Monday, August 31, 2009

Trying something new

Some of you might think this is my autobiography.
Some of you might believe it has something to do with me.
Some of you might suspect it is the very beginning of a new story that just gripped me today.
Some of you might be right.

Sometimes I wonder how I could have screwed up my life so much.

I don’t think it was always screwed up. For a while it seemed ok. When I was young. Very young. But even then, there was the hint that I would one day make a spectacular mess of everything connected to me and my crazy life.

My mother was bipolar. That’s not an excuse for my behavior. But it is an explanation for hers. I didn’t know what bipolar was when I was a kid. All I knew was that my mom went through these crazy highs and scary lows. When she was up, everything was good. When she started heading down, the world was about to change for me in a major way.

I went to 27 different schools when I was a child. I lived in 7 different states, and in 2 different countries. We moved a lot because every new place was a new life for my mother. Every new city was a brand new adventure. Usually that meant a brand new man, but sometimes that was ok too. In addition to the number of schools, the various states and countries, I also had 7 step-fathers. Yes, I said 7. Mom was married to 8 different men.

Growing up, all I knew was that I didn’t want to be like her. I knew that I wanted to get married once. I wanted to have 3 children. I wanted to fall in love desperately and forever. I wanted to live somewhere close to the ocean, in a little place where I could hear waves lapping at the sand. I wanted to be happy.

I wanted to be sane.

I couldn’t be farther from the things that I wanted if I tried.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Which one?

I was recently told that one of my kids looks JUST LIKE ME. Can you believe that? Yeah, me neither.

Guess which one is supposed to be my match?

All comments are appreciated!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Love in the Movies...

I'm writing a book. Most of you know this already, right? If you didn't before, you sure do now.

My book is all about a Southern Woman. She's got a very large, very extensive family. She's got a (recently deceased) great-grandmother. She's got a very much alive and kicking Grandmother. She's got a mother that is very involved in her business. She's got a best friend that isn't afraid to tell her (or anyone else) what's what and who's who.

And she's got a man.

Of course, at the beginning of the story, she doesn't have a man. She has the memory of a man. She can still smell the essence of the man in her dreams. She can still feel his touch, hear his voice, picture his face every time she closes her eyes. She will end up with this man, of course. That is the nature of love in books. At least the books that I enjoy. The strong (we're talking strong as steel here!) woman ALWAYS ends up with the man, if that's what she wants. That's just the way of it in books. And movies.

Tonight, I walked down Memory Lane with a movie. I watched one of my stellar favorites from the early '90's- REALITY BITES. I can remember spending night after night on my couch watching this movie. I would lick my lips when Ethan Hawke appeared. I would hang on his every word. When he was in bed with Winona Ryder's character and he whispers "I've pictured you like this" I would always sigh. When he shows up at her house, 2 minutes from the end, and explains about the regret that is sitting on his shoulders, and how he wishes he could go back to "that night we made love" and do everything over... oh yes - even after all these years - my breath still catches in my chest, and my eyes still well up with tears.

That led me to think about love in books, and in the movies. It's AMAZING, isn't it? I mean, there is a slow build up, something MAJOR happens, something BAD happens, then the hero swoops in and says THE PERFECT WORDS (whether that be something like "We'll always have Paris" or "I was stuck in traffic", it doesn't matter!), and they live Happily Ever After. That's how it's supposed to be. Isn't it?

But is that how it is In Real Life? I mean, does the heroine always get her man? Does she end up with The Love Of Her Life every time? Does everyone get The Big Romantic Moment, just like in the movies?

You might say no. You might think that nobody really gets that. You might believe that the fairy tale is just a fairy tale, and fantasy never happens in real life.

I beg to differ.

I believe, without hesitation, without doubt of any kind, that we all - each and every one of us, has had (or will have) one of those perfect movie moments at one time or another.

Don't believe me? Think about it.

For me, that moment happened years ago. I was on a ship. I'd been in a not so pleasant marriage, and an even more unpleasant rebound relationship. In between those two, I thought I'd found The Man Of My Dreams. But he either didn't want to be TMOMD or didn't realize that he wasn't following the movie script that was already written in my head. He left me. Destroyed.

Enter The Other Guy.

He was younger. He was sexy in a way that I'd never really been attracted to before. He was kind. He was a little bit cocky. He swaggered in a James Dean sort of way when he went from place to place. He could power a small town with the magnitude of his smile.

I wasn't supposed to fall for him. I decided early on that he would be just a fling, someone that would take my mind off my heartache. Little did I know...

My fall from "aloof older woman with a heart of stone" was gradual. Just like in the books. Very much like in the movies. It was subtle - a touch here, a smoldering glance there, laughs over silly things, a shoulder to cry on when I needed it. I did NOT want to fall in love with this man. He wasn't what I had in mind. At all. The very real obstacles to a happy relationship were like HUGE blinking road lights warning "CAUTION! Don't go this way! The bridge is OUT!!"

Of course, like with all the best romances, I didn't heed the warnings.

