Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Facing The Darkness

An oldie, but still relevant. . .

I've always had a fairly strong sense of denial about my mortality.  Growing up I was a ridiculously healthy kid and despite myriad self-destructive and addictive tendencies, I made it through the first 39 years of my life relatively unscathed.  But then my 40's tore through me like El Nino, eroding everything in its path.  Suddenly I found myself trapped in a body filled with willfully disobedient organs and noticed that my knees, once capable of completing marathons, started clicking like a Ubangi tribesman after only twenty minutes on the treadmill.  Almost overnight the food became too spicy, the music too loud, and I found myself craving dinner at 4:00pm and watching Hoda and Kathie Lee.*



*Nah, I'm just messing with you on that last one. . .but not about dinner. . .dagnabbit.



The fact that I'm a mother combined with some pretty big health scares over the last few years have made me feel like I'm on some cosmic "60 Minutes" set, listening to the clock "tick-tick-ticking" away the minutes of my life. I've even started reading the obituaries religiously.  Not as a somber reminder of my mortality but more of a "Better you than me" kind of schadenfreude. In an attempt to dodge the Big D I've tried to be fairly proactive about my health.  I don't smoke and I don't drink; but when it comes to exercise I am a lazy bastard and on any given day I will be filled with so much candy that Mexican kids will be whacking me with sticks.  I would give anything for a magic pill or elixir or surgical technique to extend my life as I am of the belief that any problem can be fixed by throwing a shit-ton of money at it.  Sadly, all the money in the world can't buy you youth and immortality*



*Just ask Kris Jenner.


I know death is an inevitability and part of the grand Lion King circle of life and as such I should embrace it as just another mystical journey but I just can't jump on that hippy-dippy bandwagon.  Even talking about death makes me more jittery than Ty Pennington on Red Bull. Death terrifies me, and it should fucking terrify you, too.  Why?  Because it.  Will.  Kill.  You.  

But in the long run, burying your head in the sand and ignoring your imminent demise makes about as much sense as Ozzy Osbourne on NyQuil.  Eventually you have to face reality.  Eventually, you have to face the Darkness.

I am under no false illusions that I am a responsible adult, but in the interest of protecting my children, I am forced to impersonate one from time to time.  So, I cowboyed up and made an appointment with my Farmer's agent to discuss  ((gulp!))  life insurance.

Now, let me preface by saying that my agent, Kellie Jo, is rad as shit.  She is a competitive racquetball player, has a wicked sense of humor, and her office is always stocked with a plethora of fine chocolates.  All things being relative, visiting Kellie Jo should be a pleasant experience, but somehow whenever I meet with her I walk in with a smile on my face and a spring in my step and storm out of there more pissed off than Kanye West at a Taylor Swift concert.  It isn't Kellie Jo's fault.  It's the way the word "death" is casually tossed around like a drunken whore at a biker bar and the how numbers on her little calculator drive home the sobering fact that I am worth more dead than alive.


I'd already met with an attorney after my divorce to rewrite my will and estate planning so Gil didn't decide to go all O.J. on my ass and take my stuff, but I'd kind of been putting off the whole life insurance thing because I'm a little skeeved out by the fact that not only do I have an expiration date like a carton of Yoplait Lite, I have a price tag too.   Life insurance is like an abusive boyfriend gently stroking your hair and telling you everything will be okay while he throws you up against a wall, takes your money, and leaves you with a sense of impending doom.  And if you have a medical history like mine, the son of a bitch will take a lot of your money.  A lot.*




*I'm not saying that you should lie to your insurance agent about your medical history, but if you've had any past issues with eating disorders or substance abuse then, well...OK, fuck it.  Lie like a hooker being paid by the moan.


Walking out of Kellie Jo's office, my wallet was considerably lighter, but my sense of security felt stronger and more solidified.  But still there was that overwhelming sense of "holy shit I'm going to die".  No matter what I do, or how I try, or what miracles of modern science or cosmetics arise in the not-so-distant future, someday I will simply cease to exist.  And then what?  An afterlife?  Darkness?  Nothingness?  And what will I leave behind for the world to remember other than some unpaid parking tickets and a fabulously well-dressed corpse.*


*Because there is NO damned way I'm going to meet Joe Black without a killer pair of shoes.




Over the years my views on death have been altered more times than Oprah Winfrey's wardrobe, but now I've reached an odd and begrudging sort of...acceptance. Death is just the grand finale; the ribbon on the gift of life that ties the whole thing together like Jerry Springer's "Final Thought".  And life is indeed a precious gift, but like all gifts there comes a time when it gets worn out and you need to drop it off at the celestial Goodwill to make room in the closet of humanity.

But in the meantime I'm going to have so much plastic surgery that you could bounce a quarter off my forehead.  I may be maturing, but I'm still me.

Monday, October 6, 2014

"God Blessed The Broken Road That Led Me Straight To You"



I've been missing at large lately.         I get that.         Dudes; I'm sorry.

I have not been blogging. . .

I have not been posting on Facebook. . .

I have not been 'Insta-Tweeting'. . .

And for that. . .I'm sorry. . .I suck.  I suck like Monica Lewinsky on Inaugural Sunday.  I suck like a Kardashian during the Essence Awards.  I suck like Tom Cruise watching 'Magic Mike'. 

