After almost five years and an abundance of obstacles later, I am finally in my own place again.
I’m grateful and thrilled to have four walls that allow me to fully decompress and recharge. Looking around, I believe this place has the potential to become a very special space.
To give you a proper visualization/idea of this new place, if you have seen Under The Tuscan Sun, it is pretty much how Katherine describes Bramasole at the beginning of the film: “Run down, but redeemable.”
The previous tenants of this condo were, (how does one put this gently?)maliciouslycareless with almost every square inch of the property. They and their canine companion left behind massive holes in the drywall (sheetrock to you Southern people out there), destroyed carpet, demolished baseboards, broken plumbing, undusted doorframes, beneath the fridge yuck, enough mildew, mold, discolored grout and Drano damaged sink (among other issues) to make Happy Quinn on Scorpion go “Not good.”
Because of time constraints and other issues, I had to move in before the completion of all the repairs which means that, yep, you guessed it, it hasn’t seen the final deep clean you would expect to be done before moving in to a new rental; leaving me with moldy toilet tanks, splatter painted toilet bowls and all kinds of fun smells to tackle on my own until the repairs are completed.
Welcome to Bramasole West. Like it’s namesake in Italy, it just needs some tender, loving care.
But tender, loving care was the very last thing I thought of when I walked in to see the unscrubbed tub, the dirty grout and so forth after an exhausting day of moving. At that point, I sat down on the newly-laid wood floors and cried. Then, before I became completely hysterical, I promptly got a hotel room for the night.
Laying in bed at 2am trying desperately to calm my 20-on-a-10-scale triggered PTSD, I remembered what Frances said about Bramasole upon moving in:
Buyer’s remorse is a very common affliction among new homeowners. Just because you have an acid stomach and a sudden urge to weep, that doesn’t mean you’ve made a mistake.
Everybody knows old houses have their quirks. Especially 300-year-old houses.
I have inherited 10,000 empty wine bottles, one grape, every issue of “La Nazione” printed in 1958, and assorted previous “tenants.”
The trick to overcoming buyer’s remorse is to have a plan.
Pick one room and make it yours.
Go slowly through the house.
so it can introduce itself to you.
So, here we go. Bramasole West, meet everyone. Everyone meet Bramasole West. I am hoping after the final repairs are done, a cleaning service will come in to attempt the undertaking of cleaning up what is left of what the previous tenants left behind. If not, it’s going to be me and enough cleaning supplies to choke a metaphorical horse, going room by room, introducing myself, so it can introduce itself to me.
I am open to advice (that’s what the comments section is for) and donations so I can hire the proper people and/or buy the mountain of cleaning supplies required before I can even THINK of bringing in my sister in to start the interior design. (If Nan saw the condition of this place right now, she’d have a coronary! So, I am waiting to bring her in AFTER the repairs are finished and it’s been properly cleaned and disinfected.)
This is definitely a case of “Restoration BEFORE Decoration” because the very first time I went to the bathroom, the toilet overflowed as a “welcome home gift,” leaving me scrambling, trying to prevent water from seeping into the cracks above the tile and into the walls. Well, at least I don’t have an owl in the house or have to witness a washing machine being electrocuted by a storm.
With the right attitude, it’s doable. It’s a great cautionary tale of how NOT to treat a rental. Most of all, I am going to treat it as what it is: an obstacle to overcome. And when I leave, I hope this place is infinitely more beautiful than how I found it. That’s what having a restorative strength is all about.
And just in case you feel like donating to this daunting project, here ya go:
If you want to send a mop or a bucket or grout cleaner, let me know in the comments so I can tell you where to send it!
For song of the day, from the Under The Tuscan Sun soundtrack, here’s “Buyer’s Remorse.”
A couple of weeks ago, I was in my bathroom in the midst of my morning ablutions when I looked down and noticed my make-up bag. Now, my make-up bag is similar to any other woman’s make-up bag…it’s filled with lotion, concealer, foundation, powder, eye shadow, blusher, brushes of all shapes and sizes and of course a few liner pencils, a sharpener and what my face is most famous for: my cake of black eyeliner with which I create my signature cat-eye look (that has kept people from asking my age and swearing I’m in my 30’s). But as I looked at that old bag, I realized that it had become time for a new one.
As with anything we carry, eventually our baggage is going to begin to show signs of wear, and my make-up bag was no exception. Years of unintentionally spilled loose powder had colored its once-white interior in a flesh colored hue, eye shadow brushes in-between cleanings had added highlight and shadow on top of the powder stains. While the exterior of the silver Clinique bag showed little signs of wear, the inside had (to say the least) taken quite a beating. It survived the end of my marriage, my college education, a new relationship, then the death of that relationship, several moves and countless trips to the therapist for after-session touch-ups. There are few places I have been that my old make-up bag hasn’t tagged along for the ride. And all the while, its exterior never showed signs of wear while the inside most certainly did. It got washed, dried, cleaned out and cleaned up so many times, but alas, some stains just wouldn’t come out.
After years of service, that old bag had finally given out. The silver vinyl exterior finally began to crumble, separate from the fabric and tear apart. The insides were stained and to the point of being unsalvageable. And there I stood, looking at it, denying that it was time for it to be replaced. “Oh, it’ll last one more week.” “Next paycheck, I’ve got to go to the mall for new blusher, so I’ll grab one then,” then “Crap, can’t afford the new blusher, it’ll wait until next paycheck,” and the excuses just kept coming until finally a business trip forced me into the obvious…my old bag wasn’t going to be able to make the trip. While it had held more girly crap than I can ever imagine during its lifetime, that old bag looked at me as if to say, “Sorry boss, I’m afraid this is the end of the line,” as a huge patch of silver vinyl cracked, tore away and drooped sadly off the side.
It was then that something occurred to me, kind of like a lightning bolt out of the blue. I looked at myself in the mirror and said,
“I’ve got to learn how to keep dying.”
Now, before you flip out, the phrase “I’ve got to learn how to keep dying” is a metaphor for the fact that we have to let old parts of ourselves die to embrace the new parts of ourselves.
And there I was in the mirror reminding myself to learn how to keep dying.
I was out of excuses to keep such a stranglehold on the past I have survived.
I realized that, in a way, that torn up old make-up bag was a metaphor for myself, trying desperately to carry things I shouldn’t be carrying; battered, tattered and doing its level best to put up a good front to hide the inside which had seen too many traumas, too many mistakes and too many hurtful things that had caked themselves to my insides, covering it all until none of its original surface was recognizable, even to myself.
So, like Campbell says, we have to learn how to keep dying in order to keep evolving. No death, no life. That metaphorical death, of letting old things go, is just one more way to be reborn, to evolve and to change.
It’s like Doc Cat said to me so many times,
“Change isn’t only possible, it’s probable.”
It was only after I had reminded myself to “die” and let go, did I reach under the sink and bring out a new Clinique make-up bag that had been a gift-with-purchase I had been saving as a replacement after buying new face soap and lotion a few months previous. With a bright orange zipper and cheerful pink and yellow flowers, there was a “changing of the guard” so to speak, heralded by the migration of my MAC compact, brushes, liners, blusher tin and the remainder of the contents of the old bag, into the new one. But what made it more poignant was that as I was going through, I made a conscious decision to let go of even more, ridding myself of a few items that should have taken a hike a while ago, like the emergency Cover Girl concealer I was carrying for those times the circles under my eyes were so black I looked like Jenny in Forrest Gump right before she stepped onto the railing of the balcony but thought twice about jumping.
