Quirk and Circumstances...

Emily Post on Armageddon

Life & Death | October 12, 2011

It has come to my attention that the publishing world has neglected a growing niche market. It seems Armageddon is at our door on a monthly if not weekly basis according to Inside Edition, ABC, NBC, CBS, Astrology Chronicle, The Kardashians, CNN, and Fox News among a few. It seems that comets are sideswiping us; there are ever-present nuclear threats from unstable nations, record earthquakes, tsunami’s, locust and flatulence that can blow our houses down. The collapse of financial markets around the world, Oprah off the air, famine, pestilence, ignorance and Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul back on the air. My MSN homepage portends something catastrophic more often than I change hair color.

Now we all know the drill if there is a zombie apocalypse, old news. There are many books, movies and iPhone aps to deal with that inevitability. Basically short story there is: hole-up at Wal Mart and dig in. But what exactly do we do in the everyday mêlée of total world collapse and destruction? What are our PC lawless rules of etiquette?

I have a close friend, let’s call her Ms. M for “mayhem”, who keeps me in the know when I am out of the chicken-little stream of consciousness. She brought a laundry list of “what is the right answer” to common world collapse conundrums that Emily Post seemed to gloss over. Just because there is death and destruction is no reason to do it all without an air of distinction. Case in point: if Ms. M and her cat have secured enough food for them to survive—Lets not guess at this junction, only it’s the making of a Steven Speilberg classic if they do survive—would she be obligated to invite in a lone relative who comes to her door? What about if said relative had two dogs? Would she be obliged to share everything with family and her family’s critters?

What if that lone relative had a roommate? What if they had a bird, or a fish? What if that roommate had a beau? You can see this is much much tougher than who to invite to your wedding, bar mitzvah or Super Bowl shindig. Emily had most or all of those events covered. Here we are in the weeds without a whacker. If someone doesn’t get invited to the wedding you can send a nice note, a few pictures or a video after the fact. If someone doesn’t get invited in for Armageddon well I am thinking the documentation of eating, drinking and general ok living condition would be pretty rude to forward to those less fortunate. Besides I am thinking at that point they are working with less than dial-up.

This begs the question, “How much is enough to store for survival?” We have a reliable time-line or grocery list here. I mean we are talking, food, water, booze, chocolate/twizzelers, beer, tampons, critter food, litter, wine, TP, art supplies, tequila, tea, jerky, books, scotch, etc… one would need the essentials but for how many and for how long? I don’t think actuaries cover this set of circumstances. How long can you survive with X living with you. I don’t think there are variables depending on if you are holed up with your spouse, mother-in-law, children, mute girlfriend or strangers without their meds. Really there are gaping holes of knowledge around this phenomenon.

If things went further south for those in the bunker with dwindling supplies, whose pets get eaten first? How does one broach the subject of eating someone’s Fluffy, Fido or Bigo? Is there a meat, fat, muscle ratio per pet per meal? Or a fang, feather, claw deterrent? How about the hard to catch, kill or she has soulful eyes quotient? You can see we have to contend with anthropomorphizing, fur-balls and family of origin dysfunction dynamics to just name a few. We are only talking pets, this dynamic grows more complex and pointed when we apply the Donner principal. Enough said. On a side note here the spell check wants to change Donner to “dinner”.

I am not the girl to solve these prickly social grace issues and create a throw-down etiquette. I am awkward at best in situations where grace, poise, and tact prevail. I became a member of the “I don’t give a rat’s ass” fan club some years ago. It is a distant mutant half cousin to Mickey with all the ideology, rigorous training and casual wear being polar opposites. My plan for Armageddon involves cases of champagne maybe the beach, maybe something more intimate depends on who is around and handy. Generally it involves make hay while the day lasts and then say goodnight moon.

In Sickness and in ...

Life & Death | July 17, 2011

It’s after two Cosmos or to be more accurate a double served in a thin plastic cup for poolside. This is not a vacation moment this is the aftermath of a week of hospital visits and a stem cell transplant with a dysfunctional family. As dysfunctional family is redundant I hope the editor will address that at some later point. I am by the pool in my posh past its heyday hotel with a rowdy bunch of over the hill potbellied sweaty guys ripping on each other. They are not discriminate; they rip on any who get close. Sprawled near the pool/bar door they are not a deterrent. Boys like these rarely are a problem. Even their bark is hollow and that is without a flash of leg from the opponent, then I can do no wrong. Tonight in leaving the hospital I finished most of my exit, I was going to say visit but exit seems closer to how I feel, exit stage right. In thinking about the week here and that tiny dark hospital room I am overwhelmed with how crowded it was, not just because it was filled with my mother and sisters. It was filled with our fear, boredom, humor and loads of anger. The last in that list was not a directed anger, though at times a verbal missal was readied. There were some small sarcastic sniping but the reason for fire I believe here was misidentified. There is a past of hard feelings, betrayals and fresh ones too to be honest. This ground is ripe for war but that may not be where this particular flavor of anger comes from I think. It could be as simple as we are angry Amy is sick. We are angry at the capriciousness of this disease and it could be our children, partners or us in that bed. We are angry that someone good, kind, and quietly brilliant is in pain and there is nothing we can do.

