion was right there on the surface, such that I couldn't even contain it in that very public place.  I felt those questions so deeply because there is so much at stake--because the well-being of the little person I love most in the world, who's a true part of me--hangs in the balance.

I was sitting there trying to hold back tears and hoping nobody would make me explain them in that very moment, when something kind of strange happened.

I looked up from our table and noticed a man in his 60's or so, who must have just been seated in the previous couple of minutes.  He was directly in my line of view and nobody else at my table could see him from where they sat.

What caught my eye about this man--who was sitting there with two women, one roughly his age and one a generation older--was that he was weeping.  I mean...weeping.  I couldn't hear him from where I sat, but I could see his shoulders hunched over, his whole frame shaking as he bowed his head in his hand, pressing on his eyelids with thumb and forefinger as if to cinch off tears.

Instantly, I was rapt.

How often do you see a man weeping?

You never see a man weeping, especially in public.  Why was this man weeping and who were these women he was sitting with?  What could cause a man that kind of pain?

But even as I silently asked that question, the answer was right there: It was love.  It could only be love.  And, following that love, loss.

Maybe he had just lost somebody, literally.  Maybe he'd just learned of a loved one's fatal diagnosis.  Maybe he'd just learned of his own.

In any case, it was love.  It had to be.  No man weeps like that over stocks gone bad.  And even if he does, it's not the loss of money he's mourning but the fear of the loss of respect, possibly the loss of the love of those who stood to benefit from it.

In my heart, though, I know this man was weeping for a person, for somebody who had once been or was now still, for the time being, his delight.

And I felt suddenly alive, suddenly infused with a sense of connectedness, of shared humanity.  I wanted to know this man and every person he'd ever known.  I felt my own worries in that moment lifted as I was reminded that all is well and would be well in the world my son and I live in because we are sharing the experience with the whole of humanity.

There would be sorrow, for sure.  But there would be love and, in Gibran's words again, "the sharing of pleasures."

I mentioned the man to nobody at the time.  Selfishly (and until now), I wanted that moment just for me.  I wanted to savor the joy to be found in it, that reminder.  I knew I'd need a little time and distance to realize just how meaningful it was.

If you ask me a million times, a million times I'll choose to take all the pain this life can possibly bring, in exchange for its pleasure.  Whoever you are reading this, wherever you may be, I'm thankful to be sharing the experience with you.


What's in Your Wallet?, Who's Got Your Back?

12 days ago I dreamed my purse was stolen.

6 days ago my purse was actually stolen.

The morning after my dream, I woke up with a terrible feeling of helplessness.  My family and I left for L.A. early that morning, and I spent the first 1/2 hour or so of the trip thinking about what a huge pain in the ass it would be to lose my wallet.  I thought of the 40 or so credit cards, gift cards, membership cards, reminder notes, business cards, photos, etc. therein contained.  And then I thought, 'I really need to take a few minutes to write down all the 800 numbers on the backs of my credit cards so I can cancel them right away if I ever lose my wallet.'

You would think that with 6 hours ahead of me as a passenger and a thought like that, I'd have acted on that thought.

You would be wrong.

Last Thursday I packed up my son and I and met my boyfriend Kevin and his son at Lake Temescal, where Highway 13 meets the Caldecott Tunnel, between Oakland and Berkeley.  Without thinking too much about it (clearly), I left my purse on the floor behind the passenger seat, shielded from view by both my darkly tinted windows and a wardrobe bag that was hanging, covering the window.

About two hours later, I picked up my phone to check the time and read a text from my bank asking me to reply 1 if I'd indeed just made a $440 charge, 2 if not. (Not!)

Somehow it didn't occur to me in that moment that my purse had been taken.  I thought somebody had somehow fraudulently used a debit card I have never once used, online or elsewhere, though that thought was completely illogical.  I honestly wasn't all that worried about it.

The whole thing made more sense when we got back to my car and found the middle third of my rear passenger side window punched out, wardrobe bag still in place, flapping in the wind, tiny pieces of glass covering the rear seat and floor, sparkling in the sun on the sidewalk next to the car.

For a moment, I was just a little confused.  I nudged Kevin and pointed.

Even after the moment that I knew what had happened, I was slow to react.  I didn't know which action to take first.  I ended up on the phone with my bank, registering in some part of my brain that Kevin's 11-year-old son was keeping my son distracted and away from the glass, while Kevin removed what was left of my window, scooped the broken glass out of my car, and moved my son's car seat into his car so that he could drive him to our next destination.

Registering in some part of my brain was the knowledge that teamwork was happening, that my son and I were being cared for.

I spent that evening making calls to other banks, to my insurance company, to glass fixing people.

Since I'd lost my checkbook in the deal, I closed my bank account the next day and called still more people to cancel various things.  By the weekend, when previously made plans had us leaving town, the mess of my financial affairs was pretty much settled; I had only to bring cash and my passport for ID, and to silently sweat the fact that my license was gone and that I could--at any point from there on out--fall victim to the dreaded "identity theft."

What a strange concept.