After I finished the transfer, I looked at the torn up, empty bag, I said, “Thank you for everything you’ve carried for me,” and placed it into my bathroom trash can to go out the next trash day. I then picked up my new make-up bag, placed it on my bathroom shelf, smiled at my reflection, turned out the lights and headed to the kitchen for breakfast.
Like the song by REM goes, “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” Yeah, that happens after you end the world as you know it – to move on to a new one that you create for yourself.
When I saw the article, it made me think about my first semester at UNLV. My marriage had just gone belly up and I was trying to readjust to a life on my own. I found myself in Doc T’s Composition II (Argumentative Essay) class, a 37-year-old surrounded by students young enough to be my children. After writing almost every day to chronicle my experiences, I suddenly found myself knee-deep in schoolwork. I had completely slacked off on writing in my blog as I was researching and preparing to fight the battle of creationism versus evolution for my final 10-page paper that I would eventually title “Centerfield.” While I was procrastinating on getting my writing done, I came in here to unwind and air out a few wild theories that I couldn’t really put in an academic paper. The result? A pair of “Rabbit Nikes.”
As I re-read the post, I laughed out loud a few times. Man, the things I come up with.
I like to think of evolution in terms of a pair of “Rabbit Nikes.” So let’s use our imaginations and think about a caveman for a second, and here’s a visual to help out…
Wait, on second thought, let’s not…because all of the pictures I found on cavemen or Neanderthals…well, the pictures all have everyone’s “whatevers” hanging out and, no, I’m just not gonna go there. No pictures of some caveman’s willow on my blog!
But that does illustrate my point quite the bit…let’s imagine our very nude caveman walking along. He steps down and gets a sharp rock in the sole of his foot. Now in today’s society, we’re liable to hop up and down like a jackrabbit hollering about the pain, but to Mr. Caveman…well, that’s normal. Sighing at the fact that he’s taken one more sharp rock in the foot, he reaches down and pulls the rock from his foot and keeps going, accepting that it’s always going to be like that. He doesn’t even consider another option.
Now, let’s switch to a different caveman, same situation. He’s walking along, minding his own business when he gets a sharp rock in the bottom of his foot, but this time instead of sighing about it, removing the rock and going about his business, he figures he’s about had enough of his only means of transportation constantly being hurt by things on the ground that he inadvertently steps on (or in). Just then, a rabbit quickly scampers by. He sees the rabbit…he’s hungry, so he figures, “Hey! Food!” (I’ll leave out the quip that the rabbit was probably the first rendition of “Fast Food”…go ahead and groan, it’s ok.) He chases down the rabbit, kills it, skins it and has a really good lunch…BUT then he looks at the leftovers…bones, fur (if he’s not eaten them in the process)…all sorts of stuff…so, he looks at the cut in his foot, looks at the fur, feels how soft it is and figures out that “Hey, that fur could be protecting my foot!” So he takes the skin, wraps it around his foot, uses the remaining bones to fasten the fur together so it’ll stay on his foot, then gets up and walks on, not worrying about rocks on the ground anymore…our friend the caveman invents the first “shoe” of sorts, a “Rabbit Nike.”
Now, let’s put the shoeless caveman next to the guy with the Rabbit Nike’s on. Is the caveman with the “Rabbit Nike’s” going to be able to go a further distance when he walks? Odds are he will. Odds are that he’s got better survival skills than our caveman who just pulled the rock out of his foot and moved on.
Think about it. You’re a caveman. If you hurt your feet, how are you supposed to hunt and gather when you can’t walk? Now I’ll concede that the caveman foot of prehistoric times probably had the sole of a Doc Marten because their bare feet were their only mode of transportation; the skin of the foot was probably extremely calloused and made to survive a sharp rock or two. But now we’ve got this guy with the Rabbit Nike’s on…he invented something that he probably put on his girl, then on his children. What happens to the feet of that family? Odds are they got softer, because there was not a lot of damage being done to them; the damage being absorbed by the fur and skins that encased their feet. They got to walk farther in inclement weather, (snow, ice) and generally survived a lot better. That is a great case of evolution. The next generations of the family of the Rabbit Nike inventor unwittingly had caused a change in their feet, with less damage being done to the foot and fur-lined insulation cutting down on illness, that means they could hunt and gather more and enjoy a better quality of life, thus leading to the dominance of the Rabbit Nike-wearing caveman. That singular innovation passes down through the generations, changing the foot over millennia to what we see today when we look down at our feet to get out of bed, all because some caveman was sick and tired of getting a sharp rock in the sole of his foot and was smart enough to use the remains of his lunch to protect them.
Now while I’m using a male pronoun for the caveman, it could have easily been a cavewoman who invented the shoe. Actually, I’ve got odds that a woman invented the shoe because, I mean, come on, girls and shoes? Yeah…that whole thing had to start somewhere.
This, of course, is followed by the evolution of the first shoe salesman:
”You like fur? You like no rock or thorn in foot? You like to run fast to catch mammoth for big meal or run away faster when big cat tries to eat you? Shoe made from rabbit. Rabbit fast. You be faster wearing Rabbit Nike.”
Evolution, isn’t it grand?
I’m sorry, I had to do it, it was too funny to pass up.
Today, let’s just say it out, I’ve been feeling awful. My session yesterday had me wake up this morning and feel like I had just taken a quadruple shot of novocaine straight to the chest. Numb. Absolutely wretched. Like some jackass came in and just sucked all the hope out of my body and left me for dead. But PTSD therapy is like that. What did we say?
That said, in the overall, therapy has been going well. No, scratch that, it’s been going just freaking awesome. My therapist says that I’m one of the hardest working clients she has. I never miss an appointment, I’m never late for my appointments, I do my homework, I apply it to my life instantaneously and I refuse to stop, give in or give up until I’m healthy again.
I walk into her office and say, “THIS is what’s bothering me, and I don’t want it to bother me anymore” and we rip off the band-aid, pour alcohol directly into the wound, break out the wire brush and clean out all the crap that’s holding me back. You really don’t get how much I want to feel better. I have things to do, a world to conquer, and I will be damned if I let a set of triggers caused by a bunch of ignorant assholes to get in my way. I’m just done with allowing them, AND MYSELF, to be the biggest obstacles in my own path.
I’m aggressive with my treatment because I want to get better. I’ve squandered too many years on allowing myself to be treated badly and outright treating myself badly because I thought that I didn’t deserve love, that I didn’t deserve good things to happen to me, that I was a discard, that I wasn’t worth the skin that was holding my bones in place. I lived for over 40 years apologizing for breathing because I (wrongly) assumed that everything was my fault because I was so used to being the scapegoat and the target for maliciousness by people with some serious issues.
Well, guess what? That’s a bunch of bullshit. That’s someone else’s shoulder yoke and heavy buckets, their emotional baggage and THEIR issues that I was just oh so happy to run up, pick up and bolt it to my skeleton so I never dropped it. And then I proceeded to carry it. Like a moron, I carried it for YEARS!!! Baggage that wasn’t mine to carry…that didn’t even have anything to do with me, and there I was carrying it.
