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The Bitch Slap: 5 Things I’ve Done Wrong

mistakes bitch slapThere’s rarely a literary backhand raised at Redhead Writing without it first being turned on myself. Much of the time, the columns in this series stem from some self-owed smackage. From mistakes I made when I started my business to the phone-shaped appendage that’s grown out of my arm and all of the inappropriate places I can put it into action. Thoughts on bullshit excuses and why in the midst of a beautiful man dying unexpectedly I have things for which I’m thankful. Today’s post began last night as something completely different and when my alarm clock let loose the Kraken at 4:55 AM (fuck off…just…don’t say anything about that), the Mac-a-doodle-doo opened and I knew what the reincarnation of last night’s trashed post would be.

Mistakes are ossum.

That’s ossum with an “o” and they’re caramel coated. They’ll stick to your floorboard, but if you pick ’em up and stop crying for a minute, you’ll realize they still taste good even with a floorboard french fry and dog hair sticking to them. I don’t know about you, but I get so wrapped-up in the fuck-up that there is absolutely nothing funny about it and I’m not only losing sleep, but I’m dreaming about it when I actually get there (taking over much-needed Colin Firth/Daniel Craig/Clive Owen time in my imaginary life). And that sucks.

All I have at my disposal in this life are words. I can’t draw for shit (attempts look like a diabetic in sugar shock got hold of a sharpie). Dancing? Yeah, I can do that and it’s more Molly Ringwald in Breakfast Club than Joan Cusak in Sixteen Candles but Bob Fosse I ain’t. So I take words and I wrestle them all around until I have something coherent and the requisite sting lingers on my face from the self-administered smacking. I needed to quit ignoring my mistakes and figure out something useful to do with them. And thus, in true Bitch Slap fashion, here’s my select list of glorious fuck-ups and why I should have realized their inherent glory long ago. (Erika to self: “Bitch, where’s mah money?! / I has it! I has it!”

Glorious Fuck-Up #1: I spent 17 years of my life doing the “Ouldas.” I talk about them often – Shoulda, Coulda and Woulda – and I say the same thing each time (bitches, all three of ’em). There have been more than a handful of moments in the past five years (no, I’m not 21. Erika Math: started working at 16, add 17, that’s 33, plus five since I started writing again…FIVE YEARS) where I sit and lament about not taking the leap sooner. Where would I be? How far would I have come if only…It happens often with my cycling, too. Especially when I get lapped by a 15-year-old. But if I had done anything sooner, it’s all sliding doors. I wouldn’t have what I have and wake up every morning having my own pet Awesomeapottamus and have all those years of stuff that fuel what I truly love doing.

Glorious Fuck-Up #2: Confusing love with convenience. There’s not a whole lot I’ve gotten right in life when it’s come to relationships with the opposite sex. A long history of giving until it hurts and having men who kept me around because I made them feel good. In a conversation with a girlfriend this week, I referred to myself as a medical marijuana dispensary with a vagina. Guys stand me up, great guys die. But if I sit back and look and who I am now versus all those things I thought I wanted, every single relationship fuck-up and unhappy ending has made me a better person for the right guy when he decides to come along. Because all the ones in the past? While some are doucheasaurus rexes, none are what I really want (except one very special man taken entirely too soon). And it’s going to be a brilliant day when I have the perfect reason to skip the 5:30am gym session in favor of nekkid aerobics and inappropriate laughter.

Glorious Fuck-Up #3: Being unsocial. Not anti-social, but more hermit-like. It’s pretty easy to do when you work for yourself, as your sofa becomes a desk, conference room and employee kitchen. When I sold my sofa prior to the Going Mobile series late last year, a lift of the cushions revealed a feast my two dogs were only too glad to nomnomnom. It’s easy to work 14 hours a day without ever seeing sunlight. When you only poke your head outside your door when you hear the mail man (complete with “rawr!” and requisite eye aversion from the offensive sunlight), you’ve got issues. I totally hosed the whole “social” part of my life for awhile and if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t get how good the sunlight feels (and you can’t get it from a laptop’s screen glare). People bring me every moment I cherish. So if you wonder why you don’t have anything worth cherishing, get your ass out of the house and plug into something other than your digital life.

