Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hi. I'm White.

Hi.  I’m White. 

And by that I mean, I’m really white.  I don’t mean “I’m Caucasian,” or “I can’t dance,” or “I’m so white that it’s offensive when I try to speak ebonics.”  I mean my skin appears to be the color of a sheet of paper.  I am fair.  I’m pasty.  Chalky.  Glow-in-the-dark.  All my life I have been hearing things like, “You should get some sun on those legs” and “Do you feel okay?  You look really pale.”  One time on the first beautiful day of Spring, I came bounding down the stairs in my new shorts (dark purple – admittedly, not the best choice, okay?!  I see that now).  My then-husband looked up at me and, in all seriousness, asked me why I would wear white tights on such a nice day.  White.  Tights.

I have spent most of my life self-consciously trying to cover my skin.  To hide it, disguise it, just
"Solarcaine stops sunburn pain,
when someone you love is hurting ..."
to make it appear a little less … blinding.  I grew up in the water, in the sun, in and out of a swimming pool.  Coppertone sunblock, Solarcaine, and an Aloe Vera Plant (click HERE for instructions) were standard supplies in our repertoire, and I was blissfully unaware of my ghostliness.  But then, around about fifth grade, someone pointed out to me that my “tan” was the same color as the skin underneath most people’s bathing suits; in other words, tan, for me, was just flesh colored. 

A DOUBLE TAN! It says so
right there, it must be true!!
I was 12 and in 8th grade the first time I saw it, the answer to my prayers.  A white bottle with blue and brown letters on the front:  QT (That stands for “Quick Tan.”  Stay with me, people).  I remember covering just my ultra-white legs with the thick, gloppy, chemical-smelling white lotion.  I could hardly wait for school, when hordes of boys were sure to descend upon me.  This early sunless tanner was, alas, everything its descendants turned out to be, but times 100.  Uneven, blotchy, too-dark and too-orange.  I remember standing in the lunch line with a friend, who was so embarrassed she said loudly, “Jeez, Joy, ha ha – you’re the only person I know who would lay out with a sweatshirt on!  [insert more nervous, too-loud laughter here.]”  It was, of course, obvious that no amount of sun exposure would turn anyone this unnatural shade, particularly someone as pale as me.  I had to wear pants for a month, scrubbing my legs into meaty stumps nightly until the last of it finally came off. 

For 8th grade graduation, the class of ’85 went to a water park as a prelude to our formal dance that same evening.  I watched my friends smear on SPF-less tanning oil (they were no amateurs!).  In spite of past experiences, I did the same thing.  A horror-struck teacher, near the end of the day, saw me and said, “Honey, didn’t you put on any sunblock?  You’re … really … burned.”  I said Nah, I’m gettin’ a tan! DUH.  And remember, this was the mid-eighties.  Madonna set the style.  We liked the lace – lots of it.  The cheaper, itchier, scratchier, more torn up – the better.  I did get the dress on, but peeled it off immediately upon returning home, to spend the rest of that night and several more after it sleeping underneath a swamp cooler (on the floor, on top a sheet, wearing only my grandmother’s mumu). 

Sadly, that was nowhere near my last burn, although it was one of the two worst I’ve ever had – you know, the kind that keeps you awake, shivering violently all night, like you have a fever?  The kind that blisters, burns, weeps, then dries and itches so badly you take a brush to your body?  And then it peels off in big, gross sheets of skin – No?  You must have some pigment in your body. 

I graduated high school in 1989.  We wanted big, blonde hair and a Ban De Soleil tan (click HERE for the awesome retro commercial!), to set off the the pink zinc oxide on our lips just so.  The notion of skin protection and cancer prevention was still in its infancy, but no one wanted to hear it.  I do remember my grandmother, though, standing in the shade by the back door, screaming at me about skin cancer and wrinkles, as I lay on the deck slathered up in Crisco (yes, you read that right) head to toe and some Sun-In in my hair.  I would roll my eyes

and turned up my boom box, drowning her out with a mix tape, every day during summer vacation.  Specifically, for 2 to 3 hours, between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. -- because that is the time period, we were told, that the sun was at its most powerful and thus you SHOULD STAY OUT OF THE SUN. 

