Monday, June 18, 2012

Saying goodbye

I lost a friend today. He passed about 4:20 this afternoon, peacefully, at home just like he wanted. A Buddhist to the end.

Wow. That sounds so small compared to the size of my grief. Even the word "friend" sounds so small compared to the impact this man had on my life and on the lives of others. It sounds so small compared to the unending love and support he gave me and so many others. I wish there was a word for "more than a friend" that didn't lead straight to fuck buddy or boyfriend, because he was more than just a friend.

If you've read the comments here, you probably saw Rollo's name often. And in the past few months, not so often. And in the past few weeks, not at all.

That's because he was dying. Of course we're all dying, but he was dying when I met him almost 4 years ago. He started smoking when he was just a child, and although he quit when he was 40, it was too late for him. He died of a terrible, progressive lung disease. One that took his very breath, but never his dignity nor his love.

I would like to write about Rollo and what he meant to me, but I can't see my screen very well through the tears. Maybe another time. Maybe here, maybe not here.

He was an amazing writer himself though, and he told his story -- some of his story -- in the form of a memoir/novel he titled Lost and Found.
He used to ask me for advice about word usage or whether he should tell certain parts of his story. I gave the advice on word usage, and I always told him to write the truth, tell his story just as it happened. He didn't though. He worried that he'd lose readers because his story was a rough one. He did things .... he just didn't think people would continue to read if they knew the whole truth. So he told what he could bear to share, and what he thought his readers could accept and bear to read. Maybe he was right. Maybe the whole truth would have been too much. It's his story.

I think it would have been OK, but he was so sensitive to hurting other people. And he wanted so much to tell his story. And the parts he didn't tell .... well, he told them to me. And I'm sure he told them to other people he trusted to love him no matter what he'd done in the past.

I won't kid you: it's a rough read. He lived a childhood no child should endure, and yet it's a story I wish you'd all read. It's so compelling. And for those of us who knew the him, it's one more testament to his courage and strength that he overcame so many obstacles and became the man he did. Yes, he made mistakes along the way -- mistakes he was never forgiven for and never forgave himself for. But knowing his story ......

I wish you would read it. I wish you would start at the beginning and read his story to the end. The chapters are short and quick to read.

I'd like to write more about my friend Rollo, but not tonight. I can't do it tonight. (If you want, you can read what Autodidactpoet poet wrote about him here.)

Since I can't write, will you please go read Lost and Found? Please?

You may not believe it's possible as you read this story, but let me assure you of this: Rollo grew up to be one of the kindest, most rascally, most beloved men I've ever known. And he will be missed by countless people whose lives he touched with love and grace. He may not have been loved when he was born, but he was loved by many when he died.

I wish I could have heard you play this, Rollo. Maybe in another life.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Out of Vogue

I'm not a reader of Vogue magazine. Go figure. I don't look like that; I don't dress like that; I can't afford that. I have strong opinions about the magazine's influence on how women view our bodies and our worth -- but it's part of such a pervasive, ridiculously unattainable culture, Vogue really doesn't come across my radar even when I glance at the magazines while I'm in line at the grocery store.

Except today. Evidently the editors of Vogue's international editions signed a pledge they're calling the "Health Initiative." Basically they've given themselves new rules to live by -- as if they didn't make the rules before.

The first and last of their position points seem like a definite departure from business as usual.

"1. We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder. We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image.

6. We will be ambassadors for the message of healthy body image."

So Vogue is going to show us what healthy, normal women look like, huh? Instead of starving children in ridiculously expensive, not to mention ugly, clothes? Do you really believe that?

Here's how some of them kicked it off. This article shows photos of the Healthy Initiative covers. Doesn't look new to me. Most of those arms are thinner than my index finger! I'm not sure what looks healthy about any of those covers. But OK, they're covers. What's inside is what matters.

Each of the international issues ran their own version of a healthy body pictorial. Here, for example, is a photo from the German issue. It's one of several black-and-white photos of nude women that haven't been Photoshopped.

We're supposed to be impressed because it's not airbrushed. Seriously? (There are other photos in the story, including some of the editor. This one stuck out though -- like a bone.)

