Wednesday, January 25, 2012

To Be A Woman


I hear that a lot. But I’m a woman. So I don’t worry too much about being a man. I actually never worried too much about being a woman, either. I felt like a woman from the time I was born. But now I look around me and I see lots of other females; young females trying to find their way… old females who may have lost their way… and it’s funny… Now I sometimes actually think about being a woman.

It’s not an easy thing to be. I don’t discount the trials and tribulations of manhood by any stretch of the imagination. I truly have the highest respect for men and I’m sure it’s no less of a challenge for any of them who aspire to “real man” status in life, just as I aspire to “real woman” status in life. So what does it all mean? Maybe different things to different people… but this is what it means to ME:

To be a woman you have to be incredibly strong, and strength lies in different things than what you might have been led to think. It means you need the strength to take the high road when life drops drama on your doorstep. It means you need the strength to stand up and be heard even when you’re scared. You need the strength to overcome fears, face challenges, and forge ahead even when life is constantly pushing you back or knocking you down. And, it also does mean you need to be strong in the physical sense. I hate to say it, but you can’t go through life in the 21st century as a shrinking violet. Being physically fit not only keeps the doctor away, but it makes it a hell of a lot easier to be self-sufficient. Don’t be afraid of muscle. The stronger you get, the stronger you’ll be.

To be a woman you have to have clear and focused vision. You need the ability to see beyond what’s immediately in front of you and focus on the big picture. You need vision to spot lies, deceptions, shady business practices, dishonest people, and even sings of danger in everyday life. You must always have your pretty eyes wide open and alert. They need to see right from wrong, and the path leading you to where you want to be in life. You can’t close your eyes and you can’t ignore what they see. You can’t depend on anyone else to navigate this crazy life for you. It’s YOUR life and you have to take it by the balls.

To be a woman you cannot be lazy. You have to have energy and drive and determination. You cannot be too dependent upon anyone, or anything. You have to know that if the shit in life hits the fan, you’ll be ok just because you’re you, and you can handle anything. That’s not easy. You have to be a fighter, and you cannot be a quitter. You have to be willing to work for what you need, and to go the extra mile for what you want. And furthermore, you have to know the difference between what you need and what you want. They are NOT the same thing.

To be a woman you have to have to be smart. I say this all the time and I believe it right down to my bone marrow: Very few people are actually stupid. Most people are incredibly smart, it’s all a matter of how much education they’ve received, or how much they pursue. It’s all a matter of what they experience in life and whether or not they choose to learn. Aside from traditional schooling, every single person you encounter is a teacher and every single minute of every single day is an opportunity to learn. Do you take it? Or are you under the impression that you know enough? There’s a million different ways to be smart. Street smart, book smart, business savvy, artistically creative… none of it is any higher or lower; it’s what you choose to take away from every conversation and every experience in your life that makes the difference in how smart you become.

Why do you have to be so smart? Because in order to be a woman, you have to be a psychologist, a teacher, a repair person, a nurse, maintenance technician, a plumber, a chef, a housekeeper, a groundskeeper, a bookkeeper, a veterinarian, an administrative assistant, a travel agent, a receptionist, a diplomat, a representative, an advocate, an accountant, a private investigator, a best friend, a fashion expert, a lover, a mother (even if you don’t have children,) and of course… a witty and sexy temptress. (And no… that doesn’t mean you have to be a size 2.)

To be a woman you have to know something about everything. You have to know why and when you must change the oil in your car. You have to know that you can’t throw water on a grease fire and that you can never, ever mix ammonia with bleach. You have to know about sports and muscle cars and man caves and why you should respect male bonding. You have to know about caring for solid wood furniture that was built by hand 200 years ago, and you have to know how to take care of a brand new glass cook top stove. You have to know how to use a plunger and how to jump start a car. You have to know about the insects and animals in your area, and what to do if they bite you. You have to know what’s going on in the world, what the kids are into, where the bargains are, how to use the latest technology, how to make a soufflé, how to get stains out of laundry, how to mend a broken heart, and which one is the salad fork. You have to know so much, and in so many different categories that you’re practically a walking encyclopedia.

Maybe it sounds hard, but it’s really not. I mean… ok, sure, SOME of it’s a challenge, but being a woman is incredibly rewarding. And, FYI, to be a woman, you also have to know when you reach your limits, when to ask for help, and how to let your guard down and trust someone. You have to know how to love unconditionally, how to forgive and forget, how to comfort and how to instill confidence. You have to be pretty damn special to be a woman. You also have to know that you’re pretty damn special… and not give yourself to any old Bozo who comes down the pike. Save your incredible skills and talents for a real man, and when he shows up, know enough to be honest with him and true to him. In the meantime… while you wait… kick life’s ass. If you don’t, it will kick yours for certain.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Karma’s Not Really A Bitch… She Just Plays it Straight

I will confess that I’m not Little Mary Sunshine every day of my life. I have my days when I’m miserable, bitchy, grouchy, hormonal, self-pitying, and just plain not fun to be around. Basically, though, deep down inside, I’m a happy person. I have happy parents, a happy sister, a happy brother, and I grew up in a happy community. I know I’m INCREDIBLY blessed to be able to say that, and not everybody can say the same. But, I got to thinking about it this morning because … well… for many reasons… but it’s Christmas Eve and though some Christmases in my life have been better than others, it’s always amazing to see the things that go on during the holidays with respect to the way people treat each other. Life, in my opinion, is really all about two things: love, and experiences. It truly all boils down to that. People say that all you need is love, and it’s true. I mean, you need food, water, clean air, shelter, and the like, but the point I’m trying to make is this: If you want to be happy then you have to decide to be happy, and if you want to be surrounded by happiness, then you have to spread it around like grass seed.

Jim Morrison was interested in how much influence he had over his audience at live shows and is famous for inciting riots. He proved to himself and to the world that all it takes is a seed. A seed planted in the minds of those around you; you simply tend to it and it grows. His “experiments” with the crowd, his disgust at their inability to think for themselves… it was something I read about as a kid and, being interested in how things affect people and cause them to behave, I had to look at Jim first and wonder why he felt that way in the first place. Read about him if you’ve got the time; he’s fascinating. Anyway it seemed obvious to me that Jim was a product of his upbringing, and the hatred he felt towards those who are easily manipulated caused him to incite these riots to prove a point. What he proved to me was this: The opposite is true as well, and when you have power, you should use it for GOOD, not for your own agenda.

People who get caught up in a never ending downward spiral of drama and anger and arguments and “bad luck” will often times ask the question “why me?” They want to know why they can’t just “be happy.” Well, I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you this: It is honest to God true that what you give out in life, you get back. I’m not saying that if you drop fifty bucks in the Salvation Army bucket that you’ll get fifty bucks back… what I’m saying is that if you walk around in life spreading positivity and happiness you will find yourself surrounded by positivity and happiness. By the same token, if you walk around always angry and suspicious and confrontational, you will wind up surrounded by negativity and misery. It’s just how it is. Anyone who walks around with a miserable expression isn’t going to get smiled at. Anyone who is constantly confronting people is going to be treated with defensiveness. Anyone who starts a fight will find themselves in a fight.

Unfortunately, some people simply prefer to be angry and miserable all the time, and you can’t change them. You must know that some people cannot function unless they’re surrounded by drama and conflict, and you can’t change them. You must know that some people absolutely CHOOSE to be unhappy people and no amount of effort on your part will ever make them happy. We can only change ourselves, and we can only make ourselves happy. But, if you choose to be happy… if you choose to see the bright side of things even when the world seems like a giant pile of steaming dog poop every now and again… if you choose to have faith that things will get better and you choose to work towards making it so… honest to God it does come back to you.