 (Click HERE for more really
bad fake tan photos ...)
It was in my early twenties, I think, when the makers of sunless tanning lotions tried again.  I could probably have a nice little nest egg, had I saved all the cash I forked out trying to fake a tan over the years.  One particularly expensive “system” (St. Tropez, I believe - click HERE for the current version) involved scrubbing with a gritty pre-tanning exfoliant, followed by the moisturizing lotion. You could “customize your color” by adding the coca-cola-colored tanner, and slathering all over your body.  I must say, I was quite an expert after a while.  No dark splotches or white spots or orange fingernails; I knew all the tricks!  Exfoliate extra at your knees and elbows!  Use a light touch on dry and/or wrinkly areas!  Scrub with a fingernail brush after every application!  Don’t let any clothing touch until it’s dry! 

 No matter how heavily perfumed these products were (and believe me, some were pretty thick), they always ended up stinking.  The perfume washed off, but the chemical smell of the color remained.  Oh, and speaking of water – if you swim with this stuff on, it will wear off in big patches, leaving you looking a little bit like you might have the beginnings of leprosy.  Or just white, all over again.  I must’ve preferred the appearance of leprosy, since I kept at it all these years.  [As a side note, the leprosy look will happen eventually, with or without swimming, and you will have to sweat your ass off in jeans in 100 degree weather until your thighs cease to look like the skin is peeling off.]  Night after night, I slathered some variation of this crap on before bedtime all summer long, all through my twenties and thirties.  I exfoliated, applied, went to bed on an old towel on TOP of the blankets, naked, so as not to mess up my “tan” before it dried. 

And I still got harangued.  How many times have I been asked, Why do you keep wearing that shit?  Followed by:  (a) it stinks; (b) you just look orange; (c) your knees/hands/palms/elbows look dirty; (d) Why don’t you just get a tan?  That last one, I have to say, is one of my faves.  Because I so badly want to look like an Oompa Loompa, and I love it when you ask me these embarrassing questions.  Seriously, if I could get a freakin’ tan, would I bother with this shit? NO, is the answer.  No.

This year, as usual, I began to dread the nightly application of the stink-lotion.  I put it off.  I have last year’s Jergen’s Natural Glow, and some L’Oreal Bronzer, among other things, under the sink.  I woke up for the first day of my new job, and wished I had put on a  tan the night before.  But to my own surprise, I wore a skirt anyway.  It got hotter, and I still didn’t put any on.  I knew I had to put on a bathing suit last weekend, and STILL I didn’t put any on.  And I felt embarrassed of my glowingness, yes.  But God, it was really nice going to bed comfortably, really nice not to worry about the sunless stink.  Even more nice to jump in the pool and stay as long as I wanted, without giving a thought to my tan being eaten off by chlorine.  Nice to get dressed without worrying about staining my clothes, nice to not have to make sure I have a constant, unending supply of that crap.  And I do see people staring at my legs sometimes, usually people with a nice tan who, I would imagine, can’t fathom skin this white exists.  I have even heard a joke or two being made at my expense as I stroll happily from the office to the parking garage in all my pasty-white, vampire-like glory, but I just keep on walkin’, my friends. 

We all have things we don’t like about ourselves, inside and out.  Some of these things can be changed, and some cannot.  The older I get, the more I grow on the inside (and maybe some on the outside too, ha ha!), and the less I care about hiding my real, true, self – because who am I trying to impress, really?  My Lobster knows what color my skin is, and he thinks it’s beautiful (his beautiful daughter and her beautiful mother are the same beautiful pasty white shade as me – who knew that was someone’s type?).  My family, for the most part, is the same color as me (with a few exceptions, one being my own son who was blessed with his father’s gorgeous olive complexion).  Do I still wish that I could get a tan?  Yeah, I do.  I’m a work in progress, what can I say?  I also wear make up and high heels (although they aren’t nearly as high as they used to be), and I torture my hair a little and sometimes wear things that aren’t comfortable just because they’re pretty.  But I do it because I want to, not because I feel like I have to.  Two steps forward, and only ONE step back.  I’m counting that as a WIN, thank-you-very-much. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Reluctant Journey

