Decisions I’m Glad About When I Think of Them, Even Now, Years Later

  1. Taking a punch in the stomach at age eight or nine, and not tattling. Not even crying when it happened. Just sucking the air in and staying still in a curled position, but still upright, until the pain passed. The kid was stunned at my reaction, and I lorded that punch over him for years. It taught me something about myself — and that one should never be quick to react.
  2. Not getting into a stranger’s car on 88th Street in Queens that morning in 1981, while walking to school by myself. Looking away when the window rolled down and I was offered a ride to school, and holding my chin higher while I said “no, thank you” and kept walking.
  3. Refraining from drinking Yoo-Hoos. Something never seemed quite right about that chocolate-y drink.
  4. Saying no to the joint passed to me in the woods between the Myrtle Avenue playground and the Interboro Parkway when I was twelve.
  5. Trying out for the play in my sophomore year of high school.
  6. Learning to drive a stick shift.
  7. Listening to the ex-boyfriend who chastised me for only eating salad in his presence, and suggested that I have a burger instead.
  8. Letting him stay all those nights in my dorm room. Staying in his when he encircled my wrist with his finger and thumb, and asked me to. Letting him break my heart. Knowing it would happen from the very first time I let him kiss me. Choosing the path anyway. Having the experience.
  9. Applying to the study-abroad program and spending a semester in London during my junior year of college.
  10. Not getting on a plane and returning home to the US, once I had landed in London for that spring semester, and witnessing the breakout of the First Gulf War three days later.
  11. Not going home with that guy I met in the London club near Trafalgar Square. Letting him kiss me very softly and expertly for a long time in a dark corner, but not going home with him. Going home with that cute boy who became my husband instead.
  12. Deciding that I loved him as soon as he kissed me the first time, but saying nothing about that for at least four months.
  13. Traveling through Europe with not much more than a cigarette lighter and a passport.
  14. Taking the ballroom dancing class in college.
  15. Politely rebuffing my mother’s offer to set up their Connecticut basement as a makeshift apartment after graduating from college, and living in a crawlspace of a Manhattan apartment instead. For letting my father help me pack the U-Haul, while knowing that was the truest declaration of love he’d ever given me. For letting him let me go.
  16. Accepting the fact that I hate to ski, and freeing myself from ever having to do it again.
  17. Signing myself up for long running races and completing them, even while cursing, crying, crapping or dry-heaving through some of them.
  18. Getting onstage in a New York basement comedy club. Squinting at the lights. Sticking my hands in my pockets so the audience wouldn’t see them shake. Telling my story. Failing. Telling it again.
  19. Throwing away the cigarettes. Choosing to run instead.
  20. That black leather skirt. Still keeping it in the closet, twenty years later.
  21. Restraining a guy from hitting me a second time. Having my surge of instinct be stop and end this and never again and no. Making him cry and regret it. Walking away, even though my hands shook all the way down Seventh Avenue.
  22. For living in Manhattan. For living in San Francisco. For being afraid and feeling alone, and signing the leases anyway.
  23. Saying yes to his marriage proposal. Saying yes to his love every day. Thanking God and Life and my ancestors for all that I have been given.
  24. Stopping at the second drink, on any number of occasions throughout my life.
  25. ¬†Accepting the challenging gift of childbirth twice, and overcoming the fear that accompanied it on both occasions. All of the machines and syringes and monitors and pills and breathing and positions and oxygen masks and tennis balls and ice chips and stirrups and showers and inflatable pools and hands on your forehead and on the small of your back and crooks of arms hooking into the crooks of your legs and cold, wet cloths and cold, hard stirrups and call buttons and beds and wires and cords and clamps and stitches and sutures and suction and scalpels — none of it elevates you from the baseness, from the primal wonder and terror and thrill of life passing through you. You know the ancients in such moments. You sense the tension of bitten wood in your mouth, the give of fiber and tissue and bone and blood that is not solely your own. Life and death are intertwined in the slowest dance and most tender embrace as children are born. You are nothing more than a conduit for Life’s unadulterated greatness. You say yes. You let your body go. You let life come through. You succumb.
  26. Letting people love me.
  27. Embracing my past. Wearing it proudly.
  28. For deciding to have two children, even though I felt so utterly incapable of mothering them.
  29. Making the drive to south Jersey to sit with my aunt in an Alzheimer’s unit, even when she no longer knew me, or the faces in the pictures I hung on the walls of her room. For finding the joy of my four year-old son’s preschool songs, which he sang while I cried in the driver’s seat on the ride home on the parkway. For letting her — and him — teach me important lessons.
  30. Letting myself be wrong in front of my husband and children.
  31. Apologizing to my husband and children.
  32. Thanking my mother for having me.
  33. Getting in the car and driving to Levon Helm’s memorial service. It strangely changed my life. I wish it had been a Ramble, and I wish he was still here. But I am grateful for the door it somehow opened. I found myself again, somewhere on the New York State Thruway.
  34. Calling a relative and saying “I love you” to him during an unimaginably difficult time in his life. Hearing him say it back to me.
  35. Telling a great many people how I feel about them — that I admire them, love them, like them, miss them, am angry with them, need them, support them, respect them, desire them. It has never been regrettable.
  36. Signing up for a writing class. Crying a little bit in the car on the drive towards the studio on the very first day. Listening to the kid still inside of me.
  37. Attending a Buddhist retreat. Being quiet. Slowing down. Offering. Receiving. Knowing. Not knowing.
  38. Making Woodstock my spiritual home. For letting it choose me.
  39. Deciding to conquer fear and dive into the deep end of the pool, finally, at 44. While naked.
  40. Getting the drum lessons.
  41. Becoming who I believe I’m meant to be — who I was born to be, on a hot August night somewhere on 95th Street. For no longer hiding myself away for fear of criticism, disapproval or mockery.
  42. Wearing the heels. Packing the flats for the walk home.
  43. Forgiving myself.
  44. Calling myself out on total bullshit.
  45. Telling what happened.
  46. Speaking the truth.
  47. Encouraging other people to do the same.
  48. Submitting my story.
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