Friday, October 29, 2010

Sleep Therapy

For the past few weeks, I've been a basket case of uptight craziness, rushing about, working on the edits for FREAK, juggling a thousand things at once.  I'd been invited to a big Halloween party on Saturday and I was ranting and raving to myself that I wished to GOD I'd never agreed to go.  I had to come up with a costume, get dressed up, waste time.  A pure, unadulterated bitchfest.  I'd gotten less than five hours of sleep a night since I'd begun all the rereading and analyzing all the editor's hard work as well as my own and last night, I finally crashed.  My head was pounding, my eyeballs had melted, my brain had fried.  So I did the only thing a semi-rational human being could do.

I went to sleep. 

Sometimes, that's the best thing for a case of the hyper-pissy.  Like a squalling toddler, I was griping and angry and my head hurt and I didn't want to do anything but keep going, going, going, get it done, get it done.  My body was exhausted, my mind was overwhelmed and I needed to slow down.  As my roomie, who is a yoga master, often says, ssslooowww dowwwnnnn.  When it comes to the insecure, that's a very tough thing for us to do because nothing we ever do is fast enough, good enough, clever enough or anything enough.  We can always do better.  What we don't look at is, we can also always do worse.  In our screwy brains, we're already doing the worst.  We're already inadequate.

I thought I was past that meanness to myself but insecurity loves to lurk, waiting for an opportunity to pounce.  Last night, I was a yarn ball and insecurity a grinning cat.  We took a tumble together and I unravelled a bit.  It was very early for me, around eleven at night, but I went to bed, curled up under the covers, snuggled my microfiber pillow and soon began to snore.  I was the toddler who runs around screaming and collapses in the middle of the floor.  All I was missing was the footsie pajamas.  So take a lesson from the not-so-wise and listen to your body.  If you're tired, ssslooooooww dowwwnnnn.  Take a nap.  Get some sleep therapy.  It's cheap, it's refreshing, and it's necessary.  Be kind and put yourself to bed. Hum a lullaby and take care of yourself.  You are your own child too, you know.  Don't push too hard.

Be well.

Love, R

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

facebook info!

Hello, All.  I now have a facebook page.  Since I'm a techno moron, one of the photos is upside down but at least the page exists now.  The website will be up soon too.  Check it out!

Facebook Address: Freak Rebecca ODonnell

Love, R

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Magical Meetings

I met a wonderful couple today: an old lady and her very old mother.  We got to talking and the mother began to reminisce about her husband.  They'd been married fifty years when he died.  She is still grieving and it's been along time since he passed.  Every day, she'd bring him a glass of orange juice in the morning while he shaved.  He would reach over and kiss the hand holding the glass and say, "Good morning, my darling."  Every night, he would give her a cuddle and say, "Good night, my darling."  As he lay dying, she held his hand in their bed and coaxed, "My love, try and say it.  Say, "good night, my darling."  Her lip trembled as she told me this, then this beautiful smile broke through as she said, "He couldn't say it with words so he said it with his eyes."  She went on with a few more beautiful stories and all three of us were a bit teary by the end of it.  The daughter smiled in a bittersweet way.  "Yeah, Dad was a really nice guy.  A really nice guy."  "Make sure you're friends first," the old lady instructed me, wagging a finger to make her point.  "Friends first.  Then everything will be fine."

I love stories like that; magical meetings that reaffirm the fact that love does exist, true love does conquer all, and even if it's fleeting, it's still a pearl beyond price.  I don't feel envy or bitterness that I don't have such a relationship in my life right now.  Mostly I feel gratitude that I'm given proof, every once in a while, that such wonders really do exist.  In the cynical world we live in, so much shit is spinning in our heads every day; horrors on the news, financial disasters, relationship woes and physical ailments, that we lose sight of real magic.  There's Merlin sorcery in the heart of a flower, whimsical fairy dust in the silver bell laugh of a child, and spiritual warmth in the sight of two people in love.  I adore watching parents truly enjoying their kids, proof that that also exists.  When you're raised by slamhound maniacs without a clue as to decent behavior (because they've never experienced it either), it's hard to see joy in another without a bit of gall in the throat. But there, right before you, is one child you don't have to worry about.  One kid who's confident and happy.  I'm not talking about spoiled brats who get their way in all things.  I'm talking about children who are given proper boundaries and can flourish with such strong roots put down.  I know a marvelous old woman who was born wealthy, raised by loving parents, married an adoring man, is surrounded by protective and adoring children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  People bitch about her gentle kindness, sneering such opinions as, "Sure, if I was that rich and spoiled, I'd be nice and gentle too."  But don't knock that.  Can you imagine what it would be like to be free of strife, want and emotional starvation?  There would be no war and most likely no cruelty if everybody was raised that way.  She is a philanthropist and does a great deal of charity work because she was raised to appreciate everything that she has, all the benefits and advantages she was born with.  A garden of Eden, right here on Earth.  So I am grateful for such lovely visions and signs of the depth, strength and beauty of the human spirit.  Cruelty, I'm well acquainted with but kindness...that will always be magical, no matter what form it takes or where I find it. May you all have a little pixie dust sprinkled on your own lives, and may you also spread it around a bit yourselves.