What a damn waste of time. That’s the thing about being an emotional baggage bellhop, the bags aren’t yours to carry and the tips suck. The person you’re carrying it for isn’t going to say thank you, and newsflash, they don’t even CARE if you’re carrying it! They don’t even KNOW! But there you are, dragging it along like some schmuck that doesn’t know any better! When the ton of bricks hit me that it didn’t matter if I was standing in the vicinity or not, people are going to say what they’re going to say, they’re going to do what they’re going to do, and it doesn’t make a flying fart in space of a difference who’s there, they are going to spew their bullshit anyway. This unique tidbit brought to you by the phrase “Don’t take it personally” because that’s the working definition. Hello. 43 years to learn what that phrase meant. *facepalm*
In college, Doc Cat clued me in that I was carrying stuff I didn’t need to carry. Remember how I struggled with that? Well, guess what, thanks to Ferris and my Aunt Lee, I got on the phone, found a therapist and promptly took KP’s advice and promptly went to work putting the serious hammer to nail to build my bridge to stomp on and get the fuck over it ALL. I got to the point where I said, “Enough already. If I’m supposedly SO brilliant, as smart and talented as everyone says I am, then you know what? I can take this on and win.”
So I got into the therapy room and I went to work. And I’ve working my ass off for two hours every Thursday for the last six months. And a lot of the time, yeah, it’s hard. Some days I get to slack off and laugh. But there have been a LOT of days where I cry inconsolably. But you know what? I’m committed to the process and that’s the WORK. You want easy? Screw you, get back in the corner and wallow in your self-pity. Settle for living with the pain. Be lazy and do NOTHING about it. You wanna feel better? Then DO THE WORK. Believe in something, the very best something that you would never in a million years believe could happen to you. See yourself the way you’ve always wanted to: strong, vibrant, desirable and most of all, loved. Loved for every quirk, idiosyncrasy, genius moment, goofy yet charming chortle and clumsy fall.
I knew walking in and committing to treatment that it was going to be hard, that change only happens when you want it so badly that you can taste it in every breath, that you don’t want the constant anxiety anymore, that you’re tired of getting triggered by some jackass not worthy of your time, much less for you to waste more time dwelling on said jackass.
I didn’t go into the therapy room to start this journey thinking it was going to be easy all the time. Had I assumed it was going to be easy, I’d still be some strung-out doodah letting some guy treat me like dirt. Or allow some jealous herd of cows to pass judgement on me because I just happen to be extremely smart and pretty to boot. By the way ladies, it’s not a crime if boys like me. I’m actually pretty fucking special, so I’m sorry if you have a problem with that, but that’s YOUR problem, not mine. Carry your own fucking luggage for a change because it’s not my fault you have self-esteem issues because boys don’t look at you the way they look at me.
No, that’s not who I am anymore, thank you very much, and I’ll be damned if I ever let anyone make me feel like I’m not worthy of being loved, adored and goddamned *worshipped* for the really awesome person I am ever again. Hey, like my therapist says, “You have to love yourself first and best, only then can someone love you the way you want to be loved.”
So, as I was sitting here at my desk, feeling awful and numb and just wretched, I was listening to the Under the Tuscan Sun Soundtrack and I remembered what Diane Lane’s character said in the middle of the renovations to her villa in Tuscany. There is only so much work you can do on your house, your soul and your PTSD before you just have to GET OUT.
I happen to live in one of the most exciting cities on the planet. It’s Vegas for fuck’s sake! So you know what I’m going to do tonight? I’m going to finish working, I’m going to go to the gym, then I’m going to go home, get ready, and then I’m just going to get out and see the city. Take a walk, go visit the conservatory at the Bellagio, I DON’T GIVE A SHIT where I end up going! I’m going out!
Thank you Christophe Beck! Without hearing “Roma” go off in my headset, I’d still be sitting here feeling horrible.
A lot of you know why I write with such passion about PTSD: I don’t ever want anyone to go through what I did. It’s the reason I refused to have children. I couldn’t justify exposing a perfectly innocent child to the cruelties of the world.
I will fight against child abuse, neglect and bullying until the last breath goes out of my body. No one should have to live with what I do: nightmares of cruel children doing their best to drive me to suicide.
I rarely write about my childhood in a positive light because, to be honest, there wasn’t much light to be found. Even though I would search high and low for a moment of respite, it didn’t happen often. I got maybe about three hours a day where I wasn’t getting knocked into the dirt and expected to get back up and wear a smile to hide the agonizing pain I was constantly in.
That’s what always amazes me. People come to me now and say, “I remember your beautiful smile.” As the great Robin Williams once said, “The brightest smiles hide the worst pain.”
By the time I hit high school, I was lucky enough to garner the assistance of who I now call “My guardians.” Rebel elements themselves that didn’t fit into the status quo, but found solace in each other enough to garner the safety in numbers needed to ensure survival in that kind of hostile environment. I don’t kid when I say I grew up with some pretty treacherous animals while carefully traversing poison-filled school hallways. Like one of my friends recently put it, “I remember this incredibly sweet girl that never seemed to get a fair shake.” During that time, I was forced to accept that “a fair shake” was just something that I was never going to find in life, so I did my best to keep my head down, endure the daily mental beatings and spiritual eviscerations, always hoping one day that life would get better.
What I didn’t expect is that this band of brothers would come to my aid, protecting me when they could, and for a brief, sweet year, they treated me with respect and gave me my very first taste of acceptance. It was heavenly and for that brief time, I felt better. That is until they graduated and left me alone once again to fend for myself against individuals I can only describe as putrid souls without a shred of decency or mercy.
One of my guardians, the strongest of all of them, stuck around and still watched over me and became a powerful influence on my life from that time on. Because everyone gets a pseudonym here, I am going to bestow onto him the highest honor I can, and that’s to name him after my favorite book character EVER. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s biggest badass in her Dark Hunter series: Acheron, or “Ash” for short, after the river of woe that runs through Hades.
Now for those of you who read Sherrilyn Kenyon, you know that Ash is just all that and a plate of cookies. Dark hair, swirling silver eyes and “a predator’s lope” that (thanks to his Aunt Epithymia) made everyone who came near him want to touch him. Okay, he melts underwear at 30 paces but gives off such a dangerous vibe that you know not to mess with him. But if you know the character, you know he’s Mr. Severe PTSD because of a lifetime of atrocities that make him unable to even get remotely close to anyone. That’s why I adore the character so much, because I fully understand what years of unending cruelty will do to the soul.
My real-life version of Ash is right on par with the book description. Okay, let’s break it down: his IQ is 30 points higher than mine. That fact alone should tell you to just bow down because a 169 is something you must bow down to. To me, that’s a godlike intellect that I respect without hesitation. I live in 30 point envy because holy gods, he is just off-the-charts brilliant. As we know, the one thing I prize over all else is intellect, and Ash has got it for miles. Talking to him is like paradise on Earth because we move from topic to topic flawlessly, fluidly, and I am able to sample the sweetness of an equal, kindred intellect like sweet wine flowing across my tongue. His presence is so entirely heady that it steals my breath. It always has.