Basically. . .I am lamesauce and I have no excuse whatsoever except for a major monstroutive life overhaul called HAPPINESS.*



*But I'm hoping that those three "suck" analogies will hold y'all over until next week when I intend to come back with a vengeance.  ;-)  Also: 'monstroutive'?  Totally a word.  Autocorrect may beg to differ, but you all know how I feel about autocorrect and its collective douchebaggery.


Anyway, I was texting with a friend lately and she asked why I wasn't blogging and I spouted some inanity about "lack of inspiration" like I'm J.D. Freaking Salinger. . .*


*Except:  without the whole Salinger-esque "excessive handwashing / antisocial / fake my own death" thing.  
But don't get  me wrong; antisocial works for me, because. . .people, but I can't fully embrace Salinger's whole germophobic thing, 'cuz I totally still love eating at food trucks and going to petting zoos, and. . .wait. . .what was I talking about?  Oh, yeah. Focus, Jen . . . 


So, I guess what I'm trying to say is:  I'm happy.  Not, "TRYING" to be happy.  Not "PRETENDING" to be happy.  Just. . .happy.  Without any effort.  Without any drama. I met a man who doesn't ask me to be anything other than who I am; and I don't want him to be anything other than who HE is.      

Always.       

Forever.      

Without precedence, without apology, without. . .well, crap. . .without anything.  He is a tattoo-covered, Harley Davidson riding, God-fearing blessing in my life and I had no idea I'd ever meet someone who not only was so true to himself but also made me love and be 100% true to  my clumsy, socially inept, addictive, neurotic self.

I've been to a shit-ton of weddings over the years where people said 'Today I marry my best friend' and I thought, 'Oh, PLEASE!  You don't MARRY your best friend; your best friend is the person you complain to about your husband!'*

*Although, in my first marriage the best friend was the one your husband slept with...but I digress...

Tonight; however, my love and I will put on out "fanciest" jeans and boots and hold hands with our children to swear/cry/laugh/pray/scream our friendship and companionship  to the Universe and make our union "official".  And tomorrow?  I'll may or may not blog about it, like I've blogged, or not blogged,  my whole life to you all thus far.  But today?  Today I ask that you smile.  

Today I ask that you hug your loved ones:  be they partners, children, parents, friends, siblings, etc.  

Today I ask that you be thrilled at my lack of communication over the last few months, because it should tell you one thing:  I had free time. . .I could have blogged. . .but I chose to spend that time with my short people, and my friends, and my family, and the man who reminds me that life is filled with color and music and laughter and food and wonder and everlasting joy.

The man who reminds me that even if he disappears tomorrow -- I am enough on my own. . .that I will ALWAYS be enough; that I should never be someone's 'fall-back option' or 'second choice' and that the right people will always love me for who I am and not try to make me be something I'm not just to please them.

The man who teaches me that the most important thing is that I love and be true to myself; and that no matter what, we'll be best friends forever.

The man who dances with me under the stars with our legs cramping from a 1000 mile motorcycle ride and our faces aching from laughing with friends.

The man who nudges me at midnight and grins: 'Wanna go get biscuits and gravy?"

The man who spends hours going over math equations with the short people and then teaches them how to to make pancakes over much giggling and batter consumption.  

The man who drops everything to drive three hours to be with a friend who is celebrating a major life milestone; regardless of his own personal agenda.

The man who embraces our mutual passion for health, organic living, and raising our children in love and light.

The man who knows my deepest, darkest, most shameful secrets, and tells me his in return.

The man who taught my son J. to ride a bike and be confident enough to go out for sports.  And the man who taught my son M. to advocate for himself, and to find his own voice.  My son M.  has autism. . .he does not like to hug.  Norm taught M. to "imitate a bear" and give "bear hugs" and now. . .for the first time in 12 years. . .I get daily hugs from my baby.  For that alone, I will love Norm until the end of time.

The man who checks my oil, kicks my tires, and tests my smoke alarms.

The man who argues with me about health care reform and gun control and religion and education, and politics, and insists that we both find documentation to back up our beliefs because he believes that the best decision is an INFORMED decision.

The man who cradles me in his arms when I break down, shaking and sobbing from a panic attack,  and reminds me:  "It isn't real. . .THIS is real.. You are safe."

The man who watches cheesy movies with me at 2am.

The man who taught me to fly a kite.

The man who showed me my "real" smile. 

This man who reminds me that I can't imagine another day without him in it.

The man who makes me laugh. . .makes me think. . .and makes me feel like no one ever has.

This man who makes me love harder, laugh louder, cry more passionately, and live with arms wide open in a way I never thought possible.

This man who who makes me believe in miracles.

Tonight, we hold hands.

Tonight, we make it "legal" for tax/insurance/"blah-blah-blah" purposes.

But I married him in my heart months ago because he is that last face I want to see at night and the first face I want to see in the morning.

You really CAN marry your best friend.

I'm doing it tonight.   ;-)



xoxo,
Jen

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rebel Without a Clue





I pulled up in front of the cafe with minutes to spare, jumping from my ride and racing into the arms of my old friend.

"OK, enough of this hugging shit,"  he grinned, holding me at arms length.  "Let me see the rock!"

Beaming, I thrust my left hand at his face so hard I almost ruptured his cornea.  Jon squealed with joy and kissed my cheek with an audible 'smack'.  "I can't believe it!"  he cried.  "So wild!  So whirlwind!  So perfect!  And YOU look amazing!"

