08/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011


We've had two family dinners since last Sunday. Family dinners except for the absence of my daughter and her boyfriend which is far more than just an "except." There was a significant gap at the tables for me, although given the level of my daughter's happiness, where and with whom she lives, I've adjusted. A part of me envies her, wishes I lived in a town much like hers -- surrounded by academia, quaint shops on a wide Main Street, houses that hover together in true neighborhoods. I write about towns like that in my novels with the addition of the town always being near water -- a lake, the sea, a river.

It is an odd experience to be with children who are either approaching, or roughly the age that Mark and I were when we first met. And then there are the three grandparents, now in their eighties and nineties, and the fact that Mark and I met when they were roughly our ages now. It's a life cycle wake-up call. Makes me think of Joni Mitchell's The Circle Game, then adding on another 30 years as the circle continues 'round. When I listen to the song now, the circle seems more like an arc.

There is an urgency lately that prevents me from wanting to be where and who I am right now. And no, it's not a mid-life crisis: I'm past that, and (sadly?) never had the opportunity to indulge in one. Instead, I am taking stock, longing for yet another re-invention -- the latter of which is probably what staved off the mid-life crisis, and took me down another road. I always want to change -- just within myself.

In the last week, I dreamed twice that I am in my twenties and unmarried, dreamed of an old boyfriend, my ex-husband, and that I am the mother of a baby and have lost one of the baby's shoes. The dreams themselves are probably significant, but more significant is the feeling of uncertainty when I awaken -- far more telling than symbolism interpreted according to the online "dream dictionary" translating the dreams as loss of innocence, vulnerability, betrayal and restraint -- although seeing those "definitions" just now in black and white is delightfully entertaining if not enlightening.

But when our subconscious is interpreted in a "dream dictionary" are we using our subconscious, conscious or both to interpret the definitions according to what we need to "hear?"

Too heavy, as we used to say.

Lately, it feels necessary to make life simpler, less intrusive, to use time in better ways. Something I have yet to master. Of course, I excuse my lack of expertise in these areas as the result of being rigidly "dutiful" chronologically -- as a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a worker, a friend.

I suppose unless one is a drifter or a recluse, our inability to set boundaries becomes understandably difficult as we juggle ourselves versus others, concerned that someone could be forsaken should we succumb, even momentarily, to our own desires. More pronounced, perhaps, when we are members of the sandwich generation -- caring for parents at a time in our lives when the nest is emptying and we should be able to focus on ourselves...

Lately, reality is more difficult to interpret than dreams.

The other night, Mark and I met out-of-town friends for dinner in Tribeca, a neighborhood not far from where we live in downtown New York City. Good company in a lovely restaurant. I took a 60-minute yoga class before dinner, hoping the yoga would stretch my body and calm my mind, but getting into meditative mode was particularly difficult. The hour wasn't nearly enough for calm. After dinner, when it was time to drive our friends back to midtown, I made my apologies, admitted that I needed to walk, said my goodbyes, and walked home. A small, yet monumental concession to a desire to be alone with my thoughts, and not fight urban traffic with my husband who drives like a typical New York "cabbie" as I clutch the leather handle on the car door, faux-braking with my right foot. I have yet to understand why my husband drives his car around Manhattan. In a past life, he must have been a carriage driver, holding the reins, bouncing on the cobblestones.

The streets were dark and empty as I walked through the not-quite-residential-yet neighborhood. Had I chosen the wrong time and place to indulge a relatively minor need? And then there were the guilty thoughts that perhaps I had inadvertently insulted our guests, and even temporarily abandoned my husband. But, selfishly, I needed the air. In just a few blocks, the neighborhood changed -- as so often happens in New York City -- and people were walking dogs, groups were tumbling in and out of bars and restaurants, and street lamps suddenly lit the avenues. I felt safe -- and crazed with freedom.

About 40 years ago, I sat on the windowsill in my bedroom, drew the draperies around me, gazed at the stained glass windows on the church across the street, strummed my guitar, read Ferlinghetti, and just thought. I tried this on Sunday afternoon. Just holed up in my office after cooking the Father's Day dinner and before it was served -- put my iPod on the dock and leaned back in my desk chair to just think. And then my 22-year-old son asked if I was okay, what was I doing, and how come I was listening to weird music. If he'd been paying attention, he would have heard that the list started with Mozart and then the songs played alphabetically through the titles -- Mr. Chow, Mr. Moonlight, Mr. Tambourine Man. Perhaps, yes, a little weird.

I have always been a rather solitary soul, happy when lost in a book, curled up alone watching a movie, going deep into my thoughts. A man once asked why I wasn't a "normal" woman -- preferring Borders to Bloomingdale's. My grandmother called me a bookworm.

No doubt, solitude ended with marriage and children -- both dreams that came true, but I am ready to embrace the oneness again -- just once in a while. Have I forgotten how? The tricky part is remaining available to those I love and still being available to me -- "before the last revolving year is through."