Monday, February 22, 2010

God's Honest Truth

The truth hurts, doesn't it. Yeah, a lot of the time. I'm not talking so much about the basic honesty we're taught as children...

...Don't steal

...Don't lie

...Don't say REALLY LOUDLY, while waiting in a busy line in the grocery store, that mommy's butt is big.

Ouch.

Those kind of childhood lessons are easy enough to learn.

When I was about 10 years old, my friend and I roller-skated to a grocery store...we had a great scam. We took our skates off...went to the candy aisle...one of us went to buy something while the other stuffed the skates full of candy. We walked out, went to the drugstore next door and told the girl at the counter our bag broke, could we have another bag,  pleeeeeease?? We did this for a week. We never got caught. Ew. I still cringe when I think how we were SO scheming at such a young age. I had a whole dresser full of candy forEVER. And it never appealed to me. I was disgusted with my actions (and didn't much like my "friend"...it was easier to blame her for my sinful ways anyway).

About two years later different friends and I were hanging out in the attic of an empty house for sale. I think one of the boys had a stash of girly mags, but that was as evil as it got for us. When we were leaving the realtor caught us climbing over the fence. He grilled us about what we'd been doing. All my friends bold-faced lied to him. I said nothing. The only question I answered was one I could answer truthfully. I went home and told my parents, horrified I got caught, but proud that I at least answered the guy honestly when I did speak.

I grew up hating liars, cheaters and thieves. But...oh, the irony...

...but...did I ever take the candy back? Nope. And although I never again shoplifted, I sure as hell have collected a nice stash of paperclips, pens and notepaper from my jobs through the years. Did I REALLY tell the realtor the truth? Well, yes, technically, the one time. But by not answering his other questions, I was still lying in effect. Hey...I wasn't going to tell on my friends. But the only reason I wasn't going to do that was because they'd HATE me and I'd be labeled a rat. So I absolved my conscience by confiding in my parents. They were glad I told them the truth, told me to throw three Hail Mary's and go watch t.v., patting me on my head as I scooted to my room.

Since those days events have occurred in which I've had many opportunities to be blatantly honest, almost to a fault. Just ask my mom and dad. When I was 20 I was in an accident that totaled my car. Initially the police officer told me it wasn't my fault...but, after opening my mouth and telling the truth, I was found 50% at fault. Crap. If there's an authority figure involved, you will get every friggin' truth out of me possible. They may not even be mine!  I'll start spitting out some other guy's truth, just to keep the flow going. I'd be a terrible spy. Don't ask me to aid and abet you in anything. Hell, given the right pressure, I may even confess to being the third man on the grassy knoll and I wasn't even born until 1968.

Then there's the kind of truth where I've helped others become better people by being brutally honest with them about their personality problems. Riggggghhhhht. Good God, who the hell am I to do such a thing? Have I gone to millions of years of post grad school and received a degree in Psychology? It's one thing to pull a friend's covers, it's another to to point out their flaws – that's when I'm usually forcefully reminded that while I'm pointing one finger at someone, there's three pointing back at me.

But here's the easily deceptive beast of honesty I'm really talking about –

What I call God Gut Truth.

This is the kind of truth that is persistent, niggling...right there behind and slightly above my belly-button and it's annoying as hell if I ignore it. THIS is the painful truth I'm talking about. The kind that, should I acknowledge it, has potential to break my heart. It may even involve taking a symbolic bullet in order to do the right thing. It usually means action of some sort. It's also the kind that is the most spiritually powerful of all, if faced.

It's sometimes small....so small it's almost (ALMOST) undetectable, but the more I ignore it, it grows. I could lie to my mom, I could lie to my best friend, I could even convince the reflection I see in the mirror – and maybe even my dog (but dogs usually KNOW something's up – face it, if you can't look your dog in the eye, you're in trouble), but if I am really aware of myself, I KNOW when there's a truth being ignored because it's pinging around my insides.

