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