Monday, September 30, 2013

Step by step...

Grace walked slowly to the table. Jeremy was already there, fidgeting with the packets of sugar. Spinning them between his fingers like he always did when he was nervous. "Good," she thought, "let him be nervous."

When she reached the table he stood quickly and they both paused for a moment unsure what to do next. Shake hands? Hug? Nothing? She moved first and sat down at the table waving him back toward his empty chair.

They made small talk for a little while. A very little while. Grace knew why he had asked her here, friends had been calling her asking if she had her "meeting" yet. Telling her how theirs had gone. She had been expecting it ever since she had word from his sister that he had gone in to rehab. And that he seemed to be taking it seriously this time. 

Finally he took a deep breath and started his speech, "I know I've done horrible things to you. Treated you poorly. Damaged our relationship. I am working very hard at taking the blame for my actions and working to be a better man. I am here today to ask for your forgiveness." The whole time he had been saying his piece he had been looking down at the table, as soon as he finished he looked up in to her eyes and smiled. 

Grace smiled back. But it wasn't the warm welcoming smile he had been hoping for. It was the cold smile, the one where the light didn't quite meet her eyes.

"That's your standard apology right? From when you first started working your steps? What is this one? Eight? Nine? There is the one where you make a list of everything you did, then the next is to try and make amends. I am guessing that I'm almost last on your amends making rounds right? You started with the easy ones and worked your way down? Who is after me? Your sister? I think maybe that would be the last."

"No, you were the last on my list. Ellen was before you."

"So you figured I would be the hardest? Even more than her?"

"Ellen came to see me while I was in rehab. We talked in some family sessions. Started laying the ground work earlier. You and I don't, didn't...haven't..."

"We haven't spoken since I left. The last thing you said to me was, 'leave, bitch, you never loved me anyway, you don't even know what love is, you uptight cunt.' You know, in case that didn't make your list. I mean, it's been a few years so I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't remember."

"I understand you are still mad at me, I did and said awful things. But those are in the past and..."

"I'm going to cut you off there, Jeremy. I almost didn't come here today. I knew what you wanted to say. I've spoken with a few friends who you already met with and they all told me about your apology. What you said, how you said it. And it was the one I got. The same one. What did your list look like? Was it all hurt Bob's feelings. Said something mean to Jeanine? Was the list the same? Or did you really think and put effort in to what you did?"

Jeremy looked down at his hands, "I got as specific as I could. It's my list. I put in what I remembered. I would imagine you have a longer list you could write down and give to me." He was trying not to sound petulant about it but not quite succeeding.

Grace smiled again. "I could. You are right. Here's the thing, Jeremy, you wrote down what you remembered. The nights you would get completely blasted and then send me text after text about how horrible I am? How I don't care about anything or anyone? Or about the cute girl down the bar from you who was giving you the eye? See, the next morning you had a choice, you got to read the texts or delete them. Because you didn't remember sending them. And if you did read them you only read a few before you deleted, because you were drunk and hadn't meant anything by them. How many times have you already apologized to me for what you said while you were drunk?"

"I know I did. But I'm working on changing. I haven't had a drink in 6 months..."

She cut him off again, "I'm sorry I'm all out of applause and chips for you today. I need to tell you one more thing before I lose my nerve. You were my first true love. I had never let anyone get that close to me before. I had never felt so deeply about someone before. And when you started drinking and wouldn't stop? It crushed me. And then when you started taking it out on me? Every drink you had, every failure that it led to because you were drinking and nothing and nobody was important enough to you to stop? I left, not because I stopped loving you but because you were determined to crush that out of me.  If I hadn't gone when I did I knew I would lose that piece, that piece of my heart that was yours. And I didn't want that. I always want to be a little in love with you. In spite of what you've done to stop me. But the one luxury you have that I don't? I was always sober. I never had the option of not reading, of not remembering. Yes, Jeremy, my list is probably longer than yours. But that's my list. 

Now I would suggest you call your sponsor or hit up a meeting. Because though your steps encourage you to make amends, to give your apologies, they should mention that not everyone is going to accept them."

With that Grace got up from the table.

She took a few steps toward the door and then turned back around, "I'm not ready to forgive and forget, Jeremy, but I do wish you health and strength and success."

Then she walked out. 

The waitress came over to the table to offer Jeremy a refill, "Bad meeting?"

Jeremy gave her a half smile, "Better than I expected, actually." As the waitress walked away he opened his cell phone and punched up "Lifeline" on his autodial.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Quick, quick, slow....

Later when she thought about it all again Jamie would be amazed at how fast the human mind works. How quickly it processes information and forms ideas. How fast she went from one idea to the next. But that would be later. Later when she was stuck in the bog where thoughts formed slowly and time didn't pass so much as plod. But that would be later.

Friday 5:15 PM
When she looked across the parking lot and saw Eric's truck the first thought she had was that he had come to surprise her with dinner out after her seminar.

But then she realized that she hadn't told him that she would be in this seminar today, it had slipped her mind when they talked last night about what they were working on.

Then she started to get a little mad. Had he followed her? His trust issues frustrated her to no end. He always wanted to know where she was, who she was with, when she would be home. They had argued about it and he had promised that he would back off. But now here he was.

