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[Maroon 5]

I’m at a payphone trying to call home / All of my change I spent on you

Where have the times gone / Baby it’s all wrong /where are the plans we made for two?
Yeah, I, I know it’s hard to remember / The people we used to be

It’s even harder to picture / That you’re not here next to me

You say it’s too late to make it / But is it too late to try?

And in our time that you wasted / All of our bridges burned down
I’ve wasted my nights / You turned out the lights

Now I’m paralyzed / Still stuck in that time when we called it love / But even the sun sets in paradise
If happy ever after did exist / I would still be holding you like this

All those fairytales are full of shit / One more stupid love song  / I’ll be sick
You turned your back on tomorrow / Cause you forgot yesterday

I gave you my love to borrow / But you just gave it away

You can’t expect me to be fine / I don’t expect you to care

I know I’ve said it before / But all of our bridges burned down
 [Wiz Khalifa]

Man work that shit / I’ll be out spending all this money while you sitting round

Wondering why it wasn’t you who came up from nothing

Made it from the bottom / Now when you see me I’m stunning

And all of my cars start with the push up a button

Telling me the chances I blew up / or whatever you call it

Switched the number to my phone / So you never could call it

Don’t need my name on my show / You can tell it I’m ballin’

Swish, what a shame could have got picked / Had a really good game but you missed your last shot

So you talk about who you see at the top / Or what you could’ve saw

But sad to say it’s over for Phantom / pulled up valet open doors / Wiz like go away, got what you was looking for

Now ask me who they want / So you can go and take that little piece of shit with you

I’m at a payphone trying to call home / All of my change I spent on you

Where have the times gone / Baby it’s all wrong /where are the plans we made for two?

If happy ever after did exist / I would still be holding you like this

All those fairytales are full of shit / One more stupid love song / I’ll be sick
Now I’m at a payphone…

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I have spent the better part of the last 2 years thinking that I am now permanently damaged goods. Besides the constant sense of bitterness and the fragile state of my already-heavily-damaged ego, I have questioned if these experiences have made me unfit for future human relationships. Forget about the male-female romantic type of relationships (of which I fear I am permanently unfit) but even just the simple human interactions. What happens if I am too screwed up to ever have a normal friendship again??

If you had asked me 10 years ago where I envisioned my life would be at this juncture, you can bet your sweet bippy that it never would have occurred to me that I would be more lost than I was at 18 – rootless and struggling with my faith, my self-esteem, and my future – I thought I had outgrown these sorts of emotions. So now I feel that I am too messed up, too crazy, too jaded, too broken – damaged goods.

So last night, in spending some time with my nearly-perfect friend (who will be known here only as “The B”) I discovered that I am not alone in the feeling of being ‘damaged.’ “The B”  is tall, gorgeous, outgoing, funny, intelligent and charismatic – and yet feels that she isn’t good enough. We actually spent quite a bit of the evening arguing over who is crazier, more angry, and/or more flawed. How is that a woman who is almost the perfect ideal of a female in current American society share the same sense of inadequacy that I have? “The B” is the kind of woman that I want to be when I grow up – how can SHE feel that she’s as crazy as I am?!

Is it a woman thing? Are we, as females, programmed to feel inadequate in some way at all times in our lives? I don’t think that’s exclusively the answer – although I DO believe that females specialize in feeling insecure and flawed. But I know many men who suffer from some of the same feelings that we have, especially the men who have been through shattering divorces or other life-altering events. These men are normal, everyday guys who have managed (just like “The B” and I) to get out of bed and face each new day. So, no, I don’t think it’s just ‘a woman thing’ – I actually think it’s more widespread than that.

My evening with “The B” has helped me to realize something very important – we are ALL damaged goods! There is not a single person, no matter how good it looks like they may have it in life, that is truly content with who they are. Maybe it’s trauma (emotional or physical) that has damaged someone, maybe it’s simply born in them – but we ALL feel that we have flaws. I am so glad to have company in the Damaged Goods area of the department store of life! Does it make me a bad person to rejoice in the company I keep?? I have truly wonderful friends that have helped me to realize that they too struggle with the damages in their lives – and if they can survive, so can I!

So, to”The B” I send the assurance that we are both crazier than hell, totally screwed up, and yet totally lovable!! And we are not alone – there are a lot of us that are Damaged Goods – and we should stand proud!

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Last weekend was my once-yearly trek to the EMS conference in the boondocks. Last year I learned to birth a robotic baby, this year’s highlight was watching my good friend Jay, who 6 years ago was battling cancer, stand up strong and confident and present on professionalism in fire and EMS services.

