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Heart in a jar. Photo Credit: Unknown
Heart in a jar. Photo Credit: Unknown

A few nights ago, I read an article about the rate at which the body turns over its cells. I was trying to figure out how long it takes to become a completely regenerated version of yourself. No surprise, the answer does not button up into one neat round number. The different cells in our blood last anywhere from 3 to 120 days. Fat and bone cells can last up to 8 to 25 years, respectively. The heart that beats in your chest? Those cells have been going at it for 50 years. And there are even specific cells that never turn over – in your brain, your central nervous system, your eyes. They are with you for a lifetime and, in some cases, can live on beyond your death.

I find it all very romantic. To think that my heart is the very same heart that carried me through childhood, the birth of my kid, through relationships and friendships. Knowing it is now opening up to a new universe of possibilities … well, it makes a girl’s heart skip a beat. I have great affection for this heart, even though it has a mind of its own from time to time.

We all know so little about the world, and the more I learn about how things work, the more I come to the conclusion that it all feels a little bit like luck and magic that we’re even here at all. Sometimes I yearn not to think about any of this, but the brain I’ve been issued doesn’t like to stay idle. There is a will and a wonder in there that keeps pushing me. It’s exhausting, but the drive has always been there.

These past four months have been incredible, but the value I am getting from the time off is waning. More downtime will probably have diminishing returns from here on out. It’s time to get on with it. Perhaps this is all a facet of middle age. I’m at the top of the hill and can pretty much see all the options in front of me. I just need to start making choices. Take the well-paved highway, meander through the side streets or take a left under the cover of the forest – ultimately, it all leads to the same place … our demise. The only real decision is the route we take, and even then, we leave so much of it to fate. But this is living. The important things stay with us for a lifetime; everything else is fleeting.

Sunday Dispatches

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Photo of Asha Dornfest. Photo Credit: @ashadornfest Instagram.
Photo Credit: @AshaDornfest Instagram

From time to time, I find myself lying in a (metaphorical) prone position with my face on the ground. I can go weeks like this unattended, which I consider a testament to my ability to surrender to a situation. Luckily, I have in my orbit a handful of women, and one lone man, who have been given the direction to pick me up off the ground when I dwell there too long. Thank God for these beautiful humans.

I am a mostly ridiculous individual, which I consider to be my most redeeming quality. I like to make a ruckus as often as possible, ignore normal conventions and rarely take myself too seriously. It’s much easier to laugh at myself and flit about than to do the work of becoming a fully fledged adult. But that’s what I have my friends for, patiently prodding and poking me and asking me the hard questions. I can generally get away with murder, but not with most of these folks. They know where I keep the shovel.

I often describe that being close friends with me is like peeling back the layers of an onion. The sad thing about that analogy is that you can peel back all the layers you want, but it’s still a damn onion. I am not sure how satisfying that is for anyone. Personally, onions make me cry but I am so grateful for those who have the fortitude to keep going.

Smarter, more talented people have articulated the beauty of enduring friendships, like David Whyte, who put into words exactly how I feel –

“The dynamic of friendship is almost always underestimated as a constant force in human life … But no matter the medicinal virtues of being a true friend or sustaining a long close relationship with another, the ultimate touchstone of friendship is not improvement, neither of the other nor of the self; the ultimate touchstone is witness, the privilege of having been seen by someone and the equal privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another …”

David Whyte

I am a person who loves so easily and generously but accepts love so sparingly. I feel somewhat sad for my old school friends who have patiently waded through miles of shallow waters before being rewarded by the deep and abiding currents of my friendship. Now that I am older, I am finding it easier and easier to let people see behind the curtains and the distance in which folks have to travel to reach me is much shorter. This is the glory of aging – all the old defense mechanisms are tired, and you care much less. Self-image and self-preservation are a young person’s game.

I find myself meditating on friendship this morning because of my dear friend Asha Dornfest. She is the kind of person that is universally liked and respected by everyone who meets her. She is equally tough and tender and toggles between the two with such skill and grace. Today is the day that she was born.

Asha and I have walked for miles in our neighborhood throughout this pandemic, sharing stories about self-discovery, triumph and heartbreak. My conversations with her are like taking a master’s class in vulnerability and being a good human. Try as we might to discuss topics like lipstick and nail colors; we always end up immersed in the deep end of the pool.

I love you AFD. Happy birthday. Your friendship is like a warm hug on a cold winter’s day.

Sunday Dispatches

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Garth Hoblitzell (red tie) with his family. Photo Credit: Unknown
Garth Hoblitzell (red tie) with his family. Photo Credit: Unknown

Last night I was going thru some old photos and I came across this one of my dear friend Garth (red tie). It feels impossible to think it’s been fifteen years since he passed away, but it’s true. He died on September 26, 2006. I loved him very much and the time that we spent in each other’s lives were filled with laughter and ridiculous escapades. He was the best wingman and we did everything fun two friends could possibly do when you’re in your twenties.

Once we went to a Woody Allen movie that we both thought was garbage about 20 minutes in. But then, like a miracle, he got up and announced that we were leaving. It had never once occurred to me that I didn’t have to endure a shitty movie. Now I don’t sit through a shitty anything, if I can avoid it.

Garth was often indelicate with his words and sometimes they were cutting. He made it hard to earn his friendship, but once you did, you quickly discovered that his prickly exterior was all a ruse. He had a depth of emotions and a soulful heart that was befitting his large stature. Sometimes, when it was just the two of us, he would reveal a tenderness and vulnerability that made you want to wrap your arms around him. But you could never acknowledge it, or the door would close. Instead you learned to just sit still and bask in the warmth of the sun.

Earlier this year my friend Kevin and I had dinner at Machiavelli’s, one of the last of our old stomping grounds in Seattle. Kevin insists on eating there every time he is in town but I’ve largely avoided it because it always conjures up a little bit of melancholy.

Back in the day Garth and I would invariably land there after our shifts at the restaurant we worked at and would often spend our tip money on cigarettes, bourbon and bottles of expensive Italian wine. And then we’d play dominoes in that tiny bar of theirs, much to the annoyance of the cocktail server. Nowadays, I almost always order a glass of Barbera or Malbec if they offer it in a restaurant as a nod to Garth. And I generally have a bottle of Basil Hayden’s at home because that was our label. I think it’s these quiet rituals that help keep people in your heart – it’s scary when loved ones turn into distant memories.

That said, I’ve long since gotten rid of all of my Charles Bukowski books because it made me too sad to look at them. Garth and I would often trade books and then get in robust debates about them. He was much smarter than I was, so when he had nothing to critical to say about Bukowski, I knew I won him over to at least one author. Years later I found out he had shared the poem “Bluebird” with his two younger brothers a few months before he passed away from an overdose. If you know the poem, you’ll understand the depth in which this gutted me.


An Animated Short of Charles Bukowski’s Poem “Bluebird.”

Sunday Dispatches

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Garth and I drifted apart in the last years of his life. The age difference that seemed inconsequential in my 20s, seemed like a chasm in my early 30s. I left the restaurant industry, started my career and was busy with motherly duties like carpools and soccer. We had opposite schedules and we never seemed to make the time to connect. When I first heard of his passing, I was so filled with regrets about us drifting apart. He made my life so fun and happy and in retrospect I think that is the best way to remember him.

The other day, a friend of mine told me that I am “generous with my love” towards people. I think that is the highest compliment you can give someone and I feel grateful for it (though I am not sure if it was meant as a compliment). I’m nearing 50 now and at the top of the hill, where the view provides a lot more clarity about life. You never know who will weave in and out of your story or when, so it’s best to take the moment now and lead with that loving heart of yours.

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