Amy and I stumbled across a documentary on Rasputin while it was just the two of us in her dark closet of a room in the bin. Which is what she calls the hospital as she should, she has more than earned the right to call it whatever she chooses, and then hang up. Rasputin was a man of many talents, taking a good picture was not one of them. In every blessed photo that man took he looked like a crazy fucker, no other way to describe it. If you have not had the disturbing experience of coming across a photo or better yet a documentary by all means do. If nothing else it will make you feel good about every school picture, driver’s license photo you have ever taken. He is a fascinating character in a car crash kind of way. We were stunned at first at the pure dichotomy in the pictures of the Royals all lined up proper and well normal, then whoa crazy fucker (Rasputin) or as I think those closest to him called him Puty pronounced pewty), then normal folks again. You know there is always a family member blinking and ruining those precious family photos. Well you can bet Putys folks just prayed for a blink to get a usable photo for a Christmas card. Needless to say we were howling by each piece of information and photos presented to us and then building our own documentary. A section of our documentary we worked hard on was what jobs Rasputin would not be well suited for. The first on the list was of course, night nurse, and then came elementary school teacher, though we thought as a high school teacher he’d be great. Amy tossed out MTV Vejay, I said VH1 no he couldn’t do that but MTV, MTV2 oh yea he’d be spot on. She conceded. We took our subject matter to great heights with our twisted wit and had carved out a little time between the ugly to laugh hard. I only hope Puty’s family did the same, at least when he was out of ear shot.

That night poolside with cold watery drink in hand I wanted my life back, not hers, Amy’s, it’s too hard. I stumbled between extreme emotional states getting flipped at warp speed leaves me stupid with emotional muck, ineffectual in everything and never knowing what sets me off. I feel like the ball in the Dukes of Hazard Pinball machine with a pro at the flippers. I am not made of the type of metal that this calls for, that things can bounce off. I believe human frailty is inconvenient at times like this. I hate that. I now have been home for less than 24hrs and I feel like I am ill, last night I took my temperature at least 3-4 times. It is like a low grade fever, I want to type this but am having more trouble typing than ever in my life. It’s like that nothing here belongs to me, not my hands, my head or heart. I don’t want to be there but I don’t know where to be anywhere right now. It’s like an emotional hangover. I get them like this after spending time with the boy; those are due to another whole spectrum of emotion. After those encounters the bottom drops out at the airport and I am bereft for weeks. It is like that type impact but different, physical yes but in a different way. No anvil on my chest like with him more of a whole body dragging, like something is sucking the life out of me. The slow drain of faith? Faith that goodness will win, the best will happen, that all will be well? Our reality is we pray for that, but have no stake to that claim. Yea I know a lot of really great dead people to pray to in times like these but fate will do what it will do. That is all there is, you then deal with the fallout when it comes, if you have lived and remained sane for the ride.

All I gave were stems cells not bone marrow, kidney, lung, all of which I would have gladly given and had offered up to the cancer teams for her use. I offered them all because stem cells seemed not enough to save her life. Not enough to make a difference at least to me, the donor. They could have taken so much more, they could have taken most anything because she is the one. The one with the gift for this stringing words together and so many, many things. I am not opting out. I know my strengths in my work and what my purpose is. I know I am nowhere near done with them. She however; is further up that metaphysical food chain if you will. She is also nice, very, nice, me, not too much. I can be nice, I am just not by nature nice, I think. Back at the pool that night there is a girl and a boy in the water. I can hear them in front of me splashing. The setting sun was in my eyes so sound leads me to where I go. They are of the age of men and woman but I don’t believe people really progress much past junior high so for me it is all boys and girls. I think folks polish up and PC themselves but in reality we are all about 13 or 14 and are playing at adults rather than being genuine. Maybe because someone a long time ago told us that who we are is not enough so out comes the pretenses and adulthood is born. I digress, which I am apt to do when emotion is involved. So the girl in the pool has Amy’s voice that is the point I wanted to get back to. As I sat there and sipped it was unsettling as I had just left her in the cancer/chemo/ get the light sucked out of you ward at the bin. I thought of parallel universes and what was real and what were things that I was sure of, things I knew to be true. It is easier to look at the things I know to be true than not. I know I know about what matters in life, family, good friends the kind of people who when you come home from a trip like this leave you chocolate covered strawberries and champagne in your refrigerator. I know it is important to try hard at being honest with myself and with my intent. With my actions it is to do no harm, it’s good to help, but rule one is do no harm. To honor my family and friends who can respect the wordlessness of me in the moment and are willing to celebrate my return, even though they don’t understand the reasons for my space. Then I turn to a much bigger palette of what I am not sure of, especially in this instance of stem cells and wellness. The first thing on that list is what will be enough. So there I sip and listen to Amy’s voice play Marco Polo in the pool the irony not totally lost by my setting sun sightlessness and Cosmo soother.

Looking down typing this I see the results of a blown vein which is a big ugly black/blue bruise and a small purpley spider like vein traceable through my pale thin skin like a mountain road from the air. When you give stem cells it is not a difficult thing you lay in bed and be very still. Which can be hard for many folks, me naw, I’m good with the relaxing thing or being still and thinking. I live in my head so I can be most anywhere at any given time. One arm they have a fixed steel needle which is where they take your output to spin in a spectra type machine where they traffic out your fat white blood cells for the patient and then in the other arm a more flexible needle stuck in to put the now stripped of the goodness blood back in you. You are stuck hopefully lower down the arm on this side to give you some flexibility in eating and scratching your nose. Overall warning on this activity is that it is a bedpan type of event with the no moving rule. You can bet I went light on the liquids the morning of no need to complicate matters and awkward introductions. So you have limited movement on one arm, the other arm none, both are propped on pillows and skewered. Then you just hang out. There I am after they put my first needle in, the fixed point steel one in my left arm they start preparing for the IV flexible type rig. They prepare me with the prerequisite ready or not here we come to jab ya and they start digging around in my arm. Yeow, then I hear them muttering. Me being smarter than the average bag of saline think uh oh, I look down and see two small pinched faces studying my arm and a million miles of tubing. I start to focus on the exact mutter

“I am still am not getting any”

“Let me see “

They start prodding tubing, my arm, and needle bases to no avail frowning all the while.


