“What do you write about?” a friend recently asked. “Mostly anecdotes from my life. I usually wait until something interesting or odd happens, and then I try to give it a humorous spin. I’ve had my blog for about 14 years, but only have a handful of followers – mostly friends and family who I’ve successfully bullied. I really just haven’t put in the work to write consistently or build a following.”
As I reflected more on the conversation, I realized this recent lull in writing was brought to you all (or not so much) by not having anything to say.
Normally, I have a plan. I’m involved. I’ve got an adventure in mind, but I don’t – not today. I don’t have a plan at all – not for tomorrow, or next month or even the year. In fact, I began the year by resigning from the board I served on for the past two years – an amicable parting – we all agreed we’d miss each other and keep in touch. They’re nice, hard-working, committed professionals, and I’m the reliable director you could count on to do any task presented to me. I just wasn’t passionate about their mission. And because of that, there won’t be tales of our big conference in the Spring, nor a future trip to Philadelphia. No “stranded by another Lyft driver” stories or thoughtful reviews of what a true Philly Cheesesteak tastes like to look forward to.
To build on that, at the end of May I plan to step-down as a mentor. This little girl is amazing, good, thoughtful, and kind, and I know she will go even further with her new mentor.
And it’s not a matter of me wanting to quit all the things, I definitely want to do something – something creative, something to help improve myself and grow. I just can’t figure out what that is – what that looks like.
It leaves me feeling unmoored.
A friend recently asked, “if you won the lottery, what would you do?” I didn’t have to think, I said, “I’d volunteer.” “Where would you volunteer?” “I don’t know.” Then I spit balled a few ideas, which led to greater/different ideas. It was truly a good conversation; however, I still feel stuck. And the truth is: I just want to make out with a Scotsman in a bar in Edinburgh, which probably isn’t the best goal I could set for myself since it involves a single man who is likely blind and a bit loose. But since punching Jay in his ethereal throat is off the table for the foreseeable future, I figured daydreaming about this mythical Scot wouldn’t hurt.
So, I guess the real purpose of this meandering blog post is to ask questions: What do you do when you’re stuck in a creative rut? How do you go about exploring new ideas? Have you ever re-discovered yourself, and if so, how did you embark on that journey?
A few years ago, a good friend of mine announced that she had purchased a prom dress, some petticoats, and planned to throw on some cowgirl boots then head to a friend’s 51st birthday for a Reverse Quinceañera (see, it’s like “15,” but it’s “51,” thus the whole “reverse” thing). With my 51st a couple of years away, I immediately had two thoughts: 1) That’s a thing? Quickly followed by: 2) YEAH, BABY! That’s a thing!!!! Then I had to patiently bide my time – wait for 50 to come around, then turn the corner for 51 in order for my plan to get underway. With 51 in sight, I gathered a group of friends – people whose brains I could pick, those lucky enough to be endowed with party planning skills, and aren’t party “challenged” like moi. (You see, my idea of “party” usually involves an invitation (aka email) that reads, “Hey! Want to play board games? Come over Sunday and bring chips. Does anyone have an extra table? You “may” want to bring a chair if you want to sit, too. Yeah, you’ll definitely need to bring a chair.”) We held our mid Summer brainstorming session over chips and margaritas, because Texas y’all, and hammered out the details. The question at hand: What did we need to do in order to throw my very own Reverse Quinceañera? From that meeting, a party timeline was born complete with action items and milestones. One of the side effects (benefits?) of being around Project Managers and serving on a project management board – your world becomes about schedules/timelines, and where I may not be able to plan an event, I can drive a schedule. My birthday party began to take shape
As we planned, there were a few things we had to consider before pressing on since I had decided I wanted to add a Bollywood element. The big one was: Was this cultural appropriation? Many of us had read about the girl who faced a huge media backlash over wearing a traditional Chinese dress to prom, and we didn’t want to offend anyone. Even if we, as Americans, are supposed to be this gigantic melting pot of cultures and ideas, we’re also still very protective of our cultures, and we as party planners were sensitive to the fact that someone might take offense to the party’s theme. You see, I’m not Asian nor am I Mexican, and while I can tell you that I asked to be bused to a school where I was a minority (all of my friends were there), and I can explain that I grew up in a Hispanic community with Hispanic friends. At the end of the day I’m still a very white woman. Look at my DNA results, and you find I’m Scandinavian, I’m German, I’m English, I’m Irish, I’m French, with only the tiniest bit of African from someone who lived in the 1700’s – so far back, that I have no connection to that person nor that culture. Snow White really has nothing on me. So, I checked in with my Hispanic and Indian friends and asked for their input, explaining my goal was cultural “appreciation” not “appropriation.” They came back with their thoughts – things to avoid, so it wouldn’t appear that we were mocking any culture in any way, and from there a party was born. Saris, and prom dresses, and countless decorations were bought or crafted. Then on December 15th, we had ourselves a party.