Let me tell you a little bit about my friend Jay. He is my ex-husband’s best friend (they grew up together and have the war stories to prove it) and I met Jay and his family about 10 years ago. He is now a paid firefighter/paramedic in Fort Myers, Florida and teaches at the local fire academy and the high school votech program. He was diagnosed in October 2005 with Burkitt’s type non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a blood disease so rare that only about 100 people are diagnosed each year. Jay, his loving wife Rhonda, and their six wonderful children fought the disease for over a year.  I have learned a lot from Jay – how to deal with the hand that your dealt no matter how unfair it is, how your attitude can effect the way your battle goes, how important it is to be courageous, how good people will receive good support. Quiet dignity and courage are the two best ways I can think of to describe Jay – and I struggle every day to live up to that example.

Jay and Rhonda both have been wonderful to me through the course of our friendship and my divorce. Despite what could be expected in terms of loyalty, they have not walked away from being my friend – like so many others have. They are at the end of the phone line or the Facebook message when I need them. I am grateful for that.

This EMS conference is now one of the most difficult events for me in my post-marriage life. I have to gird my emotional loins [on a side note, what a greatly colorful phrase, just saying] to attend. This conference is one of the few things my ex-husband and I ever did together. The fire service (along with baseball) was one of the few shared interests we had – and so we did things like this as a couple. And this particular conference was and is always filled with our mutual friends and fellow fire/EMS providers. For those of you who aren’t in the fire service, it can tend to be a very tight knit, close community. Which, when the shit hits the fan, is the best thing in the world – you know that it is your friends and pseudo-family members who are going to come to your aid. But, when your life has fallen apart, it also means that they are ALL going to know about it – and when your ex is also a beloved member of that same pseudo-family, it creates an abondanza of awkard moments. None of your mutual friends want to refer to The Breakup, yet they all know (or think they know) what really happened.

The flashbacks are staggering, those moments when you time travel back to happier days, when you can forget that things have changed. When you run into an old friend who doesn’t know you’ve divorced or you come out of a class and want to share your new knowledge with your life partner. When you go through your skills evaluations and want to celebrate your successes with your husband like you used to. I know that I’m not the first to experience this – those moments of forgetfulness are probably pretty common for anyone who has suffered a loss – but they still twist the knife of grief. I am haunted by the ghosts of lost friends, sad memories, and a firm place in the support system of the local EMS community – no longer can I consider myself a full member of the team because I have lost half of who I was. And the ghost of the Ex lurks around every corner, waiting to slam into me – will he be there? Will he come to the conference and will he bring his new woman? Rationally, you ask yourself – why do you worry if he appears or what he does? Yet emotionally you worry at every moment about the ghosts of him will come out to haunt your present.

So this year’s conference, with Jay as one of the keynote speakers, was one of the most difficult yet. I adore Jay – see the above description – but I also can’t ignore the fact that he is one of my ex-husband’s best friends and has been for over 30 years. How to greet a good friend who, understandably, has loyalties to the man who destroyed my life? How to face a friend who has probably heard every bad thing that my ex can construct about me? How to look in that friend’s eyes and not beg for forgiveness for not having been good enough for his buddy?

The good news is that I learned a lot at the conference. Not just the practical skills-based knowledge on pharmacology and airway management or the new technology for battling ‘dirty war’, not just the steps for a good radio consult with the trauma center or about the protocol updates in Maryland EMS. I learned that I am truly a different person now than I was before. I am damaged goods, yes, but I am also able to stand straight and hold my head high. to ignore the whispers of gossip and to make jokes about the bumpy road I’ve travelled. I am not better for the experiences of the last 2 years – but at least I am stronger.

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Why should a woman who is healthy and strong
Blubber like a baby if her man’s goes away?
A weepin’ an’ a wailin’ that he’s done her wrong
That’s one thing you’ll never hear me say!
Never gonna think that the man I lose is the only man among men!
I’ll snap my fingers to show I don’t care
I’ll buy me a brand new dress to wear
I’ll scrub my neck and I’ll brush my hair
And start all over again!

Many a new face will please my eye
Many a new love will find me
Never have I once looked back to sigh
Over the romance behind me
Many a new day will dawn before I do!

Many a like lad may kiss and fly
A kiss gone by is bygone.
Never have I asked an August sky
“Where has last July gone?”
Never have I wandered through the rye
Wondering “where has some guy gone?”
Many a new day will dawn before I do.

