Category Archives: Recovery

Setbacks

Fourteen days ago, I lost my job. My position got eliminated and two other people along with me were let go. It’s like I’ve said a million times before: “Change is not only possible, it’s probable.” What I didn’t throw in was the caveat that sometimes change isn’t a positive thing, sometimes it’s the universe smacking you in the head and making you go through a rough patch to put you on the path to following your bliss.

I’ve come to find that life just loves to throw curve balls. Just when I think I am getting some clear air ahead, another obstacle rears its ugly head. When I discussed this with one of my pals, she said, “Welcome to adulting” and she was right. What I’ve learned in the therapy room is that life is not personally out to get me, even though sometimes it sure does feel like it. Instead, I have found that life is an equal-opportunity sadist, it just loves to give us the illusion of clear air only to promptly slap us with a new obstacle to overcome; and it does it (without hesitation) to EVERYONE.

Remembering that I am not alone in this type of situation is the attitude that I’ve taken into this rough patch because it comes with the fact that I get to move again. *Sigh* Not fun. Just when I thought I was going to live alone again, come November, it’s back to shared housing with a new roommate. While it is disappointing to have to move again, I am looking at it in a new light. I know that it’s going to be okay. Believe me, I’ve seen worse. Each time I have to face changes like this, it’s less and less traumatic because I’ve learned that the Earth will keep turning, planes will keep flying and that my old friend “Change” is reminding me to keep dying, forcing me to let go of old things and pushing me to accept new adventures. It’s not easy to go through, but when is life ever easy for ANY of us?

Losing a job sucks. Your self-esteem gets to take a hit along with the impending “What am I going to do” panic in the back of your mind. In the past, I would have let something like this completely mow me down. Not this time. And that’s the big change: I’ve learned how to better cope with loss. Thank goodness for the time my therapist and I spent re-training my brain; all that hard work in the therapy room is working full-time to help me get through this setback with a positive attitude. The other change is that I am more confident and have a more positive outlook on myself than before. I have some unique skills and a vote of confidence from an industry pro that says I’m ready to take on the job of being a Creative Director. Before, I would have never thought I had the chops for it, but apparently, I do! And that’s great news.

So, the resumes are going out. The Linked In profile is getting polished up. Most of all, I am remembering that setbacks happen. And they happen to everyone. So if you are out there feeling you’re alone in the universe – you certainly aren’t – I’m right there with you, shoulder-to-shoulder, climbing the mountain, one step at a time.

Bramasole West

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?) maliciously careless 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.

Be polite,
introduce yourself,
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.”

 

 

The Death of a Make-Up Bag

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.

Maybe Finding Joe can phrase it better:

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.

The Antidote to Numbness.

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?

I adore my brain's personal trainer.

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.

Ugh. *facepalm*

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.

Now, I have a plan. Thank. The. Maker.

And if a hot guy asks me out, I’m saying YES.

Here, be inspired.

Guardian Down.

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.”

 

1,825

In any job interview, there is always one question that sticks out: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

When that question has come up for me in the past, I never really had an answer. Do any of us? We’re all so busy trying to survive, I don’t think a lot of us have the foresight to look that far down the road and think “THAT is where I want to be in five years.” It’s usually, “Am I going to be able to make rent next month?” or “I’m more worried about the next six months than I am the next five years. Who knows where I’ll be?”

1,825 days ago, a life-changing event happened to me that threatened to take me down for the count: I discovered my then-husband in bed with someone else.

I don’t care who you are, when you find the person you promised to love “until death do you part” inserting his Tab “A” into someone else’s Slot “B”, your mind will reel.  When it happened to me, I was decimated. My world as I had known it had crumbled and I was powerless to stop it or do anything about it.

When I asked him if he ever considered my feelings when I found out about his affair, all I received as an answer was a very icy, “No.” He could have cared less about how badly he had hurt me. As far as he was concerned, he didn’t want me anymore. He had found someone new and he was moving on, end of story. It became quite clear he had no ethical objections to abandoning me as he quickly left town to move across the country with his new whatever-she-is, only to impose on me to pay for storing his stuff until he was ready to come pick it up. He even left his car behind which I had to start once a week, a constant reminder of how little I meant to him, forced to care for someone’s things who could have cared less about me.

While the pain of the betrayal really rocked my world for the first couple of years after being left with almost nothing, I have given up on being bitter because it’s just a waste of time. Now, I just hope my ex-husband has found contentment with the choices he has made and now has to live with on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, every time I see a Basset Hound I quietly chuckle to myself along with Chihuahuas remaining  in my mind as footballs-on-feet just waiting to be punted through the uprights. I think of it this way: if I can embrace one of the darkest and most sinister betrayals I have ever encountered with that much of a sense of humor, I’m doing pretty good; it’s all that’s really left of the anger I have for my ex-husband. Oh, but that thing he ran off with? The only thing I have to say about that is that I’m really sorry no one ever told her that she came with a shelf life. Judging by his first two wives’ clocks, she’s only got a little bit of time left until she’s discarded for a newer model. I’m sorry if that disappoints anyone but just on principle there are some things I just haven’t had the ability to let go because no matter how hard anyone may try, there’s just no way to shove the manure back into the horse on that one. She asked for it, she got it.

