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Posts Tagged ‘life’

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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A true child of the ’80’s am I, raised on the wisdom of sitcoms and television dramas. I admit especially to being a M*A*S*H-aholic. Back in its heyday, my big brother watched it (he being the older, wiser, and more worldly of the two of us) and I admit now to an obsessive need to view the marathons on TVLand and Hallmark Channel every chance I get. Many an important life lesson was learned from that show (along with The Golden Girls) and even now I find that the TV shows of my childhood are still shaping my values.

The episode I was watching earlier tonight was the pen pal letters episode – Hawkeye’s friend back home gets her elementary school students in Crabapple Cove, Maine to write letters to the personnel of the 4077th. In the midst of writing back to the children and amongst the amusing and mundane anecdotes that the staff chooses to tell the kids about, there are several poignant moments in which the staff is forced to reexamine their role in the war – and in life. One of the students writes a letter that Hawkeye must answer in which the student says he hates the doctors because they fixed up his brother and sent him back into combat in which he was subsequently killed. As Hawkeye is pondering how to answer this child, a child is brought in from a local orphanage who has a severe brain injury – and the priest who runs the orphanage prays “Dear God, I thank you for providing….to have them here in this place at this time is truly a sign of Your providence.”  All of a sudden, Hawkeye knows what to write to the poor young student back home, full of so much anger: “I understand your feelings. Sometimes I hate myself for being here. But once in a while, in the midst of this insanity, a very small event can make my being here seem almost bearable.”

I had seen this episode at least 5 times before and yet this was the first time that this whole exchange made me stop and go hmmmm….

I am a woman of strong faith. I have stated over and over and over again that I am sure God has a plan for me, that the struggles and pain that I have suffered for the last 10 years have not been in vain. I constantly recite the AA mantra “Let go and let God.” Despite my faith, I admit that I have often questioned why God has put me in this situation, given me this kind of pain.

Now, thanks to a television show (geez, welcome to religion in America), I have a whole new way of looking at things. Because of God’s plan, I was put here at this moment in time in this particular geographical location for a purpose. Divine providence has brought me to this moment in my life with my own special brand of emotional baggage for a purpose. And, much like Hawkeye, I don’t quite know yet what that purpose is – but I have a strong faith that my small event is coming, that event which will make it all clear.  I have only to wait and to trust in the Lord and to believe that my time is coming. I will let you know when that time comes. In the meantime, I can only hope that I will become Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan when I grow up. But that’s a topic for another day.

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One of the worst parts about being single again at my age is the serious shortage in available, decent men. I guess I got too comfortable as a married woman and didn’t notice that all the really good guys were being snatched up off the market. But in the time since my husband left, I have found pretty much every possible representative of odd men that are still left on the singles scene. My married and relationshiped friends laugh when I make jokes about creating patches to represent these various different categories of men and wear the badges like a Girl Scout uniform. So, as a representative for single girls everywhere, I’m willing to proudly wear the Red Badges of Shame:

The Rebound Guy – this is the one who comes swooping in and says he knows exactly what you’re going through, he’ll be there for you, wants to rebuild your damaged ego, etc. I am a big enough girl to admit having fallen for that huge mistake – my rebound guy was over 20 years older than me and seriously resembles the cartoon character Shrek – without the sense of humor or lovable charm! Yeah, I’m real proud of this one.

The “You Were Better in My Head” Guy – this was the guy that ended up being so not worth the hype. My particular version of this guy had been the subject of some serious x-rated fantasies for me in the last year of my marriage as things were falling apart. It could have been terribly awkward if the husband had ever found out, since this fantasy-maker was a mutual friend of ours and in the fire service with us. Too bad he ended up being a MAJOR disappointment compared to all the fantasies I had built up in my head….

The Momma’s Boy – this guy couldn’t decide what to wear without consulting his mother. I was actually surprised, the few times we went out to dinner, that he didn’t either ask her to join us or have to call her for guidance on what to eat. And the worst part was that I was actually disappointed when this one dumped me. We won’t even ponder why I waited around long enough to get dumped.

The Pimp – yep, that’s right, he was a real, honest-to-God pimp – in his past, or so he promised me. And he considered it a compliment to me when he said I could have been his house mother. Gee, thanks, I don’t even get to be a ‘service provider’, I just get to babysit and cook for them. Really??

The ‘I Can’t Believe You Dumped Me for HER’ Guy – this is the guy that you see out with the next girl and you literally think to yourself ‘really, THAT girl’s better than me?’!  I went out with a guy once who is in law enforcement and who blew me off for someone he met through work – and NOT on the free side of the bars if you get my general drift. That’ll take a chunk out of a girl’s ego – of course, my husband left me for a woman who is going bald and has a mustache so there wasn’t much ego left but still….

