Every Saturday we took the Long Island Railroad from Bellmore to Manhattan. New York City. The train ride was about forty-eight minutes, station-to-station. At the candy store in Bellmore, he got a newspaper and a coffee with a little milk; and I would get chocolate milk. On the train, we would find seats – two together, side by side – and we would sip and he would read, and I would stare out the window watching the world swish by.
He had been arrested.
A bribery case.
The United States vs… My Dad.
He didn’t expect to be caught. He didn’t expect to be arrested. We didn’t expect life to change. She didn’t expect to pawn all her jewelry. I didn’t expect to be bullied and harassed, and to have imaginary friends. We had never known that kind of fear and sad before, and now they had moved in with us, constant companions, tagging along where ever we went.
You don’t expect that kinda shit when you’re 8 years old.
He needed a job; to feed us, to pay the bills, the mortgage, the car, the clothes.
He got a job working at Melvin’s Frame Shop in the West 30’s. Or maybe it was the West 40’s. We would walk from Penn Station, the LIRR, to the shop. His friend, Murray, got him the job. Melvin was Murray’s cousin. Melvin made frames for Museums, and Art Gallery’s and was pretty well known in that world. Elaborate frames. Fancy frames – gold, and silver, huge frames. My dad was hired to sweep the floors, and clean the place. A janitor. He would sweep, and clean, and label frames, and organize things, and I would sit on the wooden table, my little-girl skinny legs dangling, and I’d watch – mesmerized – as my dad swept the wooden shavings from under the tables with a huge broom and dustpan. And Melvin would berate him, in an accent sprinkled with angry. “Sweep here. HERE. This. This. Here. THIS. This dust, and this sand, and these wood chips… and the mess… sweep, god-damn-it, sweep, you lazy man, can’t you see where you’re sweeping, Goddamnit?” And my dad would shrink right before me – right before my eyes. He would shrink, and disappear, and I was so scared he would disappear forever. He was a tall man – six foot one – but Melvin could make him disappear. Melvin had the same tattoos that Phyllis and Henry had. The same exact tattoos. I called them cartoons. I didn’t know what tattoos were. Numbers – like a telephone number – on their forearm. Melvin had the same tattoo as them. I knew about those numbers. I knew that Phyllis and Henry had lost both sets of parents. All four. They had burned to death in an oven. I knew that story. I had heard that story over family get-togethers, dinners. Incinerated, was the word used. I watched, witnessed, as Melvin spewed at my father. Goddamn you, you lazy man. And I would sit on the wooden worktable, my little skinny legs dangling, and watch my dad lose whatever faith he was clinging to while I was clinging to him. I wasn’t sure why he brought me with him on Saturday’s. Maybe he wanted me to know that he loved me. Maybe he was lonely. Maybe because it was a Saturday, and he never needed to work on Saturday’s, and that was our day. But our days were different before the arrest. They were filled with hope and possibility; museums and plays, and theater, and movies and Aunt Jemina pancakes. Maybe he needed to know that no matter what, no matter fucking what, I would love him. We would leave the Frame Shop right on the dot: Five O’clock, and we would walk down Broadway to Penn Station. Stopping at the automat. He would get a hot steaming cup of coffee, and I would get a milkshake. Chocolate. And we would sit at the counter, and I would watch my dad stare into his coffee, a million miles away. And I would make believe that I was a Princess from the Island of Long, and we were having a day out and no one – no one – could find us. I liked that game. And then, we would stand up, and almost on cue, we would both exhale, and then he would leave a tip, a few coins for the waitress behind the counter, and we would walk to the train station, a few blocks away, and climb down the stairs into the station, and find the track number, and go to the platform, and wait for our train, and the train would swish into the station, loud and steamy, and when the conductor said: all aboard – because back then they did – we stepped in, and found our seats, and I grabbed my dad’s hand and didn’t let go.
I didn’t let go.
And I could feel every bit of his sad, and his unhappy, and his burden and his disappointment and his humility and his anger and his disgrace and his embarrassment and his shame and his worry and his fear and his doubt entwined in my fingers. Our hands. I could feel it. And when I finally caught his eye – when he finally looked down at me – his little girl, his princess – my eyes were saying, you’re my hero, Daddy, you’re my hero. And I think maybe for a few seconds he believed me, and I think that maybe that gave him just a little more courage. A little more hope. At least enough courage and hope to get us home.
