This is how it works: heal, breathe, and use your words.

I haven’t deliberated over my life in quite some time, but leave it to the powers that be to slow me down with a broken rib.  Breathing requires such concentration that I have no choice but to focus on the only thing I can do, at the moment–think.  I wouldn’t claim to be a wordsmith, anymore.  No, that title left me months ago along with other descriptors–confident, spiritually evolved, kind, gentle, optimistic, loving, hopeful…to name a few.  Nothing in particular happened to derail me, but rather caught up to me.

As I get older and time becomes more valuable, moments of reflection get smaller and more specific.  An outlook on the world becomes too large to manage, and scaling back is the only way to not become overwhelmed, so interpretation on a case-by-case basis shapes perspective.  And, perspectives change; so much change.  It’s hard to get a good grip on change and such concepts as “using your words”–wordsmith skills– can easily slip through your fingers unless you practice,  after all practice makes perfect.  Behavior is surprising enough without throwing in an inability to communicate.

Last month I was headed to an event with two friends.  We were in a cab exchanging self-characteristic type things.  I launched into a characteristic about myself, and then paused mid-sentence. “Actually, that’s not true,” I said. “It’s one of those things I would like to think was true about me, but isn’t.”  For the life of me I can’t recall the characteristic, but it wasn’t an inherent characteristic of me and one I would likely never acquire.  It made me feel strange and uncomfortable to admit that, but it was true.  Cue Regina Spektor‘s “On The Radio”

…this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took
And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else’s heart
Pumping someone else’s blood
And walking arm in arm
You hope it don’t get harmed
But even if it does
You’ll just do it all again…

I’m figuring out that, for the most part, people teach you about yourself.  Someone told me, once, that hate is equally important than love; love teaches you about others, but hate teaches you about yourself.  Entrusting another with your heart is a scary event–even more so if you don’t  have a clear perspective on who you are in the first place–but each invitation brings a new moment to practice being you.

A letter to a friend sent from my false self

Dear T***,

Do you ever have moments where you truly don’t know who you are?  Almost like a sinister version of yourself doesn’t want sunshine or happiness to be in your life?  Does everyone have this or am I currently what is considered lost?

Well, I hate this person and I’d like to make sure she doesn’t come around, but facing her is considerably frightening.  Who is she?  She’s been hanging around and trying to conjure up trouble around here.  In fact, I remember her from back in the day except back then I thought she was the coolest part of me.  She was a rebel, drinker, joker, adventurer, and drama queen.  She was cocky, attractive, interesting, complex, and irresistibly flawed.  She drew people in and could hang out with just about anyone, but she never could sustain anything with meaning.  Is she my false self?

My false self always seemed so much more attractive and relevant before now.  She hurt so many people who passed through my life, and I resent her for that.  However, she was such an important part of my growth that I’m also very protective of her.  Perhaps I also see this in others, which is why I’m so quick to forgive?  My false self has no accountability much to the detriment of my true self, who is left with the blame and abysmal guilt.

Well, there doesn’t seem to be much room for both of us, and I’m far too old to hang out with my false self anymore.  I should confront her one last time; truly I should send her on her way.  You see, other people would say ‘kill her off’ but realistically I’m afraid I may be addicted to her, and her psychological prowess requires premeditated measures.  Hence, this letter that serves as a vague pondering of the strength of my attachment to her and my ability, or lack thereof, to ignore her entirely.  I’ll keep you updated on any progress.

If I know her, which I do, she’ll simply watch from afar and check in with me at times she thinks I miss her; opportunities to influence.  All I can do is be true to myself and hope the charisma of my false self is never as real as the energy of my true self.

You mentioned your disappointment in my absence from ink, and between the lines of the letter you wrote you asked how I was.  How’s this for a letter? Until next time…

 

XOXO,

A.O.

 

 

 

 

Monkey Minds were not harmed in this blog post.

My therapist tries so hard to get me to admit that something…anything, really…hurts. I, of course, opt for closed-off buzz words like ‘annoyed’ and ‘disappointed.’ Those words that seem to ring with strength over weakness. She prods for my recognition of hurt as a feeling week-after-week, as I squirm in the uncomfortable lobby-like chair. Humanity’s friend, avoidance, kicks in but instead riddles me with trivial obsessive thoughts which is what brought me there in the first place. There, the sterile room with the only identifying element being the faux Van Gogh’s hanging on the wall. Her chair, the one I sit in, is uncomfortable and entirely impersonal…am I like her chair?

