Empowering Me Doesn’t Emasculate You

I hurt someone’s feelings. Yep. I did it. Just stomped all over them, and the thing is: I don’t care.

You probably want a little more than that, I suppose. A few questionable sentences that end with an “XXOO, Beth” isn’t going to cut it. It could though, right? I mean, you could actually accept that I hurt someone’s feelings, and that you finally got that pass to quickly exit from my site without meandering through one of my tales. It is not your lucky day, my friend.

As you probably guessed from the above feet dragging, I’m having a tough time deciding how to start. Flashbacks may be in order.

Ok, let me just take a stab at it. I’ll start with the actual incident.

Yesterday I moved four boxes from one spot to another. Nothing particularly impressive – just boxes that weighed approximately 30 lbs each. Not heavy – more cumbersome. You see, it’s actually my job to move boxes. I’m the box mover. Boxes come in. I get a note. I sign a thing claiming I’m now in possession of said boxes, and I take them away. Done.  It may not be my favorite task, but I’m reasonably competent at this task. Box moving is in my wheelhouse of skills these days.

I also happen to have been born with both a fairly functional brain, vocal chords, and decent synaptic relays that allow said brain to send signals to said vocal chords, as well as other things like my lungs, diaphragm, etc. They in turn perform this beautifully choreographed dance thus allowing me to communicate with other human beings. Call it a genetic legacy. Maybe it’s Jungian on some level. Blame my family tree. Whatever you need. That ability allows me to express a need for help should one arise. For example, I could say, “hey, this is kind of heavy, would you mind helping me move it?”

I start unloading the first box, and the next thing you know I have guys in my cart trying to help. That’s nice. Thanks. “I don’t need your help.” I said that. “I’m good, thanks. I can get this.” But no, they had to help me, and that’s fine. That’s nice. How about you ask me if I need help? That would have also been nice.

You see, I’m really not that dainty. In fact, I was on Day 2 of looking like I just got pulled away from a poker game in the back of some un-air conditioned warehouse. (I blame bad hair, and not the fact that anyone who saw me walking down the street would suspect my name was Marge and that I smoked a copious amount of cigars. No offense to the stogie smoking Marges of the world.)

And that’s when I snapped – right on the heels of their not quite sincere sorries.  The kind of sorry that is really, “I’m sorry you’re mad at me” versus, “I’m sorry I did something that is clearly irritating you.” I bristled, “I didn’t ASK for your help. I’ve got this. I can do it. Next time let ME do it.” (I’m not always the most adorable person to be around.) That’s how I upset someone, and they walked away.

FLASHBACK (as promised): The day before I moved 640 lbs. of items from one building to another and literally up a small hill. There were slightly (aka a ton) more than four boxes. Midway through, another woman saw I was doing this, and started alerting all the men that “Beth needs help!!” I didn’t. I had it. It’s my job. As I kept working while that show carried on down the hallway, she looked back and announced, “Beth is continuing to work!!” I was, because it had to get done. Three guys swarmed, emptied the rest of the cart of it’s four remaining boxes.  That was nice. I only had another cartful to load and unload, but ok you guys get back to what you were doing. You did your good deed!

Four boxes was nothing. He had no idea that the previous day I’d moved so much more.

FLASHBACK (just a bit further): I needed to move a box of copier paper from one room to another. “Can I help?” “Yes, can you get the doors?” “Do you want me to carry that for you?” “No.” “You’re emasculating me by not letting me carry that.” REALLY???

Here’s the thing.

I work out so I can do this; I used to not be very strong. I’m technically still not strong, but I’m stronger than I was. Doing these tasks makes me feel capable. Doing these tasks after blowing my ACL makes me feel incredible. They make me feel strong. I get to say: I moved a box of copier paper down a hall and through two rooms. I loaded, unloaded and moved 640 lbs. of items up a hill. Oh, and I moved these ridiculously small boxes. I didn’t need a “guy” to help me. LET ME DO IT. I will ask if I need help. And it’s ok for you to ask me if I need help, but when I say no, walk away and be ok with that.

Empowering me doesn’t emasculate you.