After months – day in, day out, day in – my dad was acquitted on a technicality. And our life came back, piece by broken, chipped, cracked piece. He stopped working at the frame shop, and my mother stopped pawning her jewelry, and I stopped having imaginary friends, and we never, ever talked about that time. It was taboo. That huge, massive cluster of shame was hidden deep, tucked away, because that’s what you did back then – when something bad, awful, horrible happened – and it was swept under the wooden table along with all the wooden chips and all the dust and all the shavings; into corners and crevices and cracks and under rugs – hidden and buried deep.
dear mr. trump,
many, many years ago i was in an abusive relationship. when i say abusive, i mean i was bruised & battered. this was years ago. years & years ago. when i was young & had no self-worth, no self-esteem what so ever. i had no sense of what it meant to love myself, the whole of me, with all my imperfections. i was young, and truly hated myself, and i did awful things to myself. i treated my own life as if it didn’t matter at all. and as you can imagine, or maybe you can’t, i attracted men into my life who treated me badly. horribly. they constantly berated me, telling me how i wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, or sexy enough. or beautiful. i attracted these men into my life at a time when i was lost & scared & needed – wanted – to feel beautiful. to feel special. i didn’t have a fucking clue who i was in the world. and so, i dated and slept with bad men. mean men. crazy men. and then, i stayed with one for years. i knew he was bad for me. i knew he was awful. he was a fucking bully. he was the kind of man who would lift me up only to beat me down. he was the kind of guy who would humiliate me in public. he would shove me in a corner. and when i say shove, i mean push. he would tell me repeatedly that he was wonderful & great and that he was gonna take care of me. my savior. make my life great (again). the kinda guy who thought he had all the answers. he was like a petulant little boy when he didn’t get his way. and by petulant, i mean cruel, nasty, hideous. and then there was this: the moment when he wrapped his hands around my throat – around my throat – and he was so filled with rage. seething. wild. crazy. the kind of rage that spreads like wild fire. the kind of wild fire that ignites an entire explosion. the kind of explosion that often ends with broken spirits, and bones. he had his hands around my throat and i mustered every thing i had in me, and i spit in his face. yes, i did. i gathered my saliva, and i spit a wad in his face, and i pushed him away hard, and i grabbed my bag, and i left. i got in my battered beat up car, and drove the fuck away. and while i sat in traffic, the black and blue marks started to manifest, show, and i could see them in the rearview mirror. i can see where his hands were wrapped around my throat, and i was startled, mortified. i wept the kind of tears that leave stains. i was horrified that i had stayed with such an awful horrible guy. that i had no self-worth at all. none. that i was so misguided that i equated anger with power, and desperation with love. i knew that day, in that car, sitting in that traffic that i would never go back to that man. ever. or any man like that. i knew that i needed to rise up. to own my life. to stop being bullied, and mistreated. to find the beauty within myself. to find my voice. my passion. to be able to say no to all the false fucking promises that come with someone keeping another person small, and in fear. i walked away that day and i never looked back or turned back. it was what spiritual folks call a huge fucking turning point.
i dealt with my self-esteem and self-love daily. weekly. minute by minute on some days.
and finally – finally – i was able to smell a bad, awful, shitty man a mile away.
you, mr. trump, are a bad, awful, shitty man. you’re an abuser. the worst kind of abuser. you’re a mean unhappy miserable man who has grabbed the throats of millions of people, telling them – reminding them every single fucking day now – that they’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough or worthy enough, and that you’re the only one who is gonna save them. that you’re gonna make us all great again. you, mr. trump, are so full of shit. you’re the kind of man who beats the crap out of people just to feel strong and powerful, mighty and important.
i’m quite sick of men like you, mr. trump.
you’re not gonna live in the white house because millions of women aren’t going to let you, because what you fail to recognize in your arrogance is that many, many, many women – and many, many, many men – millions of men – will not allow an abuser back in ANY house, especially one we hold so dear.
it had been imbedded in the palm of his hand.
they had to pry his hand open, and remove it.
it was their 20th anniversary, and life had not been overly kind to my mom and dad. a set of circumstances spiraled and set them back, and back then, in the 60’s, you kept secrets along with some memories – some trinkets, a diary – hidden deep in the back of the drawer next to a pack of Kent’s, or Marlboro’s that you didn’t want anyone to know you were smoking.
it was a little after six.
