Flotation Devices 101

It is easy to write about the highs of life, the love that bounces off and to me so freely and kindly, the stories that make me laugh, the characters I hold so dear to my heart. I have been accustomed to protecting the ones I love when I write, never wanting them to experience the pain of being exposed for being human, a sacrifice I know comes from being loved by a writer.

I feel it all the time, the fear, the raw emotion of cringing at the publish button, wondering if the people in my life who are affected by my words will know I cringe, or if they see them as flippant pieces of a life easy to judge through a computer screen, accustomed to my truth, never seeing what it has cost me.
I know truth will always set you free, but I am no longer naive.

It almost always costs you something first, and it slaps you with its humility, cuts with a razor blade, burns like a rope tied to your ankles until you surrender.

My father was the charmer, always going the extra mile to give you cash when you were down to a penny, certain to make you aware that life was not safe without him, certain his gifts were the life jacket he threw, a skill so disguised I would find myself thanking and even apologizing, unaware the drowning was not only a black crazy hole sucking you to darkness.

Life jackets make you float and his were weighted with lies, a hand on my head pushing me under, with a smile and a check.

My lie was believing my madness made me sink.
My shame was that I loved him anyway.
My pain was that I deserved it.

And so, the Collector comes, his gifts as beautiful and pure as the ocean is deep, and I did not see the need for a life jacket, my feet not even close to the water. His love opened me to discover the realms of my truth, that I was nothing I had thought.
I jumped in head first, after resisting the tide to the point I was physically ill in my refusal and fear, the weights of my own lies had kept me far from saving, so far that I didn’t even believe I was capable of floating much less diving.

Through Your Vulnerability Comes Your Invincibility.

I love that quote and here I was, hard and shallow, rigid in my refusal to ever fall into a trap, a pride that formed in believing by never being hurt, you always win. I had to sink to learn to swim.

I don’t write to make anyone happy, not even myself, but I write to be free, to own my truth however misguided and scary it may feel.

The Collector has worked tirelessly to give to me, and I let him on the day I made a decision to love him for free, without a return to my investment. I knew that I had serious pain and betrayal hidden under the layers of this one truth, the truth that I do not operate like most, my love to explore and experience far greater than my love to snuggle up with a safety pillow. Pillows that make some feel soft and warm can also suffocate you in the middle of the night, the night you were destined to dance to a song played just once, and so while the lover snores, I toss.

It never occurred to me you can dance just the same, with men who hate pillows, that I am not insane to want both, my judgements have been harsh, this belief I do not love well.
I am sad at this thought, remembering my mother speak of my boredom with boyfriends, her always telling me to just face it and break up with them, the family phone ringing off the hook, my immaturity and curiosity hoped for the best, my need for freedom and adventure always won.

I don’t want this war and so I chose freedom, a belief that my adventures will always be satisfied, and we all win because in the end, no one gets hurt.

I didn’t know war is war no matter which side you are on, a truth I face tonight, staring at my pillow, not sure if I am being betrayed, by myself or him, or perhaps not at all.
It is the madness of the life jacket, not certain if the weight I feel comes from believing lies, or if the weight is not a lie but a truth I have hidden in my quest to be brave. I know that choosing to love despite the fear and betrayal has freed me. I have learned that I am nothing I imagined, that my heart is capable of more than I ever dreamed, that my father does not have the power to make me afraid.

I do not believe he will get the credits on the end of the screen, at my last breath for any of the choices I make, so what is my movie exactly, the message I have come to speak, the ending I want to imagine?

My ending is floating, the sky warm against my face, my smile wide, my heart bursting, the dreams I cried at birth playing before me, the world watching a timeless piece of art that left an imprint of what is possible when one chooses to love and lose, but love again and again.

It is the mark of the true hero.

Bravery is loving when no one has loved you, not the way you deserve, so you find it on your own, and it costs you but is immeasurable just the same.

Love never abandons true seekers.