This monkey mind of mine has stuck around much longer than usual, and my true self stands outside the atrium knocking on the glass. I see you, I do, but I’m busy swinging from branch-to-branch. After all, it’s much more fun to climb trees than to fall to the ground.

The two women that know me best – my mom and wife – tell me frequently that I put more energy into those that don’t deserve it versus those that do. I wish I could say this wasn’t true, but it is and I know it. I suppose there are those times in life when you know exactly who you are, and insight and intuition are shining lights. Then there are times when you have to really work to see any light, and that’s when you change the batteries in the flashlight. It is then when words like ‘hurt’ lurk like a monster in the dark. I’ve never been scared of the dark, but after standing too close to monsters I do search for that flashlight.

It’s like REM sings, “Everybody Hurts Sometimes” and if I think about it…’hurt’ does sound more impactful, doesn’t it?

The Best Of the Greatest Hits…

Elvis Presley and Costello, Hank Williams Sr., Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Simon and Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, Queen, Van Morrison, The Who, Crosby Stills & Nash, The Ramones, The Clash, Jefferson Airplane, The Mama’s and The Papa’s, CCR, Fleetwod Mac, Joni Mitchell, Bowie, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Doors, Bob Marley, Al Green, Funkadelic, The Carpenters, Aerosmith, Meat Loaf, U2, The New York Dolls, Peter Frampton, Blondie, Cat Stevens, Boston, The Allman Brothers, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Marvin Gaye, Elton, Dylan, Clapton, Springsteen, Floyd, Cher, Nick Drake, Curtis Mayfield, Jackson Browne, Carole King, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, The Velvet Underground, Cheap Trick, The Eagles, Bad Company, Patti Smith, The Steve Miller Band, Airsupply, Kiss, Supertramp, Van Halen, Dolly Parton, and John Cougar Mellencamp before he lost the Cougar.  These were the ‘Best Of’ my childhood in the mid-to-late seventies.  They were the stories, tunes, expressions, and concepts that defined my parent’s generation and shaped a musical melody within my soul. 

I just got my promo order from work – Warner Music Group – and there is no denying that while my mother’s generation, neatly filed in the form of vinyl under my vintage record player, has passed its lighter on to my generation.  The music, stories, experiences, and tunes that compiled the growing pains of my generation have graduated into yet another dying format of music – the compact disc – in the form of a greatest hits album.  The Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna, Michael Jackson, R.E.M., Metallica, the Beastie Boys, Soundgarden, Counting Crows, Oasis, Green Day, the Goo Goo Dolls, Alice in Chains, LL Cool J, Weezer, the Cranberries, Notorious BIG, Live, The Pixies, PJ Harvey, Liz Phair, Prince, Bon Jovi, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Pavement, Wilco, The Flaming Lips, Guns ‘n Roses, Def Leppard, Run DMC, AC/DC, Whitney Houston, INXS, The Bangles, Cyndi Lauper, The Cure, the Go Go’s, Wham!, the Talking Heads, Poison, the B-52’s, Motley Crue, Janet Jackson, Eurythmics, Billy Idol, Salt-n-Pepa, A Flock of Seagulls, Culture Club, Boy George, Paula Abdul, Joan Jett, Rick James, Lionel Ritchie, Tone-Loc, The Pretenders, NKOTB, and good lord Bobby Brown.  These are the musical melodies that are supposed to strike a chord in my child (the one I do not have) and perhaps the last physical form of a musical collection (known as an album) that will exist in the world. 

One-offs in a unarchived format with messages of a generation of self-entitled tones.  A greatest hits of the best of digital delusion living on some type of portable drive somewhere that merely pays my salary….that’s the download on a new generation’s legacy. 

I think I’ll lay on my shag rug, beside the records I love, listening to a CD of my youth, under the photographs developed from real film that hang above the Royal typewriter, while I read a book.

Diffident Diary/DigiSphere/I Call Bullshit/Life Times/Media Marvels/On A Serious Note/The Prop Arsenal

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What I Lost and Want Back

Prism

My childhood mornings seemed so much more pleasant than the adult ones now do. I woke up wide-eyed and ready to explore the world. Bright were the rainbows that reflected on the wood-paneled hallway created by the bright sun hitting the diamond-shaped windows on the front door. My own personal kaleidoscope had me looking deeply into wood grains at an early age. My brother, Jeffrey, sat less than five inches from the television with the sound screaming loudly into my soul. What I remember about that particular moment is how awake I was back then, and how impressions moved me. Something as small as colored light reflected from the sun onto the wall kept me in awe, imprinted in my memory, and conjured up happiness. I haven’t seen the little prisms of inspiration that echoed so loudly in my youth for quite some time, and I want it back.