And one night, in a scene that could easily have been taken from one of my favorite movies, IT happened. We were in the middle of the Persian Gulf. Planes were taking off from the carrier all night long. We'd been on watch for hours, and knew that we had many more hours to go before we could even think about sleeping. Our country was at war, undeclared though it was. We were both in jobs that required our total attention. If we failed, bad things would happen to innocent people. And yet, on that night, it was something that even Hollywood would envy.

He just grabbed my hand, pulled me around, and right there, in the middle of the p-way, asked me to marry him. 1210am, December 17th. I was too shocked to speak. But not too shocked to know that moments like that didn't happen often.

It was something straight out of the pages of a romance novel, and it happened to ME. It would make the PERFECT climactic scene in a movie - BUT IT HAPPENED TO ME!

I've asked friends about this. I've done hundreds of hours of research on this topic. I've re-lived my own experience more times than I can count. And still it boils down to this...

Love in the Movies? It's got nothing - NOTHING - on love in real life.

Practically everyone has their moment like this. Just about every person I know has a story that is worthy of Hollywood or Harlequin.

So for those of you out there that haven't had That Perfect Moment yet - don't despair.

Chances are, it will also happen to you.

And when it does?

It will be even better than that final few seconds of your favorite love story.

I promise.

And even Ethan Hawke couldn't make it more perfect when it does.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Body of Friends

I've been thinking a lot about friendship lately - what it means to be a friend, what is acceptable from a friend, what is forgivable, why we need friends. I gotta tell ya, some of it just baffles me. But I'm just going to let my mind wander with this and see where it goes.

I didn't have many real friends growing up. When you change schools 26 times in 12 years, it tends to prohibit the kind of lifelong relationships that you read about in Oprah books. It did not, however, stop me from making many 'skin' friends.

Skin friends are fun. They are easy to deal with. Everything is light and fluffy with them. They are good for laughs, trips to the mall, out for lunch, drinks after work, that sort of thing. You keep the information general, and the feelings very uninvolved. You probably have quite a few of those, don't you? Lord knows I've made my fair share through the years.

But you can't live with just skin friends if you're a mom. Or a wife. Or a real person, evidently. You have to go a step further. For that, you need a layered friend. These are the ones that can do everything a skin friend will do, but they might also come hang out with you if you don't feel like hitting the club. They might even stay after a party to help you clean up. They're really great to have in abundance, but I'm not lucky enough to have too many at once.

Next, there are tissue friends. These are the ones that will hold you when you cry, come over when you're sick, slit the tires on your cheating boyfriends car. These people are the ones that hand you the tissues, or even help you wipe the tears from your face. It takes a while to make a friend like this. But once you have one, you know she'll be around for quite a while.

You might just be lucky enough to have a blood friend. If so, she's probably either helped you deliver a baby or dig a hole for a dead body. Either way, she knows your secrets, and you know those secrets are safe with her.

Then there is the friend of the heart. You probably will only have one of these at a time, because really you don't need more than one. Plus, having more than one person that is that intimate with your life is a little bit scary. These friends know all there is to know, from where the bodies are buried to how good your last kiss was, and everything in between. This is the person that you tell about that really nice man in line at the grocery store who gave you "the eye" and she won't judge you, even though she adores your husband, because she knows how much you needed that ego boost from a stranger. She doesn't care if you call her at 2am and cry that you're fat, even if you happen to be eating a pint of Ben and Jerry's at the time. She won't chastise you for that slip-up you had eight years ago on the crazy mommy weekend to the coast. She's the one you call when your dog bites the neighbors kid (poor baby), or your Grams dies (needed hugs), or your kid has lice, or your rent check bounces. She's also the one that is the most LOW MAINTENANCE of all of your friends, because she accepts you just as you are, with all of your flaws and split ends, with a runny nose or ripped jeans, no makeup, hungover, or still slightly tipsy. It doesn't matter to her, because you are you, and she's ok with that. You may talk to her every single day, but that isn't necessary. You might only talk to her once a year, but you know that when you speak again, it will be just like the last time. She can still finish your sentences. She can still read your thoughts. She still remembers why you obsess over that man (chocolate chip cookies?), or love that restaurant (blue corn tortillas), or will always smile when you hear that song (by the Cranberries).

I am blessed to have all sorts of friends now. I've got skin friends, too many to count. I've also got quite a few layered friends - I couldn't make it through the day without them. As for blood friends and heart friends, frankly, I don't know what I'd do without people like Kristan and Kelly in my life. As friends go, one is old (she baked a cake for Gret's 2nd birthday, so she's been with me a while!) and the other is new (if you consider 3 years new, which I do when you are talking about the level of friendship that we already have). But both are tried and true.

Do you have people that comprise your body of friends? Have you told them lately how much they mean to you? Take it from me - saying that they are important to you really makes a difference. When you don't hear that, it's SO easy to feel taken advantage of.

So go ahead. Say the words. Tell them that you love them. Thank them for being part of your life. You'll feel better about it after the words are out, trust me.

