Tuesday, October 15, 2013

LA Stories: The Rainmaker

"What was the best sex you ever had?"
...Apparently, this is a terrible question to ask a significant other. Especially if the answer isn't them. In my case, though, I'm a firm believer in honesty being the best policy- especially when that honesty brings such a smile to my face.

They say it never rains in Southern California, but it pours, man, it pours.

This is true.

There's so much smog and desolation in the air- all the shattered dreams and lies hang above the city like a veil of sadness. The longer the valley goes without rain to wash the pollution away, the harder it is to breathe. Things get too tight and too dry- the strangling days. As a Florida girl, I'm used to moisture- rich, wet healthy air in my lungs. The end of October marked a massive drought for the City of Angels- we'd gone months without so much as a cloud, and the radiant new clear sky which follows the briefest of showers was a distant hazed-out memory.

The desication was killing me- months with no reprieve. I knew I'd be heading home soon, but distant longing for a breath of fresh air 3,000 miles away wasn't enough. I felt mummified- at the end of a long night of work, I could taste the salt on my own skin. I was practically girl jerky. I wanted- I NEEDED- clean air. I needed to breathe. I needed clouds and frogs and puddles and umbrellas and rubber boots with whales on them. I needed RAIN. I also needed other things, and the gentle-voiced guy behind me in line at Wardrobe seemed like the man for the job.

I'd seen him around- tall, soft-spoken with liquid chocolate eyes and thick wavy dark hair. The kind of hair you wanna wrap in your fingers right before your hand spasms into a fist of ecstasy. But I'm getting ahead of myself... "I'm willing to bet you're into martial arts," I said. "Yeah," he shyly grins a million-watt smile at me. "Kung-fu, for, like, 14 years. Why?" I explain to him that with 14 years of Tae Kwon Do under my (black) belt, I calls 'em as I sees 'em. We chat for a while. Martial Arts, Martial Arts movies, Chuck Norris, horror movies. I wasn't expecting him to have a personality, but by the time we'd turned our costumes in I was pretty impressed. Southern boy, pilot's license, air force dads in common, the same horrible taste in movies I value so highly. He's... how you say... a Good Get.

We exchange info and keep in touch- a few days later I'm cooking him dinner at my place, and the next week we're at his place. Credits roll after a horrible shark-themed horror film concludes. I'm explaining that I'm leaving town soon, that I don't want a relationship, I just want... wow. Yep, that was a kiss. And a really good one, too. He tasted like pure Amazing. Like the first sip of coke in a lifetime of water. I lost any sense of anything other than the sensation of his mouth and his body pressing against mine. My stomach full of butterflies and white noise, I stopped talking at that point. I wanted my mouth free for more important things.

It's a funny thing, being touched by hands so soft you melt away yourself. I'm completely used to being the loudest. The brightest. The funniest. Because I have to be. I'm generally alpha-female in any social setting, so when I was able to shut off the carnival in my head and relinquish control, the silence was stunning. The vacancy left by the cessation of my own nonstop chatter left a calming clarity, and space. And I ached to fill this space with him.

He has a greek god's body, wrapped in velvety smoothness covering taut muscles. Lean, strong, warm and safe. Touching him reminded me of those magic spheres they sold at gift shops- I was amazed tiny purple electrical lightning wasn't visible in the narrowing gaps between our skin. Taking his clothes off was Christmas morning- marble-smooth skin covering a physique carved by Michelangelo. He was the most beautiful of all creatures. And he was naked. And he was mine.

Relinquishing control is usually hard for me- but I surrendered quite willingly to him. For the next however many hours, I wasn't paying attention to hours. I wasn't aware of anything other than sensation, warmth, and being held and loved and moved and touched. I fell asleep after, next to him, after he held me and kissed me goodnight. His bed was the softest white cocoon of infinite thread count, his pillows all-enveloping marshmallows. For a chronic insomniac, I collapsed easily and quickly into the deepest sleep I'd known in a long, long time.

That night, buried beneath his downy gossamer covers, I dreamed of white clouds turning gray. Building, rising, tumbling together, friction, electricity mounting, escalating, creschendoing and BOOM exploding into rumbling, echoing thunder. I dreamed of rain. We were deep within the belly of his apartment complex, sandwiched between multiple levels of concrete and wood- there was no way I could have known, but somehow that night, IT RAINED.


The skies opened up and pure, clean water fell through- the stratosphere burst and deluged the night air, refreshing, replenishing, cleansing away all the bad dreams and anger. I woke up the next morning to a new day in every way. Kissing him goodbye on my way out, I opened his door prepared for the harsh morning sun and instead was greeted with all the wetness a girl could ask for.

He f*cked me so hard it rained. And for that, I thank him. I walked casually down the sidewalk, all soaked and Gene Kelly with every lamppost and puddle, to my car. I got in and joyfully turned on my windshield wipers for the drive.

I've never been so wet in my life.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Red Flags & Cockrings: Ruining Peter Cetera

We all have guilty pleasures, and when a friend recently asked me what mine was, I smiled the bittersweet smile of someone with a secret...
The answer rings out in heart- and yet, before now, I have only shared this with one other person: My super secret guilty pleasure is this:
my favorite song of all time, the one that always melts me in my gooey shmaltzy hopeless romantic center is Peter Cetera's "Glory of Love."

Yep. That's right.

I'm finally confident enough to not give a f*ck about it possibly being the cheesiest song ever written- It is the Theme from Karate Kid II and it captured my soul. I simply adore it- the melody is so sweet and the lyrics speak to my core, which is apparently made entirely out of kitten whiskers and marshmallow. I heard it for the first time growing up in Omaha, and when I heard a song about a man being a knight in shining armor (from a long time ago) I would've been running around in the woods wearing a cardboard suit of armor myself. As the music floated from construction site radios through the woods and into the ravine where I chased imaginary dragons, I began to wonder if someday I would meet another knight in shining armor who would keep the woods safe with me.

(I was a strange child.)

The following is the true story of how this innocent, romantic love song was absolutely ruined for me... It was some birthday or other in the 2000's, and I was feeling hopeful. I'd been with my boyfriend for a few years and had only recently been comfortable enough to open up to him about my love for this song during a conversation about how we didn't really have an "our song." Regretfully I knew it couldn't be "Glory of Love," because as much as I would've loved to attribute those lyrics to our relationship, he had already weaseled out of several opportunities to "be the man who fights for my honor." Non-confrontation was his method of choice, and he had yet to display any qualities I'd describe as "heroic."

He'd cheated on me twice at that point, and as much as I stubbornly tried to fit that square peg into the round hole, I could not apply the Greatest Love Song Evaaaaar to us. But, as now, I was then- super romantic. I wanted it to be our song. Because we never really let go of those fantasies. Unfortunately, as turned out he had a fantasy of his own...

I am actively trying not to throw up in my mouth as I recall what happened next...

The night of my birthday, I was going to spend at his place. I was in my early 20's, but I still lived at home and strict parents made this a rarity. He assured me he had a super romantic night planned, and I was all aflutter with the anticipation the evening. He lead me to his bedroom and set me down, sitting upright on the waterbed my parents had given him to use.

He then blindfolded me, kissing me sweetly and turning the lights down. I heard the familiar sounds of a CD being opened and his CD player opening and closing. The familiar electric whir of the disc spun, and even before I heard the first notes, I knew: he'd bought "Glory of Love," and was playing it for me on Romantic Birthday Night! "EEeeee!" I said, reaching for the blindfold. "Wait," he said. "Not yet..." I then heard some unfamiliar sounds. Something being taken out of a small cardboard container?

Then I heard another familiar sound. A zipper and jeans falling to the floor. Hrm. This didn't quite seem right... As Peter Cetera sang his hopeful lines about being strong when we're together, and true love, and my childhood memories of the knight in shining armor came shimmering back from my mind, he lifted the blindfold off.

He stood in front of me, with his dick inches from my face, wearing nothing but a cockring and an expectant smile.

"Well? What do you think?" he asked proudly, arms akimbo like a pornographic Peter Pan.

I didn't want to embarrass him or appear ungrateful, but while I searched for the right reaction, some part of that fantasy shattered and a few confused tears escaped my eyes, rolling down my cheeks. I had no words as the little girl in the woods in her cardboard armor stared up in horror. I mentally bid her to run and hide- I had no clue what to do with him.

I wasn't expecting to be presented with the expectation of a blow job... on MY BIRTHDAY. TO PETER CETERA.

"Nooooo..." I think I must've said, quietly. I remember turning my face away and apologizing- I couldn't understand why I was crying so much- I didn't realize I was grieving the murder of yet another expectation. He kissed me, hugged me, put his pants on and kissed me and hugged me more. He said he understood, he just thought since I liked the song and he liked blow jobs, it'd be fun for both of us.

"It was a sweet thought," I said. I think even I convinced myself I meant it, at the time.

He made a few more attempts at romantic gestures over the next several years. Although a bit of a showy spectacle, he did manage a very sweet proposal. He continued to ignore Valentines' Days, with the exception of filing for divorce on a February 14th. But we never spoke again about Peter Cetera, or "The Glory Of Love," or the infamous Cockring Incident. In fact, I hadn't listened to that song in ages, which is sad since it had been such a high benchmark throughout the years I'd lowered my standards.

I played the song today, after my friend reminded me about guilty pleasures, and as I watched the video on YouTube, I smiled. After all, after 14 years of Martial Arts, hadn't I become my own Karate Kid? Somewhere in a forest in my mind, a little blue-eyed knight pops cautiously from behind a tree. Come on out, Small One. Dust off your armor- we have some dragons to chase together, just us.

Monday, August 19, 2013

LA Stories: VeilFire

The best part of feeling a little heartbroken is that it's proof-positive that up until very recently, your heart wasn't 100% broken.
And if it wasn't TOTALLY broken before, and it was brave enough to reach out, then it's probably not irrevocably broken now.

So, like the Death Star, it will again be Fully Operational.

As artists, we tend to wear our hearts on our sleeves. This is a terrible idea, but Jesus I really think it's the only way I wanna be. Even though I'm strongerbetterfasterharder, I chose to maintain that character trait. I wear my heart on my sleeve. It keeps my other organs from getting sh*t all over it. Yesterday I was reminded that yeah, in terms of my ex, I got a little gut punch, but I also dodged a bullet. I love that quote from HIMYM: "I made the greatest Train Dodge since 'Stand By Me." ...Well, not that first kid, but the other kids."