But then she realized if he had followed her he would have been there since 8 this morning when she arrived. And if he had followed her in to the hotel then he would have seen her go in to the ballroom marked "Excel and You: Mastering the Tricks of the Spreadsheet"

Then she thought, maybe it's not Eric's truck after all. It could just look like it.

But then she saw her locket hanging from the rear view mirror and knew it was his.

Then she saw his assistant Eileen walking across the parking lot to the truck. Oh of course, she had just taken the truck to come scout the hotel for a location for a training seminar, or maybe the company Christmas party, it was early October, but Eileen was good about planning ahead.

But then after Eileen started the truck she slid over to the passenger side.

Then she saw Eric. Okay...he had come along to scout the location. Right? Or was there another meeting happening today that she had missed? Maybe they had both been there all day in adjoining ballrooms listening to different speakers and had no idea? That would make a funny story at dinner.

But then Eric looked around quickly and kissed Eileen as he slid behind the wheel.

5:18 PM

5:45 PM
Jamie realized that she had been staring at the empty parking space for almost a half hour since Eric and Eileen left.

6:10 PM
Jamie's cell phone rang...

"Hey, babe, when are you coming home? I was going to go for a quick run and didn't want you to worry if I was gone when you got here... Babe?... Babe? Are you there?"

"Yeah, no...go ahead. I'll probably be gone when you get back."

"Oh, I didn't know you were working late tonight. I wish you would have said something."

"Yes, I'm sorry I made you rush home for nothing."

"Are you okay? You sound a little tense."

"Just a long day. Bye."

6:15 PM
"Hey, Stacy? It's Jamie, I was wondering if I could crash on your couch tonight? Cool. Thanks, I'll see you soon."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What is your sense of self?

So even though this is my blog and it's a blog about self awareness I'm starting with someone else's words. This is the status update from my friend Nadine early this week:

"On the subject of self. Namely, today, self-esteem and self-confidence, in the words only I can have, as asked by a good friend of mine. My mother, with all of her flaws, had one quality that surpassed all others, as a mother. She knew how to instill self esteem in her offspring (me, and only me) Self esteem (God knows there are some people in this world who are still baffled and a bit pissed off I have so much of it) is knowing what you're worth. Knowing that you have value, knowing that you deserve to be loved, respected and considered. It's that part of you that will not stand to others abusing you, putting you down, and look down on you. Because YOU KNOW that you're worth more than that, and it allows you to ignore the influence of others on what you are, your own nature. It lets you not only accept yourself as you are, but to revel in your own self. You then deeply believe that you are beautiful, smart, creative and that everything you do, and make, is then valuable.

Self confidence will only come from self esteem. If you have low self esteem your levels of self confidence can't be very high.

Self confidence is the knowledge that you can accomplish anything, and gives you the power to go after what you want. It will enable you to believe that with the right tools, the right training, the right experience, you can do whatever you want, and everything will turn out just great. It drives you to take that class that will empower you to become a doctor, a lawyer, an opera singer, a dancer, a painter, etc. You know you can do it, because you'll take the means to get there. Self confidence allows you to take your dreams, and make them come true.

In essence, self esteem believing in yourself, in what you are. Self confidence is believing in what you can accomplish."

When she starts she talks about her abundance of self esteem, and it's true, she has a lot. When I first met her it was online and I thought there is no way she is truly this confident all of the time. Then I met her face to face and she just radiates it. Constantly. She knows who she is, where she is and what she's doing all the time. And it's awesome to be around. This is a picture of the two of us noticing that someone has picked up my camera and is taking a group shot (I cropped out most everyone else, they were all talking to each other looking away, Nadine and I were the only ones noticing the camera) and I want to show the difference in our reactions.

I'm turned a bit away, you can tell I'm saying something and Nadine is open and you can almost hear the Ta Da! That's Nadine. She owns a room when she walks in. And as someone who has more than a touch of impostor's syndrome I am in awe of that.

So it was really interesting for me to read her personal take on why she is the way she is. And then to think, how do the rest of us catch up? Because as she stated it was in her upbringing, she was always told she could do it all so why wouldn't she believe it? It's woven in to the very fabric of who she is. Me? Well, we've talked about it. My mother was pretty sure GOD had a plan for me. I had POTENTIAL and PURPOSE or I wouldn't have lived. But my primary caregiver for a few years was pretty sure I was nothing more than a burden on her life and should be told as often as possible that nothing I did, no way that I could look, nothing about me was good enough. Hell not even good enough but not worth anything. So I've had the war raging in my head for as long as I can remember.

I'm smart, I know that. I'm confident in that. Until I start to doubt myself and think, well I'm not as smart as a lot of people I know so I must not be very smart after all. You all know how I've struggled with body image. And with second guessing my creative talents. Constantly. I will talk the talk of the confident, I'm pretty, I'm smart, I'm talented, but the voice in my head is using "tone" and has an incredulous look going while I say it. I imagine the voice in Nadine's head is purring at her in French that she is absolutely right when she says good things about herself. How do we all get that voice? Not the French purr (which is awesome) but just the agreement? How do we get the voice in our head to agree with the confident front? Or even to get the confident front going at all if it's not there?