In the aftermath, I immediately reached out to my friends for support. The very first person I reached out to was my close friend KP because he had gone through something eerily similar and I knew I could trust and rely on his wisdom.  As my voice trembled through relaying the events that had just transpired, KP did what he has always done for me, he ‘kept it real’. He told me that there was no time for a pity party, no time for blame, hatred or revenge, but that I had only one pressing task ahead of me: “to build a bridge and get over it.”

While KP and I spoke daily to help me get my bridge components together, my massive support structure, consisting of my virtual family from around the globe, immediately built a fortress of protection around me.  Their words of comfort  and encouragement became my strength as I endured the trauma that immediately occurs when you are forced to go through the process of marital demise, something I like to call “The Six Week Epic Suck”.

After that first six weeks and multiple discussions with family and friends, I realized that I was being faced with a character-defining moment: how I would handle the situation would define me and eventually tell me what kind of person I really was.  I had a choice to make: I could either ride the shame spiral forever and let what happened defeat me, or I could defiantly pick myself up by my bootstraps, keep on walking and build myself a new life while I worked with KP on the emotional blueprints of the bridge that would help me get over a marriage gone belly-up.

So, I broke out the metaphorical hammer and nails, requesting old transcripts and ACT scores. Then I did something completely nuts: deciding to build the remainder of my bridge out of education: I went back to school, gaining admission on appeal to UNLV.

With his long history in academia, I decided to speak with my ex-husband about what major I should choose. I relayed to him that I was at a crossroads between my two life long loves: advertising –  which was housed in the journalism school – or go with what I do effortlessly and naturally: teaching. He immediately suggested that I major in education, because it wouldn’t require the self-promotion that I would have to do to be successful in a career in advertising (that I had dreamed of since I was a little girl). At seeing first-hand how many times his decisions had landed him on the rocks by losing him more than a few jobs in the time I had known him, combined with his arrogant, condescending tone which had gained him more than a few political enemies and an evisceration by the local press, I thought it best not to follow his advice. I immediately majored in Journalism and Media Studies.

1,825 days later, I am surrounded by the souvenirs of a journey of self-discovery. I look on my shelves and see a collection of academic works that I have used to start my own home library; a pile of notebooks filled with hand-written class notes chronicling more credit hours than I can count; a drawer full of university t-shirts and baseball caps, and a collection of photos filled with memories. The most important thing that marks the closing of this cycle in my life is my new  academic degree, a Bachelor of Arts, in get this:

Journalism and Media Studies with a focus in Integrated Marketing Communications with a minor in Leadership and Civic Engagement.”

Could that degree title get any longer? It’s definitely a mouthful.

Allow me to translate: Journalism and Media Studies means that I’m a student of the mass media, that I’m also a critic of that same media and that simply, I can write news stories, feature stories and things you would find through any news outlet.

A focus in Integrated Marketing Communications means that simply, I know how to use social media effectively for marketing purposes. The fun part is that my AA in Graphic Design for the Web ties in nicely here. This also means I can help you choose the right social media channels and a pile of additional fancy stuff that if I kept writing about it, we’d be here all day.

A minor in Leadership and Civic Engagement means that I have learned the leadership techniques, methods and awareness that you would find in the skill-set of a really great CEO.

You know, I would have never guessed in a million years that when my ex-husband left that he would inspire an epic comeback. That five years later I’d be sitting here helping everyone figure out that even though I’ve got some fancy-schmantzy degree title, I’m still just me, only with a new skill-set in some cases, and an existing skill-set that I’ve just made even better. Not to sound prideful, but the things I was good at before have evolved into something more akin to a juggernaut.

I know lots of folks that have let the disintegration of their marriage destroy their lives. One of my friends drinks a lot and you can tell the experience left a hole where my vibrant, funny friend used to be. Another one of my friends nearly had a nervous breakdown because of their extremely messy divorce, only to have their finalized divorce papers act as Carte Blanche to immediately find a new spouse, then wondering why that marriage went down in flames too. Yet another friend is constantly terrorized by their ex, making them even afraid to leave the house or post on Facebook for fear of another round of cruel eviscerations on social media.

I see the aftermath of marital demise all around me every day. I’m no saint by a long shot because I’ve even been through a fiasco or two since my marriage fell from bliss and landed with a resounding THUD.  But what remains is one simple fact: When my ex hit the door, I went to work on myself. Kinda like the Six Million Dollar Man…”We can rebuild her…” because no one was going to do it for me, the only person that could do that rebuilding was myself – and I’m still not done.

Towards the end, there were moments where I thought I wouldn’t see graduation. There were days where people told me they seriously doubted I would succeed because of the massive setbacks I had endured on my journey. The most mortifying question came from someone extremely close who asked,

“Well, you are going to finish, aren’t you?”

When I heard that question come from the mouth of someone who is naturally expected to be supportive, I never came so close to decking someone I love in all my life. To me, that’s an insult because you can tell they really don’t know jack beans about me.

Case in point:

When I was a kid, a friend of mine found me crying after a really hard day of being viciously bullied. I had tried to hide somewhere where I thought no one would find me but he did. He looked down at me and said, “Sheri, are you okay?” He said that my response changed his life. He said my 15-year-old face just looked up at him, sniffled and said, “I’m not okay right now, but I’m going to be.”