You down with OCD? Yeah you know me.

My Aunt Lulu tells the story of how as a child – she babysat me – I would line up her spice bottles as though they were in formation for war.  I played quietly and then I would put them back into the spice cabinet.  She tells this at family gatherings every time, and I haven’t the heart to tell her it was the first sign of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  She found it endearing that I had a penchant for war and played well alone, and I found it relieving that her spice cabinet was neat and orderly.

In high school, my room was always immaculately clean and upon the first foot on the floor in the morning, bed made with militant-tucked corners.  I never wore clothes more than once before it was separated, colors or whites, into the hamper.  I would get nervous at the sight of a few dishes in mom’s sink, and as the dishes crept to plentiful the seething would begin.  That was the trigger to which all the guns in the world were  pulled…dishes in a sink turned to uneven pep-rally banners on the halls.  How could a cheerleader, perfectly poised and coiffed, be such a symmetrical slob?  The devil is in the details, which sometimes makes it impossible to not feel superior.

College was the first time I felt…neurotic.  There weren’t people around that I had grown up with and due to lack of a large population, had to like me.  People from all walks of life, backgrounds as diverse as the next, out of step with mine.  If you have a therapist confirm that you’re a number in their manual then you can get the university to let you room alone, so there I was in Wentz Hall at Oklahoma State University alone with an abnormally long twin-sized bed.  When left to your own devices, as a perfectly capable OCD person, you begin to create some intriguing patterns.  It didn’t take long, holed up in that dorm, until I was trying to convince my mom that I needed…no NEEDED a futon.

“Why do you need a futon when you have a perfectly good bed?”  She would ask.

“Mom, the bed is too long is makes me feel like I’m a short loser because I’m not here on a basketball scholarship.”

“Well that’s just ridiculous, Lisa.  You’re crazy.”

“Well duh, mom, that’s why I need a futon to sleep on.”

Once the futon arrived, I never slept on that bed again.  Truth be told, I had come down with a fear of wrinkles.  I needed a place for people to sit when they visited – the couple of dorky musicians that were teaching me guitar, which I never learned anyway – because I couldn’t relax while they sat on the bed, moving their bodies and creating giant wrinkles.  Eventually, I couldn’t stop thinking about wrinkles and under no circumstance could someone sit on my bed.  None.  I was spending too much time straightened wrinkles of the abnormally long twin bed and less time studying, so once I eliminated guests and sleeping on it altogether the wrinkle obsession failed to exist.

Fast forward to New York City.  I know what you’re thinking, how can someone like you – a small-town girl – live like that.  To the normal folk like you (let’s face it the only people to read this blog are my hometown peeps) it would make you shudder at the waves of people crashing into you, but to the crazies like me…it’s like redemption.  You see, there’s a process you go through in New York that most Californians call soulless, but we call it desensitized. For someone like me, this ‘desensitization’ was very much-needed.  I was, now, normal.  I could walk among a crowd – worry free of wrinkles, symmetry, and others I won’t detail here – and just feel secure via eavesdropping…these people are nucking futs.  Here I was thinking I was bat shit crazy because a wrinkle set me off into a flustered-state of organizing, but these people have real problems like peeing in streets or fighting each other over parking spaces.  For all intent and purposes, New York City swallowed me up like a fine wine.

Ten years later – married, living in Jersey, moving up the corporate ladder by day, writing novels by night, and getting an MBA in between, my fear of wrinkles downgraded to more of a pet peeve (as we – yuppies – call it to sound normal).  My mom contributes to my superiority complex of details by supporting that ‘making the bed is just plain good housekeeping,’ and New York City street-strolling has become more of an exorcism of my apparently new agoraphobia.  The good news is I’m no longer soulless.

Muffin Top Allure

When I was a lanky little kid, a thinly teenager, and a twiggy twenty-something, I thought a muffin top was literally a muffin that had spilled over the paper casing.   In fact, the muffin top was my favorite part of the whole muffin.  It was firm, slightly crunchier, and it wasn’t soft like the middle so it stayed in your hand, therefore easier to eat.

In junior high, I would spend the night with my friend KB most often because at ten o’clock at night her mom would bring us blueberry muffins.  Nothing said love like a late night snack fresh out of the oven, and back then calories and sugar grams were only counted by fat people.  We were not fat and did little counting in those days, and quite honestly in those days I needed a little more love.

Once I hit college, I noticed people ate muffins in the morning.  Strange, the last thing I wanted in the morning was sugar but I tried it – not entirely impressed.  If I wanted something sugary in the morning, I wanted it to have a big hole in the middle and to be enigmatically named doughnut.  There was a sophisticated allure with a morning muffin in those days,  and much like beer I acquired a taste for it.