“Nothing still, I think we blew the vein”

I have never been driving when a tire blew, but I have been in the car. I remember skidding around a little on the road; there were some white knuckle action, and swearing. Once pulled over I could see either a tire that had a jagged hole or had turned into a deflated used rubber. I was somewhat alarmed at this use of language in terms of my sub dermal blood carrying path way not good. In questioning my team they answered as they pulled out the needle and IV set up from my now throbbing arm.

“Ah it probably isn’t a good choice of words blown vein for what happens” the point woman of the skewer team tells me.

“What exactly does happen, are we talking tire mode?” I asked only moderately alarmed as the first pain killer oxycodone had kicked in a bit.

The point woman for the skewering team continued with confidence. “Well what happens is the vein we choose looked like a winner but can’t handle the volume and uh blows it’s not as bad as it sounds” is what quickly follows as my eye grow wider.

“Great ok then, can you get me my purse and dig out another oxycodone.”

I know it will be a long day and they have hurt me inside the first 10 minutes so why hurt when there are pharmaceuticals to the rescue. I then plan on checking out just a little and taking the edge off. Why the fuck not, I am sitting in a closet with machines all around me with people who cannot be responsible with choosing their words, much less my veins carefully. Why fret over something I have no control over, time to sit back and think of Vegas. Something like that can take me down a notch and make smile through this whole debacle. They get me stuck easier and better the next time and I nap the rest of the day as best I can. As long as they get those lifesaving bastards out of me and into a bag for Amy I don’t give a rat’s ass if they come for it with a rusty knife. God help them though, if they spill a blessed drop.

What took me 8 hours in the damn bed she sucked dry in 45 minutes; it was a frothy bag of strawberry colada. I can only hope her end of recovery goes as easy as that but I know that is fiction even as I write it. Will that frothy bag of goodness be enough for a cure, I don’t know. I know I brought what I could to the table. Rasputin even as a crazy fucker brought game; at least he had the goods. So ugly, crazy or not people could respect that. That day in Amy’s room watching the documentary on Puty our pseudo-fact filled rants were breathless, and the banter filled with peals of laughter. It was my best time ever with her during that week, for me maybe one of our best moments ever. There in that dark, cramped god-awful room in the bin trying to make each other laugh at the crazy fucking ugly. It was like those weird pictures of the Royals with Rasputin you have normal, normal, whoa crazy fucker, then normal. That is kind of what cancer does it drops a crazy fucking ugly in the middle of your normal and you just have to find the small spaces in there when it is out of ear shot, to laugh.

The Hair of My Enemy

Blogging | January 27, 2011

I like change; I crave change yet I find it uncomfortable. This conundrum can make for lots of good things in terms of discovery, and lots of ‘what were you thinking” in terms of hairstyles. To begin with I have only six hairs on my head and being 6’ 1” with red hair I can be hard to miss. I know because people have tried and failed, even in bustling Times Square. I am a blonde by birth but went red at forty for many reasons, one being it seemed to match the morphing that was going on, such as my smart-assiness becoming more pronounced. It seemed fitting gift wrapped in red.

This summer I went back to New York to visit friends and family. During the visit I had a conversation with my sister about hair. She said that as woman get older they are told to cut their hair and she was tired of that message was growing hers out again. I had just gotten a very short cut, which I was getting used to. The style was a cross between early Rod Stewart and a whisk broom. I like it fun, spiky and easy but this was a little too little hair and lots of face, not my first choice. I had had it short for six or eight months at this point and thought it might be nice to see how long I could grow it. If you did not hear an ominous cord right there you should have, I am not the most patient person. I stand in front of my microwave and berate it for dragging its fat ass microwaves. So whether it was good sense to try growing my hair out or a lesson in frustration for me, and anyone who had to speak with me over the subsequent six months, remained to be seen.

My friends had to hear the minutia of my frequent bad hair days when looking for a style as the grow out progressed. I had become spoiled with the short and sassy ok, uh-lazy girl version of a hairstyle that was dead easy as it was messy. Not wind, not rain, not even over sleeping could affect its charm. So this temperamental wispy trial and error did not sit well. One friend, a straight man, had been subject to my bellyaching kind of nonsense for months on end and I believe he was scarred for life. At least I thought he was until he started giving me feedback. I now know based on that feedback he is either Helen Keller or truly evil and must be destroyed. How I know this is after the latest attempt at making a ‘new’ grow out hairstyle I sent a picture to him and to my trusty partner in crime Marsue. He came back with the following:

“I like it. You look like Julie Andrews.”

There is so much wrong with that sentence that I have a hard time knowing where to begin, not unlike a fat girl in stretch pants at a pie-eating contest. Note to readers: once upon a time that fat chick was me so I know of whence I speak, but I digress. First off Julie effing Andrews? Really? Did he have to go there? We have nun on one end of the JA spectrum and a nana on the other with Victor Victoria in the middle, none of which help my sex appeal rating. In fact I am sure there was a London based study in the early 1990’s that had proven she had caused shrinkage.

