Five years ago I called my parents at their home in Arizona, which was always inconveniently and often sadly far from my home in New York City. My dad answered their home phone, an innocuous action yet one that still knocks me off balance every time it happens. His tone, which normally gallops through the phone and fills the ear on the other end of the line with warmth, sounded smaller and tighter. After what seemed an interminable lapse of silence, he began a tale that involved a driver who’d had a seizure. The driver’s car passed over a median and through lanes of oncoming traffic before overturning and finally slamming into cars parked in a parking lot. The EMTs who had arrived to the scene looked on, befuddled that anyone – that everyone – had managed to survive.

The driver was my mother.

I didn’t hang up the phone after my dad vowed that my mother was fine and that she would call me when she was awake. I only lowered it, with a trembling hand, to my lap and stared at the floorspace around my feet. My mind registered very little for awhile before the vague outline of something I’d not yet resolved myself to floated into my consciousness: I wanted a baby.

Beyond the rasher reasons shaped by the specter of losing my mother, like that my mom should know the smiles of grandchildren and that I could never truly be gotten by my own children if they never knew her, there was a quiet conviction growing in me that a child would buffer the high winds of life. That a child could galvanize the thin casing that surrounds our fragile organs and would set in alignment my reasons for doing anything each day. That a child would be my lucky number.

I looked down at my phone. It was 1:13 when I decided to change my life.

13 is an emotionally significant number in my family. It was the number that adorned my father’s baseball uniforms from the time he was a boy through his years playing professionally. It was the number my brother and I each chose in our own sporting pursuits in part to pay homage to him though also in hope it may confer some of his athleticism to us. It resides within our passwords. It becomes encircled on our calendars. The number 13 is inescapable for us, and it turns up all the time, slapping us in the face with its relentless serendipity.

2013 has tiptoed close. I can feel it moving underneath me. And I know that I need a change to my life again. I’m not sure of what needs to change, and without knowing what, I have very little clarity on how. I only know that a change is what I need. I have many wells of joy burrowed deep into the soil of my life. Good kids, good health, good hair among them.  But I’m not immersed in those wells. I’m stepping around them and peering into them from the high ground. I’ve been aware of this void for awhile now, and I’ve tried some corrective measures, like yoga, and fewer carbs, and tailgating less. I tried inviting friends who lack the sarcasm and pessimism I cloak myself in, like the slimming black clothes I always wear, into my circle.

None of it worked.

2013 represents my return to the drawing table. I am going to try some things that make me uncomfortable – beyond wearing leggings and using public toilets- to see how I respond. I have to because I drew my lucky number five years ago, and now the ticking of time has put up the number 13. And my mother, who nearly lost it all in that accident, boldly changed her life last year, and everyone is reminded of it when they see the tranquility that now colors her eyes.

I haven’t determined what those things should be yet so until they occur to me, I’ll probably just start with some situps.

Like 13 of them.

(Brave New Year, folks. Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. For me, they’re the same thing.)

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18 thoughts on “13

  1. Love the raw honesty of this post, it really touched my heart.
    I wish you all the best for 2013, lots of courage, adventure and bliss.

    13 is and always has been my lucky and favourite number (and I was born on Nov. 13) – so I’m expecting great things myself ;)

  2. Wow. Erin, I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings for you. Boldly proclaiming your intention is incredibly powerful–as is this essay and your creative spirit.

  3. God, this is amazing. I was literally on the edge of my seat reading it from the start. 13 was my mother’s number, as well, so that part hit close to home for me.

  4. My sister was driving her red RX-7 to I can’t remember where and she took a corner too quickly and the car flipped over and over and over. It went down a hill and landed going the wrong way onto a freeway. It was 5:30 in the morning and thank God there weren’t too many cars out. One car did stop to check on her, a guy who’d clearly been drinking because he could barely stand up.

    Her car was demolished. Windows blown out, everything bent. On the front seat next to her was a silk scarf she’d borrowed from a friend. It was shredded. My sister? Didn’t have a scratch on her. The cops came. I guess the drunk guy had called 911 before he took off. The cop circled her car and said, “You must be one lucky lady.”

    Months later she was standing in line at the post office and overheard 2 firemen talking about the most amazing story they’d heard about a girl who totaled her car on a freeway but didn’t have a scratch on her. The more she listened, the more she realized they were talking about her. She interrupted them and said, “That was me, in the RX-7. How did you guys hear about it?” One of the firemen said that when that first cop got to her car, he later got on his police scanner and told the story. Apparently it went all over LA because they kept passing the story around. The firemen said they don’t see a lot of totaled cars with the driver completely intact.

    Because when it’s not your time, it’s just not your time.

    Have a wonderful 2013.

  5. I hope that 2013 is your year – that it brings you what you are seeking. I get that feeling, the void, the looking from a safe, higher ground. I am going to try to allow some vulnerability this year, to put myself out there a little more with each day.
    Maybe we should all hold hands as we jump!

  6. I have said this on Facebook but wanted to say it again here ~ sorry for the repeat…

    This is a beautiful, beautiful post – quiet poignancy at its best. Thank you for sharing. I will share a quote that I like to reference when on the precipice of great change:

    “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
    ― Pema Chödrön

  7. I hear every word of this post. And, like you, reading is listening, and commenting is listening right back.

    I know what needs to change–what I need to do so that my life feels right, but the difficult part I don’t want to let go of, is the joy of what causes the imbalances, has brought me. The joy of social media and how it’s given me a life, has also brought a helluvalot of domestic discord: the house, the mess, the meals, the need for exercise and sleep.

    But before twitter and blogging and the AWESOME people of the internet: I had the exercise, the sleep, the good food, the clean house, BUT there was the frustration of no voice, no community, no sense of collective belonging.

    It’s hard to think of the need to cut back on twitter and reading blogs and commenting on posts that give me that feeling of ME TOO! I don’t like to think about it. And, also, for me–there is the sense of running out of time and my dream of my book of stories never getting published. THAT is what wakes me from a deep sleep at 3 a.m.: my book, I’ll never see my book.

    Peace to you wonderful Erin. I always loved this, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

    Sounds like you’re ready.

    Happy to know you. I think everyone that knows you, is happy to know you.

    Peace, love, joy, happiness, and good health, safety, to you and yours.


  8. I hesitate to comment because right now you have 13 lucky comments above. But I’ll take the risk and make it 14.

    I’m so excited about your new year and can’t wait to see where it takes you. I mean, where YOU take IT. Go get em!

  9. I can relate to every word of this post.
    Except perhaps for the part where you have good hair.

    But beyond that?
    Right there with you.


    So I’m wishing you joy amid life’s fragile chaos.
    Wherever it takes you.

    This year and always.

  10. I know that stirring of the soul, that little voice that is saying ” do something, try something, make a move..”. My daughter even said the other day that we’ve been in our house for three years, so that must mean we’ll be moving soon. Poor kid, I guess for 2013, i’ll try to stay put , be peaceful but get active , 13 situps! So happy that your mom was ok, it’s amazing how certain events set in motion a diffrent event in someone elses life.

  11. This post has resonated with me ever since I read it when it appeared in my inbox during the holidays. I feel like I’m in a similar place with the arrival of 2013 and it’s so nice to know that someone else (someone cool, that is) is there with me. For the first time in quite a while, I’m not sure what I’m aiming for at the start of a new year, but I’m ready to try and unclench and just let the good stuff happen – whatever it’s meant to be.

    As these things are revealed to us, I wish you health, happiness, success and lots of laughter in 2013!