About maeveala

I'm a hippie, not a hipster. I'm a singer, but I'm not auto-tuned. I'm madly in love with my Cheyenne Cowboy and sometimes my need to be right is my biggest asset. Most of the time, though, I'm just plugging along, wrong, but happy. Oh, and I swear too much.

I want you to laugh.

I get it.

rarasaur

pie in your face 2I want to tell you about all the awfulness in my life, some that has passed, some that I am still working through.

I want to tell you about funerals, doomsday doctors, people that can’t be trusted, and the accusations that tore my soul.  I want to warn you about what it’s like to be falsely criminalized and how several decades of honorable living doesn’t sway anyone, least of all a courtroom.  I want to tell you about a fear so real that it claws your soul and keeps you awake at night.  I want to explain why a girl surrounded by loved ones, educated, and powerful in her own right would consider divorce, suicide, and prostitution.  I want to share stories of bug-infested hotels, and untreated flus, and other people’s leftover food.  I want to teach you how I learned to lie in order to protect people– Good people–…

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The Lazy Consumers

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I’m a hypocrite! That just flashed across my mind this morning as I was on my soapbox about the plastic bag ban in LA county. I was so glad that it passed and that now, people will have to pay $0.10 for a paper bag or bring their own. I got into a discussion with someone about all the selfish, consumer-driven trash that we are overwhelming our planet with. And there was a comment about how kids are not stepping up to the plate after finally being taught environmental science in the school curriculum. Or rather, how they are not picking up the mantle. Because they are constantly bombarded with messages about how to be cool, and most of that stems from having to have the latest gadget or clothing or the next disposable “whatever” in their teenage lives.

And then I went online to search for a single-serve pod coffee maker.

It hit me right across the forehead – I’m just as bad! I complain about consumerism, useless gadgets, people not being able to have a human conversation and social interaction, and I go off and do the same thing. It’s difficult to be that self-denialistic. That’s not even a word. But I don’t care.

I think of my friend, Ann, who is tireless in her causes. She worked so hard in getting awareness out about the vote to ban the plastic bags – she went to rallies, sent announcements through Facebook, always has a green message in her e-mails to you – she really and truly believes she can make a difference. And she does, in every single small way, every day, she is thinking about how to leave a better planet.  She is what I think would be called an ascetic. She doesn’t allow herself many conveniences or extraneous frills. She donated her car for a tax write-off and attends a lot of the rallies that she goes to by bus or other public transportation (which in Los Angeles is no small feat).

But, back to me and my selfish hypocrisy. I find it fascinating that since the dawn of the industrial revolution, we have come up with machines to “make our life easier.” They take away our work and leave us more time for “relaxing” and having more time for our families (but we really don’t spend that time with them). In the meantime, we get fatter, lazier, and more spiritually unfulfilled. Our manufacturing is mostly now done in China by young children with the cheapest of materials and the shoddiest standards that can be gotten away with. But it only costs $1.49 at WalMart, and that’s what it’s all about. So we can have more “stuff” that we want, even if it only lasts a year, or less, and is made out of man-made materials instead of natural fibers, so we can dispose of it when it starts to fray or lose its shape or pill up into little balls.  Then it can sit in landfills for a thousand or so years, leaching toxins into our soils and aquifers.

We have gone from a nation that respected, even revered, craftsmanship in all its forms – construction of homes, sewing, knitting, cooking, making furniture – a nation that once took pride in what it produced. Now, we’ve become lazy consumers. Yes, we consume a shitload of the world’s resources because we have such great wealth. But we are lazy. Not just in body, but in mind. We want the easy way out. We don’t want to have to think, or puzzle it out, or come up with great ideas (some still do, but they are a rarity, and looked on as “retro”). We want our machines to do it for us.  We have forgotten the feeling of happy exhaustion from a task well done, the aching muscles, the endorphins (now we go to the gym for that). The sense of accomplishment and pride at making something with our own hands.

There are a few inventions that are seminal – the washing machine – the refrigerator – I won’t say dryer because I remember as a kid my mum hanging out the wash on an outside rack – there was a smell that you couldn’t bottle into Downy and a feeling that no tumbler could impart on the clothes. That’s one of my points – we try to make these things that are already out there – the clothes on the drying rack – let’s invent Downy so it smells just like it. But it doesn’t. The scents in nature that are out there and so elusive – a rainshower (that smell of hot wet concrete in the summer, you know the smell don’t you?); a forest; an ocean shore; we try to invent facsimiles of this so we can have it all the time. Well, maybe we weren’t meant to have it all the time. Maybe the scents and experiences should only be experienced once in a while, or once in a lifetime even. My ex used to take me to his family’s cabin in northern Michigan in the summer. There was this amazing scent that was there – cherries, trees, earth, water, fire. Once you were there you got used to it and couldn’t discern the smell from just what you were breathing, but when you came home and unpacked, you were there again as your clothes released the scent of Traverse City, and you were instantly transported back. I have only smelled that smell one other time since. It grabbed me, stopped me in my tracks, and brought tears to my eyes. It conjured up the good memories I had when I went there. It was fleeting, and I wanted more. But I knew that the one whiff I got would have to tide me over.