And that's how it feels at this point. Of course it initially hurt to hear that my ex was engaged, but it was no surprise. He had to propose to her to justify what he did to me. ("See, it was worth it, right?!?") Someday I'll wish them well, but yesterday wasn't that day. I've been on an amazing adventure the last 2 years, but sure I'm still allowed to feel the feels I feel. That's because I'm not a f*cking monster. I'm allowed to miss the good parts. Then I remind myself that he definitely sucked a dude's dick. Keeps it really simple that way.

After a really good chat with a really good friend, watching the sun set through a thin sliver in the Universal Studios Employee Parking Garage, I cried out all my sad and felt much, much better. Getting past the raw emotion that honestly, I hope I always feel, because it is a spiritual rocket fuel, and listening to a rational voice asking me if I wanted him back after everything he did to me made it very easy: No. Aw FUCK NO. We made speculations about the success of an marriage between a homewrecker and a liar. And then I felt better.

I had a trio of besties meet me at my apartment, and, true to form, they came bearing vodka and incendiary devices. Aaron, Arica and Chelsea arrived and scooped me up. I'd been planning on driving my Celica to California myself, and as such had loaded it with everything I needed to Get Rid Of but couldn't simply throw away. Some of these items I'd already given to Chelsea for various art projects- I'd been on a big "let's do constructive things" kick, but this last item in particular was a Big Ticket Item and needed proper care and handling. And fire.

It was my wedding veil- which I'd found in a box at my mom's right before I moved.

It's been in the trunk of my car, waiting for something special. Fortunately, we had something very special in store. Aaron drives and spirits us away to Chelsea's Thotful Spot, in a recreational area hidden within the city of Los Angeles. We park at a distance and, already giddy from the night air, bound across the streets to an open gate. The heat of the day had dissipated, and the sleek coolness of the night breeze, smoothed even more by a brief skim over a green lake, greeted our flushed faces. I breathed. And it felt so good.

"Pair up," Chelsea said, and two by two we held hands and made our way down a somewhat steep hill covered in row after row of bright white rocks. Like layers of shark's teeth, they gleamed up in the moonlight. I smiled seeing Arica and Aaron work their way down, Aaron in his famous boots and Arica in a borrowed pair of my shoes. The shoes are a gift from my mother, who would have an instant coronary if she had seen what we were up to.

Chelsea holds my hand. "Sorry guys," she says, "I got dibs on the stilt walker." I laugh and we pick a path down, sure-footed as cats all nimbly pimbly and high off a moonlit adventure. We reach the bottom of the slope and a dusty dirt path awaits. I don the veil, which also luminesces in the magic night, and feeling the breeze blow the tulle behind me like a forgotten useless ghost, we walk down the aisle, staying hand in hand.

Eventually we arrive at the Tunnel- kindling is gathered and Chelsea lifts the veil from its position over my face and kisses me. This is the second time in my life this has happened. I was grinning like a fool on both occasions, but this time there were no tears. The filmy gauze is spread over the kindling, and I pour some extra flammable 3-in-1 glue over it as an insurance policy.

Sparklers are administered- the very same sparklers I'd entrusted to my friends the day I left California, promising to come back. They'd been kept, because my friends believed in me. Aaron takes my phone to document the event, and Arica, Chelsea and I each use our sparklers for a different sort of Independence Day.

The veil goes up beautifully, the flames glinting on the Swarovski crystals hand-placed by someone who also loves me.

I thought of the woman who made the veil as it burned. I thought of my wedding. I thought of my ex.
And I felt... love.
Giggling beneath the streets of Los Angeles with sparklers in my hands, I felt so much love.
The veil had to go. I had to let go of that last little piece to get past the emotional hurtle of the day, and I let it go in spectacular fashion.

The little pyre blazed, mirrored by the tiny fireworks on our hands, until not single scrap of tulle was left- even the bag I'd brought it in- everything burned, burned, burned until the hurt from the day was gone, replaced by the warm glow of love. Only the embers remained.

Hello Ember. I know you.

You are the same ones burning in my heart.

But the ones inside me aren't a brushfire threat, and eventually the embers became ashes. After a quick vodka shot, for the safety of the City of LA, and also because it was the right thing to do, we peed on the ashes. All four of us. So hard to do that while laughing so hard. It seems to match the same sentiment my ex ultimately had for our wedding, so perhaps that'll be my toast to them after all. Mazel.

By now I'm intoxicated by night and moon and breeze and fire and oh yes maybe a little vodka- we have a DD, but we also have the park to ourselves, so we plop down by an emerald green lake as the wild geese call out to one another. I can hear their sounds reverberate through our tunnel, reminding me that eventually every living thing, veil, goose, good intention or lie, eventually becomes ash.

All we have is the exact Now.

Someday I will be ash too- and I'm so fucking grateful for every moment I spent surrounded by the love I felt this night. We chat, we share, I am again blown away by the artistic talents of my friends as the most amazing pieces are shyly passed around on iPhones. A nosy turtle periodically pokes his head above water to listen in until our inevitable laughter frightens him off. No one looked at a watch, but suddenly we all collectively knew it was time to go.

Denny's to-go, a shared bottle of wine back at my place, and some sweet goodnights at my front door. It was a really good night, friends. If I am ash tomorrow, I will be thinking not about pain, or regret, but about how grateful I am to have been allowed this opportunity. And if someone pees me out, I hope they're having fun. It's only fair- and it feels AMAZING to have your giblets that warm.

Friday, August 9, 2013


A little sparrow died right before our eyes at work today.

It had dive-bombed out of the heights, inexplicably, and struck a passing car of the rollercoaster as it whipped its loop 30 feet above our heads. My friend stood in abject horror over the body while I found a pot of flowers and matter-of-factly placed them between the dead bird and park guests. I surprised myself with this "show must go on" mentality, but I realized distracting the guests would be better than allowing them to mill about and stumble upon the tiny feathered tragedy, so I began to approach the nearest family and engaged them in conversation.

But that... isn't ME... is it?

It doesn't SEEM like me- Id've bet cash money on Jaime to be traumatized by this hollow-boned corpse, unable to keep a theme park smile on her face. I'm certain I would've insisted on burying the bird or DOOOOOING SOMETHING, but this Me Now seemed uncharacteristically pragmatic. I asked if there was any chance any vets on property might be able to save it, and when the answer was a definite "no," I moved on. No hope for the dead? Focus on the living. Make sure it doesn't sadden anyone else.

Does this make me cold? Am I some sort of monster? I checked: no. And I have the last 3 years to thank for that- I had to toughen up, and get a little harder so I'd stop breaking, and today that was evident. I've come close enough to death, wallowing in some dark phase, and I am changed by it, but for the good.

After all- isn't cooling the blade part of the process of forging steel? The sword doesn't STAY cold- it stays sharp. Like ashy residual fingers of mold flavor a cheese, a perspective on darkness enhances the light. Death has touched me, but it did not claim me. This isn't colder- this is stronger. This is better.

I thought about this bird, this little palmfull of bright Being. To a sparrow, surely a roller coaster is a metal deity- dipping and diving, relentlessly charging, never hesitating, fearing no hawk. This sparrow died touching the face of God. It died doing what it loved, and hopefully passed too quickly to register fear. Its last action in this world was flitting out of the sky to tilt at the most epic of windmills.
It's sad and beautiful at the same time, and my prayer for it, and us all, is "we should all be so lucky.

Lost Boys

The very first day in my new Florida apartment was a long one- it'd been a short move down the street and most of it was done in tiny bursts of effort down three flights of stairs, into a Celica, over four speedbumps and in the door- but it was a hot summer day and I'd taken a moment to pant facedown on the couch with my front door open. Which, naturally, is when the screaming started...

Piercing the moist air of the afternoon like an icepick through an eardrum, a child's voice strangled out along with a muffled scraping and pounding noise. My door was open so I ran outside into the street which separates the two sides of our apartment complex buildings, trying to track the sound- it was the building directly across from mine. "MOOOOOMMMM!!! MOOOOOMMMMMMM!!! OH MY GOD MY MOM'S DEAD!!!"

A small cocoa-skinned boy came spilling down the stairs and into the light. He had a full-to bursting backpack on his back, and his red-rimmed eyes were full of tears. "What's wrong? What happened?!?" "MY MOM'S DEAD I CAN'T FIND MY MOM!!!" Other student-age kids were in the street at this point, laughing and pointing at the commotion. "Where do you live?" I asked the child, trying to get his attention as he literally raced in circles. It would've been comedic if it wasn't so soul-rending to hear him bawl.

He was too distraught to answer, and I couldn't discern which door he'd come from. "Who knows this boy?" I demand of the young passers-by. Two of them stop jeering long enough to acknowledge. I put on my Adult Voice and told them "You and you- show me where he lives." As they start to march up the stairs the terrorized child had come from, the boy suddenly charges ahead of us, still screaming. Upon reaching the top level, he begins pounding and clawing like an animal against a locked door. This explains the noises I'd heard earlier- the sound of his little body as he hurled it against the metal door and sank to the floor. "MOM!! MOOOOMMM!!!!" He's sobbing. "SHE'S DEAD!!!"

I try the latch, preparing myself to find a body, but I cannot get it to budge. Finally, FINALLY, other neighbors emerge cautiously, poking their heads into the hallway. "Who knows this boy?" I demand from them. They blink back at me like cattle. "Who knows this boy's mother?"I try, using my very best Adult Voice. Simple shrugs are all I receive- but there's no time to be angry- my little panic-attack poster child is practically hanging over the balcony, screaming for his dead/missing(?) mother. "Whoa whoa whoa" I say, grabbing the loop of his backpack before he spills over the edge.

I pull him off the railing, at which point he looks at me, inhales deeply, and screams with renewed terror "STRANGER DANGER!!!" Then he's off like a shot, down the stairs. I snap at the gawking children to follow me and we race after him in a parade of histrionics. He's in the street again- in traffic. I hem him to one side, arms spread wide like I'm herding a pigeon. "OK, dude, calm down- I'm sure your mom is fine. Do you have a key to your apartment?" "Hunh?" "Do. You. Have. A. Key?" "Noooooo!!! She's supposed to BE THERE- SHE'S NEVER NOT BEEN THERE!!!" "OK, I have a cell phone- let's call your mom, OK? What's your mom's number?" He doesn't know it.