A Reluctant Journey

"Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution.  Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages."
~Thomas Edison
Cows Love Jazz! NO, seriously - click here.
A couple of weeks ago, I began to consider giving up red meat, since I really don't eat much of it anyway.  A week later, after eating all the shrimp and tilapia I could stand (there's not a lot of seafood available in Fort Morgan, frozen or otherwise), I thought, why not try to quit eating meat altogether?  It won't be that bad.  I mean, I can still eat cheese.  Sadly, after a week of increased cheese consumption, my ears were swelling nearly shut (they do this often due to allergies of unknown origin, but this was much worse).  After blaming it on the wind and whatever else I could think of, I noticed that it happened right around the same time each day -- after my 3:00 p.m. cheese stick snack.  Pfffffbt.  Ah, well.  For years I have substituted almond milk in place of cow's milk anyway (for reasons listed under "cheese", above).  Might as well give up the damn cheese, too.    

I have been on all sorts of diets, usually as part of my never-ending (losing) battle to shrink
my butt.  Weight Watchers (online and in person), e*diets.com, myfitnesspal.com, Eat Right for Your Blood Type, Almased meal replacements --  I could go on.  Last year, I tried gluten-free for health reasons (digestive issues, you don't want to know), and a few years back I even pulled off a vegan stint for about 40 days, thanks to the E2 Diet.  Out of all of them, I felt the best on the vegan diet, believe it or not (barring one meat-crazed, out-of-control craving for a McDonald's Quarter Pounder).  It was initiated for health purposes (my cholesterol was bordering on high), though I lost a substantial amount of fat (stomach fat, even!) in the process.   

And doesn't it just figure that the diet my body seemed to like the best was also the most annoying to follow?  It required way more preparation than any other diet I've been on.  Eating out (not just at restaurants, but at friends' and relatives' houses, too), I was hard-pressed to find something I could eat.  I found most of the vegetarian options (and vegetarian recipes) to be full of cheese and/or sour cream, to make up for the lack of meat -- AWESOME, can I have some oil and fat with my carbs, please?!  A vegan diet was difficult enough to follow in California, where fruits and vegetables are plentiful; I can't even fathom trying to pull it off in North East Colorado.

"Wait a tic," you might say, "Aren't you in the middle of Farmville?"  Yep.  I anticipated produce-a-plenty.  However, the grocery stores in Fort Morgan (of which there are -- count 'em -- three, the best option usually being Walmart, believe THAT or not) have the saddest selection of pitiful, limp, unappealing produce I have ever encountered.  All of the fields surrounding us are growing soy.  And hay.  And at least one giant potato field that I know of.  Hey, at least there are potatoes!  Nah, those are for a potato chip company.  The soy and hay are grown to feed the meat that feeds the people.  Apparently that is far more profitable than growing vegetables, and I get it; people have to earn a living.  And that is pretty much the only way to turn a profit out here. 

Back in the early 2000's, I accidentally read a diet book based on veganism (Skinny Bitch), when I didn't know what "vegan" meant (just wanted the "skinny" part).  It started off as witty and entertaining, but then quickly and seamlessly moved into describing meat industry horrors, and relaying quotes from the seriously deranged people who kill animals for a living, which my brain will never be rid of.  I have seen the images of dairy cows with udders literally exploding with milk, their teats covered in scabs from being milked raw (which is what prompted me, when I did drink milk, to pay an arm and a leg for organic -- now, when Chris picks up a carton of non-organic milk, I say, "Oh, so you prefer your milk with scabs, these days?"  It's a very effective little campaign). I have watched the videos and read the articles depicting the very real and absolutely unnecessary pain and suffering going on at slaughterhouses.  I also know a lot of people who do not eat meat for moral and ethical reasons. 

I will spare you additional gory details, but suffice it to say that (a) if you've never looked into it, it's worse than you can possibly imagine (really, truly -- they torture these animals for entertainment), and (b) the unspeakable things that happen to the animals we eat before their meat goes into our bodies is not news to me.  And yet, I am sad to say, I have lived an odd dichotomy:   As much as I love animals, I also love to eat meat.  I love hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs and sushi.  Shit, I even love Chicken McNuggets, to be honest with you.  Good cuts of meat, crappy cuts of meat, I have enjoyed it all, and to make matters worse, I like my steaks rare.  I have spent a lifetime quietly scoffing at vegetarians and vegans, thinking what a pain in the ass they are.  Furthermore, the more political the "don't eat meat" argument, the more likely I am to eat a big chunk of meat in your face.  (I know -- who am I, right??  I am not proud of it, but it's true.)