Fuck you, German Vogue, if you think this represents healthy. No offense to you skinny women out there, but this initiative is supposed to represent a change. This girl does not represent healthy -- whatever that is. She might be healthy, but she doesn't represent it in a magazine that says it's changing its image.

Italian Vogue went a different direction. Here's one of their photos. Except that her hair is so big it will probably put her in a neck brace, she looks healthy, and so do the other women in the pictorial. It's better, right?

Nope. They called this their "plus-sized" issue. That right there, ladies and gentlemen, is your fat model. She was hired for the fat issue of Vogue. Not the healthy issue, the fat issue, because don't kid yourself, that's what they mean by "plus-sized" at Vogue magazine.

Fuck you, Italian Vogue.

I haven't seen all the other issues, but I don't buy their shit for one minute. Here's what I have to say to Vogue: You've been complicit stealing and distorting women's body images for decades. Don't pretend now that you're promoting images of healthy women. You're not. Your lawyers have told you you've taken it too far and now you're trying to do damage control, and make money by pretending you've changed. You still don't get it.

So if you're going to make a big deal about showing healthy women and doing it without Photoshopping them, first do it in color. That's right. Don't hide behind black and white photos. And second, do it without making a big fucking production of how you're showing "healthy" models who are ::::applause::::: over 16 years old. Start there. But until then .....

Fuck you, Vogue. You don't represent me and I'm am a healthy woman.

Here is the video my son Drake posted in the comments section below. Love this video! Love my son!


Friday, June 8, 2012

A block in my throat

Did you miss me? I took a break for a few days.

I was surprised this past Sunday at church when a friend said, "You didn't post last night? Or did you and I missed it? Was Friday night the last time you posted?" I said, "I got home really late last night, and I decided to sleep for once. I wrote more than 31 days in a row though...." She said, "I like it even when you just say 'I don't have anything to say.'" And then she went on to tell me some of the stories she'd like to read. Her dad was a pilot during the Viet Nam war and she was in the Navy, so the military stories are familiar.

That's one block removed.
I was really flattered. I'm always flattered when people tell me they read here, and I'm often surprised. So if I don't say it often enough, thank you for reading, even if I do write about vaginas too often.

I went to a house-blessing Saturday night. I don't mean to beat the military thing to death, but it was pretty amazing to attend a party for a lesbian friend and her partner who is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force. No big deal, right? Wrong. Big fucking deal!

Can this really be our new normal? Don't ask because it doesn't matter? I'm sure most of the guests there didn't even give a thought to that aspect, but I had a secret smile in my heart the entire night. When they get married, I hope they ask me to officiate and sign the license. Surely we will get our shit together here in Ohio one of these days.

One thing that happened at the blessing was that a Pagan woman blessed the house and some of the guests by smudging them with white sage. I'm a veteran of many smudges, although usually I'm the one blowing smoke.

So I stood on the porch while she wafted smoke over me. It's soothing and kind of smells like pot. She'd smudged several other people before me and hadn't said anything to them as she did it. But she stopped as she wafted smoke down the front of my body and said, "What aren't you saying?"

I said, "Nothing. I'm fine. I've done this a lot." I had no idea what she was talking about.

She said, "No, your throat is blocked. You're going to have to get rid of whatever that is. You can't live with whatever that is stuck in your throat." Well, that sounded serious! I stayed calm though, feeling a metaphysical metaphor in the smoky air.

I said, "I guess I'm not surprised, but I can't do anything about that right now. Could you just finish smudging?" I could think of at least three situations in my life that might cause ..... something ..... words? feelings? my truth? ..... to be "stuck in my throat."

But it seemed kind of unbelievable that she could tell that by wafting sage smoke over me. I mean, really? What does that mean?

She went on with the smudging -- the fronts of my legs, bottoms of my feet, all up and down the back of me. And then she moved back in front of me and said, "You really can't go on with that block in your throat."

I said, "Well, smudge it some more and see if that helps." I didn't really think that would do anything, but I wasn't sure how to respond.

She smudged my neck, and then she moved closer and said, "OK, what do you need to say?"

Not me. Stolen from the internets.
I said, "I can't imagine how anything I could say right here, now, that would be helpful. If you're perceiving a block, it doesn't have anything to do with what's happening here tonight. But thank you."

