Mirrors

I caught myself recently trying to pump up someone (“you’re a powerful badass; your legs look healthy and fantastic”…) who’d expressed offhand insecurity about their 60-year-old, non-youthful legs.

For I’ve not always been blessed with a good relationship with my body so it pains to see someone mid-rant about theirs. Growing up, I had the equivalent of several Lucille Bluths interrupting my healthy self-image. My formative years were peppered with commentary on how thin I wasn’t and my other offensive diversions from perfection then I ended up married to the male version of the Arrested Development matriarch who’d eventually come to evacuate our union for a younger, skinnier gal (who owned 50 pairs of jeans but I digress), and it wasn’t until my 40’s that I finally invoked the rage needed to detoxify from such high-quality critical bullshit. Because if nothing else, these types of people excel at their work. They’re very thorough, like all catastrophes.

And so sporting my well-earned pair of DIY big balls when I heard my friend looking down at her 60 year old legs, my 51 year old self stood there hearing my mom, my grandma, and my ex-husband telling her what an ugly piece of shit she was and I swooped in ready to beat them down with a tire iron like a thug.

But I quickly apologized.

Because part of being an ally to badass women is standing down and not assuming your squad needs further instructions. For sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and we just need to let that grief out when looking down at the same legs we’ve had for an entire life in sudden realization they’re not actually the same fucking legs at all.

The other night out of the jungle of middle-aged breakdowns, the bathroom mirror exposed itself by flashing my shockingly-grey-haired bun to me and from the kerfuffle of feelings wasn’t my mom or my ex-husband: it was me.

Quarantine has not been kind to my hair. It seems as if the melanin got word that none of us can get our hair colored and wanted to send me a big fuck you because I’ve gotten quite a bit more gray the last few weeks. I don’t have saggy legs but I’ve always loved my dark hair and while I normally don’t color my hair, I’ve always enjoyed the prospect that I could.  My appearance is really the only fiction I can write.

And women are trained to feel shame/embarrassment for so many things by society, and I know this. It’s not just our moms and the toxicity of a Culture that acts as if it’s an auctioneer, its that women get it from so many sides we don’t even know how we feel. To be empowered: “love your gray hair and reject the societal pressure” (or “do what you want to feel beautiful!”).  But what if we don’t love our grey hair yet don’t necessarily want to color it either? Is there space for us to empower ourselves via the culture of our own morphing wants and needs?  Part of my evolution has been making space for my long game, where “look at this fucking saggy ass shit?” isn’t an indication of self-worth but rather a normal vent about watching the body I/we love undergoing the aging process.

And the other night, while I vented in the mirror to Clawed—my volunteer therapy animal—I took about 30 selfie’s trying to get a good look at the extent of it. And I didn’t like it. I don’t like my gray hair. And I don’t have to. I can be a crazy grey-hair-hating bitch without redirecting my own agency to force myself to be something else. I’m gonna feel the feelings, and be myself. Look at my gray hair and Understand that this is how we say goodbye to things. We start to miss them until suddenly one day we don’t even notice them anymore because we’ve somehow moved on.  

And I don’t know how the universe works but things show up.  And before long–in that same mirror–I was smiling and giving Clawed hugs. 

For suddenly, I thought: Look at this cat?  Standing here the entire time while I exclaim to the mirror my stressed out, unwelcome surprise.  Sitting on the counter, leaning up against me, in various poses of listening.  Moving closer to my face with his own when I leaned down to rest my arms on the sink, as if giving me a pep talk in his own supportive way.  

And just like that, I wanted to thank him for his friendship.  And turned on the faucet at his preferred strength so he could get a drink.  

[This is kind of a fictionalized version of real events simply because I’m meshing two different time periods together; the experience with my friend and the kitty go back to last year but the gray hair I’m currently enduring is unfortunately happening right now in every single mirror of my home].

Our people


I’ve lost a lot of very good people to this truth. But first, I lost myself.