And besides, you may need them to help you hide a body tomorrow!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

When is enough really enough? (Death of a "friendship")

Have you ever had a friend that was a TAKER? I don't mean someone that is going through a rough patch, someone that is sick, or broke, or down on their luck. I mean someone that just TAKES from you, over and over. Someone that empties your friendship bank time and again and does little, if anything, to refill it?

How long do you stay in that relationship before enough is enough?

I know I've had friends that have had boyfriends like that. You know the type? The guy that wants everything his way, all the time. The guy that insists on having his cake and eating it too. Heck, I've had boyfriends like that. I took the advice of my friends, and give the same advice to my friends - get rid of the bum. You (or I) am worth WAY more than the leftover scraps of affection that those guys occasionally toss our way.

So if I know that advice, and often give that advice, why do the rules change when it's a woman that treats you like crap? Is there some unwritten rule that we're supposed to accept that type of treatment from our friends, even though we'd ditch a guy that treated us the same way?

If a guy made plans with you, and then canceled those plans, you'd be upset. You'd probably forgive him though, the first time, wouldn't you? Would you tell your friend to forgive her guy? What if he canceled plans twice? Or three times? What if it seemed like every time you made plans to do something with the man you love, he forgot, or was sick, or was too busy, or something better came up, or he made other plans? How many times would you accept that from a man before you started to feel like he wasn't really invested in the relationship? Before you started feeling like he didn't care nearly as much as you? Before you told your friend in that same situation to ditch the bum, cut her losses, and just move on? Would once, four times, nine times, be enough?

I'm guessing you'd counsel her to move on before a year went by, wouldn't you? Would you be able to move on yourself?

But if it wasn't a guy that did that to you, but instead was someone that called herself one of your best friends - how long then?

How many times do you think you could hear "Oh honey, I'm sorry, I just forgot that we made plans" , or "Sweetie, I know I promised you months ago that we'd do this, but that was months ago, and I just didn't remember it today", or "I know we are supposed to go away for the weekend, but Susie Q couldn't get away that weekend, so I changed it. I'm sorry that it happens to be on the only weekend you told me that you couldn't make it, but I really want Susie Q to go with us too, ok?", or "I'm sorry, I just don't feel well enough to do this thing that I told you I'd do. I'm just going to stay home instead. But you can still come over. I asked Susie Q to come over too. It'll be fun, I promise", or "I can't believe you're upset that I made other plans on that day, even though I know I said I'd do that with you months ago, because the plans that I made are so much bigger and better than what we were supposed to do. How dare you be mad at me for that!"

How long do you listen to those excuses before you say "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!"?

We're practically conditioned to accept crap from guys. From birth, we're brought up to be 'good girls', to do things that will make our men happy, to fulfill a role that was predetermined for us due to our lack of male parts. If we're lucky though, we find enough worth in ourselves, hopefully before we marry the wrong man, to realize that we don't have to take the crap forever. If we're really lucky, we find a friend or two that reminds us, sometimes over and over, that we are better than the jerk deserves, and we deserve more than scraps of affection.

But with our friends? Why does nobody step in with the women in our lives? Why are we supposed to just take it and take it, suck it up and pretend that it doesn't matter, that it doesn't hurt, that everything is ok?

Why do we take crap from our friends, the people that are supposed to have our very best interests at heart, the women that are supposed to help us make it in this world? We take it and take it, until we feel like we deserve nothing more. Until we believe that maybe all we're worth is leftover thoughts and affection and little tiny scraps of time.

I killed a friendship this weekend.

I'd probably feel really bad about that if I didn't feel so darned FREE. I mean, I've accepted scraps for so long. I've listened to the excuses, the never-ending litany of hastily blurted out reasons why plans were changed or canceled or forgotten. I've bent over backwards, so far back that I've almost broken a few times, for a person that couldn't be bothered to write plans down on a calendar, or check dates, or remember things. For a person that rarely returns phone calls, or e-mails. That puts her other friends ahead of me on a regular basis. I slept in this woman's house for days on end when her husband was out of town because she couldn't sleep well when he was away, even though my own family wanted me home. I sat with her when she cried, I arranged airline flights for a death in the family, I've watched kids at a moments notice, I held her when she was scared.

She's moved on with her life, found new friends, had some things go her way. I've rejoiced in her wins. But man, it's tough to always be on the outside. To be called only when there is a need. To not be invited to family events, and told that it was just a small thing, only her new friends were invited. To make plans and have them canceled - every single time.

I'd have told one of my girlfriends to ditch a guy that treated her this way YEARS ago. I've ditched guys for much less. But I stayed friends with this woman, and let her suck me dry, until I felt so worthless that it disgusts me to realize it.


Not anymore. I'm worth more than that.

And so are you. So if you've got a TAKER in your life, a friend that tosses those scraps at you, take a really long hard look at what you're getting out of the relationship. Do the boyfriend test. Ask yourself "If my best friend's guy treated her this way, what would I tell her to do?" And if the answer is "I'd tell her to ditch the bum!" then take your own advice. Get rid of the TAKER.

Take you life back.

The heartache that you feel over the loss of the supposed friendship is nothing compared to the relief you will feel when that person is no longer a part of your life.