Glorious Fuck-Up #4: Thinking that things will make me happy. Because they don’t. There’s no lasting happiness in a pair of kick ass boots or bicycles, though you can love the way you feel when you wear ’em/ride ’em. For years, I had a pile of both debt and things…and funny thing: I wasn’t at all happy. Today, I have no debt (save a car payment) and not so many things. It’s a very lightweight way to live – financially and emotionally. When you stop worrying about debt and replacing feeling with things, it leaves a lot of room in your life for shit that matters. There’s nothing in a house, closet or purse that can’t be replaced. Memories live in your heart, confidence in your soul and self-worth in your mind. And I won’t lie that I don’t think shopping is fun. But learning to live with less physically and more emotionally makes everything that came before collectively create the glorious fuck-up of a lifetime.

Glorious Fuck-Up #5: Not being comfortable with who I am. From the minute we start getting around this world on our own,we’re bombarded by the No Regime. Stop this, don’t do that, that’s not polite, ladies don’t do that, that’s not appropriate. Holy hell – it’s a miracle that we find anything that’s socially acceptable to fill our days. I spent years berating myself because I wasn’t happy in corporate America and not vacationing in Florida with 2.5 kids and a minivan. When I stopped giving more weight to what other people thought than I gave to what I thought, my life changed dramatically. It’s kinda like that scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy wakes up in Oz and everything’s in hyper-saturated Technicolor when it used to be in black and white. I love ME. She gets better every day and some days are better than others. But even on the days where rabid unicorns dive bomb my life with piles of glitter turds…man, those turds are still made of glitter. There’s not a day that wakes up when I’m afraid to be me…and being me is something for which I’ll never apologize again.

That’s my list. And no, those aren’t my only fuck-ups. They’re the ones at the top of my mind. Now, it’s 6:04 AM and imma gonna set this Bitch Slap to post at 8:45 AM and go have me some coffee and a shower. I’m off to be social, be me, see some colleagues and oh, shit – be on the radio!

If you’re in the Denver market today, I’ll be live on the radio at 11 AM MST (that link also lets you listen online even if you’re not in our ossum Mile High market). The Tonya Hall Show’s previous guests have included the likes of:

  • Evan Greene: CMO of the Grammy’s
  • Tony Hsieh: CEO of Zappo’s
  • Vint Cerf: Google’s EVP and Chief Internet Evangelist
  • Ryan Holmes: CEO of HootSuite
  • Frank Eliason: formerly @ComcastCares and now head of social media for Chase
  • Augie Ray: Sr Analyst in Social Media Marketing for Forrester

I’ll be talkin’ about content. I’ve also been told no swearing, so join me for a PG-rated session of business and marketing talk. It’s going to be a great day, and I consider myself thoroughly slapped. Carry on smartly.

Blue Balls and Lighting Fires

blue balls and lighting fires When you’re laying on a table getting your back tattooed as I was yesterday, there are a few things that go through your mind:

1.  Oh…that’s not so ba…JESUS!
2.  Is he done yet?
3.  That’s a pretty pattern in the cracking plaster on the ceiling.
4.  What the hell got me here?

Focus on #4. December 21, 2010 – and how the hell did I get to be face-down on a table in Fort Collins, Colorado getting a permanent piece of ink that effectively covers 1/3 of my back from my neck down? Yeah, yeah – you can be a smart ass and say I made the appointment and drove my car there, but honestly – it’s been one helluva a year. There couldn’t be a better title for today’s post than Blue Balls and Lighting Fires, and it’s uncanny that I found a stock photo with all of the required elements.

It occurred to me that we tend to think of life broken up into years. 2009. 2010. The looming 2011. I just turned 38. In two years, I’ll be 40. Years – everywhere.

Years are pretty much bullshit. They’re like a half-assed gift wrapping job on a basketball – there because you feel like someone’s going to experience a modicum of surprise when they open it. OH! A basketball! I had no idea! vs. OH! Another year! You shouldn’t have.

