Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bullying Blab Bandits

Skillet Ass.
Dumb Ass.
Fucking Bitch.
Accidental Squirt.
Crack Whore.
Money Pit.
Bad Mother.

I was thinking about various vile words thrown at me throughout my life, from formative years to adulthood, weighing the pros and cons of the ones I never forgot.  The ones that stuck.  It's just one of the things my brain likes to do; sift through sediment and fluff, sticky treacle and drifting infection from different memories.  Makes it easier to try and clean up the damage when I can categorize them. My dad called me parasite, the ass words and "accidental squirt," which referred to my being an unwanted pregnancy.  My two husbands called me incompetent, money pit and manatee (the mammal with the largest percentage of body fat) and my son called me all the rest.  There are quite a few choice foul-worded insults that have been thrown at me, by other family members, friends and ex-friends, but the above list are the ones that still have the gangrenous wound feel to them.  They're the ones which still hurt. 

There's a phrase that crippled me with self-loathing when I was a kid.  Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.  It's a well meaning phrase, designed to help kids deal with cruel words, but to an insecurity addict like me, that quip became both sticks and stones I beat myself up with.  Here's how an insecurity addict's brain will perceive those words:  So you're so much of a pussy you let somebody's big mouth hurt you?  Get over it already, you wimpy bitch.  He didn't hit you, nobody kicked you, you're not bleeding.  Stop whining.  No tears.  Don't you let me see you cry, you stupid little baby.  You cry and I'll give you something to cry about.  I'd whip myself into a frenzy and usually end up with self-inflicted scratches and hard slaps to my own face.  All this self abuse because I was human enough to be crushed by heavy words and unforgiving enough to hate because of it.  I didn't pour my hatred on others.  I drowned myself in it.

When a person gets enough bullying words thrown at them, their thinking becomes skewed.  Obviously.  Sadistic or thoughtless bandits come in and steal our self worth with a little bit of blab.  The wounds they leave behind are every bit as damaging as sticks and stones but take a hell of a lot longer to heal from. The main reason for this is, we never slap a bandage on.  We flounder from abuse as a kid to abuse as an adult because we think we deserve it.  Sure, I fooled myself with tough talk and high IQ reasoning, certain I was getting away from my past, marching straight and tall and bravely forward.  But I was marching straight and tall and bravely right back into its arms. Subconsciously, I chose what I was familiar with and wanted so desperately to fix.  Daddy was mean because he'd been abused as a kid.  I married a verbally abusive sack of shit who was skewed from his own childhood, and egotistically thought I could make it all better.  If I tried harder, loved deeper, did everything right, then the wounds inflicted on him as a kid would be healed by benevolent and loving me.  In his gratitude and love, he'd heal me right back.  It would be perfect.  A romantic and childish notion.  In the end, the only thing my forbearance achieved was to make him addicted to hurting me and my kids, drove me and my daughter to the brink of suicide and my son to drugs. 

The stupidity of brave insecurity addicts with big hearts.  My God, we're stupid.  What's worse, we're stubborn.  This is what I have set out to do and I'm going to stick to it to the bitter end.  That's a prophetic determination and yes, it always ends bitterly. 

The difference between the me of the now and the Rebecca of the past is what thoughts I cling to.  I used to have a strange fondness for the ugly memories.  I carried them around on a big silver platter, showing them off to anyone who'd listen, hungry for their pity and aghast expression; proof that yes, everything was every bit as bad as I suspected it was, as my memory had categorized it.  Surviving the terrible was the only self worth I had as a person.  Sure, I knew I was a talented artist, etcetera, but a person?  A funny, slightly repulsive loser clown.  That's how I viewed myself.  That mindset still grabs and stomps on me from time to time, but its attacks are getting fewer and less virulent, with only the occasional werewolf assault of self-loathing to rend and tear.  My daily exercises of self love are keeping the monster at bay.

It's very weird at first to change the mindset of a lifetime.  I clung to words like the ghastly list at the top of this post.  They're the ones my mind held on to.  It's like the line Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman: The bad stuff is always easier to believe.

Nowadays, I concentrate on kindness.  Kindness to me, kindness to others, world kindness to the suffering masses everywhere.  Sure, there's shit and scumballs and sadistic morons everywhere, but there are saints and angels and gruff saviors everywhere too.  It's just that survival instinct makes our fight or flight reflex take snapshots of the bad; future reference that was always supposed to be a survival tool.  But it's been stomping our self confidence for millennia now and is no easy task to overcome.  Tough but not impossible.  So try to concentrate on the kind words, my dear friends.  Hang on to good thoughts and start a new picture album with bright and grinning photos.  As to the bad words and cruel memories and wounded spirit portfolios...I've been there, done that.  Got a whole closet full of those.  I've started a new collection, very proud of my tiny little shelf in the corner of good words to warm me on cold nights.

You're a kind person.
You radiate goodness.
You're so damn funny.
I think you're a great mom.