the doorbell rang, and my father opened the door. two men stood with a huge cake box from the local bakery, wishing my father a happy anniversary, and asking where the lady of the house was. my father turned from the front door for maybe, maybe a split second – calling for my mom: a cake from bambi’s – when the two men pushed their way into our home, and pulled two fully loaded guns from the cake box. pointing one directly at my dad’s face, demanding everything. every. thing. my mother was upstairs, getting ready for a dinner party – an anniversary party at a very favorite restaurant with twenty-five friends and relatives – because, well, twenty years was a milestone, a big deal. it was to be celebrated until the wee hours. my mother stepped out from the bedroom, wearing a favorite housecoat and full make-up, and hurried downstairs where she was expecting a celebratory cake and congratulations, not a loaded gun pointed directly at her. the second man demanding everything. give us everything. off came the jewelry, and the watch, and her wedding band that she couldn’t get off her finger and he, the man, demanded the ring or he would cut her finger off. now. right now. she licked and licked her ring finger – soaking it with her own spit and saliva – until it felt like the skin was coming off along with her diamond wedding band. a simple eternity band. they led my father and mother upstairs, to their bedroom. that’s where they wreaked havoc. all drawers were pulled out, and everything was scattered on the floor. everything. where? where? there, my father gestured, there – the sock drawer. socks were unrolled, and cash flew out. antique piggy banks were smashed to bits, and coins spilled everywhere. jewelry boxes were flipped over and all and everything scooped up and tossed into the pillow cases that were ripped from the pillows – one extra soft, one extra hard – from the king size bed – that was really truly two single beds pushed together. wedded together. perfectly and beautifully made, bedspread and all. one mattress shredded with a box cutter. everything ripped a part. my father stood and watched helpless – mortified and horrified – as my mother’s wrists and ankles were being tied and bound; her mouth silenced with duck tape. or maybe it was masking tape. his heart racing and pounding to the point of breaking and cracking – as he tip-toed – tip toed a few inches backwards – maybe three, four inches – to the bedroom door, where his sports coat hung over the door knob, and as he held his breath, and silently prayed – he prayed for their lives, he prayed to be given more years, he prayed for them to not hurt her sully her dirty her rape her; he prayed like we all pray when we don’t believe in god but we have no where else to turn – and he reached deep into the pocket of his sports coat and grabbed it and clinched his fist with every ounce of strength. every single ounce he had in him, and kept his fist clinched for what must have felt like forever. and then they turned to him, the two men, and it was his turn – his arms and ankles bound, spinning and rotating the tape around his ankles and feet until his toes bled – but he was not gagged, they did not gag him – and from what was told to the police officers later that night – smacked with the butt of the gun at the side of his head – his temple. not pistol whipped, no. no. smacked. the bruise lasted months and months and months. and then he stumbled to the floor, and they rummaged through everything. everything. every single drawer, closets, medicine cabinets, book shelves; my room, my brother’s room, the hallway linen closet, the bathrooms. removing paintings from the walls, and throwing them on to the wall-to-wall carpet. the noise, my mother later said, was unbearable. they rummaged and stole and grabbed and tossed everything into a pillow case and piled the cash in their pockets, and my mother, curled in the corner, kept her eyes closed because she couldn’t bear the sight and sound and loss. my father was trembling on the ground. his hands clinched. frozen. his knuckles white. pure white. and then the two men left. the front door slamming shut, and they could hear the car revving up. they could hear the car drive away. and then did nothing for what felt like months and months, my mother later told the police. and then, when all seemed quiet and safe, my father crawled to my mother, on his elbows and knees, and he ripped, yanked, the tape off her mouth with his teeth and he kissed her – long and hard and caught her tears – and she crawled to the phone, and managed to dial O on the rotary phone with the tip of her nose because her determination outweighed her fear, and she could hear the operator, and my mother screamed – howled – into the receiver: help us. help us. help us. help us. help us. and the police came and barged into the house and they removed the tape from my mom’s ankles and wrists; and my dad’s ankles and calves and arms and he screamed – an angry bitter fuck you fuck you fuck you guttural scream – as the hair from his legs was ripped from his skin, and then they pried his hands open, and there it was. in the left palm. embedded. the diamond brooch. each diamond – round and perfect – that he had saved every single penny for. that he borrowed money for. that he had sold – pawned – his watch and pinky ring for. the diamond brooch he had begged the jeweler, his friend on west 47th street, to give him the best deal imaginable for the girl of his dreams. the diamond brooch that he designed for her, wanted her to have, to own, because he loved her with every fiber in his being and was willing to die for her. the diamond brooch that she never wore. never. not once. she could never bring herself to wear it. she kept it hidden in the back of the drawer, deep in, next to the pack of marlboros, the too small french lingerie, the love notes and love poems he wrote to her while he was in the army, the cachet that smelled like lilac, the samples of perfume like chanel #5, the little bottles of liquor from pan am and TWA, and the one charm – a favorite charm – that had fallen off the charm bracelet that she had planned on wearing that night, along with the diamond brooch that my father had planned on giving her with a handwritten note that read: hey monkey, whatdya say, 100 more? i love you, sammy
she gave me the brooch when i got engaged to ken.
“this is all you need to know about love,” she said, as she placed it in the palm of my hand.
