Happy Thanksgiving

As the end-of-year rush to fulfill self-promises goes into overkill, I can’t help but be incredibly thankful for the year (thus far).  What a year it has been for me (for a change), but that’s for my year-end blog, naturally.  This is a short but sweet thank you to all of you that come here to read about whatever it is you come here to read about…it gives me no greater joy than to write.  I’m so very thankful for my family and friends (online and offline), and the inspiration they put forth into the world.

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a word about my late brother Jeffrey.  My dear brother, you are never far from us during the holidays and just know everyone is getting older while you remain forever young.  Nothing is the same, but it’s how it is supposed to be.  Maybe sometimes I don’t buy into that, but you always find a way to remind me otherwise.  You are in every thank you because without you, Bubba, I wouldn’t truly know the joy of giving thanks and the wonderful gift of knowing how to love.  I’m so thankful to have known you and been inspired by your life.  What an inspirational being you continue to be.

To everyone out there in cyberland, at the moment, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and remember to be grateful every other day as well.

Yours truly,

AO

 

Miles Of Warm Hearts

Feeling everything from every direction,
A welcome mat I never bought,
You say come in,
You don’t speak a word to me – never,
Whether you were ever here to begin with is yet to be determined,
And my being drifts into imagination,
Stories you inhabit,
Imaginary tales you never told,
Telling myself stories I’ll never write,
You know,
You did enough for me to write forever,
You’re never far away,
You’re never too close,
You’re the reason,
I walk,
I crawl,
Your memory crushes,
Within,
Miles upon miles of hearts I stole.

I Wish I Could Take This Back

If I could somehow take back something I did to someone, what would it be? Wow, talk about a loaded question. Two things come to mind rather quickly, holding their hands up saying “oh oh oh pick me” so I suppose I’ll focus my attention there.

They both occured in the same year, coincidentally. The year was 2001 and the world had not yet got involved.

It was January of 2001 and my brother, Jeffrey (whom I’ve talked about non-stop on my blog so you know who he is), started calling me in succession at all hours. In hindsight, as it always seems to be where I do my most logical thinking, he was alone and needed someone. I should have felt so privileged to be there for someone so incredible, but it felt more like a nuisance of a little brother taking up my precious selfish time. He needed me then, but life was so narrow and crowded at the time. Life had overwhelmed me into agoraphobic proportion and while I couldn’t call any of my actions sane at the time, I certainly never expected someone would truly need me. Alas, he did. The simple act of pressing ignore on his incoming call shouldn’t be so prominent, and under usual circumstances I suppose those moments would be forgotten. However, the very last call of his life – or at least on his cell phone bill – was to me and I distinctly remember ignoring it. I thought, “I’ll call him back” the first time it rang. By the second, I didn’t hesitate to press ignore as I walked out my door for class. The third and final call of his life I rolled my eyes, annoyed. If I could take back that day, I would have skipped my class and answered his call and talked to him for the rest of his life.

Fast Forward to 9/11 and beyond…the year of hell was nearly over. There was a friend, someone I had gotten to know more intimately than anyone will ever know. She was special and to this day the impact she had upon my life is unforgettable. She was there for me when I didn’t know who I was and pretending who I ought to be tested her very being. Nonetheless, her love never waivered and brought forth the unconditional. Yet, I was unformed and unresolved in life. I could have been true to my heart, but such things were foreign and compassion had not yet knocked at my numbly closed door. I should have wished her a happy birthday. I could have told her I loved her, truly I did. She should have known I felt the same, but I abandoned her just as easy as I abandoned my brother that year in 2001. I guess she may never know how she taught me to breathe when the entire world disappeared.

I may change the choices I made, but the regret I only feel through hoping they both know how instrumental they both were in teaching me the fundamental of love – compassion.