"Why thank you, kind Sir."  I stated, dropping a delicate curtsy.  "That's what happens when you're funemployed for three months and do nothing but be in love and go to the gym.  You get all 'glowy'."

"Well, glowy looks good on you."  Jon concluded, holding open the cafe door for me.  "But what's this I hear about you being on the wrong side of the law?"

"Pfft!"  I dismissed with a wave of my hand.  "Order a bitch some coffee and I shall regale you with the tale of my social deviance."

As Jon is both a prudent and giving man, he immediately ordered us a carafe of French Roast and I proceeded with my narrative.

"OK, so a couple of weeks ago, I'm dropping the short people off at day camp. . ."  I began.

"Wait,"  Jon interrupted.  "I thought you weren't working last week.  Why were the boys at camp?"

"Because,"  I explained sweetly, "I have been home with them for three months. . .Three.  Months.  And trust me, that much family unity would make Mother Teresa stabbier than a Manson youth.  Anywhoo, I dropped them off at camp and pulled out onto Country Club Road."

Jon frowned.  "Where on Country Club?  Was it that street by the place. . ."

"With the thing?"  I acknowledged.  "No, not that one.  It was the other place with the stuff. . ."

"Ooh!  Yeah!"  He nodded.  "The one with the thing-a-ma-jig out front."

"Exactly!"  I cried.*


*This is the type of conversation one has with someone they've known since they were 13.   


"So," I continued.  "I pulled out, and like, five seconds later this dude is tearing up behind me, laying on his horn and screaming.  I tried to flag him around me, but he just started tailgating me; flashing his lights and honking his horn."

"What the ACTUAL fuck?"  Jon gasped, signalling the waitress for two of our usual orders.*


*Being a 'regular' at a Portland brunch spot is some serious gangsta shit.  Belee' dat.


"I KNOW!"  I yelled, throwing my hands up in astonishment.  "I mean, I pulled out in front of this guy but there were about eleventy-jillion car lengths between us, so no need to go all Fast And Furious on my ass, Vin Diesel!"

Jon took a swig of his coffee and stared in amazement.  "How far did he follow you?"

"All the way to Lewis and Clark College!"  I told him.  "I even took a bunch of detours and side roads to see if he truly was going all Stalky McStalkerson on me, and: yup.  Sure 'nuff."

"You've gotta be shitting me."  Jon said with a roll of his blue eyes.

"Oh, I shit you not."  I averred, smiling as the waitress set our breakfasts before us.  "So, I pull into the student lot at Lewis and Clark because I saw some hipster undergrads there who I thought could either protect me through brute force or by reading  Nietzsche and offering him a kombucha.  I ran over and told them this giant bag of crazy was following me, and...umm...help?  Just then, Tailgunner Joe jumps out of his car, runs over to us and starts jamming his camera phone in my face!"

"Shut your whore mouth!"  Jon screeched, slamming a hand on the table and sloshing coffee onto the pristine white cloth.*


*For the record:  shouting the word "whore" in a crowded upscale restaurant?  Ill-advised.

I nodded my head somberly.  "true story.  Then he starts screaming 'You almost killed me, Bitch!' and jams his camera in my face AGAIN!  So, one of the students tries to go all passive-resistance on him and steps between me and the camera.  So, American Psycho here GRABS this college kid and THROWS him to the side!"  

"Oh no he, DI'INT!"  Jon cried.

"Oh, yes he Di'ID!"  I replied.  "Then the whack job starts yelling 'I'm a lawyer!  I'm a lawyer!'  and one of the other students says 'Yeah, well, I'm only a first year law student and even I know that what you just did constitutes assault.  So, the next thing you know, I'm calling 911 to report this dude who takes a bunch of pics of my car on the way out of the lot."

Jon chewed his eggs thoughtfully.  "Could they do anything?"

"Not really."  I shrugged, reaching for the sriracha sauce.  "The kid didn't want to press charges, and apparently being a peckerhead isn't against the law, so I figured that was the last we'd hear from the guy."

Jon raised his eyebrows.  "Why do I sense a 'but' coming up soon. . ."

I smiled benevolently.  "Ah, my dear friend; for you know my life too well to think the story would end without at least a modicum of drama.  So, a few days later Norm is working in the yard when one of P-Town's finest rolls up at our house in his black and white to issue a citizen's arrest against me for making an illegal right hand turn."

Jon did a spit take with his water.  "Wait. . .what?  You can seriously DO that?  What did Norm say?"

"I believe his exact words to the officer were 'Is this about that dickhead in the Studebaker who harassed my wife?'"  I said, smiling fondly.  "Suffice to say, the cop apologized that everyone's time had been wasted, he and Norm discussed motorcycles and firearms, and we all agreed that the indignant attorney can go pound sand."

"That is truly magical."  He mused, giving me a s-l-o-w c-l-a-p.  "You're a scofflaw!"

"I AM a scofflaw!"  I laughed.  "I scoff at the law!"

"Did you at least save the arrest warrant?  You know, for posterity?"

"Are you kidding?"  I snorted.  "The guy described me as '5'6, 120 pounds'; I'm having that motherfucker FRAMED!"  Jon gave me a fist bump, then, without ceremony, slid a thin folder from his briefcase and set it next to my plate.  I pulled a face and glowered at the folder with obvious distaste.

"You suck,"  I glowered.  "with your MOUTH."