Ah, treasures, bright lamps to chase away all the many, many shadows from a brutalized past.  Good luck with your own list, my friends.  Take care to work at it every day.  You'll be surprised how fast and gloriously it'll grow.

Love, R

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Soft Glimpse of Grace

There's a point everybody gets to, every once in a while, where they come to the conclusion that people suck.  Humanity itself doesn't seem worth fighting for.  From a ghastly childhood reinforced by a crappy boss later in life, to just some asshole driving like an idiot during rush hour, we've all gotten to the point where we look around and see only crap.  Crappy co-workers, crappy neighbors, crappy spouses, lousy and thoughtless crappy kids at the super market, defended in their crappy behavior by vociferously crappy parents. 

People deal with the surfeit of crap in different ways.  My best friend taps a manicured nail on the steering wheel whenever she drives on the highway.  It's a forceful tapping, the nail clacking away as if impatiently pushing a button on the elevator.  I asked her once what she was doing and she replied, "That's my blowup button.  I just blew the shit out of the car ahead of us."  Most people try and take a gentler approach to dealing with high tension mess: they read, watch TV, meditate, exercise, sit in the backyard with a beer and watch sunsets.  Some people take their stress and use it as a weapon against others, which only creates more crap. 

Stress from the witnessing and victimization of crappy behavior is a wiggly emotion.  You can feel it zinging along your nerve endings, causing them to vibrate and pull your mouth into a straight line.  The forehead creases, the teeth clench, everything goes from soft and liquidy to tight and uncomfortable.  The feeling has a touch of frantic about it.  We find ourselves casting around desperately for something to pop the bubble and let us take a breath, a breather from the overwhelming mountain of refuse surrounding us.

They're there if you look.  The breathers, the moments of kindness and clarity, soft glimpses of grace in the bass-o-matic blender of shit so many call "their life."  It's hard to pay attention to such sacred and amazingly common moments.  When you're an insecurity addict like myself, you have to train your eyes all over again.  Train them to see the good in life when they've been so attuned to only the bad.  A mother smiling as she plays with her child, an old man holding the door for his wife, a telethon for disaster victims reaching its quota, a newscaster losing his cool and defending an underdog's position.  These are all glimpses of the grace inherent in the human race.  We've all witnessed them and we're all capable of them.  I once told a friend that it was much harder being kind than it was being cruel.  Cruelty is easy; that's why people slide into it so readily.  Kindness is hard.  Kindness takes effort.  That's why it's so beautiful when you see it; somebody taking the time out of their own stress-filled lives to make somebody else's stress-filled life a little better.  Even for a moment, just a little better.  Those are the moments that stick in the brain, that warm the memory, that puzzle the concrete opinion that all humanity sucks.  Because it's not true.  A lot of our habits are ridiculous.  A lot of what we do as a race is abhorrent. But evolutionarily, we're a young species.  Maybe not much past the "terrible twos" stage of development.

There's hope, though; a slow trickle of what is no longer acceptable behavior.  A couple hundred years ago in this country, a fun Saturday outing was to go to a witch burning or hanging.  Now, we watch fake ones on TV.  Progress: nobody was actually harmed.  The abolishment of slavery, the creation of civil rights, the less and less common racism among the young; these are all great strides for the good.  There will always be the cruel in power trying to wrestle control back from the benevolent, but if you look at history, we've made enormous strides as a people.  Sure, there's a long way to go.  But look around your own little sphere and take a gander at everyday kindness.  It's contagious, man's humanity to man, just like his inhumanity.  Try to contract the softer, gentler strain and not the mean ass spiky one.  You'd be amazed how willing people are to be kind back.  It's a very catching phenomenon.  Drop it in the midst of people you see every day and see if it spreads, like ripples in a pond.  There will be rocks and outcroppings of crappy people who have no interest in it at first, maybe even ever.  But water wears down a stone in the end.  Take care of yourself and remember that, even in the midst of garbage, something beautiful can take root if one takes the time to cultivate it. 

Love, R

Monday, March 21, 2011

Moon Dancing

What a weekend!  It was amazing.  On Friday night, I went into the City with my dear friends Diane and Mike to film an interview on "All Night with Joey Reynolds."  It will air tonight (3-21-11) on NBC NY Nonstop at midnight.  I guess technically, that makes it 3-22, haha!  Met a number of incredible artists and the people who promote and love them, which was a honor, then sat in the makeup chair to get kabuki'ed by Binky Brown, a talented makeup artist and incredible person.  Then I met Mr. Reynolds.  What an astonishing man.  The interview went well, he was kind and gracious and a brother of circumstance, which I had had no idea of.  He's suffered enormously from many of the same things that brought me so low.  Look at him now.  It ain't over until it's over, my friends.  You can be face down in a pile of steaming shit called Your Life and still get up, spit, and move forward, often with a smile as this man has done.  Everybody has fallen.  I fell and stayed down for decades.  But at long last, I got up, brushed my spiritual teeth, took a mental shower and began to rebuild my life. 

