Brave

Brave
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this Weinstein fellow. I had never even heard of the old guy before last week. But now his face is plastered all over the media and somehow my thoughts seem to drift his way. My feelings are probably the minority, but I suppose I’ll still share them anyway.
I don’t feel any need to hashtag my “me too” self to bring awareness of sexual harassment to anyone who cares to listen. I’ve been raped twice, but rarely speak or think about it. I don’t want to feel like a victim. I’m not. It happened and I’m over it. Maybe I’m lucky but I have no lasting concerns, no permanent damage, no triggers or flashbacks or anxiety in the night. I sleep just fine. For me, it certainly wasn’t a life changing event, my worldview didn’t become distorted. Life just moved on. Not like I want to minimize someone else’s horrific experience, but it just wasn’t the case with me.
What I did do was go to the police, filed the requisite paperwork, and completed the invasive exams. Not so much with the intention of punishing the guy for what he did to me, but more for the piece of mind that he may not be able to do this again in the future. It was very uncomfortable. Surely I didn’t want to do it. But I did, I did it, not for me, but for the girls to come.
I hear all these stories about people coming forward now, 25 years later being deemed as brave. I don’t think what they are doing is brave. Maybe it would have been brave to have come out when it happened, when there wasn’t a plethora of cheerleaders in your corner, when there was little hope you would even be recognized or believed. That might have been brave. When you could have prevented the scores of other women from going through the same nightmare. Now, I don’t feel sorry for you. I don’t think you are brave. But thank you for your story all the same.
Not to seem flippant, but maybe a little perspective here. Things like this happen all the time. Is it right? Maybe not. But what is life other than a constant exchange of quid pro quo? I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. I can’t imagine a person walking the planet who hasn’t used someone to get what they need or want. Maybe this case is more serious. Maybe cause it involves sex. Maybe because it involves the powerful. All I know is that as vile as this guy is portrayed, I’m sure that is not all he is. And if I had the public limelight shining down on my every flaw, I’m not sure I’d be in a much different boat.
Life isn’t fair. Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people. But in the end, we are just people. Worthy of second and third and fourth and 99th chances of forgiveness and do overs. Life isn’t fair. A series of tragedies and triumphs.
I am sure his life has been turned upside down. I am sure that most people say he deserves it. But I have never been an eye for an eye kind of person. More of a turn the other cheek and then the other and then back again. Maybe I am naive and maybe I am weak. But who am I to judge that one person’s inequities are greater than another’s. And when it boils down to it, we are all just sinners living among sinners trying to make the best of what we have here. Life is too short to be angry, to hold grudges. So to the two men out there who have taken something from me that no woman should ever be forced to give away. I forgive you. I hope you are happy, that your families are strong, and that somehow you were changed and didn’t repeat this behavior. But you are forgiven and you are not hated. You are still my neighbor and equal. And to Harvey Weinstein, I hope you see the error of your ways, I hope you are able to repent and find peace. I hope you will be able to forgive yourself. And even though I am not in a position to grant absolution, I forgive you. I forgive you for the pain you have caused and the terror you have inflicted.
I don’t know what bravery is. Risking your own wellbeing for the greater good maybe. If any greater good will come of this at all. Meanwhile, decidedly unbrave I will pray for these woman, I will pray for Weinstein and his family. I will pray that all of us trudging together bounded by humanity will learn to love more, to forgive sincerely, and always keep moving forward.

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The curious case of the flu shot

I pick my first grader up from the end of a Friday after a long week at school.  She smiles. The smile of a child with too much on her mind. Behind the sparkling blue eyes are pools of worry and doubt that should only be seen in the souls of those who have lived decades beyond her meager six years. She bounces into the car, hot pink back pack slung over one of her shoulders. She eases her arms into her car seat and buckles herself into the five point harness that comforts her and keeps her still. There is so much to be gained from monotony. 

“Can we go get a flu shot? I don’t want to get the flu.” She requested to go to the same retail pharmacy as last year because they give the best shots. Having a mom for a nurse has its perks at times, not sure spending Friday night asking for arm jabs is one of them. We pulled up and ambled into the pharmacy hand in hand. We asked the pharmacist for our flu shots.  My daughter insisted I go first. One down, one to go.

My daughter stood frozen. She looked like a panicked wild animal in the cross hairs of a hunters ‘s bow. She screamed, a wild howl of fear.  She changed her mind.  She didn’t want a flu shot today after all. No amount of coaxing or clawing from Mom could pry her feet away that were cemented on the floor.  The downside of getting your healthcare the same place you get beer and Windex is that they are limited in what they can do.  Unlike the pediatrician’s office where the friendly staff are adept in restraining wild children and quickly inflicting brief pain, retail pharmacists are more unwilling or unable to perform the immuniztion without the child’s consent.