I remember watching him walk into a room when we were kids and feeling my knees absolutely buckle under me because to me he was (and still is) THE most gorgeous man I have ever seen, and trust me, I’ve dated my share of hotties in my day. Ash puts them all to shame without even an effort. As a kid, I remember turning around to see his topaz eyes staring into mine and me instantly melting because, just, just, just WOW. His essence, mind, body and soul, was just overwhelming. 25 years later? Still, just one look and I go from jaw-gape to MELT. “Aunt Epithymia” did her job, that’s all I can say. His unparalleled beauty aside, I remember that he and I would play word association games to challenge each other’s vocabulary: a war of bigger and bigger words would go flying back and forth until I would finally give up because he never failed to beat me every time, but we would always walk away laughing. He NEVER once made me feel dumb or inadequate or anything else except special. If there was a singular moment of joy from my childhood, Ash was it. And we never went on a single date. Ever. But at least I can admit now that from the very first moment I saw him while walking across an asphalt practice field, it was love at first sight, and it would endure, unspoken and unrequited, for decades.
Now, I know you’re going to ask why I’m suddenly going on a dote-fest and out of nowhere telling you about Ash:
Last weekend, I got a text from Ash wishing me happy birthday. It was the first time I had spoken to him in over a year. So, what do you think I did? Like a jerk, I started yelling at him with “Where the hell have you been?” “What the hell is going on?” “You jerk!” “I’ve been worried sick!” Oh, I just absolutely went green rage monster on him, that was until he knocked me over with a ton of bricks. Upon the screen of my phone popped a picture of a wrist with a bright pink scar across it. One look and I knew: Ash has my illness. If that’s not enough to knock the wind out of you, I don’t know what will. The guy who watched over me, protected me, loved me from afar, who always adored me no matter what anyone said or did, has PTSD.
My therapist has been challenging me for weeks to find some way for me to look at myself through the eyes of others so I can understand my importance as a person. But there’s a bigger reason I’m writing about this now. While I now understand what my therapist wanted me to see, this is my way of doing the same for Ash. He needs to see how I see him and how much I believe that he is worthy of being loved. Technically, it is called the inability to receive love and it’s just part and parcel of the illness, borne of inadequate nurturing during development. I have it too. It sucks. Basically you have to learn to raise yourself because some people aren’t equipped with nurturing skills. Oddly enough, when Ash and I interact with the rest of the world? We trust no one. But when we sit down together and talk, all of our trust and intimacy issues vanish and it becomes the most naturally honest and open communication I have ever known. I think that says something pretty friggin’ huge because we light each other up like fireworks and we make each other feel so much better, which is extremely healing and good for our therapy process.
But when that picture flashed onto the screen of my phone and I found out about his illness, my heart shattered into a thousand little bitty pieces. I sat down and began to cry uncontrollably. Of all the people in the universe, why God why would you do that to someone so perfect? I mean when he smiles, he shines like the sun! When he speaks, brilliance flows from him like water! His heart is golden, his soul more precious than anything I could ever describe, and he’s in pain all the time like I am. Why? Damn it, I can understand how and why it happened to me, I get it, I accept it, I’m fine with it, I go into the therapy room and deal with it. But why him? WHY???????? I would endure what I went through a million times over again to save him from this, but here we are and I can’t help but want throats for what was done to him. Damn it! Bring it here! Beat on me! I can take it! But you leave Ash alone!!!!
Come to find out, the pathology of our illness is IDENTICAL. We both suffer from severe childhood onset PTSD. In the 25 years we have been apart, our collective suicide attempts total 13. Four for him, nine for me. Remember, PTSD affects 5.3 million Americans a year and I am convinced that the damage done to Gen X by our selfish, abusive, twisted, absentee Baby Boomer parents is going to reach epidemic proportions by the end of the decade because PTSD and suicide are inextricably linked. Trust me, this much non-stop pain will drive you to some severe lengths to make it stop. It starts at addiction and usually ends up in suicide. The only thing you can really do is get a really good therapist, grab your bootstraps and get into the ring to re-fight all of your battles that gave you the illness in the first place in order to FINALLY learn the proper coping skills you should have in childhood. Only then are we able to finally put the trauma to bed.
In most cases for Gen X’ers with childhood onset PTSD, we were forced to learn to raise ourselves because our parents just didn’t exist. Can’t blame them, it was the 80’s, it was a big party. Millions of parents across the U.S. said, “Screw the kids, they can take care of themselves.” Well played Boomers, thanks for defining “cruel”, “selfish” and “negligent” for us.
I go into the therapy room this afternoon knowing that one of my beloved guardians is down and I am powerless to help him except to encourage him and support him while he fights for his life. I can’t transfuse the hope that resides in my veins into his, the illness doesn’t work that way. But at least he’s in treatment. While I’m just a machine in the therapy room mercilessly crushing my traumas and progressing by leaps and bounds, he’s just begun. But I will be damned if he does this alone.
Today’s song of the day is from the guys who gave us the Eternal Sophomore theme song, “Marching On”… Just for you Ash, OneRepublic’s “Feel Again.”
Oscar Wilde in the 1895 play “The Importance of Being Earnest” once said, “To lose one parent, […] may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both seems like carelessness.”
While Wilde uses that quote to illustrate the sometimes ludicrous nature of “high” society, it has a more powerful message when you look at it through the eyes of a writer.
In today’s instant gratification, instant information culture, the amount of time we have to create copy/content has become extremely limited. Writing on deadline is not only a journalistic ideal, but a mandatory part of SEO writing as well. The unrelenting demand for content has come with a terrible side effect, the loss of accurate spelling, punctuation and sentence structure.
Every morning I start my day with a look through multiple digital media outlets. I start with The Wall Street Journal and New York Times; make my way down the coast to Atlanta and CNN; then to the West for The LA Times; across the pond to BBC News from London; then round out my digital globetrotting with the Associated Press and Reuters’ websites to read the breaking news. After that, it’s checking my local news on all three broadcast networks and finally sitting down with a print copy of the local newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal or “RJ.” Yeah, I consume a lot of news before I have finished breakfast.
The one thing that I have repeatedly noticed? Typos everywhere.
In our mad rush to sate audiences with fresh content, we’ve either forgotten to proofread or we have become far too reliant on spell-check. I catch typos with frightening regularity in large publications like The New York Times and USA Today. Every time I spot a typo or a fumbled sentence, I sit back and ask two questions:
Doesn’t the writer realize that typos damage the credibility of their story? Don’t they realize that they are damaging the reputation of their publication each time they don’t thoroughly check their work?
I’d hate to think that most news stories are entered through a smartphone, but odds are that’s closer to the truth than I even realize – because I have caught some errors that could only be attributed to auto-correct.
The argument can be made by those who think the typo is “okay” that people are lazy and don’t read past the headline. To that I ask, what about those who do read past the headline? Should the people actually reading the entire article be forced to put up with atrocious spelling and expect their work to be called “credible”?
My answer? Each time I see a typo, I can’t help but think that writers are dropping the ball and not doing their jobs right.
It’s pretty simple, right? It just says that when you spell well, your writing has a fighting chance to reach and impact an audience. But then again, I may be asking too much. After all, as a wise friend of mine once said, “Not everyone speaks Sheri,” meaning that I communicate differently than most everyone else.