I have to say that I was a bit anxious and nervous, and when April asked why, I said, “I’ve never done this before – never thrown a real party. What if no one shows up?” “Beth, do you really think no one will show up?” “What if it’s only 10 people?” “Then, we’re going to have a great party with just the 10 of us.” On the day of the party, we had a “little” over 10, and I had an absolutely fantastic time.
The Thank You’s!
The planning committee: Erika, Sharon, Roanna, Jennifer, Kate, Kimberly, Heather, April, Nancy, Liz, and Swati. Thank you for your ideas, and for helping me get this ball rolling.
Kate and Riley – We wouldn’t have had a location had Riley not joined the American Legion specifically for this event, which got us a decent discount on the location. I cannot thank you enough, and on top of that, you helped set-up, climbed ladders, covered lights, decorate tables, and clean-up. You guys are amazing.
Darrell and Rebecca – Thank you for what was described as “the best bar in Central Texas.” Wow! I cannot possibly thank you enough for offering to bartend, providing the alcohol, the special drink menu, the music, which also received a lot of compliments, the lights, and the speakers so we could all dance. You helped make the party a party!
April – Holy hell, girl! Thank you for one of the best gifts – a professional photographer, and while I still feel like I was a bad prop in everyone’s formal photos, or that I was straight-up photo bombing everyone’s nice photos, I’m so glad he was there. The photos are fantastic. Also, what a brilliant idea to have a photo booth as well!
Swati – Thank you for the beautiful sari, and for pinning, pleating, and making me look beautiful (given who you had to work with). You helped me feel like a true princess. You always say I have such amazing friends, and you are one of them!
Erika – Thank you for those amazing cupcakes! They were so delicious, and I love how you tied in my dress colors – from my sari to my prom dress. I’m so sorry you got hurt in the dance.
Kimberly – My amazing cousin who helped from beginning to end in so many ways that it’s difficult to list everything she did. Thank you for the cookies, for decorations, for taking the day off to help make food for the party – for so much more than that, and for everything you did. Also, thank you for doing your best to help me avoid a wardrobe malfunction.
Heather (HB) – Thank you for running into Houston to elbow our way through Arne’s, for creating a gorgeous/perfect center piece, and for just being you, friend. Also, thank you for making the final adjustment to my dress that ultimately did prevent the impending wardrobe malfunction. Such a close call! I had resigned myself that it was going to happen, and that I’d just try to roll with it while wearing a big smile, then you came along. Because of you, the party remained PG, and I was able to dance.
Set-up/Clean-up Thank you to everyone who helped with setting up, and cleaning up; that was no small feat. Also, a huge thanks to my piñata makers – Nancy, Kate and Kimberly. I’m pretty sure people will be hiring us out the next time they find themselves in need of their own donkey/Scottish terrier mix party piñatas. My Mom would have approved – Go Scotties!
Spear Children (Who are now Young Adults) – Just look at the candid photos, and you’ll see how much I love you guys. You’re each my favorite! You’re my soul nieces and nephew. From the first, who gave me someone to focus on when I got incredibly embarrassed by a roomful of people applauding my wardrobe change (honestly, the last time someone clapped when I changed clothes was the day my mother taught me to dress myself), to the middle who coolly lead us in the Cupid Shuffle, to the youngest, whose formal wear outshone mine. Kids these days! (Someone came up and suggested I should have worn heels like yours, and I kept thinking “I would DIE if I wore heels like those.” I would put them on, and literally the fall from that height would have done me in, but you wore them with style! I guess we all suffer in the name of fashion!) You guys keep me laughing. You are all the best! I support you in everything you do, and I adore you! You amaze me!