Jon snickered smugly.  "I told you we were going to discuss your house today, Jen.  It's my obligation as your realtor, not just your friend, to make sure you're up to date on all of the economic fluctuations in the market and making the best fiscal choices."  His eyes pored into mine briefly. "You've already totally tuned me out, haven't you?"

Jon is a dear friend, and God love him he is patient as an ever-loving saint, but there are times I catch him gazing at me like one would a mentally-challenged toddler.  There is little doubt in my mind that he doesn't occasionally question whether the amount of Hood River vodka I ingested in the mid-90's didn't atrophy my cerebellum in some manner because no matter how many times he tries to explain things like interest rates and principal payments, invariably my eyes start to cross and all I hear in my head is "Oooooour house, in the middle of our street, ooouuur house. . .hey, remember that shitty Shannen Doherty show 'Our House' with the chick from 'Days Of Our Lives'?. . .is 'Days Of Our Lives' still on the air?. . .hey, look!  A squirrel!"

Jon shook his head sadly.  "Jen, seriously?  How long have we known each other?"

"Umm, I believe it was the first year of that international frat party known as the Clinton Administration."  I mused, sipping my coffee thoughtfully.

"Exactly."  Jon sighed.  We've known each other for thirty years.  And in TWENTY of those, I've been working in real estate.  I can't believe that I've been a realtor for twenty years and you've managed to learn NOTHING about real estate."

I sputtered indignantly.  "Yeah. . .well. . .I've been a writer for twenty years and I can't believe you aren't more witty and loquacious.  Ha!  Howda ya like them apples, House Boy?"

Jon dropped his face into his palms. . .*


*I get this reaction from people occasionally.  And by 'occasionally', I of course mean. . .OK, shut up.  Don't judge.


"Would you like me to explain principle payments to you one more time?"  He said with a strained smile.

I shook my head affably.  "Nope.  There's no point.  You see, my brain is a little like a computer; there's only a finite amount of RAM space and at the moment it's filled with Shark Week, Gordon Ramsay, and the names of all nineteen Duggar children in birth order.   I can't just delete those files from the desktop, and I don't want to allocate any 'real estate' space that the Kardashians might need later."

Jon chuckled, pushing his fork through the remains of his omelet.  "Fair enough."  he concluded wryly.  "But can I at least send you some literature that explains the terms?"

"You're wasting your time, Son."  I intoned gravely.  "Unless that literature involves wrestling a Great White, voting someone off the island, or marrying Kanye West, I'm probably not going to read it.  Unless there's pictures. . .are there pictures?"

Jon gazed at me in awe. . .or disgust. . .not sure which, so I'm going to go with awe.  "I don't get it."  he laughed.  "You're one of the smartest people I know.  I can't even read a text from you without consulting a thesaurus and yet you are physically incapable of digesting any information I give you regarding your finances."

"Fine."  I sighed, slipping the folder into my tote bag.  "I'll read it later.  This will be great for when I run out of Ambien."

Jon amiably flipped me off and signaled for the check.  "Just trust me, Kiddo.  You'll thank me later. Have I ever steered you wrong?"

I leveled him with my steeliest glare.  "Two words:  Murder House."

He tilted his head quizzically.  "Was that the house I showed you that had the used condoms floating in the toilet?"

"Ha!"  I cried.  "That place was Barbie's Dream House compared to the Murder House!"

"Was it the one with the creepy Coen Brothers wood chipper in the garage?"  Jon asked.

I shook my head.  "Keep guessing."

"Was it the one with the video camera mounted on the bedroom wall?"

"Dude, I BOUGHT that house."

Jon continued to ponder silently.  Finally, I decided to pull him from his reverie.

"House was owned by a single man in his 60's.  Master bedroom was filled with dolls.  Bookshelf had nothing but true crime.  Guest bedroom had a Dora the Explorer bedspread.  Basement had a spot on the concrete floor. . ."

". . .shaped like a coffin!"  Joe recalled, slapping a hand to his perfectly coiffed head.  "Fuck me running, how could I forget that?"

I snorted derisively.  "I don't have a clue, because that Amityville shit STILL haunts my dreams."

Jon laughed.  "OK, so I owe you.  But didn't I find you a good place in the end?"

"That you did."  I admitted with a benevolent smile.  "That you did."


COST OF A THREE BEDROOM HOUSE:  $300,000-$500,000

COST OF BRUNCH:  $26.50

FRIENDS WHO LOVE YOU IN SPITE OF YOURSELF:  Priceless.


XOXO,

Jen









Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Don't Quit Before The Miracle




She finished cleaning up the last of the dinner dishes; scraping plates into the sink and wrapping the leftovers as she shook her head over what was left on the table.  Why do kids go from eating everything in sight to picking at their food like supermodels during Fashion week?  Her husband puttered about the house, unwinding from another busy day at work, and inquired about her head.  In the last few weeks she'd complained of headaches...stress-related, most likely, as a result of being a stay-at-home mom of two active little boys, ages 6 and 2.  She also hadn't been sleeping well, but what mom of little boys does?  She finished cleaning the kitchen, then grabbed her car keys, giving a quick goodbye to her husband and children as she popped out to run some evening errands.  Climbing behind the seat of her SUV she glanced in the rear view mirror to see a tired but beautiful face.  Brushing her blond hair away from her eyes, she drove to the gas station where she fueled up and quickly called her mother to say hello and tell of the children's latest escapades.  She then headed to a nearby RiteAid pharmacy where she purchased some trail mix, a bottle of Gatorade, and a package of over-the-counter sleeping pills, no doubt to help with her latest bout of insomnia. Returning to her car, she then shut off her cellphone and perhaps sat for a while...or perhaps not.  Perhaps, at that moment, there was no further need for introspection.  Pulling out of the RiteAid lot, she proceeded down the road -- a road she'd no doubt traveled countless times to soccer games, PTA meetings, pediatrician's appointments -- except, this time, she drove on.  She drove past the schools and the shops and the homes. . .she drove to a wooded area, not far from a local park.  She parked in a secluded area.  And then, as her husband and two small children waited at home, she went to the trunk of her car, pulled out a rope, and hung herself.