Sometimes we’re stuck in a rut, and sometimes we’ve got the unfortunate displeasure of being related, either by blood or marriage or extenuating family situations, to haters and meanies. It’s tough, especially around the holidays, to find that warm and fuzzy place inside ourselves in the presence of those who live their lives with a stomach full of venom and a head full of evil plots. The holidays seem to magnify it all, but they’re quick and we’ll get through them. When it’s all said and done, it’s just everyday life, and in everyday life if you choose to be positive and to be happy and to SIMPLY NOT SURROUND YOURSELF with those who insist on misery and conflict at all times, and if you choose to spread smiles around and be caring and loving… I am here to tell you that it’s contagious. It’s more contagious than pink eye.

We’re only on this planet for a very short time. It’s a huge planet, filled with beautiful places and amazing sights and delicious foods and so many things to experience and be in awe of… and then there is the wonder and miracle of love. Family, friends, lovers… connections with other human beings are priceless beyond words. Not everyone you meet in life is going to feel this way. Some people were raised in a less than loving environment and they perpetuate it as adults, and it makes me sad, but if YOU want to be happy… YOU CAN BE. All you have to do is look around yourself and decide what’s important, and decide that things that don’t matter won’t get to you. Surround yourself with happiness and it will grow like weeds, I promise you that. Kiss the people you love and tell them they mean the world to you. Be happy with what you have in your life. Go outside and let the sun shine on your face. Celebrate small things that make you smile, and love with fury.

Karma does come back to you. People say Karma is a bitch, but it’s only a bitch if you’ve given it a reason to be. One thing that I always try to maintain is the realization that Karma will come back to everyone. Whether it’s good, bad, or ugly for other people is none of my business. I concern myself only with the Karma I create for myself, because let’s face it, taking pleasure in other people’s misfortunes is creating negativity, as well. So, look for the bright side and if you can’t find it, have faith that it will eventually show itself. In my experience, it always has.

Peace, everyone. I hope you all have a great Christmas, and an even better every day of your life.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ignoring Bad Advice: The Ballad of Veranera Ocho’s Mother

I’ve had the good fortune to meet and become friends (and in some cases, lovers,) with people from all over the globe. It’s taught me to appreciate different cultures and to embrace the differences in people from many parts of this big blue marble… but it’s also taught me that as much as people can vary culturally; at our roots, we’re all just human beings trying to get through life doing the best that we possibly can. That said, I feel compelled to share with you the advice uttered by Veranera Ocho’s mother… a statement which has stayed with me… lingering in the back of my mind… for  the last sixteen or so years.  

Standing over steaming mugs of cocoa at the counter of a store in the mall where we both worked part time, Veranera and I were discussing the men in our lives, and their respective annoying habits. She, being a well-brought up, super-smart, incredibly pretty little firecracker from Venezuela, and ME, being a second generation blue collar all-American girl, found it astonishing how much the “complaints” about her husband and my (then) fiancée mirrored each other. We laughed about how, no matter where you’re from or how you’re brought up, you still want to remove that damn Y chromosome from some of these hairless apes, in the hopes of them suddenly understanding that which seemed elementary to us, as women. Of course, it was all in good fun; truly… we loved our men.

After one particularly hearty laugh that set us both over the counter in that familiar “ouch, my stomach” position, trying not to spill our cocoa, we both sat down on crates to catch our breath. Veranera thought quietly for a moment and said, in her lovely Venezuelan accent, “I mean… it’s like my mother says… they are basically all the same… she said to me when I was very young: When it comes to marriage, just pick one who is clean.”

I laughed, but that statement was destined to stay with me from that moment on. Why? Because as much as the majority of us would like to believe that a statement like that would set us free… that it would grant us the power to accept people as they are, with habits that annoy us and aspects of personality that were not compatible with our own, something inside of me knew that the statement was one made by a woman who had married the wrong man; a woman who had accepted her marriage as a fact of life, despite being unhappy in it. I knew it was the statement of someone trying to convince herself that there was nothing better out there for her, and, in fear for her daughter’s happiness, had dished out that advice in the hopes of shielding her from waking up one day and “wanting more.”

I thought about the concept of “them,” of men, being “basically all the same.” I had to admit… I didn’t agree. My father cooked and cleaned. He worked his ass off. He paid the bills. He didn’t drink, smoke, or take drugs. He wasn’t violent, but he had a titanium backbone and would stand up when he needed to. He wasn’t a philanderer. He was family oriented and spent every spare minute with his kids. He was funny. He was fun to be around.  He treated his wife with respect and dignity, and was even, in his own way, very romantic. Logic stated, I thought, that if HE existed… the species was not extinct. “Good” men existed out there in the wild… somewhere.

I got married a few years later, and although I was in love and really thought it would last forever, it didn’t.  It happens. People grow, people change, people drift apart… call it whatever you want… the bottom line was that, despite how we felt about each other, and despite having grown up only a few miles apart, and being born only a few months apart, and having a great many things, including our culture, in common, who we were as people just didn’t match. Cultural backgrounds be damned, we simply were two different people. And, ten years later, when the marriage fell apart, people would ask me if I’d ever get married again. Suddenly being single for the second time around brought up all the old theories… was there such a thing as true love? Was there such a thing as soul mates? Were all the good ones “taken?”  Truly… were all men the same?!  

I refused to believe Veranera Ocho’s mother… well intended as she may have been, I knew she was wrong. I knew that all women were not the same. How could all men “be basically all the same” if we were not? They couldn’t be. It was a big damn world out there… and somewhere on this planet there had to be someone like ME. I refused to give up the belief and the hope that when it came to love and relationships… it was, in fact, possible to find “the right one.” I refused to settle. I refused to listen to Veranera’s mother’s haunting voice in my head when loneliness would set in. I refused to hear her sad and defeated advice when I attended functions intended for couples by myself knowing it was better to be there stag than to be there with just anyone… just because they happened to have a Y chromosome.

The world is a funny place. Fate… Karma… Destiny… whatever you want to call it, whatever you want to believe, whether you believe in God or not, whether you think we are the masters of our own paths, you have to admit, truth is often times stranger than fiction. Life always writes the best stories…

Maybe you’ve seen the email that frequently goes around… it says that some people enter our lives for a reason, or for a season… and goes on to say a bunch of lovely things about how and why people come in and out of our lives. It’s true… and just as the seasons always cycle, so, too, does life. I’ve found myself back in the lives of people whose seasons I thought had passed, and as it turns out, Veranera Ocho’s mother was wrong. Men are not all the same… not by a long shot. Just as I always knew, there are good men out there. Some, I have the privilege to be dear close friends with, and, happily, one who has returned to my life like the joyous warmth of the summer sun and has proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I don’t need to settle for just any man… and… she’d be happy to know… he’s also “clean.”

Believe in love. Believe that you don’t have to settle. Believe that it’s real… there are soul mates and true love does exist... it can even come bundled with comfort and compatibility. And whatever relationships you had that didn’t work out… well… there’s always something to learn, and something to gain, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, a failed romance can actually lead to a lifelong friendship. In my extremely blessed case, I’ve got several of those. But in addition, a romance that I never really considered a failure has smoldered and remained alive under the surface for nearly two decades and now lives again … born anew. Embers that lived deep down and glowed brilliant orange are once again a raging fire that rivals the sun, and its warmth and glow seem to be a comfort to others when we venture out and share ourselves with the world.