Because we’re not born into the education about how to flow with the growth of our own life. We’re born into the construct of the five senses, and instructed to bow to the mores of a society which we’re taught is honorable enough to honor when it really isn’t. Everybody’s just walking around in a fear parade or self-medicating (booze, shopping, porn, mindless ambition for money) so as to feel some measure of freedom or happiness, stepping one foot in front of the other without questioning the validity of any of it until we’ve ruined the planet, children are in cages (while people justify), and fighting so many wars the news doesn’t even cover them anymore. We assume all we’ve ever done is all we should ever do when clearly we don’t got all that shit covered.


And a few years ago, I was totally devastated when my girls were both sick, James blamed me for it, I was jobless, my car got totaled, I started fantasizing about driving myself off a cliff and asked my mom to please come help me and she removed herself emotionally. And I suffered greatly. But that was just how I saw it at that time. That’s how I saw it when I didn’t realize that every painful thing is an opportunity and that those antagonists creating trauma are often the same path towards inner reclamation of self-love you could literally never get anywhere else.

For when you get to see who will suffer your suffering, you receive clarity that the end game of all of this is that you can either stay in the same place or you can move and accept that what anyone ever does to us is Growth challenging us to fight for ourselves.

So if you are in pain right now—if you feel betrayed, if you cannot see anyone standing around you—remove the society inside you validating that you are stuck, know that it hurts because it works, and breathe that the loneliness is You inside one of the steps of your act of becoming. Then go and love on something purring or furry because that shit just feels good.

The beautiful complexity of algae

And it was a time of great vulnerability.  But I didn’t know it then.

Because at age 20, away at college, and in love with the future, I couldn’t yet see anything except through the embedded resilience of youth and the dream that I knew myself well enough to be able to navigate hardship.

So we danced into experiences—he and I—becoming family in the rental in Davis, walking my dogs, brewing fancy coffee, drinking Bailey’s—becoming grown-ups—setting up the Scrabble game to Led Zeppelin; laying in on the weekends, lazy Saturdays spent with the SF Giants on AM radio, Steve tinkering under the hood of his 1967 Mercury Cougar in homemade t-shirts satirizing society (“I DON’T work out at Golds’ Gym” or “I’m High On Crack”).

Us both making a world for ourselves, living a love story we were writing every day.

And we were so tender, he and I; had lived inside lives unbecoming our gentle hearts–his as love for a sweet father who seemed to know deep grief, mine as the oldest of a family who exploded into divorce the second I’d stepped off for college—and we were perfectly-timed, growing towards one another as we lived within a protected sweetness our families hadn’t always modeled. Removing selves from the life we didn’t want to see, reflecting back to one another the safety of kindness and humor and gentle days, Fool in the Rain playing as letter tiles were chosen, him leaving funny poems on my pillow in the morning (“your eyes are the color of pond algae”), me writing my first name alongside his last in my Cognitive Psychology notebook.

But October 17, 1989 came, and the Loma Prieta earthquake stirred all I’d been pushing away, until in mere moments the entire trajectory of my broken family burned inside me. Dad crying in the armchair, mom telling me I wasn’t welcome to come home, dad moving out, mom unstable—making my younger sister Alex do the Ouija board—then that summer ‘89 day Alex ran away from the house (which in just two months she’d be inside when it shook into its death) with me following, trying to fix the world I didn’t want to end, petrified of what would happen to mom if I let her go. Me wanting to save us all from brokenness and still not being able to, for even the earth knew it was too late, and tossed the house down the hill, making everything cockeyed and wobbly, and smelling of the remnants of a dead family. Rotting food from the tipped fridge, moldy water, smashed perfume bottles, and the beloved Angel fish lying dead on the floor.

