Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snow Dragons

We got hit with a mountain of snow a few days ago.  I've always liked snow.  I'm not particularly fond of walking in it, but I did take my shoes and socks off and scampered a bit in the fresh drift while it was still coming down.  Call me nutty because I am, a bit.  It was fun and very short-lived.  My friend nagged me, reminding me that I was still wimpy from the pneumonia but I didn't care.  Afterwards, I drank fragrant chamomile tea, curled up on the couch in a blue snuggie, with Swiss Colony toffee to warm the cockles.  The Christmas tree was the only light in the room, making everything magical, and I began to reminisce about my daughter Rhianna.

Rhianna has never looked at the world as a normal person does, something which has always endeared her to me.  I bought her fabric paint as a child, thinking she'd do normal things with it, like use it on fabric.  She drew mythical creatures with it on wax paper, let it dry and turned them into sun catchers.  They stuck surprisingly well to the windows.  She tool melted wax off candles and shaped it into tiny bat-winged figures and cuddly kittens.  She looked at a canvas and somehow made fuchsia, lime green, hot pink and yellow ochre work together in miraculous harmony.  Rhianna has the touch, albeit an odd and fascinating one.  One of my very favorite things she ever created, however, was a snow dragon.  This latest snowfall got me to thinking about it.

It was a couple years ago in Illinois.  I was living with Mom, Rhianna in a rented duplex across the street.  We'd had an enormous amount of snow dumped on us the night before, and I'd just finished shoveling off the sidewalk and driveway.  Time for us to play.  I did the usual; rolled up big balls of snow to make a snowman in Mom's front yard, while Rhianna had begun rolling medium-sized chunks all over her own yard.  There were five in all.  She piled snow up onto the first blob, patting it down and mashing more and more handfuls until it was waist high.  Curious, I waddled over in my many layers of swaddling but Rhianna refused to tell me what it was she was making.  I finished my lopsided snowman and went inside to make hot chocolate.  Rhianna stayed outside.

An hour went by.  I brought her out a mug of hot chocolate and went back in to watch a movie with Mom.  When the film was over, I peeked out again.  What I saw had me running outside in my boots, sweat pants and t-shirt, too thrilled to bother with grabbing a coat.  Rhianna's snow blobs had begun to take shape.  They weren't individual things; the blobs were all the coiled scales of an enormous snow dragon.  She'd fashioned a head on the tall blob, complete with horns and long fangs, and each receding chunk of snow had been shaped and smoothed into a coil, so the entire thing looked like it was going in and out of the yard as if it were in the water.  She was using the edge of a drinking glass to make the curves of the scales.  It was breathtaking, gorgeous, weird and wonderful.  I hopped up and down in the middle of the street, squealing like a groupie, and Rhianna just looked up and grinned her strange and wondrous grin. 

A person can have shit thrown at them, get stomped to a greasy spot by life, find misery and depression and panic in every corner of the world, but there's magic too.  Magical people who can take a blob of snow and bring forth a dragon, glistening and alive, with nothing more than imagination and a small juice glass.  Whenever I feel hunted, and my jaw pulls tight and my eyes go wild, I stop and think about raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, and a gleaming snow dragon who lived for a short while across the street from me.  When the weather heated up, he slid majestically back into the ground from which he'd come.  I never forgot him, or the whimsical smile of the beloved daughter who brought him to life.  I have a library of such memories, and I withdraw them to soothe and calm me in the same way I'd check out a novel.  Beautiful things, coffee table books full of pictures, all stored away in my head and heart.  On chilly days like these, where you feel like your ass is about to freeze off or you're stressed by all the slipping and sliding, catch a glimpse of sunlight on a white surface that gleams like diamonds.  There's a dragon in there, gleaming and alive.  Enjoy him before he slides back down.

Love, R

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ooey Gooey Rich and Chewy

I have discovered that most human beings are, on a spiritual level, ooey gooey rich and chewy inside.  There is something that loves to feast on us, especially when we're insecurity addicts.  The least little thing rings the dinner bell and the munchie crunchies come running. 

I have been in a state of major warfare with my insecurity for the past two weeks.  It's brought out the big guns, while I've dug my trenches and have been lobbing grenades at the bastard for days now.  It could be that I'm just getting over pneumonia and my defenses are low anyway, but the most likely cause is the completion of my manuscript for Freak.  I'm sending it in to get printed tomorrow and I am terrified.  While crawling over this final proof with a microscope and blowtorch, I have found the toothy whispers of self doubt have gotten almost as toothy as they were when I was a basket case.  About fifty pages in, I reared back from the computer screen with horror and yelled aloud, "Oh my's CRAP!!!"  I believe there was a bit of panic in my voice.