To my chagrin, the fields out here that do not contain soy, hay, or potatoes, are full of live meat -- that is to say, cows.  These are not the happy cows of the California milk campaign.  They are living in muck and filth, and according to what I know to be true, that is the least of their problems.  I have seen fields full of cows before, and intellectually, yes -- I knew where they were headed.  But now, I regularly see those semi-trucks roll by, packed full of cows, which roll by again a few hours later completely empty.  The frequency of it, coupled with the meat-packing plant located nearby, has made it increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that I eat those cows, knowing full well what horrors they suffered before slaughter.  Even worse, I am actually helping to fund it with what little hard-earned money I have. 
"No man should be allowed to be
president w
ho does not understand hogs."
-President Harry Truman
(I don't know why he said that,
 but apparently, he did.)

My feelings on this subject took a turn for the worse not long ago.  While driving down the 
freeway I came upon one of those trucks.  As is my practice, I tried to pass it by as quickly as I could, not looking.  I pulled alongside the left of it to make my move and, God help me, I looked.  Just for one second.  And yet somehow I locked eyes with one of the many pigs crammed into the back of that trailer, and I could not look away.  It felt like it lasted for 20 minutes, at least.  I cried for a couple of miles afterward, and I cried when I tried to relay the story, embarrassed as I was about it, to Chris.  I would have done anything to save that damned pig.  Just that one pig. 

I am not saying that you should not eat meat.  I don't even know that I will be able to complete this meatless journey (and I am definitely not giving up my girls' eggs!).  You will not find me making any PETA-style attacks on anyone, or giving you my moral and ethical standpoint on Facebook.  This is such a personal choice.  However, if you're moved in the least, perhaps just consider buying kosher.  If you have access to a Trader Joe's, they not only sell free-range, organic chicken, but kosher beef, as well.  In order to be labeled kosher, rigorous cleanliness standards and, more importantly (to me, anyway) standards for the humane treatment AND slaughter of the animal must be followed.  Yes, it's more expensive -- quite a bit more.  But the little peace of mind it gave me was always worth it, even though I really couldn’t afford it!

I haven't really felt the same since the day I had that damn moment with a pig headed off to slaughter, whose suffering is long over now.  Living here, I am confronted daily with the faces of the animals I eat, and I am hopeful that will generate the strength I need -- the strength I have always longed for but didn't think I possessed -- to put my veggies where my mouth is, and give up meat altogether. 

So, should you spy me in a fast food drive-thru horking down a hamburger, please … don't judge.

"The animal liberation movement is saying that where animals and humans have similar interests (we might take the interest in avoiding physical pain, as an example, for it is an interest that humans clearly share with other animals), those  interests are to be counted equally, with no automatic discount just because one of the beings is not human."
~Pete Singer, Australian Animal Activist

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Lobster Love Story

A Lobster Love Story, Times Three.

At 41 years old, it is with a certain amount of embarrassment that I refer to my Lobster as my "boyfriend".  [Click HERE for Lobster, defined.]  You'd think this would be easy enough to avoid, but you'd be wrong.  Last week alone, somehow - even though I see very few people these days - I was asked a minimum of THREE times if I were married. Followed by, "How long have you been together?"  Um, do you mean consecutively?  It's not an easy answer.

Round One.

Around 2002, I was a 30 year old single mom to an angst-ridden, moody, already-bigger-than-me 12 year old boy.  I had just recently pulled it together and broken off an engagement from an emotionally abusive jackass (a San Francisco Firefighter, and the reason why, to this day, I am the only woman I am aware of who finds firefighters totally repugnant).  I worked long hours and was under a lot of stress, so I was pretty excited when I was able to work enough overtime to pay for a no-kids-allowed houseboat trip with friends, most of whom I'd known for 10 years, give or take.