Don’t settle. Each woman is unique, and so is each man. Whoever you are and whatever you’re searching for…. IT’S OUT THERE. For me, a second generation blue-turned-white collar all-American girl… my soul-mate turns out not to be a yankee doodle dandy at all, but hey… the cultural differences between us bring a richness to our relationship and an endless opportunity to grow and learn together as partners. Your “right one” is out there. True love is out there. I promise you that. And when you least expect it, it’s going to place its hand on your shoulder and say “I’m here” and surprise the hell out of you… and pleasantly so. When it does… I’d love to hear all about it!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

WANTED: Brave Soul

What do you believe about me?
Am I kind and sweet,
Filled with love and honor?
Or am I a play-thing ?
A toy …or a game
That you play in your spare time?
Is there truth in me?
In what you say?
Am I a gamble?
An experiment?
Are you brave enough to look into my eyes
Deep and long
And see that I am real?
Are you willing to put your hand on my chest
And feel my heart beating
Steady and sure?
Or does the thought of me
Kind and sweet
Filled with love, honor and truth
A woman
A friend
A partner
A lover
Make you want to run?
Is my strength a rock you lean on
Or a dagger through your soul?
Are my thoughts and dreams a touchstone
Or a mirror reflecting self-doubt?
Is loving me a nightmare?
A curse?
Or are you brave enough to stand before my fire
Steady and sure
Fearless to give me love, honor and truth?
Or will you panic…
Stone me,
Cast me out of your life
Afraid of what you believe about me?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

NEVER FORGET! A Memoir of September 11, 2001

When I was growing up I always heard people talk about where they were, and what they were doing when President Kennedy was shot. Over the years I heard countless personal recollections of that day, and they were all different, but the one thing they had in common was that whatever the person was doing; wherever the person was… seeing or hearing the news of the assassination stopped them in their tracks. When an event stops virtually everyone in their tracks all at once, it’s safe to say that the whole world, for all intents and purposes, comes to a standstill.

In 1996 a movie called Independence Day was in theatres. Perhaps you’ve seen it. It has since become something of a classic; being shown over and over again on cable TV. I have the special edition DVD, and I’ll tell you why. When my (then) fiancée and I went to see Independence Day, the 7:00 pm show was sold out. We bought tickets for the 9:50, and went to get dinner. Of course, dinner didn’t take all that long, and we found ourselves back in the lobby of the movie theatre waiting around for the earlier show to let out so that we could go in. When the doors opened and movie-goers started streaming out of the theatre, I immediately noticed something odd: nobody was speaking.  Nobody was laughing, nobody was recounting their favorite scene, nobody was saying “that was awesome,” or “that sucked;” nobody was saying a word. I elbowed my fiancée and whispered this observation to him. After we saw the movie, we understood. Although ID4 was far-fetched and pure science fiction, the idea of the entire planet pulling together against a common enemy was pretty intense. The idea that we could pull together as a human race and no longer fight amongst ourselves but look upon every other human, no matter what gender, race, creed, nationality, or sexual orientation and just see ‘humans,’ was enough to set your mouth to silent mode and force you to think.
In 2001 I was working for a small business and my hours were 10:00 am – 7:00 pm. In the morning, I would get up early with my (then) husband, and spend the few hours before I had to leave taking care of housework, getting dinner into the crock pot, and packing my lunch for the day. Every day I would get up and put on the news. I have no idea why, but on September 11th of 2001, for some unknown reason, I did not put on the television. To this very day I do not know why I broke from my usual routine that morning. But, for whatever reason, I didn’t put the TV or the radio on. I went about my usual chores, and when it was time to leave for work, I got into my car, turned the key, and heard a caller on the radio say: “I think they timed it so that camera crews could get there in time to get footage of the second plane crashing into the tower.” The DJ replied, “We really don’t know anything yet, but I suppose it’s possible. If you’re just joining us, or if you’re just getting up, two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center….”
The DJ’s voice was not the usual tone for him. I had a love/hate relationship with this radio station, particularly because I couldn’t stand this specific morning DJ. He was arrogant, opinionated, snarky, and annoying… but on September 11th of 2001 his voice was different. It was somber, hesitant, and even somewhat frightened. It was this one hundred eighty degree shift in his voice that unsettled me. This was a man who was so high on himself, so sure that the sun rose and set on his very existence; to hear him sounding scared actually put fear into me, and I didn’t even know what was going on yet. I didn’t put the car into gear. I sat there, still with my hand on the key, my head turned slightly as if I’d be able to hear better, and listened like I’ve never listened to anything before or since. The news was coming in so fast and furious, and from so many different places, it seemed they could not even keep up to relay it all to the public. I heard it all in what seems like a split second, and a chill ran through me that I honestly cannot put into words.
The next hour is a blur in my memory. I recall pulling out of my driveway, thinking that it was scary as hell to know the planes had taken off from Boston; I was only 45 miles from there! What if I wasn’t safe? What about my family? What about everyone?! Next I remember being on Route 290 heading east and hearing the DJ saying that all air traffic had been grounded, and that no planes would be allowed in the air, and looking up into the sky and feeling creeped out by the fact that they sky was void of any planes at all, even though I’m certain I could have looked into the sky on any given day and seen the same sight… it was just scary as hell to know that we’d taken this measure because… good God… The United States of America was being attacked. At that time, we didn’t even know yet by whom. The next thing I remember is walking into the garage where I worked and seeing my manager standing there looking sort of like I felt, and asking him, “What the hell is going on?” He just shook his head, said he didn’t know, and that he was going to get one of the small televisions that was in the closet upstairs and see if he could get the news to come in, since there was no cable in the garage. He knew as much as I did, and logically I guess I knew that, but he was the first person I saw after hearing the news and I guess I just wanted someone to say “Don’t be scared, everything’s going to be all right.” In reality, though, at that moment in time, nobody could say such a thing with any sort of confidence. He did manage to hook up a small television in the room I worked in, and to get one of the local stations to come in; grainy though it may have been I think I would have lost my mind had I not had some form of access to the news that day. I, along with everyone else, was glued to it all day long.
Looking back I realize that September 11th was not just one day. In the days and weeks that followed it did seem as though the world had come to a halt. It seemed as though nobody could breathe, as though nobody could function, as though the day… September 11th… just went on and on and on. The events of that morning and all of the related news were the only topics of conversation no matter where you were, who you were with, or what was going on around you. The small television stayed in the garage for a several days, always tuned to the news, and despite the fact that I continued to enter invoices into the computer and wait on customers and take phone calls, my attention was always fixed on any new information as it was presented. In the evenings, my husband and I would sit on the end of our bed, across from the television, a box of tissues between us, and cry with the victim’s families as they showed photos of their missing loved ones, begging for any information, for help, for someone to tell them this wasn’t really happening. Nobody got a happy ending. We cried and cried with them, unable to wrap our minds around even a portion of what they were going through.
Three things were most frightening and unsettling about the attack, for me. One was the notion that throughout history, when “war” broke out, or when an “attack” was launched, it was one group of people versus another and the line in the sand was always defined. I knew nothing of warfare or military tactics, but I did know that up until that morning, it was clan vs. clan, or tribe vs. tribe, or country vs. country. I knew that until that morning, the enemy was always a clearly defined group of people residing in a clearly defined space, and that the enemy was always after domination, control, land, riches… or making an effort to oppress another group of people. It was generally always a greed driven or power driven thing. Or, at least that’s how it seemed to me. But this enemy… this enemy was scattered all over the globe; hiding in plain sight, living amongst us, and, perhaps most frightening of all, patient to the point of insanity.
That was the second thing that frightened me. It didn’t matter to them if they had to wait 10, 20, even 100 years to destroy us, they would wait, patiently watching for us to become complacent, and then they would strike again. We adopted the phrase “Never Forget” because truly, eventual complacency is what they count on from Americans. The idea that future generations would not be able to grasp the magnitude of that day through accounts such as this and feel the need to guard against it happening again. The idea that the depth of our commitment to pull together as a nation and stand as one against them would, in time, loosen and eventually come apart all together. The notion that Americans care more about consumerism and material things than they do about each other, so much so that in our quest for shiny cars and 5000 square foot homes and the latest gadgets we would become a country filled with people only out for themselves. When I was a kid, my family had a running joke. We would say to each other, when we wanted to let each other know that we’d get our revenge for some silly practical joke: “When you least expect it; expect it!” That’s the exact theory this enemy goes on; they count on us to let our guard down.
Thirdly, I was, and still am, very unsettled and bothered by the idea that there are people in this world who are, unfortunately, not told the truth by their governments and honestly believe, because it’s what they’ve been told their whole lives, that we are evil. It scares the crap out of me that people on this planet are fed false information in an effort to make them fear and hate us. It is so hard to imagine: not having freedom.
In my childhood I developed a love of history that I carry with me to this day. It was my favorite subject in school; I found it fascinating and I was decidedly alone in that opinion. But history teaches us that which we need most in life and in society, in my humble opinion. It teaches us what happens; it teaches us the results of courses of action that have already been taken. It is a guide to life as human beings. It is not just names, places, dates, and facts to memorize for a test and then dismiss as something you’ll “never use in real life.” History is real life at its most real, and every generation will have their shaping event that they talk about in front of children, hoping to God they can convey the lessons they learned by living through it. September 11, 2001 is that event for me. The world truly did change that day, and although the generations that come after me cannot possibly identify with that, since they didn’t live before that terrible day to really understand the magnitude of that statement, the fact remains that the world is not the same. This war on terror has raged for ten years now, and I am still acutely aware that this is not village vs. village. This is not an enemy you can simply surround and capture. This is not a war that will end because of one decisive battle. This is not an enemy that will ever surrender. And so, on the tenth anniversary of that awful day, I implore you: NEVER FORGET. Never forget that they count on us to get complacent. Never forget that they count on us to stop making each other a priority. Never forget that they wait patiently and watch from the shadows abroad and even from among us where they still manage to lurk for signs that we are not paying attention anymore. Never forget that in this case, the truth will not set us free. And, above all else: NEVER FORGET THAT YOUR FREEDOM ISN’T FREE. We have soldiers; fathers, sons, brothers, friends… who have been and still are in the middle of all this ten years later, trying to secure our freedom and our safety, and so many have lost their lives doing so FOR YOU.
As I write this today, I know that it’s a miracle that I was born in the United States of America. I am an American woman. That’s a blessing I can’t begin to be thankful enough for. I am free. I wrote this sitting in the front yard of my own home that I purchased because I have the freedom to be educated, to work, to vote, to walk and talk and think as I please, to express my opinion, to sit in the sunshine in a tank top and shorts in public with my laptop and a frosty glass of Parrot Bay and Diet Coke, and tell you what I think and feel without fear or risk of being killed simply because I love to write and because I have an opinion I wish to share with you. I don’t take that for granted. Truly, I hope that you don’t take for granted that you have the right to disagree with every word I’ve said here, to rebut my opinions, and to speak every bit as freely.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Story of Witch & Rabbit