Love, R

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween Fun IV

Piercing screams from upstairs notwithstanding, I was conscious only of a sickening sweet stench coming from whatever goo I was embedded in.

Peeling open my squeezed shut eyes, I shone the flashlight down at my feet, where a child's eyes glistened up at me.  I was standing in the cloth guts of a large, mutilated doll, its arms outstretched as if crying for help.

"Beck!  BECKY!  Are you all right?  Answer me!"

"I'm fine, Carol," I called, teeth clenched as I extricated myself from the rotten insides.

"What are you doing?  Come back.  Come back now, right now!"

"There's jars of tomatoes down here."

Free of the unfortunate doll, I shone the light around me.  I was in a dug out dirt cellar, where rows of canned tomatoes sat in the hollowed out walls.  I looked at the stairwell but decided I wasn't going back up that way.  Too dangerous.

A storm cellar door led to the outside.  The few steps leading up to it were sturdy.  I tested the door, found it open and climbed out, grinning.  Evil sense of humor in full swing, I can around to the porch steps and came silently back inside through the window.  Switching my flashlight off, I crept up behind the group of girls hovering over the cellar door.  They were all crying and screaming my name.  Trying not to laugh, I pulled air deep into my lungs and let out a roar.

They almost drove off without me.

That's an excerpt from FREAK which has hit the cutting room floor and found new life here on my blog.  I thought it would be a fun little Halloween story, very appropriate for this spooky season.  Now, it's back to the slag heaps.  The book is almost ready for print!  Hurrah!  Wish me and my sore eyeballs good luck with it all.  My editor is a genius and it's coming together beautifully.  I'm so excited.  I hope the book comforts and helps as many people as possible.  That's its here I go again, back to the writing computer across the room.  Take care.

Love, R

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween Fun III

We had a story to tell at school the next day.  It was a month until Halloween, but the time passed quickly.  Four other girls agreed to go with us to the voodoo house for All Hallow's Eve.

Carol remembered the winding way, since I was born with no sense of direction.  We got to the house around eleven, two carloads of giggly girls squirmy with excitement.  It was a cloudy, windy night with no stars.  Armed with flashlights, we waded through the grass and climbed in the window.

A surprise greeted us.  Everything had been cleaned up.  The pentagrams were gone, the dolls were missing, the fireplace raked out.  The only thing left was the dripping couch in the stairwell."

"You guys," Debbie cried. "What a load of bullshit!  I was really scared."
"Well, I'm more scared now," Carol said. "Somebody's been here and cleaned it all up.  They must have known we were coming."
"Oh, Jesus. Let's get out of here."
"No way," I said. "Let's go down in the basement."
"Fuck you, O'Donnell," Tammy said. "I'm not going down there."
"Come on.  What are you, chicken?"
I rolled my eyes and grinned, enjoying the whole macabre thing. "Come on, Carol.  We'll show 'em."

We got to the cellar door and shone our flashlights on the stairs leading down.  The blackness swallowed up the light.  Carol took a step back.  I looked at her questioningly and she shook her head, giggling.
"No way, Beck.  I can't go down there."
"I'll go, then."

Having just read Stephen King's Salem's Lot, I was mindful of broken steps, feeling my way with pokes of a cautious toe.  Debbie's "Let's get out of here" sounded like an echo behind me and I turned two thirds of the way down, just as the step gave way beneath me.  Crashing through three rotten planks, my feet landed in something awful and spongy, sinking to my ankles in some unknown, soaking slop.

Part IV tomorrow!

Love, R

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Halloween Fun II

Here's the second installment of cutting room floor fun.

There were mutilated baby dolls everywhere.  Eyes gouged out, then sewn into their bellies, arms ripped off, legs burnt, fingers melted, headed pierced with nails, a dead bird inside the abdomen of one; there were beheaded and mangled little Patty Playfuls all over the place.

A door in the kitchen led to a black hole of a cellar, but we didnt' go down there.
"Hey, Carol," I said. "Let's come back here for Halloween.  We'll go into the cellar then."
"You're nuts."
"Ain't going to find anything scarier than this place.  No way."
Carol grinned. "We can get a group together.  I'd be fine in a group."
"Yeah.  Like a Halloween party."

We found the door to the upstairs and had to climb over a soggy couch wedged in the stairwell.  Why it was so wet, I didn't want to know.  Somebody had rammed it down or up and gotten it stuck.

Thinking uncomfortably of my brother Frank as I clambered over the mess, I finally stood on the second floor and looked around.  There was nothing up there: no furniture, no devil stuff, nothing.

Carol and I went into one of the bedrooms and found the squares cut for the smoke holes.  We laid down on the floor and peered into the living room under us.

A sudden noise made us both jump out of our skin.  This was a scary and obviously dangerous place.  The last thing either of us wanted was some black magic cocksucker with a pet demon to appear.