Facing God Gut Truth with myself is probably the hardest thing to do, because it usually means I have to change something while I want to pretend nothing's wrong. Or maybe I risk something big by facing it. Then, to make matters worse, once I'm truthful with myself, there's probably someone else I'm gonna have to share that truth with. Who am I kidding...there's ALWAYS someone else involved. That's why the whole pretending thing happens. Gah! Lying to myself protects me from having to face the music elsewhere. I'd rather convince myself everything is fine in order to not deal with the fact that there is something to be dealt with.

I can lie to myself for lots of reasons:
  • Don't want to face reality. Happy fantasy, selfish indulgence, emotional gratification...it's a lot more interesting than problematic, old reality.
  • Don't want to be the bad girl and hurt someone.
  • Don't want to be the bad girl and hurt myself.
  • Don't want to know I'm capable of doing "such a thing" whatever that "such a thing" is.
  • Don't want other people to know I'm capable of "such a thing."
  • Don't want to know the truth because it means I have to take action. Ew, that means work.

Whatever it is, it usually comes down to fear of something:
  • Failure (or success??)
  • Losing dignity/not saving face
  • Losing possessions
  • Losing people
  • Losing a dream or a hope, which is sometimes the scariest loss of all
These, my friends, are called "consequences." And I am at a point in my life where consequences are much more profound than taking candy back to the store, or getting a lower insurance settlement. The consequences I deal with nowadays are of the type that shape my soul and my self-worth. I can make any choice I wish. I just need to be ready to deal with the  consequences.

Writing, I have found, has been the most effective way of uncovering the truth (and consequences) rumbling inside me. It's difficult to actually write down a lie and then READ it. Try it. It's actually impossible. You might be able to write it, but I dare you to try to read your own lie and know it as anything other than that. Especially if your dog is watching.

When I learn to face and answer those internal red flags of the God Gut on a regular basis, life gets to run fairly smoothly. But sometimes it's hard to be honest. Sometimes the fear makes me hesitate but there will be no serenity until the truth is told. Sometimes I tell it anyway, even knowing the consequences aren't tipped in my favor.  Sometimes the after-effects of being honest immobilize me – sometimes for awhile, sometimes just for a day – during which time it's pretty difficult to be proud of the fact that I have been noble. Telling the truth in face of humiliation may be noble, but sometimes noble sucks. Sometimes noble should just stay in old books and movies. But eventually the pain and tears of nobility pass and I have become a little stronger in character and in God's eyes. And the God Gut settles down a bit.

P.S. Dog is God spelled backwards. Weird, that.

Monday, February 15, 2010

VD is Rampant in Planet Hollywood!

Who is glad Valentine's Day is over, raise your hands.

Ok, ok. I'm feeling your relief.

Now – who's glad they have someone special in their lives and did something really, really wonderful and romantic and you're just SO flippin' happy to be in love...raise your hands...

Bite me. And I mean that in only the nicest and most loving way possible. You may as well just quit reading now. Go hug your honey and bust out in song (and maybe dance) to express your warm fuzzy feelings.

I intensely dislike Valentine's Day. Because I am feeling sorry for myself. It's also because I was a latch-key kid in the 80's. I'll explain that in a minute.

Here's the deal. This is my second single Valentine's Day since my ex-husband and I split. All you awesome happy couples aside (really, I'm thrilled for you. For really reals. REALLY!), I'm just trying to decide which is worse: 

1. Being single and knowing you're not going to get jack BUT the rest of the year is pretty amazing because you enjoy your freedom and it's just ONE over-saturated marketing day twisss-TING the chocolate-covered dagger right through your oneness...

...or...

2. Being in a relationship and going through the machinations of "Here, honey, I got you flowers. Cuz it's expected. And I'd be a bad boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse if I didn't do this. Heh heh.  What? SEX? Really? But....can't we...*sigh*...but the CSI marathon is on!"

You know what I mean, right? If not, you're lucky. My verdict is it's worse to be in a dead-end relationship where you know the over-priced and -arranged bouquet doesn't mean much, the card only comes as close to the truth as you could produce without grimacing – or laughing, and the dinner varies from tasteless to bitter. It hasn't just been two years of Cupid Needs To Be Bitchslapped! for me. It was probably a good, solid 8-year block where VD mirrored the degeneration of my marriage. 