Smell is the strongest sense we have to trigger memory, and we want these olfactory reminders all the time, so we desperately try to bring them back. So we have plug-ins, disappearing gels, ozone-killing aerosols to try and bring them back to us. At the cost of putting petroleum-laced chemicals in our homes. And loosing hormones (including photoestrogens that mess up reproductive organs and health), that we ingest that scramble our signals and confuse our body’s fine-tuned systems. But, at least it smells “good,” right?

Thank God we don’t have to smell our own humanity. We cover up everything that makes us human, in our quest to be better than human. Godlike. Surely, a spiritual being doesn’t stink, right? God doesn’t smell like sweat or musk or hard work. We coat our pits with aluminum and take the chance of Alzheimer’s later in life rather than smell human. We douse our pulse points with chemicals that smell like something else rather than the unique pheromones we all give off. We light a Yankee candle or spray lavender in the bathroom rather than let anyone think our shit stinks. It’s a toilet, right? Isn’t is supposed to smell a little?  I’d prefer that if you wanted to disguise where you’d been… just light a match, please!

We take away every single thing that makes us human, that designates us as animal (and I mean animal in the Latin term, “being that breathes”).

I think that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. That our spirit has been plopped down into this “animus” and we are just trying to figure out how to be human. It’s not always fun.  It’s messy, fraught with sounds and smells that are uniquely us.  Probably why we’re such bad communicators too. Why can’t you read my mind? Well, maybe in the spiritual world you don’t have to, and we forget that.

The burping, the farting, the sweating, the crying, the vomiting, the sneezing… vive le humanity.

That Age-Old Question of Carrying on One’s Genes

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This year has gone by like the blink of an eye for me. You have to understand, I’m a really late bloomer. I’ve always been smart, and mature, and people looked to me for advice on what to do with their own lives, while I could barely keep a hold of my own. But I hid it really well. That’s what growing up in alcoholism does to you. You become a chameleon, trying to fit in, trying to find that niche that will let you feel like you belong for the first time in your life.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s not a lot I regret about my life. I’ve definitely lived, and had a great time doing it. I always thought that I just “hadn’t found the right person/job/town/friend/career/etc., etc.” and that sooner or later it would appear.

I didn’t care about things like retirement, 401 K, savings accounts… Green Cards, little things like that. I was sure that I would become a famous singer or actress (or not even famous, but enough to live on) and that would take care of it all. That was my 20s.

I moved to L.A. when I was 30 and spent quite a few years trying to fit in – it was such a culture shock from Boston. I hooked up with one alcoholic/drug addict after the other, and kept thinking, “why won’t they marry me?” It was only after I got into 12-step recovery that I found out I was as much to blame as them. Deep down, I really didn’t want to get married because I thought I wasn’t worthy.

After several years cleaning up my past mistakes, and really learning about myself and why I do the things I do, I was told I was ready to date. I really didn’t want to, as I was in fear of a lot of things, namely rejection, especially in LA. I was terrified but I did it anyway.

I bit the bullet and went on Match.com. I had several really horrible dates; including one where I said I was going to the bathroom and actually walked out the back door and left him there he was so rude. I had some good ones too, but somewhere inside, I knew it wasn’t “right.”

Then, I got “winked” at by this guy on Match.com. I checked out his profile and almost deleted him. But something told me not to go by first impressions and to at least talk to him. We started very slowly and e-mailed back and forth. I let him send me his phone number, and we talked. Short, friendly conversations that didn’t drag on and just let each other know we were interested.

After a while of phone calls, we arranged to meet at Priscilla’s in Burbank. I got there early and waited round the side of the coffee house, until I realized he was late! I phoned my friend and she was going to come pick me up, but I wanted to give him another chance. I walked around the other side of the coffee house, and there he was, phoning his brother saying, “she stood me up.”

After laughing and getting the awkwardness out of the way, we sat down to talk. And we talked, and talked, and talked. We closed Priscilla’s down. He was much more handsome than his picture and so sweet. I felt something inside that I couldn’t nail down but it felt good… I felt happy.

I was definitely hooked. So fast forward to today, three years later… I moved in with him after two years, and the year after that he proposed two days before my 40th birthday. To top that, we got married in San Francisco two months later while we were there for a CAL football game.

That’s where we are now. We’ve been married for three months, and I can’t believe that happiness like this exists. It’s borne out of hard work, respect, and the willingness to work whatever may come up, out. A good friend of mine told me – it’s all about choice. It’s a choice to be married – and if you want to be married, then be married. If you want to be divorced, be divorced. It sounds simple, but it really is a choice to be happy and to want to work at it.

Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of what this year has plopped in my lap after all of this. I went in for my yearly exam five weeks ago and was told I have ovarian cysts. Kinda funny since I’ve been on the Pill on and off since I was 16 to deal with this issue. So, in between my amazement that this was actually happening, and wanting to be healthy, I decided to have them removed. This is where it gets good.

It’s not bad enough that my whole life people have been asking, “so when are you going to get married?” but now that I am, it’s become perfectly acceptable and appropriate for strangers, and close friends, and parents, to ask the extremely personal question, “so when are you going to get pregnant?”

I think that this is just the rudest question there is.

How can people be so flip, so carefree, in asking something that should be no one else’s business but your doctor’s and you and your spouse’s? And then add to that insult, injury – “Well, you are 40 you know and you better get moving.” Holy shit! I’m 40? When did that happen? Oh yeah! Right after getting engaged and before getting married.

Listen… I know how old I am. I look in the mirror every day, and trust me, I’m not in denial. Every time you ask me when I’m going to have a baby, you probably push it back for me a few months. It’s none of your business, as well-meaning as you are.

When I had the ovarian cysts removed, they also found out I had endometriosis, and uterine fibroids. I was in a lot of pain, and just thought it was normal. That’s how messed up I am. I don’t know what “normal” is. I’ve got enough going on in my head with learning how to be a wife, dealing with the fact I am losing my job on March 29, and getting up to deal with my cretin of a boss every day without wanting to slit my wrists. I don’t want to even THINK about bringing another life into the world without getting my own together first.

And who knows what kind of mother I’d be? Everyone says I’d be an awesome mother, but I am not so sure. I have NEVER (let me repeat that) NEVER had “ooh” and “ahh” feelings when I see babies. I think that children are adorable (especially when they’re brought up properly with like, manners and stuff 🙂 ) and I like being around them, but I don’t feel that pull, that squinchiness in my belly, to actually have my own.

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I just want to enjoy being a newlywed for a while, is that so wrong? We’re still getting to know one another, learning about each other and how to communicate. I think it would be a great disservice to both of us, since we are ambiguous about the whole thing right now, to bring a child into that.

I love my husband very much. I know in my heart that we will be guided to do what is right for us, and no one else, if we keep growing and learning about one another and ourselves. If that means having a child, then it will happen, or it won’t. It is not the be-all and end-all for me, or him. I’m thankful that we’re in the exact same place about this and have the chance to grow together and decide together without one of us feeling like we aren’t getting what we want.

Photographs are not Memories, as such

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Photographs and memories are deceiving. They can cause a lot of emotional distress for perfectly innocent reasons. I’ve been sorting through old photographs of mine, and also of my husband’s, for a project I am putting together for our “wedding.” (We were already married in August of 2007, but we are doing a little celebration for family and close friends in May). There’s a book for me, a book for him, and one of us.

I turned 40 last year, and to help take the sting out of that, someone suggested crafting a book of photos that chronicled my life so far (a “Maeve” retrospective, if you will 🙂 ) It really did help put things in perspective – that high school and college were a fun time (sometimes) but so small in the grand scheme of things. I saw myself younger and full of potential and passion, and it was interesting to see how life and time change your face. It has been said that at 50 you get the face you deserve. I honestly can’t wait to see mine. I’ve worked hard at becoming a better person and to mend fences as best I can so that it doesn’t “wear” on me as I get older. In a lot of ways I feel younger and more focused than I’ve ever been.

God, I love my husband. How did I get so lucky? What cosmic pixie dust blew my way that night I returned his “wink” on match.com? We talked about this yesterday, how much choices influence us, and sometimes, even the wrong choices can put you on the right path. The documentary “Prince of Paisley Park” was on, and I was fascinated by the fact that Prince’s father moved to Minneapolis, MN as a Jazz musician. Now, forgive my ignorance, but Minneapolis MN in the 50’s doesn’t seem to me like it would be the Hub of musicians and a mecca for playing (I’m probably wrong, but just go with me). The circumstances that led to Prince becoming Prince were woven into that choice. A neighborhood that was almost completely white. Clubs and bars that were places to shine, but not really on a country-wide scale. Frustration on his father’s part – maybe enough to set the wheels in motion regarding alcoholism and abusiveness. For better or worse, Prince was forged in this fire and came out the other side, to become one of the most formidable talents and performers of his generation. Who’s to say that if his father had moved to Chicago or New Orleans or some other area more recognizable for Jazz, that his life would have turned out that way? Sometimes the crucible has to be really hot to burn away the impurities and filter the precious metal to the top.

This is how I have to take my husband’s youth. We went through a whole box full of memories and photos, and proms, and dances, together yesterday. I was actually glad he was there to tell me the context, rather than me making up my own stories.