We investigated the noise and found a terrified little starling flapping about the ceiling.  The bird was trapped in the back bedroom, crashing itself against the window.
"I'd be frantic too, little bird," I said as it circled the room. "Let's get you out of here."

We chased the bird for half an hour, hopping over the death holes in the floor, waving our blouses (which we'd removed) as nets.  Finally, we caught the exhausted starling and carefully stuffed it through a hole in the window.  It flew off like the hounds of hell were after it.
"No kidding," Carol said. She cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled, "Make sure you never come near this fucking place again!"

Creeped out enough for one day, we made our way back downstairs, climbed out the side window, and drove home.

That's all for today.  Will write the next installment tomorrow.  We went back on Halloween night and it was...very memorable.

Love, R

Friday, October 22, 2010

Halloween Fun

My editor recommended that I post some of our cutting room floor excerpts from the manuscript on my blog.  I was digging through some of them and came across something that's perfect for Halloween.  So, here is a story from the manuscript FREAK which is not going to be in the finished book.  Very fun, and all true.  It took place when I was in high school with my best friend Carol.

Carol's parents had bought her a car.  We spent many a lazy afternoon driving around the back roads and dirt lanes between Briggsville and the neighboring towns.  Autumn approached, and endless rows of corn started to tassel in the fields.  That's when we found the voodoo house, as we liked to call it.

A favorite habit was to find old farmhouses and see if we could get inside and explore.  Unlike my brother Frank, who had turned me on to the idea, we didn't look for things to destroy.  Frank had burnt, demolished and torn apart innumerable abandoned houses in his quest for destruction.  Even today, decades later, he drives around, tool in the back seat, looking.  His favorite things were houses with crystal doorknobs, which exploded under one blow from a hammer, or furniture, which could be used as a battering ram to tear apart walls and knock down doors.  He and his hooligans once shoved an old grand piano straight through the wall and bay window of a beautiful, lonely old house. 

Carol and I spotted the voodoo house on top of a hill.  It had a dilapidated old barn with a caved-in roof behind it, but there was nothing of interest in there.  The dirt lane was overgrown with weeds and the grass was waist high.  Perfect.  We parked as close as we could get and climbed the rest of the way.

Rotten and sagging, the porch groaned under our careful weight.  I found a side window partially open and we wiggled inside.

Rosemary's Baby and Race with the Devil combined inside that freakish house.  Who knows what sad grannie and grandpa haunted that place, appalled by what had become of their once lovely home.  Carol and I wandered the first floor in superstitious silence, our hair standing on end.

Pentagrams were etched in black graphite on the walls and floors of every  room.  Occult magazines and Ouija boards lay in messy piles in the living room and several small, controlled fires had been lit on the floor, surrounded by a ring of stones.  Eight inch squares had been cut through the ceiling and upper floors directly above the burnt wood, apparently to allow the smoke to escape.  Demons and goat's head monsters, drawn on newsprint, were taped on the four walls of the living room, and decapitated birds lay burnt in the green fireplace.  Worst of all, though, were the baby dolls.

That's all for now.  Will write another installment tomorrow!

Love, R

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thieves & Liars

It's a weird thing when you're raised by thieves and liars.  As a child, you don't have a clue that they're thieves because they lie to you about it, and no clue that they're liars because they swear they're telling the truth.  In the microcosm world of the family, what ma and pa say, goes...or you don't eat.  Sometimes, you don't sit either because they beat your ass. 

Language is another thing abused nutcases like me rarely take into account.  I remember the verbal stuff: the swearing, the yelling, the cruel taunts about my own worthless and financially costly existence.  I remember the physical terminology: slaps, punches, belts, yardsticks and fly swatters, violence and sexual brutalization; those were all a vernacular I recognized and acknowledged.  But I overlooked the myriad other languages my parents were communicating with.  I didn't address those, even though they were dug in like a tick in my psyche.  Why?  I didn't think about them, not consciously.  I tried jumping on the bandwagon of self-analysis, smug in the power of my own intellect and courageous determination to clean my wounded mind up and heal all that hurt.  Don't get me wrong, that was a good thing for me to try to do, but too shallow a way of thinking.  Kind of like trying to stitch up a deep wound with butter: all I was doing was basting myself for the oven. 

So what languages am I talking about?  The invisible kind, the unseen by fleshy eyeball kind.  Instinct and emotion, collective memory and soul-destroying corrosive cruelty.  Oh, yay.  Those fuckers.  Let's talk about them.

Daddy and Mommy both beat me.  On the surface, there's the obvious.  Physically, it hurt.  Emotionally, it was terrifying and humiliating. As I got older, it also pissed me off.  Those are the obvious.  But what were they telling me that hit both instinct and my soul at the same time?  What silent words were being spouted that could possibly reach that deep inside of me?  What were they telling me that I couldn't hear but absorbed anyway?