So I face this weight today, wondering if I have imagined it into being, if a savior has appeared when I never asked to be saved. If love is real, and a man sends a life jacket, cloaked in the finest of intention, flirting between love and casual lies, how do you trust it? What if the savior is just a piece of my unhealed trauma, not even a savior, and my ending is the reality I crucified him for sending the help I needed?

I am treading water, watching the pull of the tide grab my ankles, pushing me into the unknown dark cold waves of myself, deep and mysterious, and I am awake and alert, defensive and on guard.

It is a paradox, this blind trust of love and faith.

Certainly not all flotation devices are evil and we all need salvation at times but I have trusted the wrong ones too often to risk drowning from punctured holes too naked for my eye to see.
But it is love not fear where the well of healing springs.
It is the making of greatness, this impossible to read life jacket, for it is my only way of knowing if I am the one who has finally learned how to save herself, a thought that makes me want to doggy paddle to safety, the dark sea causing my head to panic and my heart pound.

Sink or swim, I must release the jacket.

It is the only way.

It doesn’t take away the weight, the impossible grin on my father’s face as I grab in certainty only to sink and sink, his life jacket cloaked in a sweetness only betrayal could invent.
This suffocating thing he called love must be exposed, found, and saved, not by the Collector or anyone else.
It is the one thing I want more than any ending in all the world, to trust love because it stands on its own, to know that I am the savior, that no flotation device can be trusted.

That is the point.

I have to let them go by, these safety devices claiming they can save me from the dark pull of my own doubts, my weary distrust of saviors, always appearing at your weakest, the moment before you know you are beautiful and powerful, the very second before you decide you no longer can survive.
I must sink or swim, or both, but I am certain in the end, I will have learned to float.

If only I knew how.

Junk in the Trunk

Auntie Sage once said something to me that she has no idea how it has carried me. She is not a fluffy person, nor does she throw compliments away which is why when you receive one, it lands with a bulk of weight tied to it.

Clyde and Divorcee are both like that, my own compliments are far more like Lola.

I once heard her make a woman gasp when she said she had lovely eye lashes.
I think I congratulate every one in sight I see who has a pretty scarf or a tired look, the thought that I should keep my sparkly thoughts to myself come after I am stuck in a two hour conversation with a stranger, a fact that is either painful or wonderful. It is the best and worst of me.

Anyway, Auntie Sage said she could see clearly in front of me a day I was photographing and writing, living and being, and no one on earth would believe where I had come from, the life lessons that I have overcome.

I would love to believe that is true, and so here I am, not eating Chick fil A to save on gas, opting for crackers out of the vending machine, my stomach eating itself, my heart grateful to have made it the week with two bucks to spare.

I can not complain for I am sitting in my dream, no longer looking at it, but touching it, living it, seeing it form around me, enormous bold bright miraculous shapes of love healing and strengthening me.

I sit in the parking lot of this school and weep sometimes, not sure how I will pay for a color checker passport or light meter or if I will have the money to get contacts, but I know the anxiety will not kill me, or so I hope.

If it does, I went out in flames, so burn me to a crisp, put me in little jars to spread around like party favors, go find a great live band, and let’s have a huge party.
Until then, I will hold on to my dream, to Auntie’s words, to the day I will walk onto a shoot, equipment my own and paid for, art directors that respect and love me, my children waiting at our own house that Divorcee is waiting to drop them off for me.

I will have fluffy pillows, hard wood floors, windows that sun beams through during the morning. I will not even remember the days of being on the side of 285, exhausted, weeping, broken, texting strangers to get me to class.

I will pick out my favorite pair of boots out of many to choose, make art and meet people, laugh a lot, and when someone asks me about the story of life upon meeting, I will smile, say I am blessed, that with God and love, all things are possible.

And I will remember today, as I cry on my bed, my glasses being switched around with my last pair of contacts, my hair streaked whitish orange from a CVS hair dye, the heartbreak I feel over missing my children to go close down a restaurant, the weight of it all I will remember.