I wrote script and cursive and read aloud from National Geographic by the time I was four and then wrote my first lines of computer code by the time I was eight. But it all boiled down to one thing, I have always known the importance of spelling. The reason that I began reading so early is because I was taught to sound out my words, using phonics to make sure I was pronouncing words correctly. When it came time to write, I used the inverse, sounding out the words to ensure their proper spelling on the page. Over my lifetime spelling has become my stock in trade, so when I see a typo or witness the desecration of the English language on social media, I cringe. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we all be cringing when we see a typo? I would think so, but maybe that’s just me.
When you write, you have to make sure that your word usage and spelling are accurate. I’m often told that I own “The Vocabulary of Awesome” because I use words that other people usually don’t. The truth is that really I don’t own “The Vocabulary of Awesome,” I just make sure that when I write that I use the perfect words to convey my thoughts or emotions. I have no fear of saying “I don’t know”, so going to a dictionary to look up a word’s proper spelling or definition doesn’t bother me one bit. At least I know that when I write, I can at least reach the bar of good spelling skills, which in the end, gives me outstanding credibility. (It makes me fun to read, too.)
Right now, in schools all over the world, they are taking handwriting out of the curriculum. To me, that is tantamount carelessly wiping an endangered species off the map. When we take handwriting away, we take away a sensory mechanism for teaching proper spelling. Besides, in our instant information/instant gratification culture, a handwritten letter sent by snail mail has become a treasured artifact.
So, for me, the next time you go on social media, write an article or attempt to communicate with the world, make sure what you write is spelled properly. It will do your credibility a world of good. Think of it this way, when you spell well, people take you seriously and your “street cred” (“cred” being short for the word “CREDIBILITY”) will skyrocket. If that fails to convince you, think of Oscar Wilde:
“One typo may be regarded as a misfortune. Two or more seems like carelessness.”
A few weeks ago, I got a note from a reader named Justin in regards to a piece I wrote called “Cavern.” In his beautifully worded letter, he asked me to describe my friend Janet’s motorized wheelchair in order to create a memorial for her.
If you recall, Janet (a.k.a. ‘Pepsi’ or ‘Pehpsee’) has been a fixture here on the Eternal Sophomore because she is, bar none, one of the most important positive influences on my life. She was one of the very first people to adopt me inside the Myst Universe. She helped me win the Myst Movie writing contest with “A Trip Through the Linking Book“, a piece about how she, the Cavern and the entirety of the Myst Universe has impacted my life in a very real, very positive way.
Justin’s note shined light on something I have never really written about: the day Janet died. On the evening of December 28, 2004, I went to my computer after dinner to check in with my friends around the world. Upon checking my e-mail, I received a note that changed my world forever. It was from Katie Postma, gently telling me that Janet was gone. I sat staring at the words on the screen in disbelief. My mind just would NOT accept it. I knew Janet was down because of the surgery on her ankle, but I thought she was doing better! Next thing I knew, I literally crumbled into my ex-husband’s arms wailing, “No! NO! She can’t be gone! No!” and he held me while I wept uncontrollably and inconsolably for hours that turned into days. Someone might as well have set off a nuclear bomb in the middle of my chest because, as far as I was concerned, the world had ended. The very first person who I felt truly accepted me for who I was, was gone. My lamp in the darkness, my best pal, my sister, my teacher, my collaborator, my favorite peacemaker, would never light my screen up again with a “What’cha doin’?” It’s ten years later, and I can still feel the incredible loss.
Justin wanted to know some very granular details about Janet’s chair, its’ color, make, model, if there were any decals or stickers on it; a bevy of details that I sadly don’t have because she never shared that information with me. You have to understand that in all the time I spent with Janet in Cavern, through all of the projects we collaborated on – from how to publicize Cone Kicking and Eddie Soccer matches to mapping the D’ni Games Marathon Course – we never talked about what she couldn’t do. We always talked about what she could do or what we had plans to do together or projects we wanted to undertake to benefitour global Cavern family. To be honest, in the majority of time I spent with her, I never knew about her condition and how juvenile arthritis had taken its’ painful toll on her life until the very end. But if you knew Janet, that’s not a revelation that would surprise you. If you had spent even five minutes with the woman, you knew that she wasn’t about pain, she wasn’t about complaining, she was about solving problems and keeping everyone else’s spirits up when the hard times inevitably came.
Janet wasn’t about “I can’t.” Janet said, “I CAN.”
To put it succinctly, she never focused on herself, she focused on what the community needed. If I have ever been likened to the sticky stuff that holds things together, I’m convinced I learned those skills from Janet. She was a problem solver, not a drama maker, and I am convinced that she wouldn’t want to be remembered for her wheelchair, but for how she lived: a life spent humbly serving her community to the best of her abilities.
Janet taught me to always give more than I take.
Janet taught me to always greet everyone I meet with a smile on my face and love in my heart.
Janet taught me that even though life may deal you a pretty dismal hand, you have to do the best you can with what you have and don’t complain a word about it; just be grateful for what you have and get on with life.
Janet embodied one of my favorite quotes from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations which says:
Take on life’s tasks like a soldier storming the breach. So what if you are lame and cannot scale the wall alone? Does your lameness prevent you from asking for help?
But, contrary to what you might think, Janet wasn’t the one who needed to ask for help. Instead, she was the hand reaching down from the top of the wall, stretching with all her might to reach out and help pull you up. She had this uncanny way of always finding the bright side of just about anything, no matter how bad things truly got.
But on that dark day when I thought all was lost and Janet “Linked to the Perfect Age”, I made my pal a promise: I would never let her legacy die, that as long as I remembered her and carried her words forward, she would live forever.
As her husband would later tell us, “Every morning she got up without fail and went to the computer to do ‘her work’.” Janet’s “work” was comprised of moderating several forums, doing full-time greeter shifts in Cavern helping out new Explorers, working as a part of the D’ni League of Activities (D’LA) to make the term “Explorer-Based Initiatives” a part of every community member’s vocabulary. She referee’d cone kicking matches…heck, you can name it and Janet was probably right in the middle of it. She ate, breathed and slept Cavern even more than I do! And that’s a lot! Her whole goal was to take on any task that had to do with maintaining high community morale. She was committed to “the cause” that was Uru; whether it was because she felt like it had given her her legs back so that she could run, jump and climb again, I’ll never know, but if it was for the good of the community, she was neck deep in it. She wanted Uru to succeed that badly.
But, there were two things you would never find her doing…being negative or hurting another living soul on purpose. I honestly believe there was not a single malicious bone in her body. Okay, she could be a pistol at times, yes, but truly malicious? No way.
So, with all of this in mind, I sent a note back to Justin that read:
Unfortunately, I have ZERO clue about what kind of wheelchair she used. She never shared that with me. In fact, every time that topic would come up, she would dodge it, go around it; it was one subject she didn’t really like to talk about because she LOVED the fact that she was accepted as a run-of-the-mill explorer: running, jumping and climbing just like everyone else. The reason why she loved Cavern so much is that no one ever treated her any different because of her condition. She wasn’t treated like she was in a wheelchair or judged because of her disability, she was just “Pepsi.”
and everyone loved her for it.
