The Fire Eater

I have so many thoughts that ping around in my head.  They are like sliver steelies shot out firing up and lighting up that brainiac pin ball machine.  I shoot the metal ball out and it hits targets, lights flash, and I keep drinking the caffeine keeping the pulsating  side buttons flapping.
“Oh, yeah baby,” in a heat I can hear myself murmur, “lets see you beat that high score.”

I am a complete arcade junkie.  I lean to the side and speak to the twelve year old child next to me wanting to take that turn. Picture me with that cigarette hanging off my lip, doing that smooth hand wave and shifting my weight over to my ultra smooth and cool right hip.  I slur, “watch and learn kid,” showing experience when really all I have is nothing.  I have nothing figured out and keep shooting out sliver balls not even knowing why I am shooting and what I am aiming for.

When I get near to that high score I wane.  I know this game too is flawed and damaged and I get that raw sinking feeling inside.  I tell myself I need to slide in another quarter, take another go around, something is bigger and better and I will beat that last 100 point score.  Just need another game and another racket or buy myself another ticket.  When I get to that 1000 point destination I don’t want to be there anymore.  A constant addiction for the next best thing. 

Now out of these endless games I happened to chance upon that fire eater.  The tattooed bald one earring man that skillfully swallows knives and—- yes you may have guessed it. 

I don’t want him to eat that sword blazing stick—

At least not for me. 

I don’t want to be that person that has to ask him to and I don’t want to have to give anything to that man in return for his show.  I secretly want him to perform amazing tricks giving me my very own V.I.P. ticket but I don’t want to have to pay that premium price.    I think I want the dancing ponies and circus clowns to tumble out bringing me coffee, changing flat tires, switching filters out of the heat vents, long foot and back rubs, calling me at random times throughout that work day letting me know I am amazing, beautiful, and easy on the eyes.  I mean this particular fire eater actually spends quality time with his 11 year old nephew, takes care of his widowed mother, is on track to be a 401K millionaire, is younger than I am, has never been married, no drama, no baggage, has nice legs, thighs, arms and yes has those really dreamy and soft and deer like eyes. 

 He says this show is just for me…………so

What the fuck is my problem?

The problem people is that I know that the game over sign is eventually going to light up even if I do hit that jackpot.  That cigarette is going to burn down to the filter and that foggy smoke brings cancer, the eyes always get red and tired, hands get sick of smacking the sides of that lit up blinking box, and that steelie ball will get cold and still.  After all that initial fun the arcade and circus janitors are called to clean up discarded tickets, cotton candy cones, cup lids and chewed up sipping straws. 

The prancing ponies leave that manure mess and a broom and shovel are always required.  The circus tent gets taken down and all that’s left are the crickets.

Cricket….cricket… and I am spent, tried, drained and down more quarters than I care to count.

Truth is a Dare

I am a dishonest person.  It isn’t that I TELL lies.  Trust me (I note the irony), I could never get away with more than a little white lie anyway.  But I usually avoid those, too, with vague, enthusiastic cliches that convey nothing.  For example, the word “interesting” can mean so much when you say it with feeling, but on its own it doesn’t even say whether a thing is good or bad, it just isn’t boring.  And even train wrecks aren’t boring.

When I was in high school I learned the value of under-sharing.  On the rare occasion that I wanted to go out with a guy I told my parents that “some people” were going to a movie.  I just never clarified that “some people” meant him and me.  They never asked, and the lesson has served me well.  Unless you are testifying in court, people rarely ask if you are telling the whole truth.  They just assume you are.  Okay, maybe that isn’t the best example.  Back then I clearly implied that there were more than two people in attendance.  Over time, though, I became quite adept at telling nothing but the truth while skirting it almost entirely.

I was also painfully shy in high school.  It was generally easier to avoid conversations altogether than struggle through them.  With time I have outgrown the worst of it – I can handle myself in professional situations, and I have learned how to converse with strangers.  What I am not good at – still – is letting someone in.

