sadness

Good Grief

If I had superpowers at my disposal one would the uncanny ability to remove soapscum from a bathtub at will.

Being a human capable of flight sans an airplane is a superpower I’d love to have.    And never finding onseself in a situation of saying or doing something that would end in regret would be another.

I’m about to quote someone who once heard  Dr. Phil ( I’m not a fan) quote Will Rogers,  “Never miss an opportunity to shut up”, or something like that.    Knowing when to completely self-edit is something I’m keen on trying.

But apparently now isn’t the time to start self-help endeavors.    Lately, I’ve been so incredibly angry.   Hotel reservationsists, and several poor saps at a call center in Mumbai have experienced it firsthand.

And it’s not so much anger as it full on rage.

I’m mourning the loss of a friend and the better part of a ten year relationship that ended in his taking the perpetual dirt nap.   This happened just over two months ago and I’m only now addressing the residual effects of those left behind.  Ours was a complex duet that most most people didn’t understand.    He was an asshole, a crook, a dick.    People freely  called him names without knowing him.  And maybe he wasn’t a shining example of humanity.   I’ve always said I can’t beatify the dead simply for dying,   Still,  he meant something to me.   Even so, I should have defended him more.    But I couldn’t.   I guess after a while, I either weenied out or got tired of the fight because it was easier to allow  people think as they wanted.   I was outnumbered.   I had to dismiss him when he was alive and remain as dismisive in his death.    Now, instead of calling him names, they say nothing at all.    This means  I’ve been doing a lot of mourning all by myself, partly on purpose, partly because his death like his life, remains awkward for people.    Hell, any grieving person is awkward for anyone to deal I don’t care how much empathy or sympathy you think you have.   You can feel shock and be apologetic during the funeral and wake, but afterwards, you get to go to back home to life as you know it.    You’re barely on the periphery.

That sounds like such a luxurious place to be….on the outside and only infrequently looking in.

There are supposedly five stages of grief, first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying.   They are the denial and isolation combo, anger,  bargaining, depression and  ultimately,  acceptance.    I understand there are caveats to all of these.  Aits different across the board.  One grief stricken person won’t necesssarily go through the stages precisely as Ross determined them, others will,  some won’t experience any of them.  Others might go through a few of them.

I understand isolation and anger, as little Habib who instists for English speakers, his name is Greg Jones, can surely attempt.  But I consider myself too rational to bargain.     There are no ‘what ifs’ in life, much less in death.   Depression?    Hardly anything new.  Denial?    I’m too much of a realist and acceptance was /is something I’ve always found easy.   Acceptance of all things is immediate with me.   Once I knew my friend was dead, I acceped it.      I didn’t like it, I felt it happened too quickly, so suddenly,  too out of the blue, yet I accepted it.   Like Automatic reflex.

But the anger!!!

I’ve been doing dome thinking and Ive realized there  are subtexts to anger and isolation Ross never considered.

1–The pajamas phase.  It’s very important that we exeperience a denial in terms of personal hygiene.    This means a complete lack of desire to bathe or shower and  a full on need to be consistent in our filth.   Such as wearing sweat pants, pajamas, the same robe or caftan for days and days and days.

Usually there’s weight loss or significant  weight gain during this time.   And if we eat at all, the majority of food becomes part of the daily uniform.    We wear our food.   And the kind of food also matters.    Grocery shopping is out of the question so, we either have food delivered or if that’s not an option,  the minimal amount of effort is using the drive throigh, but if that’s not possible, we eat whatever we can find in the fridge, And this can lead to some very weird  combinations.    For example:  Peanut butter and mint jelly on stale potato chips.

2.   Isolation:    Mourning  is personal .   In the beginning,  well-meaning friends and family call and try to visit and we tell them, no, no, we’re fine, all is well.   We tell them not to come by and we refuse to answer the door if they stop by.   Then, they eventually  stop dropping by, they stop calling as much or completely, which can be a double edged sword.   We want to be left alone,  but we still appreciate the effort.    Wether we admit or not, the concern makes us feel relevant, a little less alone.   But grieving really is an extremely personal process, even with four people living in your house, it can still be a very lonely process.     It makes us uncomfortable and skiddish, even for those who’ve walked in your shoes, even those who know then mourning game first-hand.    The reality of loss is very inconvenient and even more inconsiderate.   It plays by its own rules and often strikes at our core at 3:15 on a rainy Sunday morning, seven months after the funeral.  Sometimes three years later.     Sometimes longer.

3.   We become mini-hoarders.    We endure this isolation and anger sub-phase by becoming quite messy.   There is no order in grief– why should there have any in the life of a gerievinf person.     Our environmental hygiene suffers, too.  Dishes are piled high in the sink.   Bottles, cans everywhere.    Empty food bags and wrappers.     Junk mail is everywhere, mixed in with bills that have gone unpaid.    Days old pizza still in the box on the couch.   Shoes  everywhere.     The ever-growing pile of Mt. Laundry is in the corner of the room with new foothills that can be found throughout the house.

These brief  dalliances with hoarding behavior comes as no surprise.  Hoarding is a direct response to loss.   I don’t necessarily get how or why one feels compelled to cling to an outdated page of Burger King coupons,  but I understand that’s part of the hoarding process.     And hoarding is the result of how a mentally ill person deals with loss.