Her name was Jennifer Huston.  She was 37-years-old.

For the last week, the city of Portland, and -- I dare say -- the country as a whole has been wondering 'why?'. Why would a beautiful, loving, seemingly happy wife and mother choose to end her life?  But for a small percentage of us. . .we understand.  We nod our heads and say 'Of course.  It's only logical'.  Because we know.  We know what it's like to be held in the clenching jaws of depression and feel that the only way out is. . .out.  I know.  I've been there.  I've walked through the aisles of Target, eyeing the sleeping pills like a desperate lover; I've googled ways to hook a hose into my car to asphyxiate myself in the garage; I've driven over myriad bridges in the Portland metro area thinking 'Just a turn of my wheel...that's all it would take'.  And it isn't just me.  I know others.

*The corporate attorney who spent hours writing and rewriting her will while popping Ativan.

*The stay-at-home mother of three who cut herself silently in the school bathroom during PTA meetings; silently praying she'd hit an artery and bleed out.

*The ultrasound tech and triathlete who stockpiled her daughter's ADHD medication thinking 'Just in case...'

*The elementary school teacher who sat awake for hours with her son's Cub Scout manual, practicing noose tying and testing the tree limbs in the back yard for strength.

*The dear friend who woke up with a bottle in his hand and a pistol in his mouth, not giving a shit which one killed him first.

We no longer cared.  Like Jennifer Huston, we all fell silently into depression's waiting arms and said 'F#$% It. . .I'm done'.

But then. . .we didn't.

For some of us, we found sobriety.

For some of us, we were found out in the nick of time and taken to a safe place by loved ones.

And for some of us. . .well, some of us. . .we just thought. . .'but maybe'.  Maybe if we just wait one more minute, one more hour, one more day, we might just make it.

In A.A. we have a saying. . .*

*Well, actually, we have a shit-ton of sayings, but this one isn't so cheesy it makes you want to stab kittens.

. . .we say:  "DON'T QUIT BEFORE THE MIRACLE".  And that. . .that is the hardest thing of all to believe. . .that there is a miracle.  Because oftentimes the miracle is disguised as something seemingly horrible like divorce or illness or job loss or a DUI or a bad haircut, or whatever.  But that's just it. . .it's the "whatever" that makes you stop.  It's the "pause and ponder" moment in your life where you reevaluate, regroup, and reassess where you're headed.  But it's there.  The miracle is there.  

I wish the best for Jennifer's family, but most of all, I wish that Jennifer knew that I was with her at the end.  I was there.  My friend who hoarded her daughter's medication was there.  The women at my A.A. meeting were there.  My many friends who stood at the edge of the chasm were there.  Because we all survived.  We all stuck out for the miracle.  And even though Jennifer did not find her miracle, and even though she probably felt hopeless and alone that day, she was not alone.  We were there.  We were holding her hand and saying "I get it. . .I hear you. . .please find peace".  We may not have been able to save her, but I hope she felt our spirits guiding her home.

You are not alone.

You are never alone.

Don't say "F@#$ it", say "I choose to live".

Please, please, PLEASE, don't quit before the miracle.



PS:  There is help.  Please, if you are feeling like you're at the end of your rope, contact one of these agencies below.  Or contact me.  I'm here.

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE:  http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/  
1 (800) 237-8255

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS:  http://www.aa.org/

MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES:  http://www.mentalhealth.gov/

PARENTAL STRESS HOTLINE: 1 (800)-632-8188

NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE:  1 (800) 799-SAFE

S.A.F.E. (Self Abuse Finally Ends):  1 (800) DONT-CUT



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Road Not Taken



For most of my life, I've been afraid to fly.  

I had no trouble clambering aboard airplanes and soaring off to exotic destinations, and it was never a question of heights as I am the first to scale a rock wall or dangle precariously from the tallest tree limbs, but I was always terrified of letting myself fly.

For most of my life, I did what I was supposed to do.*


*Although my parents may beg to differ.

I stayed out of trouble, got respectable grades, went to college, got married, and had 2 beautiful children.  I furthered my education, was never fired from a job, and I made sure that, like footprints in the sand, I did everything in my power to live a life that wouldn't inconvenience anyone, and was easily washed away and forgotten.

I still live that way.

Sure, I have the periodic shenanigans, and odd run-ins with random hilarity, but by and large I live a life of little significance.  My children. . .I am significant to them.  My family and a few choice loved ones. . .sure.  But I am one in a million other divorced single mothers; interchangeable, and easily replaced.  And that's not who I want to be.

Life is filled with responsibilities and expectations.  But life is also like a Jersey tollbooth. . .it demands change.  And I am ready for change. My life cries out for change.