She smiled and moved on to the next smudgee. She had done her best to help, but I wasn't sure what I could do about that perceived blockage. I got a glass of wine, which seemed like just the thing to wash down something stuck in my throat.

The next day, I ran into church 10 minutes late. I was leading the service and I'd said I'd be there an hour early. As I walked into the sanctuary, a friend who was sitting there said, "You need to breathe."

I said, "I am breathing. I'm just running late."

"I don't mean that," she said. "You're not breathing in enough air. You need to breathe." I laughed and got to work on the service. After the service she found me and said it again, that I wasn't breathing. Of course I was breathing or I'd be dead, but there it was again. Somebody telling me my throat was blocked. (Too bad we don't do communion at my church. I could have sipped some communion wine.) Anyway ....

I'm not sure what else I have to say about that. It's a little hard for me to believe two people saw something blocking my throat -- something metaphysical. Yes, I've been bottling a few things up, but don't we all do that?

Surely we all run into situations in which we have to just shut the fuck up because saying something, responding, entering into the conversation or conflict will just make things uncomfortable or worse. Right?

And we all sometimes find ourselves unwilling or unable to tell people how we feel about a situation or about something they did. It doesn't matter why.

My reasons are that too often when I've been honest -- the most honest -- people have walked away and stayed away. I don't mean I was necessarily angry or a raving lunatic. I mean when I've been honest about what I can accept or what I'd like to change in a relationship. It doesn't feel safe most of the time to complain. It doesn't seem worth the conflict or the explaining or the return anger (more on that in an upcoming post).

Don't we all pick and choose the swords we will fall on? The times we will say something and the times we'll just .... I don't know ... swallow hard?

If I'm holding something back it's usually because I think I'm taking ownership of my feelings. Is that a really 80's concept? Like using my "I" phrases?

Most of the time, I don't think it's up to me to try to change other people or to tell them how to act, even when I feel hurt or betrayed. I tend to believe I can't change anybody else's behavior, just my own. So I don't go there. The more pain I feel, the less likely I am to say anything at all.

There's another reason why: It rarely works out for the better when I do. So I just call it "owning my own shit," and I eventually swallow it and move on in whatever way seems most comfortable or causes less conflict. Or sometimes I just find a way to leave the situation or the relationship, be that temporarily or permanently.

At my age, you'd think I'd be better at this. Maybe it's partly those voices from childhood: "Little girls should be seen and not heard." "If you don't stop crying, I'll give you something to cry about." "Just deal with it. Nobody else cares." Programming.

So I haven't written in almost a week. I have a block in my throat, but I shouldn't let that affect my fingers. I rarely sing any more, but surely that block isn't made of songs. It's probably just allergies.

I'm not even sure what that means exactly, to have a block in my throat. Is it liked a plugged toilet? Do I need a metaphysical plunger to force the ..... ummmm ..... toilet paper and shit down and out? Do I need to run a snake through it? Or do I need some kind of emotional Drano to break it up and move it along? Is there danger of it overflowing and making a mess? That's never good.

I'm just not sure. I'll probably just keep writing. I have a lot of big changes in the works that I'd rather focus on right now, and I just accepted a part in a play. Maybe time will erode that blockage until there's nothing left. 

Have you ever had a blocked throat? What did you do? Advice is always welcome, even if I don't like it or take it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

What's inevitable?

I started watching a movie tonight, Taking Chance. I don't know why I thought I could get through it. Because Kevin Bacon is hot? Because Kevin Bacon wearing a military uniform and oak leaves -- even if it is a Marine uniform -- is even hotter? I didn't get through it. This definitely wasn't a night when I should have tried to watch that movie. After writing about Memorial Day Monday night, this wasn't even the week for watching that movie.

But I did start thinking, or wondering .... some things almost seem like fate, like they are going to happen no matter how unlikely, how improbable, they are.

That I would become an officer's wife was one of the most unlikely things that could have happened. When I was a little kid, I remember watching the bodies coming off the planes from Vietnam. It was horrifying and I couldn't look away. When I was a teenager, the military was the enemy. The draft. The long, unfair war. The lies that came out. Nobody I knew would have anything to do with the fucking military.

