Home > Friends, Los Angeles, Love > Is she even real?

Is she even real?

Tonight my husband and I visited with friends we haven’t seen for two years.

(The last time they saw me, the 17-month-old person I call Littler J was the tiniest bump in my belly.)

wedding bw

We’d meant to meet at the Aquarium of the Pacific, but everyone in Los Angeles County appeared to have descended on the place, and why not? It’s a magnificent convergence of air conditioning and aquatic exploration!

We ended up settling in at a nearby eatery. The line there was long, but not nearly as long. We settled into the lobby while waiting for our own table.

While my husband chatted with our friend Earl, our beautiful-inside-and-out friend Shelly wandered off with Littler J on her hip. She returned with Littler J and a few three-color boxes of crayons. She laid out coloring placemats and offered one to Li’l D before trying to engage Littler J in coloring.

shelly and littler

Kneeling over Littler J, she turned to me and asked casually, “Are you a lefty?”

(My mom always told me I was, before nearby adults persuaded me otherwise.)

Our buzzer alerted us a table was free. As we stood up together, I asked why she asked.

“I tend to think of left-handed people as very creative, so I always imagined you as left-handed.”

I was so startled that I stopped, stunned, before grabbing for words that would come close to saying what hers meant to me, “Thank you. I can’t tell you why right now, or I’ll start crying, but thank you.”

Within me, there exists a wellspring of images and motions and words and music that murmur forever below my surface.

Like this one, from teenaged me

Like this one, from teenaged me

My life is that of a logistics machine. I am constantly processing the impact of one potential event to a thousand other events, and deciding whether the one is doable or not.

All my creative instincts are quiet whispers of futility against the necessity of all the day-to-day logistics I must manage: when to pay this bill, when to drop off this kid, when to accept this lunch meeting with a friend, when to schedule this day off, what other things I can accomplish with this day I have to take off anyway. Every single action I take ripples out into dozens or hundreds of impacts on other potential events.

The deep-inside part of me that dances and sings and draws and writes wilts under all these equations of time:

This isn’t my world! she protests. I’m supposed to make, not calculate!

But they’re things I must do, so I do them. And I wonder:

If that creative me doesn’t exist to the outside world,

is she even real?

I know logistics involves creativity.

I know solving problems means thinking far and wide.

But I also know that “solving problems” isn’t what my brain was born to do.

It was meant to meander and fumble, daydream and waltz into half-plausible possibilities.

And yet, in this life, “what my brain was born to do” doesn’t have much sway. There’s just “what I must do” and “what I can do if there’s anything left over after the must-dos.”

Today, a friend asked me if I was a lefty.

It was a simple, innocuous question, but its very asking

left me hopeful that I might indeed be

more than a logistics machine.

  1. September 6, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    I see so much creation in your life– it would be one of the words I would associate with you, if I had to whittle you down to words. “Real” would be another.

    We’re going to go Indiana Jones here and say something that I think applies– it’s not the years, it’s the mileage. It isn’t the HOURS you spend at work that define you, it’s how far you go in the seconds you have to spare.

    And, lady, you go far, and fast, and beautifully.
    Loved this post.

    • September 18, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      Oh, my gosh.

      I’m going backward replying to comments, not realizing I hadn’t replied to a single comment on this post.

      Today I was fighting this same fight: “If all I am is spreadsheets and coordinating rights and child care, am I even really? Or am I just a robot?” I remembered this post and was glad I’d written it, and gotten all the supportive comments I had.

      I didn’t realize I hadn’t replied to a single one. Of course, the good in that is getting to revisit them now and remember that other people see me as more than the sum of these number-crunching parts.

  2. September 6, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Oh, honey … this made my heart ache! Hang in there – this is a season in your life – and it’s a beautiful season, and it IS what you’re meant to be doing – raising your boys, being a support to your husband. One day, however, I truly believe you’ll look around you and see that all your logistical planning and problem solving and getting done has brought you to exactly where you need to be to start the next phase of your life – the one in which Deb the Dreamer-into-Life – gets center stage. When that happens, all the chaotic glittery sometimes-broken-sometimes-just-shabby fullness of your present phase of life will reveal itself to be a great big basket full of just precisely what you need – tools and materials – for that creative phase.

    I say all this because I believe it to be true.But just to be very clear, I most certainly do see that creative you. Yes, she exists. She makes wonderful things in the fragments of time she has. I am so glad I get to watch her grow, and hope very much to get to watch her explode into fullness.

    • September 18, 2015 at 3:57 pm

      It’s been more than a week since you left this comment, almost two, but I remember just how profoundly I was impacted by your words then … and remain so now.