What you are about to read is 100% true. It happened in the late Autumn of 2008. I wrote this shortly after it happened while it was still fresh in my mind. Today, as I was working on another writing project, I thought back fondly on this experience and realized exactly how much it affected me, and exactly how much my friendship with my best friend, Jason, means to me. I pondered the incredible influence he’s been on my life, how often he’s been there for me when things have been awful in my little world, and how much we’ve leaned on each other. This is not the only thing I’ve ever written on the subject. In fact, I’ve written thousands and thousands of words about Jason over the years. But today, this story in particular came to mind simply because the conversations we had during this experience and the events that took place, many of which did not make it into this piece, were such that I came home and changed my entire outlook on life, the direction in which I wanted to go, and the goals I wanted to achieve. Jason, thank you so much for everything. I wouldn’t be half of who I am if you were not a part of my life.

Witch and Rabbit

There is something mystical about the air in Kauai. Maybe it’s because upon my decision to fly there to be with Jason I had put aside every other thought and concern in life, but for some reason, breathing that air, everything about my subconscious was open and ready to accept whatever I was presented with. Jay had asked me to meet him there, having flown out from LA to “get away from it all” following the final shattering of his marriage. Jason was my best friend; if he needed me… I was going to be there for him. So, I’d booked last minute flights, thrown a few things in a bag, and dropped everything to be by his side. I landed at Lihue Airport, where Jay picked me up in a rental car. He looked exhausted, a little frightened, and utterly heartbroken.
As we sat at a tiny outdoor table at his favorite vegan restaurant, the fresh air and Jason’s hypnotizing blue eyes set me in a state of utter Zen. Whatever would be would be – I had no expectations, I had no agenda, I had no idea what was going to happen over the next several days – and none of it mattered. I was simply there because he’d asked me to be. And what a paradise it was. There were flowers and lush greenery everywhere I looked, and the atmosphere was light with breezy, sweet humidity. It was nothing like I’d ever felt. Warm and cool at the same time, with the fragrances of tropical plants and chamomile tea settling into my soul.
After our dinner, Jay drove us back to the room he’d rented. It was a large, sparsely furnished space, with a bed, a small table, and lots of large windows. I’d been traveling for nearly 20 hours, and Jason offered to rub me down. He asked me to smell some oil he had, to see if I liked it, and then used it to knead the tension out of my shoulders and back. After that, he asked me if I’d wrap around him – spoon him – just for a few minutes. We talked idly… and he said that he was pretty sure he’d end up walking across the street to the beach once I dozed off, and spend the night on the sand, listening to the ocean and breathing the night air. I must have fallen asleep almost instantly. Before I knew it, he was up and out of the bed. He told me he’d see me in the morning.
After he left, I looked around the room. I was in Hawaii. How had that happened, I wondered? It was all so last minute… yet I was more relaxed and calm than I had felt in years, and something in the night air coming through the open windows made me feel as light and carefree as a person possibly could. I’d be here for a while and it was rather exciting – but for now… sleep.
Somewhere in a dream… a picnic table… larger than any picnic table I’d ever seen, sat before me. On top of the table was a rabbit. It was white, and had a black, geometric pattern of zig-zags all over it. The pattern was fascinating; I’d never seen a rabbit like this. Knowing that the rabbit spoke my language, I tried to approach it to speak to it. But as I stepped forward towards the table, the rabbit became terrified and backed away, eventually leaving all together. I felt frustrated. I had no dark intentions – I would never have hurt it, I just wanted to talk to it. Again the rabbit appeared on the table, and I attempted to approach it again. Again, it became terrified and backed away, leaving this time, for good. I became angry. Why would the rabbit think I meant any harm? I only wanted to talk to it.
I woke to the sound of two of Kauai’s feral roosters having a nasty cock fight in a parking lot outside the front door of the room. It wasn’t even light out yet. I got out of the bed, went to the window and peered out into the darkness. A large, full grown rooster was being taunted by a very small, juvenile one. The noise would normally have made me really mad, as I am not a morning person and hate being rudely awakened, but the roosters were positively hysterical and I went back to the bed and layed down. Each time I heard the roosters screaming at each other I laughed out loud. They seemed so incredibly silly to me, it just struck me as hilarious and I couldn’t stop giggling.
The door to the room opened and Jay entered. I wished him good morning and asked if the roosters had woken him up, too? He said no, all he’d been able to hear was the crashing waves – not even the traffic on the main road between the beach and the Hostel penetrated the sound of the Pacific. I told him about my dream. He said that he had a set of Animal Medicine Cards with him, and we’d look up the meaning behind it. For now though, we wanted food.
After a shower and a quick discussion about leaving the Hostel and going to a more traditional hotel, we packed up and Jay drove us to Hanalei for breakfast. The scenery was mesmerizing. On our right, brilliant turquoise water, swaying palm trees and soft white sand. To our left, volcanic mountains covered in lush green plant life and shrouded in ever-present mist. Amazing, it was as if you were in two completely different environments at once. To me, a Gemini, duality of this sort felt as natural as breathing. Yes, it was safe to say, less than 12 hours after landing; I was in love with Kauai.
We had a wonderful breakfast and then sat at a table that would become our morning chat spot and talked for quite some time. Jay had a lot on his mind. He was confused and hurt, feeling like the proverbial carpet had been ripped out from under his life. After he’d had his fill of talking, we returned to the rental car and headed back towards the Hostel, where Jason was going to have to tell the owner that we’d decided not to stay the originally booked number of nights. He was stressed about it, and didn’t really want to deal with it. I told him, “I’m an administrative assistant. I make peoples’ calls for them all day long. Why don’t you just let me handle it?”
He agreed, and after settling up with the owner we drove back north to Kilauea, in search of our new place. As we tried to follow the driving directions, we became mildly confused when we arrived at a construction area where no cars were allowed to pass. Jay wondered aloud if the street on our right was where we were supposed to turn, since there was no street sign. I looked up to my left, and saw a sign that read “St. Sylvester’s Catholic Church.” I smiled.
“That’s the street.” I told him.
“How do you know?” he asked.
I pointed to the sign. He read it and, accepting that this must, indeed, be the place I was destined to go, said “Oh, yeah, ok.” And took the right. Naturally, it was the correct street. The house we rented a room in was only a few steps from the Church.