He had a relationship with someone from the end of high school through his mid-20s. There were an awful lot of photos chronicling this era. While I was looking for pictures of him when he was younger, I got to know him a whole lot better. I couldn’t help it, I started to cry when I saw him with this woman and looking so happy and in love, and most of all, young. Proms, dances, sorority functions, they were all there, smiling up at me from their youth. A youth filled with love, excitement, and probably, lots of sex!

I think more than anything I wished I had had a youth like that. I was a late bloomer, and coupled with the alcoholism in my family, I barely remember my teenage years and early 20s very well. I was desperately trying to find out who I was. I never really had a high school sweetheart or a boyfriend till I was well into my 20s.

I am envious of this American phenomenon called “prom.” In Canada, at least where I grew up, we didn’t have proms. We had dances throughout the year, but no “spring formal” or anything like that – certainly nothing that would warrant having a formal picture taken with one’s date, and a different dress and tux rental for each! Date? We all sort of showed up and hoped nobody had puked in the corner of the gymnasium when we snuck over to neck with the cute jock from freshman year. There were only 400 of us in the whole school, grades 9-12. I graduated with about 30 other people that I had gone to kindergarten with, out of a hundred or so total. So high school was more about seeing everyone grow up with you, and having the same friends since grammar school. There wasn’t that anonymity that larger high schools have. In looking at Sean’s yearbook, he didn’t know a lot of the people he graduated with.

So, you see, when I see Sean in his tux, with the matching cummerbund to his date’s dress, I think I’ve missed out somehow.

It helped to hear that his relationship with her through all those years was not the best. Yes, he was smiling, but it was rocky – separations – physical and emotional, studded it through the years. Normal teenage and young adult emotions played a part in all of it.

I can’t be jealous of the woman who got so many of his years through his youth. We met at exactly the time we were supposed to, for exactly the right reasons. She may have photographs, but I’ve got him. I’d like to say I can rise above it and see it through my adult eyes. But somewhere, the teenage me is still feeing rejected, and like I wasted the best years of my life NOT having sex. Cripes – if I had that body now that I did then… OY!!

So, like Prince, our life together was forged by some bad choices, or choices we thought were bad at the time, but turned out pretty well. If he HADN’T had the relationship with her, he might not have ever gone to Berkeley, and then come back to Burbank. If I HADN’T had the brief affair with a friend’s friend when I came out here on vacation, I might have moved to New York instead of Burbank. And I know, deep down, so far, further than I’ve known anything ever before, that we are meant to be together. I know it like I know how to breathe.

Anyway, I did the only thing I could at the time while looking at the photos – wiped away my tears, and instead of focusing on “them” together in the pictures, I tried to look at my husband as a young man, full of promise, and love, and passion – those blue-green eyes so open and honest, those long legs like a young colt – and I fell in love with him all over again. How lucky am I that I got him and that he HAD this fabulous past that he can remember and share with me as we grow older together and get closer. I’d rather have him now, with that past AS the past, than to have loved him when we were younger and lost him, to have a lifetime of “what if,” and “if only.”

And, after looking at all of those pictures with his dark hair and buff body, the sea-green eyes and crooked smile, I did the other only thing any normal woman in love would do – I took him to bed and chased away our ghosts, exorcised them to the past, where they will firmly stay.

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That’s so gay… Really? In 2013?

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Who still uses “gay” to describe someone?  I thought this was 2013, when same-sex marriage was on the upswing, rights for people of all beliefs, creeds, colours, and sex were on the books and that our thinking was slowly turning to thinking before we speak.  I guess not.  I’m not sure where the blame lies – social networking is an easy and almost anonymous way to throw things out there that you can’t take back.

Dr. Jerry Buss died Monday, a fact that really upset my husband.  He remembers the “showtime” that Buss brought, and adored and worshiped the players that ended up on the Lakers because of him.  It was during a formative time for him, so it’s fraught with memories and emotions of growing up and growing older.  He mentioned on Facebook that he was very emotionally upset at Buss’ passing – more telling about getting older and wishing for times past than anything.  Either way, he put his emotions out there, and what did he get?

Someone telling him, “That’s pretty gay of you.”

I was horrified.  Primarily because this person knew him for a long time and I thought would be a little more sympathetic, but mostly, mostly… because they threw around the “gay” term.  Both hubby and myself are well into our 40s, so that means this person is close to 50, if not already there.  50 years old and still saying “gay” as a slur, an epithet, a derogatory remark.  You might as well say, “That’s so left-handed of you.”  Or, “That’s so blue eyes of you.”  That’s how much sense it makes.  Of course there is some truth to stereotypes – that’s how they got to be stereotypes – but saying something to denigrate not only the person you are talking to, but a whole section of the population, just because you’re some robot that doesn’t deal with feelings very well?  Not acceptable, in any way, shape, or form.  I’m calling you on it.