Except my first love, L,  the boy I fell in love with in high school. We were together for a while, and then we broke up. Sort of. We dated other people, and every once in a while we went out together just to stay in touch. He always said we would get married after he graduated from college and went into the Air Force to become an astronaut. He was 2 years older than I was, and he was on the track to becoming an Air Force officer. Class president, swing choir, football/wrestling/track star, National Honor Society. I don't know what else. I wasn't into guys like that, but I was into him. And I believed we would get married eventually. In the meantime, I was having too much fun being a bad girl to care about the future.

Even though we didn't go steady for long during high school .... even though he went steady with a cheerleader longer than we did ..... I felt a connection, a bond that seemed inevitable. Our dads went to school together. His dad was the fastest runner in the 8th grade. At the 8th-grade graduation from country school,  my grandma beat him in a race. And later he was my junior high principal and first basketball coach. My cousin married L's older brother.

The first time I got drunk I was with L, and I went to my first concert with him. I know you'll be curious so I'll tell you. We slept together, but we never went all the way. He was truly the first boy I loved, but more than that .... I felt that connection. I can't explain it.

L went away to college, joined ROTC. We got together sometimes when he came home, but we weren't "together." It was fine. We would get married when he graduated and went into the Air Force.

Except he didn't. I left home when I was 17 and moved to Iowa City. L would show up sometimes and surprise me. It caused problems with the guy I was dating, but I didn't care. L came first. We were going to be married. We were connected.

But then he got into drugs -- pot and other stuff too -- and he dropped out of ROTC and then college. He was driving a truck. The last few times I saw him, I was already living with LtColEx. L would drop in unexpectedly, sometimes in the middle of the night. The last time, LtColEx loaned him money. He was a mess for a while.

And the connection was broken. I felt it when it broke. It was there like a familiar, safe cord tying us together, and then it was gone.

 L got his shit together relatively quickly. He wasn't meant to be a burnt out loser. But it didn't matter. Something too big to get back had changed.

And the connection with LtColEx was there and it was even stronger. We got married when I was 18, which was a huge shock to everyone who knew us. (I was not pregnant.) L never talked to me again after he heard we were engaged. In fact, when we did end up in the same bar on the square in my hometown one night, he got up and left as soon as I walked in.

LtColEx never intended to go into the military. Never. When he told people he'd decided to go to officer training school, they were stunned. His dad tried to talk him out of it, but we'd already decided. We wanted out of Iowa, and he had a choice of managing a Color Tile, going back to the farm, or becoming an Air Force officer. We chose the Air Force.

L chose the family farm. And one of the things LtColEx and I said we would never do, no matter how much his grandfather begged, was go back to the family farm.

I have to wonder -- because Miss Serendipity does spend a lot of time fucking with my life -- if my marrying an Air Force officer was somehow inevitable. It certainly wasn't a lifestyle I dreamed of or even wanted. I was rebel. If ever there was a poor potential officer's wife, I was the one. I didn't know one damn thing about it when LtColEx dragged me out of my job tending bar to our first assignment. My learning curve was steep and painful. It wasn't a fit.

And yet ..... there was that connection, and it's still there. Now it's born of all those years as a military wife in a military family. But it seems it was there before. Why, I don't know.

If L had stayed in ROTC and gone into the Air Force would I have married him, and would I have a couple of blond, blue-eyed kids today? Who knows? We can't see alternate universes. But I think .... maybe ..... maybe, yes. I think so.

I haven't talked to L since the last time he showed up stoned and broke and sad in the middle of the night. I want to be clear: that was a detour for him. It wasn't who he was, but lots of people get lost for a while at that age. For years -- later -- he sat with my mom and her husband at hometown high school football games. My niece was friends with his daughter. Every time I go home I hope I'll run into him, but I haven't. In a town of 2000 or fewer people, I haven't.

My mom says I think too much, and it's probably true. But this week, after I wrote about what it's like to lose friends and to worry about being the next wife to watch that blue car pull into the driveway, I have to wonder: Is there such a thing as destiny?

Do you have any destiny stories? Has anything ever happened to you that was unlikely and yet inevitable?

I mean, seriously, I could have married Kevin Bacon, but he only plays a military officer in a movie. Not the same thing at all.

Mmmm. Bacon.