Assigning Blame

If you followed the recent news, you may have noticed that we lost two beloved celebrities last week. And I’m here to tell you that their loss had zero real impact on my life. By that same token, I also recognize that their deaths strongly impacted those around me, and they definitely impacted their friends, family, and business partners who find themselves struggling with “what comes next?”  I understand that struggle. I live with it EVERY SINGLE DAY – every time I walk into this house.

Like many, I read the articles to try to glean the facts. What happened? How did we end up here? Then the follow-up articles came out – those discussing the inevitable confusion of people who don’t quite understand depression – the “but they had so much to live for – they were adored – if only they could have seen that…” – those folks who naively believe that simply smiling will destroy all the demons. The “yay life” cheerleaders. The ones who view the victims as people who just need to toughen up a bit, to believe and fully embrace that tomorrow is a brighter day – the ones who see the victims as unfortunately having a bit of a weak constitution – the very ones who add to the shame that prevents people suffering from mental illness from seeking much-needed help – the ones who unwittingly are part of the problem.  And I was fine with these reactions, because they weren’t unexpected.

Then I read more follow-up articles designed to increase clicks and further milk the celebrity death interest, articles with a different angle – with new, exciting perspectives. By Friday I started shutting down while I processed all the words that were out there. Granted, I may have been unconsciously drawn to articles that would upset me, and I may have latched onto a line or two that skewed my abilities to fully comprehend all that I was reading. I’ll own that.  But what I felt like I was reading, and what I definitely reacted to, was this idea that the people around suicide victims were at fault for not doing enough. That it was through their failures to listen, to get this person the necessary help, to ask the person if they were suicidal, or to remove any means for the person to carry out the act that ultimately led to their special someone’s death. And let me tell you, I absolutely refuse to abide these sentiments.

Yes, we should always listen, yes, we should point people towards getting help, and yes, we should remove all judgment when that person is speaking frankly about their intentions. That said, unless you are a trained mental health expert, you are NOT a trained mental health expert. The best thing you can do is encourage them to get help from a professional. And if, at the end of the day, after you’ve done everything you can, they choose to take their own life – that is not on you. How dare those authors even lightly suggest that the people around the victim are culpable when we, the friends and family of the victims, deal with our own guilt, guilt we’ve piled on our own shoulders whether deserved or not, every single day. We don’t need the help figuring out where we could have done more, and we don’t need fingers wagged in our face by people who lightly perused a website about suicide trying to increase their organization’s readership.

In my previous blog post, I warned that this month I was going to be blunt about suicide. If you are sensitive to this type of story, I strongly encourage you to stop reading at this point. I’m not kidding.

I struggled trying to get Jay to seek help from a mental health professional for years, and it wasn’t Jay I was struggling with – it was the stigma surrounding what seeking that help involved.  I had to find cases of acquaintances and friends who were under care – people he respected – to make it ok.  And one day, after the meds had finally taken hold, he looked at me and said, “this is the first time I’ve felt happy.” Do you know how hard that is to hear? To hear the person you love more than anything in the world has never experienced true happiness, and to wonder what it was like for him to finally have that weight of depression lifted. My personal default setting is “happy” and if I’m truthful, it’s probably better defined as “goofy.” My idea of a perfect day would be to twirl in the parking lot every morning, arms outstretched and sing, and I cannot imagine a world where that is not my truth. So, to hear someone I love, my best friend, has never felt that way before, made my heart hurt. Imagine a world where you’ve never known true happiness.

Well, the thing about antidepressants is they need to be adjusted and changed, and the person needs to be monitored, which was what I was talking to Jay about in our last real conversation before he died. His depression prior to his death had returned with a vengeance, and that was combined with his untreated sleep apnea – something that wasn’t being addressed by his C-PAP machine.  Severe depression plus extreme fatigue is a deadly cocktail. We talked about going back to the doctor – that the meds and lack of sleep were not ok. Or more precisely, I talked about it and Jay got quiet, because he knew when I came home from my trip I was going to start pushing that issue – that’s what I do.

My brother-in-law and I live with the guilt of his death EVERY SINGLE DAY, but don’t you dare imply it was our fault – that we failed Jay, that we didn’t talk to him, we didn’t listen, or pay attention, or wrap him in bubble wrap, because at the end of that day, after all of our talks, Jay walked outside and shot himself in my backyard, and that’s on Jay.