Here's the thing about when you lose your "identity."  You realize the photo ID card in your wallet has nothing whatsoever to do with your identity.  You realize that the touchable, seeable person you are and the thoughts and feelings housed within are all there really ever was.  You realize that plastic cards swiping away invisible money have little bearing on things that really matter.  And you realize that what was last week a terrible nightmare, come true, is in reality just a semi-complicated annoyance.

And here's what else you realize:

1.  You should never have had that much of your personal business in one wallet in the first place.  And you have no business using credit cards at all.

2.  What the hell were you thinking, leaving your purse in the car?

3.  It matters.  Having the solid support and clear-headed thinking/action of a supportive partner matters.  It matters a lot.  When we got back to Kevin's house, he'd ordered a pizza and left cash to pay for it while he took his son to buy a few things needed for his departure to camp the next day.  While I bathed Kalil, he found some old clothes of his son's for me to dress him in (the change of clothes I'd brought were also stolen in a second bag that was sitting on the rear seat). He filled his car with gas so I could take it home instead of subjecting Kalil to a windowless ride home on the freeway.  And while I was at work the next day, he took care of the glass replacement and brought my car to my place of work.

This is not meant to be a post about how great my honey is (though he is).  But I did find that, a mere day after the coming true of one of my nightmares, I was sending a message of thanks to the nethers for the chance to see a part of what makes him so great.

"They" say that before you decide to get serious about somebody, you should take a vacation with him or her.  I suppose this is to see whether or not he or she will be a control/itinerary freak, be a planless loosey goose (if you yourself are an itinerary freak), wig out on the locals, embarrass you and your countrymen, etc, etc.  I personally think you should also see your partner with alcohol in his or her system and also have some decent conflict (resolution (hopefully)) before deciding to get serious.

But this experience made me believe that you should also first see your partner in action in a time of (semi- or major) crisis.  You should see how he prioritizes, how he reacts.  You should see how he measures your state of mind and strives to fill in the gaps.  You should see how he checks in on your welfare in the aftermath and how well he can keep his own responsibilities in view at the same time.  You should see if you feel supported and if, in the wake, you have the knowledge that the two of you can handle this and so much more, should it come your way.

You will see that he is just who you want by your side in such a time, and you will pledge to be all of those things to him, when it's his turn.


When the fun of the weekend was over, there were more automated menus to deal with.  Two days of that (I had to spread it out.  One can go crazy with automated menus) led me to some more realizations.

1b.  It's very possible that the whole point of my losing my purse was for me to get the kick in the ass I needed to make the last remaining official name changes I still had outstanding, following my divorce.  It was also the kick in the ass I needed to close the checking account I'd long meant to close but stopped short of doing when I thought of all those damned automated menus I'd have to navigate in order to cancel about 10 different autopayments.  Turns out that, back against the wall, that dreaded bullshit wasn't all that bad.  (Isn't it that way with just about everything?)

2b.  Once the menus were navigated and I was in touch with actual humans, I got the chance to appreciate just how helpful and concerned customer service people can be.  I don't care if they're paid to be that way or even paid to feign they are that way.  I really and truly appreciated their kindness and the fact that they made it as easy as possible for me to make the changes I had to make.  Also, there were a total of 5 fraudulent charges made to my various accounts in the hour or so following the theft, and every single one of those charges was flagged and restrictions placed on my cards before I even contacted the companies.  So thank you, also, for sophisticated loss-prevention algorithms.

Two days into the following week, all that was left to do was visit the DMV.  I was still nervous about my license floating around who knows where.  And who knew how savvy these thieving thieves were?  In any case, I needed a replacement.  I was washing my car in the front driveway, trying to decide if I'd head to the DMV right after or keep my appointment for the following morning, when the mailman walked up.  He handed me a stack of mail and then held out in his hand a beat-up looking envelope, addressed to my first and middle name only and with the street name misspelled in shaky-looking penmanship...that of an elderly person or somebody who simply doesn't do a lot of writing.

"Is this you?" the mailman asked.

I tore open the envelope to find this:

And I felt about as happy as I look in that license picture.  The cards were useless by that point, but I felt much better knowing the crooks were simply after the 3 iPads they managed to purchase, rather than my "identity."

More than that, I was thankful for whoever took the time to gather up my cards and send them back to me.  Somehow I had the feeling, as I handled the envelope, that whoever sent my cards back was somebody possibly related to the thieves--a grandpa or somebody who knew this happened often, felt bad about what his relatives were up to, and was doing what he could to make it better (an arrest would be ideal, of course, but family loyalties are complicated, I understand).

My suspicions were at least partially confirmed when I realized that one of the credit cards I received in the envelope wasn't even mine.  It belonged to an unfortunate Elizabeth whose things were probably also stolen and whose week, I imagined, had gone a lot like my own. I hoped she had somehow found something meaningful through it all.

I took the envelope and taped it on the wall above my bed.  It's there to remind me to focus on the good--in life and in people.  It's there to remind me of how amazing the people in your life are, and just when you need them to be.  It's there to remind me that, all things considered, it was well worth all that headache to spend even a few hours at the lake with some of the people I love to be with most.

When I contemplate the idea of my "identity," of who I truly am, I know that I am so much more than my driver license and my credit score because I have had the fortune to love and to be loved.  Which is what (haven't we all agreed on this by now?) matters most of all...