That's where my friends stepped in to bitch slap some sense into me.  I talked to George, a pal who's read the finished manuscript.  With the tentative embarrassment of an insecurity addict covered in spiritual life-sucking ticks, I approached him and asked hesitantly, "George...I've been reading the proof and I'm really worried.  I think it might suck."  That's as far as I got.  George looked at me and yelled, "No!  No!  I will throw you off the bridge to Connecticut...I will JUMP off the bridge to Connecticut if you say that again.  If you even think that again!  It's great!  It's fantastic!"  Since I had insecurity earwigs gnawing inside my skull at that moment, this is what I heard: "No!  Don't think that!  You're my beloved but pathetic friend.  I'll tell you any shit in the world to make you feel better about yourself.  I'll even compliment that pile of shit you had me read, just to show what a good friend I am. God, you're needy."  It's the same principle of looking in the mirror and seeing a fat dumpy old broad.  That's what I see.  Far better than the Quasimodo monster of the eyeballs of my past, but still not what's really there. 

Insecurity sits on our shoulders and runs a fourth dimensional world where we suck in every level of our existence.  I'm actually proud to see the fat dumpy old broad and not the hunchback anymore.  I'm moving up in the world.  I told a few other friends about my misgivings as to my writing abilities, and they all said the same thing.  I have talent, real talent, and to not believe myself when I stray back into the badlands. 

And they're right.  I do have talent.  I have produced crap, but I've also produced great quality.  So I gave a cynical grin at having lost that particular battle with insecurity and took immediate steps to counter the attack.  I took a spiritual flea and tick bath by concentrating on all the good I've done throughout the years, all the helping hands I've reached out with to others.  All the comforting I now do to that shivering and shattered little girl inside of me: the damaged one, the bleeding one, the innocent.  I told her I loved her.  And you know what?  The little blood sucking fuckers fell off me like rain. I may have lost that battle, but there's no way I'll ever lose the war.  The stakes are too high.  I'm fighting for my own soul.

There's something to be said for the fact that we are ooey gooey rich and chewy creatures.  There's something to be said for the fact that human beings can shine so brightly, so beautifully, that all dark things skitter and run when we're glowing.  Kindness, nobility, self-love, confidence and generosity banish shadows.  How incredibly cool is it, that we are all individual candles in the dark, stars in the heavens, and sunshine sparkling on the water?  That's certainly something worth fighting for.  So, to all my dear brothers and sisters as fucked up as I am and more, hang in there.  Even if you're a train wreck right now, remember that diamonds in the rough look like a piece of glass that fell out of a dog's ass.  But shaped and polished the right way, they're not only bright and beautiful, they're unbreakable.  Take care.

Love, R 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Brain Fever

Being a life long insecurity addict, I have had the occasional, sometimes far more than occasional, periods in  my life where I just go nuts.  You know the feeling; a thought gets lodged somewhere in your head and can't be dissuaded from growing into a self-destructive obsession.  It's like picking a scab.  You have an emotional wound, it starts itching as it begins to heal, and you pick at it.  If you're not careful, it'll get infected. Let the damn thing heal.  But insecurity addicts are pickers.  We just have to dig at that painful outchie, like probing a bad tooth with your tongue.  Sooner or later, we get infected, and self hatred brain fever sets in.

For instance, I used to think all I was was a piece of meat that could draw well.  In my eyes, I didn't have anything else of value.  Artistic talent and being easy on the eye were everything I could ever possibly achieve.  So I exercised all the time, and wouldn't go outside without makeup and wearing some stunning ensemble of gypsy poverty and eccentricity.  I had to look cool all the time.  I did.  I looked really cool.  There is photographic evidence of this fact.  The problem was, I never saw the cool.  I only saw the flaws.  My waist wasn't small enough, my stomach wasn't flat enough, my skin wasn't clear enough. 

It didn't stop at my appearance, either.  My insecurity liked to attack my artwork as well.  No drawing was as good as what I had pictured in my head, and since I couldn't value my own opinion, I'd borrow the opinions of others.  I used people like a mirror to reflect what I myself couldn't see.  That's how I found self worth.  Not within myself, but in the eyes of others.  That's a dangerous place to be.  Insecurity addicts are the human wildebeests to predators.  We're dumb and easy meat.  Predators feed well on us.