Well, let's see, for me the things I do are, I try not to argue my way out of a compliment. This is a hard one for me. Because I'm going to let you in on a little secret, if you say too many nice things about me I don't believe you. You can tell me that the dress I'm wearing is cute and I will say thank you and believe that to be true, it is a cute dress. But if you tell me that I have a great smile as well I am going to start to wonder what you want. And if you follow it up with I have a nice laugh I will know you are full of shit. Now I will still say thank you and smile or I will agree and tell you that you're right I am awesome. But that's recent. I used to tell people that they were nice for trying to make me feel better but I know my smile is too big and swallows my face and my laugh carries over three states so it's not that great but thanks. So my next step in my own self confidence evolution is to take the compliment and believe it. Not just take it, which I do now. But fully embrace it. Hard to do. But I'm working on it.

The next thing I'm working on is to stop arguing myself out of my own compliment. I am a big fake it until you make it believer. You want a change to happen, you need to feel a certain way, then act like you already do. So a few years ago I started to make sure I was giving myself plenty of positive chatter. You look nice today, your hair is shiny, that short story was really good. I tell my friends how much I like the way they are and dig the things they do so I need to tell myself right? So now I just need to get that voice in my head to stop arguing back with the yeah buts...My hair is shiny, yeah but wow, it's getting really gray. You look nice today, yeah but it's still not great. That short story was really good, yeah but you're still not anywhere close to having something that's worthy of publishing.

And then the last thing that I'm working on is learning to disregard the negative more. Now I'm all for constructive criticism. If I've written a piece and I get feedback that someone either doesn't like the flow of the story (for fiction) or doesn't like my opinion (non-fiction) those are things for me to consider. To look at. To use and take to heart or, and this is the big one for me to learn, not to. You don't like the story the way I've written it, let me look and see if it needs fixed, but sometimes it's just not your cup of tea. And I write a variety of things so this might not have worked for you but that doesn't mean it's bad. Just not for you. And as far as non-fiction just because you say I am a certain way doesn't mean I am. Your impression of me is just that, yours. And I don't have to take your negative reaction to me, or your assessment of my personality on as my issue. Which I tend to do now.

Nadine talked about it in her status, that there are people that are pissed at the level of self esteem she has. And it's true, I've seen it. I've seen people react to her by calling her cocky or elitist or any number of what should be negative things that they were trying to make her feel badly about herself with. She doesn't take it on as her burden. Her reaction falls more like this; Elite? If that means she holds herself to a high standard and only accepts certain behaviors from others? Then yes, she is elite thank you very much. Cocky? No, not cocky, cocky is all swagger no substance, she's confident. There is a there there. So to speak.

So, yeah, Nadine had a head start on a lot of us. She's already there. She is herself fully and completely and confidently. But we can all get there too. Find someone who is like that and watch them, understand them, and then understand yourself. I'm never going to own a room when I walk in like Nadine does. My energy (though high at times) is a quieter one than hers. I'm never going to purr at people in French and make them go dreamy eyed even when what I'm saying might be as simple as "Pay attention to me and pass the salt!" I'm not Nadine and I don't want to be Nadine. But I do want to be the most Denise Denise I can be. And being around Nadine has helped me along that path. And for those of you that don't have Nadine in your lives right now hopefully she just helped you as well. I'm going to leave you with two more pictures. One is a group shot from the gang that we hung out with the first weekend I met Nadine face to face. Just because it makes me happy to see them all and to remember how very freaking happy we all were just to be with each other in the same room.

The second shot is just my favorite picture of Nadine ever. Her husband is taking the shot and it just sums up her personality, her feelings for the man behind the camera and just HER to me so well that I love it. 

And I love her. 

So take stock in your self-esteem and your self-confidence. What needs bolstered? And how are you going to do it?

Me? I'm working on it. Maybe I should learn French....

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Obsessive much?

I've been playing Candy Crush. Obsessively. Which, from what I've gathered, is the only way to play it. You either don't play at all or you obsess. And I've gone through the stages with it as well. First was the, "oh this is fun!" stage. Where the matches are easy, the boards clear quickly and always with 3 stars. Let's call this "the first taste is free" stage...

Then it got challenging. Now there are easier ways to play than I am. You can buy extra lives or buy power-ups or link to your Facebook account so people can send you things. I've chosen to do it all without extras. Partly because I know that I tend to obsess about games and could easily drop more cash than I really should (let's not talk about how much I spent on fake cheese to catch virtual mice a few years ago). And partly to limit the time playing. If I linked to Facebook people could send me lives and unlock new areas quicker and I would just play more. This way I'm limited. Lives only refresh every 30 minutes. So I can only play that much. Oh, and when I kibitz on Brent's game when he is playing.

Okay, so back to the stages of play. In the challenging stage when you clear a level you feel like you've done something! Ta da! I'm a pattern recognizing GENIUS! I am pretty sure I must be the smartest candy crusher in the world! You are in "pure candy"; until that level hits that breaks you...