Just hearing that comment made me pick up the phone to my hairdresser and book an appointment for the next day. Marsue’s note came later that night suggesting the style made me look over coiffed, which was not usual, and the style looked older. In the term ‘older’ I heard “blue-hair-bingo-playing-17-cat- owning-cotton-flowered-housedress-wearing –nanna-a-ramma bad news.” The call to the stylist had been placed at just the right time it seems.

I went to my appointment and got confused looks from my team of hairdressers. They knew my plan for the grow out and had supported me even though they knew no good could come from it. They humored me as one would tiny children and those of limited capabilities in cognitive skill and style. The head hairdresser, Trang, waited me out knowing I would crack like an egg. And I did. I told her I couldn’t take it anymore, to cut it off.

“Please,” I implored, “don’t go as short as you did in July but shorter than this.” She told me to sit down and with a wave of her hand that was the end of everything, including the discussion of my hair. The hairs started to fly; five of the six were all but gone. When the frenzy was done there I was, all face no hair. At least I didn’t have bangs like Saint Francis of Assai this time but the rest was back to Rod Stewart.

Granted most folks who had seen both cuts had told me I looked great with short hair, that was a small consolation. Perhaps it was just a shock seeing my hair short again, so I went home and drank a bottle of wine thinking, “tomorrow is another day and it might be longer in the morning.” The good news when I woke the next day I didn’t think I looked like Rod Stewart anymore… my hair was smooshed to the side and had taken an unattractive slant of military. I walked to yoga class trying to unsmoosh it and stop channeling Gommer Pyle, which was surprise, surprise, surprise, the character of the day.

I didn’t tell my friend who came up with the unflattering Julie Andrews comment that I had gotten my hair cut, I wanted to surprise him. Yes, I can hear the chorus in the background as I type, “will she ever learn?” No, apparently I won’t. A few nights later I got a shocked smile from my friend as I let him in the door.

“Hey you cut your hair, I like it.”

If he had only stopped there, so much would be different. But he continued:

“It reminds me of Woodstock.”

“Excuse me?”

“The bird from Peanuts. You know with the fluffy tuft of hair on the top of his head where you can almost see his scalp.”

So you see, out of the two options, him being Helen Keller or “he is truly evil and must be destroyed,” I had no choice. It was a clean kill. I don’t have any regret really, it had to be done. It was hard to get the large standing cast iron candle obera out of his gut but hey it was part of a pair and I needed it. The officers on the scene seemed to understand when I pointed that out.

As you can imagine my haircut is slowly growing out and really lots of the girls here have the same one, so no big deal. I have an appeal on the court calendar and my lawyer says if we pull a judge packing a set of ovaries this time I am free as a bird. Just not Woodstock!

The Last Ride

Blogging | August 21, 2010

Last August I wandered into a cigar bar and had a few martinis’ to celebrate my sister Amy’s life on the anniversary of her death. I do not smoke, so the martinis were medicinal in order to control the choke factor of my honey flavored cigar. I also remember her on her birthday in July but the end of a life is significant in many ways and hers is no exception. Death is the best teacher I know. I have met him through friends and family over the years but only once had the privilege to help shepherd someone over and sit by their side as they went. Another one of the many things Amy gave me; she taught me how to live.

So in celebration of life--mine, yours and Amy’s-- let’s look at some of what we have lived through so far-- besides the basics of surviving the homes we all grew up in which is monumental, because those homes made us mental. Our house, Amy’s and mine, was a particular cornucopia of nuts. It was there we got a first taste of all that life has to offer, love, disappointment, laughter, struggle for acceptance and regret. And of course talking about regrets leads me to bad fashion and particularly those captured in school and holiday photos. The ugly truth is, well we were ugly. Sometimes we merely made ugly choices and Kodak was there to document those precious memories. Ah yes childhood is a proving ground, a place to learn about the ups and downs of the world on a shaky carnival roller coaster.

One memory of a particularly harrowing dip that comes to mind was when my mother, Terry-bell, in trying to save money made me a pair of pants. She hated to sew and unfortunately for me that hatred bubbled out in her choice of fabric, thick green and red plaid scratchy wool. The pants she made had an elastic waist, not to give you the wrong impression there was a waistband, because there was not. What was there was was a bunchy strip where the fabric was folded over a piece of elastic so the pants would stay in place. I cannot say whether she recycled the elastic from our old underwear or not and refuse to even look further to see if it was out of my grandmothers bloomers. Ok, not only was the material an abomination but so was the cut. It seems that what she knew of crotches in pants was that the legs came together. The placement of the crotch in the pants in relation to the human body was not accounted for what so ever. So in wearing said green and red plaid thick scratchy wool pants my pant crotch was almost level with my knee causing me to get caught in the crotch of the pant when I walked. I was already tall then; legs and arms all akimbo, so picture a praying mantis trying to walk in thick wool plaid low slung crotched pants. I was drowning in them. I believe these pants were an early form of birth control and put me at the bottom of everyone’s dance card in the school and outlaying area from Long Island NY to Toledo Ohio.