That same friend used to watch helplessly as a pack of ignorant bullies made it their daily mission to viciously attack me, every chance they got, day in and day out for YEARS. I guess you could say they had refined their ignorance into a science, calling me all sorts of names, terrorizing my every breath, much less move, and overall making sure that they exploited every opportunity to make my life into a living hell. If you ever saw Pretty In Pink, think of the dynamic between Molly Ringwald’s character and James Spader’s, that’s basically it.

What astounded my friend the most is that those bullies, no matter how cruel they got, no matter how horrific their attempts, they never broke my spirit. Of course, the more those bullies failed in their attempts to break my spirit, the more vicious they would become; leaving my friend to remark that he had never in his life seen anyone take such vicious mental beatings over such a prolonged period and survive it.

Here’s the secret: the one thing I knew, which no one else seemed to catch on to, was the fact  that I had hope. I knew things in the future had a chance at becoming better, however unlikely it seemed at the time.  I knew, even then, that change is the one constant in the universe that descends on all of us, whether we like it or not. Like Doc Cat says: “Change isn’t always possible, it’s probable.”

Admittedly, the bullying I was forced to endure during my childhood was there for a reason. All of the pain, hurt and tragedy I have endured is all connected to this one beautiful moment. Without them I wouldn’t have the fortitude and heart that has inevitably carried me when I thought I couldn’t take another step.  When I set my mind to do something, I will never waiver, I will never quit, I will never fail.  God help the person who decides to pull the Darwin Award Winning move of telling me that they doubt my competence by stating I can’t do something, I’ll do it anyway just to prove I can.

If you push me down. I’ll get back up.

If you tear me apart, I’ll  put myself back together.

If you set me on fire and try to destroy me, I’ll just rise from the ashes.

1,825 days filled with love, hope and recovery – all mixed with a healthy dose of humor.

From Day 1, all the way to Graduation.

It’s me and Teddy, in the middle of the Mojave, dreaming of better days ahead.

I’m Sheri. I’m a wise fool. I’ve been through hell and back again, but I have persevered.

 

I’m back: The 2014 Oscars

I have to open with some humble apologies because it’s been two years since my last Oscars post.  During that time I was unfortunately with someone who doesn’t like movies. Oh, who am I kidding? That was said so gently it doesn’t really give the proper gravitas to the situation. No, I must speak the truth: I was with someone who HATES movies. 

Dear Lord, I think my friend Squee just shot her soda pop all over her screen as she went,

“WHAT!”

Sorry Squee!

But yes, that is the unfortunate truth. When you are around someone who hates movies, merely watching the Oscars, God forbid tweeting or even thinking about writing a word about them becomes impossible. Say the word “actor” around that person and all that hisses from their lips is “thesssssssspian,” like a poisonous viper, spewing and filling the atmosphere around them with their venom, purposely ruining the magic of the movies for the entire theater-going and movie-loving crowd for at least 10 miles around them.  Yeech!

Yes, I was dating Lord Voldemort…with Nagini in tow…

And while you’re laughing…

 

Cue music!

 While the music is playing…keep reading!!!

 

I can love movies all I want again!  Hooray!

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, it’s one of my favorite nights of the year, the one where I’m grateful I’m not an actor but ultimately grateful for all of the hardworking men and women that create the magic of the movies I love watching so much. Everyone but everyone who knows me knows how much I love movies.

From buttery popcorn to the concession stand napkins used to dry my eyes, movies inspire, fuel and ignite my imagination in a way nothing else in the universe can.

Think about it, without the magic of the movies, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do for a living. If it weren’t for pioneers in special effects, I would have never known what it was like to be inside the digital world of Tron. So I guess you could say that I owe a lot to Hollywood and it’s that time of year to show my gratitude to everyone that participates in the film industry, from film students to riggers to high-paid directors.

But let’s get the details covered:

Preparing for the Broadcast

This morning when I woke up, I could feel the buzz in the air as I realized it was Oscar Sunday. As I went outside for my morning ritual of news and fresh air, I realized that I was LONG overdue for an Oscar-fueled extravaganza. After all, this is the very first Oscars post on the new site, so why not bring the thunder with one heck of an adventure!?!?

After that, it was to the showers because I realized that there are a few things I have always done for Oscar Night: have incredible food, comfy surroundings and with phone in hand, report it all to my Twitter feed.

The behind-the-scenes was the fun part this year. Between whole wheat angel hair pasta in meat sauce accompanied by fresh french bread and a salad drizzled with my mother’s homemade balsamic dressing (OMG, better than any dressing you can buy at the store), we watched the majority of the Red Carpet coverage from the dinner table.  As the Red Carpet wound down, I was done baking my world-famous Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies (which I have aptly nicknamed “C4’s”) that explode with gooey chocolaty goodness over the tastebuds and are just as decadent as the fashions walking across the screen.

From this:

Ingredients all laid out
Ingredients all laid out

To this:

 

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Onto the sheet

To these:

 

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies ready to be eaten!
Cookies ready to eat!

Like I said on my Facebook feed earlier in the day:

Chocolate and Gold just goes.