The junkie level. You are past the "first taste is free" past the soaring highs of "pure candy" and now you have to, HAVE to beat this level. And so you play. And you play. And you play. You post about it on Facebook only to have people tell you that they are HUNDREDS of levels beyond where you are. HUNDREDS. So you play more thinking, well if they did it surely I can. And then you do beat it. And instead of the Ta Da! moment of "pure candy" you get...well...more of a meh. You've been broken.

Know how I know I'm broken? Because that level came almost 40 levels ago. And I'm still playing. I clear a level now and I get no thrill. No rush. And yet I still play. The voice in my head urging me on to play just to see how far I can go without the power-ups and help. All the while Candy Crush pushes updates and now there are over 400 levels! Four hundred?? What the hell? And each time I clear the three quests that lead me in to a new area (because I refuse to link to Facebook where I could just ask someone to unlock the next level for me) I am introduced to a new challenge. Chocolates that block moves and regenerate constantly. Which you would totally think a never ending supply of chocolate would be a good thing right? It's not. Super whipped cream blockers that need to be cleared 3-4 times depending on if there is jelly under them. Candy bombs that have to be cleared in a certain number of moves or you lose. And yet I keep playing because well... I am firmly in to "grudge match" play.

Which gives me pause.

I spend a few minutes here and there through my entire day playing this game. This game that the only satisfaction I am getting out of it is that it's not beating me. I'm slogging along playing. Making the matches. Clearing the levels. Playing the game. But not really enjoying it. Or am I? I mean I must be or I wouldn't do it right? And I do love pattern games. I always have. I love matching games, I own three different versions of Bejeweled for goodness sake. But what flash of joy am I getting now? And I'm not getting an answer.

So I'm stopping. Really. I am. I mean it. No more obsessing about clearing that one more level, even though everyone else made it so much farther than I did and if I could just get the first fall of candy to go right I would totally have this board cleared and be on to the next and I'm only two levels away from the next area and...

Nope, stopped.

And it's not just because I'm on Level 123 and know me and numbers.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Truth or dare...

She stood in the shower the hot water mixing with the tears streaming down her face.

"It will be like rain in OUR shower!"
"It's $70, why do we need a $70 shower head when we could get this one for $25?"
"Rain shower. Seriously, you will love it! And there is room enough for two under here...."

He had been right, there had been room for two. And it was a wonderful shower. Just like standing in a spring rainstorm. When was the last time they had shared the shower? Three weeks ago? A month? She tried to pull the memory up but couldn't. The tears kept falling.

"I want to tell you something, it's important."
"Shhh...not right now, okay? You're tired, just rest. You can tell me later."

She had always taken dare in games of Truth or Dare. Everyone had thought she was the wild one. Not afraid of anything. But that had been the lie. She was more afraid of truth than she was of any silly dare that might be given. When other girls would take truth and have to answer the most personal of questions she would get uncomfortable.  Her mother's voice would ring in her head, "They are called secrets for a reason. Private things should be kept private." And she would always take the dare.

"You know I love you right?"
"Of course I know that. You don't have to ask. I love you, you love me. Always, right? Now just rest."

Had he known at that point that she already knew? Was he trying to explain or was he trying to warn her what was coming? It didn't matter. She wished she could have taken the dare.

How long could she stay in the shower? As the water cooled she heard her father's voice in her head. "Ignoring a problem doesn't make the problem go away. It just makes it a bigger problem." Shutting off her private rainstorm she got out of the shower and dressed.

"You two were a perfect match. I am so sorry."
"Thank you, I appreciate that."

Had everyone known? Had anyone known? Sorry could mean so many things.

Opening the laptop (slammed shut, unsee, unsee, unsee), logging in to his email account (we don't have passwords, why would we? I just need to get Arnie's phone number from his contacts, it will take me 10 seconds) there were 15 new messages. On top of the 10 from before. Each one the subject line more frantic. Hey! progressing to Are you there? on to Call Me, I'm worried! On to the worst one, I love you. Please call.

She picked the last one and opened it. Not reading the message. Just hitting reply. I don't want Truth, I'll take the Dare.

What should she say? What was there to say?  Should she introduce herself? Make small talk? "we seem to have a lot in common..." She clamped her hand over her mouth to keep the hysterical giggle from taking over. Was it funny? Maybe. Probably not. She didn't know anymore as the giggle dissolved in to tears. Opening a search window she opened up a link from the newspaper and attached it to the email. I'll take the Dare...Sending.

Grastin, James F. Age 37

James passed away September the 3rd from injuries sustained in an automobile accident August the 31st. James is survived by his wife....

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mirror mirror...

Thinking a lot about mirrors right now. There is a short little fiction piece bopping around in my head and I think it's going to open with a woman looking in a mirror but instead of seeing herself as she is now looking back at her she sees herself from 15-20 years ago.Then that will lead to a flashback and that will tie to the current day and it will be awesome. Sort of. Maybe. If I can get it to work. Or even if I can't I will plug away and post it. Probably. Or maybe not.

So that's one mirror.