Yes, my mother made me wear these monstrosities until they had help unraveling in the wash. But other choices that proved embarrassing were not always my mother’s doing. An example is when Amy would don a particular fetching outfit when she was feeling fun and fancy free. It was her homemade super hero garb. It consisted of white long johns belted with a thin red plastic disco belt. There were black sock boots on her feet, and some kind of thin red filmy 1950 lingerie bathrobe tied around her neck by a red silk ribbon used as a decorative bow on the robe for a cape. And those who understand the role and responsibilities of super hero’s know silk capes are a bad call here but hey Amy was only about 10 years old at the time so you have to let that tactical error in judgment go. The cape fell down her back with the arms bodice of the robe flapping out behind her as she zoomed from room to room. She had cobalt blue socks on her hands up to her forearm and a bright red full face ski mask on her head. As if this was not enough she added a jaunty little multicolored Scottish cap with a pom-pom on top. Really it was quite a stunning ensemble.

Now think back to what your particular bad outfits were, a style, bad haircuts, was it a 1980 mall perm like I had? If nothing comes to mind look down at what you are wearing now, because you might be a repeat offender and don’t know it. If we didn’t know we looked bad there were always other confidence crushers in our childhoods we have hopefully moved past. Did you have glasses? A full set of braces so when you ate your sister told you it looked like a train wreck? If you were me you had both of those birth control devices through puberty. When it was time to get my braces put on the orthodontist asked my dad “why does she need them?” My dad replied without a beat “she’s cutting down trees in the backyard and dating a beaver.” Willy-boy was old school in tough love and so were his daughters.

Amy had a beloved stuffed German shepherd with a rubber face. It was an awful looking creature she adored. People in supermarkets would stop my mother looking down on Amy who would be clutching the beast and ask my mom why in the love of god did she have our dog stuffed? It was that creepy. Unfortunately for Amy the stuffed animal became more unstable as Amy grew up and it was not uncommon for her to find that he had hung himself while she was watching “The New Zoo Review”. Siblings are evil, twisted and sometimes very funny while teaching each other about life’s hard knocks and where to hide your stuffed animals. It was a fine balance of humor and torture in our house which I find as I get older is exactly like life.

That balance of humor and torture, of joy and sorrow, yin and yang, The Captain and Tennille is what the show is all about folks. Sitting in the Cancer Bin at the bedside of a brilliant, hilarious, vibrant 36- year-old woman in camouflage pajamas, a feather boa while watching “Shaun of the Dead” and cracking wise is how to live in the process. Sure we survive alright but don’t get out of our box or appreciate the wondrous ride life can be.

Life is about stringing the high points together to make the dips, tunnels and abysses livable and mutable. Which is all they are. My sister Chris told me recently after having not read my writing for a while that in reading it again she realized how much she missed it, that it filled a hole in her she had forgotten about. I could not think of anything to say to that, and still can’t. It is the nicest thing anyone, much less someone I adore has ever said about my work. That is a high point I will remember when I hit another low, I will remember the welling up of gratitude and love from my core for her and hole on tight when life takes another plunge.

Years ago I was walking along 7th Avenue in Manhattan with my roommate Barbara who was dealing with a break-up and talking about how horrible life was. I pointed out to her that there were good things to focus on too, but in the end truth be told none of us was getting out alive. She told me that was the stupidest thing she ever heard someone say. I shrugged it off. Years later she said she finally understood what I had meant. In the end we die, so it’s best to be present and live the best life we know how while we can. We are transitory creatures and so is this roller coaster, so sit back, belt in and enjoy every dip, roll and hair raising spin it takes you on because when the ride pulls in to the platform and the wild eyed Carney with no teeth lets you out you will be glad you did. Amy was.

An ass by any other name

Health & Wellbeing | August 14, 2010

This past winter I purchased a whimsical piece of art by Leigh Standley. Along with wonderful colorful images she has the phrase “I am fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara I could save the world.” It appealed to me on many levels, as a counselor, life coach and as an overall know-it-all. Saving the world or myself starts with change, new ideas, beliefs and behaviors to follow suit. In theory this is wonderful stuff but put to the test much trickier to do. Some folks are ready, willing and able to look at themselves honestly and want to change, grow and own that they have to change their behavior for a desired outcome. Some don’t, which is all fine and good-- I can respect someone who is happy with where they are and are clear on that. We all fall into that category during periods if not the entirety of our lives. Then there is that that small cross population, which says they want to grow, learn and move toward making changes yet…in reality not so much. To be clear I have and do fall in all of these categories on any given day, subject area or Sybil style personality having been triggered.

There are many flavors of these behaviors I have demonstrated in the face of change, I will try to document a few here to make my point and show my stellar ability to make poor choices.

“The Collector” is the first that comes to mind, I buy the latest and greatest book or tool on how to change whatever it is I am looking to change. It could be weight loss, organization, spiritual, career, romance, anything really. I rarely read the whole book, sometimes none at all; I might go to lectures or book signing by the authors but cannot commit to a class or workshop for such. Each new tool I purchase is touted as the Holy Grail and sits on a bookshelf until it is relegated to the closet filled with yesterday’s grails. There is no follow through or use of any of the tools I find longer than 24 hours. When I moved west this last time I had a Holy Grail garage sale.

