Dumpster Fire Lemonade 2017

2017 has been referred to as a dumpster fire more times than I can count and in a million ways it was. Nonetheless, many of us managed to make Dumpster Fire Lemonade out of Dumpster Fire Lemons. And looking back at my life honestly, there hasn't been much I've been willing to change until it was nearly burnt to the ground.  

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2017 turned my son into an activist. There's nothing like watching your civil liberties go up in smoke to get you into real high gear. My 12 year old joined the ACLU, sponsored two ACLU events, started an ACLU club at his middle school and designed a website called Activism 10.  I am proud as hell of my son and everyone else who has transformed from regular civilian earthlings into badass warriors of the peaceful resistance. 

2017 got me on medication and back into therapy. I can still cry, but I no longer cry for three days straight. It's been a long time since I've driven to a parking lot just to weep. 2017 allowed me to call uncle and seek out the extra help I need. 

2107 has led me to excavating ancient wounds within my own heart. Yesterday, while talking about the deep shame I have surrounding the house I grew up in that I live in still, my therapist asked me my most disturbing memory around money. It wasn't growing up in a small house on food stamps and welfare, thrift stores or yard sales, reduced lunch tickets or rummaging through the couch cushions for spare change. It was falling in love with a gazillionaire when I worked a candy counter at a movie theater. It was lending him the money that he never paid back. It was his accusation that I was too emotional about money. It was telling him I loved him in my $500 Honda with a Barbie gloriously glue-gunned to the hood and his reply: "you have a really shitty car." It was that ax to the gut when I didn't have a strong enough core to deflect anything someone I adored threw my way. It was absorbing someone else's trash and allowing it to burn.

2017 has given me the agency to continue the hard work of reclaiming myself. Yes, sometimes it's like wading through a cave in waist deep mud with a toothpick and a match. Some days the best I can do is stay in bed eating frosted brownie bites. Some days though, the prayer, meditation, meds, therapy, friends, family and every 12 step program known to woman kind pays off. And now I can't wait to see what 2018 has in store. 

 

Everything I Could

19, New York

19, New York

The first time I held a gun was in the car of a married man I'd met at wedding. I was 19, home from college, heartbroken, desperate to feel wanted by anyone at all. Thirty-five, rail thin with black hair and eyes, he slipped me dixie cups of white wine right under my father's nose. He looked like Skeletor or a used car salesman. Later that week he looked me up in the phone book.

What do I have to lose? was my attitude as we drank margaritas at a Mexican restaurant. He pulled his wedding ring out of his pocket and placed it between us on the table. I laughed it off, I laughed at all of it, an enormous joke separating me from the depths of my unwantedness. The French boy had taken my hair out of its barrette and called me his greatest enemy. As I'd leaned over him he'd turned his head and refused to say anything else.

In the car, the man reached under the front seat, and pulled out a pistol, placing the solid, cold weight of it in my hand. I held it like it a dying animal, like it was my responsibility to keep it somehow alive. The man parked, took his gun, put it away, and led me through the courtyard of a church. I sat next to him on a bench surrounded by roses and moonlight and then he put himself in my hand, hard and hot, and I did what I could to end the scene unfolding in front of me, a scene I wanted to write about more than I wanted to live. The boy had said he'd think my lips were beautiful if he didn't know they were mine. How could I bridge the chasm of self that created between the girl I was and the girl someone else could love?

Right now I'm both that 19 year old girl and this 42 year old woman, walking hand in hand, talking it through, flushing it out. The girl tells me she didn't always do the healthiest, safest, smartest things to survive, and I tell her it's OK, she did everything she could. 

Aggressive Self Care

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I went to the massage therapist last Friday because there was that thing in my back that appears again and again after days or years like a reincarnated demon. I'd tried rolling on tennis balls. I'd asked my husband to dig his elbow in. But it hung on between my neck and shoulder squeezing like a vice. 

"That's grief," my sponsor said. I've recently been assigned the role of executor over my dad and stepmother's wills. There's no known timeline, it's just an eventuality. The only thing we know is that, sooner or later, as for all of us, death is coming. And the grief that comes in stages does not wait for death in order to begin. I've written some really raw, painful things about my childhood recently and sent them to my dad, conversations I'd only tiptoed around before but now feel the need to face head-on. Opening this line of communication has been terrifying but I don't want there to be things unsaid, issues unresolved as we make our way forward. And so. our relationship grows closer, more tender, more painful, more real. It hurts and it heals.

My massage therapist digs her thumbs into my shoulders as I lay on her table. I'm proud just to be there, to have taken the time to practice this level of aggressive self care. Because in addition to the revolutions in my inner life, my outer life is going full throttle with no end in sight. Workshops, seminars, conferences, birthday parties, mothering, wifing, housing, adulting, cleaning up cat poop, dog poop, lizard poop, wrestling with the plastic, bloody skeletons of Halloween. Sometimes it feels like I'm running a marathon through a jungle on stilts, attacking the wild with a straw instead of a machete. Even when it's all wonderful stuff. Especially when it's all wonderful stuff. Because now that life is so good, if I crumble and fall, there's so much more to lose.

So. Naps and baths. Forced and prolonged kitten/hound/lizard cuddling. Medication. Meetings. Dancing like a fool. Putting on lipstick to go to CVS. Buying the cute socks. Telling myself I love myself even when I eat the damn cake. Strong, strong coffee. Saying no. Going to bed at 6:30. Wearing high heels around the house and comfortable shoes everywhere else. Dancing like a fool. Praying like hell. God, please 

"This is control," my massage therapist says as she rolls down my spine, unhooking knots. And it's that too, the deep, desperate need to order the universe so it doesn't spin out of control. So I don't lose myself and go under. I breathe out heavily under her tender, firm touch and imagine the grief and control losing their grip on my body. As she instructs, I imagine columns of luminescent white light streaming through my power center. I imagine what it would be like if I knew I was OK even awash in the tornadoes and hurricanes and tidal waves of feeling that make up a life. My life. And when she was done, I got up, put my clothes on and dove back into my day.