The Control Freak – this is the guy that can’t be bothered to squeeze you into his schedule if it’s inconvenient but he damn well wants to know where you are and who you’re with. And, if you mention that you have guy friends and that you’re spending time with them, be prepared for the Control Freak to go batcrap crazy. You’ve been warned.

The “Are You SURE You’re Not Gay?” Guy – this guy was classy, educated, well-spoken and always dressed well. All in all, way too perfect to have been interested in me. I still haven’t figured out yet if he really is a gay man or just out of my league…

The Merry Widower – this one actually called me for emotional support on the night of his wife’s funeral. His need to ‘talk’ to someone lasted only as long as it took me to fall hard for his wounded, emotionally vulnerable self – and then he was moving on, getting engaged and pregnant within a year. Wow, shame on me, that’s all I can say….

The Baby Daddy – we all know them and love them, the men who just seem destined to be dads. Normally, I am a sucker for a guy with kids, who spends time with them, loves them, and supports them. This particular individual, though, has *4* children – with *4* different women. There is something charming about a loving dad – there is something not so charming about a serial sperm donor.

The Hillbilly – miles beyond the normal redneck man (who we all know I happen to love), the Hillbilly is in a class all by his double-wide-trailered self. This is the guy that thinks “hey, wanna see the deer hide still stuck in the front bumper of my station wagon ’cause I ran him down last month?” is an actual pickup line.

The Loser – this guy lives with his parents (in the basement, the attic, whatever) and doesn’t really seem to be bothered by it. Normally, when an adult child has to move home for some reason, there is a sense of discomfort and unease on the part of the adult child – they don’t really WANT to be there. But with this guy, he’s quite content to let Mom & Dad foot the bills, do the laundry, cook the meals and keep the house.

The Second Date Guy – this particularly charming individual got pissed off at me when I wouldn’t sleep with him on the second date. I will politely refrain from using the phrase Trailer Trash …but suffice it to say, I don’t give this one high marks for class or chivalry.

The Possessor – this guy is the one who wants to know where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with at every moment. He needs constant reassurance that you’re interested and wants to know when you will be calling him, seeing him, or texting him. It’s a sad day when I date a man who is a bigger girl than I am!

The One Who Is Just Waiting For Something Better – this charmer is the one who basically tells you he’s just passing the time with you. He checks his texts constantly while out with you, hoping that a better offer has come along. While he gets points for being honest and upfront, he will someday realize that telling a girl straight out that she will be only a booty call is somewhat insulting.

The Emotionally Unavailable One – this is the one that, no matter how hard you try to establish an emotional connection, you just can’t rip through the walls he’s built up. I couldn’t even get a straight answer from this guy on WHY he had built up these walls – it was like trying to ram my head into the proverbial brick wall.

The Egotist – this is the guy that never once asks you a single question about yourself or listens to anything you have to say. He’s too busy telling you about his history, his life, his hobbies, his job, his taste in food, etc. You could stand naked in the corner and whistle Dixie and it wouldn’t interrupt the soliloquy about HIM.

The Friend – this is perhaps the biggest mistake we as newly-single women can make! If he was a friend either from your previous single life or worse yet from your married days do NOT try to have a relationship with him! It will be awkward when things don’t work out and then you’ve potentially ruined a friendship that has survived the test of time. Or, even if you can salvage the friendship, you will always feel a certain resentment when you see him with the next girl.

The Wounded Soul – this guy is the easiest to fall for, especially if you’re like me – a sucker with a big heart. It’s like adopting a homeless puppy – they’re so vulnerable and needy and you can help them and make their lives better. The downfall is that you can either end up with the dog that will one day turn on you inexplicably and bite you in the ass OR you end up with the one who just acts like he’s waiting for you to kick him in the teeth because some woman in the past has done just that. Either way, you can’t win and it won’t be a healthy relationship.

And all of these charmers are the ones I actually went out with – this doesn’t include the variety of men that are still out there, just waiting for me. Oh, come on girls, you know we’ve ALL been out with these guys – I cannot possibly be the only one to have discovered some of these ‘treasures’! In a rare flash of uncharacteristic optimism, I am going to HOPE that I might one day start a relationship with Mr. Perfect. This is the guy that is, in so many ways, the anthithesis of the men that are normally attracted to me – he’s intelligent, kind, educated, well-spoken, with a good job and a sense of decency – and he actually reads books and uses his brain for matters other than sex or fire trucks. He will be able to tolerate me and my quirky ways, he will treat me well, and he will be normal…and then maybe I can throw away the collection of badges? Oh, Mr. Perfect, here I am, ready and waiting….