So no flu shot today. She wailed the whole ride home.  A stream of fears a six year old probably shouldn’t have. “I don’t want to get the flu. The flu makes you go to the hospital. That’s where you die. I don’t want to be with papa and don’t want to see god.” She cried about dying, her dying, me dying, her being scared of losing anyone else around her. 

She weeps into my shoulder as I pull her out of the car. “Why didn’t you make me get my shot? Do you want to make me die?” I am sad for her.  She has such a big heart and she soaks emotion in from all around her. She loves with a fury.  She has dealt with more death than anyone should have to deal with and I see the toll it takes on her young mind.  

I hug her. I hold her. I try not to be too angry at her for wasting our time and embarrassing me. I love her. I love her. My dad died. Her papa died. One day life will go on.

Sins

Succumb
What are your seven deadly sins? Are they the same for all of us? Is succumbing to vice merely an unavoidbale consequence of the human condition? Is there really even a reason to resist?  Is there a reward for moral fortitude, purity and piety?

Seven deadly sins all boil down to three. Power. Control. Lust. Life is nothing but a play for power. It can be earned; stolen; wielded for good or evil. Being in command or being commanded. And isn’t power just another word for control? I often wonder if I’d ever be brave enough to fully relinquish it. To a higher being, to a lover, to a friend, to an outside circumstance. And as control slips through our fingertips how we yearn for power.

Lust. For food. For sex. For substances. For power and control. For a life we cannot have. For money. For possessions. For beauty. For eternal life. Our desires consume us. We want what we can’t have. We want more of what we already do.

Is it really so bad? To dance that seductive dance of taking and giving control. To yearn for delights of the flesh.  What are we sacrificing when we give into these temptations? Relationships? Character? And who is the judge?

I float above my body and watch. I am hovering above my cowering frame, cloaked in a cape of security. Floating here I am strong, I am beautiful, I am in control, I am safe. I watch the mouse down below. Cry into her pillow. Bed sheets soaked with her tears and his scent. The smell that won’t wash off; won’t disappear. Underneath I see pain written all over her face. Her ruddy cheeks staining her early wrinkled skin. But not up here. From above I am happy.

Cloaked

Fraud

Fraud

I glanced down at my bulging belly and cringed as I felt the burgeoning life wiggling inside me. I am the American Dream. I have a house, a gorgeous house. I have a car and a white picket fence and a husband who works 9-5. I have a job. A job that is disposable. One that I do because I like working and not because I need the money. I have the luxury of choice and boredom. I can do whatever I please whenever I please.
But the baby that wiggles in the trenches of my womb reminds me that despite the free spirit I am and despite all the choices I may have– it reminds me of the shackles that tie me to this life of monotony. I found out I was pregnant, those two pink lines laughing in my face like a toothless grin of an evil old witch. I am supposed to be happy. I am supposed to be overjoyed. I am supposed to be in love. I am supposed to be…
But what I am is a fraud, a diligent imposter begging to be found out. And I cry. I cry the tears of a mother not ready. A selfish girl not yet prepared to become a woman. A peg stuck in a board of a game that’s been rigged from the start. I cry because I am the dream. The dream of every woman who has come before me who is not me. I cry because I do not want to be your mother. I cry because you do not deserve this. I cry because you are so much better than I can ever show you.

embrace the fake

Superficial

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Plastic, elastic, fantastic girl made of everything spice and nothing nice.  Bitter on the tongue and rough in the hand. I left you in command but you surrendered to the opinion of the falling, falling, falling beasts.  And the beast was beat by the least of the bunch and I once had a hunch that you loved me.  But your love had faltered and waivered and was nothing but fake.  A soft break in the land of giant mistakes.  The biggest flaw was that I know nothing at all. And what do you know but what you have seen?  And what have you seen but remnants of dreams?

The dreams settle in, so you can pretend that something you think means more than the sink and you are not on the brink of happy or sad or mad or between.  Only on the edge of the life of a queen.  And it’s tight and it’s loose and it’s nice and it’s not. Nothing matters when you don’t stir the pot.  You twist and you turn while the river still churns. Like your belly that is empty and full of deceit.  What came first the defeat or the lies?  And all you have left is a mouthful of pies.  The dessert is so sweet and tasty it makes your mouth full of soft and sugary fun.  The fun is something that has never begun.

I like to be clean and I like to be right.  I like to be yours in the middle of the night.  When the sun comes and ruffles my eyes, the birds of a feather have fallen together and you left and I’m in the bed all alone and all that is left is the smell of cologne.  But the scent of musk and floral bouquet is still not enough to brighten the day that you left and you came was one and the same.  You come and the sum of all that I am is nothing in the palm of your hand.