And it was suddenly too much.  I’d seen too many broken hearts—had lost too much—for dreams to still come true, and pushed Steve away in the disbelief that good could even exist. And in the breakups aftermath, he cried—tears on the lashes of lovely hazel-blue eyes—and asked me “why?”, believing I guess that I would actually have an answer even though I didn’t know anything, and wouldn’t. Not for so many years.

But, as if we both needed an answer, he stayed with me.  For during my lifetime since, I could not stop thoughts of him, and did not want to, and shuffled around a feeling of grief for what I’d done and turned from—dreaming of him at night; 30 years worth–struggling with bewilderment at the feeling that I was irrevocably chained to an ever-distant past, existing in my marriage to James in subconscious reverie for the intimate connection Steve and I had shared huddled all those years ago in college in Davis, warmth and humor and hope and respite from a damaged world. And I could not shirk it no matter how painful it was to remember, and did not know why.

Yet life is mysterious until the wisdom of one single moment calls, and here as I stand in the shadow of all these years, I am every day a new person able to see it now for what it offered me.

For it was magic. That time.

I loved him and I knew he loved me— the “me” that I was at my most deepest and significant self—and in reflecting goodness back to one another, we walked together through the shadows of grief, loving with open hearts against all probability, and nurturing a sweetness so seductive that even at 50 years of age I can still taste and smell the impossible magic that it was.

And for so long, it was a loss—a regret, hurting this sweet man, creating a hole inside me of unknown depth—but even in the remnants of 30 years and the passing of a million lifetimes, I know that he was and always will be a gift to me.

Because he changed me forever—danced upon my soul–beckoning me to emerge towards the safety of himself, and in bearing witness to his powerful love for me, I became stationary within a beautiful moment, and existed in perpetuity as witness to joy and happiness and the affirmation that I could be loved.   And it was an impossible gift that I will carry with me forever.

So on this, his birthday—February 28, 2019, his 51st–I just wanted to say:

Happy Birthday, Steve. You were a safe place in a terrible storm. Thank you—my dearest friend–for showing me how to love myself.

[2/28/2019; I write and revise this every year, and have until this year called this neverending evolution of self “Closure” but I woke up this morning, said “Happy Birthday, Steve,” knowing that you can never achieve closure from something that changed you forever. And so it will be that I will always grow with it and merely hope he’s found his way as the sweet person he always was, and continue to satirize society with humor-filled letters sent in lavender envelopes]

Making space (for pollen and grifters)

Things to be grateful for today:

That my puffy eyes from allergies haven’t totally sealed themselves shut. I have the gift of sight.

That I caught the drip of watery-snot before it hit my mouth when I bent over to retrieve my sunglasses from the street.

That I didn’t step on said sunglasses and kill them like I did in January to my eyeglasses and that now I know I can go 5 months wearing lopsided, broken eyeglasses because Time is a meaningless invention most especially since each spring I become gainfully employed with “Impairment” and making an extra effort to tell everyone “it’s allergies” and that I’m not just stupid, high or hungover.

That it’s Sunday and parents can use me as a teaching moment for their kids because “the lady with the misshapen face can’t help it and Jesus wants you to be nice to things like her and whatever she is.”

That Mr Baby’s house is only my second pet sit of 19 today and I’m already so behind but that my exhaustion is actually impeding my ability to be stressed about it (or to remember my own name although honestly, I could make some good guesses plus it’s also on my drivers license so I’ll be okay)

That my hair is dirty because now my 50 psi eyes match my gnarly, filthy head. It’s a look now; I’m the total package.

And…

That the cat in the picture who was making a horrible racket in the bushes under Mr. Baby’s house wasn’t actually a homeless pregnant female in labor but rather a pissed off grifter locked out of his house working me over for treats.

That I was already planning how I’d fit it in my schedule to meet my girls back at Mr. Baby’s house to catch what I thought was a pregnant female and transport her to Best Friends for care and eventual spaying.