Stereotypes and disabilities go by the wayside real fast inside of a virtual world, that’s why she and I used to giggle, “You never know who is on the other side of the screen.”
That is why she loved the fact that Uru was also known as You are YOU, because it didn’t matter if you were sitting in a wheelchair or stood seven feet tall, you were loved for who you are, not how you sat, where you lived, or what color your skin was; all that mattered was that you put aside all the negatives and were genuinely who you were in your heart. (Believe me, Janet could spot a fake a mile off. She didn’t much take to folks that weren’t genuine, I can tell you that!)
Finally, I told Justin about how I remember Janet every day:
I think of an empty workstation with a can of “Pehpsee” clearly visible on the desk; computer and monitor on, notes strewn all around the desk (puzzle clues, maps, phone numbers), post-it’s stuck on the edge of the monitor with written reminders; all of it just waiting for her to come back, as if she’s just taking a break for a moment. Of course, you could simply add tire tracks on the floor to infer the nature of her chair, but that’s just me of course.
Janet would never want to be remembered for being “the lady in the wheelchair.” She would want to be remembered for the work she DID, and that’s the most important part.
The one thing she told me that will stick with me forever was the time where I expressed a lack of faith in my own talents. I could tell she was about ready to lose her cool with me when she said,
Don’t be afraid! Get involved, share your gifts, and you’ll find your niche!
The next day, I was an amateur sports reporter for the D’LA. Now, ten years later, I’m a journalist.
So, now here is where YOU come in. Yes you, sitting there reading the rantings of one of the many, beyond count, friends she left behind. I guess we’re still here to carry on Janet’s legacy, an initiative if you will, that reminds you, and everyone you interact with, to give more than you take, to greet everyone you meet with a smile on your face and love in your heart. Life is far too short to spend it complaining about other people and not being honestly grateful for what you have, from your health to the smile on your child’s face when you make the time to play a simple game with them.
Every day I look out into the world and see people complaining, being greedy and malicious pains-in-the-backside. I see people neglecting the needs of their fellow man, completely unaware of how much damage they are doing to everyone around them with their craptastic attitudes. This just will not do! Not according to Janet, not according to me, and not according to her legion of friends who carry her legacy forward every single day of their lives because they saw with their own two eyes what it means to live a life of humble service and never take for granted that they can run, jump, climb and be a positive influence on all those around them.
This is The Janet Initiative. It is following in the footsteps, yes, footsteps of a truly great woman who understood that sometimes we have to exercise patience when faced with adversity, that when life deals us not-so-favorable cards, it’s time to be grateful for what we DO have and make the very best of what we’ve got. And doing it ALL, no matter how badly it hurts, with a smile on our face and love in our heart.
If Janet could do that without flinching and not even whimper about her own pain while doing her part for her community, you can stand up and join her, can’t you?
Can you make a positive difference in someone else’s life without asking for anything in return? Can you be kind when you have no reason to? When your patience is tested, can you hold your wrath in check? Can you live without pride? Can you be generous instead of greedy? Can you be selfless in a way that sets a standard for others to follow?
I have a feeling you can. Like Janet said, “Just share your gifts and talents with the world, you’ll find your niche.”
Since it’s the New Year, it might be time to try something new. I suggest taking some initiative and help us carry Janet “Pehpsee” Burress’ legacy forward. Heaven knows, the world needs something much different than the negativity we’ve sadly become accustomed to, don’t you think?
Like a wise man once taught me, “It’s not about the say, it’s about the DO.”
One of my best friends has asked me to write anecdotal recipes, so here ya go, the tale of a girl and her combined love of tools and cooking.
In my time on the planet, I’ve been exposed to all sorts of people. From growing up on construction sites helping my father do plan (blueprint) take-offs for window bids to the man who taught me how to SCUBA dive 25 years ago and loves to woodwork or restore vintage American Muscle (cars and motorcycles) while he’s not adding to the abundance of salt that clings effortlessly to his persona, I’ve met some truly groovy folks I don’t ever want to forget.
I have to admit, for a girl whose tech savvy is almost second to none, I have always gravitated to getting dirty because, let’s face it, it’s a novelty for me. Technology, for the most part, is a sterile environment. Being a mouse jockey means that I can create all kinds of things without getting the slightest bit dirty, not even a speck of dust under my fingernails.
Speaking of fingernails, one of the biggest influences in my life (who taught me more about the joys of getting dirty while exercising creative skills) was a man, who on top of being a motor-head with what seemed like a permanent automotive grease manicure, selflessly shared with me all he knew about tools, shop maintenance and work space organization. The best part? After a hard day of creating beautiful, useful things in his shop, oh, that man could COOK!
Back in the day, I grew up in a world of spoiled men. Women dominated the kitchen environment in a way that is seldom seen today. Back then, if you told a woman that a man could not only cook, but that he LOVED to cook, you know what happened? You got a woman passed out cold on the floor – or – with a look of shock on their face like they just saw a ghost. Guys can cook, I’m not saying they can’t, but old school chicks like me rub their eyes and do double takes when we find them. In my 20’s, if you got one that loved to cook and could clean on top of all that, you could have called Guinness because it was a friggin’ miracle. Now, not so much. Boys are coming into their own in the kitchen and I love it.
But in 43 years on this planet, I’ve only met two men who effortlessly stood shoulder-to-shoulder with me in the kitchen having a blast collaborating with me to create a great meal. One taught me how to change my spark plugs, SCUBA dive and make Baked Ziti, the other taught me how to organize a shop, maintenance tools, woodwork with a vintage planer, fix an engine block then promptly went into the kitchen and did knife work so beautiful and elegant that it would make you swoon on the spot; all the while growing his own heirloom tomatoes so huge and delicious you could make a meal out of just one.
I count myself very lucky that I have encountered individuals that are so diametrically opposed to my own nature but are kind enough to share their knowledge with me. Where I was once a “geek-in-distress”, I am now a “geek with two of her own toolboxes.” One for the shop and one for the kitchen.
But! My friends have given me the ultimate gift. They turned me into a damsel-in-a-dress that doesn’t fear tools. I don’t fear getting dirty and I definitely don’t fear rolling up my sleeves and putting hammer to object to get the job done on my own, whether it’s in the shop or in the kitchen.
I’m just thrilled because my motor head buddies helped me with one thing they never realized they were: Teaching me how to be safe in spite of my clumsy nature. As we’ve seen time and time again over the last five years, I’m not perfect by a long-shot because if I can step on it, step in it, trip over it or burn myself with it, I usually do. I’m so human it hurts (usually pretty bad). Trust me, I can attest to the fact that sometimes stupid hurts so bad it leaves permanent scarring.
Now since being safe is one of my highest priorities, one of the most important things one of my friends taught me about tools was:
The first criteria of a great tool is that it does the job it was designed to do.
Followed by the words of an intellectual (but not-so-handy) buddy of mine who said:
When the only tool you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.
What all that means is, simply, you have to have the right tool for the job. While my native tools are things like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, I once sat through an hour-long lecture about hammers from one of my friends that listed at least 13 different hammer types, from rawhide and lead-shot mallets to ball, framing, masonry and finishing hammers. The man was a friggin’ hammer almanac. If you gave him half the chance he’d probably tell you the right one to use in inclement weather conditions. But that’s cool…you know why? I can do the exact same thing when it comes to almost any piece of modern technology from the smartphone to advanced video game engines. Hey, everyone has a different skill set and I just love to learn. And if someone is willing to share their knowledge, I’m paying attention and taking notes.