He doesn't have a key and he doesn't know his mom's cell number.
None of his neighbors can identify him.
This child is at least 6.

I've decided by this point that if his mom IS alive, I want to punch her in the face for leaving her son in this dangerously vulnerable position. But I have to worry about that later, because he's now running down the street. "Hey hey hey! You see the office? See the office where the grown-ups work? We're going to go there AS A GROUP (I identify to the others) and get some police to help us find your mom. I'm sure she's fine, OK? The police will help us find her but we have to wait where it's safe."

"MOOOOOMMMM!" He's screaming again, but his voice is breaking as his spirit gives out- he is absolutely, unequivocally convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that his mom is dead. He whimpers to me, "I don't want to die..."

At this exact moment, a car comes flying around the corner. I position myself instinctively between the child and the car, but it slows and stops in front of us. "What's going on?" The woman driving asks. "MOM!!!" The little boy shoves by me and loses his shit into the car window, crying uncontrollably. "I thought you were deeeeead," he manages through wracking, ragged breaths. "I was running late," she shrugs at me.

She doesn't seem phased or particularly moved. I'm fuming.

"He was running into the street," I point out. What I want to say is, "You're a horrible mother! How could you DO THIS to your child?!? You let the TV teach him to yell 'Stranger Danger' but he doesn't know your cell number?!?" ...but then I see how tired she looks.
I see her older model body in her older model car and she looks so drained. She looks like she's consistently had the weight of the world on her shoulders and has simply checked out.
There is no wedding ring on the hand which half-assedly comforts her son, and I suspect this woman has not been given a lot of help, if any, raising him. There's nothing I can say or do, applying knuckles to her face will not make a difference.

I take my White Privilege and go home. So I let it go- I must pick my battles wisely, and this is one I cannot win. Today. But you better believe I made cookies and marched them over to my new neighbor's Los Angeles apartment the week I moved in. Just in case.

Adventures in Buddhism

At the Southeast Vipassana Center in Jesup, GA, there's not a lot of relaxation and rest to be had. They warn you right off the bat that it's not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. After I included a history of antidepressants, antianxiety medication and sleep aids in my medical history, they emailed me to insist that I have a Medical Professional certify my ability to survive the course in good mental heath. Then they called, and asked if I was REALLY SURE I was off all this medication.

Yes, yes I was.

Since I don't have health insurance I asked the good people of Planned Parenthood, "hey, while you're down there looking at my vagina, can we talk about zen?" The Vipassana Center called back after I sent in my A-1 mentally healthy forms, asking am I REALLY SURE I'm wanting to do this, and am I really aware of the dangers of intense, painful panic attacks and depression relapses?

Bring it. I ain't afraid of no ghost.

We arrive on the evening of Day Zero, and are fed the last dinner we'll be seeing in 11 days. It's good food- lots of rice, fresh salad, all organic vegetarian and a decent array of teas to choose from. We then find out bunks and have just enough time to meet our roommates before "Noble Silence" kicks in. That means no talking, eye contact, writing, communicating or gesturing to other students. There are to be no distractions for anyone's meditation. Basically, we're on our own. I bid a quick hello and goodbye to the woman bunking below me, who I named Miss EatPrayLove because of her slight resemblance to Julia Roberts. EatPrayLove had a friend, Patricia, who came to take the course with her. They had known each other for years and were both teachers at a school for kids with speech pathology. Very cool. Since pre-existing friends are distracting, they bunked Patricia elsewhere, and I would only be seeing the back of her head from that point on, as she was seated in the row ahead of me at the Dhamma Hall, where students meditate.

The gong rang early the next morning- ugly early, at 4AM. Ostensibly, students are supposed to go and meditate in the hall from 4 to 6:30, but we have the option of meditating in our rooms instead. Naturally, being fully awesomated, I dragged my ass out of bed and hit the hall. I was dedicated! I was motivated! I was...nauseous. Crap. Funny thing about acid reflux- I LOATHE early mornings, and the inevitable flooding of my stomach with acid makes them particularly rough. In the real world, I force a small breakfast down my gullet and tough it out- the food absorbs the acid, and the motion in my morning makes it bearable. However, here in Meditation Land, there is no food allowed in the dorms (as food attracts bugs) and the kitchen is only open during meal times.

Crap. Crapcrapcrap.

I weaved and lurched through about an hour f attempted zen, then tiptoed outside the hall, dry heaved, went back inside and could barely sit upright. "Focusing" was out of the question. I went back to meditate in my room so I wouldn't distract the 30 or so Morning People in the Hall, but lying horizontally basically put me right back to sleep. Fail. Zen fail. A silent breakfast of hot oatmeal and fruit at 6:30, then more solo meditation time. (read: nap.) Then we have our Morning Meditation in the Hall for an hour. We have the option of heading back to our rooms to meditate (read: nap) or we can stay in the hall. I chose to "meditate in my room," warm and snuggly under the covers.

Finally it was lunch time. Pretty decent fare, although I could already sense something was missing... I couldn't quite put my finger on it. We then have our afternoon Group Meditation, after which our Teacher, Brett, spoke to the new students. I explained the acid reflux and asked if he had any tips- he said, (in hushed, sotto tones,) to do what made me the most comfortable. Cool. Hey, it was nice to talk to someone- even just for a sentence or two. There are another couple hours of meditation, then it's Fruit O'Clock! Not dinner, but Fruit O'Clock! We don't get dinner at the Vipassana Center- only fruit and tea. The combination of citric acid and the acidity of the tea was pretty unsettling.

I gurgled all throughout evening meditation with the group. Then it's Movie Time! Each evening, the Vipassana Head Cheese S.N. Goenka, speaks to us for about an hour. But it's not live- it's a DVD made from a video shot in 1991. He spoke a little about the process of meditation, and chanted some prayers for us in his deep baritone voice. He sounds like a Burmese version of Vincent Price- I kept expecting him to tell me that a ghost would be following me home, or break out into a Thriller laugh. No such luck.

Goenka is a charismatic man in his 60's (well, in his 60's at the time of the taping, anyway) and he sits on a deus and addresses his students in a loving, paternal manner. He loves us. He wants all beings to be happy. We know this because he explains that that is what he is chanting: "May All Beings Be Happy." To which the students (both our class and the ghostly ones in 1991) all bow our heads to the ground and say "saaadu...saaadu...saaadu," which roughly translates into "well said. We agree." Then we meditate for another half hour and call it a night. In silence.

Ah, but the insomnia reared its ugly head that night. I tossed and turned as quietly as possible, but the squeaky bunk bed made the sound echo through the dorm area. I'm sure EatPrayLove was ready to kill me. I couldn't sleep for a number of reasons- first, I was restless because I'm a very physically active person and I'd been made to sit still all day. There are two walking trails in loops close to one another, but they take all of 4 minutes to complete and we are not allowed to run, walk fast, or do any sort of formal exercise. We can't even stretch, as it would be "distracting."

Even though men and women are completely separated from one another and physical contact is strictly forbidden, there is to be no visually or aurally distraction created. Bah. Not even yoga. Meh. It was hard. Also, not talking was hard, but I was looking forward to that challenge. So far, on Day 1, I'd had to talk to Aishah our Course Manager, because she told me to come see Brett, our Teacher Assistant for New Student interview. But it was no big deal- I could go silent. I was sure of it.

After a fitful night, the gongs rang at 4AM. I made an effort to rise, brush my teeth and get dressed, but I wound up climbing back into bed after the first wave of "bleh" came. I tried to meditate in bed, but after zero sleep it was a losing battle. I was asleep in minutes, and snuck in naps througout the day to try and balance out the wasted night. I wanted mental and emotional energy for the group sittings, so I slept whenever possible. This quickly proved not possible.

Aishah the Course Manager is a good person, and loves her job. (Which she volunteers for.) She took it upon herself to come check on me, waking me up the next morning to "see if I was OK, and to see if I was doing OK with my meditation." Um. Yes? I don't know, it's 5:30 in the morning? Plus, if you've read my blogs "The Ghost" and "And the Darkeness," you know that I HATE being woken up by people in my room, softly calling my name. Physical contact is forbidden, as well as loud sounds, so all Aisha could do was put her face near mine and quietly call my name until I woke up. This is how I used to wake up on the nights when Andrew, my psycho obsessive roommate, would sneak into my room and try to climb into my bed. Super disconcerting.

I struggled that day, but got the basic technique down. My mind would wander, but I could gently guide it by the nose back to focus. We were supposed to be concentrating on the touch of the breath on the small area just inside and below the nostrils. And I pretty much got it down. I think the furthest off-track I got was a bizarre fantasy in which I was a grandmother telling my grandkids, "Oh, in my day, we didn't HAVE hoity-toity SHOULDERBLADES. We had to carry our shit on our ribcages!"

Random stuff would pop up. I got a very intense, vivid memory of riding the escalator up from the parking garage towards the Target on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. Ah, pointlessness. Back to the breath. Occasionally, stuff would hurt or get sore, so I'd do a little self-check in: Hey there Head, how ya doin'? Cool, cool, good to know. Neck? Still sore? Ah, sorry to hear it. I love you. Feel better. Chest, back? Talk to me- how's it going? etc. etc. As each part would respond I would give it love and encouragement. Overall, I seemed to be doing OK. I was getting the technique down, and hanging in there. Aishah's constant micromanagement was driving me crazy, but I viewed it as a game.

One of our roommates talked in her sleep, which is bad enough on it's own, but she would sit up and speak in different voices to herself and it scared the shit out of me. No sleep. Some phlegmmy Korean lady down the hall would hack and cough all night, then snore. I felt bad for her, and tried to use it as an opportunity to get over my aversion to the sounds of sickness. Then when I got bored being charitable, I'd stuff a pillow over my head and feel miserable. I was exhausted. Every day. One lady didn't like the Course and left. This freed up a spot for me on the back wall, where I could pretty much see everything. Not that my eyes were open and I was daydreaming. Shit. Back to the breath.

On Day 4, we had another New Student check in. I watched people go up and ask Brett their questions. Poor Patricia went up and I could see her distress in the dim light of the hall- her raven black hair was held in an enamel clip, and I could see this clip bobbing up and down and left to right as she tried to communicate. I looked over at Patricia's friend, EatPrayLove. Still in perfect meditation pose, eyes closed. So balanced, so equanimous. (Goenka's favorite word.) I envied her Zen- surely she was on the path to Enlightenment.