And if we want to play that “what if” game… if I had removed the gun, he would have asphyxiated himself in the garage, if I had removed his car, he would have likely poisoned himself, and if I’d removed all cleaners/medications, etc., he would have found something else. He was in extreme mental pain, and he was highly motivated.

And my brother-in-law and I both dream about him, and in both of our dreams we have to explain to Jay that he died, because he doesn’t understand what happened or why he’s dead – because he had a mental snap. Imagine repeated nights where you have to say, “baby, you were ill and you died” to this beautiful soul who was only 40 years old.

And nearly every day is a varying degree of hard for us without some detached writer pontificating about suicide and attempting to assign blame.

Step the fuck off.

So please forgive me if I’m not more upset about two celebrities when, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 123 people die by suicide EVERY SINGLE DAY. Where are those articles lamenting those lost, and equally as important, souls?

Unicorns

LANGUAGE WARNING (sometimes I swear)

My friends and family have been waiting for the post-cruise post. Well guys, I’m sorry. This isn’t that post. Your wait just got a little longer. In my defense, I’m still flipping through photos, and going over my story-telling options. I mean, do I share the “Overheard” list, review all the things I kept carrying around in my mouth, or do I go straight for “that time I had to speak to the cruise ship police” story? Tough choices indeed.  You see my dilemma.

So, this is clearly a segue to talk about unicorns.

Oh, it wasn’t? Weird.

Let’s start with… There are certain words that just stick in my craw. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it. I hear the word or phrase, and suddenly I find I’m a little twitchy and that my eyes want to carefully investigate the inside of my cranium. Words like “hipster” or “YOLO”. Then there are the words that have been appropriated. The ones I’ve been warned not to use like “taint”. GRAB A DICTIONARY (“Urban” doesn’t count), you degenerate yahoos!  That’s NOT what that word means.

Ok, now can we talk unicorns?

The first time I heard the word in reference to a person was honestly in the TV show Supernatural – Meg’s special name for Castiel. I actually can’t hear the word without imagining it purred out in that character’s voice. It fit, too. Castiel was pure, chaste, special – a one-of-a-kind.

I’d forgotten about it until not long ago when my male friends were snickering over a video which depicted an eye-rolling graph about women. The X-axis represented degrees of “sanity,” while the Y-axis was “beauty.” Basically, after spewing a lot of words that made me want to punch the aforementioned giggling male friends, it claimed a gorgeous  sane woman was a “unicorn” – a woman who didn’t exist, and if she did, she would be so rare that she’d be impossible to catch.

Then yesterday I found myself on Urban Dictionary looking up “unicorn” and reading the following definition: “That girl that you can’t catch. Everything about her is so perfect (divine, if you will) getting with her is unfathomable…” I snorted.  Honestly dude, you’re not a fair maiden from the middle ages who has been woven into a tatty tapestry, and this “divine” object of your desire is not a cloven hoofed mythical creature with a calcified growth protruding from the middle of her head easily lured by virgins. She’s just a woman.

There is so much to be said here, but I’m going to walk away from this before I hop down a rabbit hole and land on a soapbox.

A friend of mine lamented that men are always out chasing these unicorns, never stopping to look around and take notice of the great “non-unicorn” gals around them. I see her point, but the topic was frustrating. My friend felt so much less than these supposed “unicorns” – these supposed mythical, uncatchable, and overly talented beauties who are somehow “more than” in ways my friend never felt she was or could be.  It was frustrating, because sometimes I feel that despite our best efforts, despite our progress, despite our age or seeming self-confidence that sometimes our only validation can come through the attention of men. (Note: I said “sometimes” there, because we occasionally rally in beautiful ways.) We desire to be a unicorn. We don’t want to believe or be told that, “You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.” (Chuck Palahniuk).  And then we hear men describe a woman as a unicorn, and we yearn for that same attention and want someone to think we’re just as special, just as unique, just as beautiful.

On one hand I want to point out to her how she is this rarefied unicorn – to say something so profound that it allows her to actually see herself through my eyes. On the other, I recognize I don’t see myself through my friends and family’s eyes either, which  frustrates them to no end. I also realize it’s hard for me to talk when I’m wrapped around the axle over a guy who has his prom pictures prominently displayed in his living room. Someone who, as a friend pointed out, I think isn’t as smart as most lamp posts. (In all fairness though, the lamp posts around here are pretty sharp.)