“The Hummingbird” is when I take “The Collector” to the next step. I buy all the accoutrement for the desired change and generally buy the best, tools, books, crystals, clothing i.e. hiking if I want to get fit or gym clothes for the gym, all the accessories I will need to delve into the change process. I sign up and take a workshop, a class, get a video and start to work at it in earnest. Shortly down the road I hit a tough spot. That spot can be I meet resistance (both internal and external,) when it becomes uncomfortable or when I challenge old beliefs and behaviors. As an example when a trip to the dentist for root canal naked with my hair on fire while listening to Celione Dion music sounds better than going to the gym I know I hit a nerve. I don’t always know what it is but usually it is the size and weight of the Titanic and I need to look at it. Sometimes those around me find my new behaviors threatening and try to sabotage or push back. When friends or family see you trying to get fit and they are couch potatoes they will try to entice you to stay home and be a french fry . Sometimes that spot can be boredom if the desired change does not hit the manufactured time line I have set for success. Here I lose momentum and becomes disillusioned. Like when I didn’t lose 40lbs in 10 days while only eating cabbage soup and doing Kegel exercises I gave up. At this point rather than pushing through to the other side I look around for the next expert’s book, class or system to invest in. Trying hummingbird style landed me with $500 pair of back country skis, gym memberships in every state I lived where I would go for the first 2 months, scads of workshops, classes, and a close personal relationship with Mayflower Moving because what better way to change than start fresh in a new state! Problem was I was still doing the same thing that didn’t work for me in the last state. Ok, there may or may not have been law enforcement challenges involved in some of those skips, uhh, moves.

“The Researcher” I cannot say this better than Mother Teresa did, “Creating change is serious business, either in yourself or the world around you. One cannot be will-nilly about such endeavors” Now that I think about it this might have been said by Chef Boyardee, I get those two mixed up. “The Researcher” does just that, studies what method is the best, then chooses, umm maybe, rush to judgment is not an option and there is new data coming in at any given moment so picking anything is delayed. I buy reference books, talk to experts, organize and collate facts and figures and then think. I spend a huge amount of time thinking about how best to go about my desired change. I do not want to choose wrong, or start anything without all the angles covered, explored and documented. The end result is I never make a misstep or a mistake. Because I never start anything. Mistakes and missteps are great learning tools, embarrassing yes, sometimes you fall down and go boom in yoga on your first class or three and everyone giggles… uh I heard. But making a misstep has taught me what not to do, which lead me down the road to what works. Researching the road ahead left me behind in a Stuckies at the truck stop doing calculations and eating pecan logs. On a side I found out those little bastards can be rough on your teeth, taste nasty, not to mention that it was a waste of some 20 years and made me fat, I am just saying.

“The Lawyer” here we have someone who argues or handles the counter point to any given point for a living. In this carnation I will come to you for advice on change, of course I don’t want it I want to justify my current choice. But I don’t always know that going in, I’ll ask “What can I do to find the relationship I want, lose weight, and find a job that makes me feel fulfilled and get in touch with my higher self.” As a Life Coach folks also come to me with these types of questions when they are going through transitions and need someone to help. Unlike a bank teller let’s say, who might find these types of questions disconcerting when folks are coming to the bulletproof glass with relationships woes and deposit slips. I get paid to ask people questions that help guide them to their truths. This is kind of a discovery mode, I can make comments, give suggestions on small steps but mostly I want them to come up with what works for them and makes them comfortable while going forward.

But back to me, if a friend or family member has achieved a goal I would like to achieve, I ask what steps worked for them. As they offer up each small discreet step I shoot it down with why it won’t work for me. Every point, every piece of minutia they mention I tell how it would never work because of things like, I don’t get up that early, stay up late, eat any form of fruit or vegetable, are too busy, my brain does not work like that, the stock market could go in the dumper again, I don’t want to make a mistake and have to start again, school is expensive, I am out of tin foil and the aliens are listening in to my thoughts…blah, blah blah. The reality is that all of these counter points are true because I believe them to be, because I choose behaviors to support those beliefs. So yes Virginia if you choose the same behavior over and over you get the same outcome over and over. Expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity. I have spent a good deal of time justifying behavior that no longer served me. I grew up in a house where verbal jousting was an art and if you didn’t stand up for yourself and your beliefs you got steam rolled over and someone took your pork chop. It was an ugly dinnertime at the Freeburg’s house every night at 6pm sharp cloth napkins and all. I learned to focus on why things wouldn’t work, what was too big, too scary, and the impossible. It was safer than focusing on what I could do, what might be uncomfortable for me to look at, my ability to own my actions and mistakes.

The above list is an example of some of the types of reactions I have to change, to trying to move forward or not. You may see people you know other than me in there, you would especially see me if you are one of the poor sods I have cajoled into trying to help me or guide me. Sorry about that. What I know is this. Very few people listen unless they are ready to hear, nobody reads information whether it is an email or a book unless they deem that information important and are ready, nobody acts and continues to do so unless they choose to go forward, however crooked forward might be. You cannot force someone to grow, learn or change no matter what kind of muddle they are in. I know it was best for folks to stand back be supportive and let me flounder however difficult and frustrating that was. I am also learning to let those who come to me not quite ready to invest in themselves flounder. I will have to go to my learned friends to see how they stood patiently by and supported yet did not scream in my face the solutions to my woes. I am deaf on many levels it seems.

So here it is some folks will ask for help but are no way looking for it. They just want a fan, a witness, sympathy or to justify their beliefs. I have learned this after having been on both sides of the equation. I cannot take it personal when someone asks and does not take my advice and can only ask others to do the same with me. Because I can promise you that my inaction or wrong turn has nothing to do with you at all, it’s all about me. I used to think someone was serious about needing help for the first 137 times they asked me and as I bumped up against the above behaviors I was frustrated and mad. Now I understand after the 3rd time they seek me out for advice or help for the same thing perhaps I need to stand back and honor where they are in their journey as my wise family and friends do with me.