There are times when you feel so low, gravity seems doubled.  Everything is affected by the misery, even the pull of the earth itself, huh?  Your skin feels thick and itchy, your eyes are dry from copious bawling an hour before, and sitting up is done in slow motion.  Even then, it takes every ounce of will power to do it, to simply sit up.  When I wanted to kill myself, it wasn't for any grand romantic reason or frantic need to escape.  It was just exhaustion.  Breathing itself had become too difficult, too much effort and most dangerously, not worth it.  I just didn't want to have to live anymore.  Wanted to check out, finish, be done with it all and just sleep.  Even the thought of moldering in a box under the ground was comforting.  At least the worms would eat good.  I'd do something to contribute, and if feeding icky critters was the only thing I could come up with, at least it was something.  So strange and awful, to be that low.  So terribly familiar in so many people, all my brothers and sisters of circumstance, still suffering and struggling to sit up and spit the shit out of their mouths.  But you can do it.  Believe me, you can.  If somebody as wretched as me, as fucked up and self-loathing and viciously self abusive as I had been can, anybody can.  The only special thing about me is that I somehow was lucky enough to stumble on something that worked.  Something that made me want to live.  Something that made me love myself.  Repetition.  Every night, I'd say my three good nights: Good night beautiful mind, good night beautiful spirit, good night beautiful body.  Not believing a word of it, still hating my reflection, still sneering at the falsity of spouting such a lie to myself, I still did it.  I didn't love my mind, I hated my spirit and despised my body. 

One of the sneaky things about my self hatred was I was so damn funny about it.  I could make people laugh as I attacked myself and I fed off their positive energy like a leech.  But I did it at the cost of myself.  I even encouraged them to join in the destruction with witty viciousness of their own and I laughed right along with them as we decimated Me.  Weird to look back and see what a Self Cannibal I was, chewing and gnawing at my own psyche and self worth.  Insecurity loves humor as a tool of destruction.  It's very effective.  I used my art history background to compare myself to the Venus of Willendorf, a fat ass fertility goddess.  I told people I was built like Kermit the Frog with breasts; all round torso and long skinny legs, unbalanced and something to poke fun at.  Laughingly described my inability to do math as a good-hearted moron, an idiot; drew hilarious cartoons depicting my faults.  It was funny, yes, it was witty and clever and always brought a smile to everybody.  But it was mean.  I was mean to myself with that sort of wit.  Now I prefer humor to wit; wit seems to have a bit of a scorpion's tail.  Humor is nicer.  I still make fun of myself but it's gotten better.  I'm a work in progress but the progress has been enormous over the last few years.  I got myself out of a no win situation, I moved far away from any family members who were vampiric, rolled up my sleeves and got to work on Rebecca

I've been given two great lunar presents in the past few months.  On my last birthday, there was a full lunar eclipse.  I'd just recovered from pneumonia, so snuck outside with blankets, layered clothing and a hot water bottle, to lie gawking at the celestial miracle slowly unfurling overhead.  It was magical.  Last night, I snuck out into the backyard as my roomie and I had the night before, to gawk again at a moon so huge and beautiful, my eyes rained at the sight of it.  To think I might have missed it.  To think I might have been feeding worms instead of witnessing such a wonder.  I laughed out loud at the irony of it all, then slowly began to twirl in the chilly grass, my ridiculous bare feet skipping on the frozen ground.  And I started to dance.  Dancing in the moonlight.  What an impossible, magical, unthinkable moment to have.  Look up at the stars yourself, my friends, and do a whimsical spin.  Life can be a shithole AND a thing of breathless beauty.  Go light-footed toward the beauty and believe.  Because anything's possible.  I'm here, now, alive and not in the ground.  I'm dancing on top of it, light-footed and laughing in the moonlight.  Take care.

Love, R

The Poetry of Rage - Revisited

Emotions are an ecclectic group of divas.  There's timid happiness, which can be chased away by something as simple as a dumbass driver swerving into your lane.  There's fear, which is fairly easy-going in the pleasure/pain department, content with any reaction we have to it.  We go to scary movies for the thrill of it, change our shorts with the reality of it, or go feral and vicious with the threat of it.  Sadness is often very shy and likes to hide behind our grins and wisecracking jokes.  Grief is heavy; an overweight uncle on your back, begging for a ride.  Family loyalty makes you reluctant to sluff  him off.  Love is giddy or consuming, depending on the object it's aimed at.  Hate is consuming too, but acidic: alien blood that eats through all our decks.  If we don't let it go, the vacuum of space implodes us.  Anger can be useful in small doses but molders into bitterness very quickly if we don't clean it off the wallpaper. 