We unpacked, and after Jason got into the shower I decided to walk over to St. Sylvester’s and check it out. As I rounded the corner by the sign, the octagonal church sat high above me on a mound. Under the eaves of the church sat a massive, larger than usual picnic table. I stopped in my tracks, almost expecting to see a geometrically patterned rabbit sitting on top of it. But no, there was no rabbit. Just a picnic table larger than any I’d ever seen in my life.
The church was closed up, not a soul around, so I went to the table and sat down. The view of the tiny Hawaiian neighborhood from the church was pretty. I felt more at home sitting there than I did in my own house. I felt like sitting in that spot, God would hear anything I said to him. At that moment, I realized that we were staying there for a reason. (Each morning, before Jay and I got going, I walked to my church and sat on my picnic table. I asked God for many things. I won’t reveal them here, but I will say, each and every thing I asked Him for was granted.) I headed back to the room to tell Jason what I’d found.
He opened his Animal Medicine book and read me the story of Rabbit and Eye Walker, the Witch. As the story goes, Rabbit and Eye Walker were friends. Rabbit was thirsty, and Eye Walker used her magic to give Rabbit a drink. Rabbit drank, but said nothing. Then, Rabbit was hungry, and again Eye Walker used her magic to give Rabbit food. Rabbit did not say anything. Then, Rabbit was injured, and Eye Walker the Witch used her magic to heal him. After that, Eye Walker lost contact with Rabbit. Finally, after a great search, she found him and asked him why he was avoiding her. Rabbit replied that he was afraid of the Witch, afraid of magic, and wanted nothing further to do with her.
The book went on to state that if you are presented with Rabbit medicine, you must confront your fears. Jason asked me what it was that I was afraid of? I told him I wasn’t afraid of anything. He insisted I must be afraid of something, but I was not. “How are you so sure I’m not the witch?” I asked him. Seeing that this discussion was getting us nowhere, we went to dinner.
The next day, we went for a helicopter ride out of Lihue airport. On the way there, Jason said he felt like he was getting sick – the flu, maybe. Indeed, he looked pale and had started coughing, and we agreed that after the one hour ride, we’d go straight back to the room so that he could get some sleep. After the helicopter ride, Jay became visibly upset. At first, I attributed it to his not feeling well. Then, as we drove back to Kilauea, he said to me, rather threateningly, “You may have to find a way to entertain yourself while you’re here, because I’m feeling like I really need to be alone.”
I’d known Jason for more than 20 years. I knew that tone in his voice. I knew that this was not out of the ordinary behavior for him, and I also knew that with what he was going through, this was somewhat to be expected. Still, I had flown half way around the globe to be a shoulder for him, and though being in Hawaii was amazing and I wanted to be there, I also didn’t want to spend all my time alone. We went back to the room and I took my book into the kitchen. I sat there reading for a while, but I was unable to concentrate and I thought… “This is silly. Something is wrong and I’m not going to pretend there isn’t an elephant in that room.”
I went into the room and Jay was intentionally avoiding eye contact with me, puttering around pretending to be busy placing books here, cell phones there… I sat down on the bed.
“Can I ask you a question?” I said.
“Would you be more comfortable if I changed my flights and went home?”
He spun around and looked at me. “What do you mean?”
“I mean: Would you be more comfortable if I called the airline, changed my flights, and left… went home… now.”
“Do I seem that uncomfortable?”
Jason stiffened. He looked me in the eye, and began telling me all manner of contradictory thoughts and feelings he was having about all kinds of things. About me being there, about him being there, about our friendship, about his marriage, and on and on and on. I sat and patiently listened. It seemed to me that more than trying to talk to me, more than trying to explain something to me, he was working through some of his own things out loud. We talked for quite some time. The conversation became deep, and deeply productive. He admitted to me that he was afraid of my being there. He was afraid of “what I wanted from him.” I assured him, I wanted nothing from him.
As it turned out, Jason had called each of his parents and asked them for help. He had even called his brothers. Each member of his family was either unable, or unwilling to help him. So I said to him, “Jay, you’ve asked God for something. You have told me time and time again that when you pray, God will answer, but maybe he sends you something slightly different than what you had in mind. You asked for family, you got me. I’m here. Now, what do you need help with?”
At that moment, Jay seemed to immediately let go. His facial features relaxed, his breath steadied, he wiped his eyes and said “If I had a wish list, this is what would be on it: There is an Ayurvedic Healing Center across from where we stayed the first night. There is a treatment they offer that I’d like to get.”
“Great. No problem, let’s do it, let’s get it for you.”
“Ok, and I’d also like to get the right foods, I’ll even prepare them, but I can’t keep eating in restaurants.”
“And I need an advocate… I have all these bills; all these bill collectors calling and I can’t handle it. I just need someone to look everything over and help me figure it all out.”
“I will absolutely help you with that.”
He heaved a sigh of relief.
The next day, we went back to Hanalei for breakfast. As we sat at our usual table chatting and working through his many painful issues, I pointed to a small, organic grocery store called Papaya’s behind him. “Do you want to go in and get your food?” I asked him.
At the cash register, Jay started to reach for his wallet. I didn’t even make eye contact, I simply said with solid determination, “Don’t even think about it.” I paid for the food, and as I tucked my ATM card back into my wallet Jason turned to me and said with great humility “Thank you, Witch.” I smiled and replied, “You’re welcome, Rabbit.”
Once Jason’s flu symptoms subsided, we decided to spend a day beach hopping. We went to Hanalei and I bought a bathing suit. I told Jay I’d run to the ladies room and then meet him at the car. As I washed my hands I realized that we’d forgotten to grab towels from our rooms. I went into the boutique beside the ladies room and asked the shop keeper if she had any beach towels? She said she had two left, and pointed to a basket on the floor by the front door. There in the basket, were two rolled up beach towels, each tied with hemp. One was covered with pink, orange and red hibiscus flowers and said “Hawaii” on it. The other towel, however, took my breath away. It was a cream colored background, and had a navy blue, geometric zig-zag pattern. It was the exact pattern on the rabbit in my dream.
I paid the shop keeper and walked back to the car. Jay wasn’t there yet. I opened the driver’s side door and placed his new beach towel on his seat. When he came back, he opened the door, saw the towel and said “Wow… it’s a really nice one.” He looked up at me and said “Thank you.”
We spent a gorgeous day on the beaches of Kauai, and when the time came for me to leave the island, I felt closer and more connected to my friend than I ever had before. Several weeks later, as I browsed a doll, toy, and teddy bear show with my mother, a handsome gray rabbit hand crafted out of antique fur coats looked at me. He seemed to be there for a reason, so I purchased him, packed him up, and mailed him to Jason for Christmas. Rabbit now sits on Jason’s shelf, a reminder not to be afraid of this Witch’s magic.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Writing Behind The Wheel… NOT!