Everything is up for debate and discuss.  Even here in the midst of our lust.  The thick kisses of doubt have swallowed me up and I am no longer a shadow of a fresh buttercup.  Only rotten cream in the bottom of my cup has finally swirled to the end of my luck.  Its lock, stock and barrel, the end of the night. Get out of my bed and don’t put up a fight.  I’m nothing but the sum of my inflatable parts.  The debatable piece is the one that I lost. The piece of the hole that is gone from the sum is the part that I need to be nothing but fun. I am down on my knees. I am confessing my sins.  But all I have done wrong is dripping off of your chin.

I’m fun and I’m fake and I’m happy and care free.  I’m a superficial Barbie and inviting you to tea.  I can be what you want, what you need, what you are.  I can be anything, your wish on a star.  And I thrive off of what I can do for you.  And I crave the attention you drop at my knees. And I crave when I can have whatever I please.  I control you. You are my puppet. My pet.  Your hands are tied tight right round the nape my neck.  That is ripe for the choking and ripe for the game.  But the game I have played has made me insane.  My mind is used up like a whore on the street.  And the whore is my friend but she’s worth more than me. Worth more than the ocean at the bottom of the sea.

A penny for your thoughts or a dollar for mine.  I can show you such a good time.  A good time, a great one, whatever lies between.  Just listen to me and I’ll make all your dreams.  Come true for an instant.  For a life time or more.  Come listen to me and I’ll make you a queen.  The queen of the damned and all underneath.  Underneath the sheets and I’m undercover.  A cover I made to shadow what’s real.  To protect me from all that I might have to feel.  The feelings that sting and feelings that bite.  And I sink my teeth into the dark of the night.  I am fake. A fraud.  A falsehood you follow. A spoonful of lies you daintily swallow.  No question, no doubt.  You are my disciple.  You worship an idol who knows little of good.

I have lost my way down the yellow brick road, searching for an oil can that loosen me up.  Loosen my lips and loosen my mind.  Loosen my hips while you watch me from behind. But the yellow brick road has lead me astray and I am left drowning in all my dismay.  And up comes the sun and all of its glory.  And I’m holed away, terrified of its fury.

 

Vacation

Summer Vacation

It seems like we can’t get through a summer vacation without a thing or two going awry. That’s what makes it so fun. What could possibly go wrong with a trip that starts out with 1000 miles in a car? Here’s how it all went down…

Happy and in love, two tired parents were geared up for a much needed vacation without their two little friends in tow. We’d planned it out for months, and it was time to get this party started. My lovely in-laws had volunteered to watch our kids for their own staycation at home. Unfortunately, there was a death in the family that necessitated the in-laws urgent departure from home. We scrambled around to piece together babysitters to watch over the littles so that we could continue on our way. Thank goodness for Grandmas.

First crisis averted, we journeyed another 500 miles to reach our destination. We pulled up to our hotel and it looked like something out of a bad horror movie. The lovely lady at the desk advised us she had lost our reservation even though we clearly had a confirmation printed out in front of us. She argued and argued with us until she begrudgingly gave us her supposed last room. Apparently Mobile Alabama is a happening place to be.

The room was so disgusting. There was only one working light. No lights worked in the bathroom. Every surface was visibly stained and dirty and sticky. The microwave was filled with old food splatters. The fridge had a white, puffy thick cream stuck in the door. In the bathroom, used soap bars lined the sink. A towel was hung behind the door from the previous occupants. The room smelled like a pack of wet dogs had a party the night before. We needed several glasses of wine before we could attempt to climb into the bed. It felt like it was full of sand. The worst part is there was no beach nearby.

Lucky for us the receptionist decided to give us a call at midnight and 1 am to let us know she had finally found our reservation and we needed to come to the desk immediately to pay for our room. Wow…We finally found ourselves at the free continental breakfast made up of stale frosted flakes and cold coffee and were told the only utensils they had were knives. We’d have to make do eating cereal with knives. But finally we were out of there and ready for our cruise.

Despite being treated slightly like criminals having our bags opened and contents spewed across the table and searched, finally culminating with the security folks confiscating our banned power strip boarding the boat was relatively uneventful. We sailed away and then had our fun day at sea. It was actually quite fun. Next stop Costa Maya. We toured some Mayan ruins and it was probably only 111 degrees out with enough humidity to make your smile sweat. The ruins were nice enough despite the oppressive heat. We headed to the beach. Supposedly there was open bar, but the bartender let us know if we wanted to use our open bar, we had to pay an extra $20 each. Sure thing. Maybe the craziest part were all the dogs. Random stray dogs everywhere.

