This may be a jumbled mess, and for that, I apologize. My brother-in-law took his own life a few days ago, and I am doing all I can to process and help my husband process all the feelings and emotions that go along with suicide. It is more than I can put into words. I wish I could have given him more. I wish he could have received what we all had to give.
I use this title knowing you would have scoffed at it, #1 Music Nerd that you were. You would say that using a Travis song as a title for this little piece of writing is trite and frankly bullshit, as Travis is a band that got undeserved notoriety and they are melancholy and suck anyway. I do not use it to spite you and your music taste. (I can hear you: “FUCKING TRAVIS????”) Yes, Fucking Travis, because it’s me, not someone else.
I use it because I should have used it months, years ago.
I will remember you for just that – your ability to tell me how the Smiths were pompous (true) and how music is better when it’s not really recognized by the mainstream (sometimes?). I will remember you for your passionate stances on God-or-No-God/Politics/World Events/Legalization. I will remember meeting you for the first time with your brother, wondering who these smart motherfuckers were who were beating me mercilessly at bar trivia. I will remember you at countless dinners we had, I will remember you dancing, I will remember you and the glimmer you sometimes would get for wanting a better life for yourself, and I will remember you for talking to our dog in a baby voice and loving him no matter how often you did or did not see him. I will remember how you spoke of your daughters and how the love you had for them shone through no matter what, even in the midst of struggle. You were uniquely you at all times, in defiance of norms, and despite your surroundings. I will remember that there were indeed good days. There were not-good days too. I will remember those as well. Turbulence is a force that sometimes does not quit or knows any bounds. I can’t forget it. But I can do everything in my power to forgive.
I would ask all of us, no matter who is reading this, that if you or a friend of yours feels like life is too overwhelming and cannot understand how to begin to pick up the pieces, there is help out there. That if you or that friend has the ability to reach out, do the reaching. Sometimes our reach to you falls short. Sometimes it doesn’t have the impact we want it to have. Sometimes, there just is no saving. I know in my heart that you might not have known another way, right then, at that moment. I love you because I just do. Whether you let me or not.
I will talk to you now, even though it’s too late, in the quiet times of the day or night, in the wake of all our heartache, in the space you have left. Repair comes when we let it come. I will choose to repair, no matter how late it is, no matter how much it hurts, no matter what anyone else believes. I know there is a part of you that will exist beyond consciousness, beyond human form, and I will do what I can to repair both our hearts in that open, grey, and imperfect space. My guess is you might be calling bullshit on that, too, but you know what? It’s what I’m doing. If I could stand one more time in the blizzard of your wrath, I would do just that. And then some.
I love you because I just do. Whether you let me or not.
When they told us that we might be able to get our copies of The Audacity of Hope signed at a rally in Dallas in late 2007, we knew that there were a host of long shots involved. We all piled up our books with sticky notes inside them with our names, and then went on to do the work of the volunteer: Hand out stuff. Talk to people. Pretty much all the things I hated to do because, as outgoing as I seem, I do not enjoy foisting myself on the general public. I was committed to getting him elected, even if he didn’t have a chance.
We stood in a large room at Gilley’s and listened to him speak. I remember it was a weird time, early, like 5 or 6 pm on a weekday. The room was packed, his mic wasn’t that good, and the crowd was energetic. A few minutes before he was finished speaking, the volunteers were told to go out in the hall to anticipate the crowd as they left, to hand out flyers regarding when and where to vote, and how to encourage others to do so during the primary. All of a sudden, a very stern-looking, diminutive but strong woman in a navy suit and short heels was headed straight for me. It was hard to miss the fact that she was wearing a gun and an earpiece. She said, “We need all the volunteers out here to line up! He wants to say hello.” And we did. Quickly. Before I had a chance to figure out what I was going to say, he was standing in front of me, holding out his hand for me to shake it, and he pointedly said, “And what is your name?” I barely got it out. It was a moment I will never forget. We left with our books, each signed.