That person I forgot – Thank you! In my haste to create this blog post, I likely forgot to call you out by name and specifically list what you did to help this party be such a success. Please know I appreciated it tremendously, and couldn’t have done it without you! Also, know this is a reflection on my advanced years, and not your contribution. Seriously… I just turned 51 (the whole reason for the Reverse Quinceañera Party you helped create). I’m just thankful I remember to come home most days. Please take some comfort in the fact that in a couple of days I’ll groan and regret not having credited you for all your work. I will likely send you a note while praying you never really read my blog. Hey, I only have the ten readers. The odds are in my favor!
Final thanks: Thank you to everyone who was able to come out to celebrate! I appreciate it more than you know. I hope you had a great time. I love you guys! Thank you for dancing! Thank you for being silly! Thank you for letting me know I’d unknowingly captured a chair and someone’s sweater under my hoop skirt and was about to do the rounds with those in tow. Thank you for asking questions like, “Who did her hair? Who did her make-up? Who are the couple who made these drinks? Who put the music together?” When those questions floated my way, I felt like we’d really put together something special – something I couldn’t have done alone – a party we all created – thanks to all of you! You were incredible!!!
A request – For my younger friends – Please have your own Reverse Quinceañas. I need excuses to buy prom dresses, dance, and celebrate you! At least until I have my Reverse Sweet 16.
I leave you with the song from the Bollywood dance portion of the party.
Some of you may remember that the last time I flew back home from LA, my world turned upside down, and because of that, a small portion of this recent trip back to LA was devoted to stressing out over whether I was stressed out. It makes sense if you’re my brain. Throughout the trip, I’d check-in, determine where I was at, then move on to the next keynote speaker, breakout session, networking social, getting kicked out of a Lyft by a complete douche, what have you; there was a lot to keep me occupied. You see, if I’m 100% truthful, I closely associate LA with death, as if the city itself had a hand in what unfolded a few years ago. The city of Angels… sure.
I knew the problem wouldn’t be in getting there, or being there, but would likely swell up on the way home. And once again, no one would be at the airport to scoop me up. So, I decided to get on the plane, pop in my earbuds, continue with my audio book, accept my Belvita biscuits with a smile, and ride the wave of emotions I’d doubtlessly feel. I’d reward myself with gum on the descent as I pretended like swallowing repeatedly would somehow keep my eardrums from feeling like they were about to explode.
Nearly a year ago, a co-worker of mine got me started on a particular series of books that I’ve been working my way through for months. They’re my guilty pleasure on my ride home from work, and keep me from noticing when I’m stuck in traffic or, you know, when that guy on the phone just cut me off. Are they great works of fiction? No. Can the author send me into fits of giggles? Absolutely. Among the nine books are several short stories that give the reader deeper insight into the major characters, and in a couple of those, the story is told from the perspective of the main character’s Irish Wolfhound, Oberon. On the flight home, I happened to be listening to one of those called The Purloined Poodle as read by Luke Daniels. Quick aside: I love the way Luke Daniels reads, and wish he’d agree to read all of my books including the phone book. I’m fairly certain he could make it delightful beginning with the intro, “The Dallas, Texas White Pages, by Southwestern Bell, as read to you by Luke Daniels.” Let’s hear some “A” names, Luke! I’ll grab some popcorn, my favorite throw, and tuck in to listen to each riveting detail. (I realize SWB isn’t a thing anymore, but that Luke knows you can’t go wrong with a classic.)
I know with Oberon, the story will be filled with sausage, gravy, and Wolfhound philosophy, and I know I’ll laugh or at the very least sit there with a goofy grin on my face.
The plane landed, and somewhere in long-term parking, having picked up my luggage and said goodbye to the Board members who were on my flight, I started my book back up. Then it hit me. I had completely forgotten to be sad. While on the flight I hadn’t indulged in my usual ritual of counting down the time until landing: “At this time, he was alive… at this time he sent a text…” I had simply gathered my things, headed to baggage claim, grabbed the long-term shuttle, and was headed home. It felt normal, and “normal” isn’t something I feel a lot.
The next day, I found the author’s email address, and I sent him a thank you. I wanted him to know that his words, given life by his talented narrator, had helped me take a hard trip home.
Later that day, I received a note from the author. (Excerpt below.)
“I hope you continue to enjoy all kinds of stories and find (or be found by) harmony, unexpectedly.”