I brought along someone new to the group, a 6' tall, size 4, platinum blonde friend and co-worker (let's just call her Barbie, shall we?). When we arrived we were greeted at our vehicle by a few friends, one of whom turned out to be someone's brother - Chris.  Not surprisingly, the men were absurdly friendly and overzealous in their assistance upon our arrival.  This is to be expected when in public with her; someone once apparently mistook me for a bar stool while out with her, almost sitting on me while trying to get her number. AWESOME.

Round 1
Anyway, I digress.  In spite of the odds, Chris and I ended up together.  It was immediate and intense, that kind of love that worries you because you think you can't live without it.  We lived two hours apart and managed to date for about two years. He had an easygoing teenage daughter that I loved, and I had a defiant teenage son who went out of his way to keep people from loving him. Chris was immature, and I had been forced to mature before my time - and so I tried to demand maturity from him. At about a year and a half, I could feel us circling the drain, but ignored the symptoms and hoped for the best (because THAT usually works, right?).  During what turned out to be our last breakfast together, there was an excruciating silence wherein we both realized quite suddenly that there was nothing left to say; I guess refusing to admit defeat does not stop the break-up train.

Don't ... think ... about it
After he broke up with me I called a psychic (don't judge! You, too, can make an appointment with her - just click here: Pinky).  My sister and I met her in Santa Cruz, at a psychic fair (we still refer to her as "Pinky," because of her glowing, flowing, glittery-pink display).  She said he loved me, that we'd be back together eventually, that this was not the right time.  NOT what I wanted to hear.  I cried, I sobbed, I watched TV for two solid weeks. Then, I found a counselor and told myself I was only allowed to cry at her office, and I kept that promise, most days.  I forbade our mutual friends to mention Chris to me, I joined eHarmony and Match.com, and serial dated.  I worked, I worked out, I started doing yoga ... none of which got rid of that feeling (you know the one I mean).  However, by the time I opened an email from Chris months later (asking whether I still had the "balance" of his father's pots and pans, and telling me how sorry he was to hear that my grandmother, and then our dog, had both passed away shortly after he dumped me), I was finally pissed off instead of sad.  Too scared to open up a barely-healing wound, I fired off a very clear go-to-hell message.

Time passed, even in the face of my personal Armageddon -- I changed jobs, took classes, started to feel independent and secure for probably the first time in ... ever. I met a man and we fell into overwhelming infatuation.  That turned pretty quickly into a less than mediocre relationship, but inexplicably (as is so often the case with me),  I forged ahead. We got engaged and married, in spite of my nearly passing out during the ceremony when the sickening knowledge that I was making a huge mistake overtook me.  I sent out announcements with a hopelessly romantic photo attached, and made sure to send one to Chris' brother and his wife, specifically with the hope that it would be left out where Chris could see it (to my delight, I found out later, it was - SCORE!).  Not long after I was married I heard Chris had moved to Arizona and was engaged, and I still felt that familiar stab.  DAMN IT.

Round Two.

It was around then that I started seeing Chris pop up on Facebook.  I pretended not to see, but eventually he sent a friend request, and seriously ... like I might say no?  I was totally fried - finishing up yoga teacher training, my son turning 18 and preparing to graduate high school, my marriage falling apart.  I was hoping to hear his life sucked as badly as mine, but he didn't give me that pleasure. I got no inkling at all that life in Arizona with his fiancee was anything short of dreamy (Barf).

My husband and I separated, and I moved into my own place. I heard from Chris that he'd be in town for some dorky motocross event with  friends; he wanted me to meet him for dinner.  I said yes.  Now, I have found that it is a good indicator that you're about to do something incredibly stupid, when you don't feel compelled to tell anyone about it.  Neither of us told a soul we were meeting. In fact, we actively went out of our way to hide it from people -- but continued to loudly convince ourselves it was a perfectly fine idea.

It was not, as it turns out, a fine idea.  I just remember the next day thinking, shit, I miss him, that did not go at ALL as I had planned.  We had lunch a day or so later, and he went home, and I expected I would just be nursing a broken heart all over again for a while. He still lived with his fiancee (of five years - really, who waits that long? DO it, already!), and I had yet to file for divorce.  We managed to keep all of this hidden from people, until about two weeks later when he attempted to move out of said fiancee's home.  She discovered the reason he was so suddenly leaving after hacking into his email accounts, and the craziness that ensued defies description.