I've been talking with a young woman over the past few weeks.  She's as sweet and kind as anybody you could ever meet, but she's involved with a skank bastard who latched onto her and is not about to let go.  She's far too delicious and easy to control.  It's the typical red flag behavior of an insecurity addict, one which I know well.  I did it myself for years.  Her family hates him, he ostracizes her from her friends, he demands expensive presents but gives her next to nothing, and there are the usual control comments, the ones which mirror what he wants her to see, not what's really there.  Slowly but surely, he's whittled away her self worth with phrases like "you look like a whore with all that makeup on" or "when are you going to lose that fat ass?"  She reacts exactly the same way that I did, in the way thousands of other insecurity addicts react to such vicious mind control: with apologetic bitterness and subservient rage.

We're such a strange lot, insecurity addicts.  Very easy to control.  When a predator sniffs us out, they first go with the over abundance of positive attention.  Nobody is more beautiful, accomplished, clever, kind, funny to them than us.  We eat it up.  Then they tell us their own sad story, and our empathy rushes in with a strong instinct to save, to heal, to help this broken person.  The compliments are the bait, but the sad stories sink the hook.  Once they have us, they begin their spider web of lies to keep us with them.  We're ugly, fat, stupid, incompetent, poor parents, rotten spouses, lousy in bed, embarrassing to take out in public and usually slovenly.  This is the mirror our predators show us.  Soon, this is all we see. 

So on this Christmas Day, I want to give a gift to all my brothers and sisters of circumstance.  I am just like you.  I sold my soul for a few fluffy words and worked a decade and a half to please someone who couldn't be pleased.  I obsessed over it, I worked at it, I tried to think of ways to make him happy; anything to stop the berating and sarcastic hatred.  To get back those wonderful words of praise when we were dating.  But I didn't see the truth because my vision was clouded by years of cutting verbal abuse, heaped on top of a childhood full of all the other abuses known to man. I had no true self image.  I existed internally on the outward opinions of others.  But I got away from it.  I began to slowly, very slowly, scrape the shit away from my own vision of myself and let me tell you, that dung heap was piled high.  It was almost as if I'd never used my own eyes before.  Perhaps I never had.  But I got out the blow torch and the ice scraper and the pickax and I tunneled a view through all that mess.  I began to see that I am a good person, that I've tried very hard for the noblest of reasons and fucked up royally doing just that.  But I refrained from attacking myself with the self abuse I'd practiced for years.  I didn't yell at Rebecca for being a dumb ass.  I comforted her.  I became my own best friend.  At first, it feels stupid because why would I want to spend time alone with this dumb bitch, me, who fucked up our lives in the first place?  But I kept at it, like a dog with a bone.  Repetition is the key.  It was repetition of all that abuse that got me so fucked up in the first place.  It's been positive reinforcement repetition that's helped me claw my way out of that hell.  I do it every day, like any other exercise.  I love myself.  I admire myself.  And I make sure to live my life so that it's not a mockery.  I make sure to live as well as I can.  I still fuck up.  I still go through bouts of disco brain fever, where my self respect falls apart like a house of cards and noisy insecurity tells me what a sack of shit I am, what a joke that I'm trying so hard to be a decent person.  But I tell it to go fuck itself.  I know the moment of weakness will pass.  I make sure negative people no longer have a stronghold in my life.  That's key.  So love yourself, my dear readers.  Remember, you're not a piece of shit.  You never were.  Go out and buy a new mirror.  See the truth.  Thou art beautiful.  Merry Christmas.  May the best of your past be the worst of your future from now on.  Cherish yourself and heal.

Love, R

Monday, December 20, 2010


I was serenaded today by the greatest group of friends a person can ask for.  It's so fantastic when the past yips and snaps and wants to drag you back down into the familiar comforts of bubbling lava hell, but the noise is drowned out by a sweet serenade.  Nothing like friends to spackle all the cracks from a damaged past.  Nothing like having the courage to allow myself to have friends.  Insecurity used to keep me away from them; I was anti-social, lonely, miserable and bitter.  Now I'm being sung to.  It was a surprising little gesture from my co-workers; I'd gone in to eat lunch and walk across the street to the movie theater and see Harry Potter.  Just glowed all day thinking about it.  This is going to be a short blog because I'm going to run outside with my hot water bottle and my earmuffs and watch the total lunar eclipse.  The last one was in the 1600's and the next one isn't until 2094.  God knows what I'll be doing then.  Wearing a diaper, probably!  Take care of yourselves, my dear friends, and know that having friends is something very, very brave for us insecurity addicts.  But, oh, so worth it.  Love 'em all, my friends.  Would be lost again without them.