The reason we say that the teacher appears when the student is ready is we are all teachers and students. Most of the time however the teacher part of us is on coffee/martini breaks waiting. We are waiting for that flash of intent from someone, intent on learning, growing, changing. For me doing anything before someone is keyed in is like offering to push a jackass up hill. It doesn’t go well for anyone involved and demonstrates that I am the bigger of the two asses even though I am wearing a cape and a tiara.

Where's the fun?

Health & Wellbeing | July 31, 2010

Recently I was walking on the beach with a friend of mine who was frustrated with life and the waiting game he was caught in. He said he felt like he was biding his time till a job fell into place. All signs pointed to the end of August early September. That part felt good. What to do till then with no money felt shitty. This boy was used to having money, to flying around from city to city to play, doing what he wanted when he wanted with little to no thought to the price tag. He was unaware of fun on the cheap; boy was he a lucky bastard to have met me.

It is no secret that I like to have fun, love to laugh and am up for any adventure. These skills sometimes place me in the role of Julie your cruise director from the Love Boat but I soldier on because it’s a gift. I have a knack to find fun, laughter and wonder everywhere. It’s just how I roll. There have been times in my life where I earned a six-figure salary and was a very unhappy person. Not that being broker agrees with me but figuring out what makes me tick and choosing better sure as hell does. I started with identifying what sucked in my life and removing those things. Doing so made me lighter, happier and I was better able to find people, work, and activities that made me feel whole. This is all good stuff, and stuff I learned to do on the cheap. The best accessory to finding a good time other than me is the right attitude. You have to be serious about finding joy every day, about being happy you are alive and well and frankly as my dad Willy-boy said, “everything else is gravy.” He was right. If you are alive and well that is all you need to get where you need to go.

Where we were headed on this morning was wandering the beach and talking. What things did he love as a kid, what things did he do in the past for fun? We were mining the past for clues to the now. Sometimes this works sometimes it makes you nostalgic for what you used to be able to do and now can’t, so we left yesterday-land and moved on. This was all well and good but things were not getting any brighter. I needed to take charge and direct some social activities. I offered up a half a dozen suggestions but he was distracted. I let the subject drop and just lead my friend as best I knew-- like a Sherpa in the wilds of ennui.

What I know about life is how you see things is how they are. And if you see them as lousy they are. To shift that mindset is a tricky thing and no one-thing works consistently. Each one of us has to figure out what makes them laugh, what makes them feel loved, nurtured, and what makes them lighter. For me walking or yoga calm me and get me grounded. Talking to someone that I love helps do the same and usually laugh as well since I mostly only hang with funny people. Life is short my man, what is the point of being here if you are not enjoying the ride? Other things that work for me to feel good is when I try something new, a new place, food, activity, anything like this gives me a buzz. I love a learning curve and ‘new’ gives me that. So when I feel like I am stuck and I am killing time in life, because I am waiting for a job, money, a lover or a sandwich, I know I need to get an attitude adjustment. I look in my bag of tricks and pull out something that helps center me, reminds me to take back control of what I have control of and let the other things fall away. Sometimes it is just bubble wand and bubbles, other times feeding huge scary bat rays at Sea World which gum at your fingers like a toothless pony in a broken down rodeo.

If the first thing I try doesn’t work I go back to the bag and pull out another, music, movement, a good book/movie, the beach, each move gets me closer to fine. Each thing in my bag is cheap or free. I am in control of my amusement, my choices, my ability to allow, engage and enjoy. We all are, which in my opinion rocks.

When I work with kids in grammar school sometimes they tell me how they don’t want to grow up because things get harder, the school work, jobs that they will have to hold down, responsibilities of being an adult. I am an adult, that is true I have taken care of myself solely my entire life, I have good credit, have owned multiple homes, moved from state to state, held very prestigious jobs and generally done well for myself. I am not however grown up, that is just plain silly and of no use to anyone. Grown up is a make believe term deeming that one should be serious about things one should never be serious about which is practically everything. Hello? It’s not like we get out of this alive. So back to the kids I point out to them that getting older and being an adult rocks. Point number one I start, I get to eat candy whenever I want, I can have ice cream, pizza or pie for breakfast. Their eyes grow large like saucers at this. Point two I continue, being an adult means you can drive. Bingo, game over, I win. There is nothing better than freedom to go where you want when you want. Even if you have to scrounge the sofa cushions for gas money it is always worth it.

So after our walk I suggested a roof top burger joint to my dear forlorn friend, a man who eats one meal a day. Yes indeedy from the time he gets up to the time he goes to bed he eats non-stop and is built long and lean. A frickening crime against nature with the things he consumes but don’t get me started. This suggestion pulls his head up off his chest and he stops in his tracks, “a burger?” We amble up to the roof for a kick ass burger where he starts to lighten up despite the ½ grass fed beef and fries he was chowing down on. He finds that by looking through the window in the stairwell he can look straight through to the window on the other side and see the beach. He is now able to find the goodness at will now I notice. He is happy, he is sated, and the things that do not matter are falling away. He is planning his next meal, and then a day at the beach with all the appropriate accoutrements of sandwiches, chips, snacks, beverages and beach chairs for napping. He is getting lighter by the minute; I will soon have to tether him to the table as he will be up like Bullwinkle in the Macy’s day parade. Then he kicks it into overdrive by remembering he has one last Zebra snack cake left in his fridge. He is waxing euphoric about every bit of minutia of these crack like snack cakes. He points out crack is whack, and he can stop the Zebra’s anytime he wants “ Yes Whitney” I murmur. We were wandering back to the car at this point and laughing pretty hard about nothing and everything. It’s the little things we string together that build a great morning, a wonderful day and a beautiful life, not the big ones.