3.  Emergence.    The darkness in grief can be stunning.  It can take a month or three, but newfound singles who earned that title through the death of a mate or divorce (loss is loss, my friends)  will eventually come around.    Most of us have to.   We have to work.   You have to be wealthy to be have degenerative grief, the all consuming kind that seemingly lasts forever.    When opportunistic  mental illness comes to visit and stays resulting in the way you can only traverse  your home through the tunnels of junk you’ve created then yes, you’re smack dab in the middle of a crisis.    You might not realize there’s problem until  a few TLC producers, a camera crew and a HAZMAT  team knocks on your door.    While those sad cases we see on the TV show, Hoarders: Buried Alive  are the exception rather than the rule, most of us (if we even get to the messy phase) rarely stay there.   We arrive at a point where our reactions to death start to wear  thin.  Basically, boredom can set in.   Monotony.    This is healthy forward progression.  It doesn’t mean we no longer love our dearly departed, or that their death has become any less significant.    It simply becomes a matter of moving on.

It pains me to quote Dr. Phil a second time (I’ve actually gotten more psychological assistance  from watching reruns of Frasier) but he often asks people, “What are you getting out of this?”   Or worse, “How’s that working out for you?”

Shudder, but there is truth in the queries.

Living life in a perpetual state of mourning means you’re not living.   Change is tough, You can’t eat your way through this….or sleep through it.  Stockpiling garbage isn’t a healthy response.  There’s not enough Scotch or Vodka in the world, not a Xanax big enough.   There aren’t  enough carbs to eat your feelings and by contrast, refusing to eat won’t work either.  When your life stops working for you for whatever reason, it’s time to make a change. Yes, you’re heartbroken.   The death of a mate or spouse or a relationship of any kind, even the loss of a job, means the end of an ideal.  It means the death of plans, hopes and dreams and these things are horrendously painful.    So yes, Loss hurts.   Break ups, divorce…terminations of all kinds.    The death after a loved who one lingered  with an illness, a suicide, a sudden massive coronary or aneurism, are all very painful.   After a point, the process by which one arrives at death doesn’t matter; the end result is the same.  So called prep time doesn’t matter.

But if the sadness is overwhelming and not subsiding,  if guilt has beome an unwelcome roommate who won’t leave, if your grief has literally taken over your life, then please seek help.   And if you keep glancing over at that bottle of pills and that quart of whiskey, please, PLEASE  seek help.     Death + death only = more heartache.   It’s the simplest example of negative math.  And if by some chance you are thinking of taking your own life, well depending on your faith, you won’t end up in the same place as your dead wife,  so why bother?

So, rid yourself of ‘end it all thoughts’.    Embrace your curiosity about life and maintain your healthy fear of death.    Be brave enough to dare yourself to wake up tomorrow just to see what the day brings.   Until then, go with your pain….cry, or not,  get angry, feel free to wear sweats containing a poly blend AND  the four basic  food groups for a week.   There’s no rule book.   No game plan.    Just understand that you have ultimate control over all of your feelings.   Please look  for that eventual break in the clouds.    Even tarnished silver linings are better than none at all.

So, wail, cry, shriek.    Punch a wall….I won’t judge.    Just do your best, even in the midst of it all, to understand why your heart aches.    Be very clear and honest within your pain. Death is the ultimate ending.   It’s life’s final play of the game and when it happens to someone  you know and love, it becomes your new reality.  This death is now a part of your life,  a fact that mercifully becomes something  you’re just going to have to live with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Yacht Rock”

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That’s what this online rock satire series was called and to be honest, I never quite understood the title–as it applied to the subject matter in this series— because to me,  the term “yacht rock”,  means something entirely different.   But that topic will be discussed a little later on in this post.

Yacht Rock, the series,  followed the fictionalized lives and careers of soft rock stars from the late 70’s and  early 80’s.   Comedy writers, JD Ryznar and Hunter Stair concocted the idea for the series after noticing the rather “incestuous” careers which many artists from this period seemed to be  heavily involved.   To them, the principle offenders were Steely Dan, Toto and The Doobie Brothers and long with Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins.     For example: McDonald co-wrote Loggins’ “This Is It” and Loggins co-wrote McDonald’s band The Doobie Brothers’ , “What a Fool Believes”.   Loggins also sang backing vocals for several other ‘yacht rock’ artists, including Steely Dan and  Mr. Mellow himself, Christopher Cross. 

See what they mean???   Incestuous.

Yacht Rock’s episodes were “hosted” by “Hollywood” Steve Huey, a legitimate music critic for Allmusic. It should be noted that the term “Yacht Rock” is never used throughout the series by any characters except for by Huey during his introductions; instead, it is always referred to as “Smooth Music”.

Ryznar admits to having a fascination with the music of the period. Ryznar explains, “Getting into Steely Dan really started this for me. As did the ability to buy dollar records  and put them on tapes for my car”.   Ryzner admitted that he blatantly made fun of these artists and their songwriting process, but the music was generally treated with love and respect.

This is episode one of Yacht Rock.

It premiered in 2006 on the on-line entity Channel 101.  It’s popularity ebbed and flowed, but it never really caught on from a mainstream perspective, although I personally I’ve always liked its “produced poorly on purpose” quality.  

As for “Yacht Rock”,  it’s a very real musical term, albeit not a very well-known one.  It classified that genre of popular soft rock that peaked between 1975 and 1984.  Many of the artists named earlier in this post were the some of the best known  “yacht rockers”.   They created that highly polished brand of soft rock, with scads of orchestration and strings.  It’s the kind of music that the stereotypical Yuppie yacht owner–all decked out in white–would enjoy while out in the bay for a cruise around the bay.