      Your words affirmed something I wondered, but couldn’t be sure of, and thus felt so right. Thank you for leaving them, and all the words you do. ♥

      • September 18, 2015 at 8:16 pm

        I’m glad it spoke to you. I felt it very strongly as I wrote, and I still believe it’s true. And it’s not just theory or happy feelings … I’ve seen this happen in my own life. I wish I’d learned to “be in the moment” sooner, because every moment is a significant part of the whole.

  3. September 6, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    Ah, you have always been more than a logistics machine! The logistics was learned later, to counteract the chaos in our lives. It’s a coping mechanism, but the creativity is still there! I still remember our preschool classes. For some reason, I always thought of you as my blonde friend (because your hair was so much lighter in preschool), and I remember Rose hitting your hand (but she’d hit the table in front of you to warn you, first, as a warning) when you were using the wrong hand. It always made me cry, which then got me in trouble! You’ve always been (and will be) an inspiration to this little sis, and your dreaming big dreams that were big enough for me is half the reason I kept reaching for the stars. And still am. 🙂 ❤

    • September 18, 2015 at 4:03 pm

      You are so right about the logistics being learned later! Actually, sometimes when I think all I am is logistics crunching, I picture you and know that’s not true. This is something we learned so we’d never have to experience certain things in our own lives.

      Sometimes I get grumpy when people see me as logistically skilled and don’t see that it’s not easy. It’s not native to me. It’s something I’ve fought for. I get especially grumbly when people whose lack of logistical skills mean I have to overcompensate with my own get to be happily, blissfully creative while I’m stuck crunching numbers. I even had an argument about this recently, but I know it’s not something to be “fixed” easily. I’d just hope that those nearest me would understand this did not come easy, and understand that maintaining it comes at a cost … and work to take some of that load, when they can, understanding that the less they take, the more I must carry at the cost of things I love and that do come easily to me.

      The more I spend on logistics, the less I have for exuberant being-however-I-feel-like-being. It’s good to know the logistics, but not good to be trapped in juggling those logistics because others aren’t willing.

      But I digress! I’m glad to hear you say “the creativity is still there.” I know it is in you, and that knowing makes it easier for me to accept that you could say that not to ease but because it’s true.

      I totally didn’t remember that about Miss Rose, by the way! I remember a couple of glimpses with you, but little of her … apart from how horrible she was to D, gah.

      Thank you for sharing your heart, now and always. I love you. I am inspired by you.

      • September 18, 2015 at 4:15 pm

        I love you, too! And I agree about logistics… It’s not native to me at all, and I also get annoyed when people flippantly say, “oh, you’re good at that, so we’ll let you take care of it.” I have minimal resources, so being the only one to do something, ticks me off! You are creative and helped encourage me to see a better world! -SS

        • September 18, 2015 at 4:17 pm

          “you’re good at that, so we’ll let you take care of it.” Argh! I had to omit a paragraph from a recent post because it was too touchy on this very subject. I’ll email you separately. Love you!

  4. September 6, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Oh my dear, you are always so much more! In so many ways!

  5. September 6, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    “But they’re things I must do, so I do them.” – This has kind of been my approach to my entire adult life. And while my creative dreams haven’t completely been set aside they are constantly getting paused for the things I must do. The pause button doesn’t make them cease to exist though – they are all waiting for the right time to dominate again.

    • September 18, 2015 at 4:03 pm

      I like this idea: the thought they are paused, not stopped, and just waiting for the right opportunity to un-pause.

      Maybe that un-pause won’t be as distant now as it often feels.

  6. September 6, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    No question that you are MUCH more than a logistics machine. Your quest for social justice, your writing, your drawing, your nurturing of loving relationships…
    I started my life as a leftie until the school tied my left hand behind my back. These days I find it difficult to use that hand for anything.
    And your friend is right. The right hemisphere of the brain is the creative one, and it is the dominant side for left handed people. I am pretty certain you manage the cross over well.
    Co-incidentally I am reading a book about Leonardo da Vinci’s brain at the moment. One of the most creative people ever. An artist, a writer, a musician AND a scientist. The book postulates that he was so impressive because he did use both hemispheres of his brain much more than most of us.
    (Sorry about the huge comment)

    • September 18, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      I remember laughing when my mom had me take personality tests indicating I should be a scientist … or an artist. I thought these were ludicrous, at-ends results. Now, of course, they no longer feel at ends. I can see where both has its place, even if one feels like it’s cast aside (most the time) these days.