Then this morning I was reading a free form writing exercise by a friend and I loved it. LOVED IT. For a lot of reasons. First off because it was totally her. Her voice, her cadence, it was like sitting and talking to her and she is freaking hilarious so I was laughing out loud as I read it. Part of it was because she started the amen choir going in my head. She suffers some of the same doubts that I do. Am I a writer if all I write are little pieces? What if what I have are a lot of partway finished things and some super great ideas but nothing published, by a "real" publisher. Meaning one who sends me money. And does that matter? See, I can read her piece and say, "Are you kidding me? You are super talented. Everything you've written that I've read has been outstanding. Visceral writing. Moving stuff. Funny. Dark. Wonderful. OF COURSE you are a writer. Damn it girl, you make art!" But I can't always look in the mirror and say the same thing about myself.

Case in point. This weekend we were at lunch with friends and were talking about putting yourself out there for a crowd to judge. The real you, your art, your personality, the whole shebang. I said no way. The reaction? "You do it all the time with your writing!" Oh..well...that. But that's just my blog. It's not like it's real art. And the fact that I didn't even stop for a second to consider that this is my art. Even though I've said it over and over, I make things. I make whole worlds. I also make things with the non-fiction stuff. It might be waves, or boredom, or wonderment at how self-involved one person can be, but dammit I made that! But even when I say it I don't always believe it. (also as an aside, it always tickles me when I find out someone is reading my blog that I didn't know reads it so Hi! to everyone out there reading in stealth mode!)

So anyway...that's another mirror.

Mirrors in stories and mirrors in life.

What are you seeing reflecting back at you right now? Is it your kids doing something that you do? Good or bad, is that your mirror today? Is it the advice you give to a friend that you really need to be giving to yourself? And what are you going to do with it?

And then my last mirror. One of my stay happy tips. Did you know that a smile is a mirroring expression? It's one that when you see it you mirror it back on a subconscious level. And not only that but by smiling you can actually trigger happiness? The ultimate fake it until you make it. Smile to feel like smiling. So one of the things I try to do is always smile at myself when I look in a mirror. Last thing after I get my makeup on, a smile. When I'm trying on clothes at the store, a smile (this one is not always easy). If I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror at almost any point in time I try to smile. I figure that if I saw a friend on the street I would greet them with a smile so don't I deserve the same thing? Give it a try. If nothing else you will smile at yourself for being a big enough dork to smile at yourself in the mirror.

Now back to that story bouncing around in my head...Is it a bathroom mirror or one of those closet doors that are all mirrored? Hmmm......

Friday, September 6, 2013

Old Story, New Attitude...

Okay, after a few dreary blogs I figured it was time to get back on to my favorite subject, choosing happiness. One of the themes you see repeated over and over when people talk about choosing to be happy is gratitude. Finding the things in your life you are grateful for daily, yes, every day. All of them. Sometimes that's a little harder to do than others. But it really does help you keep your head in the happiness game.

Now, I'm not super formal about it, I don't keep a gratitude journal by my bed to write down three things I'm grateful for today or a gratitude jar to drop notes in and read when I'm not feeling it (both really good ideas, by the way, just not my style). I am an on the fly person. I see something and send a little Thanks out to the Universe. If you are a religious person a little Thank You prayer would be the same thing. Just taking the time to pause and appreciate what you are feeling or seeing or experiencing.  I know, I know if you aren't in the habit it sounds corny and forced. And honestly when you first start doing it, it can be a little forced. You are training your brain to see the world differently.

Some days are easy, today for instance.
I'm grateful for the nice night's sleep I got after three nights in a row with thunder it was great to have a quiet night.

I'm grateful that I live in a state where someone else pumps my gas so I didn't have to get out of the car in the pouring rain and take care of it.

I'm grateful that George holds still and relaxed when I trim his nails.

I'm grateful that C calls home on Fridays and even more grateful that we can talk for an hour and enjoy the conversation.

I'm grateful that I was able to see a friend who has struggled with addiction get a dream job because he fought for his sobriety and is winning that battle.

And that was all before noon. Like I said today was easy.

Yesterday? Not so much. Let's see after the third night in a row being woken up by thunder (see today's top gratitude item) I had reached the absolute end of my rope. That point where no matter what happens it just seems like too much to handle. Then the top popped off the coffee cup and I dumped a hot latte on my hand and arm and car seat and floor. It took three times for the girl in the window to understand that I didn't need a napkin or even two napkins but a STACK of napkins. And then there was holding it together while it all happened only to burst in to tears when I was telling Brent about it. I hate crying about things like that. It makes me feel silly. But I was exhausted and my hand hurt and I was exhausted and....did I mention exhausted? I can't really tell you what I did for the most part yesterday as it was spent in a funk. I knew I wasn't fit for human company so I kept to myself mostly.

Then when I was driving to pick up Brent and the clouds opened up and the rain dumped down I looked over to the car next to me at the light. His window was down. As he threw a trash bag over his shoulder I realized that his window was down because it won't roll up. I've had that car. The one where the windows won't always roll up or down when you need them to. The one that dies on the on ramp to the highway or the left turn lane of the busiest road in town. I didn't ever worry about my car in high school being stolen because not only would no one want poor Vinnie, if you didn't know how to work the manual choke you would never have been able to start him. I've been there. And I'm not any more. As I sat in my dry car and the guy with the garbage bag gave me the "what are you going to do?" shrug and smile I smiled back and thought, "Thank you." And then just because it was a good reminder I tossed out a thank you for the fact that Brent had let me cry without trying to "fix me" and let me ignore the fact that I was crying until I could get it back under control. Some days are harder but there is always something to be grateful for.