Round 2
He half moved out of that house and in with his mother in Arizona, and half moved in with me in an apartment in California.  He lost his job shortly thereafter (I am like some sort of financial success repellent), and his "hobby" business became his only business, serving as a very convenient excuse to continue living between two states (and two women).  One day, after one too many crazy texts and/or emails from his ex, I felt some sort of cement wall spring up around my heart. It was instantaneous -- I was driving somewhere, and received a text from her telling me they had seen each other, and I was done. Over it. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.  I suddenly didn't care where he was or what he was up to.  I was in the middle of my own divorce, my son was preparing to leave for the Air Force, and I was just finished with the whole ugly mess.  He tried to convince me we should have dinner when he came to get his things out of storage, but there was NO way I was letting that happen.  No Renee-Zellwegger-in-Jerry-McGuire-moment for me, thanks ("You had me at hello ...!") .

Cocktails, anyone?
In February 2010, my son left for Basic Training. I had a lot of new time to myself.  I did a lot of yoga.  I drank a lot of cocktails.  I taught a lot on weekends.  I worked, I played, I worried about my son, but what I remember most is that I didn't think about Chris at all. I didn't feel sad, or lonely, or lost, or ... anything.  There was a complete void of feeling.  For the first time I was single, no child at home, and not looking for a boyfriend - for reals this time.  I was healing from a lifelong pursuit of happiness in the form of a husband and someone to be a father to my son, and the continuous hurt and disappointment that resulted.

Aaaaand, Once More: Round Three

Cut to June 2011.  I had been tentatively planning to attend an annual camping trip with friends for the 4th of July.  My friend Joy (I know, ridiculous -- but yes, I have a friend named Joy) had said, "Chris will be going on this camping trip. I want you to come, but I thought you should know."  I had said (and I meant it): "Whatever, I don't care anymore -- seriously."  I was leaning toward going, but still unsure -- my camping stuff was all packed away, I didn't feel like being seen in public in a bathing suit, blah blah blah.

A week or so later, on a Saturday morning, I was standing in the shower thinking, you know, I might be ready for a relationship now. Maybe. I sent out a prayer to God, to my guides, to anyone who might be listening and have some say in such things:  "I think I might be ready to let someone into my life again.  If you agree could you just, I don't know, send me someone decent, please? If I'm not ready, you know, whatever.  Thanks."  As if on cue, that very afternoon I received an email from Chris -- supposedly he just wanted me to know he was going camping, so it wouldn't be a surprise, and to break the ice so we would not feel awkward.  I actually looked up to the ceiling and laughed and said out loud, Really??  This is who you're sending me?  Is this some sort of cosmic joke?  It was pretty comical to me.  I still had a hardened shell around my heart, and my biggest concern was that I didn't want an ex boyfriend to see I had put on weight; it truly never occurred to me that I would ever love him again.  (Insert buzzer sound here) WRONG.

I went on that trip.  There was the initial awkward exchange, but there were plenty of people around and it didn't last too long. We kept our distance, and I didn't feel even a twinge of renewed interest that first day.  Then, dinnertime came. We had all been in the sun, drinking, talking, hanging out.  Back at camp to make dinner, Chris called me over to the barbecue where he was cooking.  "Hey," he said, in a drunken slur.  "Go wake up my brothher.  He's in hiss tent."  "Okay," I said, and I turned to leave.  To my surprise, he gave me a parting smack on the ass with his hand. I stopped in my tracks, turned, and said, "Um. Did you just hit me in the ass?"   "YESs," he said, Cheshire cat grin on his face: "... and SOME pepple might think that was inappppropriate."  I just laughed, and went to wake up his brother, Jeff.  (Apparently some had been hitting the beer bong a little harder than others.)

As the night wore on, and Chris continued to drink, his, uh, advances became louder and more persistent. He's a largish, loudish person on any given day, so this was really something to see, and the entire campsite was pretty entertained.  "Choy.  Chjoy. JOY. Come over here. I have something to say. JOY! Why do you keep trying to get AWAY frommeee?"  I said, "Chris, I ..." to which he replied, "Don't call me names!"  