The night of the election in 2008, my husband and I went with a group of friends down to Bishop Arts where they had the streets blocked off and big screens in several locations to watch the returns. I remember almost sinking to the pavement when they called it for him. I had been an election judge for the primary. I had never worked so hard for anything in my life. I had risked my job by standing up to a boss who deemed Obama a Muslim terrorist openly and publicly. My husband lost his job because he took a day off to work the primary with me. I remember standing in a burger joint that night in Bishop Arts, tears streaming down my face, while watching him speak in Grant Park after the election results.
There is nothing I can write about President Obama that hasn’t already been written. He had ups. He had downs. I spent the first few years hoping that he would not get shot. He was not perfect. He could not accomplish everything he wanted to do. He had a hand in some things that were not good. Despite it all, I was proud on the whole to have a very intellectual and thoughtful person in the highest office in the land. I was proud that I had an incredibly small role in getting him there.
Given what we are facing tomorrow, I am – if nothing else – amazed and honored that I was alive to see the first African-American President of the United States serve this country in the best way he could for eight years. I will miss him. I will not watch the inauguration of an ill-educated, misogynistic, racist businessman. I will set my thoughts to a higher purpose. I will attend a Women’s March the next day.
I am unsure about where we are headed as a nation – the progress we have made in the last eight years seems vast. Can it all be undone? What I know is this: There are those of us out here who are ready to fight, march, vote, and speak truth to power. We will not let go of the idea that progress is something only we can forge. That regression is not an option. That this country, for all it’s failed experiments, is still ours to try to make succeed.
Well kiddos, it’s been a beautiful nightmare. So much (fill in the blank with your favorite expletive noun) has happened this year that it only makes sense to count it down, say goodbye, write retrospectives, and come up with an all-time winner for worst fucking moment of 2016. I’ve got quite a bit of reflecting to do, so go make your tea or grab a snack and sit on down to read one more piece on why so many of us have had pretty much the roughest year psychologically and emotionally in a long time. If you read all the way to the end, maybe I’ll throw in a good moment or two. Mmmm. On second though, fuck that. This is about setting fire to this piece of trash.
I give you the 10 worst moments of everyone’s 2016. These are NOT in order of importance in impact to the universe or myself, because sometimes you just can’t rate losses of this magnitude (Although #1 really is #1, and the winner.) Don’t think that if I leave your personal worst moment out, I am doing so on purpose. I just think that this is a fairly comprehensive list of our collective groan into the void.
10. David Bowie
While I wrote a short piece on how Bowie’s death affected me here, so many great writers and musicians wrote volumes around me about how his music spoke to them. I was fortunate enough to see Henry Rollins when he came to Dallas for his spoken word show, and he also told an amazing story of an encounter he had with David Bowie while he was on tour. Even though Starman was ill and knew his time had come, none of the rest of us were ready. Leave it to David Bowie to be ahead of the rest of the world on everything, even his own mortality. If you’ve never really listened to his music, I urge you to really put it in heavy rotation. Decades of greatness await you. He was and will remain an icon, and while it seemed TOO SOON! for the rest of us, there is a part of me that will always know that his star-dust is somewhere in the ether, just beyond my periphery, waiting to shower the world with a life that will last beyond the ages. My gratitude overflows for all that his life brought to mine.
I haven’t been able to write about the death of Prince yet due to the outpouring of emotion about it every time I fitfully start and stop again. I am 46. To say I grew up with Prince is an understatement. Before I even knew it was Prince, I undulated in a Utah basement to “Do Me, Baby” in whatever way a 12-almost-13 year-old girl can undulate. Barely understanding what all the innuendo meant at that age, I learned soon enough that it was bad, bad, bad when my mom found the lyrics sheet inside the 1999 album. Mortified, she freaked out, and it cemented my absolute infatuation with him forever. An accomplished EVERYTHING player, writer, musician, style maven, I can’t say enough about what his music did for me – nay, to me, as a weirdo teen that didn’t really fit in anywhere. There is a sense of freedom through pain in many of his songs, even if that pain is not evident. Whenever I listen to “Last Night I Spent Another Lonely Christmas”, I am filled with a sense of heartbreak as if it were my own. Parade was another full album filled with nonstop hits, meaningful snippets, gorgeous writing and overall mastery of the exact moment in time in which we were all living. From the super fun even if overplayed “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Little Red Corvette”, to the gospel vibes of “Seven” and “The Ladder”, to the sultry funk of “Erotic City”, “DMSR” and “Sign o’ the Times”, dude had a catalog of unending magic and rawness and ability. The unrelenting wizardry of a generation’s anthem in “Purple Rain” will be covered, coveted, revered, and praised for years to come. I could list songs for days. Suffice it to say, people who tell me “I have never been into Prince”, for them I feel kind of sad. You are missing out on an a musician that only happens once in a great while.