When it was my turn to speak in hushed tones to Brett, I explained that I was NOT sleeping. He told me to just accept that I would not be getting much sleep while at the Center. Thanks? Hrm... We were also allowed to ask questions at the end of the night, and I asked Brett about Goenka's insistance that nothing was permant- everything was Anicha, Anicha, Anicha. (Change, change, change- which Goenka insisted on repeating in triplicate at every opportunity.) "So if everything changes, and goes away, how can we be happy about anything? How can we trust in anything? What if someone says 'I love you?' Should I just keep checking back with them every 5 minutes?" Brett smiled. "Just accept the impermance, and hope for continuity."


The following day was the BIG REVEAL- Vipassana day! During a very special 3-hour meditation block (mandatory of course) we would be taught the practice and technique of Vipassana Meditation! Ready? Ready for the big reveal? The secret to all life, eternal lives, nirvanic bliss and enlightenment? ...It's a body scan. The same damn thing I'd been doing since Day 1. Checking in with each body pary and feeling the sensations. Son of a...! (FACEPALM.) The purpose of the body scan is to detect the subtle vibrations and sensations throughout the body and identify them, then accept them with objectivity, don't lable them 'good' or 'bad,' and move on. Do this piece by piece, top to bottom. Then bottom to top. Then symettrically, feeling both arms at the same time and both legs at the same time. Then flowwww... There. I just saved you 10 days of your life.

You're welcome.

I was still fuming at Fruit O'Clock. Really? The same shit I'd been doing all along? Goenka says that in dismissing each sensation with objectivity and remaining equanimous, we will prevent the creation of New Sankaras. Sankaras, (just in case you don't know,) are feelings of Craving or Aversion. Like or Dislike. And according to Goenka, who is going directly from Buddha's teachings, Sankaras are the root of all misery. I was confused- how can a 'like' be bad? I 'like' a lot of stuff. I just 'liked' my friend's photo on facebook- how can this be negative? That Sankara of a plate of hotwings? Mmmm. So good.

But, Goenka explains, they are bad because due to the impermanence of everything in life, no hotwings last forever. Everything is change, change, change. So I like something. Then it goes away. Then I miss it, long for it, and crave it. I become miserable, he insists, and generate a Sankara of craving. In fact, Goenka says, every time I create a NEW Sankara, it MULTIPLIES my preexisting ones. As soon as I enjoy or dislike ANYTHING, my Sankaras multiply, and my misery multiplies. Only though the habit of objectively accepting then dismissing the subtle physical sensations of my own body can I eradicate my Sankaras- and once I get deeper within the body, OLD, preexisting Sankaras will emerge and dissipate as long as I am dilligent with this Vipassana meditation.

Hmm. Okayyyy.

Since Vipassana is touted as a highly scientific, nondenominational SCIENCE of meditation, I ask Brett the next day: "If energy can neither be created nor destroyed, how is it by "creating" one Sankara, I "multiply" the others?" He smiled and mumbled something about how "multiply" might not be the best translation. "Okay, well since there is no such physical thing as a Sankara- if you cut me open, you will find none, I assure you- let's just assume he's talking about salt and amino chemical patterns being reinforced throughout the brain? Is that it? Just reinforcing bad mental habits?" "Something like that."


At that point, I started to check out a little. Plus, over on the men's side of the room, there was a Burper, and it was super distracting. On top of the standard sniffles and sneezes, having someone deeply belch while you're trying to focus was challenging to say the least. If Goenka was right, and the man was simply deep in meditation and releasing his Sankaras, then maybe it's not so bad, but since the only way I could visualize a Sankara was to picture it as a cockroach with a colorful satchel filled with Emotional Baggage, the image of a man burping up cockroaches became very unsettling.

I tried hard to scan that night, but memories kept popping up- sudden, specific memories of times with Jay- the time I surprised him by waiting under a streetlight for him to drive by while wearing a frog costume. The time I jumped on him, wrapping my legs tightly around his hips while I dangled one arm and "groomed him" with the other. He let me climb on him and called me a Lemur. The time we splashed in the fountain together in Winter Park- one he'd re-propose to me at when he got the engagement ring resized. A few tears escaped. I approached Brett. "Um, so, maybe these are Sankaras coming up, but I'm having very intense memories and they're making me a Sad Panda- how should I deal with the emotion?" Brett smiles. "Just accept that that'll happen and move on. Be objective."

"Oh. Okay. Thanks..."

Hrrrm. But that night, I guess I finally managed SOME sleep, because I had either a vision or a dream.
Doesn't matter.
What matters is that in the vision, I was meditating outside in the sun when a beautiful dark-skinned woman in traditional African robes and a beautiful headwrap approached me. She was covered in a fine layer of dust, and I knew she was Of The Earth. God. Like when you see Morgan Freeman and you just know. She walked to where I was sitting and reached out to me, reaching into my chest, into my heart, and removing a long purple plume from within me. "I'll carry your sorrows for you," she said, and tucked it up, pinning it away in her massive headscarf, where I knew it would stay safely forever and I'd never have to deal with it again. She looked at me with love and I awoke.

I awoke feeling truly loved and peaceful. That night I dreamed about Jay, but it was just standard dreams. We weren't fighting. He wasn't coming back to me. I didn't wake up disoriented or confused as to why I was alone. I woke up feeling relieved.

The covert sleeping didn't stop- and the covert writing began- with the sadness gone, and my complete trust in Enlightenment Through Vipassana sullied, my brain had a full-on revolution. And it was televised! I invented the Vipassana Network in my head, and wrote about the myriad of silly things that made me laugh throughout the day's events. I wrote an audition piece for a friend. I wrote half a screenplay- and I wrote this on papertowels in the darkness, or in secret or in the few precious moments of privacy I'd have when EatPrayLove was meditating in the Hall and I was "meditating" in my room. I wrote, I wrote, I wrote. And I was happy.

I had a daily supply of Clif Bars, and I would eat one each day in the woods, (to keep the bugs from wanting to get the crumbs from my dorm) and to not arouse jealousy. Mmm Clif Bars. I noticed after each sitting, I would spring from the hall like a snake from a can of snakes. I would take lively steps towards the bathroom or the trails or the mealhall- wherever I could.

Gradually, the rest of the students would stumble out, squinting in the brightness like Mole People and milling about. The Shuffling Zombies shambling around tickled my heart. I love Zombies. On the 9th Day, during the time we are typically released to have private meditation (read: sleep) in our rooms, they flipped the script and instead played a tape recording of Goenka speaking.

It lasted for over an hour, and I grew antsier and antsier waiting for it to end. When you hear no loud sounds or voices for 9 days, and Goenka's baritone instructions, affirmations and dissertations are all you hear, every one of his words comes like a Thunderball. I heard his voice in the shower, in the few brief walks in the woods, in my sleep. I could even catch myself internally replaying the songs he'd always sing in Hindi- songs with words in a language I do not speak were echoing, echoing, refraining between my ears.

Goenka also has a very specific pattern of speech- repeating some words in triplicate, others in duplicate, always with a very deliberate, controled delivery... Today it was just unbearable. I could feel myself catch the first word, then crave for the second, then long for the third just to complete the pattern- and what's worse, Goenka was pausing longer and longer between the repetitions, causing us to hang on his every proclamation- This was the only way to get out of my ignorance, to get out of my misery, my misery, my misery.

Hey, wait a tick... What the fuck!
This is exactly how they brainwash people!
Holy shit!

At that moment, what I'd been missing every day at breakfast, lunch, and Fruit O'Clock kicked in: SALT. Ohhhhh fuck. Salt. Fucking SALT!

Quick history lesson: I had to do a lot of research on how to make a zombie, for a movie. Historically, like, for real, the descendants of Witch Doctors from Africa are living in Haiti. And they have old family recipies for a very specific type of poison which is used in the slave trade in Africa to pacify captives from rival tribes until the White Devils would come and pick them up. The poison is made into a powder and introduced into the system of a victim. The victim "dies," and is found dead by some innocent bystander.

Some shitty Hatian doctor checks for vitals but has a lousy medical education, lousy equipment and no financial incentive to save the victim, so he or she is pronounced "dead" and buried by a shitty undertaker in a shitty coffin in shitty Hatian soil. This makes it very easy to dig that person up. Since the poison has DRAMATICALLY slowed their vitals, the person has not consumed more air than the coffin held, so the Hatian Voo Doo Master revives them but deprives them of salt. Then gradually reintroduces salt into the victim's desalinated system, and trains them, based on the victim's brain CRAVING salt, to do their bidding.

The tasks are done mindlessly and oblivious to physical pain. If you deprive a person of sleep and salt, it makes them more receptive to suggestion. Methamphetamine salts are given to help ADD and ADHD people, and Bipolar Disorder people take salts because their brain isn't making enough. Holy shit. Someone was trying to turn me into a zombie.

By napping and sneaking Clif Bars, I'd warded off the attack. Hot Damn I'm awesome. Do I think these people had ANY malicious, insidious motivations? Absolutely not. Sleep Deprivation, Desalination, chanting, repetition, constant monitoring and control over our physical bodies is not GREAT, but really all they want are good Vipassana students.
Which I am not.

After I realized this, with a laugh I arose from my cushion in the Hall. I absolutely couldn't stand another minute of Goenka, Goenka, Goenka. I HAD to move my body. I had to physically express my liberation. And so I stepped outside... and I ran. There was no one around, no one to distract- they were all inside! So I ran, luxuriating in the sensation of the wind in my hair and rushing across my ears. I pounded the grass with my feet. It felt great. I didn't go far- just in a short loop, a few skips and leaps. Two cartwheels. I found a stick and threw it from the clearing into the woods, delighting in the crash it made as it hit some branches.

I had made something happen, with motion and light and sound and joy. It felt amazing. But, nothing is permanent, all things are temporary, and suddenly Aishah was behind me- she'd come after me. "To make sure I was OK." "Yes, I'm great," I pant. "Just stretching." She insists that I speak to Brett after the lesson. "Really? I was just stretching!" "It's insisted upon." Well, shit.