At dinner, sitting at a picnic table with about 5 feet between us (and other people at the table), Chris said, "Joy. Come over here, Joy.  Why are you sitting so far away?  Sserioussly," and he reached over and slid me up next to him.  I eventually got up and walked away, but he followed:  "JOY! Stop moving!"  I stopped and turned and said, "Fine, here, say it.  I am trying to stop you from saying something you will regret, but you're clearly not going to be deterred."  "JOY. Joy.  I LOVE you, Joy.  I loved you before, I love you now, I have always loved you. I know we can't be together, whatever the reason -- I know it would never work; one of us would have to give up too much to do it.  But you are the love of my life.  You always have been."  

Quietly, quickly, and barely detectable, I felt a fissure forming in that shell around my heart.  I just said something like "okay, you're right it would never work," and moved away as quickly as I could.  But that was it, I was done for, and I knew it.  That was the beginning of the end of my futile resistance.  (Apparently, a sloppy, drunken, proclamation of love is what it takes to win ME back -- I gots standards, after all.) That was July 2011, and by December I had moved to Arizona.  
Gotta love a man 
with a cat in his coat.

And what is different this time around, our third attempt?  Well, communication, for one. If there is an elephant in the room, we discuss it.  We have also grown up enough to accept one another just the way we are (I have always said, it is all about finding someone whose crap you can put up with, and vice versa - because we ALL carry some crap).  But it is the ordinary everyday things that make my heart overflow.  Like, if he gets to the coffee maker first, he makes me a cup and delivers it to me, wherever I am.  He makes me laugh every single day.  He supports my every endeavor, and he is my biggest fan. And we have never, this time around, had an uncomfortable silence like the one at that awful breakfast so many years ago.  A comfortable quiet between two people can be a beautiful thing.  

YAY for happy endings, and
 new beginnings!

So, no, I am not married.  I am 41 years old, and I live with my boyfriend.  There have been some seriously difficult times since I first moved to Arizona, emotionally and financially, and I am certain there will always be more waiting in the wings.  I might not be able to tell you with certainty how long we have been together, but I have never been more sure that I am finally, at long last, in the right place, at the right time -- even if  that place is located in the middle of nowhere, northeastern Colorado, surrounded by weeds and farms, without a yoga studio, Target, or Starbuck's within 50 miles.  Now that, my friends, is Love.

"And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course."
- from The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran

Monday, January 7, 2013

Um. What just happened?

Still a full day of packing ahead of us.
December 11, 2012 was the year-mark for the day I uncharacteristically rolled out of Northern California and into the Arizona desert to be with my Lobster*. On December 27, the Irish Travelers (my Lobster and I) hit the road from Chandler, Arizona and relocated to Ft. Morgan, Colorado.  You have probably never heard of Fort Morgan. Me neither. That is because Fort Morgan is agricultural, middle-of-nowhere, not-a-Starbucks-for-50-miles town.  It is flat and brown and, in certain places, pretty smelly.

*Click HERE for Lobster, defined
This life-altering plan developed over a period of, oh, maybe two weeks. One day, someone tells your boyfriend there is a great job for him in Colorado and the two of you have a quick "too bad it's not closer" conversation about it. Then you wake up and you've quit your job, have a couple of weeks to prepare, and haven't quite nailed down some minor details (like "Where will we live?").  

Chances are, at some point, you've heard that quiet voice inside pushing you in a direction you'd rather not go.  Sometimes it's a quiet hint, sometimes an order, and oftentimes it's ignored. The road leading us to Fort Morgan felt like a map being quietly unrolled at our feet that we were gently compelled to follow.  Every obstacle we thought up was countered by a quick and easy remedy. It reminded me, actually, of those recent Carmax commercials:  "I don't even know where to start," someone says. Then a "start" line appears, and they can't help but follow it:   

After Chris accepted his new job offer and I had quit my job, we flew out to see one of the only two (barely) acceptable and available rentals. We looked at the first house, and it was a dump.  Just a total dump. Not the "needs some TLC" farm we'd hoped for.  The owner had literally been patching the out-buildings together with tin and plywood.  Our animals may as well just stand in the open for all the protection those things would provide. The neighbors, who are very close, had a mobile home in their yard, and rusted out vehicles all over the place.  As we drove away, a dog came running off the neighbors' property to chase our car down the road.  Shortly thereafter, I found myself in the local bar, drinking a vodka-cran before noon. 