And I recognize in myself that while I’ve been extremely lucky to have caught the eye of some truly great men in the past, I too still want to be thought of as special. I too am frustrated by dating (and coffee – have I mentioned the coffee thing?). And I don’t want to say words that don’t ring true like the ones I always hear: “You don’t need a man in your life; you’re strong,” or “the right one is out there, you’ll find him.” Typing those made me vomit a little.

So, here’s what I want to say to her and to all of my friends, even though they won’t hear it or believe it (because I wouldn’t either):

You’re all unicorns. Maybe not in that ridiculous way Urban Dictionary defines it. You’re  not perfect (who is?), and maybe you’re not “divine” (such a ridiculous adjective),  but  you are beautiful, special, and unique snowflakes. You are untamable, unstoppable, and made the more beautiful by your scars and your flaws – you’re women, not objects. Set the world on fire! Show it how great you are, and screw anyone who doesn’t take a moment to pause and really see you.

And hell, I didn’t play in a mariachi, take tap for seven years, sing onstage with a puppet on my arm, hug it out with Chuck Norris, get trapped in an elevator with Lady Bird, play in orchestras for years, lay someone on their back in Tae Kwon Do, blow out my knee one year only to climb a Mayan ruin the next (almost on the anniversary) to be told I’m not interesting, unique, or a f*in’ badass unicorn.

And you ladies have done even more than that.

You’re all mother fucking unicorns!

But know I do hear you. And I say all of that knowing what you’re feeling and experiencing is frustrating, and understanding how deeply it hurts, but I do truly believe these unicorn hunters aren’t worthy of you – they never were. Show them how great you are.

(PS – Jenn, I think I’m still mad. 😦 )

Dear Hollywood

Dear Hollywood,

I think it’s about time we have a chat. Let me start with a little about me. About a year and a half ago I lost my sense of humor. This is really important to the story, so bear with me. It was truly a tragic thing, but chin up, it’s not all bad, I manage to soldier on with an assortment of death glares and the occasional severe lip pursing. There’s a vicious rumor that suggests my face may freeze this way, but I’m optimistic since I don’t actually live in a Twilight Zone episode. What a bummer for the people who do, am I right? Unfortunately, there’s no foreseeable end to my facial reign of terror, and thus I’m starting to suspect my friends and family are undermining me at every turn by trying to find it for me. They’re a treacherous lot.

Not having a sense of humor has allowed me to focus on another skill of mine – ranting. Let me tell you Hollywood, I’ve spent a good year and a half really just cutting loose. You know, just letting my mouth and brain run wild – no longer tethered by things like social niceties. One thing about losing your humor is now instead of people laughing along as I rant away, they stare in silent horror and occasionally suggest I “speak to someone”.  I thought I was, but ok…  

Anyway, enough about me. Let’s talk you.

First, I’ll offer up some understanding: you’re around to make a nice profit, to entertain, and to change minds. Now, now, don’t be shy. You own it! You occasionally even use it for good. Bravo. Second, I get it – there’s nothing you can make on TV or in film that won’t set some troll flipping out over it (like me). One tiny piece of dialog in an indie film that no one has ever heard of can easily spark a protest, but hey free advertising, right? And truthfully, you occasionally make some amazing art. I only say “occasionally” because SyFy still makes their own films. If there were a scale balancing pulp to art when it came to films/television shows, I’m thinking pulp is going to weigh a tad heavier. That’s not a sleight, Hollywood. There are lots of people in the world with differing tastes thus a place for most of what is produced, even stuff by SyFy.

Speaking of taste…

Here’s where I’m a little hypersensitive, Hollywood, and I’m hoping you can help me out. I’m really tired of the glamorization of suicides in everything. It’s likely that I’m noticing it more; I accept that. And there’s a good possibility it happens more in the shows I’m drawn to, but… could we just give it a rest? I’m completely over it. (This coming from the person who loves The Walking Dead; the irony isn’t lost on me. Although, in all fairness I’ve never been able to really make it through any Tarantino film.)