VD = Valentine's Day. Thought I should clarify that a bit. 


Anyway, trying to resurrect, for one special day, something inevitably dead is the worst kind of bittersweet. So as a onesie, yeah, it does kind of stink to see all the happy lovey couples smootchy-coo and slaver over each other as I stomp around waving my Proud Single Woman banner while secretly wishing I was smothering some special guy – or being smothered by him...*grin*... BUT, at least I know what to expect and I can make arrangements to enjoy the OTHER loved ones in my life.

For instance, I make sure to have a sweet Valentine's Day planned out for my daughters, letting them know they're my angels and we girls can have fun without stupid boys. Nyah.  And, it's my dad's birthday, so I've ALWAYS had that as an alternate focus. Getting out of myself and thinking about his happiness takes a bit of the pity-pot sting out of the day.

I must say I stop short of buying myself flowers and candies and doing the self-affirmation "I don't need a lover to know I'm loved" crap. That does NOT fool anyone. It's one thing to buy yourself flowers to brighten your room and make your soul sing, it's another to send yourself $120 worth of long-stemmed roses on V-day. One is for beautification, the other is trying to keep up with the women in the office whose men know what'll happen if they DON'T send flowers. It's obvious and a little uncomfortable, like a rash. Oh, yeah, I also avoid being anywhere with a bunch of lonely-hearted women hanging out like sad carcasses in the desert for the vultures to land on, just in the name of being appreciated. I know how to appreciate myself. In ALL ways. I'm totally good with not being desperate, thanks.

As for that latch-key kid comment. Here's the flipside of all this. I squirm on Valentine's Day because I'm a dyed-in-the-wool romantic. And I blame Hollywood for that. You see, when I was a kid I had just regular television with 13 channels for after-school entertainment. It was usually on Channels 9-13 that I'd watch some classic romance/comedy/musical. My baby-sitters were Doris Day, Judy Garland and Debbie Reynolds. Those perky little bitches set a standard I still have yet to find in any real-life romance. The manipulative broken-hearts-get-fixed-with-tears-and-a-clever-plan just hasn't worked on planet Earth, no matter how successful the formula has been for planet Hollywood. 


And what about Cary Grant? Robert Mitchum? Gene Kelly? (Or in today's movies...Brad Pitt, George Clooney and – my personal favorite, rowr –  Gerard Butler...) The suave, maybe tough, always romantic guy who makes everything alright when he takes his girl in his arms and lets her know with a passionate kiss she's his, will always be his and that's just the way it is woman!...where IS that guy? Oh, he just got back on the bus to go home to Pretendland. Or to his happily-married wife. Gah. I know happy married people exist, I do. It's kind of like effective political leaders and reindeer. You've heard the stories, you know they're real, even if you've never seen a live one...you just have to close your eyes and BELIEVE.

Over the years, I've grown up, which is natural I guess. I've discovered the lame truth that unless you make plans to go on a date during a rainstorm and purposely kiss in the middle of the street in front of a church during choir practice, passionate embraces don't usually come with background music or sexy weather. There's also the risk of being hit by a bus in the middle of that street. Don't forget that part. I also found out when you see someone across the room and you fall hopelessly in love at first sight, you should probably run away. Fast. Far. Maybe even change your name. And remember that love and lust sound deceptively similar, especially with all that club music blaring.

But I'll never be completely cured and hardened against the possibility of true romance. I do know what it feels like to know someone when one minute you're friends, talking – he's just a cool, goofy guy-friend who's kind of cute – and the next minute you have to get up and walk away because you feel like you just got hit by a semi-truck. You keep walking and realize you have just fallen cinematically in love and you fall a little more as each step hits the ground – and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. I know what it's like to lose sleep, no matter how tired you are; to think of him and your knees and gut start shaking; to try like hell to slow it down, or even stop it by convincing yourself this kind of thing doesn't really exist outside an AMC Theater. But I can't shrug off my belief that it does exist, because it has happened to me (only twice) in my life. Ironically, neither time was with my ex-husband. Huh. 

