Monday, October 31, 2011

Texting Blows

Don’t think me unkind, words are hard to find, they’re only checks I’ve left unsigned, from the banks of chaos in my mind. When eloquence escapes me . . .
The Police

I hate texting. I hate it for so many reasons, not the least of which is the inability to have a real, meaningful, communication with a text. Texting has its place, it’s great for sending a quick message to say “Are you here yet? I’m upstairs.” Other than that, too much room for mishaps and misinterpretations.
That being said . . .

I messed up . . . in a fairly colossal manner. Go big, right? Not really. There was a misunderstanding, I sat around and let myself stew about it, let a few other minor catastrophes affect my personal marinade, and then, here comes the brilliant part, I decided to drink . . . excessively. I am not blaming the alcohol, it was me, all me, no one but me. I take full responsibility, drink or no drink. However, as the night went on, and I turned into a cat like princess, I had not yet taken any amount of responsibility. The next morning, however, ugh. As I went over the previous nights events in my head I slowly began to come around, and with every minute that passed my initial glimmer of “I may have been unreasonable” turned into a blinding comet of utter shock at my atrocious behavior. When I discovered that the whole reason I was upset in the first place (a text message that went unanswered) was not even correct (turns out the message failed and was never sent and, therefore, never received, who knew?) I began the desperate search for the nearest sharp object to plunge into my jugular. Failing the location of said shiv, I called my innocent victim, got voice mail (which I expected, I’d have let me go to voice mail hell too) and began my sincere, rambling, act of contrition. I admitted I was wrong, that I acted like a tool, and for reasons I would like to explain (the unanswered but, oooops, never actually sent text), got myself all worked up and that I am so sorry, so very, very sorry. I failed. In every possible way I failed. Because I am human, I am fallible, I falter, and I failed.

With each passing hour, as the requested return call did not occur, I felt more and more sad. I was so un-kind to someone who has been nothing but kind to me. Every time the phone rang I raced to see who it was, but it wasn’t my friend. I kept the phone strapped to me all day, until I began to realize, there will be no phone call. There are a lot of thoughts that come to mind. I had very sincerely apologized, and wanted to do all that I could to make my wrong right, but without communication I was banned. And it was a lack of good communication that got me all worked up in the first place. I began to think about the art of forgiveness. There’s only so long you can spend in the pout house before you need to think about letting the other person off the hook, because eventually they will unhook themselves and no longer be tethered by bad feelings. The punishment has to be equal to the crime or after a while the offender will leave the contrite feelings behind and start thinking “Enough is enough, let’s move on”.

I’ve been on both sides of this fence, the grass isn’t green on either side. The grass is dead and prickly and there’s no swing set in the yard, I hate both sides of this fence, it’s in a crappy neighborhood. Forgiveness can be a tough one. We want to make people pay, and sometimes it just doesn’t feel like enough. My ex-husband once told me I was a world class grudge holder. The horrible, horrible thing about this is that at that time, many years ago, I found that to be a badge of honor. He, of course, didn’t mean it as a compliment, but I wanted people to know when they had wronged me and to never forget. How stupid is this?! But it took me a long time and a lot of experience with others failing me and me, in turn, failing others. I really don’t know what I expected to gain, but back then I didn’t know how to communicate well. I think being a “see you next Tuesday” (you know what I’m sayin’) was my way of pretending to be tough and hoping to ensure that at least that particular person didn’t put me in an uncomfortable position again, a position where I might have to have an uncomfortable conversation.

Again, failure to communicate well, i.e., texting when I should have just called, why didn’t I just call? Because it was during work hours and I don’t like to bug people at work if I can help it.

Being an Astro Creep, though, doesn’t show you’re tough at all, it just shows you can’t be more human than human. All relationships require communication; relationships with friends, with co-workers, with significant others, with your family, and with the checker at the grocery store. Many years ago I had to take a long look at some of the ways I had acted and I saw that people I ousted from my life, or kept in my life just to make sure they were still paying that debt, moved on and led happy lives, free of the crappy feelings I harbored. Oh the humanity, oh the indignity, so incredulous. I found it so hard to forgive then. It felt like it showed weakness in me. Silly, eh? Forgiveness takes an amazing amount of strength and resilience, far more than being unforgiving. Forgiveness requires opening your heart while simultaneously saying “What you did is not ok, but we can talk about it and establish some boundaries and move forward”. You have to walk that knife edge of not accepting poor behavior and still showing love and compassion. You know how this is best done? Say it with me, COMMUNICATION. When you’re the one who has been the jackass (I’m raising my hand right now) you have to be able to hear that, and it’s hard. I’ve had many, many opportunities to experience this and it’s still hard every time. You’d think I’d get used to it by now. I once told The Black Dogs Dad that people should come with warning labels. I was, of course, being accusatory, but I really should have a label myself. It would say something like “98% lovely, but look out for the other 2%”.

We all need forgiveness sometimes. Sometimes it takes a while, that’s ok. Sometimes you have to sit with a thing for while and think about that thing and then walk away from that thing a bit and maybe then go back and look at that thing and decide you’re ready and then maybe not and then you try again tomorrow and then you finally get there, with that thing. It’s not always instant. But like the building of any muscle, the more it’s done, the stronger it becomes and the easier it is to put to use. Forgiveness releases everybody. Not just the transgressor, but the transgressed upon as well. You’re free to leave it in the past, exercise your inner Taoist and be the water flowing over the rock, leaving it in your path, rather than banging your head against the rock for a million or so years before you even begin to make a dent in it. If you flow over the rock, then a million or so years from now you won’t even remember it. Leave it, let it go, be forgiving . . . when you can.

Forgiveness also shuts everyone else up. There can be no speculation when there is communication and forgiveness. When you don’t talk, then you can only guess and that usually makes it all even worse. Trust me, that’s how I got myself here in the first place. Did I mention it’s my fault? It’s my fault. Many years ago when Hugh Grant made his gargantuan error of having a liaison with a prostitute it was all over the news. He was supposed to appear on Jay Leno’s show that night and, naturally, the whole world assumed he would cancel his engagement after this embarrassing gaffe. But, he did not. He manned up and made his appearance. He was remarkably humbled, but he went through with it. When Jay Leno said “I gotta ask, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!” his response was “When you reach a certain age, you know the difference between right and wrong. What I did was wrong. I have no one to blame.” Not only did he man up and show up, he ‘fessed up and made no excuses. His already bright star went super nova right then. The world forgave him and the salivating tabloids had the wind taken out of their sails. What can you say now? Nothing, except “What a stand up guy”, tabloids don’t love that. No gossip, no speculation, and no need to hold a grudge. The story was old news in no time and no one even thinks of it anymore.

We all mess up sometimes, every single one of us, and here and there, we all mess up in a Herculean way. It’s not just me (although it’s me a lot), it’s everyone. The next time you are faced with the opportunity of forgiving someone try to remember a time when you asked for forgiveness. If you can’t grant it right away, that’s ok, at least try to talk about. At least let the other person know you need a bit of time. And if, in the end, you just can’t get past it, then have a talk about that too and try to part ways diplomatically. Easier said than done, I know, but at least think about it. You’ll feel better about it later, you really will. And, ya know, glass houses, stones, all that cliché rot. Additionally, when you have said your mea culpa’s and you’re waiting for the forgiveness train to come your way, let it go. You never know why some people take a while, or maybe even never come around. Maybe what you did brought up issues from someone else, you can’t help that. Maybe they have other mental bits and pieces going on, maybe their heads are full of things like “Should I become a chef or an astronaut”? Maybe their shoes are just too tight, you never know. Give your heartfelt apology, but then move on, don’t sit around just waiting. You’ve got a life to live too.

The events that inspired this story were totally avoidable. My behavior was inexcusable, yet I am asking to be excused, and here, before God and everybody, I can say “I was wrong. I am sorry.” This story is likely not even going to be read by the person to whom I am apologizing, but that’s ok, it still needs to be said and I feel good about it.

To err is human, to forgive; divine. Yeah, it’s cheese-y, but whatever, it’s true.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Symbols, signs, omens and stuff

. . . and it was Jane who spoke, she said "It's true, your cousin's not a Christian, but we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share and you find magic from your God and we find magic everywhere.
-Dar Williams

This entry started out as a look at the rituals people observe, be they catholic, protestant, pagan, or otherwise. As I look at the word “ritual” however, I see how extensive it can be. Much like Elvis, ritual is everywhere.

I have a client I see semi-regularly. She came in a while back and seemed determined to keep herself in a state of fear and misery while simultaneously questing for grounded-ness, connected-ness, and general happy-ness. She has complained to me of various maladies that are physical, emotional, and spiritual. If you’re thinking “No kidding Laura Ellen, you’re a massage therapist, that’s kinda what you do”, then you’re right. I began to wonder, though, how much do we reinforce our negative attitudes while searching for a more positive life? My client told me she has a regular therapist back home in Kansas, I am her regular therapist when she is in Denver, she has an acupuncturist, a chiropractor, and an herbalist. She told me she brought her spiritual guides in the room with her, she asked me to sage the room, she told me she was in dire need of either Cranial Sacral work or Reiki, she wishes she had brought her new crystals with her, she has been journaling, she feels her chakras are out of alignment and this is exacerbating her irritable bowel syndrome. Are you snickering? You shouldn’t be. We all do these things, it’s just that some of us use rosaries and liturgies and altars. Now, I want to let you know it is absolutely not ok for me to talk about clients and their issues outside of work. If you think you know who this is, I promise you, you don’t. I would NEVER name a client, nor would I ever discuss a client in a way that could reveal their identity. Furthermore, this writing is not about my client, this writing is about the different symbols we all need and how we may make fun of someone for choosing to use crystals, but then many of us feel the need to show up in a church, of which we are not active members, at least for Christmas or Easter . . . or light a menorah at Hanukkah and yet never honor Shabbat , or claim Paganism but have no idea what solstice is all about.