And then, there's rage.  Rage is an altogether different emotion.  Behind most of the long-term negative divas, rage is their foundation.  It's a powerful entity, as alive as a flame, feeding off slights both real and imagined, and as difficult a monkey-on-the-back as heroin to kick.  With a lot of effort, it can be controlled, but rage is a black-hearted thoroughbred whose only wish is to run free and take you with it.  It can't be tamed.  It's always looking for an outlet, a break in your defenses, a slip in your own control.  Rage is a savage poem, lyrical and graceful in its black and red fury.  There's something delicious about it, especially to fucked up child abuse victims like myself.  I was raging for the first three decades of my life and didn't have a clue that that was what was wrong with me. 

I went through the normal phases of self analysis: Dad was a monster, check.  Mom was a weenie meanie, check.  My siblings were awful, check.  I was a loser, check and double check.  With smug complacency, I declared myself cured through benevolent forgiveness and a release of anger toward all those who hurt me.  But like the old adage about confession, if you don't tell everything, if you hold something back, that one rotten apple will poison the whole barrel and rage will run...right over you. 

The targets of rage are seemingly obvious.  Daddy beat and fucked me, beat my brothers, tortured my sister, demeaned my mother, I HATE HIM I HATE HIM I HATE HIM!!!!!  There, that felt good.  I'm moving forward, excellent.  Mommy threw us all to the wolf called Daddy, patting herself on the back at her coffee clutches and mouthing platitudes about how her children meant everything and she'd kill anybody who hurt them.  YOU HORRIBLE, TWO-FACED BITCH I HATE YOU TOO HOW COULD YOU DO THAT TO US?!?  Oh, I'm almost cured.  I went through all the foot-stomping and bitter shrieking at all the individuals who'd done me harm through the years.  It was cathartic, it was amazing, it was ghastly in its beauty and healing and yes, it did help. 

But there was something wrong.  Something was curling up inside me, a black tendril with tensile strength, worming almost physically along my nervous system, burrowing into my veins until its darkness was everywhere.  My heart pumped black ink instead of blood and something laughed, hidden from view.  Hatred.  I could feel hatred but at what?  At who?  Sadness and shame, yes, that was there too, but for what?  What was the cause?  I tried to clean it up, figure it out, but my enemy was invisible and scentless.  I couldn't track it.  The hatred, depression and shame were just symptoms. 

My outside environment didn't help.  I had surrounded myself with needy, greedy people and I served them all a nice big slice of Rebecca pie every day but kept none for myself.  That was my fault too but I couldn't seem to help it.  The noise of all that chaos and selfishness was too loud for me to concentrate on anything way down deep inside me.  My emotional addictions were chattering away and nothing was ever silent.

Then finally, one day, I saw her.  The problem, the core of all that rage, the one rotten apple still in the barrel, the reason I hated so consumingly.  It was a her, definitely.  She was small, maybe a second-grader, with reed thin legs and golden hair, wearing a pair of leopard pajamas, little pink toes peeking out from beneath the shadow of the hem.  She was hesitant as she stepped out of the shadows, aware that I'd been looking for her for years.  She stood before me at last, and my eyes went red with fury.  "YOU!" I screamed.  "You're the reason for all of it!  You're the reason for everything!  You let them do it!  You let him beat you, you let them put cigarettes out on your head, you let them stick their dicks in and tear us both to pieces!  You let him beat Ian and now Ian's dead!  It's your fault YOU LITTLE CHICKENSHIT BITCH!  How could you let them do it?  I HATE YOU!  I WISH YOU'D DIE!  Why didn't you die?  Why did you live and put us through all this horror?"

She stood there and took it because it was something she was used to.  She was used to adults hurting her.  I was just the loudest and the longest.  I'd been abusing her for forty years, almost my entire life.  Eternally a child and unendingly tormented, she just stood there as I poured all my rage onto her defenseless little head.  All those years of violence in my youth, all those decades of misery and depression and bad relationships; I blamed her for everything.  This little girl.  This strange, fey-eyed child.  She just stared at me, her eyes raining, the tears spilling onto her tiny pink toes as they curled under the onslaught.  Me.  The little me of the past, the unforgiveable victim of all those unforgiveable crimes.  She was the rotten apple who'd poisoned the entirety of me.  Little, eight-year-old Rebecca O'Donnell.

But something happened during my rant.  A communication between our so-similar eyes, both green and hurting.  I saw her, this elusive creature, this shy and terrified and damaged baby.  When had I become the aggressor?  When had I become the abusive parent?  Because this girl was a child.  She would never grow up, locked forever in that frame, frail and new.  She was my past but my present and future as well and I had treated her very badly.  This child, this inner self, was my responsibility every bit as much as my own two children were.  How is it that a person can be kindness itself to others but so unforgiving to themselves?  I think it's a matter of one's point of view when looking at the past.  I never blamed other kids who'd been brutalized like I was, or worse.  I always had infinite patience with them, understood them, knew how to help them.  Why then did I hate this one so much?  Why did my rage consume me at the very sight of her? 