A half-hour later, I'm in a tiny cell, kneeling before Brett as he floats on a deus two feet above me. Aishah has crammed in behind me- the room is so small I can feel her breath on my neck. It's unnerving. "Is everything OK?" Brett asks. Should I tell them that I've discovered their evil plot? Should I reveal my dissention? My rebellion? They told us we would suffer Severe Mental Distress if we left the course early... a threat? The truth? I wanted to see how it ends- I made it so far! I THREW A STICK INTO THE WOODS, YOU ZOMBIE-MAKING BUDDHISTS! HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW?!?

"...Nah, I'm fine- just stretching, really. Just a stretch. That's all." Brett and Aisha exchange a glance, and I'm dismissed! Phew! We have a meditation break, during which we are supposed to meditate. I am too hyper. I just stew. After the break, we go back to the hall to mediate some more. Another hour passes, then, instead of releasing us, they start ANOTHER Goenka recording. Ah, well. To make matters worse, it's pretty much the exact same message as the first- the same speech, paragraph for paragraph, delivered in a slightly different way.

I had no choice but to distract myself with racy sexual fantasies to stay sane. It was the only way, really.

As soon as the last Saaadu was bowed out, I got a surprise when PATRICIA, the woman in front of me, bolts out the door- man, she's off like a rocket! I smile because I know exactly how she feels, and I smile more when I see Aisha bolt after her, like a shadow. Since I'm seated closest to the door, I'm the third one out and I see Patricia bee-lining it for the trail. Aisha is striding fast behind her. I still want to walk, so I head for the second trail nearby- but suddenly I hear something loud. Something unhappy. Patricia is yelling. At first, I'll admit, I got a pang of joy when I pictured her giving Aishah an earful for her Gestapo-policing habits- but then I listened more.

The yelling turned to screaming- I could not hear Aishah's whispered replies, but I could tell they were not making things any better. Patricia began screaming and ranting about "And what the hell is a SANKORA, anyway? I mean, what IS THAT? I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT AND YOU WON'T LEAVE ME ALONE!" Her distress level was severely inporportionate to the situation- she'd become completely irrational, and I could tell she was having a psychic break. This was a fullblown meltdown, and Aisha, who is not a trained ANYTHING, was way out of her league. "I DON'T WANT TO GO SEE BRETT!!!" I could hear more screaming, crying. "GET AWAY FROM ME!" They'd taken our phones, our keys, everything. (Well, not MY keys- Mama didn't raise no fool.) I knew Patricia felt cornered and threatened and terrified.

I couldn't help her because I was a virtual stranger, and for all she believes in her delusional state right now, 'one of THEM.' The best thing to do was go find her friend- the one she'd come with. Someone she trusts.
I found EatPrayLove meditating dutifully in the Hall, like we were supposed to. Perfect lotus position. Man she's good. "Diane," I murmur, kneeling next to her then comically eyehooking the door so she'll leave with me. She does, and I tell her in the hall "I'm so sorry for breaking your silence on the 9th night- but Patrica is in the woods and she's having a really rough time, and Aishah is making things worse."
"Oh," she responds, dreamily. "Yeah, this is a really tough course- how are YOU doing?"
"No, you're not getting it," I say. "Your friend is having a meltdown in the woods- she's freaking out and she's scared and she needs you."

EatPrayLove nods.
"I'll speak to her tomorrow."

...wait. What?
She turns and goes back silently into the darkened hall to focus on Love and Compassion for all Beings. While her friend suffered 300 yards away. I was stunned. After everything we'd been learning- all these anecdotes Goenka was feeding us about the Buddha, and his infinite compassion for suffering, his sacrifice... NONE of that had taken with the "best student" among us.

Patricia's shoes remained outside the interrogation chamber/"interview room" for hours.
She did not appear at Fruit O'Clock.

EatPrayLove went to bed that night and I heard her sleeping peacefully. The next morning, Patricia was at the Group Sitting, but she looked like she'd been administered a heavy dose of Thorazine. She was completely out of it, and rocked slightly back and forth as Goenka chanted, as if mesmerized. She went into a private meditation cell later, and I heard her crying. Then she and her car vanished completely. Aishah scooped up her cushion, eradicating any evidence that Patricia had ever existed.

After the 10th Day's Afternoon Sitting, students could finally talk. The campus errupted in joyful exclamations and bursts of sounds and laughter. "Did you see the tortise laying eggs?"
"YESSS!!! Did you see the fireflies?"
"What?!? There were FIREFLIES?!?" "You gotta hit the woods right after Goenk O'Clock- they're in grassy space big enough to do cartwheels in!" "How do you- (gasp) you DIDN'T!"

I was a rebellious black sheep- between the sleeping, the secret writing, the clif bars, the cartwheels, my freedom run, and my dissentious thoughts, I am truly the worst Vipassana meditator on the planet. It's official. BUT- despite 9 Days of being told how to think, how to feel, how to act, I still, STILL knew what was best to do for Patricia. I STILL felt compassion and put her suffering at higher value than my own Noble Silence.

I may have compromised my Vipassana Salvation, but if EatPrayLove's path is the path of Enlightenment, damn it looks cold and lonely.

I'd rather suffer the slings and arrows, the highs and lows, the mosquito bites and the fireflies, and FEEL FEEL FEEL, even if it is "misery." It's human nature, and I think being human is so very precious and beautiful. Sure, my life is a rollercoaster. But no one ever got off a fun ride at a theme park and said, "wow, that was really equanimous and balanced- let's go again!" I am compassionate, I am loving, I am willing to get hurt for love, and I BELIEVE in passion and following a free-range wild heart.

Is that enlightened? No. Is it fun? You betcher ass it is!

According to Goenka and Buddha, we get several rounds at this. Maybe this isn't my time time to have peace.
After all, I asked Brett on the last night: "If everything is change, change, change, and nothing is permanent or forever, why strive for Enlightenment if it'll just go away?"

Brett smiled. "You'll know when you're Enlightened."
How very Zen.
Please pass the salt.


Everything starts off with strangers- sterile and sanitized. Suddenly, there's chemistry as grains and hopes come from out of nowhere. A sense of growing extractations begins to form, and things heat up dramatically only to be cooled, quickly, cruelly- a cauldron of magic snuffed at its prime. But did you know? I'm a Fermenter. Some craze-inducing bacteria breathes life where before there was none. Sugars have formed. Sweetness. Chemicals swirling trapped in my vessel. Intoxicated with my own chemical reaction, I'll convince myself it's fine because I like the taste. My glass carboy skin holds the bubbling, churning, working, combusting inside while you casually sweep through me. You and Me. Things will be OK. I'm now drunk off my own lies, so don't mind me- I'll just twist here and rot while you sleep. This is, after all, EXACTLY what I asked for. In the morning, I'll stagger off like a poisoned animal full of too many putrid apples. I blinded myself with this ignorant moon-shining. Still...

LA Stories: Bacon n' Noir

As I mix my morning cocktail of fake-maple-sugar and fake-regular oatmeal from the "Free Oatmeal" drawer at Warner Bros., my mind wanders, remembering breakfasts of days gone bye... Real Food. French toast. Muffins. Bacon. Eggs. Sausage. And on the matter of sausage... Every man I've ever dated has claimed that he can make the perfect omelet, yet, if memory serves, they've never served it to me. I'm not baby crazy, but a lady likes to know a man can handle eggs. Maybe I should freeze some, in case I never do get that breakfast in bed. The hot water seeps into the last of my refined super-processed mecha-oats and it's time to stop dreaming and start typing. Back to a cold cube, a cold chair and a colder blue-gray data entry screen- where dreams and pigs in blankets go to die. My legs lock, unwilling to lead me back to a gray world when they're longing to wrap themselves languidly around other legs in a sun-gold land of sheets, pillows, tousled hair and waffles. ...I stare at the disposable cup full of disposable breakfast and release the heavy sigh I've been holding in my slowly-emerging ribcage. The cup is half full, but I already know I'm still hungry.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

LA Stories: California Dreamin'

When I moved out here the first time, I had these recurring nightmares about a dead baby. It was always the same- I'd see it floating face-down in the Los Angeles River, all blue with mottled flesh, and I'd slide down the long smooth concrete wall into the pit, where I could wade through the nasty water and reach it, try and flip it over and give CPR. Once I was trapped, however, just as I turned it over, the baby reanimated as a zombie monster baby- it was dead and it was angry. It was so strong, and it had teeth- it tried to pull me into the water with it, trying to hold me under and I'd fight to break free. I'd drop it in the water and try to push it away from me, then I'd take off running. I just ran, and this baby got faster and faster and I knew it would drown me and eat me alive if it caught me, and I, too, would be just another body in the river.

I recall waking from these nightmares shaking, and staggering over to a mirror in the harsh flourescent light of our tiny Hollywood bathroom. I could see my veins through my increasingly translucent skin. My sunken eyes stared back at me. I looked like a zombie. I would brush my teeth and spit out mouth-fulls of blood into the sink. I'd run a brush through my hair and sob as it fell out in clumps.

I was becoming a zombie, one restless nightmare at a time.

I brought a fistful of fallen hair to my ex, to try and show him something was wrong, that my body wasn't "taking" to the city.
He blew me off. "Everybody loses hair."
I tried to put the hair in his hands- to show him how MUCH there was- it wasn't a normal amount, I was sure. I showed him my bleeding gum line, and he told me to brush more gently. Later, he told me he wasn't so sure he wanted to be a dad anymore, and I realized exactly what my nightmares were about: the dead baby represented the miscarriage of my dream. And there I was, trying to force him to take responsibility for me when I was half-dead already.

I completely understand why he didn't want to hold my hair-he wanted no part in my half-life. He had clubs to go to, after all.

We'd been picking out baby names together at one point- and LA was the next big step to take in the adventure that would be our lives together- but I let my stress consume me, and he discovered he preferred a life without responsibility. I was sick and depressed and exhausted all the time in the city he wanted to party in, and as my relationship crumbled my subconscious knew before I did: LA was killing us, and it was killing me. If I kept trying to resuscitate that dying baby, I'd drown in the process.

I don't know if I ever would've been strong enough to make that choice- even though it became clear that he did not love me, I believe, even at the time, I never would've left. Fortunately, he made the choice for both of us, and my dreams, nightmares and all, were ripped away from me and quickly resettled with another woman.

I struggled for a long while, but it wasn't until I'd moved back home and truly realized that I was recovering not only from a divorce, but from a psychic miscarriage. All my hopes and plans and wishes and projections walked out the door with him. I would never live in the city of Angels with the man I married. We would never be parents together.