And it’s true, when you think about it.   These are those incredibly well produced, extremely stylized songs that make you envision that rich, Yuppie couple, with a Red Stripe or a  Baccarat double old-fashioned glass containing some Macallan (neat) in hand, sitting on the deck of their fabulous yacht listening to this soft easy music and feeling the sun, the surf and the wind on their surgically kept faces.

They take sips of their drinks and feel the wealth of their success internally and externally–while this song is played over the boat’s stereo system which includes JBL speakers that cost nearly $70,000 per pair;  four 18-inch Velodyne subwoofers ($52,000), five Krell power amplifiers ($163,000) and a Mark Levinson pre-amplifier ($54,500). Then, of course, there’s the eye and ear catching Clearaudio Statement Turntable, which adds another $137 thousand dollars to the overall cost of this expensive system.  

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They’re that couple that always looks pristine even when they claim to be filthy.  They always look neat, crisp and well-kept as if they live in a dry cleaning shop. Teh men are tidy; the women wear little to no make up.  Their jewelry is gorgeous, bit understated –it wreaks of quality and snotty jewelry store Sales Associates dressed in ascots.  These rich people wear lovely designer clothing that hugs taut size 4 female bodies (even after childbirth, thank you)  and men with 31-inch waistlines.

Their casual elegance has always intrigued me.  They’re “thrown together” so stylishly.  Great hair; great skin.  They’re the people who make you feel dirty when you stand beside them, even though you just showered with Pine Sol, a high pressure washer and a bar of Lava. 

They wear white linen a lot.  Suits or pants.  And they wear it well.  Like James Spader’s character of the rich, stuck up Steff..one of “the Richies” from the movie, “Pretty In Pink”.    Spader to this day still has that haughty air about him and in real life, he’s probably nothing like that character, but he played “rich asshole” so well. 

These people are,  in many ways, the quintessence of that old saying,”to the manor born” and I do think that having money or access to it, affords you this kind of smooth, unencumbered way of life.

That’s not to say that every drive way leading up to every mansion isn’t occasionally pitted and bumpy, but at least  if you’re wealthy and that happens, you have the resources to make all the repairs you need without it compromising some other vital area of your life.   In other words, they can pay a contractor to fix their drive way and  be able to pay their entire electric bill…AND still have a few bucks left over.   

And this is, one might think, one of the songs the comfortably wealthy listen to as they’re hired contractors make those repairs.

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They sip wine in their tastefully appointed monochromatic living rooms and read  Wayne Dyer books and thumb through last month’s Town & Country’s weddings section, to see if Buffy and Thad’s nuptials are in this edition, while listening to this.

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They’re in their kitchens deciding what to prepare for dinner–will it be sushi or a little fondue???–while listening to this.

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And when they’re REALLY feeling like partying, this is their background music.

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Oh hell, I don’t know.  

I’m just assuming what the über rich listen to.  It could be Porter Wagner or accordionist, Myron Floren’s greatest hits for all I know, but music hath the ability hearken many things–from what we imagine the rich listen to in private;  to what life was like when we were kids .to the idyllic portrait of a perceived future we have the ability to paint with brushes dipped in perfection.   It is by far the best conjurer–and surpasses every spell or act of magic on the planet, real or imagined.   No sorcerer can do what music can.  For me, it is emotional alchemy.

All of us can hear a song and be automatically whisked back to a specific time and place and the song that was playing as life unfolded at that moment, becomes indelibly engrained in the soundtrack of your life.  And try as you might, you simply cannot and will never unlearn what that song has come to represent. 

It’s that song.   We all have one.

And when I hear mine,  I instantaneously remember that day–how the freshly mowed grass smelled as He and I sat on the front porch; how the bricks felt cool underfoot, even on that hot summer afternoon. I can remember how the late August  sun felt on my face before it hid behind a cloud; the hissing sound the lawn sprinkler made as it tried to quench the thirst of insatiable South Texas carpet grass. 

I can remember how different that afternoon felt; how the usual joy and contentment We shared seemed to be replaced by this wretchedly uncomfortable awkwardness…. 

….and I remember how devastated I felt when I heard Him utter those words, “I’m sorry, but I’ve met someone else.” .

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The Agony. I Need A Hit Of Ecstasy.

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Congratulate me.

I have now officially been unemployed for one year;   365 of the longest days I’ve ever endured.   They have been infernally long;  Asimovian almost.   I look back and question my existence.  I’m not sure how I’ve survived.  

And I do believe I’m worse for the wear.

I looked in the mirror early this morning.   I know I’ve aged ten years in the one that has just transpired.   And as my face hurdles toward Bea Arthur’s (in the days before her death), I panic.   Job wise, it’s slim pickins out there.   I just might have to move or worse, change careers.    

When it comes to work, I’m almost like an ambitious Communist hell bent on attaining Capitalism. I like to work..I NEED to work.  It actually makes me free and gives me a reason to be. 

 I work, therefore I am, perhaps.

If I don’t work, then I’m nothing?  

Oh no, I exist.  I stubbbed my toe against the dresser on my way to get depressed  by looking into  my make-up mirror and it certainly hurt enough to warrant full-on existence,  so that’s not the case.

What am I then?  

I am a statistic;  one of several million well meaning people out of work, out of money and as God as my witness, slowly going out of our minds with worry.    

Being unemployed in this day and age is horrible.   Filling out application after application is soul crushing.   And then, there’s the silence.   The phone doesn’t ring; Mr. Big Voice on AOL never announces you’ve got mail and if you do it’s either junk…..or worse. 

Last week, I actually got a rejection email from a company to which I never applied.