It will break me open, humble me, and my soul will shout in just living that anything is possible, that as deep as one can feel pain, one can also feel joy. I choose joy.
I love Junkyards, always have, even as a little girl, I would come home with things people had thrown away, crafting projects and tree houses, believing you can make anything beautiful if you see it differently.

I have been thrown away myself, tossed with mighty force as well as happily owned, captured and treasured for all the right and wrong reasons.

Despite it all, I have never been anything else.
Junk lets other people’s ideas of them believe they are worthy.
Art is already worthy and that is why it stands apart from all the other shitty pieces of creation.
It laces up its shoes, chooses joy when people are pissed the chips are soggy, believes in faith because miracles have paves its way, and doesn’t way to be discovered.
It is already found.



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My Top “You Tube” Fist Pump Moments!

Six months ago, over martinis with friends, I made a pact to begin a journey towards Photography, to start a blog, and to go on a blind date. Those were loosely my goals, my first blog entry was something like “My 90 Day Diet to Follow My Bliss.” I thought it would be fun and silly, an adventure, but I never believed 90 days later, I would be enrolled in actual school, have 5000 hits on a blog where I would actually strip my self naked for, all my pain and shame and secrets exposed. My nonexistent dating life became entries of colorful characters on pages with fake names, while my days begin plotting from start to end on how to make a camera happen, for a school I never thought would accept me. I am almost shocked at the person I have become, jumping out of bed, excited about the adventure ahead of me. It is painful now to realize how long I had gone living a miserable existence, every day beginning with the alarm clock, an enemy reminding me I had to get up and live my life, all day over, again. Those are far few and between now, like today, when I woke up in a terrible mood, a deer in headlights, a list I wanted to run and hide under my covers rather than face.
Driving the kids to school today, Kat, my 8 year old called me out on it. “Mom,” she asked, “What is your big thought?”
Busted.
I always ask that question of her, particularly on rough days, when she can’t get over someone calling her chips weird, and I knew she was right, that I needed a “BIG THOUGHT” to jolt me out of fear, my knuckles white from holding the wheel so tight. Today my answer is a GIGANTIC iced coffee and my blog. What makes you want to jump out of a bad mood, feel the energy of being so alive you are unable not to smile? I went right for my YOU TUBE folder in my email, laughing and crying organizing the forgotten moments, all unique in design and expression. If you need that “BIG THOUGHT” with me today, join me in my iced coffee moment, scroll through dancing, love, service, creativity, laughter, and music to find what inspires you, click on it, and make sure you skip to the end, for the TOP music videos! Just posting them erased the worry of today, music always makes me want to jump out of my skin, leave my body on the floor, a great song is the best vehicle for life, so lets drive. I call shotgun, so put your seat belt on, turn up the volume, and leave the windows rolled down. Life is the ultimate ride, so I wonder what may occur when we open our eyes and minds to the alarm we want to go off, a surprise party waiting, our dreams cheering, people checking their clocks, watching the door.
I say we quietly show up, kick the door, scare the shit out of them, and hand out our own party favors.
Oh, and don’t forget Rob Dyrdek is coming, but because Nana and Clyde will be attending, he promised, just this once, to leave the strippers at home..
TOP TEN YOU TUBEY FIST PUMP GUARANTEES!
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#1. DANCE.
For all of you who love it, in all its forms, and for my Kat, DANCE is the very thing that makes her come ALIVE. Dance is : HOT. SEXY. CORNY. AWKWARD. DRUNK. INSPIRATIONAL. FUN. LIBERATING. CAPTIVATING. LOVE. EXPRESSION. ART. FREEDOM. Everybody should dance, which is my favorite part of weddings, even if your old, young, white, black, funky, horrific, or insanely good. Don’t let not having rhythm stop you. At least when we aren’t watching, DO IT with a hair brush, naked out of the shower, in front of the mirror, or in your car. JUST DANCE.