They told me that I wasn't worth being careful with.  They explained, with each blow, that it was okay for me to be damaged and broken.  I learned that all their suffering, whatever it was that caused them to be so unhappy as to beat their own flesh and blood, was entirely my fault.  That so deep and terrible a crime was perpetrated by me.  Not them.  Me.  Why else would they be driven to it? Their unhappy marriage, their financial worries, their misery at life itself, was all my own doing.

A kid'll search around for answers to what it doesn't understand.  It's obvious that accidentally dropping something on the rug doesn't deserve a beating, so the answer must lie somewhere else.  There's nothing in the room but me and my parent.  It's not the parent's fault because they're not beating themselves.  They're beating me.  They're also screaming that it's my fault and it's my job as a kid to believe whatever they tell me.
Again, that's a survival instinct.  So on both levels, I'm being told that I am worth less than food.  I have no decent purpose; I only cause strife.  No matter what I do to try and fix the situation, to do better, to please them, I can't do it.  I am the cause of all misery, my own as well as that of my raging parents.

Daddy fucked me.  In that dark and terrible communion, his actions told me I was less than a whore because I never got money, less than a slut because I never asked for it.  I was simply a dirty-holed secret that no one should talk about.  Even the clandestine nature of the incest caused severe damage.  What is causing this overwhelming shame?  I am.  All the other little girls' daddies love them.  They're worth loving because they're good, clean little girls.  I am something filthy.  I am less than human.  Something about me is making him do this.  Something about me attracts this sort of behavior.  All I am, all I have going for me, is the fact that I can give my father an erection.  And that makes my skin crawl.  Worst of all is the fact that I still love him.  I'm disgusting, abnormal.  Repulsive.

And then there's the one, the big loudspeaker voice, the one that never shuts up, even when we're alone. The voice of Me, Myself and I.  What answers to my own mysteries did I whisper alone in my bed, shaking with fear that the door knob would start slowly turning and someone would come in?  What did I tell myself in the primal reaches of my brain, what emotions did I embed in the very depths of me?  What caused all that self-contempt and hatred?

I didn't run away.  I tried but I always came back.  I wanted to eat and sleep in a bed more than I wanted to be free of all that monstrosity.  I could have died.  I could have used violence as well.  I didn't.  I lived and I didn't fight back.  Not to the extent that it made any difference.  I ate with these people every day, I took the food they gave me, I wore the clothes they bought me, and I was grateful for it.  I was a coward.  A weak, disgusting, two-faced piece of shit that valued creature comforts above my own worth.  I joined in the game of destroying Becky and I kept it going long after Mom and Dad were out of the picture.  I found people to have in my life who would keep the ball rolling, keep the pain and the self-hatred fires stoked and blazing.  I chose them on a level way beyond subconscious.  I chose them on instinct, beyond thought or reasoning.  That's how I stayed in such a quagmire for so many, many years.

But I got out.  I work daily to stay out.  I love myself now.  I am a good person.  I am a strong person.  I still hear the little mosquito buzzing of insecurity and self-loathing, but I do what I can to swat it away.  I don't want to live the rest of my life believing the vocal and silent words of thieves and liars.  People who stole my confidence, robbed me of my innocence and lied about it.  The truth of it is, it wasn't my fault.  The difficult part is believing it.  Repetition is the key for me.  All those nightly mantras of kindness and love to myself are sinking, like pearls dropped in shampoo; slowly, surely, perfect and gleaming, all the way down past instinct to my soul.  A little soul-healing.  Good stuff and well worth the effort.  May you seed your own heart with precious gems.  Let them fall, smooth and steady, all the way down.  Heal yourselves, my dear friends.  You can do it. I believe in you.

Love, R

Monday, October 18, 2010

Charles the Man

My favorite man in the entire world was Charles the Man.  He was my mom's gentleman (can't say boyfriend when he was in his sixties when they met) for twenty-six years.  He died in 2006.  I have a tattoo on my left forearm to forever keep him with me.  It reads "Charles the Man" and has the Third Marine Division emblem on it.  Charlie was a Marine in World War II.  He fought on Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima.

The reason I bring up my favorite man is because I was digging through my desk today and found a poem I wrote for his funeral.  It's got a photo of Charlie on Guam in the background, with the text over the entire shot.  Here's the poem:

One Last Toast

All the fighting's over now
Dump the rifle and bring out the plow.
We're done, we're finished
With saving the world.
It's time for rest and sunsets
And quiet evenings by the fire,
For loved ones' smiling faces,
All grief put away.
Time is finally on our side.
No more hardship, Buddy, our dues are paid.
We saved the world,
You and I and all of us.
So let's swing our glasses
To the sky for one last toast
To our Division, our Company
Our Squad.  And to you, Buddy.
You lived long and smiled through it all,
Like you always did.
It's been a long wait to see your face again
But heaven's patient and
We've kept the beer cold.
Welcome home, Bud.  Welcome home.
We few, we happy few,
Your band of brothers salute you.

Feeling a little nostalgic for my beloved Charles the Man.  And now, back to the editing of my memoir!  Hope to be done with everything by the end of this week.  It's going to be incredible...I hope! 