I might not ever be a mom, now.

So much time wasted... just how much did he cost me?

I wound up at a Native American full moon ceremony under a tent, throwing water from an earthen jug into the pile of hot coals in a pit in the center. Everyone in the tent "let go" of something individually, then as a group, and as we threw the water onto the coals, the HISS of the steam became the sizzle of the pain vanishing. I "let go" of my dream. My old dream. I said goodbye to Hollywood- I said goodbye to my baby. I let the dream die. In accepting that that life had ended, I suddenly felt free to start a new one- just like that: no more zombie.

The group burst forth from the tent, tearing off clothes and streaking onto the night, plunging into a nearby crystal clear lake and splashing and howling like naked new wolves. It was amazing. I felt an emptiness, but rather than a sick cavity it was a space for new growth. And slowly, surely... About 8 months later, I stopped being so fearless. I started to fear again, and with the fear came the realization that I was concerned about losing something. Which made me realize I WANTED something.
Which meant my heart was working again! Yay!

"Hello, Ember," I greeted this sensation. "I know you."

I didn't know how, I didn't know when, but I knew I needed to get my ass BACK to LA- not for revenge, not as an "I told you so," but because I am in crystal clear communication with my fully-functioning heart and I know EXACTLY what I want. I will say with a New Wolf Howl: I want to write for a syndicated comedy show.

Lo and behold, the moment I Babe-Ruth'd it and pointed out exactly where that ball was headed, things began to happen. Series of events and circumstances and my own hand in the puzzle all came together and here I am, and last week, I had the most amazing dream:
I was in my childhood backyard, and I was climbing on the climbing-structures my parents had built to get a good angle with my bow and arrow- there were alligators everywhere, and I had to take them out because in my dream, I knew I was pregnant.
And with a baby on the way, you gotta clear out all the alligators, right?
I could not ask for a clearer message: I am in a safe place now, using the foundations of my upbringing to gain a good vantage point in what I know is a battle for the future. I am safe, I am a crackshot with a bow and arrow, and I know exactly what to do. And the best part of all: I can feel the new precious life inside of me- a little glowing, protected Ember no alligator can ever reach.
Because this time, Mama's protecting her California Dream herself.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Origin Story

This is the story of What Happened. It is not pretty, and it's very personal, but it is my hope that in getting this OUT and having an easy reference point or record of some kind, I can begin to let go. This is also the LAST TIME I wanna talk about it. I'm not avoiding it or repressing What Happened, but dredging up negativity isn't fun for anyone. So I'm putting this out, I'm releasing it into the ether, and this way if anyone wants to know there's an easy reference point. This is letting go of anger, This is What Happened. It's no longer what is happening.

So yeah, this is raw, it's ugly, it specifically mentions the time Jay sucked a dude's dick, and it's petty and childish and awful. I realize that. But tell you what: hold on to a) a secret like that for 12 years and b) have that person SERIOUSLY FUCKING WRONG YOU and you may allow yourself a little venting. I'm sure there's an alternative version of this story somewhere on the West Coast with it's own set of opinions and truths. You're welcome to cross-reference, but this is the last I'm saying about anything.

At some point, I will wish him well. Now is not that point.

I'm willing to be petty and small and air some dirty laundry if it means I can let go of it. In fairness, Jay is welcome to tell his side of the story, and all the awful things I did to him. All the times I yelled at him, or treated him unkindly. Oh, wait there aren't any? Oh, awesome, OK then. Moving on: I went into the the Seminar with a healthy amount of skepticism- after all, the first three pages of Google results identify it as a cult.

My friend Alex and I joked on the way down about all the BDGs (Broken, Damaged Girls) who would be there, crying about their breakups and divorces into a microphone in front of a roomful of strangers. We giggled as I envisioned myself making unsympathetic Danny DeVito "Penguin" noises after each sob story: "Whaaaank, whaaank whaaaank!"

After we got there, though, we could see a large variety of people- not just BDGs, but... just... everyone. And when the first few people spoke, confused boyfriends, adulterous newlyweds, bewildered single parents... it was touching, but later as it grew more intense the real stories started coming out. One girl in her early 20's took the mic and described how she'd watched as her father murdered her brother and mom. How she'd gone to foster school dirty and afraid, and was beaten frequently.

I looked over at Alex and held up two Penguin Hands and we both vehemently shook our heads no, eyes wide with horror at this girl's tragic origin story.

I say origin story in the same sense that every superhero has one- some defining rough moment or moments which forever seals their fate into who they must become. But as Iearned, Who We Become has NOTHING to do with anyone but us. I was convinced I'd gone to the Seminar to get over my Ex. I hated him, I wanted him to suffer as I'd been suffering- I blamed him for everything I'd been through the past year and a half and I wanted to get over my anger and MOVE PAST it. I realized that everything was 100% Jay's fault and I was fine like that. I mean, obviously! Look at me! "I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine," I'd insist, sobbing.

The Landmark Seminar taught us to differentiate between What Happened, like, what ACTUALLY PHYSICALLY HAPPENED versus the story we tell ourselves about what happened. What Happened was that Jay left me when he searched our computer's browser history and realized I'd been researching ways to overdose on perscription antidepressants and sleep medicine without causing a coma. I'd told myself that that meant I didn't deserve to live.
What Happened was that Jay said he didn't love me anymore. I'd told myself that that meant I was unloveable.
What Happened was Jay left me, sobbing and begging him not to go, literally clutching at his ankles and hysterical on the floor wrapped in a pile of electrical cables.
(The only thing he left behind as he vacated our Hollywood apartment.)

I'd been the one living like I never got off the floor. I remember staying on that floor for 4 hours. I couldn't move. I couldn't speak. I couldn't even see- I was experiencing hysterical blindness, and was terrified when I reached for my phone to call him and couldn't see the numbers- I accidentally called my mom, and scared the shit out of her gasping out some kind of desperate choking sound. I had cried myself out to the point of immobility. I don't recall how or where I spent that night.

I don't remember a lot about the next few days, actually. I look back and just remember darkness. I stayed in our apartment through the end of the month, because Jay and I were going to get back together- things were fine. He'd promised. We were just separated, and even though I'd suggested the separation so we could both work on ourselves (he'd been completely uninterested in our marriage for months and spending all his spare time out with other girls, at my exclusion) and I was curious what it might feel like to be wanted again. By someone, anyone, else.

Jay told me he wanted me to work on certain things- I needed to prove that I could completely support myself (as he no longer wanted the responsibility) and I needed to get healthy. No more crying all night and sleeping all day. No more tranquilizers and memory loss from the handfulls of pills I'd have to take before I could get any sleep. He wanted me to live on my own and get into a routine. Very reasonable.
For me, I didn't ask him to work on anything- After all he was flawless in my eyes.

I simply wanted him to miss me and love me the way I thought he used to. I had fallen into a terrible depression since we'd moved, and the 4 months I spent while he was in New York had taken a terrible toll on our relationship. Jay promised me before he left that he would continue to manage our bills and paperwork electronically, as he had done throughout our marriage. I was happy to let him do so- he'd let me down over the past year by avoiding paying bills because he wanted to file for bankruptcy and I didn't. He also told me he would handle getting some sort of compensation from the moving company which robbed us and vandalized our stuff when we moved to LA. A year had passed and he hadn't made any progress- I felt like he wasn't keeping his word to me about getting it done, and that he was failing to stand up for us. So I was happy to let him handle the bills because dammit he needed to do SOMETHING, right?

(I wasn't very big on the concept of "taking care of myself," Like, at all.)

I was convinced he was cheating on me in New York. When he returned, he seemed like a different person- all he wanted to do was party and drink. He picked up some Ecstasy pills from an employer and brought them home in his pocket. MY husband? drugs? This wasn't him! I demanded he return the pills, and he told me he would but then, at that point, he had checked out and was telling me whatever he thought would make me cry the least. He began turning lights off to rooms that I was still in.

He stopped talking to me- and the more he pulled away the tighter I clung- the more fearful and desperate I became, terrified that he'd leave me. I'd sit up all night with him watching while he played XBox games- we were playing together (or so I thought) until I came home from work ready for the final battle in Oblivion when he shrugged me off and casually announced that he'd beaten the game that morning. "Why didn't you wait for me?" "I didn't think you cared." He had forgotten I was even in the room at that point.

I never hurt myself before I met Jay, but I started to fairly on in our relationship. It began when I took him back after he cheated the first time. I HAD to forgive him, he said, or he couldn't handle feeling guilty and he'd leave. Since I couldn't be mad at him, I began to be mad at my body instead. Little wounds I could suffer, little outlets for pain I couldn't express to him, because it couldn't be his fault I was unhappy. In Hollywood, towards the end, I'd bring my "tools" with me to work, and sit in traffic on the way home til the blood ran to my elbows. Because it simply wasn't his fault I was so lonely. He'd bought me those self-help books a while back, hadn't he? See? He cared.

I tried drinking just to keep up with him so we could do something-anything together, but we were going through a bankruptcy and he'd blow $90 at a time on tequila shots. When I was too exhausted to play and had to get up at 5:30AM for my CSI Internship, he'd go out clubbing without me, spending more money we didn't have. Then he started spending time with other girls- some I knew to be homewrecking whores, and others I merely suspected. I was so desperate to just BE with him one night after I'd taken Ambien and Xanax to sleep, when he texted to say he was at the club across the street (with HER) I got out of bed, got dressed and stumbled across Hollywood Boulevard to join them on their date. I ordered a drink. He was not amused.

She spent most of the night laughing at me as I repeated myself, slurring.
Total third wheel.
They let me wander home alone that night I guess.
I woke up alone.

At some point I'd cut myself again.

After that, he stopped telling me where he was or who he was out with. I was only his wife- I didn't really have a right to know. He was going to marriage counseling with me, and we spent pretty much every session arguing over HER. I didn't like that he was out with her and not me while I was at work. He thought he had every right to do so and was sick of my depression. Witnessing the destruction of my Fairy Tale, I became despondant and began wondering how I should kill myself to get his attention, but still allow my mom to have an open-coffin funeral.
(Many overdoses and hangings create disfigurement. Totally tacky.)

My alarm went off at 5:30am. I'd hit snooze and assume some sort or prayer position, knees curled beneath me as I buried my face in my pillow. I'd then make my way to my closet, where I would sit and shake like a frightened animal, dreading the next 16 hours. He never once even reached out to touch me. I don't think we had breakfast together even once. Not that I was eating.