Two weeks ago, I received a letter from a large, multi-national corporation doing one of those childish thumbs in ears things and chanting ‘Nyah!  Nyah!  Nyah!    Don’t even bother applying.  We wouldn’t hire YOU anyway!!”

What to do?   What to do.

That convent my parents always threatened to send me to during my days as a young, care-free Libertine is sounding pretty good these days.  

The only problem is that I haven’t been to Mass in decades and it’s been even longer since I’ve practiced Catholicism to any real degree.   I’m COMPLETELY out of touch.

Gee, do burkas come in a size 10??           nun-big

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Christmas: I Know How This Day Ends

broken-ball.jpg

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The last present is unwrapped.

The food is put away and the dishes are done.

The last guest is gone.

Was it a good Christmas?

You ask yourself the rhetorical question.  Suddenly, save for one television set in a another room, quiet permeates the house. You can actually feel the energy as it wanes. It’s like the last swirls of water down the drain. The sink is still wet and that’s all the proof you had that water was once there.

You know that feeling.  The house is vacant, but there is residual energy. Proof that people were once there.

As each second passes, the energy fades. It’s all in the timing and today the timing was perfect, as was the holiday.

You are tired. And with good reason.

You were quite accomplished in your hostess duties this year. You graciously fed and entertained 18 members of your family. You did a good job and there is much to be proud of. The new furniture looks great. The new window treatments are gorgeous. The newly remodeled kitchen was a hit, too. Plus, you had the house professionally decorated this year. It was like a Courier and Ives photo come to life.

You walk through your home reliving the moments. You peer into the bar: ah yes, the liquor bottles were were in great demand this day. The almost empty bottle of Dewar’s tells you that Uncle Sam was present and accounted for. Very little Vodka left and someone made sure Gin was consumed. Only one glass fell victim to shoddy dexterity this year. That’s OK. A set of 11-Waterford crystal hi-balls works just as well. You can always get another glass.

You move to the kitchen: you admire your architect’s handiwork as you hear the sound of the new dishwasher softly clicking into “rinse cycle”. Cookies, cakes and pies–the ones you couldn’t give away to departing guests, now sit on the counter top, protected from the elements by festive red and green plastic wrap.

You look in the refrigerator. It’s filled to capacity with food. No one touched cousin Lana’s three bean salad. There’s a good amount of dressing left, too but not that much turkey and there are only a few ham slices, too.   You’re thankful you won’t have to deal with leftovers for very long.

Gee, a Coke sure sounds good.

You open a bottle. The fizzy sound is inimitable. You take a sip and savor the cold, crisp flavor. You take the bottle with you as you move to the living room.

There it is;  a large seven foot Blue Spruce that just 24 hours ago, presided over a house full of people and laughter, now stands rather empty looking—in spite of branches that still sport lights, ornaments and gold and silver tinsel.

Your husband is in the den, in his easy chair. An anonymous NFL game is on TV.  The announcers’ voice serve more as a lullaby than play-by-play.  He’s been asleep for almost an hour now.

You sit on the couch, holding the soft drink bottle in one hand, your head in the other. You smile. You thoughts focus on your daughter and what she’s doing at the very moment…how she might be looking down on her left hand admiring the beautiful diamond engagement ring she received this morning. Chris is a great guy. They’ll be happy, you hope. All this young woman’s hopes and dreams are centered around a piece of refined carbon atop a platinum setting. You remember when you and Bill got engaged. You look down at your wedding ring. Now as much a part of your personal scenery as your blond hair.

You think about your little sister and how happy she was when she opened the tiny gift her boyfriend had given her. It was a key and it fit the new Mercedes Benz parked outside. She was delighted. How lucky she is!! A brand new Mercedes! Wow, you think to yourself—he must really love your baby sister.

Your hear your husband stirring in the den. He’s awake. He changes the channel on the new flat screen TV. He seems to like his present. You’re glad. After 29 years of marriage, he’s still impossible to shop for. The man has everything!

He stops on an all music channel playing Christmas carols.   You listen to the lyrics.

Silent night.

You think about your grandkids who went crazy when they ran in this very room this morning squealing with delight. They realized after seeing the bounty before them, that they’d been good enough for the past year to warrant a Christmas Eve visit by the red suited benevolent one.

This room was littered with so many toys!

Then, a passing car light brings you back to reality and you get up from the couch and walk toward the source. There, in the window you can feel the cold radiating off the panes of glass.  You realize it’s Christmas everywhere, but you never thought about that all day.   You were insulated by your life in your world.  But even so, you know things are very different “out there”—beyond the panes of glass.

For a few fleeting moments, you think about all the life that exists outside your home. Then, you think about the people forced to live those lives.

Holy night

There’s the dissatisfied wife who’s husband forgot her again this Christmas. Her gave her nothing. That is, if you don’t count the black eye he gave her after she “made” him hit her as he unraveled at the height of one of his more violent drunken rages on Christmas Eve.

All is calm.

There are American servicemen and women stationed around the world who are on watch….on patrol. In Iraq, one squad is taking fire. A sniper’s nest in some bombed out mid-rise outside Baghdad has the upper hand. Suddenly, there’s a lull in the fire fight. One 19-year old soldier, wipes away a tear as he clutches a gun on this night. He wishes to God he could be at home, in his mother’s arms. No, be brave, he reminds himself.  “I’m a Marine!”  A stray bullet grazes the wall behind him. He hunkers down lower. For a fleeting moment, he thinks about his family;  the tree; his Aunt Deb’s pumpkin pie. He wonders if they’ve thought about him at all this Christmas. This, as he prepares to return fire.

All is bright.