With one bite into a C4, my mom went “Oh, these are rich.” Well, they’re supposed to be! It’s only Hollywood’s most glamorous night, so you better believe I’m going to have something that’s at least rich-tasting! (And if Hollywood got one taste of my C4’s, oh man, I’d be up to my armpits in orders for next year’s show! They are THAT good! The cookie dough smells like a Hershey bar before they’re baked. Even the most ravenous of chocoholics are sated with a single bite. No kidding.)

After the C4’s were carefully placed on the cooling racks, I was already onto Phase 2 of my Oscar-fueled nom-fest: The Brie plates. Filled with apples, red seedless grapes, crackers and small tub of spreadable brie, I brought the richness of the evening up another level. Like I said, I might not have all the money in the world, but my experiences are always worth more than a dime.

So, for your drooling pleasure, I present The Brie Plate:

Tell me your stomach isn't rumbling...

LOL! I just felt like Jerry Orbach’s “Lumiere” in Beauty and the Beast.

Now, let’s get on to the reason we’re all here:

The Broadcast

This morning, as I read the news, I happened upon an article in The Telegraph about how much pressure Ellen was under to deliver as host of the Oscars. The article even relived that eye-bleach needing, ‘please-don’t-make-me-watch-it’ feeling, “Styrofoam Man” debacle of James Franco’s, who with Anne Hathaway made a shambles of the Oscar telecast with their “young and edgy” thing. That banana peel of a broadcast made room for Billy Crystal to come back and host for a record ninth time (which I must admit…however much I love Billy…um, it didn’t go so well).

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not the biggest Ellen fan in the world, but I will tell you in a heartbeat that she hit that “just right” mark dead on. Academy, you’ve got a winner. For chrissakes, SHE CRASHED TWITTER with a selfie from the audience!

If that doesn’t spell W-I-N-N-E-R to you, we need to talk.

That’s right everyone, I’m one of the two million plus who’s retweet-madness helped crash Twitter with Ellen’s Epic Selfie, probably one of the most unforgettable Oscar moments of all time.  I know this because why? Because my tweets wouldn’t send, my phone crashed and it was just a mess, but at least I can say it was a good mess. 

Speaking of Twitter: to catch up on all of my Tweets during the broadcast, check out my Twitter feed at…

Wait.
Wait…

Oh my sweet Lord, Twitter’s still jammed up!  I tried to log on to get you the right address for my tweets and the sucker took forever to launch…gee, thanks Ellen. I know a couple of network engineers that are really thanking you in their prayers tonight!

After taking forever to load, here’s where you want to go to check out my Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/etrnl_sophomore

But let’s get back to that epic selfie. Do you know, thus far, that photo has been retweeted over 2 million times?

Yup.

And if you’ve not seen the selfie, here it is:

ellen_epic_selfie2

 Click on the pic to go to Ellen’s feed, the photo has reached almost 2.4 million re-tweets as of this writing.

Ironically, I just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point. I think this could be the moment where Twitter really tips and goes from 22 percent of any target audience to well over 50-60 percent. (Just my trendspotter gene rearing its’ ugly head of course, but I’m guessing you will want to check those numbers in a few months… but it’s just a hunch. If you want to check the accuracy of my hunches, ask my friends Amanda and Dan…they’ll tell you. *wink wink*)

But, notice how much I’ve focused on Ellen? That’s because she made the whole thing work. Instead of uncomfortable silences, we actually sat waiting for what she was going to do next.  I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s a very good thing.

I loved how she ordered pizza and REALLY passed it around, prompting me to look at the Brie Plate I had created and subsequently tweeted:

I’m not sure, and maybe it’s just me, but among the pizza and other high jinx,  I even think she addressed the horrific reboot/remake trend sweeping Hollywood. It might just be me, but when she showed up on stage dressed as Glenda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz, she looked ridiculous, but it also made me remember when Whoopi Goldberg hosted the Oscars and came out dressed as Queen Elizabeth. Remember?

 

Compare the two…

 

 

See? Even if she did it unwittingly, she still poked fun at the movie industry with a sharp barb. The message is the same: Enough already. Don’t reboot something that really doesn’t need it.

Please Hollywood, I wrote about this how many years ago??? Stop trying to resuscitate a dead horse. The damn thing is friggin’ dead! Stop touching it! Let it alone!

Speaking of reboot and remake mad equine corpse-humpers…HEY!  Hey YOU! Yeah you, J.J. Abrams, I see you over there skulking in the shadows trying to sneak past without getting caught…get your G.D. hands off of Star Wars.  You already touched Star Trek,  so drop the camera, walk away and leave well enough alone. It’s bad enough George Lucas came through with a weed whacker and cut Darth Vader’s balls off in the three poorly acted prequels to the classic (read: “should have been left alone”) trilogy, but then YOU come along and give us a Mr. Spock that runs like a girl! Shame on you. I mean, did someone order the castration of our most iconic characters and not tell everyone?  (Don’t get me wrong, I adore Zachary Quinto, but that run needs some serious work; and when the bangs parted down the middle in the last Trek  outing…I went on a Melissa Leo-esque F-bomb tirade that lasted for an hour. Man up Zach, for no other reason than to preserve Leonard’s legacy. Spock is a man’s man, even on Vulcan. That is all.)

J.J., you have shaken and lens flared us enough…and casting Benedict Cumberbatch (oh I would have loved to be in the room when they came up with that poor bugger’s stage name…Zenglebert Slaptyback…) as the new Khan???  Sweet Lord, Ricardo
Montalbán is going to come back from the grave and pimp slap you both.