When I was in college, I remember a moment that taught me a big lesson.  The boyfriend of one of my dorm-mates and I were verbally sparring, having a bit of an argument, and he said, “Stop being such a bitch!”  To which I quickly, and thoughtlessly retorted, “Well then, stop being such a fag!” At the time, I had no idea how bad that word was when used in that way, and how hurtful it was.  I was a little more naïve than the kids who had been away at school for three years already – this was my first year away from home and one of my first encounters with a gay person.  I apologized, but my and this person’s relationship was never quite the same.  Or with his boyfriend either.

As I’ve gotten older, experience and time are great teachers.  I know why we don’t say these words now.  Human beings have so many names and slurs for each other, so many ways to pick at the things that make us different.  It’s a constant barrage of material from each other, taught from fear at a young age by parents or another authority figure, and mostly based in nothing substantial.  It’s also flashed at us from marketing and lobbyists and mentors and big brothers and teachers – their opinions, their jobs, trying to get us to buy in to what they want us to buy in to.  Things we cannot control and/or have no control over – straight hair, curly hair, blue eyes, white skin, dark skin, white teeth, height, sex, orientation…anything that makes us different from one another.  And then we spend the rest of our lives trying to find someone who is just like us, who likes the same things we do.  We cut ourselves off from humanity by highlighting our differences and then are lonely, disappointed and frustrated when we can’t accept others for who they are.

We’re all humans, bottom line.  Let’s try to look at our similarities instead of the differences. As humans, we all deserve love.  Whether your love looks like the way my love does, it’s immaterial.  I profoundly respect your right to love whoever you want, however you want.  How does your love taint or threaten me? It doesn’t. Believe me, I know how hard it is to find someone to be with.  I didn’t find my partner till I was almost 40.  That’s a long, lonely time.  But it was worth it.

Here’s the point.  It’s not OK to use “gay” as a slur, or derogatory remark.  And when I call you on it, don’t tell me to lighten up or that you just meant it in a funny way, chill out.  Own it, own up to it, and maybe change your thinking.  Bullies will throw it back at you that you’re taking it too seriously, or are outraged for no reason.  They try and make you think you’re the one that’s wrong.  You’re not.  I will stand with you if you need backup on this.

Hormones & Hostages – A Love Story

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I have recently found a whole new wellspring of empathy for men. Hard to believe, yes I know, but I actually feel badly when I see them dealing with something so foreign to them as “PMS.” Or for you European readers, “PMT.”

A good friend of mine had the fortune (or misfortune?) to grow up the only brother of three older sisters. While he turned into a man strong in his own right, he is so in tune with women on so many other levels, it is a bit frightening. Most men panic at those three little letters; you can see their eyes darting left and right and the light sheen of sweat suddenly appear on their upper lip… it’s fight or flight at its best! You can actually see and hear their mouth go dry and the smell the gears turning as they rack their brains trying to come up with the right answer to any of the loaded questions that seem to just beg to fly out of our mouths at those hormonal times. Not him. He had it perfectly under control, with no sense of capitulation, nor arrogance, when he smiled knowingly, empathetically, and touched your shoulder – lightly, as he knew how sensitive to touch we are – and said, “I love you.” And you knew he really meant it, wasn’t just saying it to allay your anger, fear, sadness, or any of the other emotions that come flying at you. Or even to get himself out of the bear’s den. He just knew, and he meant it. Then he would go about his own work, not ignoring you, but leaving you alone like you wanted (or did you?). It was uncanny. There was no comeback for that.

I’ve recently started living with someone, and it’s been well over five years since I’ve even had a roommate. As the tell-tale mood swing started to happen, I was like a werewolf frantically trying to hide from the full moon. “If I don’t SEE the moon, perhaps I won’t change!” It didn’t matter; I became withdrawn, sulky, prone to crying jags. I could be in denial all I wanted; I was in the throes of a really good bout of PMS. The bad thing is I’m so in love with this man that the thought of barking at him and hurting him makes me want to overdose on Nyquil and wake up in a week so he doesn’t have to bear the brunt. It’s really exhausting not to be sarcastic! He says the most innocuous things, like, “Oh, wow, Shannon Doherty is really pretty!” while watching re-runs of “SO Graham Norton” on TV and I want to dive over the coffee table and slap his eyes out of his head. How DARE you look at her!! Just because I’m bloated and pimply, is that any reason to be so CRUEL? How COULD you!