Whenever a topic becomes too personal I use those half-truths to avoid being honest, or I just turn the conversation into a joke.  I hate the idea of letting someone see enough of me that they can hurt me.  Or judge me.  Unfortunately, if I don’t react quickly enough I don’t react at all.  I literally lose the ability to speak.  I turn bright red, my eyes get all shifty and refuse to make contact with anyone else’s, and I can feel my throat swell to the point that I can’t speak at all.  I can’t stand feeling so out of control, so I just avoid conversations that lead to that point.

I excel at avoiding the truth.  It didn’t matter until my avoidance hurt someone else, and I couldn’t explain what was happening.  Now I see how much it hurts me, too.  I lost the ability to be honest with myself, especially when it comes to recognizing the things I want.  It is as though I am afraid I will jinx my goals even if I only think them.  Or that if I tell someone else they will just point out that I have ridiculous goals.

It is odd that this is still my reaction.  I feel like it has been a long time since I felt cowed by the opinions of others, but maybe the truth is that I anticipate their opinions, assimilate them into my own, and react without an actual catalyst.  The hows and whys are something I will have to come back to another day.  Most likely over wine.

Today I am simply going to resolve to improve. I can trust me even if I am not ready to trust anyone else.  When I think I might be on the edge of finding something that I want, or at least want to pursue, I will try to stop avoiding the truth behind the thought.  I will tease it out and think about it in its entirety.  I will think about the thing I want, and I will think about how it would feel or taste or smell.

I don’t want to shut down my wants anymore.  I want to honor and enjoy them.  I will learn to excel at finding the truth.

Soul Search

I like to think of it as a coffee can soul.

I don’t know what my soul looks like; it doesn’t even seem like a part of me. I carry it separate and apart – in a coffee can.  As long as it’s in there I can explore its past and contemplate the history that made it so small.  I can ask where it wants to go next.

I can’t lose it this way.  The can is big enough to find, even in low-lighting.  If I touch it, drop it, the crash-clang lets me know immediately.  The can is safe to hold onto and easy to cart around.

Inside the can, my soul is slowly turning into something stronger and more palatable.  Like an unfinished bread, I don’t want anyone to interrupt the work in progress and stop it from rising.  I worry that opening the lid to share it will just ruin the dough, or maybe me.  Like I said, I forget that it’s a part of me.  What if I let someone in and find out I have to start all over?

For some reason I can’t reconcile a relationship with the path I want to follow.  If I am figuring out me, how can I bring someone else into the equation?  That doesn’t seem like an answer so much as a delay tactic.

I want to know if it can just be a neutral factor.  Maybe a significant other wouldn’t contribute anything, but maybe he wouldn’t ruin it, either.  Maybe the things he would contribute wouldn’t turn into crutches, despite my disproportionate fears.  I am finally forcing myself to face myself – I don’t need help running away, but I am so worried that I will take the easy road if I pass by it again.

Would it matter?  There is no rule saying that I have to figure this stuff out.  No judge waiting to sentence me for stopping to enjoy my life.

But I feel hollow.  I don’t want to give someone the impression that I am ready to appreciate and treasure them.  I want to proposition a man with the benefits of skin-on-skin and a warning that all he will actually get is my coffee can soul.  Because my heart is in that can, too.  It is protected by the tin and the non-biodegradable plastic lid.  The seal is air-tight.  I’m not ready to break it open.


This week I am in Orlando.

I am not going to go to any amusement parks because that is not me. I need rest and relocation. I am here because the Michigan weather has driven me out. I cannot take another sunless grey sky. I am here to eat prosciuto with expensive french cheese and to wash it down with wine. I vow to be here in a bathing suit all week. I vow to drink Coronas with lime. I am here to take a week away from my mundane existence and figure why I slug away, kick and claw. I need to put some meaning back into my routine. I am here to sit in a hot tub, take long warm baths and get a back rub.

I am that spoiled little brat needing to be pampered and to soak in sunshine. My soul needs something new and a vacation is what I know I need.

I like this moment in my life. I have the power to decide to get my ass in the car and drive until I feel and see sunshine. We all need moments like these. Time away. Time to think. Time to push our faces toward the sun. Time to recharge our batteries and ask the proverbial divine, “Where am I going?” “Why am I trying to get there?” “What is the point in all of this?”