We tend to think of rituals as relating only to religion and spiritual derivations thereof. But as I look around me I see rituals expand into so many areas of our lives. People like to scoff at ritual and its frivolity, accusing such behavior as meaningless and worthless. But then, money is worthless too, it’s just paper. It’s not literally worth the amount it represents but, that’s what’s important, what it represents. The more zeros the better, the more of absolutely nothing printed behind a measly little number one, you’ve really got something . . . on paper. Move all those null sets in front of your measly little number one, and you’ve got my bank account. But it means something to us. Money, and what it represents, is important to us. Try to eat without it, you’ll be wishing on your crystals and rosaries and menorahs as well.

A ritual is indeed, initially, defined in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language as a rite in a religion or spiritual practice. It is, secondarily, described as any regular practice that one follows. Coffee is a ritual. I do not drink caffeine and, believe me, the world is a better place for it. However, I absolutely love my morning coffee. I drink two cups of decaf every single day of my life. I get the coffee maker all set up the night before, a ritual, so that in the morning all I have to do it hit the mighty “on” button. It’s truly one of the most delightful moments of my day. Some mornings, while battling the urge to just roll over and sleep another three or four hours, a light comes on in my head and says to me “Laura Ellen, my love, coffee is ready to go. Just get up and hit the button. All will be well.” I love that light in my head. This morning ritual of coffee follows me everywhere, to any state, on any trip, camping or in a five star hotel, coffee is an integral part of my morning. I mention coffee very specifically because when people find out I drink decaf, only the feeble (of which there are many), will raise an eyebrow and numbly ask “what’s the point?” True coffee lovers never ask this, by the way. The point is this, aside from being warm and tasty, it’s comforting. Coffee makes the house smell good. Coffee is the signal to my synapses that’s it’s time to wake up and start firing. Coffee time is also quiet time. Coffee=morning ritual.

Walking your dog every morning when you could just as easily send his or her furry self out to the back yard is a ritual. Hugging your spouse after a long day of work is a ritual. Going on dates, watching fireworks on the 4th of July, sitting on Santa’s lap, putting a pulled tooth under your pillow for the tooth fairy, watching football every Sunday in the fall, are all ritual; our lives are fraught with, seemingly, meaningless ritual. But, much like cheap paper money, the perceived value of ritual means so much and adds to our lives. Freud wrote to his wife, Martha, the following:

Tables and chairs, beds, mirrors, a clock to remind the happy couple of the passage of time, an armchair for an hour’s pleasant daydreaming, carpets to help the housewife keep the floors clean, linen tied with pretty ribbons in the cupboard and dresses of the latest fashion and hats with artificial flowers, pictures on the wall, glasses for everyday and others for wine and festive occasions . . . are we to hang our heart on such little things? Yes, and without hesitation.

Yes, hang your hearts on such little things, they have unfathomed value.

I think in the more conservative world people are scared that having trinkets and shrines and crystals is the belief that these totems become actual deities rather than symbols connecting us to our higher self, our God; that some people pray to their sage sticks and eagle feathers as though these non living objects house the power of the universe. And yet, the dichotomy is that more conservative people rely even more heavily on their dogma. God forbid homosexuals get married or heterosexuals have a child out of the ritual of wedlock. Still, people have their beliefs and I shouldn’t really say anything crappy about it; but oh look, I did, and here’s my opportunity to delete it . . . annnnnnnnd the moment has passed. Look at Wilson in the movie “Castaway”. Tom Hanks really needed that ball. Did he ever lose his marbles to the point that he thought it was animate? I doubt it, but the need to connect is great, so he found a ball with a name on it and a connection was born. It kept him from going 100% batty. Remember how he screamed “Wilson” when the connection was broken, literally, in the water? It was anguish. Wilson represented some semblance of normalcy, of humanity, and gave him hope. Rituals give us hope.

I have a stuffed blue dog named Ol’ Blue because, duh, he’s blue, so I couldn’t very well name him Ol’ Yeller. Blue has just about no stuffing left in him and the years have worn his material hide quite thin. When I was little I believed he could fly. I would frequently tie string around his neck and twirl him about to prove my point. Ol’ Blue still sits in my room. Need I remind you I am approaching 48 years on this planet? Still, Ol’ Blue is out in my room, not shoved in a box or rotting a land fill. Ol’ Blue is a symbol in my life. He reminds me of a time when my life revolved around my mama and flying blue dogs and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches on soft white bread with the crusts cut off. Ol’ Blue has been with me my entire life. Ol’ Blue is a touchstone for me. He knows everything about me, and loves me still. He has lived with me in Texas and Oklahoma and California and Georgia and New York and my beloved Colorado. Having something tangible can help us mere mortals to feel connected to our sense of spirit. God doesn’t care if you see him in a church or while you’re snowboarding and I don’t think he cares if you find him in a rosary or roast beef sandwich or a no longer stuffed, stuffed dog. Additionally, given the many names he has I don’t believe he cares if you call him God or not; you can call him The Universe, The Great Beyond, He Who Is Super Awesome, or Chet if it suits you. Whatev’s, He’s flexi.

So let’s get back to my unnamed client. As I mentioned, despite all her rituals she seemed quite determined to tell herself she is sick and needs help . . . lots of help. There are those who poo poo all things spiritual as being cults and giving people crutches to lean on. I don’t agree with all religions being cults, but that’s ok, I’m not opposed to others thinking that. I certainly can see why religion and spirituality is accused of being a crutch; it is for some. Some people are determined to remain unhappy. Maybe this is their ritual, I don’t know. Still, saying spirituality is bad 100% of the time fosters the same level of ignorance as those who say religion is the only way to know God. God is everywhere. I’m certain he’s in my coffee and that’s why it’s so tasty. It’s worrisome though, to see this reinforcement of things negative built into things that are meant to be positive. Book stores are full of titles telling us how to get what we want, how to stop falling in love a crazy people, how to keep a balanced life, and so on. All these books focus and feed on people’s need, under the pretense of being positive. If you get everything you want, never love someone crazy, and have a totally balanced life then what have you learned in life and when, oh when, have you ever had any fun? For cryin’ out loud, go eat a corn dog and immediately after, ride a roller coaster, live a little.

Rituals, signs, omens, hearing just the right song on the radio at just the right time, these things speak to us. If I were to lose Ol’ Blue I would feel genuine anguish, just like Tom Hanks losing Wilson. I have many such totems, an old beat up jacket that belonged to my dad, mama’s recipe box, a letter from a friend who died, a stone from another friend, they all mean something to me. They all connect me in my heart to people I love and love is a divine feeling, it is our reminder there is something greater than us all that binds us all.

Without ritual what gives our life meaning? If we do not pray or love or hug or become emotionally attached to stuffed animals or drink coffee then what is there?

Enjoy it. Eat a corn dog and ride a roller coaster.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


It was still warm outside at night. We were at a poetry reading and in her poem she spoke of an event that in the past would have held a secret shared moment between us. In the past we would have surreptitiously caught each other’s eye and oh so discreetly smiled. A knowing moment of times gone by would have passed between us in a room filled with people, and only we would be aware. But not tonight, not this time. I look at you and I see you purposely avoiding my eye. I see how stiff you hold your neck, how rigidly you stare above my head, how purposeful you are in your ignorance of me. YOU WILL NOT LOOK AT ME NO MATTER WHAT . . . and then I know. All my suspicions of the past several weeks are confirmed in that moment. Before then I could pretend that I was just imagining things, but not now . . . now I know. Soon I will dream of you and I will be wearing exactly what I am wearing tonight, but I don’t know that now. All I know now is everything has changed, and you didn’t even bother to tell me.

Fall sets in, the air gets cool. I wait for you to tell me the truth, but you won’t, you don’t. A few weeks later, it is no longer warm outside at night, you invite me to spend your birthday with you and I wonder “was I wrong”? But I call you the morning of your birthday and you do not answer, I know I’m not wrong. She is there and you will call me when she leaves. You call me later, I come over and see the evidence that you have not hidden well enough. I say “I’m going to have a cigarette”, I step outside on the front porch . . . and cry quietly. It’s your birthday, I can’t say anything on your birthday and it’s really not my business anymore . . . but I did think we were closer than this. You ask me to send a card to your mother and I’m sad for the girl who was here just a few hours before. She is not spending your birthday with you or sending a card to your mother. She doesn’t know what’s in store for her, but I do, and I hurt for her.

Many weeks later I am at your house for dinner. It has not been warm outside at night for a long time. I see the evidence again and I think “It must be hard to tell me, I will help him”. I ask you about it, giving you an opportunity to get it out so we can have openness and honesty. You pretend not to hear me. I have a moment to renege on my question. I can drop it right here and not hear the truth, and in my nanosecond of hesitation I have unwittingly given you time to dream up your lie. And lie you do. I ask again, I will not be daunted, and you look at me . . . . and lie to me. You look your friend in the eye and spew a river of bile. You tell me more than I had asked, always a sign of lying, and your lie is so outrageous it’s insulting. If I hadn’t been so stunned and hurt I would have laughed at the sheer audacity and stupidity of it. I let you have your lie, what else can I do? I lost my friend weeks ago. It is snowing and cold outside now, but I lost my friend when it was still warm outside at night. I have clawed on to my friendship with you, looking away, ignoring what I see and hoping it will all go away . . . and it does. It goes away, but not in the way I had hoped.It will take several more weeks for what remains of our friendship it to die its slow painful death but it began in summer, when it was still warm outside at night.