Well, thank goodness I’m able to reign myself in and manage a polite, “hmmm” to his off-the-cuff remark. He has no idea. And it’s so funny, I’m angry, emotional, “don’t touch me!” but the thing I really want is for you to just hold me, even though I can’t stand the touch right now. And a special thanks to all those helpful people who say, “drinking 8 glasses of water daily may help with the symptoms of PMS.” Wow. Thank you. Such pithy platitudes from the wrapper of a Kotex pad. “Get more exercise” and “eat more fruits and vegetables at this time” are such a hoot to hear too. Hmmm… OK, great, thank you very much. Let me tell you how it is, shall I? I KNOW that the frickin’ fruits and vegetables would be better for me than the Kettle Chips and Hershey’s Special Dark. I do! Can you not understand that’s like asking a heroin addict going through withdrawals and needing a fix so badly, to shoot up with powdered sugar and expect the same results? I’m sitting here staring at a luscious, ripe nectarine on my desk, and all my thoughts are just running back to the rippled, crunchy salty spicy WHAM of the potato chips I want. I can taste it now – the salt, the starch, that satisfying CRUNCH as it’s masticated on my back teeth – I can feel my anxiety level decrease, my mood elevate, my eyes glaze over as my blood sugar rises and the she-wolf retreats back to my subconscious, till the next time.

Men, let me bring you in on a little secret. This shit is real. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. We’re not drama queens trying to get attention or do it on purpose to punish you, or anything of the like. You know those times when you’re so exhausted that lying down on your bed, and sleep is almost upon you, you can feel its tendrils tugging at your subconscious, and then you shake your whole body, like you were falling and wake up? That’s what it’s like, awake. I’m just blissfully going along my day, and the bottom falls out of it. I feel 180 degrees differently than I did just a few minutes ago. That in itself is enough to depress me even more – the fact that I can be a hostage to my hormones as badly as you can. And I can’t do a thing about it.

If I want a bowl of ice cream, or a chocolate bar, or whatever my crazy mind is telling me would make me feel better, for the love of Mike (and George, and Bob, and Harry), don’t tell me I don’t need it, or that a walk would be better for me. You’re singing to the choir. Deep down, I know that’s true, but come on, better chocolate than your balls retreating up into your body in defense of my bloodcurdling, laser-tinged stare and stony silence that would follow your innocent little quip. If you love me, tell me you’re going on a walk and would love my company. That is going to have more success than anything you might throw out there.

Grief’s Tentacles

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No matter how prepared you are for it, Grief hits you like the blast of a furnace door opened in the middle of a snowstorm.  That difference in temperature is a shock, an uncomfortableness that prickles your skin and nauseates.  You’re constantly trying to catch up, get on an even keel, regain your footing.  And it doesn’t come.  Even someone who has been languishing between worlds for months, years, who abused you or beat you, or conversely, who adored you and thought you walked on water – when they go, when it happens, you’re different.  Immediately.  Nothing is ever the same again.  It becomes a watershed moment where everything is then measured against it – post-Loved-One.  It leaves these waves, tsunamis, actually,  that come at the most unlikely and unwelcome times.  Sometimes it’s a vise grip on your heart that wrenches brutal wracking sobs that have no sound, they just make your body heave, that awkward keening, and the tears pop out of your eyes so hard they splash feet ahead of you; sometimes it’s a feather, tickling the bottom of your heart with poignancy and softness, causing whimpers and mews, and sometimes, most of the time, it’s a stone, heavy with loss and darkness, sitting on your chest, weighing you down like a millstone on your soul, threatening to hurtle you into the chasm; that abyss of nothing – no light, no feeling, no sound.

It is useless saying to siblings or other family members that you know what they’re feeling.  They don’t know what you’re feeling either.  Empathy is just a word we use to keep connected to one another.  We may have experience with the circumstance, but it is completely different to each who goes through it.  We each meant something different to the person that was lost, we each had a different relationship to them.  That’s the curse (and sometimes the blessing) of being human – we never ever truly know exactly what another human being is thinking.  We just can’t.  We can’t crawl up into that consciousness and think their thoughts.  Even people who say they are telepathic – reading another person’s mind doesn’t give you any more insight to who they are – it’s just the words they haven’t spoken.  Their soul, their spirit, is as private as the darkness.  So when that soul, that spirit, exits this plane, it’s that light, that anima, if you will, that we miss.  This is one of the reasons I wasn’t afraid to see my father after he was gone.  I knew that it wasn’t him anymore.  I knew the thing that made him, him, was gone. What was left was just his shell, his husk, his house where he lived for 75 years, 5 months and 24 days.  I would have been more disturbed had he actually looked like I remembered – then I would have known it was a mistake.  As I touched him, his hands were cold, they didn’t reach for mine, his skin didn’t react when I touched it.  He was gone.

The friends that I have through my program have taught me so much.  One of them lost her mother and her brother within a year of each other.  The first was expected, the other, tragically.  She spoke of the privilege of being in the room with her mom when she passed.  To see the whole family gathered beside her, sending her love, knowing that her journey elsewhere was about to begin, and not be sad about it.  To witness the human being who had given birth to them, take her last breath, and to be grateful for that awesome gift.