And with that, he became my new favorite author. I’m sorry Faulkner, you never did get around to writing me.
Having found momentary peace thanks to an author, a narrator, and a fictional Irish Wolfhound, my California adventure ended.
A few weeks ago, I returned to LA. The organization on which I serve as a board member had a conference in the LA Live section of the city. (Is it a section? Entertainment district? Borough? I have no idea, just roll with me here. I’m a Texan. I remain confident it isn’t a suburb. Go me.) I went to some great sessions, met some incredible people from around the country, and ended up doing what I always do whenever I’m in a major city – daydreamed I lived there. This is the part where I usually come to terms with having no marketable job skills. (Unless the city suddenly found itself in a shortfall of sarcastic old Texas ladies. I won’t hold my breath for that one.)
Great conference aside, and skipping over me being filmed lip-synching and dancing to “Don’t Stop Believing” (why I don’t front a band, I have no idea), and not going into the details that started and ended with a single drink, waiting responsibly for an hour, and still finding myself calling my good friend with spot-on relationship advice (wait, I think that was the entire story), I’ll plow ahead to the adventure part.
The Adventure Part (I was afraid you wouldn’t know you’d just crossed that story-telling threshold)
I decided I had some free time on the last day of the conference, and I wanted to walk around the Santa Monica Pier. Now here’s the thing: I’m the worst only child you know, because I absolutely hate doing things like this on my own. I want someone to walk around with me – to have that shared experience – to sit and people watch with me, and y’know, talk about how I want to move there right now while pondering the whole lack of marketable job skills thing I mentioned earlier, and then figuring out if it’s too late to squeeze in Disney Land before the plane takes off the next morning.
Now I blame this discomfort with being alone on a few things, but the main one being that I think I’m a shifty-looking sort. I base that not on the mirror, but on having been followed many times as a kid through stores by security staff. Once I noticed I had a tail, and I did on a couple of occasions, I’d bee-line them over to my Mom, where they’d stand back and stare, confident I’d taken something, but not having any proof. That would be because I didn’t take things. I was that kid who would save my allowance (in an Ovaltine jar), and when we’d go out shopping, I’d look at my potential treasures carefully, trying to decide if whatever it was would be worth giving up whatever amount I had saved thus far. Usually it wasn’t, but I’d hold onto a thing, twirl it around in my hands, and think about whether the momentary joy of owning it right now would prevent me from getting something even better if I waited and saved a bit more. My intent was always clear: I strongly desired whatever it was I held in my hand, but more often than not, I would put it back on its shelf. This could take 5-15 minutes, which I guess is suspicious to those who can make faster decisions. At $2 per week, I had to be careful, and it drove my Mom, who was more of an impulse “buy it now” person, crazy. However, while I missed out on a number of great things, I was able to save enough to get my first 10-speed (with help from my Dad at the end after recognizing how committed I was to my bicycle dreams). All of that to say, I think this started my whole “not comfortable alone in my own skin in public” thing.
I spoke to several friends, because I couldn’t convince the other Board members to join me, and they all said, “You can do it. Just get an Uber or Lyft, and go!” So easy. So easy, that on Saturday I paced my hotel room, and was working myself into being ok with just staying in and watching a movie. It’ll be fine. Then I paced some more. Finally, my friend Anna said, “Take me with you and show me the Pier,” and that’s all it took. I’d be ok, I would FaceTime Anna. I wouldn’t be alone, really.
I took a Lyft for the first time, got to the Pier, and the Universe had a grand giggle by making a FaceTime connection impossible. But the story isn’t in the things I saw, or did there on the Pier or along the beach, which were a combination of beautiful, relaxing and entertaining. No, the story is in the ride home.
I May Have Lied About the Adventure Part Start
Ok, so the real adventure part starts here.
I opened my little Lyft app and summoned my ride home. I used all the tips I’d gotten from my first Lyft driver. I made sure the address it displayed matched the place I was standing. I was in a less congested area, and made certain I was easily seen from the road. Voila! As expected, a car appeared and Russell picked me up.
Russell had a lot to say, and I’ll just sum it up here. Russell needed me to know he was an LA native who drove for fun; he liked getting out. He didn’t NEED to drive like other drivers out there. In fact, he had been in the process of getting a new BMW, but his wife didn’t want him driving a ton of people around in it. So, he took what he would have used on a down payment for the BMW, and he bought the car I was in. He let me know his watch was worth more than the car. Ok. That’s great. He used all of this to explain that he didn’t like condescending riders. I said something profound like, “I don’t think most people enjoy condescending people.”
