Tag Archives: Pat Conroy

Hilton Head – Departure — Neil Simon May As Well Have Written This


We arrived after almost 11 hours in the car.

The event started out hilariously after my middle son and I had an epic battle, hopefully our final for the year, about the inexplicable disappearance and sudden miraculous reappearance of a $5 bill I’d left on a bookshelf.

It’s not so much the funds. It’s the entire thing. A pattern of behavior and performance we are working hard and with reasonable success, to remedy. But that was over and we’d resolved it, or I had and so after storming out to the car, I sat in my seat and waited to get going.

My youngest son decided he had to use the bathroom. We gave the grave reminder to “pee your last!” and he decided he’d best go.

As he walked back to the car, my husband said, “Close the door!” and with that, the keys. Not in the car. Not with my husband. Not where they needed to be.

A text came in from a cousin, wishing us a memorable trip and love. I started to laugh at it all, in some amazing way, as my mother would have at the sheer irony of all this “SHIT” we’d apparently done to make this event happen.

There were hems and haws and moans and groans and whatarewegonnado and thisisastupididea and goingtothebeachinthewintersucks and financial wrangling and then a sense of purpose, of repose and gifts from nowhere which aligned to create a sense of “hellyeahwearegoingtothebeachinthewinterandyouregoingtoloveit” that was grounded, rooted and firmly planted in our auric hearts.

We were locked out of the house and we had all this shit in the car ready to go. We had no keys. We were packed to the gills with nothing but venom and blame and hissing to spew but …

We didn’t.

We rallied. In some crazy almost “fuckyouuniversewehavehadahardweek!” conscious shift, we were resolved. We would forge ahead. My husband considered breaking in.

Middle son decided to help. God only knows what that meant, but he couldn’t bear to see his father suffer, like Randy’s Dad in “A Christmas Story” my husband was on the verge of an apoplectic yet feckless cursing spree. (The man is a saint and we are all crazy people; I am sure in some quiet moments in his ephemeral solitude, he looks up, with red-rimmed eyes, to the heavens beyond the ceiling in our bedroom and asks, “WHAT DO DID I DID DO HOW WHO WHY?”)

Middle son charged around back. Maybe Glinda the Good Witch of the North (East?) was there in her magic transport sphere with help.


Husband is at the window trying to break into our house.


This is never good.

I start howling again. My mother, someone (egad could it just be me? it’s entirely possible), was helping me laugh my ass off at this entire experience. Like some crazy Neil Simon play, that has all the elements: strife, sarcasm, loathing, drama, wit, redemption and loss. I remember witnessing my mother at moments like these laughing at it all, and wondering, “what the hell is the matter with you?” during what to my father seemed like a death-crisis.

Men… marriage and family are not for the weak.

The middle son darts around again. Like a human squirrel in swishy pants. Youngest son is silently weeping yet marveling at my ability to laugh at this moment. Oldest son is churlish; headphones in and staring intently at his iDevice.

The next I know, the front door is open. No shattered glass. No torn out windows.

The keys were in the lock.

I scream with laughter. “THIS IS RICH! THIS IS SO RICH!” Giving my cousin, via text, a play-by-play of the entire thing. “THE KEYS WERE IN THE DOOR!” She’s probably horrified by my insouciance.

We motor on. It took a long time.


I’d like to thank CitiBank rewards / thank you points for the Bose headphones I wore. They helped me not lose my mind during several of the moments we traveled at a neck-breaking 1.2 miles per hour on the flat, boring I-95 corridor. I’d like to thank Google Maps for really trying to keep us updated. Apple Maps is worthless. Google’s ETA times went from 85 minutes to fourteen days and then back to a horrific 146 minutes, which was what it ended up being in the thick of it. I’d like to thank Thom Yorke for his mesmerizing “Atoms for Peace — Four Tet Remix” (I’m very late to the party, it’s from 2008) and the sun for rising this morning.

My sons broke out into their own rendition of “No Sleep ‘Til [Brooklyn] Hilton” when the traffic got hairy. We saw a freshly dead coyote on the shoulder and miles of break lights.

When we finally made it to Coosawatchie the release was kind. I’d like to say it was as though a pin pierced a taut balloon, without explosion, but as I look back on it, it was more gentle than that. It was as if the knot had been untied and the air pfft’d out on its own. No massive boom or transformation into kindness for we were already kind people; we’d just been in the car for a long time.