For years I have wanted to write. So now I am at that point in my life when I don’t have any more excuses for not writing. So I need to begin the process. I am here to begin that chapter. I started the process— it’s official. I came and I wrote.  

I even out of habit write out a new updated to-do-list.

I am also here to spend time with my youngest child. Sometimes I realize I don’t even really know her. Who is this person that lives with me, whom I am responsible for and have taken care of for twelve years? I love her and yet sometimes I think I barely know her. Days do that to a person and to a family. The demand to make money to pay the mortgage, electric, water bill and groceries keeps me on the gerbil treadmill. I have responsibilities. It is not just me and I have to take care of three girls. I do my best but my time with them can be limited. I am like a stretch arm strong being pulled in several different directions. In that demand I am also trying to be true to me. True to my soul. I want to focus on my health, my work out schedule, and the need to help others. To contemplate and reflect what I would like to get out of a romantic relationship—to have or not to have a love life?

My conclusion: I am spread like butter on toast. Thin and melted. I am lacking any real substance. I am no good to anyone like this.

This week has fettered away and I am left with just a few more hours. I am better for being here. I have some new short term goals. I want to be a better mother, a better lawyer, more creative, more organized, more thankful….I just want to be more of everything.

I have reconnected with myself for just a few moments. It appears that I might be able to continue to face the mundane with more energy and passion. At least for awhile longer.

Thank you Orlando. I am taking some of you back home to Michigan with me.

A Better 40

Each week contains 168 hours.  Most jobs require you spend 40 of those hours working.  My profession typically requires more than that, maybe 50 or 60.  That is one-third of my life.  And when I am at work, I tend to be aware of every minute ticking by.

I wasn’t always this way.  When I got my first real job I was giddy about going to work every day.  To be fair, I kicked off my post-graduation career with ten months of unemployment.  I suppose I was bound to be giddy.  But it was more than that.  I thought I had found something truly meaningful.  I thought that I was helping people.

I went to work, I went to the gym, I hiked, I met people for drinks, I dated – life was okay.  But after a while I started spending more hours at work.  I couldn’t commit to weekend plans anymore.  Holiday travel plans were only kept for major holidays, and then only if the plane ticket had been purchased months in advance.  And then I injured my knees.  And then my back.  I started catching every minor ailment going around.  I couldn’t hike or work out anymore.  But I kept going.  My plan was to enjoy the city for a few years and then move home.

It sounds stupid, but I also thought my ex and I would find a way to work things out, so I would be moving home to be with him.  We loved each other, and even after a year of not seeing each other he said he would still be there for me.  But then one day he wasn’t. And when I realized I wouldn’t be moving home for him I had to take a look at the life I was living for me.

I hated it.  I didn’t want my job.  I wasn’t helping people.  I was moving around piles of money.  I didn’t take pride in my work anymore.  And the work environment was the stressor making me susceptible to all of my minor ailments.  It turned out the only thing keeping me there was the pay, which I thought I needed to make the moving home / joyous reunion happen.  Overnight I realized my entire life needed an overhaul.

As a short-term solution I went part-time.  I was still working 50 hour weeks, so I returned to full-time pay.  Then I ended up taking a lot of sick time, and eventually I stopped coming to work, or was told to just go home when I did.  After a short-term leave I quit and completely changed jobs.  Then I moved and went back to a position related to the one I had hated.  Now, I’m trying to figure out what I can do to make my 40 hour work week more enjoyable.

It would be nice to find employment that justifies my student loans.  More importantly, I want to find a job that lets me pay off the loans while doing something that is interesting.  That has been the hard part.  Lately, nothing seems interesting for very long.

Certain people have been interesting, and so have certain hobbies.  I keep hoping that if I pursue those interesting people and hobbies, one of them won’t be a dead end.  One person won’t think my intensity is an indication that I’m a stalker.  One hobby will translate into a new career.  Or, better yet, I’ll find a way to combine the interesting part with what I’m already doing.  Because parts of it are interesting.  Sometimes.