(both men were caught, sentenced to prison. they were related to the house painter who had been working in the neighborhood for over two years. ours was the 3rd house they had robbed.)
there is a lot of despicable in the world.
i keep reading the stuff about bill cosby, and i keep wanting to share a secret – my secret – with you. and then i get scared and think, no. it’s a bit ugly & dirty and god knows… and god knows: it’s in the details. but i talked to ken about it, and he said, yeah, share it. tell it. maybe it’ll make a difference. so, i’m standing on the ledge, and i know i won’t fall. someone is gonna catch me.
i was 17.
i was 17 and had already quit high school, had already lost my virginity (at 15), had already spent some time on a commune, and i came back to new york, and the shame i had was so very deep, and so big, and honestly, it was like wearing a big old coat that just, you know, hung on me. a big coat with all kinds of shit stuffed into the pockets.
i was 17.
i needed a job.
i wanted to work in the garment district, because, i loved clothes. loved. clothes. i had a job interview with a pretty well known – okay, famous – designer, who is no longer alive, but trust me, he was a big fucking deal when i was 17. and so, i got myself all prettied up, and took the LIRR into new york city, and walked from penn station to his showroom. i was not very confident in those days. i hid behind heavy eyeliner, mascara, and a mass of unruly curls. i waited – with a few other girls, who were seemingly all older than me – in the outer reception area. the job was for a receptionist. you didn’t need a lot of talent to be a receptionist, but you did need to know how to work a phone. and from what i gathered, was told, you needed to answer the phone with a side of perky, and polite. i watched as a few of the other girls came and went. they all went into his office with hope, and possibility, and all came out… deflated.
maybe even disgusted.
but i didn’t know that then, in that moment.
i just knew that they went in, came out, and none got the job. then it was my turn. i went into his office. a big beautiful office. filled with samples and colors and designs and fabulous art work and a big desk and a bigger couch and he asked me a few questions that all seemed to be related to being a receptionist. yes, i can take messages, yes i can answer a phone, yes, i can type… a little…yes, i can make appointments. and then he asked me how badly i wanted the job. i said a lot. i really wanted the job. and then he got up from his chair, and walked over to me, and asked how badly. and i said, “well, very badly.” i needed the job. and he asked, “enough to give me a blow job?” and i had to think about that for a few moments, and i couldn’t say the word, so, i shook my head: yes. yes. and i gave him a blow job, and it was ugly and vile and god, i felt so fucking dirty. and i got the receptionist job. a swap. sort of. right then and there, i got the job. and i never gave him another blow job, ever. not once. and he didn’t ask me to give him another blow job. i knew that he wasn’t gonna be my boyfriend, or take me out to fancy dinners, or set me up in an apartment with all the, you know, trimmings. i knew that. i knew that because a) he had a wife – i always read about her – and b) one blow job does not a girlfriend make. i worked there for about a year. and other girls came and went for other job openings and listings, and it was kind of easy to tell who got the job, and who didn’t. did he assault me? no, he didn’t. did he take advantage of me? loaded question. or maybe not so loaded. i could have said no. i could have said no. he didn’t force me to blow him. he didn’t grab my head and push me down on him. i wanted the job, and i needed the money, and i sold myself way fucking short. way short. but this is the truth. i was 17. i didn’t know – or better yet, feel, i didn’t feel – i had a choice. i didn’t know that there would be, or could be another job somewhere else. i had so little self-esteem and self-worth. so very little. and that’s not an excuse, it’s a fact. a truth. you can fake an orgasm, but you can’t fake self-worth. i mean, how many of us could’ve asked our boyfriends to wear a condom, to not cum inside us, but didn’t, and how many of us got pregnant, and had an abortion? and so when i read about bill cosby, i think two things, well, actually three… i think there were and are many girls like that 17 year old me. many. many who would get on their knees, and blow someone because they wanted/needed a job, or the guy was cool, or famous, or maybe their ticket out, and they didn’t feel they had or have the power to say no. no is a hard word to say when you have no confidence. and then there are many girls, many women – thousands upon thousands – who were, and are sexually assaulted. raped. horribly and viciously assaulted. girls and women who are most definitely assaulted by a guy, famous or not, and felt and feel undoubtedly scared and powerless. again, no is not an easy word to say, and is often – much too often – not an easy word to be heard. it’s amazing how many times you have to scream it.
and then there’s this: when i was the receptionist at this fabulous and famous showroom, his wife would often come by, mostly at the end of the day because they would be going to events or dinners or parties, all sorts of glamorous, sexy, fabulous nights out on the town. and she would drape herself on his arm, and fall all over him. she would be head to toe in the most stunning outfits. perfect. head to fucking toe. but before she would drape herself on his arm, fall all over him, she would watch the sample models strutting around, and the dazzling salesgirls pitching his fall or spring collection, and she knew, she absolutely knew, how they got their jobs. she knew it, because no doubt she had been one of us a few years before. and i can tell you this much about her, what i remember, what really stood out, wasn’t the huge fucking rock on her left ring finger, wasn’t the perfectly coiffed hairstyle by kenneth, wasn’t the fabulous (and now politically incorrect) chinchilla coat, it was the deep sad she wore in her eyes. you can nip and tuck, and pull, and fucking tighten everything, but you can never ever hide, or run from that dull humiliated, embarrassed kinda sad.