The answer was simple.  Because it was me.  I was the one responsible for all these years of misery.  Me, the so-called responsible adult, pointing a bratty finger at a little girl, insisting it was all her fault, like a snot-nosed kid on the playground who didn't want to be found out as the bully.  The rotten apple wasn't this innocent.  It was me, now, the adult Rebecca O'Donnell, and I had to stop hurting someone who'd been tormented for her entire spiritual existence.  Because the eight-year-old Becky O'Donnell had been molested and beaten a long time ago.  It was over, in the past.  I was the one rehashing it, I was the dog with a bone who couldn't let it go.  The rage had been dancing like a whirling dervish since those days, drunken with the power I'd given it. 

So there is a way to expunge rage, after all.  It's a diva, yes.  A runaway horse, absolutely.  A creature that feeds like a tick in warm flesh when we let it, giddy with all the belt thrashings and bloody fists we can rain down on our own defenseless inner children.  That's the secret.  That's the real rotten apple.  Our own blind self abuse.

So, I began to take care of that little girl.  I comforted her, washed her, bathed her wounds, murmured softly as a mother to my own beloved children.  Because that's exactly what she is.  My own eternal child, blameless and pure.  May you recognize the innocence of your own past selves and forgive not only them, but the you of the now.  Become worthy and do some good for yourself and the world.  Don't be afraid to share your own thoughts and kindness, and rage will collapse like a house of cards under your own sweeping hand.  Those of us with traumatic pasts will never be fully rid of it, but the self-love and forgiveness of those inner victims goes a long way to gathering up the reins and steering a course we've chosen ourselves.  Good luck with your own search.  May you find those lost children inside and begin the long, beautiful process of bathing their wounds.  Take care.


Sky Tinsel - Revisited

It is snowing like crazy right now.  As I did the last blizzard, I scampered out into the snow in the dead of night, slipping and sliding on bare feet, then scampered right back inside and ate some cherry pie.  Magical moments.

Warm and snug in my snuggie, I spent an hour or so reminiscing about other winter storms from my past.  There was the huge Illinois ice storm that froze my bicycle to the side of the house for a month and peeled the neighbor's birch tree apart like a giant banana.  It lay across their yard in three even pieces, radiating out from the center.  It looked like some unseen giant had eaten the middle and left the bark. We were without electricity for two weeks after that monster of a storm, and sat huddled in front of the gas stove, burners on high and swing door wide open to heat the room.  I remember it was right around Easter because our baskets were late that year.  Mom made up for it by getting all the candy on sale and cramming it everywhere, even filling mixing bowls.  I thought it was a lot of fun, like something from Little House on the Prairie: our own modern day log cabin for a brief time.  Then there was the blizzard of '71, when Carol Sizemore (my best friend) and I had to dig our way into the backyard because the drifts were over six feet high and we couldn't get out the patio door.  It was a blast; we tunneled like hamsters far out into the yard, never once seeing full daylight; just the watery blue glow through the snow all around us.  And heavy storms as the years passed, where holly trees had berries encased in golf balls of glittering ice and frozen stalactites draped loaded branches.  We took baseball bats to the laden trees and watched the branches snap upright when we hit them, gleeful to be free of the backbreaking snow.  We caught snowflakes on our tongues and tried to judge if they tasted different from the month before, as Lucy inferred in A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Grilled cheese sandwiches and hot tomato soup waited when we stumbled indoors, shedding layers of zippered down and thick wool, laughing as we caught sight of our frozen hair and glistening eyelashes.  Rosy cheeks and bright eyes, white smiles and white landscapes, cold and shivers rewarded with warmth and hot chocolate.  Every single time Mom made us powdered hot chocolate, Carol and I would yodel, "Swiss Miss Instant Cocoa...Yo di lay hee HOOOO" like the little stop action Swiss Miss did in the commercial.

I have never lost the thrill of a shimmering winter wonderland.  I'm still very childlike in my joy of it, nose pressed to the glass as I recognize how lucky I am to have heat and warmth and a roof.  No diamond necklace or sparkling gem is any more beautiful than a slowly drifting snowflake as it spirals down from unreachable heights just for you.  No one else will ever see it, a crystal gift from heaven, fleeting as a blink of an eye.  There's magic in Nature and wonder in winter.  I love the seasons.  Each one has its own immense beauty and jaw-dropping awe.  So take a minute to see past the slush and pain-in-the-ass hullabaloo and watch a once in a lifetime show unfolding right before your eyes.  Then try and catch it on your tongue.

Love, R 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Grasshopper and the Ant

I haven't blogged in WAY too long.  Sorry, all.  A lot has happened over the last week.  Firstly, I want to mention the people of Japan.  All my hopes and prayers to them all.  I watch the news and wait for something good to come out of it but the tsunami is still going.  Nothing but a giant wave of disaster and catastrophe.  I hope they catch a break soon.  Until then and after, nothing but well wishes from the rest of the world.