To better explain his personality in a way that Southerners and Texans understand: He was that guy – one who had that hyper-aggressive, smug, false confidence that you sometimes associate with people from large city centers north of the Mason-Dixon line. In other words, he was obnoxious. *wink* You know what I’m saying.
But…I didn’t care as long as he got me from point A to B. Bolster yourself as much as you need, my fine fellow, but get me to my hotel.
We had to pick up another passenger. I had opted for the “share-a-ride,” because I don’t mind other people, and yay cost savings. You see, my watch isn’t worth more than my car, and it’s questionable as to whether it’s worth more than my bicycle. His app beeped, and we headed over to pick up the next person.
When we got there, there were about 20 people standing around, and no one stood out as someone looking for a ride. Russell attempted to call them on speaker, and either the person answered, or it was their voicemail. Their words were not in English. “Oh no! I’m not doing that today. Nope. I’m cancelling their ride. I’m not in the mood,” Russell gruffed indignantly. Great. I guess I’m glad I’m white, and you deigned to pick me up, you obnoxious, smug, racist douche. When he cancels their ride, he accidentally cancels mine, too. He realizes this and starts throwing a fit, “You have to reschedule your ride.” I pulled out my phone and opened the Lyft app for the third time ever, and tried to re-request a ride. I wasn’t getting any response, or any connection. “I’m having a hard time getting this to work.” “You have to do it NOW. Do it now. Open the app and request a new driver.” “I’m doing that, and maybe I’m doing something wrong. Do you want to look at it?” “NO!!! I don’t know how to use that app,” he sneered. “Ok, well I think it’s not connecting.” “LOOK! If you can’t get this done. I’m going to have to drop you off. Where are you going, anyway?” “I’m going to the JW Marriott on Olympic.” “I don’t know where that is. What’s the cross street?” Well, here’s the thing. I don’t usually know cross streets in cities where I don’t live. It’s on Crossy McCrosserton Street as far as I know. I think I’m doing great just knowing the address to begin with when someone else has GPS!!! Make that magic happen. Maybe use your fancier-than-your-car watch. I don’t know. “You’re just going to have to get out of the car if you can’t figure this out.” “Ok, I think it’s better if you drop me off then you can find a new ride with someone who can use the app better.” He pulls over, let’s me out, “Sorry!” then speeds off. I texted the rest of the Board, “Hey guys, I just got kicked out of a Lyft.” If about three grown men could have magically transported into the area, they would have in that moment, and Russell would have probably regretted a couple of life choices.
“Beth, just use Uber or Lyft, it will be fine.” I mumbled after sending the text to my team, mocking my dear friends’ sweet voices, while standing in who-knows-where Santa Monica. “THIS is why I don’t go places by myself.” I re-opened Lyft and summoned another ride. Nine minutes later I received a message on my phone, “Your ride is here, and will be leaving in a couple of minutes.” I scanned the cars along the road I was on, and nope…not there. Of course, they’re not, because I should have watched movies at the hotel. That’s how we don’t get stranded in major cities. Can’t get stranded if you don’t go places. FACT.
My phone rang, “Hi Beth, this is Lyda. I’m waiting for you.” I explained where I was, then looked at the app which had mis-identified my location. I considered throwing a small, whimpering, pity party. “I’m walking to this intersection, Lyda, and I’m in front of a Starbucks. “You stay there, I’m putting that into my GPS and will find you.” Ten minutes later, when I thought Lyda had probably given up, my phone rang again, “Beth, turn to your right. Do you see me waving at you?” I love Lyda.
The rest of the trip back to the hotel, Lyda told me about her family and her life in LA. We laughed the entire way, and I suspect her watch, much like mine, wasn’t worth more than her car. The measure of a person is not in material things, and she will be measured by her kindness, her generosity, and her taking a few extra moment to find and rescue a stranger right as they were flipping through their meltdown Rolodex to determine the size/flavor of the one that was about to burst forth.