      Please never apologize for any of your comments! They’re amazing, and they lift my heart and spirits without fail, no matter how many or few words.

  7. September 7, 2015 at 5:41 am

    I see you as creative, too. I think it comes through in personality.

  8. September 7, 2015 at 5:50 am

    My dear friend, it is not an either or thing. It is a both, sometimes it is simply an issue of timing. Finding time, making time, dragging time out of all the spare moments in the day. But it truly isn’t an either or thing. You are you, logical, loving, compassionate, full of empathy and creation pours from your heart through to everything you do. Without your wonderful creative side, by the way, it is unlikely you would be good at what you do.

    • September 18, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      Your last sentence really struck me. I’ve thought that sometimes, going about my day: If all I were good at were logistics, I couldn’t see the alternative possibilities existing here! Your words affirmed that as more than daydream, and comforted me. Thank you.

  9. NotAPunkRocker
    September 7, 2015 at 6:27 am

    It’s just there, I am glad she called attention to it for you to think about it some more 🙂

    • September 18, 2015 at 4:36 pm


      I’m glad I didn’t comment immediately, so I could absorb this all in another afternoon of, “Ugh, is this who I am?!”

  10. Deb
    September 7, 2015 at 6:39 am

    This post leaves me with so many reactions and no adequate way to respond because I see myself within, and have asked those same questions so many times. I am not a Lefty, but at middle age have contemplated so many times the ‘putting aside of myself’ for all the have to’s and needs that I have lost count. I know that there’s another me inside this body. I hope the door opens one day soon and lets this alter out into the world.

    • September 18, 2015 at 4:40 pm

      I hope so, too! And I’m heartened to read this, seeing the creative you within what you write and thinking that might be the same thing you see in me. Maybe it’s easier to see from the outside, by someone who doesn’t have to see all the minutiae and can thus see the truer you that exists apart from any tasks you have to do.

  11. cardamone5
    September 7, 2015 at 6:59 am

    I love these moments. They reset our exhausted engines that could, and reconnect us to our true selves. Glad you had this encounter.


  12. September 7, 2015 at 7:55 am

    This reminds me of all the years being married and raising two beautiful daughter, even though I was very happy it always felt like there was a piece missing. There was the writing I am doing today. The thing is there were many times when I felt like I had truly missed other opportunities along the way and I may have but there will always be more put in front of you when the time is right. That is the clue. The right time. I am 73 and I am just beginning. 🙂

  13. September 7, 2015 at 9:24 am

    I see you as highly creative and a lot more than just a logistics machine for sure. I’ve always wondered if I was a lefty, when I throw things I prefer my left side and when I’m massaging I feel like I rely on my left side a lot. That’s a very valid question of where our creative side goes when we have our grown-up jobs that utilize our fun side very little. For me with massage I tend to have a little too much fun at times, I actually dance with my technique. If you were in massage I could see you as a therapist who kind of ‘danced’ to apply pressure and do her techniques. And to your question if your creative side is real I think she is, she’s just taking a break right now or an extended nap. 🙂

  14. September 7, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    For once, I’m not reading one thing anyone has written, so it might have been said already, but …

    I agree with you: all that logistical stuff is gorgeous with creative impulses and discipline – but it’s not just a thing to say. I think it needs us redefining it and taking a break from cultural signifiers. I’d trust very little to the bigger culture when it comes to the important stuff. I remember my talented nephew talking about those ‘poor people stuck in accounting cubicles’ – an idea he clearly swiped from grownups because that kid wouldn’t know shit about what went on in cubicles. But I nearly verbally slapped him upside the head. It was lazy, it was arrogant, it was kind of stupid and best of all, it was wrong to think accountants couldn’t be joyful and delighted by what they do.

    I’m on the side of doing what the world needs, doing what YOUR world needs. That’s creative – putting your talents, your skills, your ideas and insights into the service of mankind? Wheeeeee! (And as an aside, I know plenty of artists and people in the arts who are incredibly deficient in creativity.)

    Wow. That’s a long way of saying that you get to decide if what you’re doing feels creative. (Ha. Maybe this is the time I SHOULD have read what other people wrote and just ‘liked’ it. :):))

  15. September 8, 2015 at 8:54 am

    That you are able to master the creativity within your life (through your writing, your children, your thoughts, and surely your actions), while managing the mundane details, and still carrying enough hunger within you to want to bring more into the world… YES: real. I like the image from teenage you. She’s still there.

  16. September 8, 2015 at 11:18 am

    You a logistics machine!? Nah. That’s just your day-job 😉

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