We are all born with a wild spirit, and over the years that spirit gets. . .tamed.  Our dreams shrink and our desire to shine is dulled.    For years, I dulled my shine with self-loathing and alcohol.  Then eventually,  I threw myself into sobriety with as much zeal as I did drinking, and it wasn't long until my desire to stay astride the proverbial wagon was as much an obsession as my previous urge to dive headlong off of it like a Mardi Gras Bacchus King with an inner ear infection.  'Half measures' are not a part of my vernacular, and the mere concept of 'moderation' has me tilting my head in confusion like a beagle during an air raid.  So, rather than seek moderation in life, it was far more expedient to just put my head down and follow the common roads of life.

Not any more.

I'm tired.

I'm tired of being safe.

I'm tired of doubting myself.

I'm tired of always placing other people's happiness before my own.

I'm tired of hanging my head and quieting my voice to avoid upsetting others.

We spend most of our lives like Mormon girls, crossing our arms over our chests and telling Life: "Pull the car over, Mister.  I'm walking!" rather than throwing caution to the wind and going all 'Girls Gone Wild' on the freeway.

We are constantly in a desperate scramble toward the next purchase, the next diversion, the next bauble; spitting vitriol about the shackles of our jobs while clinging to them with a blind devotion that can only be described as Stockholm Syndrome.

We are constantly trying to make everyone else happy to the point of our own misery.

We are so busy living for other things, other pursuits, other people, that we don't even recognize the sound of Death banging on the door like a Jehovah's Witness on crystal meth until it's too late.

I don't want that life any more.  Because that life isn't really. . .living.

I want to jump on the back of a Harley and ride off where the day takes me.

I want to stroll, laughing, on a nude beach.

I want to eat ice cream for breakfast and make nachos at 3:00am.

I want to make love in the middle of the day, then lie in bed laughing so hard that my stomach hurts.

I want to take my heart out of its gilded cage and place it, trusting, into someone's hands.

I want to fly.

I met someone a few months ago that encourages me to unfurl my wings.  He makes no false promises, speaks with unflinching honesty, and loves me with a purity and intelligence that I never dreamed possible.  We know that nothing is 100% sure in life, but we also know that this life is the only one we have, and we are living every second of it with an intensity that would eclipse the brightest star.

Together, he and I are veering off the common road and soaring headlong into the unknown.

Sometimes, I get scared.  I still hold back and second-guess myself, and see every quiet moment or tense disagreement as 'goodbye', but I'm learning. . .I'm understanding. . .I'm flying.  And I'm trusting that every time I take that leap of faith and soar, my wings are growing stronger and stronger.

Fly.

Do it now.  Try it now.  Live NOW!  Because before you know it, you're going to be sitting in a pair of Depends, gumming your 4:00 Early Bird supper, tapping your toe to a Musak version of Mr. Mister's 'Broken Wings', and wondering what the fuck happened to your life.

Your dreams were not meant to be stifled, and your heart was not meant to be cloistered.

Fly.

Just. . .fly.





Thursday, July 10, 2014

"If You Don't Like My Gate, You Don't Have To Swing On It"

My relationship history has not been great.

OK, it's been less than "not great". . .

OK, fine.  It's been a fucking train wreck that has involved more alcohol and verbal abuse than the first three seasons of 'American Idol' combined.*


*Much love, Simon and Paula.


The point is, I have every reason to be jaded and disillusioned; but oddly, I'm not.  Despite a string of liars, cheaters, drinkers, and players, I held out hope that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  And there was. . .there is.  Now, it's just up to me to not let my past bullshit screw it up.

Yesterday I had a moment. . .a flash of insecurity and mistrust that had nothing to do with my amazing boyfriend, but everything to do with my own insecurities.  Someone once told me: "You attract the love you think you deserve", and it's true.  Even though I have this man in my life who loves and accepts me, I still struggle to love and accept myself.  And yesterday morning that came to a head and I had a meltdown over something I created in my mind based on past experiences.  In short, I punished Norm for the sins of those who'd gone before him.

As usual, Norm called me on my shit. . .not gently, but gentle was not what I needed.  He refused to accept my paranoia and forced me to look inside myself to see from where this false fear was emanating.  He held me accountable for the demons in my head and basically told me to quit feeding them and start looking at what IS instead of what WAS.  And he was right.*


*As usual. . .damn it. . .


So often I get plagued by death echoes -- flashes of past insecurities and mendacity that poison my present-day thinking, and for an overthinker, that's about all it takes to quickly drive myself batshit crazy.  You see, all I've ever had in my life is what Norm calls "bacon and egg" relationships.*


*Hold on, because this analogy is magical. . .


A bacon and egg relationship is ultimately doomed from the start because of the gross imbalance of emotion and commitment.  In a bacon and egg relationship, the chicken provides the egg and the pig provides the bacon.  So, basically, the chicken is mildly inconvenienced, while the pig gives everything he has.*


*See what I mean?  Magical.


All my life I've been makin' bacon; desperately attempting to make a breakfast buffet while the chickens wandered by idly, dropping the occasional egg, then sauntering off to the next blonde sow that wandered by. And I allowed myself to be OK with that because I didn't believe I deserved any better.  But I do.  I deserve more than the occasional egg.  I deserve a freaking Grand Slam Breakfast and I have it now so I need to sucker punch my past demons and just enjoy the feast.