That ended that adventure. And while I’m still not 100% convinced solo adventures are the best; I saw new things, experienced the simple beauty of the ocean – from its sounds, to the feel of the waves lapping against my legs, and I survived. Thank you, Lyda. Also, thank you Anna for giving me the final push that got me out there. We’re going to go again, so I can show it to you in person – the Pier, the ocean, and the Third Street Promenade. FaceTime won’t trick me twice!
On July 9, 2016, while waiting to disembark from my plane, I turned off the “airplane mode” setting on my phone, and a text came through, “I won’t be able to pick you up today.” It was from my husband. I wasn’t alarmed; sometimes the world could be too much. Sometimes he couldn’t handle the cars darting about, the crowds of people; it could make him extremely anxious. It could be paralyzing. To me that text only meant I would have to take a taxi home. It’s just what it was. Then I walked onto the concourse, and my world started turning upside down. A voice over a loudspeaker summoned me to a white courtesy phone. From there I was met by a police officer who told me another officer, from the city where we lived, was en route to talk to me. That officer arrived, and I was informed that Jay had passed away. Impossible. He had just sent me a text. I was taken home to find my house surrounded in crime tape, and people from victim’s services waiting for me on my driveway. My husband, the person I had been with for 17 years, was now gone, and my home was a crime scene.
Not only had I lost my husband, my best-friend, my co-conspirator, and my favorite person; I had lost my identity. I was no longer a wife, a best-friend, the other half of the best part of us. I had lost purpose. The house had fallen silent.
It’s still silent…
There is a stigma associated with mental illness. A belief that if a person just tried harder, manned-up, not been a baby, they’d have been fine. A belief that a person is actively choosing to be miserable.
So, let me set the record straight. Jay didn’t die because he was weak. He didn’t die because he couldn’t “fake it till he made it;” a regimen of “more smiling” wasn’t the cure for his depression. Jay died because he felt hopeless. Jay died because he felt that seeing one more doctor to adjust his medication was pointless, and that it ultimately wouldn’t change how worthless he felt inside. He felt another appointment with an ENT still wouldn’t fix his untreated sleep apnea. He felt like a disappointment. And the depression combined with extreme fatigue made him feel like he was going insane. I cannot begin to imagine how his last day ultimately unfolded, but I do imagine he felt that he’d finally get some relief. I imagine he felt like he’d no longer disappoint everyone in his life. He would no longer disappoint me.
Let me say here what I had told him on many occasions: he was never a disappointment. He was beautiful.
There is a stigma associated with suicide. After a week of being gone, I returned to work braced to read the condolence cards that were doubtlessly waiting for me on my desk. There weren’t any. My desk was exactly the same as it had been before I’d left. No cards, no flowers, no acknowledgment. In fact, some people who knew Jay had died avoided me. We thrive in our communities, and to be denied this thing that is almost a given was traumatizing. No one did it to hurt me; for the most part they love me. It was that no one was quite sure what to do given the circumstances. Those who didn’t know would innocently drop by to cheerfully ask how my vacation went, and I got the unenviable task of explaining, “Jay died.” I finally had to ask people to spread that news, because I couldn’t cope with telling one more person and watching their faces fall.
If Jay had died of anything else, there would have been a card. I would have been embraced by my community. People would know what to say. They would know what to do.
And because of that same stigma, I wouldn’t tell people either, because I knew I’d be judged. I hadn’t kept my house in order. I hadn’t stopped him. What was so broken in our lives that my husband would choose suicide? What had Beth done to drive someone to make that choice? I kept silent to avoid whispers.
That stops now.
Next Saturday, on November 10th, I will walk in the Out of Darkness walk – a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I will walk for my husband. I walk for my best friend. I walk for my favorite person. I will walk for me.
On November 10th, my team will walk for a lost brother, son, uncle, and friend. A few will walk for me – to hold my hand, to peer into my face and see if I’m ok, and they will keep me strong as they continue on this endless vigil – my protective vanguard.
Together we will walk to support the other survivors out there, the people who need strength, who need a reminder that despite the tragedy, they’re still here, and they’re still ok. We walk in the hopes that the funds we raise, the awareness this walk brings may prevent another family from joining us. We walk to help remove the stigma that surrounds depression and suicide.
So I ask you one final time: Won’t you please join us? Whether it’s by spending a couple of hours walking beside us on November 10th to walk around the state’s capitol, or through a gift to this organization? I strongly believe that what this organization is doing for survivors, and for those who struggle is important, and it is vital.