we all – the showroom girls, the twirling models, his wife and me – shared one thing in common: none of us, not one of us, had the confidence to say no, or no more.
a prayer for women: i decided that instead of this being a keynote, it would be more like a commencement. commencement has a really good ring to it. you know: beginnings. graduating. next steps. i’m dedicating this commencement to Joules Evans who shows me every single day what courage looks like. and let me tell you, she wears courage so beautifully, she can mix & match courage with anything, even plaid. every day i wake up and i think: how can i make the world a bit better? and then i have coffee. and then of course, i do my morning facebook post/musings: what i know this morning post coffee, pre-wine. so this is what i know this evening. I know that we are fierce & mighty and powerful beyond belief. we are feminist warriors. and warriors are not without struggle or self-doubt, suffering and pain. i know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but sometimes, many times, the tunnel is excruciatingly long & dark, and scary. i know that with pretty much every obstacle, every set-back there is a stunning benefit, a grand result that matches in size. i know that the good outweighs the bad, but sometimes the bad feels never fucking ending. i know that kindness wins over cruelty. i know that love can beat hate and win at any & all games and or matches. i know that actions speak louder than words, but words – when spoken or written – can change someone’s life forever. i know it’s easy to say, ‘let go, put it behind you, give it up…stop beating yourself, eat gluten-free’ i know, i know… it’s much easier said than done. and sometimes, actually many times, it’s much better to say nothing, and just listen. and yes, listening is hard… but paying attention is what’s important. i know that there isn’t a woman who can’t turn lemons into lemon sorbet. mistakes into mission. bad boyfriends & bad girlfriends into really cool anthologies. toxic friends into supportive allies. and a fuck you into a thank you. i know that every woman – every single woman – is capable of the most stunning, gorgeous, extraordinary, stupendous, glorious things. capable beyond belief. we are each filled with more goodness & kindness & love than you can probably even fathom. i know that we are, every single day, capable of shaking up the world, turning it on it’s side, and making it spin like a 45. i know that each of us can make the world bigger and better and sexier. please, oh, please…don’t underestimate your greatness. we are, each of us, goddesses. we are. we have magic in us. magic. glitter. moondust. sparkle. there is a light – a gorgeous light – in each one of us, and we must never, ever let it dim, or die out. we are IT. we are. and let me tell you, it is time for us to let go of everything that holds us back. all the unnecessary crap. all the clutter. All the stuff & crap that makes us feel oh so small, so fucking unworthy. all the folks who don’t support us, who don’t believe in us, who don’t root for us. who wish us well, but … you know, not too well. yeah, those folks. time to let them go. it is time to let go of all the baggage we’ve been packing & repacking & schlepping around because it serves no purpose other than to weigh us down, and god knows in middle-age, we have enough extra fucking weight. it is a grand time – a perfect time – to fall madly in love with our own lives. to step into our own gorgeous glorious power. and as a reminder, anger is not power. anger, loud, mean… that is not power. do not mistake it for power. power is, and should be soft. we don’t need to be angry to be heard. we just need to show up. it’s time for us to step out of the box. to start a new line. to stop believing all the negative, nasty, mean stuff that is said mostly behind our back by folks who don’t know us at all. to take a leap of faith. to write that book, to make that film, to start painting…to make art, play an instrument, start dancing, singing, and yes, stretch our wings. oh, my goddess…flutter those babies. It is time for us to go for what it is we want in life. without reservation or question, without the self-doubt lingering, or hiding in the corner. we need to stop apologizing for being us. imperfectly perfect us. let me repeat that: stop apologizing. stop seeking approval. stop seeking validation. the only validation you need is in a parking garage. we need to stand up. to injustice. to inequality. to start a ruckus. a SHEvolution. to demand more for our lives. to demand more for our children & grandchildren. to stop making excuses. to stop taking less than. to stop taking crumbs. to own the absolute irrefutable truth that we are enough. more than enough. so, do your life. go on. do it fully. balls-out. no holes-barred. And for god sake, let it be messy & complicated and pile up those mistakes, pile them up, and please don’t think for one moment those mistakes are who you are. mistakes are detours, wrong turns and sometimes they take you places that you would’ve never known existed. remember a bad first date can turn into a great marriage, and an awful first draft can win a pulitzer. messy is a life well lived. a life well lived, and well worn. to be able to look in the mirror and say to yourself, “my god, i am so fucking beautiful,” so, please, on this evening of new beginnings: choose to live your life well. fill it to the brim with goodness, and kindness and generosity and beauty and magic and mistakes and messy and love. good love, kind love, sweet love, unconditional love, and self–love. do not allow anyone to make you feel small, unworthy, undesirable, or less than. wear all of your scars like stardust. you earned them. every bit of them
this is what i know this morning
yesterday i went grocery shopping. and there in aisle three was a guy covered in tattoos. now, truth be told, i like tattoos…i always wanted one. a small one. a teeny one. but this guy was covered in a bit of hate. not full on hate, but some tattoos were, you know, offensive. i could feel my heart pounding, and so, i moved along faster, quicker, piled the crap i needed in my cart and went to the cashier. as it turns out, he & i made it to the door at the same time. the automated door was not working. so, he opened & held the door for me, and said with a gorgeous smile – a seriously gorgeous smile, “you have a good day.” i couldn’t speak. i just couldn’t. that lump that gets caught… you know what i’m talking about…that lump mid throat… and he saw that. he did. he saw my face. he saw my eyes, and this was what he said to me: “i gotta live with my mistakes, i gotta wear ’em.” wow. wow. wow, i thought, holy motherfucker, wow. i thanked him for holding the door open, and wished him a great weekend. i went to my car, tossed the bag on the backseat, and got in the driver seat. and sat.