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Happy 28th Birthday my beautiful brother…

Today you would have been 28.  I’m awake and beginning my first class toward my MBA.  I’d call you after breakfast and wish you a good day had life worked out differently.  Instead, Jeffrey, this day and all it’s about it reserved for those (like myself) whose life you immensely touched.  I’m so very grateful to have had the eighteen years of this life with you and I feel you in the simplest of breezes, the massaging of the summer sun to my skin, the breath between every thought, the comfort of the night sky, and the love within myself.  If love could have kept you here…you would have lived forever..you are so very loved by many people whose lives you’ve changed in even subtle ways and that is what life is about.  So despite your short eighteen years, bubba, you have lived a full life.

Today is reserved for you.  Happy Birthday (you’re in everything every day for me, but today maybe others will be inspired to love hard).

Dear Jeffrey, tomorrow you will be 28…

As I sit here typing this – from Westchester, NY, for my week-long NYU MBA Residency, it occurs to me that a substantial part of this is due to your presence in my life.  Prior to your death, I was a lost soul swimming upstream in a murky fish bowl.  There was little interest in discipline, compassion, or spiritual growth.  While you were still here, in fact, I was more into collecting that which was instantly gratifying, easily disposable, and egocentric.  Maybe I haven’t completely rid myself of the latter, but I do work hard to achieve a heightened level of communication with my sacred self.

Without Alexander Graham Bell there wouldn’t be a telephone (sorry Lady Gaga you didn’t have first dibs), and without you – Jeffrey Lee Ben – I wouldn’t have had any ‘telephone’ to pick up and get in touch with what is at the very core of existence; love and compassion.  Without these two very crucial life tools, I would not be as successful in all my endeavors in life.  Let’s face it the one component that ties the two (love and compassion) together is understanding, and you may climb the ladder of success without it but you will more than likely be alone.

This one is for you my brother.

Sissy

Overheard at My Own Funeral

I’m not sure why my mind puts my mom there unless it somehow thinks life will cut my life shorter than hers, or I’m afraid of her and death in the same sentence at all. Regardless, for the sake of this morbid question and for plain good storytelling let’s assume she is there. Assuming my body arrived safely in Oklahoma (pun intended) and if they do carry out my final wishes for cremation, I would probably laugh (can a fly laugh?) at the sight of these people – family, friends from all walks of life, business associates, and people that hate me there just to make sure I actually did die – sitting there in emotional trance staring at this silly little urn. I’m not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination, but my mother is so I will stress that my little beady fly eyes better not see a single pew. The officiant (who better not be a pastor of any sort) reads off a Buddhist passage from Thich Nhat Hanh on death and once he finishes the music starts. I spend a lot of time floating around in my mind and visiting people that have passed through, experiences that affixed itself to my mental postcards, and seeing what I may have missed the first time around, so since my journey is over I hope that someone else begins to float.

Sitting there as my soundtrack begins with Oasis’ “Stop Crying Your Heart Out”, Carolyn comments on the selection and then mentions how she’ll miss Rhoda (me) so I land on her shoulder and buzz “I’m the Mary.”

A few of the Antlers guys including my ex-step father David, true to discriminatory form, mention what a loss it was (of course they aren’t referring to my actual death but my sexuality).

After the first song, the Buddhist-slanting officiant opens the floor for sharing. Stormi steps up first and tells stories that make people laugh because that is who I used to be. She talks about us being so broke when we lived together that we ate bologna sandwiches every day. How we drove the 3-hour stretch from Stillwater to home penniless and with the gas light flashing for 80% of it (you would be surprised at how many times it will come on before your car sputters at all), and when we were forced to get gas we filled it up and sped out of the gas station without paying. See, in New Jersey that is impossible because it’s never self-serve. She’ll then mention how it unleashed a crookedness in us we never knew we had and lead us into Pizza Hut and we fed and ran, fast, hopped in our car with the stolen gas and went home.

My friend Lance would read a poem because he told me there was too much poetry in my soul to get my MBA. I love poetry, and I hope there are several more that read some prose at my permanent going away party.

More music, Khalil Gibran reading, and at the end a reference to my favorite author – Milan Kundera – when the officiant says “Please join me on Jeffrey’s mountain where Alisa will be thrown to the winds – the last symbol of eternal lightness.”