He loves to walk on the beach and that usually is a good place to get him heading in the right direction. Talking was also good, especially to someone with my sparkling wit, or more like 5th grade sense of humor. Each of these are things he has in his bag of tricks--which got him so far on this day--he still was not where he wanted to go. So I helped him to remember to reach in to that magical bag and pull out the big guns, food, glorious food. By the time we were driving back home he was telling me to stop because we were laughing so hard. Ok I was laughing, he was snort-laughing and trying to drive. Me, I was trying not to pee on his car seats.

We always have the ability to see things differently at a given moment, wanting that, wanting to get out of the bat cave and into the sunshine is about making the choice over and over to move to the light, the laughter and the snack cakes.

Happy Anniversary!

Blogging | June 28, 2010

It has been one year since the birth of “Quirk and Circumstances” my blog on Flickspin. The goal, mission and hope was that it would force me to write at least one column a month no matter what. Notice that I didn’t say, well written, well thought out, informative or any such nonsense. Just written and posted on a monthly basis. It took years for my friend Tony to get me to do this, I am reluctant to share my writing as I am a nut who can’t spell and is hell on grammar. And those are my good points. But Tony is tenacious and at last I acquiesced, for this I am in debited to him. My guess is that debt will be worked off by testing recipes for his homemade Kim chi soup every time I see him. The soup has a proper Korean name but as I can not spell in English I will let that go…

As for “Quirk and Circumstances” some months I hit the goal of one piece and other months I managed to write more than one which is some kind of a miracle given my overall slacker attitude, social life and hummingbird attention span. Where was I?

The point in writing this blog was to try my best, to fling something original and true out into the dark abyss of the internet and see if it connects with anyone. It was also to give me a deadline to work to; though I have had other writing projects this year, the blog had the only hard deadline. My other writing projects included finishing the edits and rewrites on my first book and writing a second book which I am currently in the throes of rewrites on. I also may or may not have been party to some urban spoon/yelp reviews, ghost writing for psychics, and some bumper sticker creation and all the goodness that comes from that.

What I learned is I don’t have to want to write, have anything to say when I sit to write, be sober or in my sound mind to produce a piece of writing. Yea, yea that’s enough out of the peanut gallery out there… The point being you, or I in this instance, don’t have to have the stars aligned to be able to produce, you just have to show up and do it. Then do it again the next day, and the one after that. It’s just like driving at night, you can only see 30 feet in front of you but that’s all you need to get where you are going. Doesn’t matter if the whole way is losing 90lbs, writing a blog/book/birthday card, becoming a tri-athlete or working at becoming a better person, you just show up and try every day to do your best.

I would like to thank the readers; yes it’s true that is plural. I have been fortunate to get some very funny, very thoughtful comments on my blog. I have had friends who are shy send lovely notes with comments rather than put something on the net. Thank you one and all for those wonderful and encouraging words. It makes the frustration of sitting and staring at the blinking cursor and my subsequent cursing at the blank spot between my ears worth it to hear from you. There is nothing worse than to write something you don’t think stinks and send it off with love to the Flickspin gymnasium and have it stand at the wall by the bleachers all gussied up and never asked to dance.

For my fellow writers, the ones who have been supportive, competitive, an inspiration and even painful lessons, thank you for the fine wine, excellent dinners, laughter and the shared love of the word. You make me try harder, write better and think more. We are an odd lot, we see patterns where others don’t and by pulling those threads we sometimes can make sense of chaos. Unfortunately other times we just make more chaos, no wonder this is a solo effort, eh?

Then there are my trusty cohorts who show up ready for adventure, or misadventure whether that is tasting deep fried butter at the country fair, wrangling mother opossums, getting their toenails painted a bilious green on their first man-pedicure or screening the likes of “Romance and the Sex Life of a Date” at a date stand somewhere out in the wilds of Palm Desert. Being open to life, willing to laugh at yourself and standing up for me when I didn’t even know I needed someone to do that are gifts beyond measure and words, ok that and the ever ready bail money.

Writers know there are muses everywhere but my favorite lives in Denver. She is an artist, teacher, philosopher, writer/editor, Goddess, brilliant, careful thoughtful reader, side kick extraordinaire and champagne ho. There is no way I could write without her much less bother to draw a breath. It is simple as that. Whether it is a road trip, a day of art, an exorcism or 2 or 3 bottles of champagne the experience is exponentially better when she is there to share it with.

I will try harder to write more this next year, I will try harder to tell a better story and try to get into more interesting trouble to write about. Ok that was a lie right there, I don’t have to try a lick at that, hell I don’t have to leave the house. Thanks to Flickspin for providing a site that is well managed, easy to use and has a heart. In the end we know it’s all just quirk and circumstances…cheers all!

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About Kyra Freeburg

I am a former Readiness Engineer, Project/Program Manager, Sign Master, Special Investigator and current School Counselor and Life Coach.
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