Category Archives: faith

The Case for Walking

Nowhere can you see the realness and the history of where you live better than by foot. You may drive a place every day but until your feet touch its soil, until your eyes stop looking straight ahead but off to the side where a wide set of steps rise like an upside down waterfall leading to a young man with an old school ‘fro texting his girl on the night before his college graduation- will you begin to know a place.

Until you notice just how many people plant rows and rows of lavender along the strip of land after their yard but before the street on the other side of the sidewalk- you won’t understand the generosity of your neighbors and the glory of bees on a summer day.

I passed the cemetery and for the first time realized that a leafy tree stands as a sentinel at the end of even rows of each line of headstones. The grass is exactly even but not mechanized like a modern place, it is still different shades of green from dark to light with some dried grass, yellow and stiff. The rows are more like paths inviting me to follow them and get to know the people who came before.

I found families, a husband who died twenty years before his wife. I kneeled before three headstones of three brothers who all died in different wars. Those people once also walked these streets.

Rounding through town I was stopped by a gaggle of young and lively guys with long dreadlocks and short little songs they busted out in bursts for me. “We’re the rainbow, join us!” I stayed awhile, talked about the Rainbow Gathering coming to Oregon, we talked about their dog and one guy told me I was beautiful. It was generous given that he was a lovely young guy with eyes as blue as any I’d seen.

Walking can boost your morale substantially.

I walked past bus stops and old homes. I saw some trash left by the steps of a stately old place which bragged of its 1888 lineage and I picked it up thinking, it  must be hard to see everything change around you.

I visited with a guy roughly my age carrying a backpack and sleeping bag. He looked clean and was sorting some food as he tucked it away. “It was a good day,” he said smiling. “I see that and I’m glad,” I tipped my head and smiled back. He was about to offer me some of his food but I walked on waving as I passed.

Strangers can be kind for no reason.

I also fell in love with an assorted group of dogs who ran to greet me like their long lost friend. Tails wagging, some singing sorrowful songs urging me to come back and I walked on and I remembered the joy of a good dog. I saw a woman cradling her little black and white dog coming from the vet and kissing the top of her furry head.

Love is so present in the world if you look.

I exchanged dozens of smiles with strangers, witnessed countless acts of awe among children seeing birds and flowers and I never once wished I was in a car despite the sweat which pooled at the back of my neck.

The best moment was in passing a girl, maybe seven or eight, wearing a crisp blue and white dress, a ribbon in her dark wavy hair and the smile on her innocent illuminated face that made years roll backwards to my second grade year. She stood at the top of the stairs outside her home while her grandmother sat smiling that same way on her porch. The girl began waving at strangers and smiling, for no particular reason. She ate an orange popsicle. As I approached the popsicle slipped off its stick into the grass. She observed but didn’t react choosing to continue her waving campaign.

Everything about her gave me hope. I asked if I could capture her picture and I did. I did not ask her a million questions like I might normally do. Frankly I didn’t want to know more than what I could see–the perfect mixture of light and love, innocence and care, playfulness and childish boredom.

If you walk enough you will get bored. Boredom is such a relief. Boredom doesn’t have technology attached or success or failure. It is expansive and allows you to fill it or feel it just as it is. I love boredom.

The case for walking is great. It is good for every part of you except your oh so busy schedule. So here’s the best case for it beyond all others–walk because you do not have time to do it. Break free of your calendar and make the room for walking and seeing and loving and speaking to strangers, and flirting and being bored.

 

 

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The Sad Story of Christopher Toughill

I walked into my apartment and immediately locked the door. I did it before turning on the light, before slipping off my shoes, before looking around.

Locking the door is not something I’ve ever much bothered with. I’ve been scolded for years by friends and family but I didn’t want to be the person who locks my shit up and then decides I’m safe because my possessions are tucked tightly behind a lock. I didn’t want to let that paranoia creep in–not even a little.

But then today I heard in depth the story of Christopher Toughill exactly as he told me. He stopped often to cry. Sometimes he would dip his head and begin going through the photos on his phone of rainbows. “I just took a lot of rainbow pictures. I suppose it was a crime of opportunity,” he quipped.

Before October 18, 2016- Christopher describes himself as a person who believed in “…rainbows and Unicorns, I believed in the very best in people and I thought that’s what they gave me. If I was ever disappointed it was worth the price of believing in the good in people.”

He grew up in DC to a journalist mom and a speech writing dad. His father, also a union organizer, taught him every labor song and chant and he still recounts them without a prompt breaking into song across the lunch table. In those moments, he’s someone else.