Take care,  R

Friday, October 15, 2010

Raindrop People

Don't you love when a cool stranger just drops into your life for that one moment of coolness?  Even if you never see them again, as Dylan would say, you remember them.  Sometimes they don't even have to say a word; there's just something about them.  Today I had one such cool stranger tell me a wonderful Russian toast: "When you die, may you be buried in a coffin made from an oak tree than was grown from an acorn I will plant tomorrow."  That is one long-winded wish for long life, haha!  I love it.  There's been any number of one-time strangers in my life, so I thought it would be fun to tell some of their stories.  They may seem important only to me but here they are:

When I was very little, I was accidentally left at Kmart.  I was too small to push the store's door open when my mom went ahead of me with a gaggle of other kids, so I turned and pushed it open, very slowly, with my back.  Too late; I watched Mom load the kids up in the car and drive away.  I stood there on the curb, thinking she'd come back but she didn't.  The security guard came out and gently questioned me.  I was trying to be brave and not cry but it was hard.  He brought me inside and took me to the submarine sandwich station (Kmart had those back then) and let me sit behind the counter.  They had to wait the half hour for Mom to get back to our house before they could even call her so I was plied with a made-to-order sandwich and a Slurpee.  It took another hour for Mom to come get me and I milked it for as much booty as I could get.  My arms were loaded with candy and caramel corn as we walked out.  It was awesome.  I never forgot that security guard and I never saw him again.

When I was a freshman in college, I went into Chicago with my friend and we toured the Water Towers, a high end shopping mall.  As I was riding down the escalator, I watched the glass elevator across the way descend at the same time.  A man was inside and it looked as if he was watching me.  We both were so intent on whether the other one really WAS watching or not, we stared all the way to the ground floor.  When I stepped off the escalator, I grinned and waved.  He laughed and waved back.  I never forgot it.  Don't know why; it was just a moment ingrained forever.

At the age of eighteen, I'd not been able to leave the campus to go home for Thanksgiving.  It was Friday, the day after.  I wandered around the deserted town and went into one of the few shops open.  It was a little boutique with one employee behind the counter, looking sullen.  I started talking with her and found out that she had asked for the weekend off to see her brother, who was home on leave for a few days only and she'd not seen him for years.  Her boss denied it and she had to work.  I was the only customer to come in that day.  I ran down to the local flower shop, bought a white rose and brought it back to her.  "I hope you see him soon and that next Thanksgiving is the best one you've ever had," I said.  She looked at me like I was crazy, then laughed and shuffled around under the counter until she found a gift for me: a little beaded bracelet.  It was a strange and marvelous moment of holiday.  I never saw her again.  She quit and moved away.

I took fencing in college.  I was the only girl in the class and the rest of the students were all members of the football team.  You can imagine how humorous that was.  We saw a demonstration by a visiting fencing master.  He was scary as hell but fascinating and he annihilated his opponent effortlessly. I saw his eyes and it made me think of the old story about the two samurais who faced off against each other for a few minutes but neither one drew their blades.  The battle was decided by their eyes.  I never forgot his.

When I went to see the movie Schindler's List, I had one of the most intense experiences in a movie theater that had nothing to do with what was on the screen.  The movie was finished, the lights had come back up and everybody was shuffling out, water-logged and drained.  There was one elderly woman, exquisitely dressed, who had stopped in the middle of the aisle to simply sob uncontrollably.  Her husband stood over her, his face awash in sympathy, his hand on her back, but there was no consoling her.  Something beautiful happened; everybody who walked past put their hand on her shoulder, very briefly, before moving on.  I watched as at least a dozen people did this.  When I drew near, I put my hand on her shoulder too, then moved on and out through the lobby into the night air.  I never saw her again, but we were all forever linked in that moment.

The first time I went to see La Boheme in the City: I knew the music, knew the tragic story, thought I was prepared for it.  But nothing prepares you for that magnificent opera when you're there in the Met.  It eats you alive.  Afterward, I was standing in the parking garage while my then-husband went in search of a valet.  I was unable to talk, unable to even think of anything but that music.  I wasn't even sobbing.  My eyes were simply pouring water, raccooning my makeup and soaking the collar of my coat.  As I stood there, I became aware of being watched.  When I looked up, there was an elderly couple, very dapper, with their arms around each other, watching me intently, ear wide grins on their delighted faces.  I could practically hear it in their heads: Virgin!  Virgin!  They could tell it was the first time I'd ever seen La Boheme and they were absolutely thrilled about my misery.  It was great.

The stranger I accidentally called on 9/11, whose name I never knew.

About ten years ago, I was in a consignment shop, digging through the used books, when I overheard a bitter old man griping about his life.  As I eavesdropped, I heard him describe his storming the beach at Normandy on DDay in WWII.  He told his friend that no one gave a damn about that anymore.  I went over and knelt at his feet, shook his hand and thanked him.  He looked at me like the nut I was, but he let me shake his hand.  I walked out and burst into tears, unable to even wrap my brain around everything he went through.  Never, ever forgot him, sitting in his wheelchair, his grizzled old face so haunted and angry.