They say that art imitates life. Well, for me, life seems to get into the way of my art. I often wonder… if I didn’t have a day job… if I didn’t have to spend 11 hours a day occupied by things that I “must” do … how soon would everything come bursting to the surface? I know it would be quick; so quick it might overwhelm me, but how sweet that would be.

Today was one of those days when I woke up feeling pretty damn good, and as the day progressed, my half-way decently happy mood was forced right down the shitter. Can I pinpoint specific things that happened to turn me into a negative, depressed, total downer? Yeah, I can… but you’d find it all quite trivial and boring and I’d have to give you all kinds of background information about each incident… and who wants to wade through all that? Certainly not I, after all, I already lived it once, I honestly don’t have the intestinal fortitude to rehash it all and attempt to make it witty and entertaining while I’m sitting here feeling like total shit. Suffice to say that events of the day all conspired to make me feel like God hates me, my life sucks, and I have nothing to look forward to except more of the kind of crap I experienced today.

Once, a few months back, I had decided that it would be a good idea to get Dragon software (despite my hatred of the idea of speaking instead of actually writing; I believe it will kill the art form eventually, but I digress…) so that when I was driving I could get my thoughts down. It seems like when I’m driving (I commute an hour each way back and forth to work) my mind seems to percolate with prose and when I finally get home every thought and brilliant idea I had is either gone from my noggin all together, or I just don’t have the same passion for the topic as I did in the heat of my road rage induced passion. A friend of mine was kind enough to get me the software for my birthday. Naturally, I have been unable to set it up and try it out thus far because my everyday life has simply not provided me with the opportunity to do it yet. So, tonight, yet again as I drove home trapped in a traffic jam of biblical proportions that turned my usual 60 minute ride into a 140 minute ride, my mind was filled with thoughts that I wanted so badly to be able to get into a Word document that I wanted to scream.

Now, here I sit, keyboard in front of me, opportunity to write it all down wide open, and do you think I can muster the passion and eloquence my mind was bursting like a volcano with just a mere hour ago? OF COURSE NOT!!! What does this have to do with my shitty day today? Ugh… see?! That’s just it. In a state of total depression and upset my mind seems to be a writer’s paradise… I get filled with the kind of angst and longing and soulfulness that I can only cure by writing; words pour out of me. Yet when the moment passes I can still recall what I wanted to say but the passionate desire to write it is gone and I find myself going “Eh…” and not doing it.

Tonight, in the deep dark shadows of what was a terrible experience well over a year ago, and the miserable, rotten events of the past 24 hours, a poem was bubbling to my surface. It was intense and raw and had I been in possession of a fountain pen I might have been compelled to write it in my own blood just to make real the idea of my heart bleeding out … but I had no fountain pen… I had no ballpoint pen… hell… I had no Dragon software. So where did that poem go? Where did the 10 paragraph blog post about liars, cheats, and selfish, toxic, disappointing people up and vanish to? I’ll tell you, my friends… those items and more… they never escaped me. They lie in waiting someplace deep inside me. They will return… it’s happened before.

No, that poem isn’t entirely hidden. I see it peeking at me from around the corner. I am not certain if I wish to play hide and go seek with it tonight. So much of me is reeling from the days drama and disappointments. Do I poke the emotional bear and bring it all to life by writing it all down… or do I force it to hide and declare in Scarlett O’Hara fashion “I can’t think about that right now. I’ll think about that tomorrow… after all… tomorrow is another day!” Hmmmm…. Let’s see what the night has in store.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Oatmeal Caught Me Watching Food Porn

A brief and incomplete list of things I am not supposed to eat: Bacon, fried foods, dairy, gluten, citrus, tomatoes, mint, coffee, egg yolks, dark chocolate, anything too acidic, anything too fatty, or anything too spicy. Do I stick to this? Um…. (points to the sky) HEY! IS THAT A SPACE SHIP?!

The first time a doctor told me that I had to break up with a food was in 1989. I’d been having these sharp pains in my side and when I went to the doctor, based on my family history he said: “It sounds to me like you have gallbladder disease.” I was sent for an ultrasound, and no stones were discovered. He told me, as he checked things off on his clip board in an ‘I’ve-got-other-patients-in-the-waiting-room’ sort of way, “Stay away from bacon, fried foods, egg yolks, orange juice, or anything too spicy. See the receptionist to make your co-pay.” Oh. Ok.

After that, over the years, in addition to gallbladder disease, I’ve been told that I have lactose intolerance, high cholesterol, IBS, gluten sensitivity, and that my stomach is basically an acid factory. (The latter being the only condition I decided to accept medication for, because, quite frankly, I was unable to manage the horrible symptoms with diet alone.) It sounds pretty depressing, but honestly, I’m pretty lucky in that you can feed me pretty much anything. I love whole, natural foods every bit as much as I loved McDonalds as a kid. I always tell people that I’m easy to feed, and it’s the truth. I really do adore grilled salmon with sautéed baby spinach and brown rice. I could have that every night and be totally happy. Chicken breast with cilantro and mixed grilled veggies? Bring it on! Fresh fruit with yogurt or cottage cheese? Pass me a spoon! Quinoa… with pretty much ANYTHING? Hell yes! But ask me if I want a slice of really good  pizza or if I’d like to go get a traditional New England summer seafood plate overflowing with fried scallops and French fries and … after a moment’s hesitation and the odd prayer that I won’t die an hour afterwards… I’m also going to say “absolutely! What time and where??”

Look, I’m half Italian, and my other half doesn’t know it’s not. Stick a slice of sausage pizza under my nose and I’m going to bite. If I get your hand, oh well. And let’s look at that: Gluten laden crust, tomato sauce, dairy melted over the top, and spicy, fatty sausage. So what happens to me when I indulge? It depends: if I have been a good girl for weeks on end, then probably nothing but the addition of another pound or two. But, if I’ve cheated within the last 24-48 hours, let’s just say I’ll regret the indulgence in a big way, and spend a few hours laying on a beach towel on my bathroom floor begging God to forgive me and swearing I’ll never do it again. Of course, He and I both know that’s never lasted very long…

Back in the days when I had cable TV, I watched a LOT of Food Network. Oh, how I loved Emeril Live and Good Eats! Now that I’ve told the cable company to go pound sand with their insane fees, I look forward to Saturday and Sunday mornings so that I can watch Phantom Gourmet.

(If you don’t live in the Boston area, you’re missing out. )

Why the interest in looking at food I can’t touch, taste, or even smell? Well, I suppose it’s for the same reason people look at porn. Really sinful foods plated well and shot from seductive angles … cheese bubbling and sauces oozing for the camera… are just enough to calm the odd craving for something that, should I actually consume it, would get me into a lot of trouble. I mean, let’s face it… if I had mozzarella sticks and garlic bread, fettuccini Alfredo and bacon wrapped scallops, crab rangoons and triple layer chocolate cake every time I wanted to, I’d probably already have had a heart attack by now and I’d definitely be ten feet wide.

Despite all these food restrictions and “conditions,” I actually consider myself lucky in that when I walk into a supermarket, I’m fascinated and awestruck by the produce department. It’s goofy, I know, but really… the colors, the shapes, the scents… and my mind starts going off in 50 directions as to what I could do with each lovely fruit or veggie: what I could pair it with, and how I could prepare it. I suppose this is God’s way of helping me through all the horrible food break-ups I’ve had. Someone like me who loves rich, heavy, gooey foods could easily have given up and just continued to eat all of the things I was advised not to, gained 200 pounds, and developed congestive heart failure or just spent my life morbidly obese stubbornly refusing to change my ways… maybe THAT is the non-Italian half of me rearing it’s life-saving head.

I also consider myself lucky in that there are worse conditions I could have. A friend of mine has all of the same ailments as me with the exception of the gluten sensitivity; but she also has conditions that prevent her from being able to eat anything with tiny seeds, or eating garlic, or drinking vodka, and I’m sure there are other things on her forbidden list that I’m forgetting. She and I maintain a healthy sense of humor about our food predicament, and thank God we have each other to laugh with.