After October 18, 2016- Christopher has nowhere to live, owns nothing but one change of clothes and his dog, Harmony, a 14 year old geriatric pup who fits her name. His hands are still recovering, his teeth never will and his heart, however expansive, is shattered.

I found Christopher after he posted something on Facebook that sounded suicidal. “I give up” it began. When my intrepid friend tracked him down she asked me to go to him–a total stranger–and help. I said yes. That lead me to an abandoned mobile home space and a tall man with a brown dog sitting in a gravel spot surrounded by trash in a broken chair. He was on his cell phone and by his posture and expression he could have been a business person closing a deal, yet his dirty clothes, his untrimmed toe nails poking from old sandals, a single backpack with a broken zipper and his entire lack of options told part of the story.

But only part.

Christopher had been a very successful business owner. He had an optical shop in the affluent art village of Ashland, Oregon where he sold high end, hand crafted glasses to the rich and famous including more than one movie star.

Now-after his attacker brutalized him- he is homeless and by outside appearances looks broken.

On October 18, 2016- he was held hostage–chained in fact–by his landlord who rented him a one bedroom shop behind his house. Christopher was beaten, his hands broken, his teeth knocked out, his feet battered and he was burned with hot oil and dowsed in gasoline. “I was humiliated, degraded and tortured,” he says of the experience. Unknown to him at the time he rented his place–his landlord belonged to a criminal gang and had a long, violent history.

Christopher managed to escape to safety and the man who held him hostage is now in prison.

But in some ways so is Christopher. He cannot understand how so much evil exists on one hand, on another he chose mercy for his attacker. He agreed to his plea bargain. “I couldn’t be responsible for depriving someone of their freedom for life–even though I couldn’t understand what he did to me. Still, sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t have taken the deal. He is not fit to live free among people. He is a monster.”

Christopher considered taking his own life. “I was in my shell. I was non functional.” He came away from the experience with nothing. His health too fragile to work, his home gone because he could never go back there, he found himself deteriorating. He went into a diabetic coma due to stress and lack of food and crashed his last thing–his car.

Christopher was waiting for his old dog to die so he could take his own life. “I couldn’t let Harmony down.” But Harmony did not die. She kept living and so did Christopher. “Now I don’t want to do it anymore. There are still sunrises and sunsets…the world itself. I got touched by the dregs of society, but for all its sham and drudgery the world is still a beautiful place.”

His pain is noticeable and I could feel it when we talked. He cried often, reached out for my hand, sometimes needed to get up and walk it off.  He would speak of the crime and discuss the “incomprehensible.”  He says he is disappointed that there was not a safety net deep enough to hold him. He’s tried all the services, he shows me all the calls he’s made on his cell phone to no good effect. “They can’t really help me.”

I left him at a clean hotel for the night where he could get a shower and his dog could take rest. It’s not enough. Nothing I do for Christopher is enough.

One time a cop told me there are few real, innocent victims. He implied most people put themselves in bad spots. I tried to believe that because it makes life less scary. But Christopher did not invite his trouble. What happened to him could have happened to me–or you.

There are innocent victims. There are people who do evil to them.

But there are also people who forgive evil, people who get back up and try again. There is me and you. And those pictures of rainbows on Christopher’s phone did happen.

So tonight I’m behind the locked door. I’m thinking of Christopher and I may shed more tears. I don’t know the way forward for him and I don’t know how he overcomes but I know he does. I can see that he is still the hero of his story.

If you want to help Christopher he has a GoFundme:

https://www.gofundme.com/HelpChrisRecoverFromTortureMaiming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Traveling Like Crazy; a short story

Slab City, California, USA.

This is the place where people go who have nowhere else, who’s future and past collide into a present tense of impossibility. It looks like it sounds. The sun cooks up the ground into untidy cracks but it doesn’t cook it enough to erase the smell or evaporate the trash from hundreds, sometimes thousands of people living entirely off grid.

The Slabs is roughly a 90 minute drive from Palm Springs in the Imperial Desert, 65 miles north of Calexico and a few minutes from East Jesus-literally.

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E.J. is an impromptu art installation on the road to Slab City. Artists use the trash from the Slab to make eccentric, politically challenging and quirky art amidst the nothingness of dirt and garbage and loneliness. East Jesus looks at you daring you to be anxious. If you don’t do it–if you stay calm and let yourself smile at the giant tray of spoons–you will be changed. It’s hard to say exactly how, but you feel it in the way that a certain song makes you cry. A nerve is touched and now it has sensation and memory of sensation and it’s own life outside you.

That is the East Jesus affect.