But speaking of the combination of hammers and kitchens…
My mom is a HUGE fan of the Property Brothers on HGTV. She’s a “STOP EVERYTHING, NEW EPISODE TONIGHT” kind of fan because she’s constantly looking at her home and trying to figure out how it can be very efficient while extremely stylish. I like watching the renovations. It’s tech and getting dirty simultaneously. Plus I like looking at the 3D models they use in their “ideas” segment since one of my hobbies is skinning 3D models in Photoshop for use in video games.
So, while Mom was watching “Property Brothers at Home” which happens to take place right here in Vegas, I got out a head of red cabbage, a large Rubbermaid bowl and a tenderizing mallet and hammered together a fine salad, thinking “Yeah, Jonathan can put hammer to nail and build a house, but can he literally hammer together a salad? I know I can.”
Betcha you want to know how I did it, don’t ya?
Like any well-trained shop rat, let’s start with the tool list for this project. Remember, I pride myself on minimal cleanup, my current record for least amount of tools used on a dish is four: The Crab and Hearts of Palm Salad tool list comprised only of a pairing knife, a cutting board, a bowl and a fork.
Hammer Salad takes my minimalist tool approach but I still haven’t broken the 4-tool record (not yet at least).
Here’s what tools you’ll need:
A cutting board.
A chef’s knife.
A food processor. (Optional if you don’t want to julienne manually.)
A kitchen tenderizing mallet.
A large PLASTIC Rubbermaid bowl.
Why plastic? Because my sweethearts, a hammer in a glass bowl with my clumsy nature just screams “disaster”, so stick with the high-sided plastic ones, that way you can relieve stress by beating the fool out of what we’re putting in the bowl. And you’re going to need to, this is hearty material we’re working with.
Those two are the most important tools you’ll need.
Now for the ingredients:
A fresh head of red cabbage
I’m telling y’all, this is the easiest salad to make in the world. You’ll be hammering it out in no time flat.
Here’s how you do it:
Depending on the number of people you’re feeding, you can make the whole cabbage or just half, that’s completely up to you. Also, all of the ingredients are TO TASTE, meaning that you add more or less as your taste buds dictate.
Ready? Here we go!
First, you’ll need to wash the cabbage under cool water and remove one or two outer leaves until you get a good-looking undamaged head of cabbage.
Next, place the cabbage on your cutting board and slice it in half.
Remove the big white core from the cabbage so all you have left is purple goodness without the core.
Now here comes the hardest part, julienne the cabbage. It will look something like this:
You can either put the cabbage in the food processor or cut it up by hand. It’s up to you. As I’m clumsy, I prefer the food processor, but I can julienne-by-hand if needs be thanks to my pal who taught me some of his beautiful knife techniques.
Next, after you’ve julienned the cabbage, throw the cut-up cabbage into your bowl and if you’re just doing half of the cabbage, add three fingers of salt to it. If you’re making the whole head for a dinner party, throw in three fingers of salt twice.
(At this point you’re finished with the knife and cutting board so put it aside…because it’s HAMMER TIME!)
After you add the salt, I want you to pick up your hammer and just beat the holy terror out of that cabbage. Imagine that you are Thor holding Mjolnir and beating the cabbage like it’s Loki trying to hurt your fellow Avengers. I usually grab the hammer by the handle and then come down on the cabbage with the top of the mallet, not even using the spiky or flat sides, just using the top of it to really go to town on it, then rotating it to the spiky side (if needs be) to really get the salt pounded into the cabbage.
Don’t get too crazy or anything with hammering your cabbage, I don’t want to hear how the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Toons came in and turned you and your kitchen purple. Keep it in the bowl, not on the floor, not on your other half, brothers, sisters, children or the cat. Just focus all that Thor-like angst on the cabbage IN the bowl.
We are NOT looking for this:
So don’t be gettin’ all crazy on the cabbage. Giant Green Rage Monster is my job, not yours.
Cabbage is hearty stuff and you really have to let it know who’s boss if you want to get it to cooperate. But you have to admit, this is kind of fun, isn’t it?
Now, after the cabbage has been well-tenderized with the salt, you’re going to notice that it’s weeping a little, meaning that it’s getting juicy.
When you see the juice starting to form, add three fingers of sugar. (Twice if you’re making the whole head of cabbage.) You want to make sure that you’re sugar and salt are in equal proportions to make a nice taste balance.
Grab your hammer and stir the sugar in, then start hammering again, giving it a stir every so often. Two whacks, stir, two whacks, stir…that kind of action until you’ve got all the sugar pounded in to the cabbage.
BE CAREFUL, once you see the juice starting to form, if you get too nuts with the hammer, you’re going to be wearing it. (That’s why we like the high-sided bowl…containment!)
After you get the sugar and salt hammered in, take a taste! Your taste buds should be getting a balance of sugar and salt in each bite. If you taste one more than the other, balance it out by adding the opposite (too salty = add sugar, too sweet = add salt) until you get it just right.
Once your salt/sugar balance is right, it’s time for the vinegar. You’re going to add a splash (NOT TOO MUCH!), just enough to be able to coat the cabbage without overly adding too much liquid. (I stir everything together with the hammer…saves dirtying up a spoon for no reason. But, you do what you want, I am just sharing the recipe.)
After you put in the vinegar, you’ll notice that the cabbage will turn from a deep purple and white to a beautiful magenta color. Now take another taste. If all of the flavors balance, you’ve done it right.
Congratulations. You just made Red Cabbage Salad, a.k.a. Hammer Salad. One of the oldest family recipes in my arsenal.
For song of the day, let’s hear something that has the perfect tempo for hammering cabbage and cheers for the self-confidence that came from someone selflessly sharing their love and respect of hammers along with their excellent knife techniques with me. You know who you are. Thank you.
Matt Dillon’s character in the film Singles noted, “For some people, being alone is a nasty hang.” Okay Matt, try being single during the holidays, for some folks it takes the phrase “nasty hang” to a whole new level.
Unfortunately, I am but one in a sea of people who view being single during this time of year as almost excruciating. Stick with me though, I figure if we add a dash of humor laced with a sprinkle of light-hearted sarcasm to the situation, we’ll be okay.
Oh, who am I kidding? Nobody who is single during the holidays likes watching a giggling couple pass them, arm-in-arm, seemingly overwhelmingly happy to be cuddling during the cold, dark months of winter, smooching under mistletoe and wondering what their other half has specially planned just for them. I don’t know about you, but when I see something like that, I think of the words of Bill Bryson in The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, where he wrote, “The thunder-vision focused on their stomachs and melted them into a little puddle on the spot.” I’m paraphrasing of course, but as you can tell, I’m in the same camp with those folks who aren’t overwhelmingly thrilled about being single during the most cuddle-prone time of the year.
I began kvetching to my close friends on this subject about a month ago. I complained to KP that I was feeling lonely, to which (in true KP fashion) he promptly slapped my head back onto my neck and reminded me that the reason I was feeling lonely was because I’m not giving myself ample credit for being enough on my own; simply that what I am searching for has been inside of me all along, all I had to do was remember how special I am and that it would chase away the loneliness in no time flat. As usual, KP is right. He always is.