I think about what pain the Artist himself must have been in toward the end of his life, and I will for eternity be gobsmacked by his death. I never wanted him to stop making music, producing, having other people tell crazy stories about meeting him – I never wanted it to end. Like Bowie, he was an influence beyond time – and goddamn if I can figure out how to evoke all that his music meant to me. His lyrics, and more even still his feeling – his use of dynamics and his vocal histrionics have a way of reaching through the space between me and the airwaves, and his voice pulls me through to whatever place he inhabits.
Give “Lady Cab Driver” a listen sometime – because the last line in that song will always speak to me:
“Not knowing where I’m going is galaxies better than not having a place to go.”
8. Alan Rickman
Goddammit, Alan Rickman. I was not and still am not ready for him to be gone from this earth. A superb, versatile acting talent with a voice that was at once distinctive, at once arresting, how can we count the ways and roles in which we have loved you? Hated you? While his portrayal of Severus Snape was the role of a lifetime, stuff of legends, I first fell in love with Alan Rickman in a small movie that I’m surprised even came my way in Closet Land. It is a powerful, raw film of startling lasting power – I watched it some 20 years ago and will never forget it. With only two characters in the entire movie – Rickman as a cruel, deft police interrogator and Madeline Stowe as a children’s author and Victim of the State, it is definitely an actor’s and screenwriter’s film – one based solely on acting talent alone, no scenery, no graphics, just two people giving forthright and intuitive performances. Panned by critics at the time for its stark settings and overall in-the-face-ism regarding subject matter, independent films were not nearly as widely accepted or acclaimed then. Had this film been released today, I would imagine a better reception. Give it a watch if you can find it. But beyond this little-known performance of Rickman’s, he enjoyed success at so many levels of his long career – accomplished stage actor and Tony award winner, hated villain Hans Gruber in the action classic Die Hard whom we are all too happy to see fall off a building,director, Snape. Whether you read the books first or not, he at once assumed the picture in your head of Snape, a character we find out so late of his goodness, his purity, his devout love, and his frailty. I have no doubt in my mind that Alan Rickman, were he to have lived longer, would still add to the massive list of career accolades. His performances in so many films will continue to be among my favorites. I have a friend who often says she would listen to Alan Rickman reading the phone book. I concur. That voice will stay with us even as he goes to whatever realm classically trained actors aspire toward. I can only imagine a land filled with vast expanses of scenery for him to describe, other great legends who have left us to act with, and one unifying director that is the Universe to call him up.
7. Carrie Fisher
We have been hit hard in the last week or so. Luckily, I will never ever forget standing in line in 1977 with my reluctant mother to see Star Wars – A New Hope at the age of 7. The first images of the Princess as a hologram were figured into my childhood psyche and when The Empire Strikes Back barreled into my life with full force (heh), I was changed forever into the deep-seated nerdling I am down inside. Her on-screen relationship with the debonair Han Solo, the back-and-forth quips, her outright femaleness in her portrayal of a strong, smart, gender-defiant rebel caught in love and in war, is a performance that will last a lifetime for me. To learn later of her struggles with mental illness and to discover her prolific writing is a gem that I will just keep taking out and polishing. And because When Harry Met Sally was a movie which spoke to me personally, her easy yet embattled depiction of Marie will always be one of my favorites. “You’re right, you’re right, I know you’re right.” I don’t know how many times I have uttered that phrase, trying to have the exact same intonations as her character. But to digress to her more famous role, what young brunette girl didn’t dream of looking like Carrie Fisher in a golden bikini? I know she hated it, and I was much more jealous of her General Organa outfit, but there’s a reason why men my age swoon at the thought of Leia and the idyllic embodiment of poise, strength, and flat-out sexiness. She truly is gone too soon. I feel like she would have had further roles in upcoming episodes of the Star Wars legend, and I hate not getting to see this come to fruition.