And now, many years later I watch your duplicitous nature with someone else. I watch you lie to her. It has been summer, fall, winter, spring, and then summer again many times since that first time . . . when it was summer, when it was still warm outside at night.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Day The Earth Stood Still. The Day The Music Died.

It’s 5:00 and I’m driving home again, it’s hard to believe it’s my last time. The man on the wireless cries again “It’s over, it’s over”. Dancing with tears in my eyes.
- Ultravox

I wasn’t going to write about September 11, 2001 and the 10th anniversary. It seemed obvious, purposely dramatic, maybe a bit flippant, and possibly cheesey; writing about tragedy just to elicit a response, so distasteful. But as it draws near and the stories of loss and gain and love and heroism unfold, I find I am compelled to write about it and it seems that to let it pass by blithely would be disrespectful.

When I was very young people knew exactly where they were, what they were doing, and with whom when President Kennedy was shot. The world seemingly stopped in November 1963. I had three weeks left in the womb, that’s where I was. Now, though, everyone knows where they were, what they doing, and with whom on that God awful morning of September 11th, 2001. The world stopped again, and has not spun the same since. Loss and gain in the same moment, a man quietly leaps out a building to his death while another wins a Pulitzer for his haunting photo of the flight downward to earth. Thousands of families are torn apart while a few people find love in the face tragedy.

There is silence, and then there is deafening silence. There is the kind of silence when you ask a question and the person hesitates, you know what’s coming . . . they are about to lie, to break up with you, to not break up with you when they should, to say something uncomfortable. It’s a silence we all know, it makes us roll our internal eyes and think “Spit it out, get on with it”. But then, there is that most peculiar silence that signals you something is wrong . . . very, very wrong. That silence is horrific, terrifying, and in that moment you wonder “Do I want to know what’s coming? I only have a nano-second of blissful ignorance before the terror comes out”. That was the silence of that day. My dearest friend, Therese, was living with me then. She was embattled with her own life changes and as a result slept on my couch for several months. We went through many tragedies together during that time and have come to see it as fortuitous and divine that we were led to be roommates during those months.

That particular morning the phone rang early, back then plain ol’ push button house phones were still the norm. Ours was black, rang loudly, and sat right by T’s head. It woke me up that morning, but it must have really jarred her. We were both asleep still. I heard her early morning, confused voice, the not quite focused voice, and then I heard something odd . . . the t.v. She turned the t.v. on. It seemed strange, but I was rolling over to go back to sleep and didn’t think too much about it, then I heard it . . . the nothing. The void. The absence of anything. Utter shock. The deafening silence. It crept down the hall from the front room and filled my room. It filled my mind. It filled my heart. I was scared. Something had happened, someone must have died. I have a choice, if I don’t go in the front room then time will stop right here and I won’t have to know and it never will have happened. If I don’t move, then it never happened . . . but then I’ve abandoned my dearest friend in a dark time, whatever it may be. I would never do that. I get out of bed, I pad down the hall, and I see it. I see her horror. Her indescribable look of horror. She has no words. She is stripped of her normal eloquence and inhumanly large vocabulary. Some pieces of that day are blurry now. Did she just point at the t.v. screen and utter a caveman like “ugh”? Did she say anything even remotely cohesive? I don’t remember. I only remember being on the couch, watching in horror and just as we are beginning to wrap our brains around the fact that this is real, this is not some sort of epic “War of The Worlds” hoax, one of the towers really has been attacked by terrorists, just as we are getting that . . . it happened again . . . and we saw it. Right before our very eyes, we saw it. We huddle together on the couch crying, helpless, watching people choose to jump out of buildings rather than being burned to death. People are dying, Pulitzers will be awarded. The symbiosis of life and death.

The horror continues. A plane crashes in Pennsylvania, the Pentagon is bombed, what would be next? Who is safe? And then, wait, back up, the Pentagon? THE PENTAGON?! MY BROTHER AND HIS WIFE ARE THERE! OH JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, LEE AND SARAH ARE THERE! DEAR GOD GET THEM OUT, GET THEM OUT! I DEMAND IT, I AM NOT EVEN ASKING I AM TELLING YOU FIRMLY AND RESOLUTELY, GET THEM THE FUCK OUT . . . NOW. I cannot reach my brothers house, phone lines are down, or crammed full or God only knows what but I cannot reach my brother and his wife. Where are they? WHERE ARE THEY? JESUS FUCKING H. CHRIST ON A BIKE WHERE ARE THEY?!!!! Ten years ago I did not have a home computer. Why would I? I had one at work and who the hell wants to be on a computer on your free time? Oh how times change. I know that I need to go to the office and at least try to reach them via email. I have no intention of working and if I had any means of reaching them at home I would, but I need that computer and it’s in my office.

I get in the car, turn the key, and the radio comes on. I notice that whatever cacophonous, possibly base, and revolting morning show would normally be offending my ears right now has become a whole other animal indeed. I am grateful and happily surprised to hear that even the loudest and most ridiculous of radio on air hosts are professional broadcast journalists today. Today they deliver the news with dignity and compassion. I am proud, but I beg for life to go back to normal. I want to hear Lewis & Floorwax make off color jokes about human anatomy and peanut butter. It’s degrading and vile, but it will mean the world is normal again. I drive to work. The streets are barren. The entire world is stricken. We have been sucker punched. There are a few people at work, but no one is working. Everyone is glassy eyed and wondering around aimlessly, like zombies. One man I work with is retired from the Army. I see the look of despair and helplessness in his eyes. He is fighting tears. I see that he feels a type of pressure and separation I can’t know. He is trained to serve his country, but here he is in a mortgage office. He feels there is something he should do, but what? Why is he even here? And then I know, he feels a sense of duty. It doesn’t matter if it’s serving his country or being a good employee, he is a dutiful person. We are all broken today, but duty and honor are still intact.

I search my email, no word. I send emails and wait for a response. I get nothing. I finally am connected with another brother, Eddie. Did he call home and get Therese? Did he email me? Did I reach him at work? I don’t remember, I only know he told me Lee and Sarah are safe. Lee and Sarah are safe. Lee and Sarah are safe. Lee and Sarah are safe. Have you ever heard more melodic words in your life? Those words are a song, a hymn, an anthem. Lee and Sarah are safe. Do you feel the calm those words bring? This is my story. This is my world. My little world is ok. The big world is suffering. An email arrives, it’s my boss telling us all to go home, my Army co-worker races out the door with nary a goodbye. I laugh at the message and wonder, “Did you really think anyone would stay?” Still, it was the right thing to do. Today isn’t a day to pick on my boss. We’re all lost today, and besides, Lee and Sarah are safe.

I go back home. Finally I am able to talk to Sarah on the phone. I collapse. I break down at the sound of her voice. Fears I didn’t even realize I’ve had these past few hours come tumbling out. I am terrified in my own home. I am miles and miles from my family and I am not safe in my own home. For the first time in my life, my country is not hallowed ground. What will be next? Where? Who? Are they flying over head right now? Will my little house be bombed too? I don’t feel safe in my home. I’ve never felt so vulnerable in my life. This is not an embellishment for the sake of interesting story telling, I’ve never felt so unsafe and vulnerable in my own home in my life. I have no control over what happens to me. Anyone can walk in my door right now and kill me. Planes are going down everywhere, people are leaping to their deaths, Lewis & Floorwax are acting like adults, my world is not safe. And then my sister in law, Sarah, exudes grace under fire. She calmly, firmly, reproaches me. She is likely wagging her finger at me as she tells me “Don’t you dare feel that way today. That is mental guerilla warfare and that is how they want you to feel. If you feel scared today then they have won. You are safe. You are safer now than you were this morning and don’t you give in to them, it’s unpatriotic.” She is right, and she gives me hope. I did not vote for President Bush, but he was the President on that day and I am an American on any day, I will be sure of that every day of my life, no matter who is President. I am safe. Lee and Sarah are safe.

Lee was indeed in the Pentagon, but unharmed and he was out performing his duty as a former officer and always a gentleman by driving people home who could not get there otherwise. He was out driving the streets of D.C., where God only knows what could still happen, to make sure his co-workers got home. Lee and Sarah are safe, and now others are safe at home somewhere in the D.C. area, where they should be, because Lee took them there. He is a hero.

On the t.v. the world continues it’s twisted, tormented decline. Lives are changed forever. It’s become unimaginable. Back then I hadn’t met my friend Maura, or her brother David. As I write this I wonder how Maura felt that day. Did she know her brothers were on the scene, saving lives? How scared and proud she must have felt. David was with the NY Fire Department. There are people in the world who are willing to save you, to save me, to save every one of us and they have never even met us. There are hero’s who will rush into a fire to drag you and your pet out and bring you to safety. David is one of those people. David has lung issues now, the ramifications of one day, of one minute in one day, can be so far reaching. David is a hero. He should wear a cape . . . every day. There are so many who should. In my world Lee and Sarah are safe. In the worlds of others how many people are able to count their loved ones among those who are safe because David was there? Another of her brothers owns a bar, 80 blocks away from the site. People covered in dust and debris walk in and he gives them water, an oasis in the middle of their long march home. Another hero. What a welcome sight his bar must have been.