Secondly, I am going to be on a TV show called "All Night with Joey Reynolds."  It will be filmed Friday night and air on NBC NY Nonstop Monday evening.  Have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off ever since, scrambling to get things ready, work my job, and put together packets of books for mailing.  Makes me think of the Aesop's Fable "The Grasshopper and the Ant," where the ant works his butt off all summer while the grasshopper fiddles.  I feel like doing a bit of fiddling myself but preparation is everything right now.

I want to thank all the people who've read the book so far.  So many have come forward, some to yell, some to look slightly nervous but polite, but so many more to tell me it moved them, helped them in some way.  There's nothing more important to me than to help people with this story.  That's why I wrote it, that's why I laid it all out there, raw and often disturbing, angry and miserable, hilarious and irreverent.  It's a streaming-of-my consciousness pile of steaming angst, as honest as I could make it.  The voice of a lost shadow of humanity who dragged herself out of that communal darkness into the light.  I want all my brothers and sisters of circumstance to see that it's possible, even if they're a chickenshit like me, even if they're scared and humiliated and hate themselves so much they'll stay in the fucking pit just to punish themselves for being alive.  I want them to realize they are creatures of light every bit as much as puddles of inky blackness.  A person can be both, you know.  I am.  I choose the light now.  Darkness was in charge for the first half of my life.  I lived in it, I obeyed it.  Now I'm in charge.  It's tough and sometimes I actually want to slide back into the cool absence; the typical addict's itch to be miserable and using again.  But I keep going.  Thank you to everybody who's been moved by my crazy ass little story.  I hope it helps you.  I hope it helps the whole world.

Love, R

Friday, March 11, 2011

Castle Dining

I spent the night at my buddy Diane's house last night. She drove me to Oheka Castle on Long Island, where I had a lovely lunch and met equally lovely people. I was invited there by a marvelous man; one of those generous souls who is outwardly tough and scary. He's one of the most philanthropic gentlemen I've ever met. A real inspiration. He invited me to lunch so as to help promote Freak. He knows what I'm trying to do with it; ie help other insecure train wrecks like I used to be (now I'm just a car wreck - improvement a little at a time) and wanted to do what he could to help. It was wonderful. I sat next to a fascinating historian and a hilarious politician. All in all, the meal was an eclectic mix of fun and facts, art and politics, music and generosity. Then Diane came and got me. We went to her house and watched movies, each clutching a glass of wine and a brownie apiece. Her cat kept trying to get on the divan with us, which was strictly forbidden, so when she went to bed and I lay curled up on the comfy couch, I made cooing noises until the cat crept up and fell asleep on my belly, a purring comfort of fur and warmth. It was a beautiful day. I met some people who were truly interested in the memoir, fascinated by my World War II tattoo, and curious about future projects. Got up early this morning for Diane to drive me to work. After my shift, I walked home under a cerulean sky, just smiling to myself at how good my life is now, how far I've come from that suicidal basket case of a decade ago. If anyone had told me, in the past, that I would be where I am now, as happy as I am now, I wouldn't have believed them. Even if it was me. So hang in there if you're where I was then, and doggedly keep going forward. Because I'm where it was impossible to be only a few short years ago. I'm happy. Take care.

Love, R

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ramblin' Rebecca

I feel like rambling tonight. I'm a bit of a rambler anyway. On any given day, a wealth of inconsequential trivia usually flows from my lips like wine spilled at a wedding.

I waited on a very nice couple today. The woman was a diabetic and wanted to know details of carbs and the like on the menu. I went in the back and got the allergy list for her. I watched as she carefully charted the merits of a dry baked potato versus the wisdom of a side of broccoli. Her husband and she discussed a point system and I watched as she unzipped her little diabetic case. He kept an eagle eye on her; there was a gentle concern and steely resolve in his expression. I adored them both.

We got to blabbing. Don't ask me how, but the three of us covered everything from wind technology to the Yellowstone Caldera, the price of gas and the inefficiency of refining used grease into bio fuel. It was heaven. The restaurant was empty, we were all blabbers stuffed full of info few people care to hear, and we dined on the thrill of conversation that was oh-so-interesting to us. I skipped across the dining room like a kid at Christmas, and the couple had the same gleeful glow in their radiant faces. So much fun.

I have one of those brains that's very selective in what it cares to retain. An almost catlike disdain for anything it doesn't find interesting. Those things are few and far between, and usually fall into the mathematical realm. I have no talent with math, no interest in times tables and virtually no sense of direction. For me to find East, for example, I have to remember what a flat drawing of the United States looks like, remember that New York is the east coast (on my right) and California is the west coast (on my left). I know the east coast has a little tail like a fox (Florida) and the West Coast has a pregnant belly with a wiggle on the edge (California). My mind then drifts to the San Andreas fault and the stressed temporal plates right off the coast and I worry about people living there if they suddenly snap. Then I think about native animals who might forewarn people by going inland and up and how warm the waters are there. I then shake myself and mumble, "Concentrate. North is up and South is down. Now, that's supposed to help me figure out which way to turn." By then, if I'm driving, I've already passed the exit I was supposed to take anyway. My ex husband made me promise once to never drive into the City alone. "It'll end up like Kevin Kline in Grand Canyon," he told me. Kevin Kline didn't fare too well in that movie when he made a wrong turn.