Wrapped basketballs are the years of the time measurement arena. We keep wrapping time up in seemingly manageable packages, but it doesn’t help. We break New Years resolutions, we spend too much, we love too little of our hearts and we expect the occurrence of yet another year to change things. And that, my friends, is a colossal load of holiday-flavored bullshit*. (*available in Peppermint, Pumpkin Spice and Banana Bread)

January 1 doesn’t change anything. It’s a reference point. And while I’ve pretty much had my head up my ass on the emotional side of things since Jason died on October 31, I know that January 1, 2011 won’t change the things I want to be changed most. So if you asked me today how my year was, you’d probably get a squinty look and a curled lip accompanied by a, “It sucked, to be honest.” I’m incapable of seeing my life in a block of a single 12 months.

But if you ask me about my decade…my decade has been beyond compare.

Ten years ago, I was 28. If I compare life as I knew it then to life as I know it today, there’s a chasm between that’s filled with experience. Joy. Laughter. Loss. Success. Travel. Firsts. Lasts. Love. Ideas.

That’s a helluva lot better picture than a year that I started in love with a man who didn’t deserve it and that I’m ending having suddenly lost the one man who did.

If I chose to look at my life in years, I’m just giving myself blue balls.

Looking at it in decades…that’s a picture of a woman who’s lit fires and watched them burn.

I like the fire.

The holidays are rough for me this year, no lie. But the coolest thing about a decade – you can take a snapshot of any ten years and look at what you’ve created. Where have you been? What did you do? We place such enormous pressure on ourselves to have our “best year yet” every January 1, but do we ever stop to consider that we’ve had a pretty fucking epic collection of years? It’s a simple question to answer – the “what got me here” with regards to the back tattoo on December 21, 2010. But I’m realizing I like NOT the big picture – I like the bigGER picture. It gives me a lot more credit for being a human being than the immediate 12 months prior ever could.

Lighten the load on yourself. Cut yourself some slack. You can start anything at any time. Only you can choose if you’re going to give yourself blue balls or discover that you’re capable of lighting fires that burn through time like an iron on vinyl.

Happy holidays – and a special thanks to The Denver Post for featuring a certain loud-mouthed redhead in the Sunday paper on the 19th. It’s another thing that adds to a pretty fucking epic decade. Hat tip.

Access

They key to one's heart - it's granted by access. Erika Napoletano is Redhead Writing.

To the man in front of me driving the dingy black Toyota Camry with the sticker on the rear windshield that looks like a fairy shat a hairball and your left hand dangling a cigarette out the driver’s window, funneling its pungent stank into my car window rolled down…

I. Can’t. Breathe.

I’m reminded that I can, indeed, breathe as I’m sucking in the trailing remnant of the cancer you’re causing yourself and I wish you’d just fucking die and get the hell out of my way. Then again, that would be inconvenient as I’d be stuck in some horrific traffic jam, a witness to some sort of spontaneous combustion and stuck on the evening news with my face looking like a sixteen-year-old who just came off nine back-to-back shifts at Burger King’s deep fryer.

About four miles back, I’d just told the man I love that I needed to not see him for awhile. That he needed to stop texting me cute pictures of his young sons as each tore me apart a little bit more, as all I ever wanted was to spend more time with them. With him. That I couldn’t be his friend right now.

Not now.

As each time I saw him, I wanted to walk over and touch him. Kiss him. Scratch his head, tickle him and rub his shoulders. No particular order. I just wanted to do as I had for the past eleven months and as of last Monday said I couldn’t anymore.

As I sit here in my emotional motorized box of wreckage behind the Fairyshat Mobile wishing I believed that sometimes the best decisions are the ones that hurt the most, I begin to think of the one word that’s frequently come to mind following the end of my first real relationship since December of 2005 (aka The Month Erika Prevented Marriage #3):

Access.