If your doctor tells you that you need to say goodbye to a beloved food, or foods, don’t despair. Believe me: It’s truly not the end of the culinary world and if you’re willing to try new things you’ll find there are fantastic things you have been missing out on. If not for my health consciousness I never would have tried sushi, which I would now choose over Alfredo sauce any day. If not for my “conditions” I would never have attempted cooking Thai rice noodles, which I now love enough to marry. And… when all else fails… there’s always food porn.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Video Killed The Radio Star, But Texting Killed The Romance

Did you know that your mobile device has a feature that allows you to talk to your friends in real-time and hear them, as well? It’s amazing! It’s called a “telephone call.” You simply dial a number that’s been assigned to your friend, they are alerted of your desire to talk to them by an audible sound of their choosing (traditionally a sound of ringing bells) and they answer …. Voila! You can talk to each other for hours and hours … or only for a moment, if that’s your desire… and actually enjoy a conversation where the sound of their voice, their infectious laughter, and their tone and meaning are able to come through loud and clear. I know, I know… the technology is mind boggling… but it really works! Trust me; I talk to my friends this way from time to time.
Yes, I’m being snarky. Don’t get me wrong, I do text, and I find it useful and convenient for some things, but really people, what ever happened to the phone call? Especially in male/female relationships? Seriously, have we gotten that lazy that we can’t find the energy and drive to actually SPEAK to the people in our lives? Is it too much effort to actually engage in a real conversation where you have to actually give your undivided attention to another human being for a few minutes? It’s bad enough when my female friends want to discuss something important over text and burn a hole in my cell phone but when a man wants to talk to me… really… if he can’t pick up the phone and speak to me I pretty much get turned off and think “no manners on that one.” Besides, I’m really not into the idea of dating the equivalent of an “app.” If all you’re going to do is text me all the time then I’m better off to just read a book.
The whole point of communicating with someone should go much deeper than just the exchange of random crap like “running ten minutes late,” which, by the way, is what texting should be for. Communication should be a little more of a human interaction than that. It’s stimulation of the brain, the art of conversation, the sound of your voice, the spontaneous changes of subject, the laughter, the connection… you see what I’m driving at here? I have nothing against the texting of a sweet message like “Miss you” or some other small phrase that speaks a thousand words in its ability to convey  that you can’t stop yourself from contacting your sweetie. Those texts are marvelous and romantic and give a girl a serious case of the warm fuzzies and can earn you lots of brownie points to be cashed in at bed time. (Or dinner time, or shower time, or you know… whenever.) It’s also great to get a text when we know you’re in a meeting or someplace you shouldn’t be texting us. Actually, that’s pretty damn hot.
However… when you’re on the sofa, or otherwise engaged in just “killing time” and you text us to “talk,” it’s basically like telling us that we’re pretty much on the bottom of your priority list. I know everyone is into “multi-tasking” now, but come on… human beings are still way more important than machines. Televisions, Wii consoles, laptops, smart phones… they’re going to be there for those moments when you truly have nothing better to do. They aren’t going to pack up and move out of your apartment if you neglect them. One of my favorite sayings in the whole world is “happiness is only real when shared.” It’s something I saw in a movie. (Into The Wild) In all honesty, your relationships with people are truly the things you should be working on in your life. Not just the people you date, but all of the people in your life.
Texting has its place (and so does sexting, actually,) but you can’t base a relationship on it. A relationship should NEVER get to the point where texting is the form of communication of choice. Relationships are supposed to progress and blossom and become stronger and bring people closer. There is an element of human connection that is lost in texting. Things don’t translate clearly, for one thing; sometimes causing unnecessary arguments or misunderstandings. Secondly, with texting, it’s impossible to have an actual conversation: a FULL  conversation. Texting doesn’t convey the true emotion that is in someone’s voice, it doesn’t allow for the natural flow of idea exchange, and it sure as hell doesn’t create bonds between people.  And for the love of God... if I call you and leave you a message, don't respond with a text saying "Hey, got your message. What's up?" If I called, you - have the decency to call me back unless you're suffering from laryngitis.
The next time you have to tell someone something, or ask someone something, or even just want to ask how someone is doing, call them. Get comfy and settle into your chair and actually have a human to human conversation with them. You might recall the sensation from your childhood. It’s an amazing thing, human interaction. It brings people closer together. What’s really great, though, is when that phone call leads to “getting together.” Now, THAT is really something special. Yes, I’m being snarky again, sorry. We all have a little spare time in which to cultivate our relationships; the next time you think of someone, try calling them. It could be surprisingly pleasant. I know for me, the greatest thing is the sound of laughter coming from someone I care about. It just loses something in translation when all I get to do is see the letters LOL. Well, gotta go for now, the phone’s ringing!  (not mine, yours!)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Keeping It Real

“Don’t bottle up your feelings!” Who hasn’t heard that before? It’s true, you know. You really shouldn’t. It’s much healthier on every level to let them out. Bottling up your feelings is really unhealthy. It increases your stress level, and it can actually make you physically sick. So, let all that pent up crap fly. For some people that means talking about their problems, but, for some of us, it means diving into our creative outlet and pouring it all out. If you’re a painter, or if you make music, or if you sculpt, or… perhaps even if you write… you know what I mean by that.

For those of us who tend to “create” when we have something inside, there are options you face when creating. How much of yourself and your inner struggles and emotional bullshit do you actually pour into the project? How honest do you get about it? And, if you choose to take it all the way; really dump your heart, soul and guts into something, do you then show it to the world, or do you slip it into the way back part of the closet behind the ugly clothes you never wear?

I always find it a little silly when I hear controversy about paintings or sculptures that depict things people find “offensive.” Nudity, sexuality… whatever the case may be, if you ask the artist what they were trying to showcase they never say “I’m just really into porn, so I thought… hey… paint naked people getting it on.” Maybe you have to have a different mindset to understand that kind of art than some of the stuffier “shocked” folks have, I honestly don’t know. Personally, that stuff never shocks me. But, I’m into writing… that’s my outlet, and my way of expressing myself and my way of coping… I write. So, especially when writing this blog, the question comes up for me all the time: In attempting to keep it real, how real is too real?

I honestly don’t have any issue with pouring out my personal feelings, my thoughts, my opinions, sharing my most personal experiences or confronting my fears publicly. I really do believe right down to my bone marrow that life is entirely too short to ever hold back. Those of you who know me know perfectly well that I’m not shy about telling you in open wound fashion if I love you, what I think your greatest qualities are, or how important you are to me. I’m also not ashamed to discuss private matters if I think my experiences could help you gain some kind of insight into something you’re going through or if you are considering doing something I have experience with.

No, my issues with keeping it real arise when I consider how things I might share would affect other people. You may have noticed that many times when I tell stories I do so without mentioning names. I do that in the hopes that those I’m speaking of will feel anonymous enough not to be upset that I’ve blogged about them. (*Thus far, those who I’ve mentioned have known instantly that they were the person in my story and nobody has been upset… yet.) As a writer, though, there are so many other stories I’d like to tell… so many other things I’d like to share… so many things I go through that, were it not for the feelings of other people, I’d spill my guts out about in the realest possible fashion.

So enters the cliché: Some things are better left unsaid. Unfortunately, as a writer, this really cuts me off in a way I’m struggling with. How polite is too polite? I mean, if writing is my way of coping, do I simply write these things … get it all out… and then delete the file? More and more I’m coming to the conclusion that that’s not really “getting out of my system” at all. In fact, in some way, that’s bottling it all up. I am struggling with trying to answer the question: When are you being unfair to yourself by trying to be kind to others? I’m not about to post something that I think will upset someone I love, yet what does that leave a truly honest and open person to do when they write? It makes me feel like my hands are tied sometimes.