It took another half hour, to make it to our parking space. The meantime was glorious though. I had left Neil Simon and arrived at Pat Conroy. I stuck my head out my window as we traversed a bridge in the dark. My stomach felt all roller coaster-y. Our Southern escort along the Spanish Moss-dangled willows flanking route 462 was a half moon. She was hanging amidst a sea of lacy clouds, eventually thickening to greet us this morning with 64 degrees and a demure sun.

We unpacked our gear and watched Harry Potter fight a dragon. My youngest clambered into our bedroom shortly after midnight to tell his his brother snored and he wanted to sleep on our floor. A crow greeted me (or more likely my huevos rancheros) this morning on our patio. The sea is 200 yards away. I can hear her and see her.


If we don’t meet in the meantime, I hope you have a glorious final two days of 2014.

I’ll be back.

Thank you.

30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 19: #shame #debris #storm #backlash #relationships


Welcome to Day 19 of “30 Days of Brené Brown.”

I can’t let another sentence get by without mentioning and offering a moment of remembrance to the events that occurred a year ago in Newtown, Connecticut. My heart goes out, still, to those families whose lives were changed forever. I try not to editorialize stuff like this; it needs it not.

I’m feeling a little off-center from a sequence of events which have dovetailed in my life in a very short space of the last 48 hours on an energetic level that I can’t even beGIN to comprehend. Wrapping my head around it boggles me. So I’m just going to not bother. I am saying all this because I might not be as “WITTY!” as I usually am. I am grateful for it all though.

Wahe guru!

Here is today’s quote:

If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.(page 10)
― Brené BrownThe Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

This quote smacks. It just does.

Being a writer means that we write. There are some of us who write fiction; I can do that. I can whip up people, space aliens, rodents who speak, raindrops which sing in a matter of seconds based on where I am, anywhere; and what I’m doing, anything. But to make those characters relatable (which is the WHOLE POINT OF WRITING), we need to give them dimension: age, temperament, personal history, height, tone of voice, cadence of dialogue. The ability to do so is often a dream, a gift, and a curse.

I’m reading Pat Conroy’s The Death of Santini. It’s rich, as most of his work is, with fragrant passages and textured settings, and robust moments. I feel as though I am there with him, writing. Or at least watching. This “book” is hailed as a memoir; at least in the jacket. Memoir connotes nonfiction, does it not?

Interestingly (trust me, I’ll get to my point), in the book, the Library of Congress bibliowhatever page has a litany of categories enumerated at the bottom of the page: “Military life — Fiction. Domestic violence — Fiction. Suicide — Fiction.” and on and on. I thought it was memoir. Even in his own introduction, which I usually snooze through but never do in a memoir, Conroy said it was essential in The Great Santini, which was also a fictionalized memoir based on his father that he, “fictionalize my father to make him [seem] human,” or something like that. I’m hazy.

Does Conroy base his characters on the ether? No.

Writer or not: do you reference your life’s experiences and the people with whom you share them as though they are irrelevant to one another? Do you? Do you think that one event has nothing to do with another and that all events are not at all related? Even if YOU are the thread which relates them? Do you stay silent? Do you not share?

My point is this: Brown talks about releasing shame. But she also said, quite early on in her book, that sharing our shame with the wrong people puts us at risk of damage. I am so safe to someone who holds shame; I might share about it, because the release of the shame affected me, but I would NEVER betray a confidence.

In The Death of Santini, Pat Conroy wrote in his prologue of The Great Santini, “there were many things I was afraid to write or feared that no one would ever believe,” (p . 11)  when he first wrote it at age 30. It was his debut.

That fear is shame-based. While it’s organic and his; that projection: that no one would believe him or parts that he was afraid to write, wasn’t. It was externalized, as is most of the shame we all carry, based on the stuff (as in Shakespeare –stuff) of other people.

I have lost friends in the course of my lifetime whom I believe now, were only meant to be with me for whatever term they were. I was even accused of writing about one of them several times in this blog. The accusations were unfounded. I’m good with it all.

Never, however, have I been dismissed because of what I write about MYSELF: that I might share too much; that their personal comfort level with my content is difficult for them. Nor, have I been dismissed based on an unspoken fear that I would write about someone else –this is mine: in a way that would be so succinct, so crystal clear, that only the two other people who know I know this person would be able to determine, without a doubt, that I was writing about that person. I have tons of ambivalence about what I write all. the. time. Even these words, right now <–  –>these for a matter of fact, are choices I make fully aware that I’m letting my slip show. But every time I share I feel a little better about myself.