On the other hand, I can remember virtually everything else. My brain loves to suck up knowledge and I like to read pretty much everything. I have favorite quotes posted all over my studio walls from Shakespeare, Einstein, Whitman, Rupert Sheldrake, Edgar Allen Poe, Homer, Frank Capra, Chris Rock and Harlequin Romances. I weep copiously at pretty much all Walt Disney animated films, overwhelmed by all the work and dedication of all the artists who worked on them, and even though I've seen it a zillion times, I still cry when George Bailey prays in Martini's bar on Christmas Eve in It's a Wonderful Life. Right now I'm reading a book on World War II, a graphic novel about the Battle of Troy, a technical book on social insects, a children's biography on Mozart and a romance that's dog-eared from multiple readings. I don't really fit into any category of book lovers. My intellectual friends cringe and douse me with holy water when they see the comic books and trashy novels scattered about the room, and my down to earth pals look uncomfortable when they see the multiple dictionaries and ten-pound tomes piled high on numerous tables. I just like to read everything. I save National Geographics and tear up my Entertainment Weekly magazines (after I read them) for reference pictures on possible future art projects.

I love clothes but hate shopping, so usually wander about like a bag lady in ancient, much-washed ugly garments. I don't really think about it; I just grab what's next in the dresser drawer. Since I don't have a car, the homeless woman image is complete on grocery shopping days because I push my little wheelie cart around to carry the bags home. My roommate will be talking to me as we lounge on our prospective couches, then suddenly yell, "My GOD, Rebecca! You're wearing another pair of socks with big holes in them!" I'm usually startled to discover she's right. My mom used to "accidentally" set fire to ancient beloved clothing of mine, well worn and re-stitched to within inches of their lives. She had a barbecue pit in the backyard and I'd find my charred dumpster picking clothes, all charred and ragged, many a sad time. And forget it if anybody gives me clothing as a gift. I'll wear it until it falls apart, then sew it together and wear it some more. Sentimental to the core, I simply adore the stuff because a loved one gave it to me. When my son was little, he went shopping for a Mother's Day gift for me. He knew I liked black, and got me a voluminous black t-shirt that had "Mother" stitched on the label. It was a maternity shirt for a woman who had to be at least twelve months pregnant but I wore it everywhere, grinning at all the inevitable questions of when was I due. I walked around with an American Flag helmet a dear friend gave me that had been worn at Ground Zero after September 11th. I carried a Daytop bag (my son's rehab) as a purse for a year after the same friend gave it to me; he'd arranged a donation and Daytop had sent him the bag as thanks. He knew I'd treasure the ugly little thing, and I did. I stuffed sliced rubber soles into a pair of Nikes my best friend gave me for Christmas after I'd worn holes in them because I loved the fact that they were from her.

The point of all this rambling is, I guess, the lovely fact that I no longer try to hide my eccentricities in books and garb. Insecurity made me embarrassed by my quirky likes and dislikes, and for decades, I tried to conform and be like everybody else. The truth of the matter is, nobody, if you really look closely, is like everybody else. They all just want to appear that way, a sort of herd mentality and flocking perspective, as if that way is the only way to be: like everybody else. But though we have similarities and fall into categories in many ways, each one of us is as individual as a fingerprint, as rare as a priceless gem, as precious as gold and as different as forensics now prove. Revel in it, my friends. Embrace your own weirdness and try not to be too shy about who and what you truly are. Because you're one of a kind, just like me. That's the only category that truly fits: we're all one of a kind.

Love, R

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Popping the Pissy Boil

Ever have one of those days when you're just pissy? I had one today. I'm usually very cheerful, pretty much all the time, but today I was a diva.

It started out in an odd way. I'd had a few weird dreams of getting fired from my job; some Freudian manifestation of the desire for something new, perhaps. Who knows? Last night I dreamt I punched a co-worker right in the face and got fired. Reminds me of my crazy pregnancy dreams when I was carrying Rhianna. Those were really violent and bothered me a lot. When I told my obstetrician about them, he just laughed and said violent dreams were normal in the late stages of pregnancy. Said it was the maternal instinct awakening. Today, I had no such excuse. I was just...pissy.

After my shift was over, I dragged myself the two miles home, hauling bags of groceries and muttering sullenly under my breath. I hadn't eaten anything but a slice of pineapple all day and it had been a long, hard shift. I recognized the fact that I needed to get my blood sugar up, but there's a strange thing about a pissy mood. You kind of want to stay in it for awhile. Be a brat. Throw a bit of a hissy fit, tarnish your over rated halo, that sort of thing. And you know what? It's okay to do that. Like eating chocolate in moderation, a bit of a hissy fit can be absolutely delicious. I don't attack people verbally or otherwise, I'm not deliberately cruel, but when you're in a bad mood, hungry, tired and over-worked, there's something cathartic about going a little werewolf and howling at the moon.