I was in Paris a long time ago, sitting outside in a little park near the Louvre.  A little boy was running in and out of the hedges, singing in french and playing peek-a-boo with me.  It took every ounce of will power I had not to jump up and run through the hedges with him but I controlled myself and stayed seated.  I'll never forget his impish grin and silver bell of a laugh.

When my mom was in the hospital, I was down in the PT room, watching her do her physical therapy when I noticed a young man sitting in a wheelchair by himself.  He looked awful: thin, purplish, almost hairless and his eyes were two black holes in his face.  He was miserable.  I couldn't stand it so I went over and silently took his hand and laid my cheek against the top of his head.  We stayed like that for about five minutes, not talking at all.  Not a word.  Then I kissed him on both cheeks and went out.  Mom was done with therapy.  That gaunt young man still sits in my dreams sometimes. 

There's something uniquely precious about transitory encounters, how they come into your life like a spring shower and somehow stay forever in your memory.  They're irreplaceable, irresistible and necessary in some unknown way.  My memory would have patches of drought without their fleeting existence and it doesn't really matter why.  I love them, one and all, and am happy to pull them out for a rainy evening of reminiscing.  Delicious, trickling, refreshing moments of memory.  Strange and exquisite.

Love, R

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Break Throughs

Don't you love it when a thought occurs in your skull that had never been there before?  When a problem, long gnawed over and thoroughly chewed, gets a fresh perspective from an unlikely source?  Break throughs, no matter what, seem to always come from a view askew.

I'm reading the final version of my memoir with a fresh eye, seeing it from the place I'm at now, where I'm no longer surrounded by flesh-eating vampires and haven't been for a year.  And I've come to a simple conclusion: I was a real weenie.  Sure, there are moments where I was cool and impressive, brave and protective of cherished loved ones, but I was mostly...a weenie.  I just put on a good show of being brave.  And therein lies the break through.

As recently as three years ago, I would have attacked myself like a pit bull over my own fears and cowardice, my uncertainties and misplaced loyalties to people who'd done little more than hurt me all my life.  I would have seen only my faults and none of the positives.  But time, coupled with the support of friends and loved ones, makes all the difference.  Environment is everything.  I was in an environment of cruelty, abuse, contempt and prejudice for the vast majority of my existence.  I recognized that cruelty and abuse were wrong but they were all I'd ever known.  I knew I could live in such an environment because I always had.  I was comfortable there, even in my misery.  So I stayed.  I'd become prejudiced about my own possibilities and sabotaged my own positive future, over and over.

But I also did something monumental.  With all the negative lessons, all the fists and fucks and violent endings I grew up with, something inside of me stayed kind.  I still love my mother.  I even still love my father.  I just recognize that he's not good for me to be around so I stay away.  What a thing to recognize in oneself: the ability to remain a good person when everything is blocking such a noble path.  My best friend is the same way; she grew up in shit and vicious abuse but stayed kind.  There are more of us out there than people think but few of us recognize what a great achievement that truly is.  Make sure you see that goodness in yourself when you begin dog-kicking your inner child.  Take off those steel-toed boots and stop the chain of self-abuse.  The only way to do that is to love the one who hurt you.  Especially if it is you, yourself.  I was a jelly gutted, weak-kneed bigmouth but I was also a good person.  I just did dumbass chickenshit things.  But then I stopped.  I embraced my own courage and I got away.  I began to nurture myself.  I cut negative people out of my life and that fertilizer began to help me take root in the world I'm in today.  A strange, break through world of self love and even a bit of maternal pride for that broken kid I used to be...and always will be.  But that's only one aspect of Rebecca O'Donnell.  There are a thousand and one multi-colored layers to my persona and only a few of them are grey and listless, broken or bitter.  I will concentrate on myself as a whole instead of the two dimensional loser that I saw in the mirror for so many years.  Moody and happy, sad and joyous, pissy and belligerent, thoughtful and kind.  I'm all of those things and a lot more.  So are you.  Give yourself a kiss and a break and be nice.  I'll do the same.   

Love, R

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Edit Eyeballs

I have been reading and shuffling the edited version of my manuscript since last Tuesday and you know what?  I have edit eyeballs.  My eyeballs have simply rebelled and gone haywire.  They refuse to read anything in a line, they're swollen from the weepies over sad parts in the text and they're not bloodshot...they're pink.  The whole white of the eye is simply pink.  Bloodshot was two days ago.  My kindred spirit buddy looked at me and said, "'re in a tornado of emotion right now!"  I've also typed this blog at least twice.  Thank heaven I took typing classes in high school so my fingers know what I'm hitting even though my eyeballs can't see it.  At work the other night, instead of writing my name on the sidework sheet, I wrote the word, "Coffee."  Don't ask me why because I don't know.  Co-workers pointed this out to me with glee or I'd still be unaware that I even did it. 