When we leave the house each day in search of our fairy tale, I don’t believe that we go looking for love. I believe we go in search of access. There’s plenty on life’s road designed to keep us out: traffic lights, barricades, child-proof tops on bottles of sleeping pills (whistles), locked doors, dipshit speed walkers who spread out three-wide in the bike lane…

We’re in search of those things – and people – that will let us in. Give us access. And in return, we’re looking for people and situations worthy of access to us. That’s not love. That’s risk.

Access is never safe and we can never be sure. It’s never wrapped in a ribbon and comes with no guarantees. It’s a gaping chasm filled with fire-breathing penguins, admitting you don’t know and letting someone see you at your worst so that some day you might learn how to become your best – and as risk would have it, the person you want is standing on the other side of that penguin-filled chasm, holding out their hand and saying, “I’ve got ya – come on over.”

Risk is putting yourself a situation and acknowledging that when you indulge, you may find yourself sitting on your sofa under a freshly installed ceiling fan on a late Friday night in June pounding out marathon-length sentences enumerating the nuances of access and risk since typing is free and therapists run $150 per hour.

On a semi-related note, I recently picked up a copy of Dave Egger’s “Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius.” When reading the back cover, I was disheartened to find that it had nothing to do with ceiling fan installation.

Whether we’re the ones in search of access or deciding to grant it to someone else, it’s as if we’re standing naked on our front porch in a snowstorm asking the one we’ve chosen to run their naked ass through the blizzard, grab our hand and run with us down the street (yes, we’re both still naked) in search of a Starbucks with hot coffee that doesn’t mind naked patrons. Not so easy to find and there aren’t too many people we’re willing to run naked though a snowstorm with – so when you find it, well…it’s special.

And sometimes, people give you glimpses.

Glimpses aren’t bridges over the chasm of fire-breathing penguins. They’re more like ladders over the Khumbu Ice Falls on the way to the summit of Mt. Everest. They look like a great idea.  Functional. We cross them because we want what’s on the other side. But what’s been offered to us isn’t a hand saying “Take me – I’ve got ya.”

It’s more like, “Hey – if you wanna come over here, ya gotta cross THIS.”

With each step, you look down and see those shitty little penguins beckoning you into a heart-wrecking fall to your (or your heart’s) death – yet on the other side, you see what looks like access. And since you want it, you keep walking over some fucked-up ladder wearing alpine climbing gear, wondering who the hell ever decided this was “safe” and exactly how much had you paid to get here?

And sometimes, we’re the ones extending the ladder over the ice chasm instead of the hand.

And it sucks. Sometimes people do just enough to get us to keep crossing the ladder in hopes that they’ll soon build us a bridge, ask us to take their hand. Sometimes it’s not their fault. Sometimes they’re hurt and doing their best to grant access, yet their best is the ladder while they think they’re giving a bridge. And we love them for who they are in the meantime.

Yet in the meantime, we’re not getting what we want. Yeah, we’re good at burying what we want for awhile because each time we cross the chasm via ladder, we think we’re getting access. After awhile, however, it starts to feel like one of those “seriously?” obstacle courses from American Gladiator and we begin to wonder when we signed up to be on a cancelled reality show with hyper-buffed dudes in stars and stripes Speedos and chicks with cast iron tits.

And then, maybe you do what I did: ask the blunt question.

At thirty-seven years ripe, I know the essence of what I want – and it all requires access. A partner, a family, a home (in every sense). And notice I didn’t say a husband, children and a house. The two lists are very different – to me, at least.

A partner, a family and a home – they’re blessings for an already full life I’ve created with friends who love me (and remind me, especially when my heart breaks), a career that makes me smile each day and long list of things that fill my hours with laughter and smiles. Sure, I have shitty days now and again – in fact, I recently described my feelings about a shit day as if I were a snow bank surrounded by well-hydrated dogs – but it’s all recoverable. Not that my current heartbreak isn’t, but I’m looking for the beauty in a partnership.

Where we each won’t always be happy, but we’ll be happy with our decision to have committed to one another. Family won’t always bring laughter, but we’ll always (no matter how many lamps broken, walls written on, parents who pass or taxes we pay) have one another and be better for it when we pull our heads out of our asses to realize it. Where the walls might need new paint and the hardwood floors are gouged from countless dropped toys and “experiments” but each ding and dent builds a collection of memories that, when we take the time to remember them, make us want to find ways to make more. Together.