It’s there that all this comes out: Alisa was…fearless, creative, quirky, hard to comfort, funny, thought she was witty but she wasn’t, forgiving and perhaps too forgiving, strong, a wordsmith, a good communicator of the abstract, batshit crazy, not shy, loyal, clumsy, the most outgoing introvert, what you see is what you get, moody, good at keeping secrets but never having any, silly, fascinating to rapidly boring, and then someone will say what a great playlist.

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Sexy potential irony

It’s a funny concept to fall in love with potential.  It’s like a fantasy, of sorts.  You have this vision of who someone will become before they actually become that person, psychic really.  So there you are, miserable, dating potential.  Waiting…working…challenging…molding…potential.  It’s not an easy process.  It’s grueling, draining, and never works out, but you work away.  There’s nothing more tragic than loving someone who had yet to love themselves, and likely by the time they do realize they’re worthy of your love…you’ll have given it to someone else.

I’ve done it.  You’ve probably done it.  Hopefully, you didn’t do it twice.  In retrospect it’s such a stupid thing to do, isn’t it?  Maybe being friends with potential is much better than dating it…less expectations and no openings for disappointments, or at least not as many openings.  Back in my ‘but-you-don’t-know-them-the-way-I-do’ days…when all my friends realized before I did that I was in one of those dating-potential-relationships…I was convinced that I could change the person.  Convinced.  I knew better than anyone else how much potential this person had.  It was later that I realized it was a trait I have and may always have, but one that was only detrimental to the unformed me. 

Ironic, isn’t it?  Someone you spend so much energy trying to change into who they will become.  So much heartache.  So many tears.  So much of your soul you gave away to perfect another for someone else.  Someone else that experiences the reality of your fantasy.  Bittersweet, nah.  In the long run you’re better off because they were dating potential too.

A letter to one of my former selves…

Circa 1994 (age 16 or 17)

Dear Lisa (I didn’t go by my given and much older sounding name, Alisa, back then):

Hi, I’m who you’re going to be. The journey wasn’t easy, and I won’t candy coat it for you and tell you that the struggle ends. It doesn’t, but it gets easier every year. You’re going to come across great losses in your life from people you love, careers you nearly had, and money you couldn’t keep. But, I won’t begin there. You will experience more than most people your age and to prove this I’ll give you a sneak peak of what’s in store: skydiving, you WILL get a record deal for a band (sorry you don’t become a rockstar though), you’ll join the Army (don’t ask just get out quick), you’ll make a large amount of money all at once (do us both a favor and don’t spend it all in one place, please I beg of you to remember this when the alcohol takes over – trust me on that one), all sorts of love you will experience (try to learn from each and every one and don’t destroy anyone – save the regret for another lifetime), the written word will be your guide (I don’t mean the Bible, so when you get depressed, and you better believe you’ll battle with that an above average amount, just write it out because it will serve you in the long run), you will wind up at MTV (so don’t spend years wasting away in a depression because you live in Antlers, Oklahoma–you do get out of it and do pretty well for yourself), and you’ll get married (I’ll keep this one to myself because it won’t even make sense to you now, but you’ll end up here anyway).

I won’t alarm you with talk of death since I apparently talk about it all too much anyway. Rather, I will just tell you to look around at your family and friends because a few of them will not be around when you sit here writing this post. Enjoy them, and for crying out loud ‘listen’ to everything about someone…don’t listen to speak like you do, stubborn, narcissistic you, just get to know them, really know someone, and cherish it because it won’t last long. Another thing, time…it really DOES fly by so don’t roll your eyes at your grandmother’s sayings (you will say them too, eventually).

About your father, yes, he’s still alive. Well, as alive as he can be considering…his health is fine but his heart…well…it functions perfectly fine but it’s certainly not something you need to win. I have a feeling knowing what I know now won’t help much, in this department, but try to just understand that when someone is in survival mode and stops learning….they can’t really pass anything on to you because they’re too busy trying to just get through life. I’m sorry for this, Lisa, I am, but somewhere inside just find a way to forgive him for what he does not know about love because as you’ll learn, not everyone loves like you do.