I remember a time when violence happened in the background. Where the horror of a scene was implied instead of spelled out for us in simple language with a gigantic crayon on a celluloid Big Chief. And who wouldn’t want to see that up close and personal? Why be subtle or merely imply it happened with a firecracker-type pop when actually seeing a prosthetic head explode, or blood spray against a back wall while simultaneously leaking from the actor’s nose really raises the stakes. Then we can all say, “oh, that’s what that looks like – I’m better for that knowledge.” From Mr. Robot to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri to Mindhunter, the new show on Netflix (great job there – his head was completely gone – I know I was personally excited to see that).  I mean hey, why finesse a scene when you can go all Neegan and straight up bludgeon your viewers over the head with it (be sure to roll sound, and don’t forget to call “action”)? Then go a step further – maybe take it up a notch by having the character narrate their own suicide – makes it sound poetic – you can have the other characters show their sadness along with their deep understanding as they offer tear-stained forgiveness – golly, the victim left a beautiful note. They’re probably up there right now with Aunt May and Uncle Ben group hugging in heaven.

I never thought I’d get cross with you, Hollywood, yet here we are. I religiously watch your blockbusters, your action packed anything. Heck, I’m a huge sucker for award season. Plus, I literally have the tastes of the average 25 year old male (who is crushing on Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson); it’s embarrassing. I loved Dexter, Hannibal, The Sopranos, Homeland, GoT  – you get the idea, but FFS can you please give the suicide trope a rest? Or if your writers are really sure it’s going to make their work that much better, they feel the scene absolutely needs it in all of its horrific and graphic glory, then have them talk to actual family and friends of suicide victims so they provide their input and really reinforce how “romantic” and “poetic” suicide is. I’m tired of going to a show or turning on the TV only to turn ashen within minutes while someone tries to reassure me it’s going to be ok. Surely, there’s got to be other things more interesting than another bullet to the head.  Get on that.

In the meantime, I’ll work on finding my sense of humor, and you can work on “We’re the Millers Part 2”. Maybe green light a Ricky Gervais project. FYI – I’m also available for focus groups.

Sincerely,

Beth

Did You Train?

The MRI results are in, and I can now proudly boast a complete rupture of both my MCL and ACL in graphic terms that involve an overuse of the word “gross”.  I say “boast,” because I was getting a certain amount of flack from the torn ACL’ers who poo-pooed my injury with a dismissive, “oh… only an MCL? In my day we tore our ACL and wore our patella’s like fine tibia necklaces and dragged the useless limb behind us. You just have a flesh wound” That may not be an exact quote. I thought having completely torn the ACL I’d finally get a certain amount of knee-props, but instead it’s more a, “well, you didn’t tear your meniscus, you must be some sort of sissy.”  I’ll take it, I suppose. Not like I can chase them down (yet).

Now most people who have seen me are a bit curious, “what did you do?” and I tell them about the Warrior Dash, the mud, the splits, Jean-Claude Van Damme, no Enya (it’s my bit), and in turn they politely wince a bit especially when I get to the word “popped”.  It’s a lovely dance repeated numerous times, and typically ending with well wishes.

Which leads me to a rant…  Hey, I’m me.  It’s what I do!

A few times I’ve ended the story and received a, “did you train for that?” usually accompanied by the up-and-down eye-balling as my body is sized up. Ummm… if you mean did I train for walking in 3.2 miles of solid slippery, shoe-sucking mud that’s had 100’s of people sludge through it previous after its rained for 7-8 hours, then no. I did not train for that. Maybe the 100’s of other people, almost all who fell multiple times, did, but you caught me.  I had no business on that course. Silly me, I just trained for obstacles. Did I mention I made it through two before being taken out on the mud?

Here’s the thing about training in today’s gyms – they lack a mud pit. I know, I know, I looked for a place that included a mud pit, but instead I was told they had pools, a basketball court, saunas, and some kind of cardio and strength training equipment. Whatever. One gym boasts an outdoor water slide, while another has “lunk alarms” and pizza – yet none of them really have the foresight to offer a really solid mud pit. Way to let your clients down, gyms! In that sense my gym and my trainer clearly failed me. She was so focused on training me for the obstacles, and trying to convince me that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do if I believed in myself that she dropped the ball.  Her super narrow laser focus on obstacles, cardio and strength led to her failing to train me for long hours in muddy creek beds during thunderstorms. Way to go, Jenn!  Lesson learned! Judging by the number of ambulances and more serious athletes breaking things, it’s clear their trainers let them down, too.  Whew, I’m not alone! There should be a study on this. We should all demand mud pits at our gyms! (For fun, you can Google injuries during Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder events to see all the failures of people to remain upright; they clearly should have also trained. Sad little “athletes”; they probably had it coming.)