6. Debbie Reynolds a DAY LATER
At this I just say, what the fuck. I mean, I guess it stands to reason that the death of her daughter was an event that she could not withstand, and while I am of a generation a little too late for the genius of Debbie Reynolds to have truly grasped me, I appreciated her long-standing performances in Singin’ in the Rain and The Unsinkable Molly Brown from a young age. She has an extensive filmography, one that I will relish looking back on, and more than anything, I am saddened by her loss for people of my mother’s generation who grew up and older with all of these performances. I suck because I can’t write paragraphs about Debbie Reynolds, but I know enough to write that her life was filled with talent, stardom, and constant work – a presence among female actors and a role model for many aspiring young women of her day.
5. George Michael
I had a poster – this poster – on my closet door (ha!) at age 15:
Look, I have vivid memories of loving Wham! even if all of their songs weren’t giant hits in the US. I was listening to “Young Guns” a couple of days ago and heard the line “this young gun says caution pays” BUT I REALLY THOUGHT HE WAS SAYING “ABORTION PAYS” and who knows, MAYBE HE IS, although that would be weird and you know, not pertinent to George Michael. When I was in junior high, I was a cheerleader (gross) and had the everlasting pleasure of doing a choreographed dance routine at least one million times to “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and will remember parts of that dance until I am old and grey (much to my chagrin). But as I got older, George Michael’s solo work had great prophetic meaning for me – his amazing cover of Stevie Wonder’s “They Won’t Go When I Go” haunts to this day. His popular, mournful “Waiting For That Day” and “One More Try” are beautiful tributes with a voice that is like pop-soul honey. Listening again to his who-knows-how-platinum hit “Father Figure”, it is a) beautiful, b) possibly creepy and mostly c) delivered with pure feeling. Again, a master of dynamics, Michael soars and ebbs just when we need him to do so. I didn’t know where he was for the last 10 years or so, but I sure as fuck didn’t think he’d just vanish. A man whose voice was praised by Elton John and Freddie Mercury, don’t take George Michael for a pop star lightweight. He has plenty of soul-wrenching material that only he could have delivered to us. I don’t think it’s easy for many Americans to really understand the significance he had on British popular music, but his is a voice I will miss and revisit repeatedly for the rest of my life.
4. Leonard Cohen
Let’s face it, Cohen was also a little bit before my time, but I always have been in awe of his incomprehensibly vast amount of writing he has left with the world. There is shit that is Cohen that you don’t even know is Cohen. I can’t write a retrospective of 2016 and NOT include him, as there is a generation directly in front of mine who saw decades of the volume of work Cohen published. Writer, poet, lyricist, singer, producer – Cohen was enigmatic and all-encompassing. Delving into the heart of his subjects with a deft hand and an unflinching eye, his words span years of heartbreak, longing, joy and sorrow for all who dare to go with him on his journey. Worldly, religious, introspective, prominent – his influence is one too great to ignore. At 82 when he died, Leonard Cohen accomplished enough for 5 lifetimes. Like Rickman, his voice is one that you cannot but peg, so distinctive and deep that it sounds as if it is coming out of the bottom of the ocean up through decades of gravel, mud, water and waves, until it breaks over us with the realization that life is finite and infinite all at once, and we are pulled back down into his undertow.
I am not sure where I read or heard this first, but it is beautiful, tragic, and exactly Cohen:
I heard of a man
who says words so beautifully
that if he only speaks their name
women give themselves to him.
If I am dumb beside your body
while silence blossoms like tumors on our lips.
it is because I hear a man climb stairs and clear his throat outside the door.