I think back on the Pulitzer prize winning photo. It’s beautiful, quiet, serene, not at all a scene of horror. The man in the photo is not flailing wildly about, it’s as though we are watching his last moment of prayer and resignation and acceptance, he is going to meet his maker and, quite possibly, is already there in his heart. It’s one of the most peaceful moments I’ve ever seen, almost intrusive, watching this mans final, personal atonement. And below him, thousands are shrieking . . . and thousands are being hushed forever. It is said there are no atheists in fox holes. I wonder if the same holds true for burning buildings. The three men I admire most, the Father, Son, and The Holy Ghost, they caught the last train for the coast . . . the day the music died.

Tomorrow marks ten years. Tomorrow is the first Sunday of the football season, a day normally filled with immense joy for me. I do love my football Sunday’s don’tcha know. Life goes on because it must, and at times life stands still because it must. So tomorrow, when the National Football League poses the question “Are you ready for some football”, my answer will be “Yes, but after a time of quiet, reverence and reflection”.

It’s a tough day. Do whatever it is you need to do. Blessings to each of you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Across the purple sky all the birds are leaving. But how can they know it’s time for them to go? Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming. I have no thought of time. For who knows where the times goes? Who knows where the time goes?

-Sandy Denny

This summer has been busy. Very busy. Tremendously busy. It’s been filled with a lot of fantastic weekend trips, some great concerts, and some awesome volunteer opportunities. This summer has left me with no time for just me. This summer I have learned I am absolutely terrible at time management. I try to post my blog around the 20th of each month. It is now the 7th of August and I am just now getting to my July writing. Fail. This summer has, often times, found me feeling tired, overextended, behind on the things I want to get done, and no time to just lie on the couch and read The New Yorker. Yes, I get The New Yorker, so what? I don’t even know why I keep my Netflix account open, the movies just sit around and get dusty. Summer in Colorado is short. It doesn’t stop snowing here until late May and starts falling again in October. If you want to camp, raft, canoe, hike, bike, rock climb, practice yoga in the park, go to Red Rocks, Jazz in the park, or whatever your favorite summer pursuit may be during our warm weather days, you have to make a commitment to get out there and do it. Last weekend, as I canoed down the Escalante Canyon, my friend and I talked about how neither of us feel that we have enough time to do all we want to do. I said I wanted to create more time and he said “Yes, but it’s summer. If you don’t get summer pursuits on the calendar the time will fly by and the opportunity will be gone.” It’s true. That was such a fun weekend and such a beautiful part of Colorado to see and I spent it with such great people, I’m very happy I didn’t miss it. There is precious little time for lounging about, and yet, we need balance. At least I do anyway. Some people find balance in large increments such as “I’ll play hard all summer and rest in the winter”. But winter is no time for resting, there’s snowboarding, winter camping, snowshoeing, hut trips, ice climbing, and all kinds of outdoor activities that now just move indoors; not to mention indoor activities, if you paint, knit, or create in an indoor kind of way then your time is still full. And for those of you who don’t live in my beautiful, adopted, home state, I can tell you that a blizzard one day still brings sunshine the next. You can ride your bike outside here most days of the year. Still no balance.

Many times during the course of the last year I have said I wanted to have more down time and more time just for me. I have been enormously insufficient in this endeavor. As a new years resolution I said I was going to stay home one night every weekend. I haven’t always achieved this but even on the nights I have, I haven’t gained what I sought. I don’t think I even had an understanding of what I sought. Originally I just wanted rest I suppose, but that’s not enough . . . or not accurate at least. What do I want? What do I hope to accomplish and what has to go in order to convert my goals to accomplishments? The last six weeks of my life have been a blur and as this weekend grew ever closer on the calendar I got more and more excited about it. On Saturday and Sunday of this weekend I stayed in town, I did not cover for any one at work, I did not go out Saturday night, I did not go out Sunday night, and I did not say yes to any volunteer projects. I have stayed home. I have been doing whatever I feel like doing for two solid days and the luxury of it is beyond what I had even imagined. Yesterday, while lying on the couch reading The New Yorker, I fell asleep and took a nap. Can you imagine?! A nap! What the . . . ?!

I think back on a time in my life when people seemed to “empty out” for a while. Most of the friends I spent time with moved away, got married and disappeared, or had kids or any number of other life changes that take people out of your circle. I felt lonely during this phase and had more time than I knew what to do with. Weekends at home with not much to do became normal for a while, and I did not like it. I felt sad and friendless. I am grateful in my life now to have more invitations than I can manage and more friends than I can count and a continually ringing phone. I never thought I would need to schedule ME in my daytimer. When I was younger I never would have wanted to. When I was younger being at home just one night during the course of an entire month was a horror, but those days are long gone.

So here’s what I have learned about me; I am terrible about saying NO and I have no focus. The Black Dogs Dad told me I lacked focus (or was it discipline?) and I wasn’t sure what he meant at the time. I thought, quite indignantly mind you, “I have complete focus and you, sir, have no idea what you’re talking about”. Then I threw down my gauntlet and challenged him to a duel. Ok I’m kidding, I didn’t actually call him sir. I didn’t say any of it because I felt a bit jabbed and I didn’t feel like starting a fight. Pick your battles don’tcha know. Now though, in trying to find time in my life I see that it’s true. I completely lack focus. That’s why my staying home once a weekend didn’t produce great results, because I had no expected outcome, no goal. I didn’t have “my eye on the prize” as people say, because I hadn’t chosen a prize. I am quite easily distracted. When I clean my house (which I admit is rare) I have to remind myself to stay on task. If I start in my bedroom and move a dirty glass into the kitchen then I will stop along the way to pet the cats, see that the floor needs vacuuming, drop off the dirty glass in the bathroom, pull the vacuum cleaner out of the closet, notice the coats in the closet are looking a bit worn and determine to make a Good Will pile starrrrrrrttttiinnnnnnnnngggg NOW, make piles of clothes all over the house and four hours later I have a dirty glass in the bathroom, the bedroom has not been cleaned, and the floor has not been vacuumed. Focus. Clean the bedroom. One thing at a time, stop getting distracted by shiny things in the sand.

I believe if I have a goal then the time management issue becomes less of an issue and more of a happy necessity. Additionally, part of time management means that I need to say “no” much more frequently. This is hard for me. It’s not hard because I feel obligated. I don’t feel bad saying “no” at all, it’s just that I like saying “yes”. When someone asks me to volunteer to help out children or animals or cancer survivors or to save Mother Earth, then I want to always say “Yes, most emphatically yes”. When I am invited to a party or camping or a concert or a weekend in one of the many beautiful places in my state I want to go! Nonetheless, I have made a goal for myself and achieving that goal means I need more time for me, and more time for me is created by giving away less time. I will, of course, finish out what I have already committed to doing for the next couple of months, but after that I’ll relax a bit.

Dr. Bud Harris wrote a book called Sacred Selfishness. This book reminds people that it’s ok to give time to you before giving time to others. I think the books message is a bit more slanted to people who feel flat out guilty saying no (not me) rather than those who just suck at it (totally me), but the message is still the same. In Julia Cameron’s classic book, The Artists Way, she echoes the same sentiment, make time for you and your goals, fulfill your needs. I read both of these books a couple of years and I believe strongly in the messages of each. At the time they seemed like good reference books for me to have under my belt as suggestions to my clients and not necessarily something I needed personally. Massage Therapist, heal thyself. If you’re not happy, no one around you will be happy either. I can think of many times I’ve made people around me miserably unhappy because I wasn’t giving enough to me, because I wasn’t feeling fulfilled on my own. When we’re not fulfilled in our own lives we look to others to fill in the gaps. That’s no one else’s job and they’re not too happy about having to do it. Don’t ever look at someone and say those dumb words “You complete me”. Ick, I just wretched a little.

So, as part of my new goal oriented, making time for myself, theme in life I have decided to make better time of the three mornings a week I have. Rather than sleeping in, heading to the gym . . . or not, then off to work, I’m setting an alarm and have a wee bit of a morning schedule, thus my writing right now. Today that nasty, beeping, noise rudely, abruptly, cacophonously jarred me out of my restful slumber, slapped me across the face and said “GET UP LAZY BONES”. I did as instructed. I do not generally rise at 7:00 a.m. if not forced to do so but today I got my lazy bones up. I was not forced, I had a plan, and I am happy to be sitting at my computer writing and feeling that I am actively pursuing my goal, with focus, with discipline, rather than just waiting for it to come to me and knock on my door. I wish that plan had worked but, alas, it did not.

So, have I written about focus or free time or discipline or pursuing a goal? For me they all seem to be the same right now. For you, it may be just one of those things. As always, I write about what’s going on with me because I know I’m not so special that I’m the only one. Whatever I’m feeling, I’m sure the rest of the world has felt at some time as well. Maybe your goal is to get more sleep and not be so productive, God love ya, that’s awesome. It doesn’t matter, focus on your dream sleepy head, and create the time to do it. You may have to say “NO, NO, NO!” to some things, but it’s alright. There’s only so much we can all do in the world so choose wisely.

Pick your battles don’tcha know.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Abhor, adore? Tomato, tomahto?