(And now there goes my best pal Barry shooting his soda all over the screen…sorry man, but I knew the weed whacker thing would get you…I know you are laughing right now, my brother…better yet, you gotta admit I’m RIGHT.)

SECURITY! Grab that J.J. fella by the scruff of his neck and escort him from the lot!!!  J.J. Abrams is persona non grata in my house because he’s double-dipping into (and arguably damaging) two great, time-honored franchises. I mean, it’s bad enough the actors are doing it…(Harrison Ford as Han Solo AND Indiana Jones…Chris Evans as The Human Torch (in The Fantastic Four) AND Captain America…Not to mention Ben Affleck getting into the act by being Daredevil along with gaining the distinction of being the next poor bastard who tries to be Batman…) Did anyone see Michael Keaton change franchises?  NO! .. Sweet Lord, what is wrong with you people? Ever heard of giving someone new a chance? Hell, what about the words of Edna Mode?  Will those get through?

NO CAPES!

 

How do we cure this madness!?!?

Ellen’s ‘Glenda’ costume said it all…”STOP WITH THE *BLEEP*ING REBOOTS AND REMAKES!” Not everyone deserves to double-dip in the franchise and character well and get away with it.

Meanwhile, back in the real world…

I know that tonight’s Oscar theme was “Heroes”, but did anyone else beside me get that the theme of the night really wasn’t “Heroes” but “Social Justice”? Notice what won in the really high-profile categories:

Jared Leto wins Best Supporting Actor for his work in Dallas Buyers Club.

Lupita Nyong’o wins Best Supporting Actress for her work in Twelve Years a Slave.

Cate Blanchett wins Best Actress for her work in Blue Jasmine.

Matthew McConaughey wins Best Actor for his work in Dallas Buyers Club. (#AllRightAllRightAllRight)

Notice first, not one single remake or reboot in the lot. Second, look at the topics of the films…AIDS, slavery, mental illness, gender issues…these are all very, very much social justice topics…AND THEY ARE GETTING AWARDS for bringing awareness of these extremely real people into our collective consciousness!

Okay, if you want to have all the depth of a shot glass, you can say that they were just really good performances. Those of us with a little more depth are going to realize that the ultimate privilege that those four actors have is little thing called awareness. Awareness of social justice issues that Jared Leto talked about so brilliantly in his acceptance speech. “The Unshackled Minds” that Kim Novak eluded to when she helped present the awards for Animation…

 

You get it, I know you do.

When Matthew McConaughey won for best actor, the whole living room went up in cheers. Well, he is from Uvalde (for you non-Texans, it’s pronounced “You-val-dee” – emphasis on the You), how do I know that?  Let’s check the map…

Need I say more?

Oh there is one more little photo I just loved…especially since I live to be Chasing Tron:

 

That’s a quote I can definitely agree with.

All Right.
All Right.
All Right.

And for song of the day, one that hails the Sophomore back to the days of old when one of my old pals found me crying and asked me if I was going to be okay…

I looked them dead in the face and said, “I’m not okay right now, but I’m going to be.”

I’ve once again rescued myself, and I can promise you, no man, and no one, will ever be reaching down to push me further down while they claim to be trying to rescue me. I can do it myself, thank you very much. Tonight’s post proves it.

I’m back. Permanently.

Life’s Movie Moments: Twister

Disclaimer: This one goes a little long. Make sure you go to the bathroom before you start. You may want to grab a snack and a drink on the way back.

Two weeks ago, I got a large manilla envelope in the mail from the county courthouse. Judging from the content of my last post, you can probably guess what was inside: a bundle of legal documents also known as my divorce papers.

When I first saw the envelope, I was expecting it to be the final divorce decree, so in my own way I dreaded opening it. But, I sucked it up and charged head first into the breach. In true Sophomore fashion, it wasn’t what I expected at all. Attached to the top of the pile of papers was a note informing me of something I would have never guessed would happen.

I think I may be the only woman in the world besides Helen Hunt’s character “Jo” in the film Twister to forget to sign the final page of her divorce papers.

As I read what was attached to the top of the document, I was mystically transported into the film with Jamie Gertz’s character of “Melissa” (complete with long Bassett Hound ears, surrounded by a snarling pack of rabid footballs on feet) looking at my ex and asking “Did she sign it? [pause] She didn’t!?!?”

Unlike Jo, I didn’t do it on purpose. It wasn’t some desperate attempt to keep my ex-husband in my life. I was just so stressed out by the whole process that I simply missed a page.

Upon realizing that my signature and address were missing from the most important page of the document, I filled it in. As I did though, there was a lump the size of a softball in the pit of my stomach. I was suddenly filled with a deep regret realizing that my life, as I once knew it, had come to an end.

But here I am, talking about endings again. Seems I’ve had a lot of them lately, but like the Myst Universe teaches:

The harder an end is to face, the more hope we take with us to the next beginning.

That’s really what I’ve got my mind focused toward right now, new beginnings. As I’m finding out, while the lessons of the Myst Universe are poignant and extremely worthwhile to keep in my pocket, I still feel like I’m caught in the middle of Twister.