Stupidly, I was hoping for something like that when Dad passed.  I wanted to be there, but I know now that it was OK that I wasn’t.  My niece whispered a message to him that I was on my way, and to please wait, but he couldn’t.  He was tired, and I knew that.  My mom and my sister were there when he went.  I am grateful they were there, so that he wasn’t alone, and that it was peaceful.

I used to be so afraid of death – like it was some sneaky bastard watching me and counting the minutes till I was his.  (There’s a Mr. Death at the door – oh, it was the Salmon Mousse? I’m FRIGHTFULLY embarrassed!) I used to be afraid of succeeding, or being too happy, or loving too much – because I was sure that Death was waiting to spring like a cat and devour me.  So I stay just in the middle – not too happy, not too successful, not loving too much – just enough.  Enough to be alive but not really to live, not to suck the marrow out of life and feel accomplishment and satisfaction that the day ended well.  There’s always something I could have done better, someone I could have loved more, some task I could have tried harder at.  I foolishly thought that Death would come later for those who don’t expect too much out of life, don’t live, don’t take risks, just survive.  The people who enjoy their lives always get cut short, in my world.

I remember this so vividly, like it was yesterday – in Grade 8 religion class, being with these kids I’d been with since kindergarten, who already thought I was weird, a freak – our teacher asked us, “when would you like to die? When you’re young, after your prime, or old age?” Every single person in that room, save myself, answered, “Old age.” When the teacher asked me what I said, and I replied, “after my prime” the room erupted in derisive laughter.  After he quieted the class, he asked me why, and I said, “I would rather die after my prime than sit thinking about yesterday as an old woman.  And besides, I could not hit my prime till I’m 80!”  Yup.  Definite weirdo.

Program has helped me become OK with Death.  Sometimes it’s tragic, sometimes it’s wistful, but always, always – it’s inevitable.  It’s what you do with the days in between birth and stepping off the curb in front of that bus that are important.  Cleaning up the wreckage of my past and continuing to try to keep my side of the street clean helps not have that fear.  I didn’t feel any remorse or pain that I didn’t get to say what I needed to say to my dad before he went.  I had already said it.  He knew me, warts and all.  He fathered me.  He gave me my love of traveling, of meeting people and conversing with strangers (in other words, friends I hadn’t met yet). There were probably many more things we could have talked about, and I wish that there had been that time.  There wasn’t.  That’s the thing I most regret.  I wish for more time.

Bon Mots & Assets

Lamott Bon Mot

I love pointed bon mots such as that one above. It puts it all in perspective when I am struggling to be on whatever side I am hoping to be on. Do I go with my family, who raised me and who love me (in their sick, twisted alcoholic way), or do I find my own voice and just tell the truth as I know it? I’m going with – b. Let me tell you why.

I got married almost 6 years ago. 5 years ago we had a wedding. The two events were about 9 months apart. The first we did for ourselves, and to get me legal (that’s another story). The second we did for God, our friends, and family (in that order). We wanted to share our joy. That’s the only reason. To let the people who had got us to that place, be thanked and celebrate with us. When someone really close to you does the whole “your wedding” thing with you, and says it, with the quotes, in a sarcastic voice, it kinda pisses me off. Because I’m a newbie at this standing up for myself thing. I still have a tendency to get caught up in everyone else’s shit and take what they say as gospel. Particularly if they are related to me. But I think God blessed me with a photographic (and audiographic) memory for such a reason: to write this shit down. Bon mots or not, if there is 7 billion other people in the world than me, and alcohol is still being consumed in some of these families, someone else is going through this shit. So, if I can put aside my own fear and rejection, and fear of rejection, and simply tell what happened, maybe, just maybe, someone else will feel strength and relate in some way. And not feel so utterly alone, like I did, for a long time.

While I never expected it to be easy, and I never expected it to go well, I certainly didn’t think that in talking to my Dad before I left (with him being so sick) would elicit someone absolutely losing their shit on me, tearing strips off of me, and ending with being called “a fucking cunt” in front of both my parents. Kudos to my program though. It allowed me to stand there in that horribleness, to listen to what the person was saying, wade through the bullshit, identify the parts that were true, take responsibility for those, and then say, “I came here to talk to my Dad, not you, so if you are finished…”

My program is also what enables me to look past my own grief, and fear, and anger, at my Dad’s illness, and look with compassion and empathy for the rest of the family, who don’t have recovery or tools to fall back on. To see them lash out at each other over the smallest things, which is really not what they’re pissed off at, but they can’t say the truth. To see the pain on my sibling’s faces as we watch my Dad shrink into COPD and liver failure (or maybe whatever other illness is going on that he won’t confide in us about); going from a hale and hearty steel worker that smoked two packs of Sweet Caps a day and drank beer like a champ, tempered with good scotch shots, who had a halo of white hair by the time he was 35, coupled with sea-blue eyes that went right through you. He played soccer, walked everywhere, and like Michelangelo with marble, he could see what was in wood while others just saw fuel for the fire.