So tonight, I'm taking a break.  I'm going to eat Halloween candy out of a pumpkin head, drink tea and watch "Lost in Austen," my new favorite obsession movie.  I have showered and put on my Scottish Terrier flannel pj's, eaten a Caesar salad for luck and am, at this very moment, fantasizing about comfy covers and cracked windows with crisp October air flowing in.  So good night, my friends.  I am going to sleep my edit eyeballs away and refresh my wiped-out brain, hopefully with sugar plum dreams and snuggly comfort under well-worn blankets.  That's one of the best cure-alls I know.  Take care and wish me luck!  This is the last stage of the book before print.  No eyeball fracas will ever stop me!

Love, R

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I had a woman come into the store today who was beautiful but gaunt.  She was very thin, exquisitely dressed, and fretted over everything on the menu.  She ended up ordering half a pound of crab legs, no butter, and a side of steamed broccoli, no seasoning, butter or oil.  She refused the broccoli when I didn't bring it out on the tray together with the crab legs.  She had a lovely smile with sad eyes and her skin was fairly screaming for an ounce of anything to lubricate it.  Screaming from the inside out.  I recognized her in me.  I used to be obsessed with my weight too.

I don't do that to myself any more.  For so many years, all I saw when I looked in the mirror was an overweight, bad-skinned mess who didn't try hard enough to look good.  Who didn't have what it took to look good.  Who was too lazy and too gluttonous, with too weak a will, to resist food or exercise enough.  Even when I was one hundred and twelve pounds at five foot ten, I still thought I was a fat pig who needed to do more sit ups and definitely run a few more miles.  I surrounded myself with people who thought the same thing, obsessed the same way, including my husband.  His mother and aunts once bought me a book about food addictions because they thought I needed to be a size two.  It wasn't done cruelly.  They were legitimately trying to help me.  Thus lies the definition of killing with cruelty.

I read an article about how often high schools have to change their plumbing nowadays because so many kids, boys and girls, are bulimic.  All that stomach acid from all that vomiting eats the pipes and they have to be replaced, sometimes as often as every five years.  It's not something many outgrow, either.  I've seen many anorexic people in their forties but not many in their fifties.  They don't last that long because their bodies eat themselves.  All from being teased one too many times about not being a certain weight, often by family members as well as peers.

I know quite a few models and aspiring models who are hardcore cocaine addicts and even more who do heroin, all to be thin enough for the cameras.  It's like the encouragement of crystal meth use in third world countries so employees can work twenty hour days.  Some sweat shops give seminars on it and pass out free samples like donuts.  All to be beautiful, all to be "better."

Having studied art history, I am so thankful to have stumbled on a way to see myself not as an aging, sloppy old broad but as a masterpiece.  Go to any museum and you'll see every conceivable body type, male and female, depicted in timeless masterpieces.  Go and find yourself in those hallowed halls, go and see how beautiful you really are.  Your mirror will lie because its your own blighted sight eyeballing the image.  But a painting, a sculpture...there's no lie there.  The artist created that because it touched them in some way.

I was at a dinner party a while back where a woman in her fifties was coaching a girl in her early twenties about will power concerning food.  The girl was gorgeous and curvy, a graceful Vermeer, and the older woman was in the role of tutor.  The girl listened avidly to instructions regarding her fat hips, her bulging stomach, her overlarge breasts.  There was even gratitude in her earnest face as she drank in everything the tutor said.  But the words were vicious stings.  Dipped in syrup, sure, but stings nonetheless.  Again, I don't think the older woman meant to be cruel.  It was just what she'd been brought up to believe in, a popular philosophy of self-hatred and self denial.  "If you want to look like a super model, you have to do this and this and this."  As the grandmother mermaid in Hans Christian Anderson said, "One must suffer for beauty."

I used to believe that horseshit too.  I don't anymore.  Why?  Because I'm a masterpiece now.  It wasn't exercise, although I do that in moderation, it wasn't diet, although I try to eat healthy in between bouts of chocolate consumption.  It's simply a new set of eyeballs.  I don't see myself the same way I did when I was fucked up.  I don't harm myself with the old eternal disapproval I did for the majority of my life.  I like myself.  I think I'm beautiful.  Yeah, sometimes I wish I had the body I did when I was twenty-three again but mostly, I'm happy with what I am.  All my life, I've been a masterpiece.  I just didn't know it.

For example, when I was in my teens, I was a Modigliani.  When I was in my twenties, I was a Botticelli.  Thirties, a Rembrandt, Reuben, Rembrandt, Reuben...I fluctuated a lot.  Early forties, a big Reuben bordering on the Venus of Willendorf.  Big but still beautiful.  Now in my late forties, I'm a Botticelli again. 

Sitting at that table with the young girl and her tutor, I intervened and told them my philosophy on self image.  I told the girl she was a Vermeer and quite breathtaking, and she was.  I then went on to name each and every person at the table as the masterpiece I saw them as: Gauguin, Beardsley, Klimt, Botticelli, Raphael, Dulac, Rockwell.  And Vermeer.  A beautiful, sunlit Vermeer, sitting across from me, breathing, breathtaking and alive.  Remember, you're all masterpieces too.  Get out there, look it up and find yourself in the pages of history's great beauties.  You're there, I promise you.  Open you eyes and see, my dear friends.  Look at how stunning you all are.