Some words are sad to sing, some leave me tongue tied, but the hardest words I know are I love you, goodbye.

Thomas Dolby

There are times in your life when you have to say goodbye to the idea of something, or someone, you wanted. Times when you finally, finally realize it’s not going to happen, continuing to want it and feel it slip through your fingers just hurts. It’s always hurt, but it’s reached a point where you can’t take it anymore. The hurt no longer serves you and no longer defines you. Sometimes we really do let our wounds define us to some extent. We let the hurt serve the purpose of blocking us, keeping us from moving on. We let our fear guide us nowhere, it just holds us back. Could be the loss of a career, a lofty goal you had set, maybe a big purchase like a house, and often times it’s a person.

Recently I sent an email to someone with whom I had a very close friendship several years ago. Through changes in both our lives; marriage, divorce, children, no children, we have managed to both move on in separate directions and our friendship only lives in the past. I was looking forward to hearing back from her and hearing about her life now. She did respond . . . two weeks later . . . in a very polite and professional manner and signed her short email with her best and warmest regards. Best and warmest regards? I wasn’t applying for a job, I was reaching out to an old friend and for whatever reason her reach back didn’t have the same length. I don’t know why, it’s alright though. I’m sad, I’m hurt, but it’s alright. Did I offend her? I dunno, she didn’t tell me. Communication is key, who knows what it would have revealed? But she didn’t tell me.

A while back I needed to communicate some very strong and difficult feelings I was having to a different friend. I needed to tell my friend I was having feelings of childish petulance, feeling left out and unimportant, feeling jealous, feeling embarrassed about my feelings, feeling vulnerable, and finally . . . (deep breath in), feeling love. So many things bottled up for so long and I wanted to get them all out, I wanted to tell my friend everything I felt but when I reached out . . . the reach back didn’t have the same length. Communication is key, who knows what it would have revealed? But I got no response at all.

One of my closest friends and I exchanged life experiences today about moving on; the beauty of it, the bitter of it, and the better of it. Someone with whom she shared a life, a house, dogs and dreams is gone . . . and has moved on to another. She has also moved on to another. They were both relieved to finally tell the other and, of course, there were some loving, confusing, bittersweet tears. Eventually you wish the people in your past all the best, and you wish it sincerely, but even that has just the tiniest haze of glum and gloom in it. You think back on what could have been, and the picture you had painted in your mind. You think back on what really was there, the birthdays you shared, the song you loved and he hated, the times you laughed until you snorted, that one time in that one place and when you did that other thing, and the secrets you still keep. You dig in to touch the old scars and you wonder what happened. In these watershed times of life I often look back over journal entries, saved emails, saved text messages, and of course, pictures. It’s also good to listen to some sappy music that reminds me of this past part of life just to really add to the melancholy and drama of it all; throw in some alcohol and I’ve got myself a first class pity party, yahoo! Bummed out? Party of one? Your hari kari knife is ready for you, we can serve you now. As always though, time marches on and the wounds really do begin to heal.

One of the mysteries and glories of life is it propels you forward no matter what, and sometimes very much against your will. Many years ago a friend I loved and held so dear reached the conclusion that his troubles were insurmountable. He decided to shuffle off this mortal coil and took his own life. I remember waking up the next morning and dropping to my knees in the kitchen, broken and wondering “How can the sun rise today? Doesn’t it know the world is no longer as brilliant? Doesn’t it have the decency to hang its shameful head at least for today?” But the world really does know better (as does my dear friend Therese who was there to scoop me up off the kitchen floor that horrible morning). I am certain my friend has found his peace, and maybe that’s why the sun shines so bright. Maybe it’s his smile. I want tell you though, there were some times when he was alive that he made me spittin’ mad, times I could have absolutely rung his neck. It’s important to mention this because this story is about the two sided coin of moving on. Even with people you love, or maybe especially with people you love, there will be times when you wonder why on earth you allow this cretin in your presence. Here’s a little hint, it’s because you love them, against all odds and sometimes defying all logic, you love them. Life will always move you forward; you might walk upright on your own two feet, life may drag you by the ankles kicking and screaming, or it may have to pick you up and gently carry you, but it will always move you in the best direction for you. For a while I kept several pictures of my friend up in my house, until my house began to feel like a morbid shrine. Little by little, as life went on, as I forgave the sun for shining, and as I began to laugh again more than I cried, the pictures came down, allowing me to move on. I still keep one picture up to honor my friend, the brilliant star I once knew, and one picture is enough. Life has moved me forward.

And how wonderful is it that life moves you forward?! Whether you are willing at the time or not life refuses to let you stagnate. What if I was still breaking down in the kitchen every single morning? What if every morning for nigh on ten years now I still had a collapse? What kind of testament is that to my friend? To me? To the others in my life and to my divine maker who has bigger and better things in store for me? To not move forward is to slap all that is good in this world straight across the face . . . with your ring hand. (funny eh? I owe that bit of humor to my friend Jeff)

There are times when we hold on to the notion of something for so long because it just becomes habit, we don’t remember life without it. But even so, everything fades, and then one day, it’s just gone. In a puff of smoke all becomes clear and with no drama, no pipe organ playing, no parade down Main Street, and frequently no monumental epiphany, nothing . . . you just say to yourself “Huh, well that no longer suits me, it never really did, I think I’ll move on now. “ You turn your back so easily and walk on so blithely, leaving something that maybe as little as a week ago would have torn your stomach up. You dig in to touch the scars and you find . . . nothing, they’re gone. It’s a crazy miracle, but thank God it happens. All that time you clenched your fists trying to hold on so tightly to something, but it slipped through your fingers anyway, and when you knew it was gone you opened your hands wide and cried out to the great beyond “What happened? Why? Why can’t I have this?!”, and then, a while later, you notice that your open hands are in a perfect state of receiving. Wide and willing to accept what is new, and better.

Like every one of you I have lost hope, dreams, jobs, relationships, loved ones, money, and friends during my stay on this planet. Each of them has pained me and, at times, caused me to lose sight of who I am and sacrifice my dignity (don’t you give me that look, you know you’ve done it too). . . and just like you, I have survived each of those pains. And with each loss there is always that day, that magical day, when you can say “Life’s okey dokey. I think I’m gonna be alright”.

Keep those hands and hearts open wide so you can experience all the good stuff life has in store for you.

Love ya, mean it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cross My Heart

Now the reason we’re here, as man and woman, is to love each other, take care of each other. When love walks in the room, everybody stand up, oh it’s good good good

-The Pretenders

Once, many long years ago, I felt love at first sight. I don’t actually believe in such a phenomenon and yet, it happened to me . . . or at least it seemed that way. I remember it right now like it just happened two seconds ago. I remember his smile, his laughter, how much he made me laugh, and how many times we each said “Hey, me too!”, when discovering how many things we had in common that we hadn’t found in anyone else. It was instant, and when it was over it was unbelievably painful for a very long time.

I thought of him last night, he was a young man then, a boy really. I wonder what he looks like now, nearing 50. I wonder where life took him and if he’s happy. I also wonder; will I ever feel that way again? Is that something reserved only for the young? Is it only in youth, before the jade of age tarnishes our belief in fairy tales, that we fall in love . . . truly madly deeply in love, in the time it takes a humming bird to flap it’s wings?

I was only 18 and nothing so instant has happened to me since. I have learned to control such nonsense, and what has that gotten me? I have learned to question and be wary and “reasonable” and still, I have fallen in love other times with people that are not reasonable for me . . . at all. Love is a tricky, sticky wicket. In the years that have followed I have learned that two people in love can grow apart. I have learned that people you do not fancy will fall in love with you. I have learned that you will fall in love with people who fail to recognize your beauty. I have learned that love is elusive, happy, painful, joyous, sad, unpredictable, and the word love can be used to describe the depth of your feeling for another living soul just as easily as it is used to describe ones feelings for pudding cups.

I saw him once, briefly, several years after our time had passed, and I nearly jumped out of my skin. The good thing was I knew I wasn’t wrong. After years had gone by and there he was, standing in front of me, a chance meeting in a crowded mall, I knew I loved him. I would have walked out on the relationship I was involved in at the time, thrown everything away, to go with him . . . but he didn’t ask me to do anything of the sort. When I saw him I wanted to run to him and leap up, he would catch me and life would go to slow motion and we would be twirling around in a wide open field of daisies. But instead I maintained my composure, walked slowly to him, gave him a chaste hug, shared polite chatter, and then we both went back to our lives. I have never seen him since. I doubt I will ever see him again. I’m totally fine with that, it was years ago and time really does heal all wounds, but it was so fun to feel that way. It was so exhilarating!

Bear in mind I did not have a real relationship with this man. Our time together was brief and long distance. It consisted mostly of phone calls and letters, long before email and cell phones and texts; ships that barely passed in the night, plenty of room for fantasy when there is no dose of reality. Maybe if we had spent more real time together I would have reached the conclusion that he was not the man for me, maybe I would have decided that there really is no such thing as love at first sight and it was just childish frivolity. But that didn’t happen. What did happen was I met someone who made my heart do a back flip right from the start and made me laugh until my stomach hurt. Someone who called me once, long distance, and we talked long into the night and when I fell asleep on the phone, he didn’t hang up. I woke to discover the phone still on my pillow and I could hear his peaceful, sleepy breathing on the other end. The phone company had to have been delighted with the profit they made on that call, and I was delighted with all it symbolized to me. But none of it came to pass. He told me he loved me, and then he disappeared. I have fallen in and out of love since then. I have gotten married and divorced. I have been proposed to, I have broken up with men, and men have broken up with me. My life is pretty much like anyone else’s, moments of sorrow shouldered with moments of absolute fried gold.