If you remember from Twister, there is a scene where Jo’s whole gang of storm chasers is sitting around the table at Aunt Meg’s: Dusty’s going on about “imminent rueage” in regards to a rival storm chaser, Cary Elwes’ character “Jonas”, futile attempts to go head-to-head against Bill’s “The Extreme.” That line of conversation is followed quickly by talk about the Fujita Scale and the F5 tornado being called “The Finger of God.”

Remembering that movie moment reminded me of how fast and out of control my life has been since that April afternoon when it seemed my world had completely shattered.

If you don’t remember, here’s the clip:

My moment of regret is more akin to what Meg says to Jo: “He didn’t keep his part of the bargain. To spend his life pining for you and die miserable and alone.”

Every time I see the scene between Jo and Aunt Meg, I think especially of my Auntie June. I remember after my ex left, she had very similar words for me.

Meanwhile, back in the real world… After signing the last remaining page, I found myself downtown in a long line outside of the County Clerk’s office. In line with me was a man whose life’s work is serving divorce papers. He mentioned the diametric opposition of how men and women handle the news. He noted how women accept the situation with strength and composure while men crumble to pieces. I was quite surprised by the revelation, and it made the very emotionally troubling trip worth it as it made me laugh during a moment that threatened to make me cry.

It was then that a woman named Karen came out and asked me what I was there for, so I handed her the envelope and she proceeded to check it over and inform me that she would send it over to the judge’s office.

With that experience behind me, I got into my car for the trek home and the entire time driving, for the first time I didn’t find the need to dwell on it. I guess you could say that the bridge my friend KP helped me build to get over it was hard at work holding me up.

However, any way I try to slice it, I’m in what Philip Seymour Hoffman’s character “Dusty” calls “the suck zone” because I feel like a tornado has come and sucked me up into the middle of it.

As I’ve written a thousand times before, when you are handed a rough situation, you have to make choices. Whether we want to admit it or not, the choices we make when things seem at their worst is what defines us. The emotional risk we all fear becomes unavoidable and in that moment we either stand strong or we crumble.

Since I am a notorious (to the point of self-destructive) emotional base jumper, I guess it’s time for me to get a little extreme. I’ve made my choice and no matter how scared I get, I’ve got to walk up to the raging storm ahead of me, tell it to “have a drink,” chuck the bottle into the tornado and be just as amazed as everyone else when the bottle never hits the ground.

Inside the storm is my final semester at UNLV. I got all my classes lined up and during the time between now and May, I’ll apply for graduation, get fitted for my cap and gown; get my photos taken in my cap and gown (especially for Mom) then have my graduation invitations printed and mailed out. That’s all got to happen while I’m taking Photojournalism with an award-winning photographer, going through a stint as a Leadership Intern and wrapping it up with my Leadership Capstone class.

Simultaneously, the lightning and thunder will be coming from the pursuit and hopefully the public release of what has become my magnum opus, finally Chasing Tron to the most unlikely of places, going into the digital universe in an effort to help parents pull their child out of what I lovingly call “Console Quicksand.”

With everything else in my world feeling unsteady, the storm clouds over my work have seemed unceasing, that is until recently. As everyone knows, since stepping out of a movie theater in 1982, I’ve spent my life desperately searching for the Encom laser to pull me into the digital universe. The best way to illustrate it is “The Grid” monologue from Tron Legacy.

The Grid.

A digital frontier.

I tried to picture clusters of information as they moved through the computer.

What did they look like?

Ships?

Motorcycles?

Were the circuits like freeways?

I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see.

And then,

one day…

I got in.

I felt like a complete idiot when I realized that my search had been fruitless because I didn’t see that it had been right in front of me all along. I had been looking for exactly what has evolved around me over the last ten years…and I’m lucky I guess because I’m the only one who can see it.

The hardest part will be taking the brunt of the storm head-on. I won’t lie, it’s going to hurt when it hits. It’s going to come from folks not ready to face hard truths I’m going to be revealing. I mean, seriously, when was the last time anyone enjoyed holding themselves accountable for the obstacles they have to admit to creating?

It’s truly hard to fathom the mere idea that my colleagues and I could possibly be the only people in the universe that will have a decisive impact in the current battle of man versus machine. I have the distinct feeling we’ll be the crew who tethers themselves to the water pipe only to have the F5 of modern technology pass over us as we watch our feet dangle over our heads as we get the rare privilege of watching the storm from the inside.

Just like the storm chasing crew in Twister, if we can get Dorothy to fly, I’ve got a distinct feeling, as a line in the film says, “We’re going to be very popular.”

It’s all down to a little more writing, long hours editing and revising, then going toe-to-toe with the most intimidating thing I’ve ever faced when I present my revolutionary idea to the world. All this with a ton of reading for my classes and homework to boot.

Outside of all that stuff, there are a few funny ironies in the film clip I posted above with even more “life imitating art” moments: First, my pals from the Hairier Legion Flight Team inside There.com will laugh their backsides off when they hear the character “Rabbit” say, “We’re going to take a little walk in the woods,” as I said that to them once while in the lead of one of our flights around the islands. And yes, I could hear them saying, “Mother of God…” just before promptly flying them into a no-fly zone on accident.