I’ve often heard the phrase “artistic integrity” and never really thought much about it. I guess I didn’t really consider myself an artist. But I do think writing is an art, and one I couldn’t possibly live without. Keeping this blog real is getting harder and harder… because there are things I want to write about that are my observations and opinions about life. My life, the world around me, the people I know and love, and how I feel about things … it was the whole point of starting this thing… and now moving forward may require that people who know me well realize that writing truly is what makes me whole. I can cope with nothing difficult in life if I cannot write about it, and writing about it cannot consist of hitting the delete key in the end, or leaving a will that states “Ok, I’m dead now. Here’s how I felt.”

So… if you paint, or sculpt, or dance, or create beautiful music… do so in a way that is true to yourself, because if you don’t, you might just as well move yourself to the back of the closet with the rest of your reality. I’ve decided not to live there.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ghosts of You

There are Ghosts of you everywhere
And I’m supposed to be all right
Ghosts everywhere I look

The door I watched you open
The rug where we made love
The Ghost of you is in this chair
Where I sit to write

I see you
I feel you
I hear your voice
See you smile

I feel your kiss
You’re haunting me
It was just a little while

Yet you haunt
You’re indelible
You just won’t fade away

I keep waiting
That someday I won’t see
The Ghost of you
Hear your laugh
And hurt the way I do

Soul mates are forever
And I’m woven into you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

PMS and Other Things That Suck

Hormonal mood swings are one of the lovelier aspects of womanhood. Not only are they lovely for us, but they’re lovely for everyone around us who has to deal with us when we’re experiencing them. Moments of anger, sadness, or total outright bitchiness for no apparent reason… it’s not anyone’s idea of fun.

You know, this is one of those subjects thats been written about by a lot of people and not once have I ever read anything on the subject that didn’t bug me or make me roll my eyes and say “Seriously? They wasted ink on that?” Most articles aren’t helpful at all, and I don’t really find anything written with biting, bitchy humor to be either entertaining or identifiable. I also don’t think I have ever seen anything written on the subject that would give men any kind of idea what it’s like or any kind of accurate description of what we go through. So… what the hell, I might as well take it on, since, at the moment, I happen to be engulfed in it.

I can’t speak for anyone else, only myself and my own experiences with this, and I’ll be honest, this isn’t like… a FUN subject for me to tackle. Honestly, I’m writing about it because writing is how I cope with things in life that suck. For me, there are months when PMS takes the form of “raging bitch” and months when it takes the form of “sobbing mess.” As you probably just guessed, this month has been “sobbing mess.” Actually, it’s been a little of both; I had a couple days of raging bitch and a couple days of sobbing mess. Today has been a roller coaster of both but mostly sobbing mess.

Unfortunately, though there are over the counter pills out there that are supposed to help with symptoms, they really don’t. There are reports stating that women honest to God do benefit from chocolate at this time in their cycle (personally I am a chocoholic anyway, not just when I’m going through this) and that’s a lovely concept… and it’s why women joke about chocolate all the time. Wine, too. You hear us talk about both of them with the kind of enthusiasm most men wish women had for blow jobs or football like they’re magic elixir or something.

I recall being a teenager and talking about this with a friend of mine. We both knew that when we flew into a hormonal rage and acted like lunatics that it was PMS causing it, but we had no control over it whatsoever, and later would feel terrible for things we did or said. We felt like it was awful to have to apologize later, rather than just simply not behave that way in the first place, especially considering that we knew what we were doing in the moment. I can’t speak for her, but for me, at that time, it was literally impossible to control myself. My theory is that as a teenager, the hormonal imbalance must have been much greater.

In my early 20’s I was dating a guy who, one month, after I had been a total bitch and later apologized, said to me “You know, that ranks right up there with ‘I was drunk’; it’s no excuse to treat people like shit for a week and then say ‘oh, I had PMS’ like it’s a get out of jail free card on your Monopoly board.”  Initially, I was really angry with him. After all, it was hormonal and I couldn’t control it. But, the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with him. I knew what I was doing when I was doing it; now I needed to find a way to stop myself from being a bitch.

I happened to be lucky in that my cycle was always something you could set your watch by. Not only did I know what day Mother Nature would show up but for many years, it happened at exactly 6:30 am, give or take 15 minutes. I’m not kidding, I know that’s nuts, but its true. It made it extremely easy to map out when I’d start to experience mood swings. Once I was able to determine when it was going to happen, I started making a huge effort to figure out how to control my words and actions when it hit. I’ve definitely mastered not taking my raging hormones out on the people around me, though I do still get into those uncontrollable bitchy moods. There are days when *I* don’t even want to be around me.

As for the crying part of this lovely condition… well… that’s another story. It’s not really as if crying or being a mess in that respect causes a fight with anyone. Sure, it might annoy the hell out of them, but it certainly doesn’t offend them. I’ve never really battled all that hard against the crying jags, I mean, as a chick, I find the hysterical bawling my eyes out every so often to be cleansing and sometimes I can even laugh about it later. Like when I find myself overcome with emotion because of the coffee commercial where the son comes home from the military and makes coffee to wake up his mom. Forget it, I’m toast on that one.

And that brings us to the really FUN part of PMS. Its like feeling your emotions in some kind of crazy fun house mirror. Weird stuff gets magnified and looks way out of proportion, but seeing is believing in a mirror, and feeling is believing in life. When you have PMS, things that normally bother you a little become these giant insurmountable problems and you believe your crazy hormonal imbalance when it tells you that your life sucks. Before you know it, you’re so depressed that you’re bawling your eyes out and you have no valid reason for it… but you THINK you do.

Today, for example, I got deep into the sobbing mess mentality. I was feeling every single negative thing in my life on a scale so gargantuan that I really don’t know how I got through the work day. Everything in my life that sucks came right to the surface and took over the front and center of my whole existence and ran my thought processes all day. I was talking to a friend and telling her how I was feeling, and as I was listening to myself, I knew that in a day or two, I would not feel nearly as strongly as I did at that moment.

I don’t have all that tough of a life. I mean, I live in the USA, which, to begin with puts a person right up there just in terms of infrastructure and opportunity. I have a good job, I have a lovely teeny little house, a decent car, food on my table, and for the most part… good health. I have a great family of origin, and wonderful friends. I know all of that and I’m thankful for all of it every single day of my life. But, on days like today, things that suck, like having little health problems, being broke, and having a still fairly broken heart over my last relationship all seem like the end of the world. They become so enormous and heavy on my shoulders and unbearable that I just want to crawl under the covers and never come out.

On some level, though, somewhere deep down, I know it’s only a temporary condition, and tomorrow I’ll be me again. And, as I said, I can only speak for me. Yeah, I have PMS and there’s a few other things I have that suck… lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, arthritis, a crooked spine, bad hips, chronic fatigue, and a budget that leaves me in the red every month… but happiness truly is a choice and if you know that your cycle is frigging up your world once a month then do something about it. Maybe your solution isn’t as simple as mine was. If you’re finding your life disrupted or if you have people in your life who you find yourself apologizing to even though you knew you were wrong in the first place, please talk to your doctor. We are women, and our hormones do flux, but there’s no reason on earth to be unhappy once a month.

Some of us truly do indulge in a glass of wine, some chocolate, a bowl of ice cream, and feel better. Some of us require putting a lot of thought into when to expect it, focus on signs and signals of it creeping in and taking over, and do our best to take control of ourselves. Some actually do need to seek medical help. For me, I know that exactly every 28 days I’m going to host Mother Nature and that 4 days prior I’ll begin to experience moods that “aren’t me.” As they arrive, I have to make a real effort to keep myself grounded and mindful of the world around me and how my words and actions will affect others. That’s not to say I put myself last, not by a long shot. I just try to balance my needs with the needs of those around me, and it’s far more of a thought process on those four days than it is at any other time in life.

Today was a tough day. Worse than I’ve had in a while… but I made it through. Ain’t nuthin' but a thang.