i gotta live with my mistakes, i gotta wear ’em.
how fucking brave to even say that.
to own it.
and full disclosure: i felt awful – full-on god awful – that i judged him. of course i judged him. of course. human nature, right? but still. but still… who hasn’t made mistakes? my god, i’ve made a shitload of mistakes, a boatload. fucked up, screwed up, said & did things i wish i could rewind and take back. i could list my mistakes alphabetical. i could list them, but i don’t wear them. big difference. we make mistakes and pray to god that we’ll be able to do better, be better, refill the tank. get a second chance, a third chance…maybe even just a chance & a half. and you bet we continuously beat ourselves up over the shit we did when we were younger, when we wanted to fit in, be liked, be loved, be accepted. we beat ourselves to a pulp.
he wore his mistakes full out, balls out for everyone to see.
he wore his scars like stardust.
and my guess, he gave himself that second and third chance.
he gave himself another chance or two or maybe even three.
so, this is what i know right now:
give them to yourself.
give yourself a chance at greatness, at goodness, at boldness. at brilliance.
fuck up, screw up, redeem yourself, inspire others, change the world.
go on people, go on:
STRUT YOUR GORGEOUS STUFF FOR EVERYONE TO SEE!
this is what i know this morning
yesterday my friend asked me, did you ever try it? yes, i said, yes, i tried suicide. obviously, this was all around the news of robin williams & his death. yes, i said… i was young, much younger, and so sad, i was so miserable & so unhappy & i felt all alone in the world. i felt like nobody knew what it was like, this damp darkness. everything was pitch black. there was no color anywhere. it was dark & lonely, and the best way i can describe how i felt at that time in my life was like being in the middle of a forest, and it’s eerily dark, and you don’t know which way to turn and so you take baby steps. teeny steps because you don’t know where you are, and you can’t see anything, and you don’t know how to find your way out, and you reach out for something to touch, but it’s not there. you fall down, and you don’t know how to get up, so you start by getting up on your knees, and then slowly, very slowly, you straighten up… and start to walk through the darkness and you’re not sure you’re gonna make it out, but you silently hope & wish & pray that you do. and i said to her – my friend – you know that saying, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, well, the truth is, there is no tunnel. no tunnel in the pitch blackness. forget about finding the light at the end… you can’t even find the fucking tunnel. so, yes…i tried suicide. the pills, the stomach pumped. and all that follows. but i was lucky. fortunate. blessed, whatever you wanna call it, because at 19 someone wanted to save me, help me, hold me. and then i became a buddhist, and then i battled my demons & unhappiness & self-hatred every single day. well, not everyday. some days they got the best of me & i could barely move. but i fought like a motherfucker. and some days i won, and some days they won. and some days it was a match. and some days i wanted to die, and some days i wanted to not only live, but live with passion & find beauty in my life and find love. and then what i found out, i found out that you gotta save your own life. because the person holding your hand, they can get really tired. they hold on so long & so tight that their arm aches. and that’s when i had my epiphany, my breakfast at epiphany moment, my ah-fucking-ha moment – if you really wanna save yourself, you gotta be willing to throw someone else a line, grab onto someone else and save them, help them, hold them. you gotta be willing to see another person’s suffering & pain and look them in the eye and say, i know how you feel. i. know. how. you. feel. i have your back. i’m gonna hold you and i’m gonna hold you tight. and the truth is, the balls-out truth is this: those of us who suffer from bouts of depression, who don’t believe we’re good enough, who can barely make it out of bed some days, who struggle with self-esteem and the whole concept of self-love… when we use our own pain & suffering so that we can understand another persons heart… it doesn’t eliminate our pain, or make it vanish, or go pouffff – but, it does make it bigger then ourselves, it makes it worth the struggle. i look at the folks i know – some very personally, some on the periphery – who have gone through hell & back a million times, and they use their life every day to inspire, encourage, awaken the good & greatness in others because they know what it was like to be flat out broken, broken into little pieces.