So as I was cleaning house this morning and thinking about this blog a memory popped in to my head. It's an old one and for awhile I wondered why I was thinking about it. Then I realized that sometimes you need a little gratitude for your past as well.

When Brent and I were first married he was going to school and I was working. Now school in the Navy is an all day affair and then there are watches and normal Navy type things as well added in there. Long hours. High grades expected. Stressful times. And we were discovering what it was going to be like being married. Which is a whole other ball of wax. And (as I've mentioned before) I was a piece of work. One of the things that we differ on is that he is a social introvert and I am not. Social introvert seems like an oxymoron doesn't it? But it's not, not really. He doesn't like large gatherings of strangers but going out with friends? He's cool with it. And we did it a lot. See his day was filled with classes and studying and other solitary type events. Mine was retail sales, talking to strangers and co-workers and smiling and being friendly to everyone. So for me what I really wanted to do on the weekend was nothing. And what he wanted to do was hang out with our friends and blow off steam. And since our friends wanted to hang out as well that's pretty much what we did.

Now, that sounds like Brent was forcing me to go out when I didn't want to and that's not right. We went out because that's what you did. We had friends who were social creatures and planned something every weekend so we did it. I hadn't even fully realized just yet that I needed the down time and the time away from people to feel my best. That came later. But what would happen is every once in awhile I would dig my heels in and just not want to go out. No reason, I wasn't sick, I wasn't pissed, I just wanted to stay home. One of these nights happened and Brent asked if I wanted him to stay as well. Now I did, but I didn't want to tell him to stay home I wanted him to want to stay home without me telling him so instead I told him to go, it was fine.

Look, I was 18, I hadn't yet figured out that Brent wasn't psychic and if I wanted something from him I was going to have to actually use my words to get my point across... I'm not proud of it and I've said over and over that he deserves a fucking medal for what I put him through those first few years...anyway...

So he went. Even though he already knew by that point that fine really didn't mean fine and that there was probably going to be an argument about going when he came back. A few hours later he came home and told me I needed to come with him back to our friend's place. I told him I didn't have any urge to go, hadn't we already covered this? And he said that one of our friends had had a lot to drink and he was concerned about her but didn't know what to do. So he came to get me. Fine...I'll go with you. I was pissed at this point. Not only did I not want to go in the first place now I was going and stone cold sober I was going to have to deal with a houseful of drunks.

We got there and...well....It was bad.  Two of our friends who were dating had both had too much to drink and after Brent had left they had gone to her room to spend some quality time together. When we got there she was on the floor of the bedroom on her back with vomit all over her face. While they had been fooling around she had passed out as I turned her on her side she started to vomit more. I'm a sympathy puker normally and I cannot believe I didn't add my own to mix as the story unfolded around me. See, she wasn't actually vomiting more at that point, the original vomit wasn't hers, it was his. I completely lost my shit. I yelled at all of them. How could they be so stupid as to let this happen? Why had they had so much to drink? Who the hell leaves someone on their BACK with puke in their face? What the fuck was wrong with them? I got her cleaned up and woken up enough to vomit up the rest of  her stomach. We probably all should have gone to the emergency room at that point but being underage and in the military (which he was) that's not a good idea.

Brent and I stayed for a few more hours getting everything cleaned up and people sobered up enough that I wasn't worried about people dying in their sleep and then we went home. Where I tried to get a few hours of sleep before opening shift the next day.

So why did this pop in to my head while I was thinking of gratitude? Because I have some delayed gratitude to share for this whole thing.

I'm grateful that Brent chose not to drink that night so he could drive and because he was sober he could tell something wasn't right.

I'm grateful that even though he knew I would be pissed as all get out he thought to come get me.

I'm grateful that I hadn't gone to the party that night. See it was my turn to drink (Brent and I have always taken turns so one of us could drive) and if I hadn't been sober I might not have been able to react like I did.

I'm grateful that nobody died. This is an obvious one, but looking back on that night for years I was always a little in shock at how badly it could have gone.

And I'm grateful that I had the good graces to tell Brent thank you  at the time. I believe it came out, "Thank you for not being a piece of shit and vomiting on me ever." But I think he understood what I meant.

So my point is that gratitude is there. Even in the worst of situations there is something be grateful for. Sometimes it's as simple as Thank you that I can roll of up my window. And sometimes it's as big as Thank you that nobody died.

And it's never too late to say it. Thank you.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Burn, Baby, Burn...

Today is the burning of Zozobra, it's also Rosh Hashanah.

Zozobra, for those of you that don't know, is Old Man Gloom. He's a giant, and I do mean GIANT paper man that is burned the first week of September in Santa Fe. It symbolizes letting go of the past year's gloom and bad luck and moving forward. Cleansing by fire. You can write your gloom down, basically a FML note and burn it along with Zozobra. When I was a kid the burning of Zozobra was slightly terrifying. He's giant, I'm not kidding, and kind of scary looking all on his own, then he burns. But I liked the thought behind it, the burning of your bad luck, your gloom, and then moving forward.