So now let’s talk about Mom, yeah I know where you are right now. Frustrated. Don’t worry about that idiot she married, David, he won’t last so give her a break every now and then. Also know that you two are so close, so try not to take it personally when she doesn’t have enough to go around and wastes her energy on David, like I said his time ends (eventually). A couple good things to come out of their relationship..it’ll change your life…trust me on that! Remember, she never really had a ‘single’ life so let her live it up because you turn out pretty damn good anyway and in the end…she’s your best friend and #1 fan.

Your brother, Jeffrey, all I can tell you is that he’s a VERY special person and I urge you to never IGNORE him and ALWAYS be there for him because he NEEDS you. There will be times, a lot of them, that you’ll be selfish but please I beg of you…life is too short to waste on not being there for those you love…so please, Lisa, if you don’t listen to anything I say in this letter just trust that this is the most important…leave your heart open for him. Also, I’ll just say it…he’s your biggest teacher in life. So, if he calls just answer it!

It would be easy to tell you everything, but I wouldn’t change that for you because all of the heartache, and believe me it’ll shake you to your core many many times in the next 15 years, serves you well in the long run so I wouldn’t want you to change anything.

On friends, pay attention to those that care for you because in the end those are the ones still standing. Don’t put the extra effort into those that don’t put it back into you…it’s a major time suckage and trust me you’ve sucked a lot of time. Mostly, you need them even though you think you don’t. Don’t push people away, and you will do that, because no man is an island.

On college, go to class! You think GPA won’t matter, and for the most part it won’t but in one situation that could make your entire life easier it’ll be there! Speaking of college, don’t be confused with some events that happen there because it’s merely a discovery for you and everyone loves you exactly the same anyway, regardless of what you may realize about yourself during this time period! Just go with it and don’t over think it, but you’ll over think everything, I know you, so just try and enjoy the moment.

Internet, yeah I know what you’re thinking ‘what does it mean’. It’ll add up eventually. Let me just tell you when you take your first plunge into this world don’t abuse anyone – you will regret it. Oh, one more thing and don’t ask, just do it…file sharing (the process of direct or indirect data sharing on a computer network with various levels of access privilege; also, the process of direct or indirect file transfer via the Internet). Once you know what the internet is come up with ways to use file sharing..I’ll give you a few hints…music, video, pictures. You’re smart enough to do this, I assure you it will pay off.

Relationships…I know it seems you won’t have them (still continue to fantasize about romance because it’ll hopefully pay the bills one day), but you will and most of them won’t work out. Just know that each one teaches you about love. You will get your heartbroken, you will break hearts, and mostly you’ll have soulmates, so don’t spend too much time staring into the abyss…it gets dark and lonely and quite frankly you tend to forget to shower and your OCD (you’ll learn about this later) gets pretty intense.

Alcohol, it’s your arch enemy for many years so try, TRY, to never drink from its cup, shot, can, bottle, bellybutton (don’t ask), as an escape from something difficult….it’s too easy to rely on and you like to rely on nothing and no one (though you will).

Patience, start now! It’s one of your weaknesses, so start practicing it now.

A couple more things before I let you go ‘drag main’ in your new camaro….when you drive PAY ATTENTION and BUCKLE UP, don’t throw any books at Mrs. Gardner but if you have to just don’t throw the pen too (too messy), Be nice to Eron Eighmy (you’ll meet him later, he’s a nice fella) at the prom, drink water for every alcoholic drink (remember this it’s important), don’t drop out of college (like I said, and believe me, you DO get out of Oklahoma), don’t drink and drive, don’t park your car in the first place you want to when you make it to NYC (you’ll thank me later), steer clear of drinking around a fairly well-respected manager (professionally he’s great but personally he’s a slime ball that takes advantage of little girls), don’t query agents before you’re finished-completely–with manuscripts, if you meet an annoying girl named Ericka around 2006 just ignore her completely and don’t ever–let me repeat–don’t ever befriend her (she’s a nutjob, no really certifiably insane), don’t try to make things last that shouldn’t, don’t loan movies or books to people because you’ll never get them back, read like a maniac all the time and never stop, and lastly, don’t think you can climb in windows (especially drunk).