That I’m not too world-weary to fall for the feline grift. That I actually AM a nice “whatever it is.” That i can see the humor in puffy eyes. That life isn’t perfect so I don’t have to be either.

That I can walk, have a home, have food, can breathe air populated with oxygen courtesy of trees and their selfless offerings, that I have my life, abilities and opportunities, my girls, Ellen, a chance to bitch then to stfu and make my day be it’s own inspiration for perseverance.

Happy Sunday.

[4/29/2018]

[2/26/2019: I can already feel the allergies starting for this year. They truly are debilitating at times–even while on allergy meds–but the show must go on and when you feel about it, things could always be worse. Happy Tuesday]

Everything looks different

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Last night my girls, Ellen, and I watched Thelma and Louise together. And because I’d forgotten how long the movie was, the event lasted into the early hours of the next day, at which point my youngest–who’d been hesitant to even watch it at all for the last scene she’d heard so much about–excitedly chatted to me through my bleary-eyedness, saying that along with Donnie Darko, it was now one of her two favorite movies.

None of them had ever seen it, and Livy asked me in one of the first scenes when Thelma’s husband Daryl was being an asshole to Thelma, “Is that just the way it was back then?” The movie was made in 1991.

No, baby; Daryl’s just a dick.

In the midst of girl power and Thelma and Louise gunning it to their chosen end, Ellen held my left hand still and, as I watched the movie, drew upon my skin the pattern you see in the picture above; somehow, in the warm living room after the hot summer solstice day of 2017, she accessed an internal well of artistry from within a near-meditative state, and–moving henna tube into curves and points–created this freehand design, reaching over while the first section was drying to grab my hand again and add more detail before moving on to make entirely different designs upon her own skin.

When I finally saw the finished product upon my hand, my mouth was open in surprise because I could not formulate a connection to the type of mind that could so effortlessly create such a vision. I couldn’t “get to” where a human being could so confidently embrace hovering over flesh with a tube of dye and still be able to funnel the experience down into a work of art.

Because that’s just not me. I’m never going to be able to zen out and manifest this kind of thing on someone’s arm.

And I used to think that in order to live fearless, I couldn’t say such things to myself. That in order to stand within my own power, I had to self-talk myself with “You can be/do/have anything you set your mind to!”

Which is where I’d cue up the time a few years ago when I snorkeled in Hawaii with my sister, thus supposedly pacifying my panic-inducing fear of the ocean when in reality, my logical mind was saying “good for you!” while my emotional mind was saying “now look what you’ve done! You’re IN the fucking ocean???!” because logical mind only gets you so far then you’re stuck in the open ocean, hyperventilating with your feet dangling in Jaws music.

And I’ll never be able to “you can do it!”/Pep rally myself into–voila—I’m now Renoir, and being no good at something shouldn’t always bring out the self-esteem protection squad.

Because mind over matter is bullshit and invalidates the natural sense we have of who we are and what choices are right for us. And, unless you’re hurting someone else, it’s perfectly okay to let yourself be who you are. It’s perfectly acceptable to say “I’m no good at this,” and not feel like it somehow means you’re giving up on yourself.

At the end of the movie, Livy and I discussed what our favorite parts were.

Livy’s favorite part is when Thelma calls Daryl to see if the police have been asking questions and almost instantaneously hangs up, knowing their phones are tapped and that the police are listening based solely on how uncharacteristically nice Daryl is to her. It’s pretty classic. Even for 1991.

My favorite part is when Thelma, events skewed against her having created a transformation in herself to where she finally feels in control of her own destiny, sits in the passenger seat of their convertible watching the rising of early morning, and says, “I feel awake. Wide awake. I don’t remember ever feeling this awake.

Everything looks different.”

As though for a moment she’d fallen asleep in her life then with sudden implosion of all she knew had suddenly come to rise into every experience she never knew before was even possible.

Then wind whipping her hair, they take off on the road, coursing together as fugitives through the waking world of clarity and emancipation and red rocks.