Yes, I’m a hopeless romantic. Nearly thirty-eight years hasn’t killed that in me. I don’t regret loving or knowing that there was no place I’d rather fall asleep or wake up than next to him. If I could name what it is I’ll miss most, it’ll be the moments where the glimpses turned into access. They came in the form of two young boys who shouted “Miss Erika!” and playfully argued who I’d flip upside down first and swing around by their legs until they were too dizzy to walk. When I heard him tell me that he loved me…and I knew it.  Those times where he didn’t try to “fix” things when I was having a bad day and just listened. When I heard him tell me what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go, what being a father meant to him and knowing that sharing those things with me wasn’t easy. The rare times he let me help him and the more frequent times I heard him laugh and got to see him smile.

That’s access.

So that’s why I believe that we don’t leave the house each day in search of love and if all we want is a husband (or wife), kids and a house, we’re missing the boat. The best moments in my life have been borne from risk and looking down into the penguin-filled chasm and knowing there was a reason to cross the bridge and take that hand. While I’m still mistaking ladders for bridges, it doesn’t mean the love wasn’t real.

It just means that I took a risk. I slipped and fell in love and granted someone access. I’m looking forward to the day where my heart’s ready to do it again. And if it hadn’t been for the last eleven months, I’d never have used the phrase “fire-breathing penguins.” I have Him to thank for that. And that alone makes this discovery on access, my own little Heartbreaking Work, a literary win.

***10:05pm on Friday, June 25, 2010 – As I entered the final period above, my phone chimed with a text message. From Him. Telling me that earlier today, a mutual acquaintance (all of thirty-seven years-old) from track racing suffered an aneurysm and is in the hospital on life support. The past fifteen minutes meant two calls with one girlfriend who also knows this incredibly vibrant man. The second call informing me that she was just told that he is brain dead.

This is a man (and if you’d met him, you’d probably call him a “dude”) I only met two months ago on my first trip down to the velodrome in Colorado Springs. Not once did he ever look at me or talk to me like I was crazy for wanting to do this “track cycling” thing or treat me like His girlfriend and that was the only reason I was there. Covered with tattoos from head to toe, he radiated life and was funny as hell – and not too shabby on the bike with one gear and no brakes. The last conversation I had with him was him asking me how “my man” was and my meek response that he was no longer “my man.” He then asked me if I missed him, to which I responded, “Every day.” And then he said, “Well, then you did it right.”

I don’t even remember if I said bye when he left the track that day.

But having known him barely two months, that’s a guy who understood access. And I think it really sucks that someone like that can disappear in a moment. I feel terrible for his wife, whom I met a few weeks ago, who never in a million years woke up this morning and thought she’d end the day wondering if she would be a widow.

I almost wish I’d never written the post above now. It feels mildly trite and a bit whiny. And the person I want to call and say “I love you” to…well, I doubt he wants to hear it. So I’ll skip it and just wish I had the balls to do it, regardless of the consequences.

***I learned mid-day on Saturday that Vibrant passed away Friday night.

Fine Print

fine print

“There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it.”

Avett Brothers – Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promises

Life’s fine print. All the rules that govern our daily doings, whether social, emotional or practical.

Always say thank you.

Don’t be clingy.

Use your turn signals.

Stop being the asshole with 22 items in the express lane at the grocery.

I think the fine print is exhausting. I don’t subscribe to it.

This past week, I returned to Texas after a year and a half to visit family and catch a quick visit with a friend or two. After not having seen my parents for a bit, I was blindsided.

My parents are going to die.

Both in their early 60s (and divorced since I was in 6th grade), they’re both moving slower and my father looks 70. Mom’s hit menopause (or “minnow paws” as a middle school biology teacher jokingly said), her body’s changed shape, she still smokes and the lines in her face remind me that my growing pains are responsible for half of them. Knees that don’t work right, medications, wrinkles, weight gained and filed away in new places, but the same laughter, same smiles, same quirks.