Next day brought Cozumel. The beach was sort of sea-weedy but we had fun all the same. It was so hot, even the water was warm. Nothing quite says refreshing beach day like warm bath water. Back on the boat and tomorrow was another fun day at sea.

Fun day at sea starts off with me jumping into the cruise bed and banging my head on a metal light fixture conveniently posted at the head of the bed. Unfortunately enough I developed a fine concussion. The next morning we depart, our lovely vacation was coming to a close just a thousand mile drive to go. We caught a cab back to hotel strange and our driver informed us that someone had been murdered in that very parking lot while we were away at sea. Good luck for us I guess. I left my better half in Alabama to attend a funeral and I started the long trip back home. Driving 1000 miles with a minor brain injury should be a piece of cake. I made it all the way to Greenville, SC before my car broke down. But to my surprise, I broke down right in the parking lot of a repair shop. Thank goodness. I stayed the night in a comfy hotel and in the morning drove the long 500 miles back home.

The closer I got to home, the dizzier and blinder I was getting. I stopped in urgent care to get a quick check of my head and I was sent to the ER. They offered to call the ambulance but I assured them I could drive myself. The nice doctor let me know that I was not allowed to drive. I confirmed I had a ride and promptly got in my car and drove over to the ER.

The waiting room looked like Armageddon on steroids. But after a short 9 hour wait, I was declared brain bleed free and sent on my way. Home at last. Only when I arrived the security system and smoke detector were malfunctioning and the alarms screaming out of them would make your ears bleed even sans concussion.

Just another day in the life and another relaxing vacation on the books.  In all honesty, we actually had a blast. My cynical nature and slightly bleak portrayal of an unfortunate series of events aside, I am ready for the next amazing trip.

 

Moms

Lollipop

She pulled up in her lollipop pink oversized SUV. One of those soccer moms whose kids are too good to even play soccer. Her curly blonde locks tumbled down her back as she jolted a perfectly shaped leg decorated with a four inch patent stiletto out of her door. She is beautiful, she is confident, she is strong, she is sexy. She is everything I am not: an effortless mom, a classic beauty, a social butterfly.

I pull up behind her in the car riders line at school, my mud stained SUV looking lonely behind her shiny pink beast. My posture is slumped, my body is lumpy, my short uneven hair is matted down against my head from sleeping right after a shower the night before. I am wearing cut off jeans and flip flops as I tumble out of my car to unbuckle my daughter and kiss her on the head while she runs into school. I sigh an enormous sigh of inadequacy that I hope does not rub off on the little human bouncing into those glass double doors.

First Fatherless Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day and I am scrawling words in a new notebook next to your grave. The pages are blank like a life that’s not yet been lived, much different from your own where all the pages have already been filled. I sit with my back against the cool, hard granite, my legs atop the sparsely growing grass and I imagine I am sitting with you and not on top of your body lying in a wooden box layered with dirt and concrete. Today isn’t like the other days here at the cemetery. There are many other fatherless folks standing and crying at their beloved dads’ final resting places.

I am not crying, I am rearranging the fake flowers in your stone gray vases. It makes me feel like I am doing something. I imagine you standing underneath our old red deck, grilling some sort of meat on the grill. The blue and red bag of Kingsford charcoal slouched up against the garage. And with your Budweiser in hand, drinking some and pouring a little bit more in the sauce. You’d stand a little way back from the smoke and you’d look over at your garden. The rows of tomatoes and squash peeking up through the dark, freshly tilled earth.

These lazy Sundays filled with yard work and cooking and football games. We didn’t say much back then. You were a smart man who, though not many knew it, did not give yourself enough credit. But you only spoke when you knew you were right and didn’t have much interest in small talk. You’d point out a cardinal in the tree or an eagle in the sky. You’d talk about the different kind of evergreens and tell me about the big, old maple tree in the back yard and how to tell the difference between oak and maple trees.

Who knew these lazy Sundays that I never even noticed would be all the best memories?   that’s how it goes. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

I ran a race for you today. Well, a race for Father’s day and for the Cancer Society. I went to church and lit a candle. I am sitting at your grave and later I will go home and cook tuna steak on the grill and boil the shrimp the way you taught me with the Boy Scout veggies in the foil packets.

I have been here almost two hours now. I flipped my shoes off and plopped on the grass on top of you. You never believed in wearing shoes in the summer. That’s not exactly true. You always wore shoes because your feet always hurt. We buried you in your sneakers. But if your feet weren’t always in such bad shape, you’d not be wearing shoes.

I am sure you’d tell me to go home now. Go home and take care of my babies. No use sitting here crying over something that can’t be undone. Happy Father’s day, dad. My first one without you. I hope you know I am doing okay. We came from good stock and we know you did a good job.

Rest easy, dad. Rest easy.