The 81-year old woman who waited for her son to come pick her up for a Christmas visit. She dressed and waited and waited, but he never came. He didn’t come last year, either. Maybe he’ll call on New Year’s Eve.

He won’t.

Round yon virgin, mother and child

There’s that sad, unkempt eight year old, the eldest child of a drug addict’s five children. She had to tell her crying brothers and sisters that Santa once again, lost their address. Their Christmas dinner is stale dry cereal, no milk. That was all she could find to feed them.

Holy infant so tender and mild

There are the those souls who’ll go to sleep hungry. Like those struggling to live in war torn Darfur. The only Christmas gift some receive will be the “privilege” of waking up to to yet another morning.

And in every city in this country, many people aren’t acknowledging Christmas.  It’s hard to do that when you’re depressed and hungry.  But their hunger goes beyond the need for food; they hunger for love and companionship.

They hunger for peace of mind.

Sleep in heavenly peace

There’s the broke couple who were only able to open mounting bills on Christmas morning.

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“How sad”, you think to yourself. You sigh and shake your head, but through it all, you thank God it’s them and not you.

Thank God indeed.

You take another sip of your drink and unplug the Christmas lights. It’s late. Time to go upstairs and try out the marvelous new king size Egyptian Cotton sheets that Sheila and Dan bought you. It’ll be like sleeping on a cloud. And you can’t wait to try on your new incredibly warm Chenille pajamas. Margaret must have spent a fortune on those!

You make your way toward the stairs and clutch your sweater;  it’s cold in this big, five bedroom manse. Raise the thermostat up a notch or two and maybe steal a cookie on your way upstairs.

But before you do, you stop, turn and take a one final look around you. You finish surveying the day’s events and the castle in which everything unfolded.

Your home.  Your family.   Your good fortune. It all melds together in this life affirming moment amid the holly and tinsel.

All is right.

So, the answer is yes, it was a great Christmas;  at your house, anyway.

Sleep in heavenly peace….

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Call Me “Ishmael, The Unemployed”

It is Monday.  The first day of the second week of unemployment.

I went to my mailbox for the first time in days.  It was jammed with junk mail and bills.  When you’re unemployed, you tend to notice things—like the whiteness of the envelopes bills come in—it’s quite stark actually.    You don’t really notice that when you’re gainfully employed.  In fact, unemployment makes the whiteness so bright, it almost hurts the eyes.    Certainly their contents are painful.

I am hemorrhaging money in ways that when I was employed and $olvent, I didn’t notice.  Now, I see a penny on the ground and have a damn near orgasmic reaction.   Who knew copper was an aphrodisiac?    Well, it’s hardly that which a $100 bill would be, but well–diddle me this, Batman, right?

So, it’s Week #2 of unemployment and here I sit at my newly refurbished computer, now Chlamydia free!!  I’m applying for jobs left and right—corporate ones which require that I wear my big girl suit and the kinds where flip flops would be deemed formal.  I hate being jobless, but I should be so used to it by now.    This is my fourth go round with unemployment since November of 2000.   Sad, huh?  I’ve spent the majority of the new millennium looking for work.

But you get good at having it bad after a while.  I know about exercise and making use of your time.  Making sure you spread out the errands you have to run in order to keep busy and I would do that now, if I had a car.   For those of you wondering, my car…the Boss Taurus will be out of the body shop just in time for Thanksgiving.   It was my gift to her for her Bat Mitzvah–nose job, remember?

Otherwise, I continue to keep my vow of soap opera celibacy.  I will not get hooked ever again.  And unlike times before, I refuse to watch Oprah.  I feel the woman has become so arrogant that she repulses me and she’s also reached this sublime level of exclusivity.  She’s ridiculously out of touch with the common folk and the distance only increases.  To me, she seems to be an uptight elitist.    I would think now even her bowel movements have their own valets.

Additionally,  I’ve been listening to a lot of obscure music that’s become the soundtrack to my reading and I’m reading about the damnedest things lately.  I’m on an enlightenment kick and I’ve been reading about The Third Eye and the varying levels of the awakened state.    I know enough now to know I have been asleep for most of the last two years.

And if that’s not strange enough,  I’ve been flirting posthumously with H.L. Mencken.   I have a crush on his wit and love of satire.  He was brilliant!

Mencken died in late January, 1956. He’s buried in the Loudon Park Cemetery in his native Baltimore.  On his tombstone, you’ll find this epitaph:  “If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner, and wink your eye at some homely girl.”

My God, what is it about me and my attraction to utter assholes?

I’ve also been ignoring creditors and answering a few e-mails.   And if you know me at all personally or even through this blog, you have a fairly decent sense of who I am and what I’m not and I am decidedly not an overtly “girly girl”.  I’ve never owned wooden art featuring ducks or geese wearing gingham bonnets.  I don’t wear ruffles and hair ribbons.   I wear jeans like a Teamster and can cuss like a stevedore and I laugh at rough, absurd mannish humor.  I can burp one minute, then be moved to tears by glory of God’s Technicolor at sunset and make no mistake,  I can and will defend myself, my integrity and that of my friends and kin to NO END,  but even as I verbally rip you a new vas deferens,  I still believe wholeheartedly in my power and strength as a feminine woman.

What’s with this build-up; this verbose preface, you ask?   Well, I’ll tell you.

I received an e-mail today from my friend who is, I swear to God, a Mage; a man of amazing magic who’s completely empathic with regard to how I’m feeling at any given moment.  He knows me well and  often sends me things that make me smile, make me think and mercifully don’t require that I forward it on to seven people–including him–or risk some inane malady like vaginal dryness for a fortnight.