so, yes, i tried it.
and i’m awfully glad that i didn’t succeed at it.
i’m glad, wholly motherfucker glad, that i was a failure at that attempt.
because i get to rise up every single day and work through my life-stuff, face my own demons, and strut my stuff, and then i get to tell each of you that you are fucking awesome, you are magic & glitter & all that’s extraordinary in the world. because the truth is we are, even in our darkest moments, even in our saddest moments, even in our most broken moments – we have magic in us, we have glitter & sparkles; we are goddesses & gods, buddhas, kings & queens.
and we are amazing beyond belief.
so go on, strut your gorgeous stuff today knowing – absolutely fucking knowing – that you are not alone.
this i know for sure.
this i’d bet my life on.
okay, so, let me just say right upfront that i have been on edge. like super duper close to the edge. i’d like to say that i’ve only been on edge for say a week or two, but that’s not the truth. oh, please. i’ve been on edge for about four, or five, or … eight months. and i’d like to say i’ve been on edge because i’m head to toe full blown menopausal, but that would just seem like a bigger fatter lie.
i mean, how can i be menopausal for over 10 years?
okay, well, i can be. but not likely.
ken i and started an addition on our home about, oh, 2 years ago, 2 & a half years ago, because, well, we decided that it would be just so swell to have an extra bedroom, and a bigger, sexy dining area, and another bathroom so that when our entire “friends and family” verizon plan come to visit, they can have their own gorgeous space. no one told us (or maybe they did, but we didn’t listen, or hear, or want to listen or hear) that it would also cause major hemorrhaging of money. major. like huge buckets of money. and well…on top of that, my entire family imploded, and so, we’re hoping that by the time we finish this addition that we started oh, 2 years ago, 2 & a half years ago, with big smiles on our faces and money in the bank, our friends will come and visit and maybe even stay for a while.
but as always, i digress.
recently our dryer (the fab partner to our washer) broke. the knob came off in my hand. in my hand. GE, it brings good things to life. i told ken he had to fix it now. as in get out of the tub and go down to the basement and fix the dryer knob NOW. he told me, very politely i might add, to go fuck myself. as you can imagine this didn’t go over very big with me. ken got out of the tub and informed me that our dryer was now knob-less. i have no idea what that means. i called mr. cronk, our appliance repair man and explained what happened and he very quietly and calmly me told me that we obviously needed a new part and that he would order it for us and come over by the end of the week. ken wanted to know why i didn’t order mr. cronk to get out of the tub now and fix it now. because i’m not married to him, i said.
which brings me to this.
when the dryer broke, we had a load of white wash in the washing machine, and it so happens that while the white load was washing & spinning & washing ken threw in his old red – well, maybe not red, more a maroon color – tee-shirt…
and well, you can just imagine.
me being me.
not so fucking pretty in pink.
sometimes we look up at the heavens (or we’re under the covers, or sitting in a bathroom stall or just in prayer mode) and say, or think, or scream,”please oh please, i want my life to change NOW, RIGHT NOW. my life needs to change this instant. a big fat change. period.” we say – demand – that we need our life to be bigger, more open, re-arranged, and usually that need comes from a very intuitive place in our soul. we are starving, hungry for new. and then sometimes in a matter of days, weeks, months… things start to fall apart, implode, disappear, evaporate, shrink. get lost, people leave, walk away, cars breakdown, cats die, whites turn pink. and we freak out, and stomp our feet, and cry and spew and curse, and carry on because everything – everything – is falling away, apart, to the wayside. and then the epiphany, the ah-fucking-ha moment, the holy shit wow moment when you realize that all this, the mess, the crisis, the radical smash-up is all because you looked up at the heavens, and had the audacity, and balls out courage to say out-loud i need my life to change.
the universe heard your cry, prayer, hope, dream, frustration – NEED.
loud & clear.
i pleaded, prayed, begged for change.
i was hoping for a trip to paris with a side of Arles.
what i got was full-on chaos, a huge mess, a hemorrhaging bank account, and broken appliances.
the kicker – I GOT WHAT I ASKED FOR.