It’s like a puzzle with tiny pieces, but no picture or borders.  Just pieces.

Stuck in the mud.

Right now I am stuck in mud. 

For the record I am a 41 year-old divorcee with three teenaged girls.  On the upside I own my own business and my professional life is good.  I absolutely love my job and I am good at it.  My children are more than wonderful.  They are healthy, well behaved, and have excellent grades and we have fun together.  I have my health.  I know I am smart.  I have some wonderful friends.  I am told I am attractive.  I do see that in myself.  So, you might ask, what is my issue?  What is my problem?  Why do I feel I have been hit in the stomach one too many times?  Why do I feel like I could just sleep for days listening to mellow music, drinking cheap $7.00 wine and writing lists, looking to the horoscopes and trying to figure my life out?

I will tell you my friend.  The palm reader diagnosed my fortunistic dilemma (this visit of course was out of my sheer apparent desperation).  She took one look at my right hand and said in a spooky smoky fast speaking voice, “Your personal life, my dear, is a train wreck.” 

Ok so now it’s made public.  I can’t seem to get on the right train.

Looking in that crystal ball one could say my marriage failed because I couldn’t be what my husband wanted any longer.  I changed and he didn’t like that.  After 15 years of struggling I found myself in a box of despair just trying to claw my way out wondering exactly why it was I enrolled in that class anyway.  Complicated or not it was a  failing of relationship 101.  I am a person that does not like to fail.

Then adding to my negative GPA I signed up for relationship 102 failing miserably again.  After trying to pass that three year course the teacher just gave up.   What he wanted in the relationship didn’t exist anymore.  I liken this experience to never really getting a course syllabus.  The lectures would change in succession and the topics ranged to:  Maybe I want a family or Maybe I want a boat.  Nearing year three of classes he just decided to  bail and jump overboard.

I guess he decided he wanted to swim to a boat. 

It is always heartache to have any love  discarded so easily—I found myself pondering, “Am I really a joker in this deck of cards?”  I am feeling like Miss Havisham wondering out loud, “What kind of person does that?  What kind of character takes love so easily and just throws it away?”  But after months on the dating scene I still can’t get out of this sink hole or out of that wedding dress.  I need some chains on my tires or a really big 4-Wheel.   Why can’t I make myself love the self proclaimed millionaire that wants to sweep me off my feet?  Why can’t I give in to that really great Catholic family man that is so thoughtful and wonderful with his children? 

I am in the middle of a game of twister– in which all my clothes remain on and intact— until I can figure this out. 

My emotions are real, naked and stripped raw.

I have got to get unstuck and I just don’t know how. 

I want to ask the palm reader, “Ok, what is next for me really?” 

I look like I have my shit together on the outside.  I am not crazy, letting my house go to crap, and still really wearing any wedding dress.  I can get my ass out of bed.  I haven’t committed malpractice.  I am up on my case load.  I beat my partner on receivables for the 2010 tax year.  I do have some of my shit packed and in that samsonite suitcase.   I am licking my open wound—- I know.

It’s that personal duffle bag that has been re-routed and lost in transit.

My soul is more than badly bruised and tattered.  I am Michael Berg finding out my lover left the flat and  now it’s me lying on that empty bed.   I don’t know the hidden reason my lover left nor do I understand why he can’t see my soul and it’s value. 

I, my friend, am love sick and I can’t get over it.  I have never been this struck.  Taylor Swift could write my song.  I really am sick of humming the tune but can’t get it out of my mind.  Someone or something please help me change the station.  I need voo doo, a potion, leeches, something. 

I need to write and get this poison out.  I need ink therapy. I need anything and everything that can take my pain away.  I need my own support group. 

I need Amy’s box of tin foil mixed with that cymbal clashing monkey and a string of chili pepper lights.

How Amy First Saw the Shiny

In Tegan & Sara’s song “Where Does the Good Go?” they ask “What do you do with the leftover you? / And how do you know when to let go?”