Secondly, the song “Humans Being” playing during the ‘walk in the woods’ scene by Van Hagar Halen literally has the line “like lemmings breeding” in it. You know me and my lemmings…the constant symbol of mindless following I’ve railed against now for over four years.  Yep, that’s in there too.

So ladies and gents, the only thing I can say for sure from my point of view: a storm is coming. As Dusty says,”It’s headed right for us,” only to have Bill reply,”It’s already here.”

Here’s my last dose of irony for you: If you keep track of astrological signs, I’m a Libra, one of the cardinal signs. Guess which element it rules over?

Air.

So, with that in mind, I always have to remind myself that there is always one phrase inextricably tied to air when it is in its’ excited state. You might know it best as “winds of change.”

Things are changing quickly and for the better, so for today’s song of the day, I’ve actually chosen two. From the Twister Motion Picture Soundtrack: “Humans Being” followed by what is argued by some as Eddie Van Halen’s finest instrumental, the Grammy-nominated (perfectly titled for today’s post): “Respect the Wind.”

A Trip Through the Linking Book

For those of you who didn’t see my winning post at Mystmovie.com, here ya go, my story, “A Trip Through the Linking Book.”

Enjoy!

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I often write in my blog about the wonderful adventures I’ve had by just picking up my Myst Reader, logging in to Myst Online, or just booting up my favorite in the franchise, Myst IV, to hear Peter Gabriel’s voice bring Dream to life.  But to be honest, my favorite part of being involved in the Myst Universe is that it never fails to inspire.

I started out on my journey in 2003 when I just kept eating through game title after game title.  To be honest, I was stuck in a foreign country with no friends, so the only thing I could do, outside of cleaning my house, was play games.  And did I play.  The game boxes started stacking up as I’d go through a title or more per week.  Seeing that he couldn’t sustain that kind of consumption, my ex-husband asked me one night at dinner if I had ever heard of the game “Myst.”  Not knowing what it was, I wondered what he could have been eluding to, referring to the spatial problem solving he had mentioned.  Later that week, he brought me a very old version of Myst.  I loaded it up and began to play, but this time instead of decimating the game in a week, Myst took me over a month to finally finish.  At that point I was hooked.  At around that same time, a commercial was playing on television, one that had the music of Peter Gabriel singing “Burn you up, burn you down” while these amazing graphics and images of mushrooms went across the screen.

A few months later, after begging profusely, underneath the Christmas tree was a brand new box containing Uru: Ages Beyond Myst.  After I installed the game, I went to work on it, savoring every last beautiful detail, listening to the music and being enthralled at the sight of an avatar that looked just like me wandering the great city of D’ni.

Back in 2003 when Myst Online first opened, I was lucky enough to be invited (in the great clerical error of very early 2004) to the open beta test.  It was there, among lag and countless restarts, that I bumped into a wonderful woman named “Pepsi”.  She was a real treasure.  In the early days of UruLive, sitting on the worn stone floors of a neighborhood, Pepsi taught me some of the base tenets of the Myst Universe: that I should always greet everyone I meet with a smile on my face and love in my heart; that there is no room for bigotry or bias; that the world is meant to be explored one stone, and one dream, at a time.

After being ‘adopted’ by Pepsi, we ran everywhere together. And I do mean RAN. If you knew Pepsi, you will agree with me when I say that when it was time, Pepsi didn’t fool around. If she was set on doing something, it got done. But if you were with her, you didn’t walk, you didn’t dawdle, you didn’t jog, you RAN. And more than likely, you were laughing all the while your hand and wrist was cramping from trying to keep up with her. Daring jumps that made most people reach out to their Relto books for safety? Oh no, that wouldn’t do, Pepsi jumped headlong into the breach. She was truly fearless and she dragged my terrified backside along behind her, always saying, “Come on, you can do it!”

When she wasn’t online and I was alone, I would spend hour upon hour in-world, scouring it to learn all I could about the fascinating world she had welcomed me into. I went through each of the ages, from The Cleft to Gahreesen, scouring and exploring every last nook and cranny of the game with a fine-toothed comb, searching for journals that held game lore, reading practically everything could get my hands (and mouse pointer) on; then memorizing the city itself, every inch of navigable (and sometimes not-so-navigable) terrain I could get my avatar’s feet on, so that I could navigate Ae’gura’s streets like a true D’ni native.  It was after so many hours spent immersing myself in the Myst Universe that I realized I had finally found a place that felt like a true home. I was lucky enough that, during the brief time that UruLive existed, I made so many friends and was wholeheartedly accepted into a very unique family.  And that woman named “Pepsi” was the beating heart of it all.

The adventure had only begun when it came crashing down on us like a great cave-in. Ubisoft, the game’s publisher, had deemed our community “financially non-viable”. A bean counter, a person who had no idea what they had in their hands, pulled the plug on our world because our community of 10,000 wouldn’t service the bottom line and turn a big enough profit for them. Uru, the one place in the universe that can teach anyone to live without succumbing to the seven deadly sins, was killed by greed. It was catastrophic, leaving  a community of 10,000 to cope with the loss of friends that had quickly congealed into a giant family. We literally became a diaspora. A people without a home.