The entire drive through sand past the glimmering yet deeply foul Salton Sea, past abandoned shacks and mis-placed businesses slammed between date groves is sensation on salted wound. A road from nothing to nowhere.

The Slabs are left over from a military installation which pulled up stakes more than 40 years ago and today is occupied by people who show up in RV’s and cars, who sleep in tents, hammocks and home-made homes. It’s a self governing, free to squat  place with a dash of Hunter S. Thompson thrown in for the art of living oddly.

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It’s the end of the world as we know it post apocalyptic wild west side show of people who run out of money, will, ability or patience with “normal” society.

There are 200 in August when the temperatures hit 124 and 2,000 in January when Canadians in mansions on wheels show up to soak up the weirdness and freeness of the desert. While the demographics and bank accounts shift with the seasons, old timers like George who runs a mis-matched trailer encampment which he rents out year round says it’s all the same kind of folks. Those who want to save money and don’t want to be bothered by the politeness of others. Essentially the draw at The Slabs is being left the hell alone. At least some of the time.

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There’s no electricity, running water-hot or cold-and no flush toilets. There’s dirt and some concrete slabs. That covers all the amenities.

There’s open mic night at The Range which looks like a scene from a twenty-somethings coming of age film with crooked and leaning stage, old couches with foam flying in all directions and a bar made of scrap wood hammered together by a blind or drunken man. They come there to sing to each other and recite poetry once per week, normally on Fridays. When asked if the performances are good most say, “Not really.”

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Somewhere in the miles of nothing is also a library and down the “road” an internet cafe which feels like a university student union. People hunker down and rifle their phones  within range of wi-fi. Politics is spoken but rarely argued. Drop outs and loan dodgers, disabled people, senior citizens and anarchist travelers tour each other’s states of mind about nearly any subject where most all conversations begin and end with a funny line and a snicker. Leaving is done one way, a wave of a peace sign over the shoulder and sometimes, “one love, one love.”

Just outside the internet cafe resides a man who calls himself Spyder and he’s the apparent rock star, mayor, Zen Master and builder of Slab City. He has half a manufactured home, a trailer, a truck and an RV. His RV has a rare thing, a hot running shower and radio. He has scrounged parts and created a solar panel and pump system to make it work.

His half of a home is in repair mode. The walls and floor are filled in, the kitchen is nearly functional with another solar rig and pump, his two kids have their own bedrooms. The bathroom in the half house doesn’t work but the RV is next door so the “Kids can shower before school. That’s important.”

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Soon Spyder’s place will have another comfort. He’s hand digging and lining a septic system so the family can use a flush toilet. He trucks in huge drums of water weekly.

“I couldn’t really make it out there. I was abandoned as a baby by my mother and put in the foster system where I was given to a family who didn’t just beat me-they tortured me. My back is wrecked, I never really learned to read or write and I’ve got a bunch of other scars.  I tried working out there doing handy jobs and anything I could get but I still kept winding up homeless–then I heard about this place. You can be what you want to be out here and if you work hard you get to keep the result of your labor. I can’t see ever going back.”

He stands in the sun looking around, sweat is dripping down his shirtless chest and he wipes his face and says it’s time he get back to work.

There’s an agricultural canal which runs behind The Slabs about half a mile or so from Spyder’s place. People speak of swimming and bathing in it especially in the fall when it’s hot and the water is still high due to water releases for late crops. They say it’s a beach, an inland paradise when it gets really hot.  But it’s actually a long, shallow edged and deep centered waterway which smells of farm waste and chemicals. It’s an odd shade of green but it’s moving water in the desert. That’s as good as it gets.

This is not a place for the germaphobe or picky person.

Slab City has its joiners and loners, cool folk and angry outliers, all of them cheap skates and free loaders who have an aversion to loans and taxes and working all week to pay for a house that owns them and demands more upgrades. For the most part the dwellers of The Slab aren’t keen on government or cities or much to do with the world outside. However, it would not be accurate to say they’re lazy and don’t want to work.

Showing up with a tent in the white hot center of a huge desert with zero water or power does not allow anyone here to be lazy. Surviving is an entry level position and living with handmade upgrades like a roof and floor is the corner office. Nothing along the chain here is achieved without sun up to sun down work and innovation.

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Learning how to innovate is a daily occupation. Inventions will be born at Slab City.

Within two days of chumming around The Slabs, I find I’m eyeballing spots near roads but away from others. I’m evaluating sun angles and looking for smooth slabs and proximity to a decent path in and out. I’m creating a gear list: rope, tarps, big jugs for water, car batteries, propane tanks, camp stoves and lights. Shovels-one for digging large holes and one for a bathroom. I get hung up on the bathroom part but keep mumbling, ‘I really think I could do this and enjoy it.’