As I got older the fiesta got bigger and people like to drink at their giant puppet bonfires so it got to be a little more dangerous on the roads back to Albuquerque so we stopped going. I guess from what friends back home have said, it's a pretty rowdy affair now, people confusing burning Old Man Gloom with Burning Man I guess...  But I still like the idea of it. I still like a time to just say, this is the stuff that sucked last year, now get rid of it!

And like I said, it's also Rosh Hashanah today so it actually is the start of a new year to boot! After my dream of having to defend my past year I think I am ready for a new one.

How about you? Are you ready to burn the past gloom off, eat some apples dipped in honey, and move forward with a better year?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

These kids today...

"Kids aren't scared of anything anymore. My grandson is learning about the planets and he has no fear at all. None. He told me about the ice and the gasses and the distance from the sun and the time it takes for a day to pass. I asked him about Martians and Neptunians and he just looked at me. 'Grandpa, there aren't such things.' I asked him how did he know? What were the odds that there are 9 planets in our solar system and not another single one has life on it? Doesn't it make more sense that they are out there...waiting...watching.

He rolled his eyes at me and said, 'Actually there are only 8. Pluto isn't a planet.' And then I told him, well doesn't that scare you then? That at some point some one in a lab coat on some other planet could just decide that Earth no longer makes the planetary cut and we are deemed just a hunk of rock? What then?

He just shook his head, 'It doesn't work that way, Grandpa.'

So then I asked about life outside of our solar system. Didn't that scare him. He just shrugged his shoulders and said he hadn't really thought much about it. Hadn't thought much about it! What are they teaching these kids in school today? Why hadn't he thought about it? I told my daughter I wanted to talk to his science teacher and see what sort of explanation I could get. She just gave me that smile, you know the one? The one I used to give her when she was 6 and I just wanted her to be quiet for 10 minutes? I hate when she gives me that smile.

When we went to the beach this summer I tried to get him to talk about the possibilities of sea monsters and mermaids. He told me that 'most likely sailors mistook manatees for mermaids in a dehydrated delirium. And that the sea monsters were probably just the backs of whales breaching but since they hadn't seen such large animals before they imagined the worst.' I asked him about the Loch Ness monster! What was his explanation for good old Nessy? He didn't have one. But he wasn't about to believe in an ancient sea serpent based on a blurry photograph.

I asked him about magic and wizards and that boy he used to talk about all the time, that Potter kid. He told me, 'those are just books, Grandpa, they weren't real.' Ah ha! Now I had him, I told him to explain to me how they weren't real. So he did, he told me about how someone wrote the stories, they made them up. I said, like your history books right? Someone wrote those as well. He said, 'But those are real, Grandpa, that's history.' I asked him what he would do if I could show him two different history books talking about the same piece of history that had totally different stories. He told me, 'Well, of course, it depends on which side of a battle you are on if you view it one way or another, but that doesn't make it less real. It's all just point of view.' So then I told him so your point of view is that there are no monsters, no aliens, no magic? And my point of view is that there are?

Aha, then you could see the wheels turning, he was looking for the trap. He was sure he was right and I was wrong but what if I had something up my sleeve? What if I could prove to him that what I believed was real?

So then I walked out of the room with a wink and smile for the boy. These kids today with their logic and their reasoning and their 'pics or it didn't happen', what they need is a bigger dose of what if?"

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

In Defense of...

Too many TV shows about serial killers. Too many books about the post apocalyptic world. Too many nights in a row with interrupted sleep. Late in the season of one of the worst casts of Big Brother ever. Giant storm. These are the things I am pinning last night's weird dream and middle of the night mind zoom on.

What would you do if you had to defend your life every year? If you had to stand in front of a judge, who by the way had video tape evidence, and take the blame or credit for all of your actions? And if you didn't pass, if you couldn't justify your existence then you stopped. Stopped existing. Someone else got your shot.

The dream was very much like the movie Defending Your Life, but instead of an afterlife courtroom where you had to show you were courageous in your time on Earth, it was a yearly review where you had to show that you were worthy of the resources you are taking up.

Now we all know I am prone to more than my fair share of navel gazing. But this dream was even beyond for me. Can you imagine having to justify yourself every year? Not just what you did but that you did enough to keep going. And years go by quickly. I'm looking at September right now and my list of "Things to Do This Summer" got tossed out because I realized that I wasn't To Doing any of them and had no urge to start! (not entirely fair, some of the things got done, some got shifted as the debate on To Move or Not to Move was re-opened). I have things that I talked about at Christmastime that I wanted to start that I haven't done anything towards doing. Hell, I have things I have talked about for years, literally years, that I haven't done anything towards. And it blows my mind each time how fast the time goes by and I still haven't done them.

We all also know that the past few years I have been adrift. I don't have to work right now. Brent makes enough that we are fine. Yes, extra money is always good but we are at that tipping point where taking a job could hurt as much as help. Taxes, extra car and all of those related expenses, grown up wardrobe, convenience items. All of that stuff that you add up to see if the money really ends up being extra or not. As Brent put it last spring, "If you go to work again you just need to make sure it's a cash neutral position at the worst." But the bigger issue is I have no idea what I would want to do if I did go back to work.