And rewire those over critical eyeballs.

Love, R

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


It's a strange thing, chronologically reliving your own past.  I just got my memoir back from my editor, so have been re-reading the whole thing again: my childhood, adolescence, crappy marriages, and the whole nightmare scenario of my child in rehab. 

Once you begin a project like this, you're surprised by all the depth of emotions it actually dredges up.  The strangest thing of all is putting things into chronological order, then looking them over with a surprised eye.  I never realized what a difference such a simple exercise would make.  Oh, so that's what led to that.  Oh, is that the incident that tipped me over the edge and made me want to die?  I'd always just remembered a general despair but that's a specific horror.  Wow!  What do you know?

Self discovery likes to play charades, I think.  It'll dress up as this or that, tap its arm and make you guess how many syllables.  Then and only then, can you begin to figure out what the hell it's dressed up as.  What you're dressed up as.  For years, I wore the mask of a tough broad, scary and cool, the don't-fuck-with-me girl of the neighborhood.  Funny to think about now, because that's not what I am at all and yet, it is.  Then I was the protective mother, the funny woman, the patient but long-suffering wife.  Then I morphed into the victim, the sad one, the thing to be pitied.

How many syllables?  What the hell was I?

I was all of those things.  I still am, and so much more.  That's the glorious thing about being alive; you can change your ways in much the same way as changing you clothes.  I was miserable.  Now I'm not.  I was a victim.  Now I work hard not to be.  I hated myself.  Now I don't.  All free will, all free choice, and most of it hard as hell.  No matter what you've been, how low you've sunk or how many awful things have happened to you or terrible things you've done, there is still a fucking shopping mall of clothes to change into.  Your heart and soul are the ones you were born with and no baby was ever a scumball.  Shining, precious, beautiful.  That's your soul.  No matter what you drape over it or swaddle to try and smother it in, no matter what stinking cover you've clamped around it, it will always be beautiful.  The clothing is what you do with your life; your actions and reactions to everything.  So if life sucks, get a new wardrobe.  It's not easy but it's simple.  Remember that no matter what damage you do to yourself for whatever reason, you can always become beautiful because the core of you is always beautiful and always will be.  It's just buried under shit, and stinking shitpiles grow beautiful flowers.  I say it all the time.  Believe in yourself, find your own beauty and wear something lovely.  I read this memoir of mine, which is so close to being sent to the printers, and I see the pattern of sewage I've draped myself in for so long.  It's a rare thing to be able to review your own life in print and come out severely shaken but proud to have survived it all.  Be proud of yourself too.  Believe and protect that glowing inner light.

Take care.

Love, R

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spooky Month

I've been MIA for a few days.  My daughter Rhianna was in town and I haven't seen her for over a year.  It was marvelous.  We watched anime, a zillion movies, and just talked about what we've been doing for the past fourteen months.  She's flourishing in Wisconsin, nature girl that she is, and I've been flourishing here in New York.  She went back two days ago and I've been mopey but bittersweetly happy at the same time.

It's October.  The spooky month.  I adore Halloween and am really rather absurd about it.  I have my screaming skulls, my Mister Misty skull, my drippy blood fountain; the works.  I even made my Mr. Misty skull a Christmas decoration one year by putting a Santa hat on it and setting it in a ring of holly.  Glorious.  My own ghost of Christmas past.  I've pulled all my scary movies out of my collection and put them on a shelf by themselves so my DVD grazing is easier when I want eerie viewing, which will be every day until November, and I'm seriously contemplating ghoul cookies.  I am going to a Halloween party where I need a vast amount of fake snakes for my costume (Medusa), so am scouring toy stores and party outlets for some sort of "bag o' snakes."  Hopefully all that hissing weight won't give me a headache. 

So many people despise holidays; makes them think about how alone they are.  I'm exactly the opposite.  I adore holidays and don't really care that I'm alone as long as I have scary movies and mini candy bars to celebrate.  That's the great thing about us freaks; we are, by definition, different and therefore usually outcast, sure, but the word different shouldn't denote anything bad.  Different is simply another word for unique.  Like Superman.  He's completely alone but he still saves the world in every movie, comic book and cartoon he's flying around in.  That's us.  We're Superman.  We just usually look a bit more goth.

Happy October, Everyone!  Be ghoulish and shivery and get really spooked at least once this month.  I always end the fourth week the same way, with the same scary movies: The Changeling with George C. Scott, The Haunting (original), The Woman in Black, The Legend of Hell House (Roddy McDowell), the Night Gallery episode with Portefoy,  Masque of the Red Death with Vincent Price, The Lady in White with Lucas Haas, and now, Paranormal Activity.  Oh, and of course the weirder than weird Walt Disney dancing skeletons cartoon.  Now THAT'S scary.

Love, R