Our therapist suggested to me that we separate, and I pitched the idea to Jay who was ecstatic with the plan. Two months, that's it- then we'll get back together- I promised Jay to fix what was wrong with me and he promised to... well, there wasn't anything wrong with him, right, so... he promised to stay in touch. Somehow, though I had a baaaad feeling about it and told him I'd changed my mind. "Too late," he said, and packed up everything that belonged to him, and separated our phone bills and netflix accounts.

Netflix, Jay? Really???

I became terrified as I watch him pack- he took everything. He knew I had nowhere to live and no way to pay rent, so he took absolutely all of our belongings with him except for our bed, a pile of cables and the cats. He even took the refrigerator with him, and the ice cooler too so he could keep his tequilla cold while on route to HER house, where he would be living for two months. But just two months, really. Honest. My god I was stupid. To clarify: he left me with literally nothing but a bed and some wires, but that wasn't malicious- he knew I would be unable to pay rent with my unpaid internship "salary," so he took our stuff and put it in a storage unit to keep it safe for both of us. He also paid for the storage and gave me a key, which was nice.

But then, see, I thought he was telling the truth about the two months.

At some point I must've gotten up off the floor because I made it to work at my temp job at Newline Cinema and got offered a 4-month deal- steady employment! I enrolled in a free tae-kwon-do class and got myself in a healthy routine. I lived, supporting myself, with an amazing friend who allowed me to cry myself to sleep when I needed and to cry on her shoulder when I needed. My LA friends rallied around me and lovingly stomped out my flames, pieced me back together, took the pill bottle out of my hand and held me as I went to sleep on some nights. Over that period of time I did absolutely everything Jay had asked me to do.

He left me on February 12th- I had no way of knowing he'd filed for divorce on February 14th.

Happy Valentine's Day.

However, he didn't have the balls to tell me I'd been baited and switched until much much later. He came over and talked with me twice. He even killed a spider for me in my bathroom. He stopped by before I left the Hollywood apartment and found me curled up in a corner. (I had no furniture, remember?) He'd only been by to retrieve an HDMI cable he'd left by accident, but when he asked me how I was and I burst into tears because I was so hungry, he softened a little. I'd lost so much weight, I was all ribs and red-rimmed eyes.
"Here," he said, and pulled something out of his wallet.
He then stood over me and joked how he was "making it rain," by sprinkling down some Sharkey's Buy-One-Get-One coupons.

I blinked up at him. "What are these?"
"Bogo," he smiled benevolently.

I thanked him and told him I loved him and I was looking forward to spending time with him again soon. He got his cable and left, knowing we were already divorcing. When the door closed behind him I stared at the coupon and cried, knowing I had no way of buying one in order to get one. Later, I missed him and spent a rare break at work writing, and sent him a list of 100 reasons I loved him. He got the email and showed up my door that night with a lie, telling me he'd "decided to file" when he'd really already done it 2 days after he left me on the kitchen floor.

I emailed his mistress, Heather Ann Grall. (Cute initials, hunh? HAG? I know, adorable, right?) I knew who she was. I'd googled her, and sent her a facebook message along the lines of "Hey, could you please take my husband's dick out of your mouth long enough for him to get through this separation? We're trying to work on things." She immediately blocked me, and Jay called to tell me to "stop threatening his girlfriend." Wowwww. First time he shows evidence of balls and it's defending this dog-faced whore?
I kept asking him "is she prettier than me," and he'd never answer. Once I saw her, and realized to my surprise that the answer was an easy "NO," I wondered why he didn't just say so, But the fact is, she has money and he wants X and DJ equipment.
Also, she is dumb enough to still worship him and convince his fragile ego that he's any kind of a man.
At some point they'll most likely have average-to-below-average children together, and I can't wait till they ask for the classic story of how Mommy and Daddy met:
"Well, Daddy abandoned a really great girl when he found a suicide note, and your mom was a homewrecking whore in the right place at the right time!"

It is my hope that if they ever breed, their children will be born without the faculties for such a line of questioning, because the moment they realize what a fucking bitch-titted tequilla-bloated cowardly waste their father is, and what a weak, frightened homewrecking slut their mom is, they'll most likely be unhappy. Perhaps the money he'll never send me for spousal support can be put towards their therapy, or better yet, sterilization. Don't most bitches get sterilized?

But I digress... One day during our "separation" (when I had no idea he'd already filed) when I had a small meltdown from the stress at my internship, I drove by Jay's office on my way home. I'd called and left a message- I just needed a hug from my husband- it seemed like the only thing in the world that would make me feel better. I even called his mom just to have a sense of him. She told me to "grow up and move on, that he didn't love me anymore."

(She always was a cunt.)

But that sent me into a spiral of anxiety, because I didn't know he'd already filed for divorce and not told me. Having no idea I'd been Inceptioned, I walked into his office and asked his receptionist if Jay Barwick was available. She looked at me like a crazy person when I explained that I was his wife. "Oh," she says.
"I didn't know he was married."
She walks down the hall and emerges with Jay, who storms over to me, grabs me by the upper arm and marches me to the elevator.
"What are you doing here?" he hissed. This is not my husband...
"I- I left you a message- I just wanted a hug- your mom scared me so bad, I-"
"You are NOT ALLOWED to visit me at work!" (News to me.) He forces me out of the elevator and into a bright sunlit outdoor lobby.
It's crowded and I'm crying.
"You need to leave."
"Will you just hug me, please? Like a normal person?" I'm sobbing and tears are starting to come out my nose.
"No- you're embarassing me." He stands with his arms folded.
Like a fool, I tried to hug him and he pushed me away so hard I lost my balance in my work heels. I stumble back and people stare.
I start to cry harder.
"Go or I'll call security," he says.

I... I somehow make it back to my car and sob in a dark parking garage for an hour. What kind of horrible monster must I be if he won't even touch me... This man was my best friend- I've been by his side for 16 years! Over half my life! He promised to love me forever... I must be so worthless... I'm sure I made some melodramatic FB update at that point because when I arrive home, Arica and Aaron are on my doorstep, waiting for me. They held me until I could walk again.

I lost 25 pounds over that period. I got dangerously skinny, and feral about food. Any progress I'd made "for Jay" quickly became undermined when he finally told me he'd filed for divorce without even giving me a chance. I gave up on myself and began living just as a form of survival. My friends were the only thing that kept me going- I was determined to stay in LA until I could finish out my Writer's Internship, and I did. I lasted 8 months out there on my own, and came back to Florida when the show went on hiatus, to work, recover, and EAT.

So I found myself at the Seminar, wondering what was wrong with me, why he didn't love me, how could he do that to me, etc etc WHAAAANK WHAANK WHAAANK. And then came that awful assignment: we had to call "that person" in our lives, (obviously Jay) and appologize. Wait- I'm sorry- what? Appologize? But I don't WANT to appologize- I WANT Jay to get face AIDS and die. I spoke this aloud before the crowd- the Seminar Leader said make the call- she could not help me if I didn't. I struggled with it all day, and finally found what I needed to appologize for. I called and there was no answer. Shocking. I texted, and a few hours later, he called me back.

The conversation went something like this: Me: "I'm here at a Get-Your-Shit-Together Seminar" and we have to make these phone calls, so please bear with me- do you have a minute?" Him: "Um, yeah, I guess." Me: "OK, here goes- I want to appologize to you for blaming you for everything. For everything I've done to myself, tried to do to myself, and been doing to myself throughout our divorce. All you did was say things to me- I'm the one who believed them, acting as if I was unloveable simply because you said you don't love me anymore. All you did was leave after you found my draft suicide note- I'm the one who took that as proof that I wasn't worth a rescue effort. You left me to die, but you didn't kill me- I'm the one who chose to die. I am sorry I blamed you for this, and I feel bad for you because you are a coward and seeing me in that stage of depression obviously scared you. I'm sorry I put you through that. I'm sorry I overburdened you with our paperwork- I should have taken equal share with that. I'm sorry you felt so much pressure. I understand now why you left, and as part of this recovery process, I have to create a possibility for a new relationship with you." Him: "Okayyyy..." Me: "So I'd like to create the possibility that we could somehow be friends again- I... I love you and I want to somehow be OK with you."

(Holy shit THAT came from nowhere!)

Him: (looooong pause) "What am I supposed to say to that?"
Me: "You don't HAVE to say anything- you just had to listen. And you did. So thank you."
Him: "Well I'm out with Heather now, so I have to go. I don't wanna be rude to her." Me: (shattering into a million jagged, poisoned flaming fragments) "Of course not. Go. I love you." Him:

At 10PM at the conclusion of the day's discussions, students swarm the Seminar Leader for questions, suggestions, personal coaching, etc. It appears to me the same scene as when Lepers would crowd Jesus, begging to be healed, touched, something ANYTHING. I became a Leper that night, after somehow managing to walk back into the hall and take my seat, an ashen ghost of a shell. Finally I got my audience with the Leader. "I made the call- I poured my heart out to him and he left me for her. AGAIN."

She looked down at me, all big Texas hair and pristine perfection. "Jaime," she says. "You have got to stop torturing yourself or you will die- do you understand?" My mouth hung open. "You can die from this," she reiterates. "Just let it go. That's all you have to do." She turns to another wounded victim, all Florence Nightengale. I stare, completely hollow and feel the vacant chill of another hollow hand on my arm. A gentle empty squeeze.

"It's OK," another Lady Leper says to me, reassuringly. "My husband cheated on me 6 times and I took him back every time."


"But I'm not LIKE her! It's not LIKE that! I'm not some BDG here because I have no self esteem!" Alex arches an eyebrow at me- we are back in our hotel room trying to do our individual homework.

It's 1 in the morning after two 16-hour days of listening to people pour their hearts out, and somehow Alex is still giving me his full attention."

"How is it not like that?" he asks. "Because I don't have PROOF that Jay cheated on me- and if he did I'd never take him back, I just FELT like he was, ya know, because-"

"Wait wait wait," Alex says, closing his notebook. "That's not true- you told me when we first met that Jay had cheated on you with a dude."

"Well, yes, he did blow a guy when we were first together, but-"

"No, so he cheated on you then- and didn't you tell me he cheated on you with an ex-girlfriend while you were in Ireland?"