From Let Us Compare Mythologies, 1956
3. Gene Wilder
I am quite sure that my first memory of Gene Wilder, even though his career was already in full swing, was the enigmatic and eccentric character that only Wilder could have pulled off in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Could I write paragraph upon paragraph about that performance alone? Absolutely. The somersault, the boat ride, the off-hand snide remarks to children (CHILDREN!), his effortless demeanor and his flawless physical presence in that role is incomparable. Only later in my life did I come to appreciate his genius in Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and Silver Streak. He turned to writing in his later years, and kept his condition of Alzheimer’s a secret from the public – but at 83, Wilder died with an outstanding career to his credit and fans of every age due to his roles.
2. Muhammad Ali
I can’t write more than has already been written about Ali. I came to enjoy watching boxing in the last 20 years or so, long after he had fought, but the reverence with which people speak of this man is so deep, so prevalent, that I was drawn to listen to his memorial service which aired in full on NPR after he died. Not one but almost every recounted tale from Very Famous People of how Ali was a presence in their lives brought me to tears. Fighter in so many more ways than one, we can’t imagine the significance of the role he played not only in sports but socially, culturally – a poetic server of justice, a fearless yet real and rough man of morality and complexity, a Bearer of Truth for all who dare to look at it in the face. I am not the one to write this. He is eloquently eulogized by the one and only President Barack Obama:
“But I actually think the world flocked to him in wonder precisely because, as he once put it, Muhammad Ali was America. Brash, defiant, pioneering, joyful, never tired, always game to test the odds. He was our most basic freedoms – religion, speech, spirit. He embodied our ability to invent ourselves. His life spoke to our original sin of slavery and discrimination, and the journey he traveled helped to shock our conscience and lead us on a roundabout path toward salvation. And, like America, he was always very much a work in progress.”
1.5 Sharon Jones
It was like I just found this voice, and then she was gone. From the opening moments of “Stranger to my Happiness” I was very much SIT UP IN THIS CHAIR AND WTF FUCK THAT LET’S DANCE HOLY SHIT. A female James Brown. Everything I had been waiting to hear. And fuck me, she’d been around for a long time and I was JUST hearing it. Where had I been, where did this voice come from, who is she and how can I get more? Just wow, if you have not listened to Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, you are missing some amazing music that will grow to be a permanent mainstay in your listening habits. She is the embodiment of soul, funk, power, and unabashed joy for her art. And stage presence? Jesus. It is a crime that I did not get to see her perform. Even in her advanced illness, she did not give up or in. What a fucking voice. Unparalleled. Standing – no, dancing amid the upper realms of what the Great Aretha created, the world gave us, for a brief, shining moment, this powerful, strong, gorgeous woman who sang her heart out Every. Single. Time.
1. Worst Moment Winner: Trump for President
If we all don’t agree on that, get off my blog.
One more day, everyone. Let’s get through it together, in one piece, and always remembering those who went before.
It is a very quiet, run-down, not-taken-care-of cemetery in the middle of a nature preserve that sits on the edge of a suburban, outside-the-loop community. It’s heavily wooded, and the path to the cemetery isn’t paved. I have no ties to this cemetery. A friend took me there in the dark one evening, which is pretty much not my gig, going to cemeteries in the dark. As goth as I am, I am too afraid of getting ousted by authorities or getting mugged or raped in the woods. As I stepped out of my comfort zone that night, I found it magical. In more ways than one.
So I keep going back. In the day, though. For now.
I read the historical marker over and over again. I want to go inside and sit on the little bench that is placed right next to the marker. Instead, I am waiting for an invitation. A sign. Something that whispers to me that it’s ok to go through the pulled-back chain link fence and just sit. That I am getting closer to being welcome. I don’t know these people buried here, and the last burial in the cemetery was almost 100 years ago. I imagine most of them hard people. Rough people. Pioneer people. People who had to wear ridiculously oppressive clothing in blazing temperatures, who had to work this less-than-fertile Texas soil, who had to bury children lost to disease. As I wander outside the locked gates of this place in my yoga pants and running shoes, I know I don’t have anything in common with those who are buried here.