But facing my parents’ mortality wasn’t what I was expecting as I landed at Hobby Airport last Wednesday.

And it’s another reason I think life’s fine print is bullshit.

When you tear down everything you’ve built around you through however many years you’ve been on this earth, there are two thing that remain:

You.

And love.

The things we accumulate have nothing to do with love, but love for our work is what makes it possible to do the accumulating. The things we love have nothing to do with what we have, yet our ongoing ability to build better Yous is what makes it possible for us to love.

After you’ve stripped all of the rules and fine print away – the shoulds, the coulds and woulds – what you’re seeing is what remains. What persists. The reason people are remembered, whether they’ve left the room or left life.

You and love.

There are times I feel that I tell the man in my life I love him/miss him too much. But to hell with it. When something bubbles up within you, there’s nothing wrong with letting it out. Sharing it. Love is life’s scrap cookies: you bake them from ingredients, few of which you bought on your own and most of which were given to you. What’s left is a sweet medley of gooey goodness that’s always better if shared. So if he tires of hearing that I love him, he can go find someone who loves him less, tells him less, shows him less. Because that’s ME. The Me that realizes what I can’t do is walk a tightrope and fear the fall. The Me that’s embraced that not being afraid of the fall means I have the exceptional opportunity to land on my feet or fall flat on my ass. Both are special and neither would I trade for the world.

But my Me becomes better through love. Love’s painful and the ever-present teacher that tells us when we should apologize, try harder, let go and move on. It’s the hand that touches our waist when we least expect it and guides us when we’re at a loss for where to go. A specter of salvation. If you separate the You and the Love, you’re left without a vessel to fill on both sides. Love comes from you and we’re made of love.

A hypnotic symbiosis. And a realization brought about because I realize that my parents are going to die someday.

I live without regret. Without shame. I’m getting better at humility and failure. Some days are better than others. What I’m most proud of after 37 years is my ability to love.

I love me.

I know what it feels like to love someone else.

I know what it feels like to be loved.

To find it, to sleep beside it, hold its hand. Lose it. Rediscover it. To have it pick you up from school after everyone else has already gone home. It puts everything on hold because you’re in town. It arrives before you get home and does you a favor. To see it, appreciate it and wonder how you ever got so lucky to be on the receiving end of such love.

So the next time you think you’re speaking or acting in a way someone else would consider “in excess,” just laugh. Give your love. Everything we have over the years passes us by in one way or another. It stops by, stays for a moment or a lifetime (someone’s) and when it moves on, we’re left with the memories. It’s the You and your Love – and how you choose to express them when you have the chance – that’s memorable.

You can keep the new TV or the iPad. I’ll take a child’s hysterical laughter, a thank you from a stranger and the unexpected kiss. Don’t even wrap them and skip the card. As somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we’re told to stop telling people what we feel.

Have you ever been in an elevator with a child who says, “I love you, Daddy!” eleven times during a 30-second trip between floors?

When we’re born our parents whisper, “I love you” over our heads at night.

As we grow into our words, we develop the ability to say “I love you” in return.

Then we’re fully aware we can speak and start initiating the “I love yous.”

But as we grow older, it becomes uncool to say those three words in front of friends. We don’t even want our parents to say them in front of the general public.

Then we begin to crave saying them to another audience: our crushes.

We feel adolescence’s surly, static-filled charge and we mistake it for love.  We’ll say it to a boy or girl we’ve gone steady with for three weeks.

Then comes adulthood – leaving the nest, and walking into a world where we have endless potential to fall. We’ve learned the perfunctory and ritualistic “I love you,” giving that to our parents, siblings and relatives as we’re now “old enough” to have had our hearts unevenly broken by the other I love yous.

We date, we find The One (or in my case, The FIRST One…and Second One…if I’m lucky, the Last One) and now we’ve laid our cards on the table with three words. It’s tragically uncool to be in love. Guys start going to Bed, Bath & Beyond and girls…well, we begin to become our mothers though we do our damndest not to.