Some losses and transitions bring you to your knees.  When you’re staring down depression, or just a Grand Funk, it’s easy to get lost in the pieces or cling too tightly to memories of what’s behind you.  So “Where does the good go?”  Maybe the answer is “nowhere.”

Think about it.  Maybe someone or something contributed to your good vibes, but nothing could have cranked your mood to Extra Fabulous unless you wanted to feel that way.  No external force can bring out your inner Suzy Sunshine unless that’s what you want to reflect back into the world.

Two years ago the rotten cherry on the top of my heartbreak was the realization that I hated my job.  Individually, either event may have been manageable.  The combined destructive forces unleashed an identity crisis I hope to never see again.  My problem wasn’t just that someone very special to me had opted out, or that I wanted to mount a paintball gun on my desk and blast any co-worker who tried to speak to me.  My problem was a total loss of direction.  I had – without realizing it – defined myself by a relationship I had never even been able to commit to and a career path I didn’t want to be on for another step, much less a lifetime.

The waves of sorrow and resentment were compounded by the knowledge that I couldn’t take a step forward because I couldn’t find “forward.”  Instead of being a person who charged into the unknown, I became a person who cried on the couch with tedious regularity.

One day I went to the doctor’s office to see about changing a prescription, and when the P.A. asked if I was okay otherwise I burst into tears.  The Total Eclipse of my Mood came on so quickly she thought I was nuts.  At least she was polite about it.  “Are you going home after this?” “Will anyone be there for you?” “Do you feel comfortable leaving the office?”  The only thing she didn’t ask was how many knives I had at home.  I think she was busy wondering if she would lose her license if she let me go.

The tears just kept coming.  Within a couple of weeks I started walking 5 miles at the park every day before work.  My MP3 playlist was carefully edited, my speed was up, and I still felt so lost and hopeless that I thought I would float away on the river I was crying.

I was sitting at my desk one morning, maybe about six months in, staring at the trains shuffling along nearby, and it hit me.  If I wrapped a box in shiny foil, lit it up with a string of chili pepper lights and found a way to have a cymbal-crashing monkey inside, dancing its paws away under a disco ball to Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb,” I would always have a reason to laugh.  Who doesn’t laugh at dancing monkeys?  I’ll specify that I’m talking about fake monkeys, so PETA’s constituents can have a good laugh, too.  And shiny stuff like foil and disco balls?  Seriously, any one of the items in my fantasy crate is enough to make me laugh, but shiny makes me HAPPY every time.

Gradually, as I spent more time focusing on the “shiny stuff” in my life, I saw that the “good” that had lived inside me didn’t leave with my ex or my job satisfaction.  It just recoiled with the losses.

Every day is an exercise in patience with myself.  I have so many old thoughts to sort out.  So many questions to answer.  I want the answers now!  But this process doesn’t come with immediate gratification.  I am examining every piece of me, deciding which ones I want to keep, and figuring out how to reassemble the leftovers.  I’m slowly letting go of the past and the soul-ache and filling in the gaps with shiny, confetti-sized building blocks of “shiny stuff.”

I’m writing this so I have a place to sort out my pieces.  I’m hoping that the public record will make me more accountable.  I want to keep moving forward, even if my blindfold still keeps me from seeing which way that is.  This is a road trip.  My mile-markers are the random moments, objects, and interactions that make me smile.  You’re welcome to come along for the ride.  I’m happy to share the notes from my trip if they make yours easier to navigate.

Who am I really?

The problem here people is I don’t even know who I am anymore.  How do I even go about finding myself or getting back to me.  I have this vision where I am like Wendy trying to sew the shadow back onto Peter Pan.  How do you go about finding your soul if you don’t even know where to begin looking for it.  At least Peter Pan could see his shadow and could try and chase it.  I know I am disconnected.  I know my inner light is out.  I need an super power energy drink.  How do I go about the emergency procedures and hit that second source power switch?

I need a map.  I need a well worn travel guide, a human source of intervention or that sexy voiced GPS telling me how to get there.  Ok so where is it we gotta go?  Where is it we gotta look?

That my friend is today’s problem.  I am writing about it to try and sort this whole mess out.