This is entitled,  “You Are Special Indeed”.

Someone will always be prettier

Someone will always be smarter

Someone’s house will always be bigger.

Someone will drive a much nicer car.

Someone’s children will be better behaved and do better in school.

Someone’s husband will act kinder, more affectionate and be more willing to help around the house.

OK fine..so just let it go.   Make every attempt to love yourself and your circumstances…now and tomorrow.

Think about  this: the prettiest woman in the world can be battling a certain hell in her own heart and soul.

The most popular woman at work may not be able to have children.

The richest woman you know–the one with the house, the car, the clothes and  the live-in maid might be very lonely….and in a house full of people.

Every success story has known failure; every beaming, happy heart has known heartache.

So, love yourself.  Love who you are right this minute.    Love who you’ve been; love who you will be.

To the world you might be one person, but to one person, you might be the world.

You are to me

And then he signed it with his name, followed by “be happy you big, old bitch!!!!”

And with that, how can I not be?

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Hero In Me

I used to be far hipper than I am now.

I was always on the cutting edge of what was happenin’, because well, I myself was happenin’ about eight years and 40 pounds ago.   I was big time.  My local celebrity, if you will, allowed me to have friends bought and paid for.  People wanted to hang around me because I was connected and well, when the economy slumped and radio disconnected me,  few people could be found.   I realized my “friends” were merely on loan.  Repossessed actually….by their own selfish greed, mostly.

But that’s OK.   Desertion is their load to bear.   Besides, what damn near kills you certainly makes you wiser.

So, here I sit all these years later and today of all days, donning a professorial mortar board and tassel on my noggin–completely worse for the wear, but ironically OK.  That’s why I’m posting this video.  It’s seven years old–released in 2001 and by a rather fetching looking gentleman named Jeffrey Gaines.

jeffrey-gaines

See how he leans his head in his braceletted hands.  Don’t you love artists who are  angst ridden?

And choreographed?

I don’t know much about Mr Gaines other than he’s from Pennsylvania and much younger than me, but then again, so is the world.  I only heard this song quite recently.  It’s called “Hero In Me” and like all things these days, it completely resonated with me.  It’s from the album (and yes, they will ALWAYS be albums to me!!) appropriately titled, “Always Will Be”.

Listen to it here.

And because I like it so much and the words are so damn poignant, I’m giving you a Laurieland bonus:  I’m feeling just squirrely enough to include the lyrics this time.

Won’t happen again….promise.

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He’s lived as long as he possibly can
given the circumstance
’cause he’s protected himself from the world
he never gave it a chance

and he says, here in my security
I’ve put a limit on my self-potential
and my possibility

She’s seen these walls and they never change
everything’s in its place
her relationships so neatly arranged
down to religion and race

and she says, here in my security
I don’t make a move unless my friends approve
I do what’s expected of me

And as I grow older
and there’s so much that I do not know
I’m drawn to those who are bolder
and go where no one dare to go

(chorus)
And I sleep and I dream of the person I might have been
then I’ll be free again
And I speak like someone who’s been to the highest peaks
and back again
And I swear that my grass is greener than anyone’s
’til I believe again
Then I wake and the dream fades away and I face the day
and I realize that there’s got to be some hero in me
There’s got to be some hero in me
There’s got to be some hero in me
There’s got to be some hero in me

They’ve been suppressing their every desire
they do nothing on a whim
she’s lost her sparkle and he’s lost the fire
their future looks very dim

And I say, here in my security
I’ve simply let myself go
I’ve developed a co-dependency

And as I grow older
so many places that I’ve never been
time’s tapping my shoulder
I hope it’s never too late to begin

(chorus)
And I sleep and I dream of the person I might have been
then I’ll be free again
And I speak like someone who’s been to the highest peaks
and back again
And I swear that my grass is greener than anyone’s
’til I believe again
Then I wake and the dream fades away and I face the day
and I realize that there’s got to be some hero in me
There’s got to be some hero in me
There’s got to be some hero in me
There’s got to be some hero in me

Father’s Day

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I dread this particular 24 hour span. I’ve never had a great relationship with my dad and this Father’s Day will mark almost six years since I last laid eyes on him.

My brother has been insisting for months now, that more than enough time has passed and that I and I alone will have to make the effort to “break the silence”. I respond to his haranguing by telling him, “Why bother? I don’t have a father”.

I’ve felt that way for years.

I woke up at 3:15 that morning after fitful night’s sleep. I tossed, I turned; my mind spun like a Roulette Wheel. Millions of normal, emotionally healthy people would be spending this day with their fathers. Could I do the same? And really, what would it hurt to visit my dad? It would be easy enough to make the effort to visit with the man who, as my mother always said, “was merely present for my conception”. That’s the role he always played; a part well cast by her rage and his bitterness.

Besides, I needed reconciliation.

I made the long drive to the country. It was pleasant—more so than I remembered. Daddy always liked it here. He spoke about it all the time. When he was younger, he loved being outdoors, especially in this part of South Texas. I also spent some time here growing up. Michael and I loved playing in the barn and swimming in the river. I’d have to agree with my father; there was something about this land. Gently rolling hills; rich farm land as far as the eye could see. Pine and Mesquite trees dotted the landscape. It was nice. Quiet. Peaceful. I was stressing over having to visit my father, but the sheer tranquility of the countryside was having an amazing effect on me. I was starting to relax.