Never have I chased the honeybee
Who carelessly cajoled me
Somebody jist as sweet as he
Cheered me and consoled me.
Never have I wept into my tea
Over the deal someone doled me

Many a red sun will set
Many a blue moon will shine
Before I do!

I know that I frequently highlight songs and lyrics – I can’t help it, I live in a musical universe. My dad is a professional musician now that he has retired from teaching and I was raised in a very music-inclined household. At one point, I enjoyed a life on the stage, just a’singin’ my heart out or tootling my flute. Music speaks to me in ways that only true musicians will understand. So, while I apologize for boring you with my songs, I also make no apologies that the cosmos speak to me through country ballads, rock anthems, and Broadway ditties.

Anyway, this song popped up on my iPod today while I was out walking the dog. Per my surgeon’s instructions, I have to walk daily for the next several months until all my incisions have healed – at which point I can graduate to running, aerobics, dancing or whatever else my heart desires. So the dog and I have a daily dose of iPod shuffling. This song came on and even the dog was cheering…

Any of you out there who have had your hearts broken or who have been wronged, who’ve been abandoned or treated like garbage? Am I the only one to feel that she does NOT need a man to complete her? Is there anyone else out there who is struggling to put on her big girl panties and get on with her life? I’m guessing I’m not alone….

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My good friend and coworker, Mandy, is leaving us tomorrow, off to spend 5 years in vet school in New Zealand. I am so happy for her – what a phenomenal opportunity – but I am also going to miss her terribly. She was the only other one of my coworkers that voluntarily worked the Sunday shift with me; she is a ray of sunshine when I walk into work; and I learned a lot from her on how to deal with feisty animals, worried owners, and errant toenails.

Her departure (along with my friend Steve’s recently) has gotten me to thinking – what am I staying here for? Why don’t I just go?

Truckin’, like the do-dah man / Once told me “You’ve got to play your hand” / Sometimes your cards ain’t worth a dime / If you don’t lay’em down.

I took a long drive around the county last week, to test the emotional waters to see if I would miss this area. While I do admit that it is a beautiful place with lots of history and interesting little spots, I also had to face the ghosts of a lot of painful memories and shared moments. There was almost no road I could turn onto that didn’t hold a shadow of some part of the last 10 years – and so many of them reminded me of things that I had lost. Not just my husband but some good friends, some interesting jobs, and yes even some parts of my self. I think that in some ways in might be better to just get away from those shadows that are haunting me, to leave and start fresh somewhere else.

Busted, down on Bourbon Street / Set up, like a bowlin’ pin / Knocked down, it get’s to wearin’ thin / They just won’t let you be, oh no.

But then, in the same breath, I realized that I would truly miss some of the people that have made this part of my life journey so enjoyable. I have a wonderful group of friends that watches out for me, cares for me, and treats me right. I have a fire department pseudo-family that is there for support when I need it (and frustration when I don’t) – just like a real family. These people are the treasures that I have found in Maryland – and I’m not sure I can leave them. How will I watch my godkids grow up? How will I keep the connection to my fire department brothers and sisters? How will my circle of friends stay intact if I’m somewhere else? How will I feel if I have no roots again?

You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel / Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down.

I am, in total honesty, lured by the thought of just running away from my problems. A new area with new people offers me the temptation of forgetting. Maybe I can escape those unpleasant memories if I just have a new location? Forget for a minute that the psychological and emotional damage of the last 10 years (both self-imposed and inflicted by others) will travel with me, like some really ugly Louis Vuitton baggage. Forget for a minute that it is damn hard to start over in a new place where you don’t know anyone and are trying to get used to a new job, a new home, and a new locale. Forget for a moment that there are days that I’m not sure I have the energy or courage to get out of bed, let alone move halfway across the country. The lure of a NEW PLACE beckons me like a kid to a candy store.

I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’ / Get out of the door and light out and look all around.

A NEW PLACE where no one knows anything about my personal life, where the sordid details of my marriage weren’t ground in the gossip grist mill for everyone’s enjoyment. Where I can live in a home that doesn’t mock me with its memories. Where I can go out to dinner with a man and no one gives a hoot – let alone have passed it on down the gossip chain with amusing little embellishments. Where I can live anonymously without worry that my ex will recognize my car in a parking lot and cause damage to it or me. Where I am just a nameless face in the crowd and not worried about running into any of my former in-laws. Where no one will remember that I used to be fat or married. Ahhh, the lure of that mythical NEW PLACE.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me / Other times I can barely see / Lately it occurres to me / What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Mandy is lucky – she isn’t running from anything. She doesn’t leave behind the bitter and sad memories that I do; she gets a fresh start without all the emotional baggage. Granted, that is mostly due to the fact that she has been smart enough NOT to get married. But, regardless, she isn’t running away from the past – she’s running to an exciting new future. She is truly off on a new adventure – and she better realize I’m going to come visit her Down Under! Good luck, Mandy, and safe and happy travels!