The smaller part time jobs that are out there I've done before. I've done fast food, slow food, retail. Shopping this weekend I saw Macy's was hiring and I thought about it. A discount on clothes, hmm...not bad at all. But what are the odds that they will take me on when I say I only want to work during the day during the week. And honestly Christmas in retail is one of the circles of hell, do I want to do that again? I also clawed my way off the sales floor and in to the back office when I was doing retail. How would it feel to go back and do it again? How about food? The person in front of me in line who doesn't know that a Venti isn't a medium and wants to have a lengthy discussion about caramel drizzle drives me nuts, can I make the brain shift to helping them instead of being bothered by them? Didn't I view retail as the escape hatch from food services?

I don't want to do advertising anymore, and honestly I've been out of it for so long that I would have a hard time getting hired again anyway. But my second go round showed me that it wasn't just the agency but the whole job I was really over. Why would I want to go back? Bookkeeping is the same way. It's easy for me. It's something I can do without breaking a sweat. Handling someone's a/r and a/p accounts. But do I want to? And since I am in a position where I don't have to....

And that brings me back to the dream last night. I was sitting at my desk waiting for the judge to come in reviewing past years' files. The years I was growing up were all stamped with "POTENTIAL" and passed. The years I was home raising C were very thin, not a lot of back up documents, just a few pictures of me and the baby, stamped with "IMPORTANT" and passed. The years following that were thicker, but basically the same sorts of things. I was raising C. I was working to keep the family solvent. Almost automatic passes, from what I would see. Then the files got thicker. More pro and con statements mistakes highlighted with notes for corrective actions, but still passed. And as I sat there with my current year in front of me the best I could come up with for my defense was "I didn't mess it up." Yep, basically all I could come up with for the defense of my year was I could have done worse. Then the thunder boomed and the storm woke me up. Thank goodness, because I'm not sure that dream was going to end well!

But of course as the storm kicked in to high gear and there was no real going back to sleep I started thinking, how would I defend my year? What would I say made what I was doing worth justifying? I'm still a good mom, but what C needs from his dad and me now isn't really a lot. We did our jobs. At this point we are advisers and a hotel. The framework is all there and now he's building his own house. So I can't really say, well my last year was worth it because I was a good mom.

How about good wife? Good homemaker? Brent and I have this discussion probably more than he cares to. I keep the house running so he doesn't have to worry about it and he views that as a worthwhile use of my time. But I view it as something I did when I worked as well. Yes, he was expected to pitch in more when we were both working but at the times he was working more hours I did more house stuff. In Colorado we both worked but he worked insane hours and went to school while I worked limited hours. So the house was mine. I've done both. And is it fair that the entire financial burden of our family rests on his shoulders? And does that matter? Would he work less if I worked more? Knowing his personality I can't say that he would. So would it just be that both of us working would not really be a good thing? Because what would we be working for at that point? Less time together but at least we have more money in the bank. Does that even make sense?

So maybe I just need to do more around the house. Instead of keeping it clean(ish) and keeping us fed (restaurants totally count), maybe if the house is Aunt Jeanie clean and the meals are scratch masterpieces I would feel like I was DOING something. Or I wouldn't.  Haven't we been here before? I want to cook more...I just hate to plan meals. So what would make this different? I'm sure that was in my file in the dream. Probably a faded xerox copy they just kept pulling and putting in the new year file. "Cook More, Write More, Find Life's Purpose"

It's odd for me. I watch friends send their kids off to college and I see a lot of moms go through the panic of Now what?? They have spent their lives defining themselves by being "The Mom." So now that the kids are gone what are they? I don't have that problem because I didn't define myself by being "The Mom" or by being "The Wife".  But I don't have any definition at all. I am me. I do a little of this, I do a little of that. But is it enough? If I had to justify myself would it be enough? I've always faced the Now what?? Just the past few years I haven't had an answer.

Now here is where the depressing blog takes a little bit of a turn. Maybe it's not up to me to decide if it's enough. Maybe that was really the point of the dream. The judge position. I was waiting for the judge to come in. Who was it? My early files were all marked with POTENTIAL and passed.  Who stressed my potential so much that it is as much part of me as my name? My parents. The files where I was a stay at home mom were marked IMPORTANT who judged that? Brent and I did. We both felt that since we could afford it when he was a baby it was IMPORTANT to do it. And so I did. The thicker files from working and raising C and being the wife and the rest, those were fuller because it was harder during those years. We struggled with finances, with parental patience, with having enough hours in the day to get it all done but it was all worth it. Who is the judge on if I did a good job during those years keeping it all together? Well I would say that it's C and Brent. And since C seems to be doing fine and Brent is still sticking around voluntarily I'm taking that as a good sign.

So if I had stayed asleep longer who would have been the judge? Would it have been C? Or my mother? Or Brent? Or would it have been me? And what would the questions have been? What is the measure that I should be taking to see if I can justify myself?

And do we really need to justify ourselves at all?

Or do I just need to get some more sleep?