It’s here that we can fade. I love you becomes something we say instead of something we do and feel. We begin to wonder where the love went and why it seems to have walked away. But if we take a moment, we’ll see that we are the ones who played our cards wrong and left the front gate open as we thought telling and showing the one we love that we actually love them was tragically uncool and annoying.

If we play our cards right, we find the joy in sitting on top of our loved one on a random Sunday morning, smothering them with kisses and ticklings as we say, “Iloveyou Iloveyou Iloveyou Iloveyou Iloveyou Iloveyou Iloveyou” between each attack of the lips and fingertips.

Eleven times in 30 seconds is good. And it’s fun. And if you find it annoying, you need to lighten the fuck up. Because when will you again have the chance to assault or be assaulted by three words that mean so much at the hands of a YOU that makes you feel smarter/more handsome/prettier/better/more special/thinner/taller/tidier/like a better cook?

Maybe never. I’ll run the risk of being annoying any day over the regret of not doing or saying something. Screw the fine print. Colorado says I can’t drive without glasses, but the one thing I don’t need to put on my glasses to see is love.

“When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it.”

More Dog, Less Human

It's time to be moe dog, less human, and gear up for the ride...There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls. ~George Carlin

Sometimes my brain just won’t shut off. Having slept for three hours out of a possible eight or nine last night, the good news is I had time to finally publish a fucking entry on Fury this week. The bad news is that I missed my 2 hour ride this morning because the only way I could sleep at 3:30am was to hork two Benadryl and I apparently shut-off my alarm, rising at 6:30am instead. Goodbye ride, farewell endorphin rush. Hello, mediocre day.

I won’t lie and say it’s been anything other than a relatively shit week for The Redhead. We all have them and I guess I was due for one. Hadn’t really had one since July 4th and the whole snapping my ankle in two like a twig. I’m not much for moping, but last night I found myself smack-dab in the middle of Woe-is-Fucking-Meville (and I wasn’t even enjoying the fucking). Between tidying-up for a house guest arriving today and lamenting about how that Money Tree I bought isn’t holding up its end of the bargain, I couldn’t seem to dig my way out of the pissy little hole I’d dug for myself. Prepared to hear someone by the last name of Gumb shout down for me to do something with a bottle of lotion, I opted for wallowing as I’m faced with (yet another) paradigm shift in my day-to-day routine.

And then this morning, I looked at my dogs.

Hippopotamus and Penelope (shut up – they like their names just fine) sleep in a shared crate. Each morning’s routine is to pop open the Puppy Prison and let them outside to “make cookies” and bark rabidly at birds and squirrels. Possibly the most exciting part of their day, they are simply maniacal – like Paris Hilton should you take away her cigarettes and paparazzi.

No matter the day I’m having or the degree to which I think my life sucks nuts, my two canine furballs will, without fail, do one thing: go after what they want with an unabashed, unguarded purpose.

Come to think of it, my cats are the same way.

And along with that purpose comes a never-ending current of affection. Complete love. They will lick their asses, chase a toy and have no qualms about (trying to) lick my face. And all within a three minute window.

And here I am, having spent hours wallowing and waking up every 30 minutes because I couldn’t shut my brain off and appreciate what’s sitting in front of me. And always is. Always has been. I needed to be more dog.

Not that I’m going to go figure out a way to lick my ass, but it’s definitely time to focus on chasing down exactly what it is that I want. I do that more often than not, but it’s really hard to see the forest for the trees when your head is up your ass. It’s time to be more canine…more feline. The essentials (food, water, crapping in appropriate places) are givens.

Now it’s time to shift my thinking and look at the huge bin of squeaky toys that sits next to the TV as a pile of opportunity instead of one filled with slobber-encrusted, once-new things.

Because life will always bring you new things, whether you like it or not. Some will be things you asked for and others…well, others are ones you wish your cat would bury in the litter box. But you can’t identify, much less appreciate, much of anything when your head is up your ass, now, can you?

Learning to Walk Again

Learning to walk againJuly 4, 2009 wasn’t so much an Independence Day for me as it was a day of constraint. No thanks to anyone but myself, I started the day rock climbing with friends and ended it with a broken tibia and fibula which would see surgery six short days later.