I drove up to the gate which leads to his property. I remembered it being larger for some reason. It was locked, as usual, but Dad always said we should come right in. The combination was easy to remember…. it was Michael’s birthday. Never underestimate the relationship between a father and his only son. I got back in the car and drove over the iron cattle guard; it had a jarring effect on my car. I’d forgotten how that felt.

Memories.

I parked the car, grabbed my things which were on the seat beside me and exited the car. I walked over to him. Would he recognize me? Would he know I’d even stopped by?

I started the conversation immediately.

” Hi Daddy. I know it’s been a while since I was last here to see you. I guess an apology is in order, but things have been crazy at home.”

I was talking fast, hoping to avoid any awkward silence.

“You remember Robert, don’t you? Well, he was just promoted to partner in his firm and the kids are growing like weeds.”

I reached for my purse; I was going to show him pictures, but thought against it. He was never close to his grandchildren.

“Teddy reminds me of you, Daddy. He has your hazel eyes and your love of fishing. In fact, he and Robert went out in the Gulf a few weeks ago and they caught seven huge Red Snapper. And Kate is my baby. You last saw her when she was five. Well, believe it or not, she’ll be 12 in October and in seventh grade next year. Daddy, she’s so pretty and so smart. She made all “A’s” last semester. Sometimes, I wonder if she’s really my daughter!”

I chuckled.

Silence.

The wind blew my hair in my face. I brushed it away and continued to plow through our conversation.

“I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here today after all these years. Well, it’s Father’s Day and I felt I should be here. I felt that I had to make the effort”.

I looked down and kicked a few stones with the toe of my shoe. I could feel emotions welling up inside me.

I took a deep breath.

“Daddy, I’m also here because I can’t deal with this any longer. There’s so much I don’t understand. I need to know why you left the family. I want to know why you left me! I’ve always wanted to know the answer to that question!”

My voice was cracking..

“I was just 11 when you walked out and I didn’t understand the dynamics of marriage or divorce, for that matter. All I knew was that you left. You walked out one night without an explanation and without telling me goodbye. Do you have any idea what that did to me? The precedent that set? You divorced Mom but you walked out on all of us.”

I looked away, not wanting my tears to tell my story. The sun broke through the clouds and there we were, bathed in the warm Texas sunlight.

I took another deep breath. “Daddy, I believed for years that men leave and that love is expendable. If you get bored with your marriage or if you fall out of love, no biggie, just leave; exit. To hell with making the effort or fixing the problem, just go out and find a newer, younger, thinner model. Find a new family, too. See Daddy, I learned all of this from you! I learned that men leave and when they do, they leave broken people in their wake. I was broken for years. I never knew how to love. Daddy, I never knew how to be loved, either! It was horrible. I naturally assumed that my boyfriends were going to leave me because that’s what boyfriends do. Almost every one of them walked out because I pushed them out. It was a preemptive strike, I suppose. I’d leave them emotionally. I’d zone out. That made things easier to deal with when they physically left. And they always left”.

I decided to sit down on nearby bench. The breeze was blowing through the pine trees. It created a hum…an odd discord actually that somehow, seemed fitting. Discord had always been the soundtrack of my life with my father.

“Life, post divorce, was so hard for us, Daddy. It was a struggle in every way, but your absence was what hurt the most. I wanted you to be there when I got braces, when I had my first date…the proms. My graduation. I would’ve loved to have talked to you about the time Jake Shelton broke my heart in eighth grade, but you weren’t around. I hated that you weren’t there. But then again, you missed all of those things, too. And don’t even get me started about college! It was horrible and so were my twenties. What a waste!. I got involved in all these lousy, dead-end relationships. All were abusive in so many ways. I drank too much….did everything too much. But I guess I can’t completely blame you for my screwed up life. Your leaving was probably impetus for everything evil in my life, but no one put a gun to my head, either. I chose to live a wild life because running wild was easier than being responsible. Then again, you know a little about bucking responsibility, don’t you, Dad? Your lack of it constantly forced me to remind myself that I even had a father!”

I was getting angry.

“Allow me to break down what life was like for Mom, Michael and me after you left. We had no money and moved from that five bedroom home into a cramped two bedroom apartment. Mom practically lost her mind. She’d never worked before. She was the wife of a successful businessman, she never had to work. You never wanted her to. She was 39 years old when you left and she had nowhere to go and no money to take her there. She took menial job after menial job trying to support two children. She’d cry for hours sometimes, never leaving her room, except to retrieve another bottle of Vodka. God Daddy, back then, I always thought Mom was such a silly, spineless woman because she wasn’t handling the reality of your leaving very well. I would always say to her, “Come on, Mom. He left and he’s not coming back! Get your shit together!” I had no idea what she was going through; I didn’t know hard her life really was until I lived it myself after Joe left me”.

A large truck with a broken muffler drove by and broke my concentration.

“Did you ever know why Joe and I broke up? You probably don’t, I never told anyone the real reason. History repeated itself, Daddy. Like you, he cheated on me. With a woman who worked in his building. According to Joe, she was everything I stopped being—thin, young, sexual and apparently, she was willing to put up with his shit. Imagine, that’s what he liked about her. Her tolerance? Well, by telling me that, he was damn sure right about one thing…she definitely did things I wouldn’t do! I wouldn’t put up with his crap. I kicked him out of the house the night he told me that. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of leaving on his own accord. In the end my defiance didn’t matter. He had the last laugh, I suppose. The bastard married her the day our divorce was final”.

I shifted my weight on the bench and continued the one-sided conversation.