Now that I’m in my thirties I’ve learned that you can’t eat until you’re loved or get rid of acquired habits (like eating or drinking) so easily, and muffin tops are not just reserved for baked goods.

A calling card charged to career

A coworker stopped me in the elevator bank at work and told me that I seem to be extremely unhappy, at least according to Facebook.  I did?  What did he mean?  When I asked, he mentioned unhappy as it related to work and explained how surprised he was to realize this because, personally, I seemed to be happy by nature.  My prior twelve-year battle with depression notwithstanding, I am happier than ever.  Was I really projecting my career discontent into the world?  GASP, had I truly become the type of person I loathe – a disgruntled employee?

Perhaps my burnout a few weeks back is the culprit of this negative status updating during the weekdays.  Although, I stand by my most recent update that weekends SHOULD be longer.  Nonetheless, I suppose I could be marinating in career apathy since the burnout.  One tremendous realization, thanks to burnout, was that this career was not my ‘calling’ but merely a ‘job’.  In that moment of realization, while freeing, you have a choice to jump ship for a new frontier or continue along the same peaks and valleys in the vehicle of responsibility.  Being as tenacious as I am, I’ve chosen the latter, but not indefinitely.  I’m looking to turn this burnout experience into a transformational experience.

What is my calling?  If you come here then you already know…to connect through writing.

My wife is the type of person that is  good at a lot of different things – almost everything – but not exceptional in just one thing.  I’m average at best at everything – below average in most – except writing.  Had my ego not taking me on a roller-coaster in the entertainment industry, I could have very well been the Nicholas Sparks of fiction.  But, my gut listened because this path led me through experiences that I wouldn’t have experienced in the four-walls that housed a computer.  I was out living my fiction and treading heavily through wonderful chaos.  Maybe I spent too much time carving out a space in an industry that doesn’t respect me or better my life in any way other than financially, but I accomplished my childhood goals.  I set out into the world and did exactly what I said I was going to do.  Goals I couldn’t do in my thirties and dreams I wouldn’t want for my thirties.  Goals that people said were unrealistic, but I proved them wrong.  Nonetheless, the fact remains that my purpose changed.  I don’t have anyone to prove a single thing to except myself, nor do I want to.  While my ego led me down a very intriguing road less traveled where I went off-roading on more than one occasion and slug some mud, I also rode that path hard and in the end ended up riding it with the best in the industry.  All of this was done, in perfect timing, so that I was young enough to sustain passion but not old enough to realize that one day we all sell our souls just a little.  Maybe veering away from my calling to carve out another career path was where I sold my soul, but I suppose struggling artists can only go so far before hunger sets.  I guess I just bought in low and thought I would sell high, but I’ve ridden the ups and fallen with the downs.  What’s riding for a bit longer when I do cash out it’ll be HUGE and to transition into my calling -writing.

Maybe I do seem unhappy to shift my focus to enabling others dreams and goals when what I really want to do is enable my own, but that’s what Sagittarius’ like me tend to do.  I’ll tell you one thing, though, once I pursue my calling there will be no stopping me.  By now, I’ve got an off-road vehicle that will leave most in the dust and I know how to use it.

Until then, I’ll work on happier status updates.

A Disorderly Nagging of Order.

There is an incessant nagging inside that prevents me from having full closure with a space until all order is restored.  The ‘order’ of which needs to be restored might not make a whole lot of sense to you, so I’ll spin my best wizardry to give you a glimmer of understanding into this crazy head.

‘Order’ can be broken down by triggers.  If the gun is cocked and the trigger goes off, BANG, disorder.  However, if the gun has the safety mode on the trigger cannot go off, unexpectedly, so this requires a great deal of precautionary measures.

Now, relate everything I just said to OCD and reread it again…I’ll wait….

Fine, I’ll help you.

Triggers, like a bi-level closet that is organized with shirts on the top rod and jeans/pants/’anything you wear on the bottom half of your body’ on the bottom rod.  A shirt on the bottom would cause the trigger to go off.  I would notice the white hanger on the bottom among all the green hangers and trigger two would go off.  What is a wire hanger doing in this walk-in closet?  Oh god, this goes in the coat closet in the bedroom.  Open the bedroom coat closet and the coats are not in length order (longest to shortest).  Jesus, how can I relax until it is, orderly?  Great, now that the tall coats are in the back and the shorter ones in front I can see the floor.  Holy hell, why is the cord to the iron – which rests on the floor and should be on a shelf (note:  container store) – not wrapped around it?  Oh you know why?  Because my wife didn’t wrap the cord around it.