I hope this letter helps you, Lisa. You grow into a unique person that has a lot to give. Use your talents, enjoy the music, and always remember ‘in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make’ (The Beatles). Now, go in the next room and hang out with your brother…it’ll mean a lot later on.

Very truly yours,

Alisa (age 32)

Who Am I?

I’ve started this question half a dozen times since I could comprehend the depth of it.  Here I sit, nearly 32, not old enough to be running a media company but not young enough to be in its demographic.  Hell, I only remember when the son-of-a-bitch first started, but what do I know.  The question is “Who am I?”

When I was younger and all my grievances in life had my parent’s to blame, I was Divide Community.  You see Divide Community is one of those double meaning words.  You know the words that would be hard to learn the meaning of in another language.  As a writer, we hope to be able to bridge the language barrier gap to create a universal language.  As a civilian, it’s just a book; my first book.

My journey begins in 1998 when I wanted to really answer this question; “Who Am I?”  I was working at a storage unit place, for minimum wage in the late ’90s, and had a lot of time to reflect.  Though time was plenty, my knowledge was less so.  Escape, relaxation, don’t think about yesterday or tomorrow, repressing, yeah, that was me.  I was angry and I didn’t know why, so I thought I’d just start writing.  Forrest Gump of the word processor, I typed until my ailment burst open key-by-key.  Eventually, I had a semblance of an idea for a memoir.  You see memoir’s really weren’t as big of a market back then s0 I just thought it was a book of true life.  Nearly 300 pages of unformed and stoned thoughts about who I was.  The book sat in a box for three years.

In college, the one I went to after I dropped out and fled to New York with a band of hippes and then went back, I met two kids that I immediately felt a kinship for and managed their immature band, The All-American Rejects.  I was a small fish in a small pond and I had Madonna as a role model, so I whipped their prepubescent asses in shape and got them a record deal.  They went on to sell millions, and I was screwed out of millions.  Not to mention that disorder I got called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that pretty much goes from Psychiatric code to Psychiatric code without being insane and having a clear traumatic trigger.  I got this after my brother, the only person I had as a witness to my childhood, became a missing person.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Missing Person, Platinum-Selling The All-American Rejects, Retarded Love, NYC, and a lot of crazy stories from an alcoholic.  Who really had time to ask, “Who am I?”

Once my Oklahoma savior personality kicked in, I crawled out of that abyss and decided to think about who I was.  There was a lot I’d experienced at a young age, there were experiences that are unimaginable for the majority, and there were parts of me I just started to realize, so I wrote.  I finished Divide Community, and it was who I thought I was.

Something peculiar happened, I became happy.  You see by this time I was going into my Thirties and several therapists later, I realized that maybe I could never sustain happiness (as a therapist once told me) but at least I could realize when I was happy.  This was a breakthrough, so I set out to edit who I was in a final book format.

My childhood seemed less emotional and more like a great story.  The themes of suffering that were sprinkled within the text just showed me how strong I was, and it occurred to me that there is not a concrete answer to the lifelong question of, “Who Am I?”

I’m my likes and dislikes, my pain and my happiness, and the love I took and the love I made.  I’m several labels like a sister, daughter, wife, analyst, Buddhist, Lesbian writer, teacher, student, female, entrepreneur and overall pain-in-the-ass.  I’m adjectives like moody, beautiful, snarky, sweet, insane, neurotic, spiritual, impatient and judgmental.  I’m my experiences both negative and positive.  I’m the karma I reap, and after all this time I have realized I am not the alpha and the omega (though in high school I may have argued differently).  I’m everything around me and never did I appreciate it more.

Within my writing you can discover chapters of my life that struck a story in the world, but it’s what is between the lines that reveals the most.

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Why the Wedding Ring is worn on 4th Finger

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