When I got home, I made a lovely salad, garnished with turkey, strawberries and cheese, filled a bowl with fresh blueberries and cut an obscenely large slice of brownie I'd baked the night before. Lip still jutting, I stomped up to my room and devoured the entire feast.

My beloved roomie came in then. She'd had a pissy day as well and we spent a pleasant hour being harpies and ranting in a good old fashioned bitchfest. Oh, to have an outlet like that when one is unreasonably angry. A good friend to vent with and snarl obscenities over slights both real and imagined. It was glorious.

Now, replete with popping the pissy boil and letting all that anger drain away, I am calmly tippy-tapping on my keyboard, writing with a slightly self-derisive grin. It's good to look back and see that, despite an insecure twinge over my behavior, I'm not doing what I would have five years ago. I'm not attacking myself for being anything other than perfect. There's a beautiful freedom in that as well, and a recognition that the anti-insecurity exercises are working. Instead of hating myself for being a little bitchy, I find the whole thing more amusing than dreadful. Tomorrow, I'll be back to my old cheerful self. I'll get some sleep, remember to eat, and find comfort in the company of my own skin. May you all see yourselves as you really are and not only what you think you should be: both saint and sinner, pissy and pleasant, kind and a little thoughtless; a wonderful, elaborate yarn ball of every emotion and passion there is. A complicated, fascinating, living, breathing miracle. Take care.

Love, R

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Secret Identities

I spent eleven hours last Monday watching magic.  Went over to my kindred spirit pal's studio, where he's doing an amazing thing: writing thirty songs and posting them on his facebook page, one for every day.  He's calling it "The 30 Day Challenge."  He's up to eighteen.  His name's Michael Simeone and he's probably the most talented person I've ever met personally.

We work at the restaurant together.  I had no idea he was a rapper and a master lyricist when I first started working there.  I just assumed he was a friendly kid with a hilarious personality who was pretty much beloved by everybody there.  When I first heard him "spit" as he so grossly calls rapping, I was stunned to tears.  Talent.  Enormous talent right in front of me, hidden behind the waiter uniform and heavy trays.  Just like I was hidden, just like so many people who are in dead end jobs are hidden.

On Monday, I was basically there for moral support.  I occasionally dropped a line such as "I hate that" or "it doesn't fit" as he spun verbal gold from thin air, but all in all, Mike did it all himself.  I scribbled down lines and doodled on the notebook as he worked the microphone.  Two other people from work drifted in: George, who has a lovely velvety voice and Katie, who I didn't even know sang.  George is working his dream; he sings all the time in many different shows, working at the restaurant for rent money as he chases his soul on stage.  Katie works two jobs and struggles to pay off her student loans.  All of them, all of us, are cheerful people at the restaurant, happy to see each other and hard working at a job none of us like. But in that room, that tiny little studio, I witnessed magic.  True magic, not a card trick or flash of light distraction.  I watched these people transform.  Everything changed as they slowly peeled off their shyness and began to create music, opening up in a way that was totally unexpected, like seeing a huge rose bloom out of a violet's bud.  They came alive.  They became what they always secretly were.  What was hidden was now in full sight and I was blinded by the astonishing beauty of it all. 

That's the fascinating thing about people.  There is always talent, great talent inside everybody.  Most people don't see it, few recognize it and often the gifted individuals themselves can't identify it.  They shrug it off as something that they simply "like to do" as if that were silly or a bit embarrassing.  "I know it's weird but I like to do it."  Tossed off as a nothing.  I once read an article on career advice by a psychiatrist.  There was a great line which read if you want to figure out something you'd love to do as a career, think of what you liked to do when you were in kindergarten and then figure out how to make money at it.  There were references to a man who loved building blocks and erector sets as a kid who went on to become an architect, another who loved toy cars and went on to design race cars, a girl who loved to make mud pies and grass clipping spaghetti who was now a successful chef.  Good advice. 

I believe everybody has a hidden super hero of gifted whatsit inside of themselves.  Watching that group of people come alive, glowing like a Christmas tree with the sheer joy of creatively using their talents, simply reinforced that fact.  All of us, even the fuckups and miserable, have hidden majesty inside.  The daily grind of hauling garbage, serving food or digging ditches is simply a way to make money, and that often becomes a trap.  Of course you have to have money to live.  But don't ever give up on your dreams.  The wait staff uniform is simply...your secret identity.  You're all like Superman, you know.  Clark Kent looks like a miserable loser but that clever fucker can fly.  So can you.  Don't ever give up on your dreams, whatever they are, and always remember that even though the daily grind in a dead end job is something you have to do, like brushing your teeth, it doesn't encompass who you are.  You're all super heroes.  Tap into that hidden talent and let it soar.  It's in there, believe me.  Take a breath, dig it out, and fly.

Love, R