If you’re unable to give at this time, that’s ok. Share a kind word, a show of support, a story, something about your love for Jay, for me, for this amazingly strong and resilient family; it means the world to us.
I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we love and appreciate each of you.
Last night as I laid my head down on my desk, cringing after having just edited my latest blog entry, I thought, “it’s time to write another post acknowledging that girl, you cannot type to save your life.” This is just a fact. I type, I edit, I post, I edit, and then I edit at least five more times to be sure, tweaking the post bit by bit until I’m finally convinced, “I got this!” while knowing I’ll come back a day later to find even more glaring goofs. I have yet to write that flawless elusive post. One day.
With that post, I hoped to accomplish two things:
Acknowledge that I am painfully aware of just how bad my typing can be. That some days it may actually hurt your eyes or your soul to read.
Somehow convince you guys to wait a day or maybe 15 (15 is good, right?) before reading my posts, which would maybe give me enough time to catch the vast majority of my errors (although that’s probably still unlikely as I know my track record better than most)
I thought about trying to explain that sometimes my brain works faster than my typing fingers. I thought about adding that I’m so familiar with my writing that when I edit, I miss the words that need to be fixed, because my brain is “lalala-ing” along with the familiar flow of my speech pattern/sentence structure that it’s actually filling in the missing pieces. And the truth is that the further I get away from what I’ve written, the better I am at catching all those little glaring bits. The ones that cause me to lay my head down on my desk and cringe a ton.
I guess those are the joys of reading a personal blog? Lucky you?
I also decided I would share some related anecdotes to drive that point home – stories that provide further proof that I can neither edit nor type – just something for your amusement, and a chance to really enjoy how bad it all can get for me, then maybe you’d all laugh WITH me.
Today my cousin posted a question on Facebook: “Name something random about u” after he’d offered up a random fact about himself. I was in. I do a lot of random things, and what I should have done was mentioned being in a mariachi. I now deeply regret not just saying, “I was in a mariachi!” and ending it there. But no, that would be too un-Beth like. So, I had to mention hairballs. Here’s the thing, the mere sight of them makes me gag. And if you start talking about them in things, on things, around things, whether they’re wet or dry, I’ll have to hyper focus to avoid going into a coughing fit. Thank you Burger King for a quirk that has settled well in over the decades (don’t ask), and I truly wish my brain would let it go, but brains… y’know? I could have told the story just like that, too. But no… I wrote: “Also, the sight of balls hair makes me cough.” Yep, I typed “balls hair”. And I felt good about that post. I hit enter and went on my merry little “balls hair” hating way, announcing my particular random distaste for said “balls hair” to all of his good friends. Hi, this is my cousin. She hates balls hair enough that she wanted to just share that with y’all and the rest of the world. She’s also someone we can’t have out in polite society. Now you all know why. Oh, you only drink Guiness on a full moon? Well my cousin Beth here – yeah, she hates the balls hair.
I logged back in to see someone had haha’ed my post, and I knew immediately, without looking, that I’d typed something goofy. When I read my post, I turned bright red, started blushing profusely and well ok, there was some giggling, because I just told the whole world my feelings on “balls hair,” but I was completely mortified. Why I couldn’t type “hairball,” the way we all refer to them, or hey, “MARIACHI”, I’ll never know. I looked around sheepishly, hit the edit button, inserted a well-placed “of” in there, and wrote a quick disclaimer. But the damage couldn’t be undone. I’m now the balls hair hater. 😦
I wish this story were somehow unusual for me instead of just being the latest example.
One more story – A couple of months back, I asked my brother-in-law to pick up a sandwich since he was on his way over. A simple request. When he arrived he handed me the sandwich, YAY, and then said, “stop using voice-to-text”. Granted this isn’t a “me typing poorly” story, but more a “me failing to edit” one, which in truth is actually my problem. I barely skim what Siri has said. I looked at him with surprise, furrowed my brow a bit, and then opened the actual text. In that text, the one that sent, the one Siri decided would be a bit funny, I apparently made a rather lewd suggestion. You know, the kind of suggestion you NEVER want to send to your brother-in-law, because NOOOOO – not ok. BAD TOUCH! What I learned from this was not, “Beth, stop using voice-to-text.” No, I learned to now have Siri type: “I’m using voice-to-text. Siri makes fun of my accent. I’m not responsible for the things to come. Just read the words out loud like you’re me. You’ll get the gist.”