Truckin’, up to Buffalo / Been thinkin’, you got to mellow slow / Takes time, you pick a place to go / and just keep truckin’ on.

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When I was a kid, my older brother went off to college in Washington, DC, a far cry from the small town where we had grown up in upstate New York. My parents, being the educational types that they were, insisted that while we were down visiting him on Parents’ Weekend, Easter, etc. that we tour the city and discover the history of our nation’s capital. But this was a big, scary, urban environment for my sheltered 12-year old self! Once, when trying to cross busy Connecticut Avenue, my brother (now the experienced urban dweller) gave me this sage piece of wisdom about crossing the street: “Don’t make eye contact, they won’t hurt you.” I’m not sure WHY this psychology works like it does – but he was most assuredly right. Not once did my sorry teenage self get splattered by a cab in DC and, in the years since and with the travelling I have done at home and abroad, the eye contact avoidance has prevented me from ever getting hit in the street.

Sadly, I came to a startling realization this week – I think I took my brother’s advice a little too much to heart. I rarely make eye contact with anyone anymore – at all, in any situation, PERIOD. Somewhere along the line, apparently I twisted my brother’s words to avoid all eye contact in order to prevent getting hurt. In a painful flash of self-awareness (when questioned on what color a friend’s eyes are), I realized that I just don’t look people in the eye ever. I never intended to transfer the street-crossing wisdom into my relations with all human beings – I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

I’m not sure if I have always had this problem… I would like to think that, at some point in my past, I was bold and confident enough to look people in the eye and share myself with them. I would hate to think that I have always been this much of a milquetoast. But, in all reality, I am guessing that I have always been like this – afraid to establish a connection, subconsciously putting myself in the submissive role. In the world of dogs, eye contact is how they establish dominance in a pack – the ones that stand straight and can face down enemies are the top of the pecking order, the ones that bow down and look down are low in the pack. I have been, without realizing it, announcing my submissiveness to the world with every conversation. No wonder I was easily tagged by a self-confident, aggressive, bully of a husband – he knew, by my eyes, that I would never be able to stand up to him.

So now that I have realized that I have been keeping myself aloof from others by denying that eye contact – and meekly placing myself in the submissive position – I vow that I will change that. I don’t want to keep myself distant from other human beings any more; I am no longer the weak, fearful person I used to be! I want to create those human connections, those important relationships, by looking people in the eye, sharing who I am with them. Yes, I do understand that this will also allow them to see my vulnerabilities, opening myself up to getting hit by those proverbial cars in the street, but I think it will also help me to develop a stronger connection to others and to myself…

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If you look at the top of almost any Christmas tree, you’ll probably see either a star or an angel. Both are important, integral, and co-mingled elements of the nativity story – both are needed to signal the tremendous miracle that occurred 2,000 years ago. And yet I find the angels are among us every day…

The star atop the tree symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem, leading shepherds and kings alike to the Baby Jesus. How wonderful it is that a bright blazing symbol still sits atop our trees, reminding us of the way back to Jesus. My parents’ tree has had the same blue and silver foil star for at least the last 30 years so, when I started my own tree tradition here in Maryland, I selected a star to sit atop the tree.

But, now that I have gotten older, I am going to add an angel to sit prominently near the top. I don’t know why but I have always been fascinated most by the angelic element of the Christmas story.

I’d like to believe that I have angels all around me, guiding me through this tricky world. I know some of you out there must be thinking I’ve lost my mind and will next be talking about ghosts and voodoo priestesses – but I absolutely believe in angels! I think that the people we’ve lost, loved ones and friends, keep an eye on us and help to protect and shield us. And, I am SURE that someone up there is helping me navigate.

One of my all-time favorite Christmas movies is It’s A Wonderful Life. George Bailey’s guardian angel, Clarence, shows him how valuable he is to the world, to his family, to his friends, and to his town. How amazing is a God that can send an emissary to prove our worth to ourselves!

So many of us have lost someone we truly loved – and I ‘d like to believe that God simply needed them in heaven more than we do. He needs their help as friends for those in heaven and as angels for us on earth.

So, I will add an angel to my Christmas tree, as a tip of the hat to my angels up there who are guiding me!

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