(Note: All of the above is written in heavy sarcasm font.  Jenn is amazing. To think or say otherwise would end with me hobbling over to you, and giving you a very very stern look while thinking a host of ugly things I’d do if I got the drop on you, and had zero fear of 1) retaliation, or 2) bunking with a nice lady named Bertha who wanted to trade me for a pack of cigarettes. Bertha, you’re my #1 bitch, am I right? Fist bump? Don’t leave me hanging, Bertha. You’re my lady!)

So, let’s talk about what’s really being said, since me training for slipping in mud is ridiculous.  The subtext of what’s being said is, “you’re fat, and you hurt yourself because you shouldn’t have been out there.” Right and wrong.  Right, I’m a big girl, but I’m strong(ish) (strong-light?).  I have a decent amount of muscle under my “fluff” layer (as we lovingly call it).  Am I the strongest? No. But I’m stronger than what you think you perceive when you see me. Did I get hurt because of a lack of training? No. I got hurt because I was on really slick mud, and one leg was planted while the other got out from under me sending me into the splits where I hyper-extended my knee. A fun fact that I learned from Tae Kwon Do (I have my blue belt) – it takes approximately 10 lbs of pressure to snap someone’s ligament like the LCL (easiest to get to), which incidentally makes it a fantastic soft target if you want to drop someone. Most adults weigh more than 10 lbs., another fun fact. (You learn a lot when you visit my blog.) I could have been 100 lbs lighter, in the world’s best shape, and still torn my ACL and MCL.  Armed with that knowledge, there were really only two things I see I could have done differently that would possibly have had any effect on that day: 1) Not gone on the trail in those rainy conditions, and 2) walked on the left side of the trail where my strongest leg was on the more stable ground, and still, had I done all of that, I could have fallen in the backyard, going down the street, etc. Life doesn’t have guarantees.  Playing it safe is not a guarantee.

So, to answer the question. Yes, I trained. Thank you for your supportive question.

I recently told a friend I was pissed about the whole thing, and she said something I loved: “Beth, don’t be pissed for choosing to live your life.”

I chose to live my life. An accident happened. The sun rose the next day, and I moved forward.

A Babbling State of the Beth

I’m back, at least for a moment or two, and I’m going to write some general randomness, babble a bit, and there will probably be a tiny rant.  Hopefully in there will be a lot of love, because I do have that for a group of people who have been completely amazing.

Saturday we had a wake for Jay.  It was hands-down the best party I’ve been to in who knows how long.  If I could choose a recent moment to live in, it would be there in Darrell’s kitchen, talking to friends, laughing, drinking a margarita, or it would be on the couch announcing to my friend Jonathan that I was moments away from hugging everyone and declaring my absolute love for them.  In fact, there’s a ridiculous picture of me on that couch, and having never seen it, I feel it captures my goofiness and love.  (Let’s hope that pans out for me, and isn’t something I wince at.)

I’ve always had anthem songs. It’s just me.  Maybe it’s you, too, but in that moment I was returned to a song that is the most me when my world is right (and it’s usually more right than wrong), and it’s the me I haven’t been in a long while.

I managed to only have one moment where I started hyperventilating and tears trickled down my face, but I did it quietly in front of a group of people with a smile on my face and no one noticed. This may be a new skill  Although, I did have to fight down the urge to go for a long walk – not being able to escape folks in the front yard was the only thing that stopped me.  Damn you Johnny Cash.  The song wasn’t on, only an instrumental version, but I could sense him singing it and each word of the lyrics stung briefly.