“MELINDA!”

“I hate when you yell from upstairs when I’m downstairs.”  She yells back.

“I hate when you do this,”  I yell.  “Can’t you make sure the cord is securely wrapped around the iron before putting it back.”

She mumbles something I cannot hear.

So I proceed to wrap the cord, securely, around the iron and push it back in its place against the back of the wall.  Seriously?  How does dog hair get in the closet.  I look on the sunlit floor and anxiety shoots me in the gut at the floor that is covered in dog hair.  Didn’t I just sweep and mop yesterday?  For the love of God my pets hate me.  Why do they do this to me?  Not only am I already allergic to them, but I feel like a dirty dog with hair everywhere.  Crap, I didn’t wear slippers and my socks look like cousin IT.  Hyperventilate.

Stella, my cat enters the room purring.

“Awww,” I tell her.  “Come here pretty girl.”

She comes over, rubs against me, and then bites my hand when I pet her.  Whatever, she’s a bitch.  I have to Swiffer, but first I have to take off these dirty socks.

“STELLA!”

She likes to get fake flowers from my decorative flower arrangement in the bedroom and the only way she likes to do it is by making it plummet to the ground.  Oh my god, breathe, hair might get into the fake flowers.

My wife enters and helps, she picks up the flower arrangement.  That’s so nice of her.  She tells me about her day, but I can’t focus because the flower stems are not pointed toward the bed.  She obviously asks me something, but I have no clue.  Oh no, the design of the vase isn’t facing the door of the bedroom.  I’m going to have a nervous breakdown, so I rush over to stop the white noise of my head.  Whew!

“Now what did you say?”  I ask.

She sighs, “You never listen.”

I think I’m listening TOO hard, but unfortunately it’s at gun shots all around me.  She goes downstairs to dilly-dally, and I change socks then go downstairs to get the Swiffer and I swiffer so hard it may very well crack the floor.  Whew, some semblance of order in the bedroom.  I exit the room, close the door, and add “container store: closet shelf” to my to-do list.

God this room stinks.  I think it stinks.

“MELINDA”

“I hate when you do that.”

I yell, “Do you think our bedroom stinks?”

“No.”

What does she know?   I have the super power of smell and I think it stinks.  (Note: room fragrance isn’t cutting it so do research for a constant way to keep a fragrance flowing through room).  I reopen the door, confirm, and shut it with resolve and add “Bedroom scent” to my to-do list.

Not including the walk-in closet, which I can’t discuss at the moment for fear of triggers that would cause me to literally take a half-day and go home and organize it, I have 3 rooms and a bathroom upstairs.  Not including the basement, first-level, yard, and garage (which is so clean it sparkles). You do the math on how long you think it takes for me to actually get closure in a space.

I’ve learned a trick so that I can write.  I keep my office spic-n-span and neurotically aligned with my symmetrical and often times insane expectations of positioning.  The trick is I shut my door and breathe in heaven.

I hear a loud crash and rush out.  The bedroom door is cracked so it must not have been shut very well, and there is Stella in the flower arrangement.

“STELLA!”

She snickers, “You pointless worrier, it’s easier to teach a dog new tricks.  I do this every single time and your attempts to close the door, while clever, do not prevent me from getting in, eventually.  I will fuck with you for the rest of your life or until you get rid of this arrangement.  Crazy little human, I don’t really like playing with the flowers I just like playing with you. PURRRR.”

Okay, I made the last part up but I swear that is probably what she would say.  No, I don’t think animals talk (to us).

I Could Use A Gap Year

 

I’m afraid my romance with stress has burned me at the stake.  I am hoping that once my feet touch the ground again that all feeling in my toes will come back, but I won’t know until that point – currently I am toast.  Not to drive an analogy into the ground but I have buttered my toast too long to even notice the taste so it’s time for a change bigger than wheat to multigrain.

While I don’t know what this change is, yet, I am certain that I can no longer continue burning both ends of the candle (how’s that for another analogy).  I’m much too emotional to survive very long in apathy, and I have far too many questions to walk around in the meaningless.

It should have been a sure-fire sign that burnout would take a detour in my hood after the traumatizing headaches, which was just one stop before the muscles in my neck and shoulders seized up to cause my body to stall altogether.  I should have taken notice of the one headlight shifting my focus, but when the battery is dead nothing starts.

Analogies said in juxtaposition lack in meaning, which is much cause for burnout.  I need a Sabbatical

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