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#2. LOVE.
For all you romantics ones, DREAMING for the “ONE” to arrive at your door, who wake up every day next to the love of your life, who dedicate your heart and home to finding your perfect match. Some of us are ALIVE as long as we believe in love, two rocking chairs on a porch, a life complete with our soul mate walking in our front door. Don’t give up hope. Here are three proposals, one woman’s battle to win a man with her breasts, and the ultimate, YOU TUBEY “Wedding Video” to remind you its real if you long for it, so BELIEVE.





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#3. LEAD.
Are you a front runner, pioneer, a person who only feels truly ALIVE serving a mission, to our planet, our children? Is there a calling for you, a reason you need to be known for, and if so, what is your UNIQUE message to deliver? Stand up so we can see what HOPE is made of, people ready to meet darkness with LIGHT, so if you are chosen to do so, open your heart, let it break, and light the flame you came here to burn. The video of the children is for us all, and I beg you to please watch, be inspired, to see the difference we can make. Beware of the Oil Spill video, which I could hardly stomach, as well as the rest, all painful realities we sadly need to wake up and take responsibility for. Scream. Yell. Pray. Cry. Write. Pay. Invite. Join. Just DO something with your LOVE and let us see HOPE make miracles appear. INVENT a way. With Martin Luther’s Dream, no excuse is possible. If this doesn’t make you come out of your skin, nothing will.





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#4. INSPIRE.
How far do you stray from your normal routine? Does writing music or poems or fashion inspire you? Do you think outside the box? Do you let age or other factors hinder you from developing a secret talent, exploring a new hobby? Maybe for you, ALIVE is your thought that the world is waiting for. Watch a grandma, a child, Andy McKee, and George Carlin defy every limit. These people took the very talents you may have, but have not taken seriously. BE HEARD.






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#5. HOW?
Sure, we all want to become ALIVE in our own lives, but maybe we get STUCK, not knowing how. It moves me to hear Stevie Nicks speak about being self conscious and fearful, only to become one of the great songwriters of all time, and AUTHENTIC in her fashion, which I was surprised didn’t come easy. I STUMBLED UPON jonathanfields.awake@thewheel.com. He is an entrepreneur with a list of accomplishments as long as my disastrous dating career, as well as a great public speaker. His own story of how he moved through fear to create wealth and his greatest dreams really helped me face some of my own. As a writer, of course, Elizabeth Gilbert, from “Eat, Pray, Love,” has my heart, her own memoir I read in my bathtub, at the same time of my divorce, so I sobbed in the cracks of the tile with her. Her humor still in tact, she is candid about what happens as you overcome fear, a fact you will deal with no matter how successful you become.




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#6. KIND.
For all the ANIMAL LOVERS out there, of course, these are the classics. Are you ALIVE from knowing them, nurturing them, rescuing them?
I know I am the better for it, which I am sure any lover of the tame or wild, would have to agree.


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#7. WHO?
Two dear friends, one film maker, Tim O’Hara, one photographer, John Robert Ward, that’s WHO. I have so many talented artistic friends, especially musical, but Tim especially touches me to the core on the subject of grief and death, his father being murdered, his journey I have been privileged to witness from his early film days. J.R. Ward gives us a lens into the life of a son who lets us in the journey through Alzheimer’s Disease, a remarkable touching battle of pain, grief, and hope. He is the sole reason I am attending the school, mainly because I want to be him when I grow up. I can’t talk ALIVE without sharing the ART I have been changed by.
Love you, both.

Here is the link for JOHN-ROBERT-WARD II, prepare to have your breath taken away.