Life is such an adventure. It's meant to be lived, not endured. Someday it will be a pleasure to share the adventure with someone I am finally ready for. To finally be able to exhale after a lifetime of holding my breath. Because I really do believe there are guys out there who show up on your doorstep out of the blue with wild flowers. They don't all live on Mars, in Pretendland or Hollywood – nor do they need a restraining order. They're just nice, loving, romantic guys and it's a beautiful thing when you're actually as happy to see them as they are to be there. 


I will admit that the biggest lesson I've learned is I've always tried to turn Mr. Wrong into Mr. Right. See, guys, well, they don't like when you do that. It makes them grumpy and unruly. This time, I'm letting God write my love story. So, I'll go about my business, travel, scuba-dive, enjoy raising my daughters, get myself flowers because I WANT them, not because I've guilt-tripped myself into getting them. And, yes, occasionally I will take a walk by a church in a rainstorm...just in case. No, just kidding. That'd be silly. ("Hey, Kris, where'r ya goin? It's pouring! "Yeah, I know....I'm, um, I'm gonna drive over to that church. Just walk back and forth in the rain awhile. In the street. No biggie. I'll be back by 6." "Ok, watch out for buses.") ha ha...jeesh...


...anyway...


...where was I??? 


Oh yeah...But honestly, I just don't think there's anything to do about it...I AM an incurable romantic. No matter how hard Valentine's Day tries to ruin it.




Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Who's Yer Friend??

I don't know how God works in your life, but God has a super sarcastic sense of humor in my life. For instance, usually when I'm feeling extra hot and saucy, he'll tack a three-foot long strand of toilet-paper on my shoe or I'll prance around with my fly open. True story. It's happened and I'm still scared to walk out of a nightclub bathroom without checking my heels for tp, my skirt for being tucked into my tights, or my pants for DERHAR flyage. It takes me two minutes to take care of business and 10 to walk out the door.

But, in some cases he does some super cool stuff. Small miracles. Teensy, little, granular, microscopic miracles – I mean, you know, in the scope of, say, finding a living child under earthquake rubble in Haiti, these miracles in my life are atomic in size.

I won't bore you with details of all the things that have happened to convince me God thinks I'm swell. But I will tell you about the twee performance today that is just one of his cosmic kicks in the butt to say, "Hey! You! I'm here, I'm looking out for ya! WHO'S yer Daddy??"

Soooo.... I head out on my run at lunch. The fact that I can propel my body at a rate of more than 3 miles per hour for somewhat extended periods of time and occasionally uphill is, in and of itself, an indisputable miracle. But that's not the miracle I'm talking about. I grab my iPod (another "Booyah" in the creative universe's "I Rock" checklist) and my cellphone (ditto) and head out, tucking my iPod into my waistband (what? I don't have a fanny pack or one of those groovy arm thingies everyone else has)  and slip my phone into the pocket of my jacket tied around my waist.

See...here's where God starts working with me. Cuz I have this little thought that says, "HAHA, wow, that's kind of a sketchy place to put the phone, what if it falls out HAHA." So, naturally I put THAT thought right out of my brain and proceed without caution.

I run and run and run and run and walk and run and walk, walk, walk, walk.....up and down a muddy, lonely bike trail. At some point I realize this is ridiculous, what the hell am I doing this to myself for?!? Running SUCKS! Joggers need to have their asses kicked in a back alley! OW! So,  I turn around and run, run, run, walk, walk....crawl...run, walk.....cuss, huff, die, and walk, run, walk back. About a block from my office I pat my butt to get my phone out of my jacket pocket to check my time and nothing's there. I'm walking and patting and realizing I've lost my phone and now I have to turn around to go back to perdition to find the effing thing.

I was too tired to cry. Even a little.

I get back to my office, clear an hour vacation time with my boss and head out to get my bike cuz I'll be damned if I'm gonna find the strength to tackle that trail on foot for another hour.