Sunday was our anniversary.  Let me clarify a bit.  This wasn’t the anniversary of our marriage, but the anniversary of when we started dating 17 years ago.  While the nation mourns, I always remember that day as the one when we went to Magnolia Cafe, walked over to a park, and Jay told me he loved me for the first time.  On that day I made big, life-changing decisions – decisions that hurt some people unintentionally.  It was the day that kicked off what would be the happiest time of my life, and it was worth all of the anger I felt towards people for the years that followed (I’m just not cut from that “let it go” cloth – Elsa’s goofy little song would fall on my deaf ears. Girl, you let it go.  I got this.  I mean, just ask me about Jessica and the 3rd grade slumber party.  Mmm hmm. I’m not letting that go either) It was also worth the sadness of the last couple of months. That day kicked off a time when I learned the true meaning of friendship – that my closest friends would form a phalanx to shield me whenever I needed protection; they’re amazing.  It was the day I learned how wonderful love could be, and how strong (and in some cases weak) my friendships were.

It also kicked off our “Monthaversary” tradition, and not an 11th passed in the past 16+ years without the declaration of “Happy Monthaversary!!”  In turn, it makes every 11th that has followed varying degrees of painful with yesterday having the potential to wreck me.  My brother-in-law gets a big gigantic shout out here for heading that off by getting me outside, walking around, and then watching impossibly goofy movies.  He is amazing and a truly great and kind guy (yes, you are).

Here’s where I meander over to my ranty bit.  Feel free to hop off at this stop.

What happened with Jay was absolutely horrible; it’s the nature of death. Unfortunately, something I’ve learned from this experience is that people do not understand you if you’re not in a downward spiral.  So, I’m going to be blunt.

  1. Some facts – I get out of the house.  I started work a week later.  I went back to the gym
  2. I don’t need meds.  I don’t have the desire to hole up in a dark corner. Thank you for suggesting that, but I don’t need to not feel.  Maybe that’s you.  Feel free to get meds if so.
  3. Death is sad. It’s ok to be sad.  I don’t choose to wallow in this feeling although I might tear up on occasion. You see I lost my best friend who also happened to be my husband. I lost someone I talked to daily.  I lost someone who thought I was ok despite a list of flaws.
  4. Don’t tell me it’s not my fault.  I know that. See, I learned a long time ago that I can’t actually control other people.  It’s nice of you to say.  It’s annoying when it gets re-emphasized over and over again when I’m not actually claiming responsibility.
  5. Don’t tell me I need to see a therapist or go to group therapy, because you feel like that’s what all people who suffered a loss must need.  No, I don’t – at least not right now.  Sweeping into my life during a tragedy when you don’t know me well doesn’t qualify you to judge my mental state.  There are exactly five people I’d listen to on this subject.  If you just paused and wondered “Is that me?” It’s not. Two of them are my family (blood or otherwise), two of them live together, and the last is a surprise – well, probably not to them.  The day they put together an intervention is the day I’ll go, but right now they’re telling me I’m fine, and well… remember that phalanx?  Don’t push it. They’re fierce.  Also, they’re about to get punchy if they hear me say one more time, “yeah, she told me she didn’t think I had anyone to talk to, made the sad face, and got upset I wasn’t in therapy”.
  6. I was raised by a social worker and a big portion of our family friends were social workers.  Plus, I’m lucky in that I naturally come with a pretty large tool kit for coping.  Don’t assume I have no tools to work through grief.
  7. Do not ever tell me someone is not Jay.  I am keenly aware of this, and I need exactly zero reminders. Also a fun couple of facts –  therapists are not Jay.  You are not Jay.  So, if the point is to to suggest I’m trying to find a replacement, I can’t. No one can replace anyone else. Each friendship I have is unique. If the point is to suggest you or a therapist would be a better choice, well we’ll have to agree to disagree. My not sharing with you doesn’t mean I’m not talking to someone, I am.  It doesn’t mean I don’t love or value your friendship, I do, but the fact of the matter is that different friends have different abilities.  My phalanx was chosen for their unique skills. Thankfully the world is a big enough place that all types of friends are welcome, but don’t keep shoving your resume in my face when you can’t lift a shield, and don’t be jealous of those that can.  They’re a highly specialized and elite group.  They have their own standard they fly. (Well, they will now. Hey guys, can we work on that? You know who I’m asking. Maybe get the kids on it? They’re crazy creative. Maybe think of some theme music?) There can be a huge difference between empathizing and sympathizing.  Thank you for thinking of me.  Don’t push it.
  8. Don’t tell me that Jay’s choice had to be a relief or that he got to “leave the bullshit” behind. I am that bullshit. His family is that bullshit. Sam is that bullshit. Mind your face and the words that just dribbled out, and realize that the times I’ve needed to be in therapy have never been for sadness, but for anger. Also, there’s a short distance between me counting from 1-10 and breathing.  Hope I chose to count to 100.