My Father Has Gifted Hands

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#8. LAUGH.
Duh. Who doesn’t come ALIVE from laughter? It is the very reason I can stand this place called life sometimes. For the ones who fall with the record button on, are single like me, are old and like hip hop, it is my firm belief JOY is a purpose unto itself, and I wish I had a good comic routine to add, but oh well. That’s what great about laughter, you can let things go, wipe away a frown, make a mistake feel good, a friendship on immediate contact. Nice, polite, and kind, but give me a man who can make me laugh, and I fall in LOVE.



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#9. WRONG.
For the mentally disturbed, the dark horse in all of us, those who have a humor for the sick and deranged behavior of others, you, my dark crazy friends, are not being left out. If it isn’t supposed to be funny, I believe it most certainly is. I become ALIVE when I watch something I am not sure is real, which in this age, happens every day. For the sick, offensive, dark and delusional, thank you. For all the nut jobs, I am a great fan.






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#10. LIVE
Nothing makes me more AlivE than LIVE MUSIC. So stay tuned I am putting it on a separate blog post because this one has gotten so long…Please comment and leave your favorite You Tube moments…What changed you, horrified you, made you laugh, love? I’m dying to know.

“FRENEMIES”

“Fear is like an explosive device, and thought is the missile on which it rides.”

So, I have this “FRENEMY” in my life.
When I was growing up, I moved around a lot, was constantly the “new girl,” sometimes in the middle of the year, shifting in and out of public and private school systems. Some of my most shameful memories lie dormant to those early school years, one in particular where I would sneak into the bathroom with my lunch, sit and eat and sob on the toilet, begging the clock to move faster, rather than face the mean pack of private school girl wolves.
My first day of walking up to them, putting my tray down quietly, my little fingers trembling, one girl I remember her name to this day, made a nod, and they all got up and left me there, alone.
I can’t decide which is worse about this story. On one part, I see that this story has been all of our stories, especially as women, the separate and hateful energy that has been used to destroy each other and ourselves since time began. On another part, I see that in this moment, I heard a destructive voice that called out to my spirit.
It said, “You are unwanted.”
“You are unlovable.”
“You are not accepted here or anywhere.”
“You are not enough.”
Those are powerful statements for a little girl to hear, and in that moment, I made a choice to believe them. Maybe I could have said to the voices, “No. You are all lies. Those girls are missing on something great, something worthy and beautiful.” But, the fact remains, I didn’t.
I see now as an adult woman that voices come like this all the time, for us all, and I watch my girls confront them, I see myself in them, trying to decide if they should align with the lies, or believe what is real.
My mother decided to move me to a different school, a small Christian school, and for reasons I am sure were never intentional to cause pain, put me and my brother back a grade, placing me in the exact class my younger brother had been in, half way through the school year. That was so shameful to me, to be amongst classmates who had made friends with him, who asked where he was and who was I, answers that brought up all the horror I did not want to examine. The voices got deeper and deeper, settling in to my soul, defining my self hatred to an even greater degree. It is a very interesting thing to be where I am today and look at it from a different perspective, as a witness, rather than a victim.
As all children do, when placed in situations where they have no idea how to cope or where to turn, they develop coping mechanisms to deal with the trauma. What I did was develop a mask, a face I sold with absolute brutal force to myself, so that I would never feel that pain again. My mask became my alter ego, the face of popularity and acceptance, and from that moment on, I believed that my worth was in direct proportion to how many people adored and loved me, no matter what the cost.
My mask became my force, and it got me what I wanted. I became popular, with endless supplies of friends, phone calls, invites, and I did anything and everything to be what I thought everyone wanted me to be. I became bulimic in middle school, believing being skinny would gain the attention of men. I dated the right guys, pursued all the people that would validate my belief that I was “somebody” no matter what self destructive behavior it cost. I had to be the loudest, the most charming, the most lovable, and the mask became more and more strong, validated by my relief I felt that in not being an outcast, I was finally lovable, worthy, accepted. It is a tricky thing to wear a mask for so long, my humor and love for people a real part of me, and I became swept away by my own false image of myself.