This whole falling in love business, it can be tough, eh? We are all unique, we are all special, but the human condition remains the same. The human condition is the foundation of sameness that binds us in our uniqueness. We all want to love. We all want to be loved. As we get older, do we make it harder? Or, do we learn to give in a little on the movie style fantasy and be happy with what’s real? Recently I have been sick so I've gotten to lie around on the couch and watch a lot of movies with no guilt whatsoever. One of my favorites is “Giant”. I love its hugeness, truly an epic saga, but what I really, really love is the imperfect, genuine, and, at times, embattled relationship between Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. They love each other . . . and they fight. He can be Lord of all the assholes at times, and she lets him know it. She does not back down, and yet, she knows when to be quiet and let some things go. She is gracious and gentle at times when I would, perhaps, be having a fit. They battle, they argue, and they love each other all their lives. They know when to just give it up, accept each other for better or for worse, and move on. I also watched “Bridget Jones Diary”. Now here is every woman’s dream come true . . . in a movie. This story has clearly stood the test of time. It was originally written as “Pride & Prejudice” by Jane Austen (my personal fave) and now, all these years later, the story is still selling as Bridget Jones and her mad cap diary capers. Where am I going with all this? Do I have a point? Yes. Yes I do. People want to be loved . . . just as they are. But unlike love at first sight for an 18 year old girl, people want it to last. People want meaning and devotion.

The world is smaller today than it once was. We don’t just fall in love with the girl or boy next door, our fish bowls are bigger than that now. We can meet people from other countries as easily as from other counties. The world is faster. All this new technology has not made our work load lighter or our days freer and the four day work week is still a utopian myth. As our ideas grow larger, I wonder if our eyes do too. “Sure, Simon looks pretty good, but what if I marry Simon and then I meet someone even better?” To some extent this has always been a question I would guess, but now it seems so much more plausible. We hold off on something great just in case something utopian and mythical comes along. I’m not saying it’s bad mind you, don’t settle, I am not condoning settling. I’m just asking the questions, and if you know the answers please let me in on it! I’m down here in the gutter with everyone else, but when I look up I see sunshine.

There are some people that imbed themselves in our psyche. Some people that you just cannot shake, like Henry for Drew Barrymore’s character, Lucy, in “50 First Dates”; she has no idea who Henry is when she sees him, but she dreams of him and paints him. Somewhere deep down she knows she loves him. There are some people that remain. When I think of the young man I knew almost thirty years ago I don’t think of him per se, I think of the possibility. The possibility of what could have been but moreover, the possibility of what still can be . . . not with him of course, just in general. When two become one and still keep the “two”-ness of each of them distinct, there are changes that occur along the way and the beginning can be rocky. Forming a new relationship can, in some ways, be harder than the time honored difficulty of keeping the fire burning. You learn about each other and how each of you handles money, monogamy, malice, and malcontent. You learn about yourself; where can you be flexible, where you need to stay firm in your decisions, and how you can nurture your relationship and your partner while still honoring yourself. Relationships are a commitment you enter into freely and joyously. Relationships change your life, as they should, otherwise why bother? One of the joys is the freedom a good relationship brings, not the freedom it takes away. Being in a committed relationship makes your priorities easily prioritized. You know what is right and what is expected of you and you do these things happily. Why wouldn’t you? You chose this person and life is a bowl of cherries with them, and even when the cherries taste a bit sour, it’s still a fruit that you would never dream of parting with. (I’m not crazy about cherries so this is not really the best example but, a bowl of blueberries or dark chocolate covered raisins or steaming hot oatmeal just didn’t have the same melodic resonance). So, when you look across a room at someone that maybe you’ve just met or maybe someone you’ve known for years and know to the deepest core of your being that you will always love this person, you still have to plant the seeds of love and tend the garden. There are times of drought and times of fertility and they both provide an opportunity for learning and growth.

I feel like I’m rambling now. I am, I’m sorry, I know I am. What I am trying to say is I think love really can be a feeling we have for people and/or pudding cups with equal depth, including people that weren’t right for us. And the people that leave, the people that weren’t right for us, were at least right for a time. There were gifts from each of them. In my relationship travels I have learned “righty tighty, lefty loosey”. I have learned to cut up those plastic 6-pack rings so they don’t get stuck around birds necks, and I have learned about the odd way a soccer game is timed. I remember finding notes on my windshield. I remember angel food cake on my birthday. I remember the gift of chicken soup being brought to my door one night while I was sick; the Steelers were playing, and a dear friend went out of his way to bring me soup.

You know how in 60’s era Doris Day movies the women were always pictured with the soft lens? They have that warm fuzzy aura about them, all misty and angora sweater-ish. When I was a very little girl I thought that’s how men see the women they love in real life, all the time. I thought that when I grew up someone who loves me very much will see me in soft focus. Maybe it’s true. I think there is love at first sight, and I think it can happen with someone you’ve known a long time. I think that just like our 50 first dates friend, Lucy, you can see someone you’ve known a long time with new eyes and fall in love with them again, every day of your life.

At least I hope that’s true.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Volunteer, it does a body good

If you don’t know what to do about a world of trouble, you can pull it through if you need to, and if you believe it’s true it will surely happen. Shining still to give us the will, bright as the day, to show us the way. Somehow, someday, we need just one victory and we’re on our way.
Todd Rundgren

I started on a different subject this month, but I’ve become inspired by the people around me to talk about volunteering.

In December I wrote a bit about giving your money, if you have it, to charitable causes. Now I want to write about giving your time, your heart, your soul, your blood sweat and tears. Hopefully the blood will be as a donor, the tears will likely be tears of joy, sweat is what gets it done. I don’t want to dissuade you from giving money if you can, please do! Try, though, to step out and really get involved in a hands on way, you’ll be amazed at how good you will feel about yourself, others around you, and the world at large.

A few years ago my friend (and many of yours), Robyn, felt so inspired to help cancer survivors in their healing process she started her own non-profit organization called re-org. She didn’t just think “Wow, someone should really do something about that”, she did something about that. re-org is now a growing, local non-profit organization that serves a community of survivors through Robyns efforts and your donations, both financially and with your time. All the massage therapists are volunteers. Every year at the fall wine tasting the photographer (Patrick, whom you will read about below) donates his time and the wine pourers donate their time. For the spring fundraiser (Massages, Manicures, and Mimosas) the therapists are all volunteers as well as the nail technician (Deb, you will see her name here again as well). Please visit

Recently, after the devastation in Japan, another friend, Patrick, was personally touched by this tragedy and is organizing a fundraiser to aid in the relief efforts. Can you believe this? Putting together an entire evening of art to be auctioned and music with not one dollar of profit for himself, all to help a country full of people that are thousands of miles away and he’s never met. That is giving. Please visit

My friend, Julie, lost her brother to Leukemia. To honor his memory Julie put together a weekend of volunteering at The Roundup River Ranch in Dotesero, CO. This Ranch is part of The Hole In The Wall Association of camps. These camps are set up across the country to serve children with life threatening diseases. Children go to camp free of charge and are given all the medical care they need while experiencing summer camp and getting to know other children that are winning the same battle. This is the first camp to be set up in our area, expanding their reach for children. Julie appealed to a group of friends, close to 50 people responded to the call and joined forces to help out. Julie inspires me. Please visit

I work with a woman, Jennifer, who has a set up a program to visit a local safehouse and provide these women with chair massages, haircuts, and manicures. No one gets paid, it’s only to help out women in a situation that I can’t begin to fathom. Can you imagine how nice it must feel to get your shoulders rubbed, your hands massaged, and your head held in a way that is loving and kind as opposed to abusive and scary? You can work miracles in the lives of others, I promise you, you can make a difference.

Missy is about to donate bone marrow for someone she has never met. She is scared. It is going to be painful and it will take several days healing time. But she is doing it to save a life. Please visit

Therese is a regular blood donor. You can all do this and you should. It’s easy, painless, takes almost no time and saves a life. Not to mention you get a free cookie and apple juice, do it! Please visit

Deb donates her time to re-org as the nail technician at the spring fundraiser, she organizes The Mountain Resource Center annual Christmas party, and she puts together baskets for our soldiers. Deb organized a letter writing campaign to send cards and well wishes to soldiers along with baskets of playing cards, toiletries, and beanie babies (they like to hand them out to the local children). She also puts together the Christmas party at The Mountain Resource Center every year through Tallgrass Spa. For many children the gift they get at the party is the only gift they will get for Christmas. Any time there is a need for a volunteer Deb’s hand is high the air. Please visit

You can all become organ and tissue donors; just have it marked on your license. When your beautiful spirit moves on to the next realm, let your vessel help someone who is desperate for it. Someone else can see through your eyes.

If you are feeling low and like you have nothing to give, just try it. Giving to others, serving those in need will lift your spirits in ways that will surprise and astound you, and it perpetuates. Your service may serve to inspire others, you can change the world . . . with your own two hands.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Update on Project Happy

I know you’ve heard it all before, so I don’t say it any more, I just stand by and let you fight your secret war. Sometimes I used to wonder why I used to cry ‘til I was dry, still sometimes I get a strange pain inside.
-Concrete Blonde

So, I embraced being happy and I really am. Now what the hell am I going to write about? People love to write about crappy things in their lives, just listen to most song lyrics closely for five minutes and you’ll see they’re mostly about heartbreak. Can I write about being happy and still have it be interesting? “Is any of your writing ever interesting?” you may be mentally asking me. Point taken.