As I get ready to leave, I realize no one knows where I'm going and, duh, I don't have a phone to call anyone lest I become detained. e.g., fall off my bike face-first in the mud and/or get mauled by a mountain lion. 

I head BACK into the office to leave a note on a friend's desk: "This is where I'm headed and why. Because I'm a dork. If I'm not back by 4 p.m., PLEASE SEND FIREMEN!! LOTS OF THEM!! Make sure they're CUTE! And SINGLE!" No, just kidding. I didn't write that. *jeesh* Cmon!! Haha. Ha.  *blink*  Nooooo...I was only gonna say come look for me. REALLY. (I do have to admit that my happy place mantra is "Firemen in kilts" but, again, that's another blog.) SO! Fact of the matter is I didn't have to write the note at all because as I'm entering the building, I hear my name paged to call the operator. Lo and behold my roommate was calling the office trying to reach me because she had called my cellphone and some dude had answered it. Can I get a WOOT WOOT?

Cutting to the chase and getting past the "Hey DORK!! Guess what??? You dropped your phone fool!!!" I got her to tell me where the dude was and to tell him that I was on my way and my office was right around the corner. He gave me my phone and nothing was hacked. To the best of my knowledge. Aaaaand, I don't believe there are any dial-a-porn calls, or communications with small foreign countries. I have yet to check my image gallery for "Hey Joe, check it out! I got this chick's phone!! Are you wearing whitey-tighties?? Har har!!" kind of photos.

Now, I realize, again in light of the crap going on in this world, this may be no big deal to you. It's really not that big of a deal to me. I lost my phone, some guy found it, I got it back. But it was the series of events that were so serendipitously placed that make this a kooky little gab-fest. My roommate JUST HAPPENED to call my phone at the same time this guy picked it up. I JUST HAPPENED to walk back into the office where I heard my name being paged. I JUST HAPPENED to not have had to exercise anymore. 


So, the moral of this blog is: If you're feeling cocky, check your fly. Cuz God is watching. And he is LAUGHING! Hard. Oh, and Duct-tape is my new best friend.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Up From the Ashes

Have you ever felt like something BIG is around the corner? I conversely love and hate that feeling. I'm an impatient person. When I feel impending "something" I want it to HAPPEN. Now. Like, do the pee-pee dance NOW. Yet at the same time I savor the mystery and adventure of the anticipation. While I've never been one to peek at the last page of a book first, I have, on occasion, raced over extraneous paragraphs in my haste to get the whole story – BAM! Demmit!

But life is different. There's no skimming forward to get the next best thing any faster than it's gonna get there. HG Wells tried to convince us that's possible, but it's not. Whatever "IT" is is gonna happen in it's own time. Not mine. There's just no creating a 23 hour day. Holy mother of gawd, it's such an annoying revelation that I'm just not that powerful.

So, what's weird is a couple years ago I had a similarly overwhelming sense of change. I knew to the core of my bones that a large unknown hovered in the near future. I was in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship. I prayed my misery would end, constantly yelled at my husband to leave, and was close to just checking out. I had given up on love because I knew when real love – love that is binding and restorative – exists, people don't talk to or treat each other the way we did. Our relationship had morphed into an obligatory stay-together for our kids, sweet but old vows, and an over-priced mortgage. Yet somewhere in that sad and dense blackness I held on to the notion of change. It was a primal knowing, kind of like smelling rain in the autumnal air after a long and bitterly arid summer.

Six months after blogging about "something's gonna happen," we separated.

Looking back I realize I began my personal healing process long before our split. At some point I was compelled to unpack some old, dusty boxes of belongings. I rediscovered items which had long-standing emotional and spiritual connections with me. Seeing, feeling and even smelling these small and precious artifacts seemed to jolt my spirit awake.

Slowly I resolved the fears that trapped me: I could not do anything more to save my marriage when I was the only one willing to try. My kids needed two happy parents and that wouldn't occur if we kept on like we were. I became ok with "sharing" my kids with my husband partly because I acknowledged my guilty secret of needing some time for myself (do you know how hard that is as a mother to admit???). And I finally realized our house wasn't a home, but a building where we unhappily existed.