The non-ranty bit (a list):

  1. There are not enough numbers to enumerate all the great things individuals have done or said.  You’re all part of my incredible tool kit that get me through each day. Your thoughts and kind words have been helpful.  Thank you for thinking of me.

Now I suppose I should wrap this up.  Did I mention this is babble? It’s kind of hard to put a neat bow on babble.  Maybe pretend I said something here that ties it all together, and I’ll pretend I had a lot of margaritas, am giving you a big hug, and saying I love you guys.  I LOVE YOU GUYS!

Everywhere is Signs

I was terrified in 8th grade, completely scared. Rumors floated around that the high school we were about to enter was infested with a fairly nasty gang. These girls had supposedly slashed a guy’s face at Hot Wheels, the local roller rink (back when that was considered a cool hang out), and the word was that if you went to a particular bathroom, they’d mess you up.  These were not young ladies you ever wanted to cross.  The nightmares that summer were absolutely horrible.  I had spent 7th grade in bullying hell, had finally found my feet back in 8th grade, and had been coasting since no one was currently threatening me with, “if you ride the bus, I’ll kill you.” Now there was this new unknown threat lurking. A threat clearly no one would protect us from as they hadn’t in 7th grade..

Back then assault and battery were illegal and school officials were in every corner to make sure I was safe.

I knew walking in that first day I wouldn’t know which bathroom to avoid.  I knew I’d have to wing it, but the idea that I would one day choose wrong gnawed at me.  That’s the most I’ve ever been afraid of people in a bathroom in the last 34 years, and I’ve been in some fairly sketchy bathrooms.

Now I see our state officials feel they need to protect me.  They want to make it safe for me to go to the bathroom, a bathroom experience free of transgender people.  One said something along the lines of, “we need to protect our women.” Well club me over the head and drag me to your cave, hallelujah I feel safe knowing another law is coming my way and you’ve got my back.  Sexual predators will quake now that the sign that says “Women” or “W” or “Damas” means “gender at birth”. Nothing stops a predator faster in his tracks than a law.

I’ll be sure to scoff as I inform our trainer who taught Active Shooter training that he was wrong when he said, “don’t hide in the restroom,” because now I know those places are getting a lot safer. No one would dare cross that line now. If someone enters our building, I’m beelining it to the restroom.  I won’t even lock the door, because I know my state legislators are keeping me safe.

As a person who has several gay friends and a transgender acquaintance (which I realize smacks of the same cherubic idiocy as those who proclaim, “I have a black friend!”) I can tell you that in general the LGBT community is not filled with sexual predators bent on hurting you or your family.  They’re people who need to go to the bathroom just like the rest of the heterosexual world.  You may not like their lifestyle, but you don’t have to approve of it to urinate.

There are absolutely exceptions – not everyone means you no harm, but those exceptions occur on both sides, and a law or a sign is not going to protect you from someone who is intent on hurting you.  I guarantee you though if you force a transgender woman to use a men’s restroom, the chances of that person being harassed or assaulted will spike.

So, if we agree that we already have laws in place designed to prevent restroom attacks, then the only thing this must be about is discriminating against transgender people.  My guess is somewhere between the Wachowski sisters, Caitlynn Jenner, and the legalization of gay marriage across the country conservative legislators lost their mind and want to exert some measure of control.  Do something that says, “I still support family values.” That’s great.  There are other and better ways to do that and better ways to ensure people are safe.

You should absolutely be aware of your surroundings including those times when you’re in the restroom or in any secluded space, but transgender people are not today’s boogeyman out to attack you and your family.while you’re trying to find the cleanest stall.  These are people who feel their gender identity is the opposite of their assigned sex, and they just need to go to the bathroom.  Let’s be honest, think of how many you personally know – I can almost guarantee that’s more than the number of times you’ll run into a transgender person in a bathroom. So with that in mind, I think this whole thing rather ridiculous. Thank you lawmakers, but I don’t need your protection on this issue.

As a friend said, “keep your eyes on your own urinal.”