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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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There are very few times any more that I truly miss being married. Let’s face it – I didn’t have the ideal marital situation. Neither of us was really in it with the right expectations and its a part of my history that I usually try to put aside, to forget as best I can. Yet there are times when, like brief flashes of lightning that jolt my world and cause an almost physical pain, that I realize what I am missing. I feel, more and more as time passes, that I have past my expiration date, that I had my one chance to be married and I screwed it up. And that makes me really sad. Not sad for the man that I lost (because, let’s face it, he has definitely turned into an A-1 dillweed!) but sad for the fact that I may never have a marriage, that lifelong connection to a loved one, again.

I was raised in a home with 2 happily married parents – an oddity even in my growing up years. More and more of my friends’ parents divorced as I got older and, by the time I was in high school, I began to realize how special a lasting marriage truly is. My mom and dad are partners in ever sense of the word. I’m sure they suffer through the rough times and the typical spousal frustrations of any marriage – but they have stuck together for over 40 years. If one forgets something, the other will remember – if one falls down, the other one picks them up and helps them keep going – if one has a tough time, the other one is there to hold their hand and promise to support them. I envy them their marriage, their partnership, their team.

There was a movie on tv today that I hadn’t seen in years – “Shall We Dance?” – with Richard Gere and J-Lo. This movie, which centers around a man frustrated with his humdrum life and looking for something to challenge him, has one of the best definitions of marriage I think I’ve ever heard:

”We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.”

It’s funny, I liked this quote so much that I had it printed in our bulletins for our wedding way back in the day. We all know that I love my quotes – been stealing other peoples’ wisdom for years – and I really liked this one from the moment I heard it. Back then, I was so naively optimistic about being married and being in love. Now this quote seems to ring with a certain irony.

I’ve lost my witness, the only person that could testify to my life, so now I wonder if that was it for me, my one chance. I know that I have friends and family that love me – but they all have their own spouses and children whose lives need witnessing. Who will be a witness to my life, to love me unconditionally through good days and bad? Who will help me pass the time on this planet, into old age and into the grave? Why has God chosen for me to go through life without a partner? Who will be the witness to my life…?

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As I have grown older and witnessed the vast inequities in our world, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has become a hero of mine, the voice in my subconscious always urging love, tolerance, peace, nonviolence, and diversity. I have written before on the inspiration that Dr. King has given me in my personal life but today I write about the inspiration that I pray every day he will give to all corners of our society.

On the great day in which he delivered the famous “I Have A Dream” speech, he was speaking specifically on the topic of the racial crisis facing this country. But when Dr. King speaks of rights, promisory notes, and dreams of equality, he was not only talking about equality for black and white but also men and women, gay and straight, rich and poor, young and old, Christian and Muslim. His words painted a canvas of freedom and justice – and almost 50 years later, while we have made amazing progress, that painting is still unfinished.

I am always amazed when I hear Dr. King speak of his hope for a world where blacks and whites can eat together at the same table. Considering that I was married to a black man (and I’m so white, I’m neon), the world has come a long way! In Dr. King’s time, in some areas of the country, I would have been arrested (or worse!) for being with a black man – nowadays it’s not so uncommon and certainly not prosecutable. So many of my friends are of different colors, ethnicities, and backgrounds that it makes the violent and disciminatory realities of Dr. King’s world seem unbelievable. Our world is so much more diverse and tolerant than I’m sure anyone of that era could have ever imagined. And yet, even the most idealistic and naive amongst us can see that there is still progress to be made. There are still inequalities in this world to be solved, injustices to be made right, and discrimination to be overcome.

I, too, have a dream that someday this world will be full of people who treat each other with love, kindness, and fairness. I have a dream that someday physical attributes will not be the ruler by which people are measured – that someday, we will consider ‘pretty’ to be in someone’s soul. I have a dream that skin color, economic status, gender, religious belief or sexual orientation will not be factors in how we judge people – that we will love them regardless of these factors and be influenced only by ‘the contents of their characters’. Dr. King has taught me a lot about the kind of person I want to be and I am sure that I will continue to learn from his words and his actions.

So, I invite you all, on today of all days, to take some time out of your life to view the video of this great orator from August 28, 1963 – and maybe say a prayer for peace and equality and love in the world.

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

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