Love, R

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ice Cube Tray Frenzy

We all have our pet peeves.  These are not common dislikes, such as an aversion to cruel behavior, people who talk in movie theaters, or murderous dictators.  I speak of the peeve here.  Mine are possibly uncommon, but who can say for sure?  One doesn't normally broadcast their secret loathes unless they're blogging, such as myself. 

So here are a few of my peeviest of peeves: I hate drivers who don't use their turn signals, cabinet doors left open, and refilling ice cube trays.  Drivers who don't use their turn signals is currently the number one despised-by-me at this moment, but there was a time not long ago that refilling ice cube trays made my soul run with dread.

I first remember noting the fact that I hated refilling the ice cube tray when I was very little.  I was spending two weeks with my grandma in Southern Illinois.  She had blue-rinsed hair, a green thumb and the ability to make a pie crust light as air.  She was also very particular about how things were placed in her refrigerator.  The glass jug of cherry Kool Aid had to be on the second shelf, left hand side, the eggs had to be in a yellow ceramic bowl, dead center, top shelf; that sort of thing.  And the goddamn ice cube trays had to be constantly refilled at least three times a day during the sweltering summers.  The trays were the old fashioned metal kind, where you pull the lever up to crack them loose, then dump the contents in an ancient plastic sherbet bowl, right side of the freezer, next to the mountains of foil-wrapped catfish my grandpa brought home from trolling off the ferry.  I was in charge of keeping the sherbet bowl stocked and the ice cube trays refilled.  Grandma would see her husband coming up the walk, and warble, "Beck, get the ice cube trays done up."  My hackles rose, my teeth clenched, and I went to fetch the folding chair to stand on so I could reach the freezer.  I hated it.  The job wasn't particularly strenuous, time consuming or even bad by any normal reasoning.  Still, I hated it. 

Now, older and wiser, with ten times the patience of my youth, that little chore still annoys the hell out of me.  Not the teeth clenching aversion of a five-year-old, but still enough to bring a frown of impatience to my face.  I do it quickly, like pulling off a band aid; dump the ice in the bowl, refill, shove it in the freezer and slam the door.  Hide the cursed unchilled water in the cold dark, where I don't have to look at it.  If I ever have enough money to buy my own refrigerator, I'm getting one with an automatic ice maker, one that will also crush the damn stuff if I want it to.

I love observing other people to see what their pet peeves might be.  Working as a waitress, that's a surprisingly gleeful thing to do.  People come in and tell me entire histories of themselves without having a clue that anybody is paying attention, least of all the nameless creature who brings their plates.  Catfish man hates anything that's not quick.  He walks rapidly, lippidy lippidy, to his seat, slides in smoothly and refuses the menu.  He always orders the same thing: catfish and iced tea, extra lemon.  If you're not fast, he climbs the walls.  He's not mean about it but you can see the tension building: the jaw clenches, the bottom lip straightens out, he starts to twitch.  We've timed this reaction.  He begins to twitch forty seconds after he's seated.  Literally, forty seconds.  He eats fast, no nonsense, no conversation, pays fast, cash always, and zips out the door in a handful of quick step strides. 

People ask for plastic forks because they don't trust the dishwashers, carefully separate veggies in their salad into aesthetically pleasing piles, fold their napkins just so and tweak them into perfection throughout the meal, re-apply lipstick between courses, and tremble under the willpower needed to restrain themselves from checking their blackberries when on a date. 

My friends are equally fascinating.  My best friend, when cut off by a lax driver, will frantically tap the corner of her steering wheel with a perfectly manicured nail.  When I once asked her what she was doing, she said, "This is my blowup button.  I just blew that bastard to hell."  Her pet peeve is any driver who irritates her.  Another friend despises people who collect frogs; will go into a rant regarding the mere thought of a frog collection.  I make sure to send him a ceramic, or better yet, stuffed frog at least once a year.  It's the streak of pure evil in me.  Since he lives in a different state, he usually sends a text message photo of how he destroyed each gift. 

I get a kick out of it all.  I just love humanity, I really do.  We are a strange, scary, hilarious, ridiculous, vicious, generous, magnificent bunch of goofballs.  If we can survive our own bratty toddler stage, evolutionarily speaking, we will really be something wondrous to behold.  So try not to sweat every body's foibles.  Keep your blood pressure down, see the humor in their little quirks, and get a laugh from it all.  We're all goofballs, we're all full of shit, and we all have the capacity to be magnificent. 

And remember, there's always that blowup button.