Which brings me back to the purpose of this post. I will also never be the type of editor that discovers all of the errors. What I will do is, I will typo. I will always fail to edit thoroughly, and I will still hit the post button. I will also keep working on my story for several days, and I will keep catching those errors. So, my ask is: if you can’t wait a few days, then just read what I write with light eyes. Gently glide over the typos, fill in the blanks of the butchered words or mangled phrases. If you see a whoopsied homonym instead of the proper word, read that sentence aloud, and delete your memory of the spelling Men In Black style – just look at K’s pen. Also, feel free to liberally bless my heart.
But at least be thankful I didn’t write a post about “balls hair.” Oh wait. I guess I did.
Huge thanks to everyone who makes it through my actual writing to read my stories; it’s much appreciated – more than you know. I love you guys!
In September of 2016 I spoke to my friend Kelly, a Chinese linguist who had been in Military Intelligence for years, and asked him about the symbol lì. Kelly explained:
“Lì is the character for “power” or “physical force”. Lì is added to some characters to mean the type of strength. Tì is the character for “body”. So “Tì Lì” means physical strength or power. So, there is no one word for strength, but many based on the type of strength being described. It also is general enough to mean “power” in its many forms. There is also something very beautiful in the fact that such a basic two stroke character can represent so strong a concept, literally.”
On that day, I carved a mental image of it onto my wrist. Something no one would ever notice, unless it was in a, “wow, have you guys noticed Beth is kind of fixated on her arm? It’s weird, right? I mean, we were talking, and suddenly her eyes just went to that spot again. Is that a thing? Is there some kind of wrist chakra? Like you stare and it’s activated? Or maybe she’s hinting that something is on MY wrist, but is too polite. Hey, would you mind looking at my wrist? Is there something there? I’m calling my doctor. It could be malignant.”
Whenever I felt I needed to be reminded that I was strong, I’d just glance down at my wrist.
For a while now people have insisted I am “strong,” even “courageous” at times. I’m to be “admired” for these qualities. I’m never quite sure if they genuinely believe that, or if it’s more in hope that the words will prop me up enough so that I can get up and persevere a bit more. Sure, there are days I feel strong. Days I greet with a mighty roar, but there are days I want to sit in the dark coolness of my bedroom and not be bothered for minutes on end. (Well, that idea always sounds great, and about 30 minutes in, I start getting bored especially when I haven’t settled on a decent movie to watch, and my only TV choice involves a Kardashian performing a keg stand. Which by the way, why? Does beer taste better that way? Are you joining a beer circus? What is up with that?)
On Monday, July 9th, the anniversary of Jay’s death, my friend April texted and asked if I wanted to finally get a tattoo – the thing I’d been talking about for two years. Over the last two years she and several friends had heard me carry on about various tattoo parlors, and a favorite artist I’d selected. They listened as the symbol morphed from a simple character to one where it appeared as if it had been torn from my skin, to a tribal phoenix, to a water colored phoenix, to the phrase, “I am the storm,” and then back to a simple character. No wonder I couldn’t commit.
My knee-jerk reaction was, “no, nope, I’m good, thanks!” Then the more I thought about it, the more I thought, “y’know, why not today? Today on the anniversary. A day where it would have the most meaning,” and I said, “yes.”
A friend once said, “you know in your heart that you are strong, why do you need a tattoo?” (That’s paraphrased a bit, but that’s how I understood them.) And my answer is simple: I don’t always see myself the way you do. I know. I’m not unique in this belief. Don’t we all see more in our friends and family than they’re sometimes able to see? We see their raw beauty, their own simple elegance, and just how truly awe-inspiring they are with their wings outstretched, and you wish that for a minute they could understand themselves the way you understand them – see themselves the way you do. So, this tattoo serves as a tangible reminder when they’re not around that I am strong, and it’s there for the days I feel I’ve lost my way – a silent calligraphy sentinel.
As to the question, “how did you choose your wrist?” Well, its always been there. The only thing that changed is now you can see it, too.
And I can see it when I can’t.
PS Thank you to DeAnne and April who chose to also get tattoos to honor those they’ve lost, which included Jay. I cannot begin to properly express how touching I found those gestures.