Option #2 was at least what the owner said it would be - an old, small, very well-maintained and cared for farmhouse.  New paint, not just paint over splintered and breaking-away rotten wood.  There was a chicken coop, some horse stalls, a fenced front yard - but it was really exceptionally depressing looking in the cold grey of the day, with anything that might grow being dead and brown from the cold.  Eight miles out of town, not a soul in sight.  If it had at least been covered in snow, it might have felt more acceptable. I was so disappointed by the first house, that by the time we drove to this one I was holding back tears.  We walked around the property and looked in the windows.  At this point, I was so horrified by the entire town that poor Chris was saying, "Don't worry, we don't even have to consider this one, I just want to look around the property a bit."  Which, in man-speak, means "I am considering this one because we are out of options, but I know you're freaking out, so let's pretend I'm not."  I skulked off to the car.

We then rode in silence for about 2 hours to my uncle's house in Johnstown.  We all sat down together at the kitchen table and had a drink or two ... or three. Knowing I was falling apart, I thought I'd steer away from alcohol. I asked for water, but my cousin brought me a shot of vodka and a Pepsi instead.  Chris, who rarely drinks anything other than Coors Light, accepted shot after shot of the tequila that was offered him.  Eventually I began bawling like an idiot, with my uncle across the table trying talk me into feeling better. "You come from stronger stock than this! You can do this! You have to go where the jobs are, Joy, you have to go where the money is. Do you think I want to live in God Damn Johnstown, Colorado?!"  (This is my family's idea of a pep-talk.)  

Chris sat beside me, looking on in quiet horror as I sobbed uncontrollably.  My cousin and her her friend, discovering the hysteria, came over to help.  "Don't feel bad, we will come pick you up - we can go to Denver and go clubbing! It'll be fun!"  (Needless to say, they are younger, and have a great deal more hope and enthusiasm than me.) "You can come work with us at Wal-Mart, we sell insurance. Seriously, we're making like $10 an hour!"  (Side note, I earned around $50k yearly in California, and was already unhappy about earning $27k as a bankruptcy paralegal in Arizona. As you might imagine, this did not perk me up.)  

The pep talks continued.  My uncle took over.  "YOU ARE NOT HELPING! Get out of here! You make TEN ... DOLLARS ... AN HOUR.  Do you hear yourself?  'Oh come work with us at the Wal-Mart!' She is a LEGAL ASSISTANT! She doesn't want to sell insurance with you!"  My cousin responded, "What's a legal assistant?" Followed by my uncle again:  "EXACTLY. Go on, you're not helping! Jesus!"  At this point, I inexplicably turned on Chris.  "Why are you just sitting there not saying anything? Why aren't you defending me?  Tell them I am not snooty! Tell them how awful that town is! What is your problem?!"  He stared at me, mouth open, speechless.  

Eventually I stopped bawling and we went to bed, only to have to get up and leave, hungover, at 3:00 a.m. for the airport.  All the way home on the plane, I asked for guidance or, at the very least, acceptance, of the life that lay ahead.  By the time we got off the plane, I had some:  "I would be willing to live in the second place we looked at, the rental with the property, if it means we can keep our ponies and chickens.  I don't want to lose our farm."  I don't think I have ever seen a man look so relieved. 

On December 30, 2012, in the dark of night, in the snow, in 19 degree weather, we arrived at our new home: 

Fort Morgan, Colorado - Home Sweet Home
"Do not lament perceived immediate outcomes. It is all part of a flow of energy leading you to the destination your higher self has designed. Be patient.The best things in life are not always presented in pretty packages.  Be open to seeing the whole opportunity. It may give you the hope needed to create heaven.(Excerpt from "Think Through the Experience," December 2012, Inner Whispers)
The preparation, packing, two day road trip and arrival in Fort Morgan, well ... that's a whole other blog!