"Well, yeah- he told me he went down on her in a school playground. He told me he had to take her tampon out first- why would he even TELL me that Alex?"

"Because he's a douche. Listen- how long were you guys together?"

"14 years. It'll be 15 in June."

Alex holds up his hands. "OK, so 14 years. I'm going to run out of fingers, but he cheated on you twice. At least. Let's think of 14 other shitty things he did to you."

"Um. Okayyy. He spent $900 on a Spiderman costume after I begged him not to spend the money, and never even assembled the pieces. He did the same thing with a $900 Scooby Doo costume- never once booked it, and yet he gave me shit anytime I'd spend money getting my hair cut and colored. Told me it was a waste."

Alex puts down a finger. "Good- what else." "He also never told me I looked good after a haircut- he'd make a face and tell me he hated how it looked when it was blown out straight- OH! And he told me I wasn't sexy... that I was 'cute' but not sexy- and I was 19 and I have believed him ever since and it's fucked up my sexiness!"

Alex puts down another finger. "Keep it coming."

"He left me when I needed him the most- he didn't care that our cat was dying and said we should 'make a decision' when we needed to fucking save him! He pressured me into oral sex before I was ready as a teenager- I didn't want to but he made me feel so bad- he didn't help plan our wedding- he never stood up for me- he forgot my birthday- he doesn't know how to spell my middle name- STILL! He asked people to call him Jay when his name is Jaime and I hated that! He..."

As the list went on and on AND ON AND ON. Alex ran out of fingers, then I ran out of fingers, so I started writing down this fantastic list of things I'd flat out FORGOTTEN. It turns out I had overlooked, ignored, glossed over or pretended around TONS of little betrayals and wrong-doings. I was so desperate for my Fairy Tale I'd been blind.

No WONDER I was so depressed- I thought this amazing man had walked out on me, and instead a selfish coward finally freed me up to live on my own. Jay had convinced me that HE was the attractive, talented one in the relationship, (just ask him!) and as long as I was still bedazzled by the Jay Barwick show, I was fine- but the moment I stopped showering him with adulations, he became disinterested. He needed constant fangirlship, and once I stopped worshipping him, his very conditional affection withered away.

He stopped paying my health insurance. He stopped caring what I thought. If I wasn't going to adore him, I wasn't worth his efforts. Ho-ly fuck. Wow. I was so busy pouring my love and attention into him, and he was happy to reflect it back at me so I FELT love- but I was only feeling what I was putting out. The reason we had so much fun together is because I'm fun! The reason we got along so well is because I'm easy to get along with! Jay was the "real actor" in the family, and never once asked me to improv with him- but even I know the first rule of improv is Yes And. I Yes Anded the shit out of that relationship- oh, and the second rule of improv?
Make Your Partner Look Good. And man, I made him look spectacular- he's amazing! He's wonderful! He'll tell you so himself! I wasn't losing a great husband, I was losing a self-absorbed cheating douchebag. Jay didn't "mutate" and become this horrible person because we moved to LA- when he'd gone to New York, he was free for the first time in his life to make his own decisions, and be who he truly was- not a son, not a friend, not a husband, but a club-douche shot-pounding ass hat.

And that is how he returned to me in LA- in his true form. There I was thinking I'd lost my husband but no, that was who he really was- who he WANTED to be. It makes total sense now... And the girl he's with, his new fangirl, she'll find out soon enough. Preferably after they have fat ugly kids (who take after their mom) and resent their dad for being a cocksucking dick. What is it I heard? You can ride a thousand horses and never be a cowboy, but you suck one cock... Jay never loved me- Jay loved Jay and I loved Jay enough for the both of us for a long long time- but when I really needed help his true colors showed and he bailed.

And Thank God he did- because I survived it. I survived him. I survived starving in LA and I survived enough to get my ass to that Seminar and have the realization that for the first time, I would be OK. Jay leaving frees me up to be ME, and eventually, to be me with someone who gives a shit about someone other than themselves! To find someone who loves ME, not just the way I love them- to find actual love, with others, with another partner, but first and foremost in MYSELF!

...I found myself panting and out of breath, having just exploded all these epiphanies onto Alex and his homework. Grinning, he rose from the table and took me by the hand. "Where are we going?" "Come with me." Alex takes me down the hall into the tiny yellow tiled bathroom of the curry-scented Poulouse Inn in Dania Beach, Florida and flicks on the lights, positioning me in front of the mirror.

"Look at yourself," he says. "Look at how beautiful you are right now- you have color in your cheeks, your eyes are sparkling..."

"Holy fuck they ARE sparkling!"

To say the least- they were radiating. Alex hugs me from behind- I instinctively turn to hug him but he holds his arms fast around my middle. "No- just keep looking. I want you to see how you look." I have no idea how long we stayed in that bathroom, me dazzled for the first time by the sheer love I could reflect AT MYSELF, him marvelling at my discovery.


The next day at the Seminar, the change was noticable- in fact, a few of us had had a Breakthrough. The girl from before, with the horror story about her childhood? She walked in and was hardly recognizable- she'd morphed into this siren of confidence and beauty. That day in the Seminar we talked about Metamorphosis- and I was quick to grab the mic. People could see it before I even stood to speak- I was glowing. "My whole life I've been trying so hard to be a greener caterpillar, a fuzzier caterpillar, a more spinedy caterpillar, and I was never happy. I was constantly trying to be these things to please others- but now I realize- I don't have to be any of those things because I'm a fucking BUTTERFLY. Butterflies don't worry about that stuff. I'm gonna be OK."

The other Siren and I nodded to each other. She knew what I knew. I took my seat as 145 of my new closest friends just watched me be born. And somewhere in that moment, I began to Let Go.

When Jay first served me with Divorce Papers in February of 2011, he hired some K-mart attorney who spelled both of our names wrong and requested for me to pay for all of Jay's attorney fees. The papers also stipulated that any of my belongings should be returned to Jay, and that I could pay him spousal support if he asked. I'm giving my ex the benefit of the doubt and assuming this was simply an oversight and he had not taken the time to look at the papers. What did he want- my 1999 Celica? Half of each cat? No, this was the man who left me working 2 unpaid internships, so, virtually jobless and homeless. This was the man who refused to harbor our cats for me for a night, and had no issue with me sleeping in my car.

Because the divorce was entirely his choice, he told me he'd be responsible for the costs of the legal fees, since I could not afford a lawyer. I ignored the first round of papers, and eventually he got it straightened out and to his credit, kept his word about paying the expenses. I assured him I would in no way contribute to the destruction of our marriage, and refused to spend so much as a stamp on his cowardice. He very generously stole stamps from his employer and sent them to me. At one point, even his own divorce attorney realized what a douche Jay is and fired him.

He blames me for this somehow, but the truth is someone has to be a complete tool before a lawyer will quit taking their money. Or she grew a conscience. Either way, by then the final papers were drawn up and he filed them, not requesting any money from me and paying my California appearance fee on my behalf, since I was forced to move home. The final papers arrived today.

He hadn't even looked at them before he mailed them- there are three papers in there from a divorce that isn't even ours, but I assume when you're stuffing envelopes drunk or high, these things happen. My favorite clause in the paperwork is the one "holding him harmless and unimdemnifiable for the extreme hardships lack of support will cause the Respondant." That's me. There's also a clause in there acknowledging that he realizes how depressed I was, and that if I commit suicide my family cannot sue him.

Again, such a classic romantic.

Before I signed, I singled those paragraphs out and gave him a choice: He could either spend the extra lawyer-money and have the paragraph altered, or he could write me a hand-written letter stating that he was fully responsible for his choices and sorry for the harm he has already caused me and for the harm his choices cause me in the future.

No fucking way would I consider him "harmless," legally or otherwise.

I got the letter, worded verbatim to my request. Ah, well. I keep forgetting Creativity was only a quality I'd projected on him- not one he actually had. But the point is, I got the letter, and I felt like a lion that day.

So I signed my married name for the last time, Jaime Kathryn Barwick, to the papers.
He signed his new douchey DJ name to the papers.
A judge signed his name as well.
And just like that: 16 years undone.

I have MY name back- I am Jaime Jessup again. I kept my promises, I kept my marriage vows, and I was a fucking awesome wife. I WAS. I'm still a promise-keeper. And I'm still fucking awesome. But now I'm MINE.

We cling so desperately to what we're comfortable with. I was absolutely willing to overlook some pretty awful stuff so I could have my Fairy Tale. But the funny thing about Fairy Tales is this: they typically come in large volumes- huge collections of Fairy Tales, one right after the other. And if you're brave enough to turn the page, there's a whole new story waiting for you. You just have to keep reading to find out what happens next. I stopped taking antidepressants and antianxiety medicine shortly after that Seminar, in the spring of 2012. It's been a year. When you have total clarity about the world you're operating within, there's really not that much to be anxious about.

I'm still battling insomnia. That's a tough one. I have a hard time most nights, but it's better to be off sleep meds and firing on all cylinders. I thought I'd lost the love of my life, but instead I just lost the love of THAT life. If he really wants to be who he turned out to be, we could never have truly made each other happy. I blame myself for not being fun all the time. I was needy and codependant, and I didn't have confidence in myself. I should've taken the reins more, done more, been proactive instead of waiting for someone to save me. I wish I'd done his laundry more. I wish I'd done my own paperwork. I wish I'd taken responsibility for my own happiness, instead of blaming him for failing at the impossible task of being my Everything. I'm sorry I let Depression swallow my light. When I stopped shining, he left.

BUT: I've learned more in the last three years than in 33 years combined. I've had more laughs, more truths, more discoveries and more actual personal victories than I ever could've had living for someone else. I'm writing more, I'm healthier than I've been in years- ironically, in spite of this and BECAUSE of this, I am the exact independant, self-reliant, confident woman he always wanted. And he's no one I'd even want to be friends with. In the last 2 years I've been taken on a trip around the Mediterranean, fed dinner at the top of Four Seasons, danced on stilts for Millionaires, been spoiled rotten with some very beautiful men, (and a couple beautiful ladies,) finished writing my novel and had more fun as a fucking Phoenix than I ever could've imagined.

He did kill me. Rather, I did wind up losing that life. And I couldn't be more grateful. The world, his world, that world, ended, and something better began. From now on, my life is what I make it. I have my Origin Story, and I'm only just begining to discover my powers.

Watch me shine now.