As I have grown throughout the years, in facing the pain I used so many things to escape with, drugs, sex, working out, painful relationships to name a few, I have touched on this issue, but not to the depth of where I am today.
It is a beautiful thing to be in pain, because it is the arrow if we follow in faith, will lead us back to our authentic self. I thought pain was here to kill me. I found out this year that pain is here to free me.
So, at 32, a grown woman with two children of her own, I went to work and as I always have, made friends instantly and powerfully, covering all the self hatred that I did not even know still was dormant, waiting, watching to be seen.
I was instantly aware of one girl who did not seem pulled into my charm, and no matter what I did to assure her, humor her, love her, embrace her, she did not respond. The fact is for whatever reason, she did not like me.
For me, that was impossible. I fought myself every day, my internal self at war with what I was doing to excuse and win her over, aware that this was not healthy, that it should be something I should let go of easily, but I couldn’t. She said things like, “I have no idea why everyone here loves you so much.”
It was the arrow, and the work of my own healing knew to watch it, to follow it.
One night, Fathers Day to be exact, she said I was evil, screamed at me, and I ended up in the cooler of the restaurant, shaking, sobbing, broken. The cracks of my mask began to open, the little girl left alone sat in a cooler, in an adult body, terrified, empty, full of self loathing and pain. It was an immediate trigger, and I saw myself light a cigarette, something I had not done in ten years. I saw myself do everything to escape, my claws coming out of the water, trying to paddle up, knowing I was drowning, but I just did not know why.
I thought it was about my father, confrontation, so I did that, my manager and entire restaurant involved in my own private war, and I felt the shame and judgment of my inner self crack my mask open more and more, revealing to me the very thing I had convinced myself I would never again feel.
“I am not wanted.”
“I am not lovable.”
“I am not accepted.”
“I am not enough.”
The arrows of these voices that formed the same mask resurfaced, but just that much more powerful, but I chose to address them differently this time. I said to them, “You are a pack of lies. I chose to believe the voices that say I am a beautiful and loving woman, full of compassion and joy, a gift to the world. I am enough.”
Something magical happened in allowing my mask to fall, to realize that I needed all these people to love me not because I was wonderful, but because I was a little girl who had been wounded. I began to see how self serving and inauthentic I had become, believing that I had been a friend for all the reasons my mask wanted me to be, not because the friendships were true. I began to ask for guidance as to who that girl was, the real one, and in asking, it was amazing to watch my relationships change instantly, the ones that were not real did not appear, the ones that mattered poured love to me, and back, showing me I was becoming who I really am, not the illusion I sold to the world.
I realized I didn’t really care anymore about the girl at work, the one who I could not make love me. What shattered me didn’t even cross my mind and the other day she said to me, out of the blue, “You’ve changed.”
“No I haven’t.” I said it without a defense or a cover. I just didn’t see she was showing me.
“Yes, you have.” She stared at me, aware, alert.
“I am meaner to you than I ever have,” I said, giving her examples of the ways I did not try to help her or praise her, withholding myself, believing I had been protective and defensive.
“No, you don’t treat me the same way.” This made me laugh at the irony.
She followed me around that night, my nemesis, and I stayed late with her, seeing for the first time, the person that had hurt me was responsible for the best thing that ever happened to me. She had been the arrow to my mask, the arrow to puncture my heart. She had been the arrow to find my way home. I couldn’t believe the power of the energy of what became of me shifting inside myself the voices, the mask still there, but I am working on it, healing through forgiving that little powerless girl, the one who sobbed every day, and I try to hold her, send her love, and remind her she is safe now. As for the girl at work, she ended up, for the first time hugging me, and we laughed, making the agreement to be “Frenemies.” I see now she was sent from the light, a shadow of what was inside of me, begging to be free, to be healed. I think “Frenemy” is the name I should have given myself, a long time ago, a 32 year battle of acceptance, worth, and joy waiting to be found. Here is to you Frenemy, a perfect song, for a perfect woman.