That dismissal implies that I am the ‘one more piece of debris’ in a dangerous storm.

Gah. People can be so fake.

It reminds me of NSA. The wiretapping or cell phone surveillance stuff. Here’s me: heck yeah! I write about other people all the time. I write about myself more. I write about how those other people affect me almost constantly. I write about how I’m so confused or amazed or impressed or enlightened or hurt. That’s what makes me human. That’s how I’m able to share my story. I have nothing I am ashamed of.

I have privacies, absolutely; I don’t share them because c’mon: who wants to hear about my toe fungus or my ear wax statues? But: do you want to hear about my ear wax statues OF my toe fungus? Sign me up.

I get that people, myself included harbor shame; but as far as nurturing shame?! Mmmmmno. But about 99.8% of all shame is bullshit. It belongs to someone else or it’s so OVER, so last century, so second grade, that it’s time it come out and guess what: when you do share it, people are either “me too!” or kind. Or… silent.

Shame is an epidemic; a scourge on our emotional and spiritual health: it keeps us isolated, fearful, judgmental and ironically: caustic. It engenders parsimony and the more parsimonious we are — with ourselves, love, resources, time, gifts, truths, etc., the more we allow shame to grow in us. Like toe fungus. No, like toe fungus on Ebenezer Scrooge. Before the three spirits. (Hey, it’s the yuletide season, I’m feeling it.)

eww. gross! a jacob marley head made out of toe fungus? who thinks of this stuff?

eww. gross! a jacob marley head made out of toe fungus? who thinks of this stuff?

So yeah, I was dismissed by someone this week. The fear was that I would write about us. I hadn’t yet, in any specific fashion. But I might now. Hmmm. No. I won’t. It was never that remarkable.

OOOOooooohhh! Burrrrrrrn!

Yeah, I’m being petty. I’m also full of crap; I don’t mean it.

The fact is that this person’s shame kicked me to the curb about two years ago, but I was never told. It wasn’t revealed to me, in fact it was repressed, until I asked about the radio silence that had deafened me to a point where I couldn’t think of anything else. I was hurt. The math didn’t add up. If anything, I am someone that anyone can talk to about anything. I’ll own that I’m not always super easy about it, but I eventually get my act together and rally. People are important to me.

I had known this person for about 14 years. The thought to share our relationship never entered my mind. I thought everything was OK and that things on that person’s end were just busy or whatever. For two years. After a major death in my life. Y’know… it happens.

OK ok ok. I felt that something was amiss; it’s just hard to be soft. It’s easier to be hard. But it was really apparent (enter: falling piano) when my mother’s death was comPLETEly blown off. I received nary a call, smoke signal, email, morse code, owl-gram, text, telepathy, sky writing, FB note or y’know… card from this person. Nada. Zip. Dilzh (that’s supposed to be “zilch” but I didn’t look when I was typing). That happened to me. My brother’s awesome friends FLEW IN from NYC just for Mom’s funeral and this person did nothing. I get it: death does crazy shit to people, but 13+ years of friendship means nothing?

Ok, I’m not being fair. Eventually, I did get a card. It was my birthday card, three weeks after Mom died, and it didn’t even mention her death. Just blasé plastic bullshit: “thinking of you [for this nanosecond of unbearable vulnerability] and hoping your next year is [who the (&@$ cares] is [superficial trendy adjective]. xo Bipsy.”

It should have just said, “Gee. Sorry your Mom kicked. Happy birthday.” But that would’ve taken too much blood from that cold fish. Look, if you’re going to drop the .22 cents for a stamp these days, why not use it on the card; or spend the .10 cents to call me from a pay phone.

The irony is, of course, that this person was no more perfect than you or I; in fact this person’s ability to flap the gums and chew the fat was on par with yours truly. So let me get this straight: TALKING about it, and I’m sure about me and our relationship to other people is OK, but my writing about it isn’t?!

So here I am, NOT writing about it.

As Anne Lammott said of writing,

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

Swear alert: fuck yeah.

I have NO clue if I attended to that quote or not. I just got hit with some debris.

Thank you.