I listen to my clients at work and I find that they love their pain, they love their aches and ills. They say “I’ve probably got the tightest muscles you’ve ever felt.” They are so disappointed when I say no, so I throw them a bone and confirm that, yes, your muscles are remarkably tight, it must be very painful, your life is very difficult, much more so than anyone else’s . . . ever. Then they’re happy, thrilled even. I watch people get a glimpse of hope and healing in their lives only to return to the safe confines of the dark side and addiction . . . to whatever their addiction du jour may be; could be a person, could be a financial situation, could be anything, even something generally thought of as healthy. Remember “Get Him To The Greek”? Aldous Snow is clean and sober for seven years, but he substituted his substance abuse with five hours of yoga a day. His ex says to him “You can turn anything into heroin”. All things in moderation I s’pose.

I’ll tell ya what though, I’ve really found a lot of happiness in the past couple of months. Snowboarding, either alone or with friends; what a beautiful feeling of freedom, and that includes the face plant I did getting off the lift. A day spent face planting off a lift at Copper Mountain is still a day at Copper Mountain. Snowshoeing, hut tripping, yoga, riding my 800 pound bike, reading great books, seeing great bands, and always my cats, and my friends; these things all fill me a deep sense of contentment. I’ve learned that happiness is a practice. You don’t go to Spanish class because you’re already fluent in Spanish, you go to learn and then you practice, always trying to improve and have it come to you more naturally. I’ve learned that it does not come to me naturally, happiness I mean . . . well, Spanish either for that matter. I see people who are naturally happy, who always have kind words to say, who always seem unflappable and I know that I am quite flappable, but it’s ok. I also know that if I take a minute, calm down, and really assess whatever is currently flapping me, I’ll be able to see that everything is ok. The dark side really isn’t so dark, is it Luke?

Here’s what else I’ve learned, and this is a biggie for me. It’s ok to get rid of stuff that makes you decidedly unhappy. Just because you’ve decided to be happy no matter what does NOT mean you have to put on your Captain Happy All The F***ing Time pants and throw yourself in front of a speeding train of woe. You do not have to leap tall buildings of boo hoo-ing in a single bound. Don’t take a bullet if you don’t have to. Some things, some people, some places, and some situations are flat out unavoidable. You’re probably going to have to put up with annoying people at work, with rising gas prices, and with all the yummiest taste treats in the world being full of fat, but for those people, places, and things that are avoidable . . . AVOID THEM! Get rid of the crap in your life. Set boundaries with people, don’t accept what is absolutely not ok if you don’t have to. It’s like anything else in life, don’t set yourself up for failure.

I’ve also noticed I seem to have less tolerance for some situations. Are you thinking “hey, that doesn’t sound very happy”? Maybe that’s not quite correct, maybe tolerance is a poor word choice. Let me back up a bit. I can have an unkind sense of wit. Sometimes I think of something clever to say, at least in my feeble opinion, and toss that barb out like a javelin, straight and true, because it’s quick witted, it’s funny, and I may get a laugh. I’m starting to not really like that kind of humor, especially since I’m seeing it’s not really all that funny. Seriously, what’s so funny about being mean? What’s so funny about pointing out something that could feasibly hurt someone? People do it all the time and since it’s meant as a joke everyone lets it go, but deep inside witty yet cruel comments are heavy on cruel and light on wit. I don’t like being the butt of those jokes and I find that I really don’t even like making them anymore. It’s so much more pleasant to just be nice to people. This is what I’m talking about as avoidable. If I’ve ever hurt any of you with my sarcastic wit, and I probably have, I’m sorry. I really mean it, I’m a fine example of someone that is avoidable, staying away from me is sometimes not the worst idea. But that’s also what I mean with having a lower threshold of what is and is not acceptable. Why hang out with people that hurt you on purpose? We’re all going to hurt each other enough on accident, why waste time giving hurt out purposely? It’s a waste of energy, and the laugh at the zippy comments aren’t nearly as rewarding as just being “with” people. This is another aspect of being happy, no matter what, that I have to practice. Comments come into my mind as fast as lightening sometimes, but if I wait a nano-second, hold my forked tongue, and just say something kind, comforting, empathetic, or just to confirm I’m listening, it feels so much better. Practice though. Practice, practice, practice until it becomes more routine for me.

There’s another facet of the whole avoidance thing though. I pointed out that some people return to their dark sides over and over. I’ve pointed out that some people and situations are avoidable and it’s ok to steer clear. But, what does one do when the person who keeps returning to ways of life that bring about destruction is someone you love? What happens when you watch someone you love continually return to self abuse in the form of bad relationships, drugs, too much food, too little food, too much alcohol, and any other of the litany of abuses life has to offer? What then? You can’t tell someone how to live their life. You can’t tell someone what is right and what is wrong. It’s not only didactic, it’s subjective. What’s wrong for me may be right for you. I’m no one’s moral compass. There have been times in my life, many times in my life, when I have been the moron returning to the same stupid behavior over and over, or if not returning at least talking about some ridiculous situation long after the dead horse has been beaten. I look back on these times and remember some kind soul who said to me, impatiently, “Good God Laura Ellen enough! Shut the hell up about it!” Sometimes we all need a kick in the pants, we need people to let us know when to cut the crap and start back on the path of happiness. BUT, as I said before, this can be didactic and subjective. It’s hard to know how to be a friend when you watch your friends spiral downward. You want to listen, but for how long? When do you say “I’ve had it. Your decisions are affecting how I feel about you”? Does a true friend always listen or does a true friend draw boundaries? I’m really curious to hear what you all think. I love to get your comments and I’m really looking forward to hearing from you all on this, maybe learning a thing or two. In my life, I’ve decided that I have to do what’s best for me and that sometimes means saying “that’s enough, I won’t hear any more of it, I’m done.” It doesn’t have to mean these relationships end, but they have to carry changed boundaries, and that does affect the nature of relationships. I like being happy. I want my friends to be happy, and I’m not super interested in watching the endless loop of misery. Am I judgmental? It seems I am. Am I a bad friend? I don’t know.

Happiness is open to interpretation. Charles Schultz said happiness is a warm puppy while The Beatles proclaim happiness to be a warm gun. Which is it? Both, depending on who you are and how you are at any given moment, although I’m willing to guess Charles Schultz was being literal while The Beatles definition is somewhat more ambiguous. Soldiers in battle may prefer a gun, but what if they all just had warm puppies instead? How much more fun would that be? Think how happy we would all be if we played with warm puppies more.

This happiness thing is throwing lessons at me of which I never dreamed. Seems you (I) don’t just set out to let troubles roll off your back and POOF, there they go like so much water off a ducks butt. There’s much more to it. I’m happy today, and this includes some situations with which I am not entirely comfortable, but I’m happy. I hope you’re all happy today too, no matter what that may look like to you.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Defending V.D.

My funny valentine, sweet comic valentine, you make me smile with my heart
-Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart

People hate Valentine’s Day. It’s a popular day for hatred, it’s what the cool kids do. Me though, I’m not very cool and I love it, Valentine’s Day I mean; I don’t necessarily love not being very cool, but I accept it. Valentine’s Day, though, with its homemade cards, necco candy hearts with goofy messages, red frosted cupcakes, what’s not to love? I don’t believe people actually hate it, it’s just become very hip to hate Valentine’s Day, even for those who are With Valentine. I am not hip, I’m not “in the know” enough to hate much of anything. Sure, it reflects poorly on my ability to dress fashionably but, if you know me, you know I don’t really care. You should see what I’m wearing now, truly awful . . . but, ya know, whatever.

In my 47 years of this particular life I have spent significantly more years Without Valentine than I have With Valentine, but so what? Being without a significant other doesn’t mean you don’t have loved ones. Valentines from friends and family have significance. I love getting cards and hugs and necco candy hearts with goofy messages and cupcakes from anyone and everyone, who loves me (and I’ll be honest, even if you don’t love me I’ll take a cupcake from you). I love giving cards and hugs and necco candy heart with goofy messages and cupcakes to anyone, everyone I love. It’s not a day of couples and marrieds and significant others, it’s a day of love. I love my friends. I love my cousin (hi Judy!), I love my cats, I love my siblings, and, it’s no secret, I love the Black Dog (to whom I would never give anything as unhealthy for his system as necco candy hearts with goofy messages).

So let’s examine, why hate a day set aside for love? Why has it become so cool, even for those that live in the mighty kingdom of coupledom, to hate Valentine’s Day? If you believe every commercial you ever read, see, or hear you will become convinced Valentine’s Day, like Virginia, is for lovers. I’m sure there are singletons in Virginia that live there happily, and singletons manage to survive Valentine’s Day as well. Movies and love songs, they all makes us feel that we are less somehow WITHOUT VALENTINE. Remember making your Valentine bag in grade school with the cut out construction paper hearts and doilies? How great was that? Really great. Remember buying the box of Valentine’s with just enough for everyone in your class and a special card for your teacher? Admit it, it was fun. If you think you’re too cool to admit it out loud then you can say it privately BUT, I warn you, if you’re think you’re too cool, for pretty much anything, that just shows how truly uncool you are. Sorry, it’s true, pretending to be uber cool is uber transparent, and uber ridiculous, give it up and join the rest of us. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I know this from experience, I’m not cool, I know it now, neither is anyone else, and I’m a lot happier just being uncool me. True cool lies in admitting to being human . . . and humans love to be loved. We were made to be loved. Adam and Eve were a pair, the animals went on the ark in pairs, and it takes two to tango. We love attention, and cards, and necco candy hearts with goofy messages.