As of the writing of this post, I’ve been on crutches for six weeks to the day. When I woke on Saturday morning, my ankle was looking less Spongebob Square Ankle and more like its svelte, unbroken counterpart…so I got inspired. I set about to descend into the basement and finish organizing my gear room, if only to gaze at all the camping/climbing/hiking porn that facilitates my adventures (when I’m not off breaking legs, that is).

The project required several trips up and down the stairs, and I realized that I could place weight on my left ankle, safely locked away inside its ortho boot. This made conquering the stairs a helluva lot easier and faster, not to mention the total elation that overcame me as I realized I was crutch-free for the first time in six weeks.

After the basement project was complete (hell YES), I decided to take my once-black dog (now a vague grayish tone) to the dog wash. I’m mobile, I’m a biped, I can walk like the big kids. I loaded the Hippopotamus (his name) is the car and off we went to U-Shampooch, in search of my formerly black dog. The net-net of that excursion? One dog who is confident he had the worst day of his life yet who is now a shiny, soft black dog that smells of beauty parlor.

And one girl who realized that she was learning to walk again.

I got home and removed my ortho boot, revealing once again the Spongebob Square Ankle – but this time, one that looked bloated on salt water and those Hawaiian sweet rolls you would cram into your mouth by threes if they would fit.

Well crap-a-diddle-dee. Look at me. Supergirl-Sans-Crutches ain’t so super, is she?

In a most twisted way, breaking my ankle is likely one of the most profound experiences of my life thus far. In all my adventures, I’ve avoided serious injury until this. As a result, I’ve simply refused to slow down. Life comes at you fast and I was always determined to be faster, ahead of the curve. The Chuck Norris of life-thwarting. But when life bitch-slaps you and you find your head ringing inside a room that won’t stop spinning…

you don’t really have  a choice except to slow down.

You can’t walk on a broken ankle – especially not one requiring surgery.

You can’t NOT take your pain pills, thinking your body can just “deal.”

You can’t go back to what you were doing the day before because it requires two free arms and legs…simultaneously.

Sometimes, I think, we all need to break something.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the greatest gifts of my snap-crackle-pop fiasco was finding my friends and having a better understanding of who they are and what they mean to me. I now know who came to my aid without question (and through eardrum-shattering screams) and those who stayed away and avoid the topic of my leg completely when they ping me with idle chat.

I’ve also come to appreciate the slowing down.

When we break, whatever it is that we break, we can either lament and wallow in our pain or choose the alternative: learning to walk again. We’ll never quite walk the same as we did before, and for that…oh, hell yes, I’m thankful. We’ll walk differently and with a new gait, new purpose and with any luck, in a new direction.

And we can’t learn to walk again in a day. Yesterday’s discovery was humbling and liberating all at once.

Now, I’m not suggesting that my readers all go out and screw-up their ankles wide-style as I have. Perhaps instead just ask yourself: what have I broken lately?

Have I ever broken anything?

If the answer is “nothing,” then perhaps it’s time.

A habit, a rut, a relationship that’s more convenient than fulfilling, a partnership. Maybe a keepsake that you keep on the end table in your living room that’s more bad memories than good.

It’s been cathartic, this break of mine. While I’ve found humor in my crutches (aka Cougar Sticks) and new appreciation for those buttons you can push outside buildings that open doors for you, I’ve found more inside myself than anything. New passions have bubbled to my surface, wants and needs long-since-buried underneath my day-to-day that have dug themselves back into the light. So perhaps July 4th really was an Independence Day for me and not the shackle-inducing pinnacle of a summer ruined. While I might’ve lost a summer of fun, the “me” I’ve gained has provided another kind of summertime in my life.

I’m looking forward to the continued effort of putting weight on this life of mine and seeing what kind of gait develops. I have no doubt it’ll be a long stride as I walk, grueling pedal strokes as I punish myself on hill climbs that I love to hate, and one that keeps reminding me that if life isn’t going the way I’d like, that perhaps it’s time to break something again.

Only next time, without the hospital bill.