But I keep coming back. I keep looking for signs. I keep waiting for the dead to reveal their mysteries to the living. To tell me in hushed tones what to do with my life, how to be of purpose. These souls that cannot fathom me, my life and times – who might have the power to question why I would hang around this place so many others have abandoned.
I bring them things. A flower. A hairpin. A chunk of bread.
Say what you will. We are all in uncharted territory in this life. The more I do what feels right, the less scary that territory, known or unknown, becomes.
Whether a sign is real or imaginary, I am the one that defines its power.
There are, at last census in 2010, 157 million women in America.
There are 151 million men.
Now. Men who are reading, this, let this next bit sink in: Every third woman you know has been sexually harassed, assaulted or raped in her lifetime. Maybe all three.
Every. Third. Woman.
And believe it or not, there are women out there who don’t consider assault, assault. On NPR this morning, I heard a woman who is a Trump supporter say “well, if they do (grab you,etc), just punch them in the face.” You know. Like we do, ladies! Never fear, I am sure that will work out OK for you 100% of the time!
But just because you punch someone as a retort to their assault, THE ORIGINAL ACTION IS STILL ASSAULT. Your response to it doesn’t change what it technically is. It is sexual harassment. It is sexual assault. For every time a guy has slapped or groped our ass, or touched us without consent, brushed up too close to our breasts on purpose, or for fuck’s sake grabbed us by the pussy, it’s harassment or assault. And I want to be the 100,000th woman to chime in on the rant regarding what the Republican Presidential nominee has called “locker-room talk”: You are a fucking delusional asshole predator, Donald Drumph, and you and your entire tribe need to be denounced so loudly, so forcefully, that the entire world can hear and feel it.
I have worked in a male-dominated industry for over 20 years, and with that, have had my share of experiences ranging from sexual harassment to sexual assault. I have had experiences outside of work as well – at the club, on public transportation, hell, walking down the street. I’ll put it to you in a somewhat self-deprecating manner – I am no extraordinary woman. I am, simply, a woman. Which leads many men to believe they have the right to do whatever the fuck they want, because they are stronger/superior/more powerful. And if you are not one of those men, then bravo for you.
If nothing else, this shitstorm of an election in this apocalyptic hellscape that is our American Politics has brought forth a discussion. A discussion that, right the fuck now, we cannot let men define. Just take a look at the numbers of responses writer Kelly Oxford received on Twitter when she asked women to tweet about their own experiences with sexual assault. She received over one million separate stories.
For here is what happens when we let men define what sexual assault is or is not:
“I don’t characterize [grabbing a woman by the genitals] as sexual assault. I think that’s a stretch.” – Jeff Sessions (R – AL)
“Rape is kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” – Clayton Williams (R – TX)
“If a woman has [the right to an abortion], why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.” – Lawrence Lockman (R – ME)
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that thing down.” – Todd Akin (R – MO)
“FARENTHOLD: I’m not here to defend Donald Trump. I don’t like what he said, but …
HAYES: If a tape came out with Donald Trump saying that – if a tape came out with Donald Trump saying that, saying “I really like to rape women,” you would continue to endorse him.
FARENTHOLD: Again, it would, I — that would be bad, and I would have to consider – I’d consider it. But again, we’re talking about what Donald Trump said 10 years ago as opposed to what Hillary Clinton has done in the past two or three years.” – Blake Farenthold (R-Texas).
So you know, just guys talking about “conquests“, haha, just banter, just words. And to the co-worker who strolls in my office and says “well, is what he said really any worse than what Hillary Clinton has done?” YES, MOTHERFUCKER, YES. Because even though I am no raving fan of the Clintons and their Underwoodian lifestyle, I will stop you right there and say YES. It is worse. All of the things Your Precious Donald has said – his insults of Mexicans, of Muslims, of disabled persons, of veterans or prisoners of war – they are all reprehensible, all despicable, all disgusting. But with this last tape, you’ve just managed to target the majority of wheelhouses in the country. And this is why we must take our power now, stand up and define what is sexual assault. Do not let this orange, ill-fitted-suit-wearing predator and his lackeys define it. Because it is, quite simply, #notokay.