So, that’s easy. Think about others, give them a card. What if you give and then you end up not receiving? If you’re nice and there is no quid pro quo, that’s ok, you did your best and you have much for which to be proud, and that’s enough. You don’t need a kind response, though it is nice, but you still did the right thing. And, let’s say you did the right thing, big deal, what’s even better is HOW YOU WILL FEEL. I mean it. Let’s say you’re kind to someone and that someone does you dirt. Screw it, you can still feel good about being nice. Being giving, being kind, being loving, is its own reward. Before you decide to paint me as a pansy, hippie, fairy winged, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” gospel spreadin’ weirdo here, just try it. Be nice to someone just because you want to be nice. Not because you may get some reward, not because you may get a compliment, or even a thank you. Do not attach any outcome to the random act of being kind
. . . just be kind. It does feel good. It is its own reward. If you can’t bring yourself to be kind to someone in person (I’ve felt this way, I understand) wish them well as a prayer, or an intention set out in the universe, or whatever it is you do to bestow good tidings. Someone I am aware of, but never met, is out of a job and scared. I have prayed repeatedly for her to get a job, or find her way, or at least be comforted. It feels good and I believe good things will come her way. Not just because of me, of course, but I’d like to believe when she receives the good in her life, I will have at least helped and not hindered. She will never know I prayed for her, but that doesn't matter, the end is still the same.

Lest you think I’m getting off the track of Valentine’s, I’m not. I want to reiterate, it’s a day of love, and love takes on many varied forms. My parents have moved on to the next life but if you think I wouldn’t send them Valentine if I could, you are horribly mistaken. Send your parents Valentine’s. I have a brother who is estranged from our family; many years ago, prior to his departure from our clan, I mailed him a Valentine; he called me and said, in a trying to hold back the tears sort of voice, “this is the only valentine I got this year . . . from anyone, thank you”. Now that I’ve not heard his voice in many years I’m grateful I can still hear that thank you phone call in my head. TELL PEOPLE THEY ARE IMPORTANT, MAIL THEM A STUPID CARD WITH HEARTS, you may never hear their voice again. Maudlin? Perhaps, but I’m happy I sent that card all those years ago. Send cards to your grandparents, your children, your friends, your bartender, barista, hair dresser, assistant, mentor, whomever. Take cookies to a senior housing facility in your neighborhood. Someday we’ll all be old and hope not to be cast aside. Don’t cast people aside. I know I pontificate a lot in this blog (and in person) but imagine you’re sitting in a senior housing facility surrounded by nothing but other seniors in lock down with crappy day time television. Bleak. Now, imagine someone . . . someone you don’t even know, brought in cookies. How happy would that make you? Now that is what valentine’s day is all about.

I always start these stories with good will and good intentions and I always end up getting preachy and telling people what to do. I mean well, it doesn’t always come out so well. Then, I always end up here, feeling bad that I got up on my soap box and told people what to do and how to act. You don’t have to listen to a word I say (or read a word I write), but if you get nothing else from this writing, please, remember to let those who are important to you know they are important . . . unabashedly.

Be Mine, U R 2 Cute 2 B 4 Gotten, Love U, Cutie Pie

Thank you for reading my blog, thank you for all the comments I receive from all of you (both public and private), you’re all important to me.


Monday, January 17, 2011


If I go out in the morning snow in my pajamas and my winter coat, and take from the house our darker thoughts, and take away the memory of loss, and if I drop them in the snow, will we never find them anymore?
-The Innocence Mission

I have set some goals for myself for the year 2011. Some seem very big and important, others are smaller with less of a “wowza” factor, hopefully all are attainable. One of my goals is to be happy . . . no matter what. Happiness is so easily found at times. Right now I look at my two sleeping cats and feel peaceful and content that we are all home on a snowy Sunday night having a little quiet time. I’m wearing flannel jammies and eating chocolate almonds. How can I not be content, peaceful, happy? Sometimes though, harmony and feeling the milk of human kindness flow through you is a bit more challenging. As I mentioned in December’s blog, when you ask for something, let’s take feeling happy for example, you will get many, many, many chances to test that theory, drive the point home, and learn that lesson. As soon as I decided to be happy some decidedly UNhappy things happened in my life. I’m not talking about missing a bus or breaking a nail. I’m talking about a couple of things that have brought me to my knees spewing out guttural cries and tears. How can I be happy in the face of this pain? But then I realized, I could ask that question rhetorically (and throw in a little dramatic flair) or . . . I could really ask that question and find an answer. Why did I have to run into the last person in the world I want to see right as I decided to be happy? Because I decided to be happy, that’s why. I realized that I don’t have to give all the power in my life over to other people and situations beyond my control. I own my happiness. Happiness is a choice and my happiness is my responsibility. I can harbor bad feelings, I can point fingers, I can blame misfortune and sad tales of woe on someone else, and claim that I was happy until that one person did that one thing and then that other thing happened and then there was that whole domino effect and my personal empire came tumbling down like Jericho and now everything is their fault. I know I can do this because I’ve done it. I can promise you that just gets you (and me) a whole buncha nuthin’. So, I’ve decided to stop allowing other people to have so much say in how I feel. People will still affect my life of course. The way I am treated by others and the things they say will still make me happy or sad or overwhelmed or underwhelmed but the change I want to enact is acknowledging and moving on. Yes, that totally sucked that you ignored me. Yes, it hurt to be forgotten. Wow, I can’t believe I didn’t get invited to that party. Yes, when I reached out to you and you turned your back it hurt. Yes, burning my tongue on magma hot coffee hurt like a sonuvabitch. All these things will pass, I’m choosing to let them pass by more quickly and not keep them close at hand. And really, what else can you do anyway?

So here’s the great part, it’s unbelievably freeing! It’s like losing weight. You lose the chip on your shoulder, the monkey on your back, the . . . the . . . the . . . , I think I’m out of clichés here. Anyway, your life is free to just move on, happy and unencumbered, like water flowing over a rock. There are moments when sorrow tries to come back for another visit, if you want to let it in for a minute or two that’s ok. Invite it in for a beer and sit with it, chat with it a bit, but don’t let it stay. Send it home . . . soon. It hasn’t come back to make you feel good, it came back because without your misery it has no life. You breathe life into either happiness or sadness and you can decide which one you want to spend more time with. Your life is not someone else’s responsibility; don’t put that burden on another person. Sure, other people can hurt you. When it happens let them know, talk it out, hug it out, duke it out, dance it out, and then move on. What if they don’t want to talk? You can’t help that. Shelve it and maybe it can come out at a better time or maybe it’s just time to leave it. Sounds crappy doesn’t it? But you know what’s happy about it? You can stop being hurt, you can stop blaming someone else, and you can stop giving someone else control in your life. Whoever your “someone else” is will probably appreciate it too, they’re sick of taking your (my) blame. People are still going to hurt you, but you have the remote control to your own life. Sometimes ego and fear get in the way of openness and love only to undermine our peace and happiness. There are times when we are justified in our hurt and anger, so we fiercely dig our heels in because forgiveness and letting go would seem to condone bad behavior. We want our trespassers to pay for their trespasses. But listen, the only person who really pays is the person still holding the ransom note for happiness out for someone else to pay. Someone much wiser than I once said “Blame is a sad man’s game”. It really is.

And think of all the small happiness’ in everyday life. C’mon people, I’m eating chocolate almonds right now! How ridiculously awesome is that?! I’m wearing flannel jammies and eating chocolate almonds all while sitting in a fantastic new (used) chair that I got from Craigs list for a lousy $20. That is awesome. I have purple sneakers. Heck yes I do! Purple! I may go put them on right now just so I can look at them. You know what else I have? I have happy memories, even from people that have, at times, hurt me. I can think of so many happy times in my head right now with people that are no longer in my life . . . and those thoughts bring me a lot of joy. I don’t like to use silly, overused phrases like “I can complain that rose bushes have thorns or I can rejoice that thorn bushes have roses” (cheesy) but that’s what I’m getting at here. I can be pissy if I want, but bleck, that’s just no fun and it doesn’t suit my flannel jammie wearin’, chocolate almond eatin’, new (used) chair sittin’ happiness. Life really is good, even when situations seemingly suck. When someone leaves, someone new is on their way. When you lose a job, a better one is coming. When you get a traffic ticket . . . I haven’t figured out the good part of that, but I guess you could be happy that you’re able to pay it? When you get a cold you get to lay on the couch watching movies all day long, totally guilt free. Besides, being happy is so good for your skin and your digestion and your sleep. When you’re happy and you know it then your face will surely show it (clap your hands). And happy people are about a million times more pleasant to be around than crabby pants people. Don’t be a crabby pants.

Be sad when you need to be, it’s ok. And then drop it, feel the peaceful calm feeling deep in your belly, remember how awesome you are and move on.

Well, I’m a happy boy (happy boy)
Well, I’m a happy boy (happy boy)
Oh, ain’t it good when things are goin’ your way? Hey hey

-The Beat Farmers

Feelin' so good this entry got two lyrics.