I had a chance to sit down with my Dad and ask him how he got interested in woodworking. I firmly believe that all types of creativity, whether they be musical, written, with your hands or your mind, are passed down. This man could put together a gourmet meal out of apples, peanut butter, cheese, and celery. Arrange it on a plate so that you thought you were eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant instead of the kitchen table. My Dad emigrated from Scotland before he turned 25. I find it hard to believe that at that age, he had been married for 5 years, and had two daughters – when I was 25, I had graduated college, and was trying to find my way in my adopted city of Boston. He started working at Stelco, the Steel Company of Canada, as a millwright, which he had gotten his trade in. At age 31 or 32, he fell from a platform at work, and broke his ankle. No, wait, not broke. I don’t even think shattered is the right word. They stopped counting at 19 different breaks. It required him to be in a toe-to-hip cast and put an end to soccer. It also put him in the Worker’s Compensation Board rehabilitation clinic for 6 months. That blew my mind. I was very young, probably a year to 18 months old, and I obviously don’t remember him being out of the house for that long or what the rest of the family did while he was there. But it was there that he was encouraged to make use of his time by finding woodwork. Much like patients in other facilities learned leather work or ceramics or something, my dad learned pretty much by himself how to measure, cut and finish projects with wood. We had a kitchen dining set that he made by himself. It was a corner storage unit, two benches for each wall, and a table with two straight edges forming a right angle bordered with a curved third edge.

My Dad was pretty handy with anything he touched. I think he had so much going on in his mind that he got overwhelmed, like the best of us. Often projects would sit unfinished or take a long time to finish. We put a fireplace in our living room and didn’t have the mortar and stone up on it one Christmas, so my Dad stapled the Christmas cards we received to it. The whole face was covered. When it came time to re-do my room, after both my siblings moved out, I got to pick the paint and the carpet. I helped to peel wallpaper (the baby-shit brown and yellow plaid-flowered one), spackle the numerable holes from my posters, and sand it and prep for the paint. I picked a pastel shade of mint green, with matching comforter and curtains. The carpet was beige with a few hints of tan through it. I got a new mate’s bed (with the set of drawers below it) and loved it, even though it was too short for me and my feet hung over the end. It was white with gold metal pull handles and a decoupaged flower posy by each handle. My dad then painted my dresser a bright white glossy enamel to match. And when the top didn’t turn out how he wanted, he cut a piece of smoked glass and put it on the top to fit perfectly. My Grama’s vintage mirror hung above the dresser, an ornate antiqued gold-framed one with heavy, true mirror glass that I loved. It was my skinny mirror. It broke about three months ago; the heavy string finally gave out. I chastise myself for not replacing that with heavy-gauge wire. I kept all the broken glass so that I can make some kind of montage mosaic out of it. Good luck finding someone who can replace that glass. I think it was from the 20s or 30s.

Anyway, that room was my growing up room, with my calm green walls and my stereo holder made from wood planks and bricks. I would turn on my Styx albums, or Chilliwack or Burton Cummings, and serenade myself in the mirror, trying out funky makeup or clothes. It was magic. The windows and that mirror would rattle every Sunday when I got older, and chose to spend an extra hour in bed rather than go to Church with my parents. “Heathen!” my Mum would loudly shout as she slammed the door in disapproval. I would have one hour to myself. To daydream, sleep, fantasize about my grown-up life. I stopped dancing in the front room when my own room was finished. You see, we had one of those all-in-one stereos with a lid that lifted up and you could listen to records, the radio, or an 8-track. I would put my records on and sing and dance in front of the mirror tiles my dad put up in an arch on one of the walls, with the wood-paneling accent. Several of my parents’ friends would remark to them they saw me dancing and acting out through the front window, so I chose to take it behind closed doors.

If I could go back to the kid I was at 11, 12, 13 and beyond, I would let her know that it is all happening for a reason. All the shit that brews and gets thrown your way prepares you somehow for adulthood. What you think is a defect ends up being an asset. I was cooking very early in my teen years, and although that seemed like I wasn’t being taken care of to me, I am now an amazing cook and it has served me well. When my mum was going through a breakdown, she had me read to her. I was terrified, and didn’t know what was going on in the house or with my family, and really, what I wanted was my mum to read to me, or even better, to sing to me. But she would curl up on my bed, cover herself with a blanket, take her thick glasses off, and listen to me read to her. It soothed her, calmed her, and you know what? It made me a fantastic reader. I devoured books. I remember once in grade school, I read an entire paperback in a day. Took it out from the library in the morning and brought it back in the afternoon to get a new one. The librarian didn’t believe I had read it and quizzed me on what had gone on in it. I’ll never forget the look on her face when I answered every single one of her questions, and she waved her hand in a gesture to open the library to me again, and said, “Very good.”