“Men break your heart and Daddy, you broke mine. No two ways about it. When you walked out that door, I stopped feeling safe. In some ways, I still don’t. It didn’t help that you wanted nothing to do with me or Michael after you remarried”.

I brushed my hair out of my eyes then folded my arms across my chest. I shivered. Suddenly, a sunny June morning in South Texas, turned cold.

“Christmas after Christmas went by. Thanksgiving and Easter did too and we never heard from you. For my 14th birthday, all I wanted was a picture of you because I’d forgotten what you looked like. Of course, Mom didn’t have one to give me. She ceremoniously burned everything you left behind, including pictures and her wedding dress. She put everything into a metal barrel, doused it with lighter fluid and lit a match. You, your memory and all your stuff went up in a ball of fire that really, was fueled more by anger, than anything else. Mom made us roast wieners over the flames. She called the whole process her “rebirth”; a second baptism, this one by fire. I understood the symbolism involved and felt if that helped her move on, great. But it hurt me–more than I knew. For years after that, every hot dog I ate–regardless–tasted like burned taffeta”.

“Well Daddy, the kids want to take Robert to brunch this afternoon and I’ve got get back into town for that, but I’m glad I came here today. I think we both needed this, at least, I know I did”.

And that’s when I lost it. Admitting that released a floodgate of emotion. I started sobbing.

“Being here makes me realize how much I miss you. I miss you. It wasn’t that I couldn’t forgive you–I did–years ago. I just couldn’t forgive myself for thinking that I hated you as much as I did, but in reality, I never hated you, Daddy. I just didn’t understand. And no one bothered to explain. Mother made the fatal mistake of talking so badly about you in front of Michael and me. We heard about what a bastard you were day in and day out! She negated our existence by damning you and in our minds, that made you the enemy. To hear Mom wax about what happened, it was as if you stole her money, her youth and her dignity. It was as though you all but murdered her. But in some ways maybe, you did. You killed her spirit, anyway”.

I shook my head.

“Even so, I’m mad at Mom too, because for the longest time, she knew I thought I was the reason you left and she never made any attempt to correct it. Why did she do that? She let me think it was all my fault. I agonized over this. I thought if I would have made all A’s or if I would’ve won all my tennis matches or cleaned my room better, you would’ve stayed. The little girl who still lives in the woman I’ve become is only now beginning to fully grapple with everything. I mean, can you blame me? You represented my very first relationship with men. What happened with you set the tone for every relationship that followed. And my God Daddy, you never had any idea what you left behind. Look at your legacy. It’s represented by disappointment and abandonment. And all that pain. I stupidly thought if I failed as a daughter, I’d surely fail as a girlfriend and wife and I believed that. Ultimately, I ended up perpetuating my own myth!”

I bit my bottom lip and just stared at the ground, kicking at a pebble.

“Please Daddy, I’ve got to try to say this. I’m not giving you a “get out of jail card” here. What you did was wrong, you deserted us and devastated us, but I can’t go on like this”.

I sat there for a moment.

“Want to hear something odd, Daddy? There’s a part of me that’s looking for a Genie. Yeah, a Genie and I want him to grant me one wish. That’s all I want; one wish. I’d ask him to give us more time. See, I don’t want more time, I need more time. But I can’t have that, can I? Time is my biggest regret. So many years went by and we hardly spoke to each other. Geez, why was there so much anger, Daddy? Were we really that mad at each other? Were we? Or was I more mad at you? I guess so because I wouldn’t respond to your letters and I wouldn’t even answer the phone when you’d call”.

And then it hit me. My moment of truth.

“But that would mean….that meant you…you did try, didn’t you? You really did make an effort! But Mother said you didn’t ca……”

I strained to find composure.

“I was so poisoned by mother’s rage and anger that I was myopic. I had blinders on and then I used that to my advantage. You were my excuse and remaining a victim suited my agenda. That was easier than admitting my culpability in my own unhappiness. Pointing fingers at the son of a bitch father absolved the wounded daughter from all blame”.

I buried my face in my hands, then sat on the bench, shaking. I composed myself enough to ask my father one last question.

“Daddy, I have to know if…if you can forgive me? Please? I can’t leave without knowing we’re OK. Do what I never could or would do for you–please release me, liberate me from this heartache! Free me from all the pain I’ve been festering in my soul. It’s kept me from living my life”.

All I could think about was my family and how withholding I’ve been; how I’ve cheated them.

I stopped crying after a while and when I did, I noticed it was there again. The silence. But this time, I welcomed it. No words were spoken. Really, at that moment, nothing needed to be said.

Something was different. I then realized this is what Deliverance must feel like.

I don’t know how long I’d been sitting there. I looked up. The breeze felt cool against my tear-stained face. The sun caressed my entire body. I shivered in it’s warmth. It was incredible. I felt very much alive.

I wiped a few remaining tears from my cheek. “Well, I’ve got an hour-long drive ahead of me, so I better go now if I want to make brunch”.

“But Daddy, before I go, I want you to know that I miss you. I think about you all the time and please know that I love you, in spite of everything. I wasted so much time harboring all this pain, but I didn’t know what else to do! Hurting was the norm and I’m so sorry for feeling that way. More than you know. I’ve squandered so many years because of it, so please….help me try to get a few back if I can….let’s start over, OK? Today, let’s begin again. We’ll do that by visiting more. I’ll come back soon. I promise. I mean, after all, you are my daddy, right?”

I stood there for a second, allowing the moment to imprint on my memory. I wanted to remember everything.   Every detail.

I mustered a smile and whispered, “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy”.

I placed a small bouquet of flowers beside his headstone and touched it briefly before walking back to my car.

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