My problem (Well, one of them, anyway) is that I've spent so many years being who I thought people wanted me to be that I lost sight of who I am.  But she's coming back. . .more and more each day.  And I'm finding it easier each day to remember the three greatest tenets of self-love.

1.  We don't all have to agree.  I have my views, you have yours.  You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to.  You say po-tay-to, I say this song is stupid so lets shut up and watch '19 Kids And Counting'.  Whatever.  We don't always have to see eye-to-eye.  We don't always have to agree.  The last time an entire nation agreed on anything it was Germany, circa-1933 and as I recall, that didn't end well.  So, if someone drops their pants and tries to get into a pissing contest with you over who was the better Darren Stevens: Dick York or Dick Sargeant, just channel your inner Elsa and 'let it go, let it gooooo...'

2.  Laugh more.  At yourself, at others, at the world at large...and stop giving a flying fart if anyone laughs with you.  A sense of humor is exactly that -- a SENSE; an involuntary mental reaction to whatever it is that YOU find funny.  There is no comedic Rosetta Stone that clearly delineates 'Seinfeld' or 'SNL' at the top of the humor totem pole.  So, if you lose your shit every time one of the Stooges takes a 2x4 to the nutsack then yuk it up!  Humor is relative.  One man's Harpo is another man's Kramer.

3.  Norm's grandmother had a phrase she liked to say: "If you don't like my gate, you don't have to swing on it".  She understood what so many of us don't, and that is: your self worth is just that -- your SELF worth...as in YOURS...as in, YOU determine your opinion of yourself, no one else.  So, regardless of how others perceive your looks, your words, or your actions, this is not 'Survivor'; no one else gets to cast their vote and kick you off of the island.  The polls are closed, and at the end of the day the only two people who can determine how you feel about yourself are the Man Upstairs and the Man In The Mirror.  Everyone else can pack up their stones and start lobbing them at the next glass house.  Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.

Norm appears to have forgiven me for the giant bag of crazy I lobbed at him yesterday, but I know it made us both stop to pause and ponder.  Not about our feelings for one another, but about how I feel about myself, and how I allow my past relationships to color my present ones.

I'm trying.

I'm learning.

And every day, I'm liking myself just a little bit more and more.  And Norm is helping me with that exponentially.  Not by building me up with cheesy platitudes and false compliments; but by reminding me that even when I am completely jacked up and emotional and more neurotic than Crispin Glover on windowpane acid, I'm still worth loving.  At my very worst. . .I am still .  Worth.  Loving.

So put that on your gate and swing it.

xoxo,

Jen

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Gym Etiquette 101

I spent the majority of my youth being extremely involved in sports.  As a child, I played T-ball, softball, basketball, and volleyball, and I started dance and gymnastics at around age 6 which parleyed itself into a pretty hardcore cheerleading "career" in my teens.*



*Of course, there are those who claim that cheerleading is not a real sport, but these are generally the same people who spend hours watching golf on ESPN.  To them, I say this: the day Peter Jacobson or Phil Mickelson set down their gin and tonics and clamber out of their motorized golf carts to perform a full-up liberty heel-stretch with a double-down cradle dismount then I will gladly welcome the comparison.



Bam.  You're welcome.


But I digress. . .

My point is (and, yes, I do have one): I have always been athletic.  Unfortunately, when I got to college, my primary form of exercise became running my mouth, doing diddly squats and jogging my memory as to why I woke up on the floor smelling like Jager bombs.  So, in a valiant attempt to stave off a life of hoovering Moon Pies on my way to the cardiac unit, I became a runner and a gym rat and I can truly say that today I am one of those widely vilified miscreants who honestly LOVES to work out.*


*Which is not to say that I don't also honestly LOVE to sit on the couch watching 'Hoarders' and eating Wheat Thins...It's all about balance, y'all.


For me, there is no greater joy than lacing up my kicks, popping in my earbuds, and stepping through the doors of my local 24 Hour Fitness.  But for all the endorphin-laced bliss my gym provides, there is the inevitable glitch.  That being, of course, other people.  Don't get me wrong, I am not completely xenophobic; but, when I am in the exercise "zone", I am about as socially interactive as Boo Radley on lithium and the sad fact of the matter is that gyms are a breeding ground for a lack of civility.  Believe me, I know from experience.  I worked at an upscale fitness club for almost seven years and during that time I came in touch with more a@@holes than a six-fingered proctologist.  So, it is of no great surprise that when I enter my gym, my force field goes up and I become more inpenetrable than a Duggar daughter.  Most of your garden-variety gym goers are relatively harmless, and their minor breaches of etiquette can be considered a victimless crime.  But there are a few. . .those select denizens that lurk like snipers on the "crassy" knoll whose sheer douchebaggery will have me running for the locker room faster than Michael Vick on PETA Night at MetLife Stadium.  So, for their own edification, I would like to issue the following commandments. . .

I.  THOU SHALT NOT MARK THY TERRITORY

Throwing your sweat-soaked towel over a piece of equipment while you're between reps does not hold your place in perpetuity.  This is not the Oklahoma Land Rush; it takes more than a white, terry-cloth flag and some gumption to stake your claim on the lat pulldown machine.  If you pulled this shit in 1883, do you really think your chosen territory would have been protected by a 4"x 6" piece of cloth?  Hell, no.  Some vaquero would have rode up, stolen your land, nailed your wife, and wiped his sack with your towel while you were at Oleson's Mercantile buying gunpowder and molasses.  And the same goes for those of you who feel that sweating all over the bench is tantamount to licking all of the doughnuts at the breakfast table:  "As long as they're coated in my bodily fluids, these babies are all MINE!" Nice try, Thunderdome, but if I toddle up to do some bench presses and find so much of your DNA on the equipment that Gil Grissom is swabbing it down, then I reserve the right to bludgeon you with a bottle of hand sanitizer.