However, my daily goal of keeping a positive mental attitude gets derailed when I become inundated by sugar shock inducing schmaltz being broadcast en masse through every media channel possible during the holidays. Right after Halloween, WHAM! For a single person they might as well just put up a banner that reads, “Welcome to Holiday Hell, Satan’s Hot Tub is the first door on the right.”
Since Halloween, every time I turn around, my mother has been watching The Hallmark Channel which has been featuring (NON-STOP, mind you) every permutation of “Lonely boy/girl meets fellow lonely, heartbroken boy/girl, they fall in “like” surrounded by Christmas lights, there is some sort of confusion then boy and girl find love on Christmas Eve, complete with a kiss under mistletoe or next to a festively decorated Christmas Tree (complete with Hallmark collector’s ornaments no less).
Okay, after almost two solid months of Hallmark-induced Christmas trauma, I am CONVINCED beyond a shadow of a doubt that The Hallmark Channel is responsible for more suicides and shot out televisions during the holidays than anything else. I mean, really. Do they think that those of us single folks during the holidays need to have a loud bullhorn directly pointed at the sides of our heads to be reminded that we’re single? What genius shoved their head up their backsides and forgot that somewhere along the way us single folks have incurred emotional damage or loss that has resulted in our current singleness? Worse yet is that we’re enduring this situation during the one time of the year where our single status really shouldn’t be amplified above more than a subtle “okay, that’s gotta hurt” and help us get through the two most emotionally trying months of the calendar year. Jeez! And Hallmark is supposed to be the “we get you” company that has greeting cards for every friggin’ occasion on the planet except for “we screwed up by pouring lemon juice into the gaping wound in the middle of your chest.”
Yeah, it tends to sting a bit when single during the holidays. No matter if we’re between relationships, missing family members or close friends or similar surroundings, I think The Hallmark Channel needs to think before they broadcast a hurtful reminder of a single relationship status. That’s just being unaware of complete audience composition, not to mention that there are those of us who aren’t at liberty to change the channel and watch a slasher flick or a good sci-fi jaunt into outer space rather than be reminded of our situations! Idea thieves love to come into the pages of my blog and steal ideas, so steal this: Create a comedy about being single during the holidays, that’s something I would watch! If I have to endure one more hour of really bad romance novel plots, I’m seriously going to lose my eggnog all over someone’s shoes.
But y’all know me, I’m one that definitely doesn’t put the “B” in subtle.
On the topic of subtle, tonight I was inspired to write because of a VERY loud party the neighbors are having next door. You know you’ve been to your share of “Ugly Sweater” Parties in your day. Me? Not so much, but I have enough imagination to know that my lack of subtlety would not go unnoticed when I would look at an innocent fashion victim and ask how in the hell that train wreck found its’ way into their closets, much less onto their bodies. I try not to own ugly sweaters, I live in the land of the Moo-Moo already so I’m already tortured enough. Please don’t send me an ugly sweater to prove the point of the laughter-inducing nature of them. By some miracle of my literal nature, this is the one time I don’t have to wear one to get the joke.
Here’s where it gets funny and where my fellow single folk and I really get to breathe a sigh of relief and be genuinely happy about our situations:
Tonight, to discover the origin of the window-rattling sub-woofer that was pumping bass not only through the walls of the house but directly through my nerves, I went outside to stretch my legs and enjoy the crisp winter air. It was then that I saw a woman nearby wearing her ugly sweater, complete with battery-powered Christmas lights. I find out through a brief Q and A that it’s an ugly sweater party and that it’s a bunch of friends getting together – complete with drunken voices, loud talking, screaming, sounds of a manslaughter in progress – you know the ones I mean, a good old-fashioned, obnoxiously loud party that shows no respect whatsoever to their neighbors.
The next thing I know, another woman emerges from the party house, complete with leopard print micro-mini skirt, a flimsy leather jacket and shoes that didn’t even look remotely comfortable (I’m not really sure if that leopard thing was her ugly sweater or not, jury’s still out on that one, better yet, you decide…) attempting to walk home, her home being equal in distance to roughly 10 miles, complaining how cold she was because she yelled across the quiet neighborhood that her husband was being an… okay, let’s keep this G-rated…a seven letter word that starts with “A” and ends with “E”. Okay, note to self, never get drunk then get into fight with anyone, because along with her fashion statement and clear lack of positive mental attitude, I would not have labeled it as a “pretty moment.” Not in the least.
Now, don’t get me wrong. People are people, and I do get that as well, but I must cop to the fact that with my 131 I’m not the world’s greatest when it comes to common sense. Upon witnessing the debacle unfolding in front of me, I became increasingly and increasingly grateful I was single! In a moment of sheer amazement, I realized that I didn’t have to worry about becoming that woman, yelling at the top of her lungs that she was stranded far from home with no way to leave an uncomfortable situation, then pulling the Darwin Award Winning maneuver of trying to walk home ten miles in shoes that were clearly NOT meant for long-distance endurance sports. On top of all that I watched in sheer horror as she began asking her clearly intoxicated female friends to take her home because she didn’t want to fight with her partner in front of all of their friends, then having no issue telling the innocent bystander next door that her partner was a “starts with ‘A’ and ends with ‘E’.”
Standing there in my flannel p.j. pants, thermal top, North Face fleece jacket, fuzzy socks (same color as Grover from Sesame Street) and Sorel slippers, all warm and toasty, I became overwhelmingly grateful that being single during the holidays means that I don’t have to put up with that kind of nonsense! I was already at home, in comfy clothes and more importantly, comfortable in my own skin, grateful that it’s me and Teddy curled up together under a heating blanket with no one loudly snoring in either of our ears. It occurred to me that I have been to enough Christmas parties in my day to choke a horse, and to me, I’ve got more common sense than to wear impossible-to-walk-in shoes, combined with non-weather friendly clothing then try a 10-miler to get home, no matter how angry I was at anyone.
But that’s the bonus of being single for the holidays…if someone is or becomes a ‘starts with an ‘A’ and ends with an ‘E”…you can just say “Happy Holidays”, put your butt into your own car and drive yourself home, plug in a great sci-fi flick or log in to your favorite virtual world. I mean, what better gift to give yourself than peace of mind and a stress-free evening filled with what YOU want to do?
Finally, let’s wrap up with a bit of hope, good cheer and generosity of holiday spirit:
Yesterday, my pal JJ came into town and specifically asked me to watch over a childhood friend of his that moved from New York City to Las Vegas a few months ago. So, this year I’m doing an “Adopt-a-friend” program where JJ’s pal gets to tour the city with me to see all of the lights, colors and unique parts of celebrating Christmas in the Desert. (Yes, they wrap the cacti with twinkle lights, just don’t ask me how they do it.) It just goes to show that you can be single during the holidays, but you never have to spend them alone if you don’t want to. The best gift in the world is remembering to be grateful for what you have and sharing your positive mental attitude with everyone you meet.
Love, hope, recovery and a sense of humor starts in only one place…INSIDE YOU!
Song of the day comes from the band that brought us my blog’s theme song, “Marching On.”