My world became engulfed in flames. What I didn't realize was that I wasn't going to be destroyed by the fire; I was merely being prepared to rise from the ashes a better and stronger woman. I was in a Phoenix-phase and barely able to comprehend the enormity of the metamorphosis awaiting me.

After we separated, I resolutely stepped onto the excruciatingly painful road of recovering my soul, my humanity and my sanity. I slowly remembered I wasn't 1) crazy, 2) stupid, 3) embarrassing, or, 4) a piece of shit. All these things had been drilled into my head for years (and not just by him). I remembered I was pretty, I was smart, I was funny, I was worthy...and gosh-dern it people liked me.

It was like being Sally Field and Stuart Smalley's love-child.

Those memories trickled to the forefront of my mind and filtered into the fibers of my body. They took hold of the grains of my pulverized soul and reconstruction ensued. Lots of spiritual glue, duct tape, sweat and tears began re-forming my sense of self.

I remembered God. I remembered prayer. I remembered the power of writing and friendship. Once I looked at the stark nakedness of right where I was in my life, I could finally laugh about it. They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I'm thinking I should be able to carry a small country by now. What doesn't kill you also makes you stranger. Thank GOD my friends get my humor.

So here I am two years to the day almost and feeling that change is coming again. But this time I have a sense of adventure and excitement. It's a different feel than before. Maybe because I've worked hard to change and it's time to reap what I've sown? I pissed away 40 years of my life with fear, anger and sorrow. Today I embrace life. I love laughter. I cherish adventure!! I am bolder, and am learning how to allow myself to take emotional risks. I don't want to live my life afraid of dying. I'm understanding beliefs CAN be changed, that we're NOT hand-cuffed into a singular way of thinking and living life. I can change anytime I choose to. The trick is in the choosing.

Today I'm done with talkers. And I don't much cotton to misery addicts. Been there done it. All you little emos can go cry me a river in your poetry journal and shove it up your collective ass. When my head's on right, I choose not to wither in darkness but bloom in light. I crave action. Platitudes mean nothing to me; I've talked too much and I've had too many yahoos yak up impotent storms in my face for too long.

What's more, I finally accept I'm merely human, and even better, so is everyone else. That alone is a huge weight off my shoulders. I'm no longer trying out for role of Super Martyr Saint Girl. There are times I choose to kick the ground pouting but they are few and far between. When they do come around, acknowledgment of the pain and consequences of that behaviour come mercifully fast; hence I'm compelled to fix the broken cog in my mental machinery a hell of a lot sooner to get out of my "Bitch Committee" (aka my head).

Miracle of miracles, my ex and I are on good terms. We are healing (in our own ways) and are friends. We work together for our girls and put aside as best as possible our differences for them. We love each other in a way that was once there but stagnated because it was so choked by boredom, resentment and immaturity. Ergo, we grew apart. – the dream didn't quite come true and that's ok. It's amazingly ok. There was a time when I thought the death of that dream was the end of life. And now I realize it was...but also the beginning of a new and amazing life.

Would I have preferred we stayed married and worked it out? Up until our divorce was finalized the answer was yes because I tried to the end, it was very 0ne-for-the-Gipper-esque. But once the judge finalized the divorce I knew it was the right thing to do.

Today I'm happier than I have been in my entire life, even in my "off-times". And that's a damned true story. The fact is, if it was supposed to be any other way, it would be. FUCK. You could go cross-eyed trying to analyze that statement. My mind just exploded a little because it absolutely needs to make everything more complex. Simplicity and I don't naturally mix. But when we do mesh, it's sweet.

So what's coming? Sometimes I shiver with anticipation, kind of like a little kid counting down to Christmas. Whatever it is, I know in my gut it involves happiness, love and adventure. Because life has changed exponentially for the better since I emerged from the wreckage. This phoenix is flying and singing. And LAUGHING. The kind of freedom I have been given is profound. Life is simply good.