FULL ON 100% CHANGE.
ah. surrender, amy.
life is messy.
it is messy.
and most folks don’t like messy.
most folks like tidy & neat & wrapped in a bow.
yes, it’s true.
not all folks, but most.
we love the happily-ever-after, the non-confrontational, the clean sheets and yes, the neat drawers.
but life is not like that.
marriage, friendship, co-workers, neighbors, brothers/sisters, sisters/brothers, housekeepers, contractors, mothers/fathers…parents, children, pets.
pets are messy.
the list is long.
it goes on.
life is messy.
and messy is different – way different – than hard.
messy is cleaning up, mopping up, re-arranging, washing & drying, replacing, replenishing, renewing.
messy is cluttered closets, embarrassing basements, junk drawers, overgrown lawns, overgrown cuticles, unpolished nails, misshaped eyebrows.
messy is over flowing garbage.
literally & figuratively.
life is messy.
we say things and do things and rewind and rehash and remember too much.
we apologize too often for being all too human.
we push shit under the rug, and then pray & hope – out-loud & silently – that no one wants to vacuum.
we speak our truth and then wish we hadn’t.
we say yes, and wish to god we had said no.
we say no and wish to god we weren’t so impatient, impulsive.
life is messy.
it is filled with screaming & fighting & kicking & fuck you… no, no…fuck you.
it is filled with miscommunication, misunderstanding and mistakes.
and yes, life can be horrifying, unjust, painful, cruel, unfair and scary.
horrifying, and unjust and painful and cruel and yes, scary beyond belief.
last week ken had surgery, and his anesthesiologist came in (right before the surgery) and told ken that because of his heart problem which, yes, we knew about, they would have to keep him – ken – in the recovery room for 24 hours. to monitor him, to make sure nothing goes wrong.
i know, i know… it’s a good thing.
monitoring, watching, but trust me, it’s very easy for me to go from oh he’ll be fine, to body bag in 30 seconds flat.
and so, we – ken & i – kissed, and said good-bye and i left…
and i sat in the waiting room and waited.
with other folks.
some were worried sick, some were texting, some were watching tv, some were drinking coffee, some were meditating, some were praying, some were talking about (or to) their spouses, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends, neighbors…some were just staring out the window.
the waiting room was filled with life.
and then, after a few hours, i was able to see ken.
and the very first thing ken said to me was this:
we get to argue more.
life is so beautifully messy.
the other day i drove by a billboard: a young woman holding a newborn in her arms, the caption read:
THERE IS NO OTHER CHOICE: PRO-LIFE.
there is no other choice…
i beg to differ.
i’m all for people making choices in their lives.
and, you know, they don’t have to make the same choices as me.
they can have their OPINION.
i love that i have choices.
i get to choose friends, and partners, and clothes, and food, and furniture, and politicians, and hair salons and doctors and restaurants and medication and pets and cars and all sorts of things, i get to choose where i live, and what i say, and who i love.
and i just love that.
and sometimes i make choices and wow-oh-fucking-wow are they the wrong choices, so i get to make new choices, and hopefully i get to learn from my mistakes, and if not, well, then i get to make more choices.
and it seems to me that those who are so clearly pro-life get to choose too. boy oh boy do they choose. they get to choose who they love, and who they hate, what they wear and what they say, and who they vote for, and where they eat, and where they picket, and what they burn and who deserves to go to heaven and who deserves to go to hell, what kind of cars and houses they buy and drive, and the company they keep. and you bet a lot of their choices i don’t agree with.
they’re not my choices.
so, it looks like everyone is choosing.
holy shit … everyone it seems is just like me: pro-choice.
and to clarify, i’m pretty pro-life also, i love – okay, maybe not every single day – waking up in the morning, i love that i get to kiss my husband and friends (yes, on the lips, thank you very much!). i get to watch the sun rise and set, i get to write and speak and share my thoughts, visit my friends, go to the movies, the theater, and laugh and cry and help someone else get through a day. i’m pretty fond of life. i think life is extraordinary, even in the worst of times. so, yeah, i’m all for life.
doesn’t that sound pro-life to you? does to me.
someone said to me a while ago that she was pro-life and, “didn’t think i was,” and so, i challenged her, and i looked at her and asked, “well, why, what makes you think that? what makes you think i’m not pro-life, i love life.” and she said, “well, because you’re clearly pro-choice,” and i said to her, “well yes, I am pro-choice. i’m both. pro-life and pro-choice.” and she asked all flustered, “how can you be “pro-life and pro-choice? how is that possible?”
and i said this:
“well, you know, i’m also all for pro-bowling, and pro-tennis, and pro-golf. pro-skating, pro-bono, pro-duce, and pro-phylactics.” and boy oh boy was she confused, like so ridiculously confused, and she looked at me, interrupted me, and said, “yeah, well, i’m talking about abortion. what about an abortion? you think that’s okay? you think having an abortion is okay? is that what you’re saying?”
boy oh boy oh boy, did she choose the wrong person to say that to. i looked right at her, right in her eyes, and with every bit of might & conviction in me i said: “well, it seems you’re trying to kill my opinion before i even get to finish what i have to say. wouldn’t you call that an abortion?”
she was speechless, and so, i chose to leave it at that.