Here’s the deal, y’all: We don’t need your fucking “words“. Your words – just like your actions – mean everything and nothing to us all at once.
Rolling down your street, full gear on, helmet and everything, Bambi legs, sweating, and possibly looking a little (alright, A LOT) out of place? Wow. What the fuck does she thing she’s doing? Look at her.
That’s right, take a gander. That was me. 6:48 yesterday evening. Technically 6:57, because the first 9 minutes were spent standing casually on my sidewalk, trying to look like I was waiting on someone. In my skate gear. Like you do in the suburbs. That was after 3-5 minutes of sitting on my porch, putting my skates on, only to immediately fall on my ass the minute I tried to stand up. Oh, and the extra 60 seconds it took to roll timidly back in the house to get mouth guard and helmet. Because holy shit, if I was going to fall down IMMEDIATELY, who knows what’s in store, riiiiight? Oh, and the few more minutes I took to roll around in my front room to make sure I was not going to just completely forget what my legs do.
Was I scared? Yup. Terrified. I have not put skates on in over a year. We recently moved to a neighborhood where there is an amazing 9-mile trail, very tame and paved with concrete sidewalks, around a little pond. I had built up “skating the trail” to such monumental heights that I actually began convincing myself that there was no way I could do this. But I badly wanted to do this. None of these thoughts, of course, are rational. I am a decent skater. Not a great roller derby player, because there is a very distinct difference, as many of you reading this can attest. But I more than mastered the art of, you know, circling. I have skated many a trail. Some difficult. Some that other skaters never would even try. So it’s not like it’s a foreign concept.
Bur you retire, you get comfortable in not really knowing pain on a daily basis any longer, and for some of us, those skates aren’t that easy to just don with any kind of confidence any more. Then you start wondering if you ever even had confidence in the first place. And if you did, was it warranted. Go thee forth into this downward spiral of Self-Esteem Rabbit Holes. You get the picture.
This particular rabbit hole left me staring at my skates longingly, but making 1001 excuses as to why I couldn’t put them on. A great deal of the excuses were rooted in the psychological damage I inflicted on myself while playing roller derby. Sometimes the skates were too hard emotionally to even look at, much less wear. But you know what, nothing feels the same way forever. No feeling lasts. Things change. And for me, that has been beautiful. Even if painful. The beauty is in the reality that I get to write this story. No one else does. No one else defines me. No one else gets to tell me I’m ok, or not ok, or not enough, or just right. People can, and do. And yet:
That is my job. My singular job. For whatever time I get on this amazing, fucked-up, ironic and devastatingly gorgeous planet.
And the old moves, the feeling of being a little unsure or awkward but getting better with every step, came back. Did I cross over the Dreaded Wooden Bridge? Not last night. Will I? Maybe. All I know is that with the wind blurring my vision just a little along with weird, hesitantly watery eyes for some unknown reason, I felt like my soul let go. Like it doesn’t matter that people saw me. That you saw me.
What the fuck do I think I’m doing? I don’t have a clue. But right at that moment, in all of the intense vulnerability and joy that bubbled up inside of me, it was the most perfect skate of my life.
You are always there. You look like my friend’s mom. You don’t seem overly jubilant, which I totally get. However:
You always talk to me. You always ask or comment about something I’ve bought. We chat. You are not crazy. In fact, the old me would write about how annoying you are and how I am in a hurry dammit and cut the small talk, Lady.
But what I want to say to you right now is I love you. I love that you engage me. I can tell that the people behind me in line do not share this love. I don’t care. You are making the most of your day, and by doing so, have made a lasting impression on me.
The next time I see you, I will learn your name and I will maybe even creepily hug you. Because right now, we all need to reach out to everyone, appreciate that this life passes by pretty damn quick, and there is nowhere any of us need to get to so badly that we ignore our sameness, our ability to interact, our humanity.
For everyone behind me in the proverbial Target line, if you have posted recently about “be kind to each other” or “love wins” or whatever the Facebook sentiment of the day is, this is where it starts. It starts with me. And you.