Love, R

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Phlegm Monster Rises

Hello, out there in blogland.  I have been MIA for quite a while due to the fact that I've been a gurgling, repulsive phlegm monster from hell.  I caught a hideous flu that's going around and it went into my lungs.  When that happens, at least bronchitis and usually pneumonia follows, so I've been a train wreck for a couple weeks.  However, my lungs are breathing again with only a little purring so I can sit and type without wanting to claw my throat apart. 

I've been watching a lot of movies while convalescing, either embroidering while propped up on stacks of pillows in bed or just lying there with a hot water bottle and castor oil compress on my chest. It got me to thinking about the comfort of film.  In pretty much all of the traumatic periods of my adult life, movies have always been a soothing balm to me.  It's interesting to look back and analyze my choices during such times, to try and figure out why that particular film for that particular miserable event.  Believe me, I'm such a film fanatic that I watch movies all the time anyway, happy or sad, but when I'm lost and drowning in anxiety, sadness or just plain pissed off, I often pick strange movies to soothe me.  For instance, when I miscarried the second time and almost killed myself,  I watched True Lies and Terminator.  When I was recovering from my hysterectomy, I watched the old movie Forty Carats with Liv Ullman.  While my son was in rehab, it was the Colin Firth miniseries Pride & Prejudice.  When Leland was gone and I lost my home, Little Lord Fauntleroy with Freddie Bartholomew and The Big Country with Gregory Peck.  When my mom almost died, Ghostbusters, The Secret of Roan Inish and David Copperfield (again, Freddie Bartholomew).  When my dad almost died, Sling Blade and Disney flicks.  Like I said, strange choices. 

I watch these comfort films over and over again, sometimes two or three times a day.  Each time I'll focus on a different part: the first time, I'll watch it for the story.  The second and third times, for the aesthetics of the cinematography, costumes and set design.  After that, I concentrate on one actor at a time and watch only them.  Very obsessive, but comforting to my strange brain.  Even I don't know why I choose a particular film.  I'll just pick something that calls to me in my ginormous collection and put it in the DVD player.  The art of film is like a stroll through a beautiful museum to me.  I study a movie the same way I study a sculpture or painting.  I have to see everything.  When you view it that way, the movie is always fresh because there's always something you didn't pay attention to, an expression or gesture that was just background before. 

The first film I ever tried to analyze as a choice during trauma was Little Lord Fauntleroy.  I'd lost my son, lost my business, my home and my job, no car, no money, no nothing, back living with my mom and forty years old.  I was pretty much broken.  I puttered around Mom's house, doing yard work, cooking and cleaning, writing maudlin crap on the computer and working on the one art commission that kept me barely solvent.  In between, I watched Little Lord Fauntleroy.  It's a cheesy little movie, very endearing, from the famous book.  Around the twentieth viewing, I began to wonder what the hell it was about this movie that so held me.  At first I thought it was because the kid loved his mother.  My son hated me.  But no, that wasn't the draw.  Then I thought it was because everything worked out so nicely in the end.  That wasn't it either.  So I began to study each scene, trying to figure out the Chinese puzzle of its attraction for me right then, at that time, the lowest period of my life.  Why?  What was it about this movie that kept me from killing myself, which is what I often thought about, or vomiting in the bathroom from nerves due to the last two years of hell, something I did often as well?  So Little Lord Fauntleroy became therapy, a window into my screwed up brain.  Finally, the epiphany.  It wasn't that the boy loved him mom and mine didn't.  It wasn't that they were financially taken care of, or decadence wasn't able to corrupt the kid because he had a strong tie to his mom, or that the boy's goodness brought the old bastard of a grandfather around in the end.  It was the mother's sacrifice.  Her son was everything to her and she sacrificed everything for him.  She wasn't even allowed to see him, just as I wasn't allowed to see my son.  She endured it for the sake of her boy.  For love of him and his future, she gave up everything.  I felt a kinship to the mother for that reason.

After I figured that out, I lost interest and stopped watching it.  I had been comforted by the company of a celluloid figure long dead, as Shakespeare and Harlequin Romances comforted me with graceful words or silly, happy endings.  It's like Shirley Temple's popularity during the Great Depression.  A lovely bit of truth and goodness and a frilly dress.  Nothing like it.

Take care, All, and go watch a flick tonight!  Something cheesy and marvelous.  I'm contemplating Pat & Mike.  That's a great one.

Love, R

Monday, December 6, 2010

Flu-Wracked Floozie

Hi, All.  Sorry I haven't blogged for a long time; I am flat on my back with a nasty case of the flu.  Still shaky and gross but on the mend at last.  Will write more when my bleary eyeballs can focus more!  Take care of yourselves, avoid this nasty bug if at all possible, and drink lots of orange juice!

Love and Sneezes,  R