II.  THOU SHALT NOT BE CREEPY

Yes, I know the sight of me red-faced and wheezing in my sweat-soaked Seattle Seahawks jersey is enough to whip any heterosexual man into a frenzy of desire, but I assure you that my poses in yoga class are not some live-action Kama Sutra designed to "nab me a fella".  And I get it. . .it's a jungle out there; and in the daily maelstrom of speed-dating, fix-ups, and the pseudo-prostitution ring known as Match.com, finding "The One" can be an elusive quest.  But I assure you, looking for true love at the gym is a little like looking to a Kardashian for marital advice: an exercise in futility.  So, the next time you approach my weight bench, grabbing your crotch like Bryce Harper in Game 5 of the World Series, please. . .for the sake of our mutual dignity. . .pack up your copies of 'Watchtower' and go banging on the next front door, 'kay?

III.  THOU SHALT NOT TREAT THE LOCKER ROOM AS YOUR PRIVATE BOUDOIR

I understand that the $29.99 we pay per month allows one a certain sense of entitlement, but I assure you: the locker room is not your inner sanctum.  The popcorn ceiling and phalanx of dun-colored lockers are not a force field, shielding you from the rest of existence.  So, when I emerge from the shower and do a three-point landing after tripping over the contents of your Lululemon gym bag that has burst open like the bomb-bay doors on a Boeing B-29, I reserve the right to be a tad put out.  And for the love of all that is good and holy, can I just once squat down to tie my shoes without having someone's chocolate starfish winking in my face after they've decided to do some naked hamstring stretches?  Don't get me wrong, I'm not a prude.  I am all about body-acceptance and embracing the naked, but last week I saw a woman with one foot on the counter, blow drying her pubes and. . .no. Just. . .no.  This is not a solipsistic society, ladies.  And as proud as you may be of your well-manicured lady gardens, the sight of your bleached bungholes and the smell of your freshly-dried cooters just makes me profoundly sad, so please. . .save that level of intimacy for your gynecologist.

IV.  THOU SHALT SILENCE THY CELL PHONE

OMG, I know that Katie is being SUCH a skank, and can you BELIEVE what Travis was wearing last night?  I know you can hardly contain your ebullience over last night's kegger/Arbonne party/gangbang but here's an Amber Alert:  We.  Don't.  Care.  I am as guilty as the next person of checking my cell phone like I'm on an organ transplant list, but people who take their private conversations into the public sector?  Well, you can file that shit under the Jeopardy category of "Things That Make Me Want To Stab Kittens".*


*"I'll take Kristen Stewart for $500, Alex".


I'm sure you have a fascinating social life.  And I'm sure you are a truly complex individual with more personal baggage than Paris Hilton on a Trans-Atlantic flight, but unless Dr. Drew is pumping away on the Stairmaster next to you, murmuring "I feel your pain" then this is neither the time, nor the place to be discussing your latest pregnancy scare, or reliving your childhood trauma de jour.  As my gym does not (sadly) have a hard/fast corporal punishment clause for cell phone offenders, I like to kick it old school and go all Code of Hammurabi on these bastards.   Start blathering into your Samsung Galaxy about that odd rash on your ass and I will begin singing aloud from the cringe-worthy playlist on my iPod. Let's see how your verbal vomit weighs up against a few choruses of the Selfie song.  Check and mate, suckahs.

V. THOU SHALT TREAT STAFF WITH RESPECT

This is a personal favorite of mine as I was that "gal behind the counter" for almost seven years.  And here's a valuable little nugget of information to file away for future reference:  I had feelings.  I had emotions.  I had hopes and dreams and a family and friends and a functional human existence.  And so do each and every person working at your gym, from the Zumba instructor, to the hapless night cleaning staff who spend the wee hours of the night swabbing your ball sweat off of the leg-press machine.  So, here's some free advice: you are not special.  You are not privileged simply because you shell out $200 a month to say that you belong to 'Club ___' and flash your fancy key fob at parties.  You are not a unique snowflake.  You are made up of the same blood and guts as the kid with the name tag handing you your towel so SHOW A LITTLE FREAKING RESPECT.  Put away your cell phone when ordering at the juice bar, show your card at check in instead of breezing by with a "Don't you KNOW who I AM!?!?" mentality. . .*


*News flash: Yes, we do know who you are.  And we hate you.


. . .and once; just ONCE, when handed a locker key, shown a difficult yoga pose, or given a friendly 'good-bye', say 'thank you'.  It may seem awkward at first, but once you get past the initial cramping and twitching, you'll find that not being a self-entitled dillhole is relatively painless.

I realize that, for many, the gym is a place of escape; a place where one can let down their guard and release their days frustrations.  And that's all well and good, except. . .people. There are other PEOPLE.  And in a world where common courtesy is dying off faster than the cast of 'Diff'rent Strokes', can't we all agree to at least make an effort to peacefully coexist with our fellow carbon-based life forms?

Feel the burn, party people.

xoxo,

Jen