After UruLive closed down, in my efforts to cope with the enormous loss, I went back and played Riven and Exile.  Lucky for me, right about that same time, Myst IV: Revelation was coming out with the creative ground zero, “Revelation Lair”, being at Ubisoft’s Montreal Studio. Thank goodness for forums, because I was lucky enough to communicate with some of the greats of the community which allowed me to be invited and attend the “Quad-M” or The Montreal Mini-Mysterium Meet where I got to go to Revelation Lair and meet the game designers, sound designers and the wonderful folks who brought a piece of the Myst Universe to life.  I still have my M4 coffee mugs from that day and they’re used quite regularly.  I have photographs from those days of us hugging Pepsi bottles and sending photos to Pepsi to let her know she was with us in spirit the whole way. Before social media, we found a way to make sure that Pepsi could say she was at the Quad-M.

But then came a glimmer, then there was hope, finally, an announcement that the one place (in the entire universe) that I had finally found a home was going to be available again.  I could go home, take a breath of metaphoric cavern air, sit on the grass of my relto and be at peace.  We were being given a beautiful second chance: UntilUru, fondly remembered as “UU”.

When we stepped into UntilUru, I got together with some friends and created the D’Olympics (they later changed the name to the D’ni Games).  You see, the woman who taught me how to live as a part of the Myst Universe was a bit of a mystery herself.  I found out a few months after UruLive closed that she had juvenile arthritis and had been bound to a motorized wheelchair since she was 14 years old. When I met her, she was 51.

All that running we did in Cavern, she couldn’t do in real life.  She loved to run, and I remember a comment she had made that running in Uru was the first time, since she had been bound to her wheelchair, that she ever felt like she could actually run again.  When I found out about her illness, it hit me like a ton of bricks:

My best pal and ‘running buddy’ couldn’t runPeriod.

My mind reeled. All those things I took for granted in my every day life, that I could run, jump and climb any time I felt like it, go to the gym, slap on my new Armond hiking boots and climb the mountains of the Adirondacks…all those things that I could do, Pepsi couldn’t.  It never even occurred to me for a moment that she couldn’t. As far as I knew, she was just like me!

When I found out she couldn’t walk, I got hit by a tidal wave of shame. The pride that I was so warned about through all those months of living and breathing the storyline of Uru came crashing down on me.  How could I be so prideful?  How could I be so unthinking?  We always said, “You NEVER EVER KNOW who is on the other side of the screen.”

So after coping with the knowledge of Pepsi’s situation, and watching a woman put together the Athens Olympic games, I sat down with a few friends and we designed the first D’ni Games in Pepsi’s honor.  If she loved to run, then I was going to build her a marathon course, and we did.  We had everything you can imagine, from the opening ceremonies to the marathon, all sorts of running events, people playing Ayoheek, diving competitions, you name it, if it was possible to be done with the physics engine of that game and the imagination of the players, we did it.

After three months of planning and countless man hours, over a weekend in October, the games ran for 72 hours solid, the first large scale event of its’ kind ever undertaken.  There were hundreds of volunteers and hundreds of virtual athletes, the Myst Universe became a place where people not only solved puzzles together, but where players from around the world came together in friendly competition.  There was even a man who made up medals and mailed them to the winners.

The day of the opening ceremonies, we waited for Pepsi but she never came.  Her health by that time was in decline.  She had gone in for a procedure and the pain made it so that she couldn’t play.  She never saw the marathon run and she died three months later on December 28, 2004.  But to this day, I don’t take a step in a virtual world or the real world without remembering her.

After I moved back to Las Vegas, I found the Myst Reader in a local bookstore.  I soaked up every page.  I went through the three novels in a matter of days, chuckling at the screenshots inside the cover of the ages of Er’cana and Ahnonay.  The Book of D’ni is my favorite by far, Windgroveisms aside, I found that the relyimah of Tehranee were kindred spirits of mine.  In my life I’ve seen the cruelty of other human beings all too often and to see it personified in the shorn heads and black clad bodies of the Relyimah, it made me weep.  It also gave me the strength to stand up for myself.  After all I had gone through in my personal life, the abuse, trauma and so forth along with the prejudice we were shown when part of the Uru community moved over to There.com only to be treated as relyimah and taking years to become a recognized, positive force in the community, I relented and moved my virtual life to World of Warcraft where my night elf druid named “Relyimah” (after the slaves of Tehrahnee) could literally turn into a great tree, heal those in need and spread the word of the Myst Universe.

I go to sleep every night after reading passages from three books, The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, The Republic by Plato and The Myst Reader.  All three books have helped me become a better person by just touching them.  They’re my link to wisdom because I realize what Socrates said was true, “The wisest person in the world realizes they know nothing.”  But I also remember that just like the great city of D’ni, things we hold dear can vanish just as quickly as it came to us.  The perfection of the city, the time spent in the young days of UruLive, the fleeting time I got to spend with Pepsi, they’re all gone now, but as the great writer I am, those days will live on in my memory, always tied to the beauty of Myst.

I might sound like a lunatic who takes the Myst Universe far too seriously, but to be honest, Myst taught me a lot, it saw me through recovering from addiction, it gave me purpose and it gave me what no one or nothing could.  Hope.  So to me, I’ll thump my Myst Reader at anyone who will stop and listen.  I’m an Uruite, a citizen of the Deep City of D’ni.

Long live the Myst Universe.  Cavern Blood Runs Deep.