It’s not realistic. Yet……

When traveling like crazy, be prepared to be crazy. Meeting people in their odd smells, off grid pre-occupations, eccentricities and realities does not allow ambivalence. The mammalian response is to respond–to blend and join. The Slab City joiner/non joiner is a flag flying proudly for a country not yet invented. It’s the pirate ship or tropical island where mis-fits fit.

Nothing could be more pleasing.

Driving back in the pink sunset of the desert toward alleged civilization an isolation draped itself around my car.  I powered on through worlds, picked up a hitch hiker who refused to give her name and stopped for dinner where I was the only woman in a crowded restaurant and eventually found myself at the bizarre and magical Miracle Baths Hotel where a suite near the massage closet was available.

Floating under a dark sky in a pool filled with bath water listening to the conversation in Russian nearby and recalling an earlier one about why they don’t want us to know about aliens, the thought came in clearly that traveling like crazy is among the best ways to stay sane.

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The Day I Worked out a golf Swing Among the “Forgotten People”

“Awful! You sliced it low and left. What did you get— 65 yards?”

img_1417That’s how I met JR. Those were the first words between us. JR is a homeless man living among the 400 or so tents off highway 57 in Santa Ana, California. He had his golf balls, mostly cheap Wilsons, lined up on tees made of sand and rock whacking away and landing in the ironically named Santa Ana River which had not a drop of water in it on this November day.

“You know so much about golf—come show me something!” JR yelled back at me.

I was there looking for a story. I’d been embedding in homeless camps on and off for the past year to learn about the bottom one percent virtually no one is talking about except in statistical terms. Homelessness is declared a crisis in every major West Coast city and Los Angeles is seriously considering a 100 million dollar outlay to “solve” it.

For the working poor who spend half their income on shelter, some 11 million according to the latest Housing and Urban Development numbers, it doesn’t take much to fall into homelessness.

If there are “Forgotten People” as president-elect Donald Trump claims, then these are those people. The unhoused who’s numbers are rising by 15 and 20% along the West Coast since 2014. They come from the South, Mid-west and rural Northern towns hoping to make a break for themselves. Instead they often find themselves priced out and locked out.

img_1350This camp, one of Southern California’s largest, is post apocalyptic. It’s locked behind a slapdash fence between a long and steady crawl of traffic and the riverbed. Nothing but dirt, gravel and tents, no electricity or bathrooms, but tents for more than a mile.

“First is your stance. Your shoulders aren’t squared over the ball, your hips are turned and you’ve got a happy foot sliding on the right. It’ll never work. Plus, why are you trying to drive with a five iron?” I say to him smiling and pretending to scold.

He lowers his camouflage hat over his eyes surrounded by smile lines and chuckles. “You see a spot for me to set a full bag around here? He points to his camp site set up tucked against the cyclone fencing. “This is my sleeping tent and my food tent. You may not have noticed this isn’t a country club.”

He is smiling. His teeth are hit and miss, his breath smells like a white jug wine and he is charming the flip flops off me. At 61, he stands shirtless in the ruthlessness of a Southern California sun.

“I’m JR from Michigan. Not a bad body for an old guy, don’t you think?” He gives a model like pose and stares out toward the river bed like a general surveying his battle field. He giggles, fondles his beard and asks, “You’re a sight. What are you doing here?”

“Looking for a photo op. and a story. But I can see my real purpose is a golf lesson. Okay, show me your best stance. JR, what the hell is up with your grip?” His hands are tight and he’s choked up on the club.

“Okay. What’s wrong with my grip?”

I pry his hands away and tell him, “Hold it like a bird. Don’t let it fly away but don’t crush it.”

img_1366He works on it. Shifts his feet. I position his shoulders and knees above the ball. “Okay, you’re set up. Keep your eye on where you want the ball to go. Let the club hit the ball. It’s not force but feel. Go!”

JR whiffs it. The ball barely dribbles twenty yards. “You’re wrecking what little game I have!”

I assure him it takes a bucket of balls to get comfortable. But his stance and grip are improved if he stays with it. We both know there are limits to how far he can go with one club and a handful of banged up Wilson seconds.

 

We both know why it’s unique to see a guy working on his game out here. Surviving day to day, finding food, water and a job are the normal pre-occupations.

He shows me around. We meet artists who sing, make rock sculptures and write poetry. We meet edgy, young guys who have dogs on ropes and a few tweakers toward the back of the camp who mostly day sleep.

“We got all kinds in here. I just talk to everyone and feed them if they’re hungry. It’s us making the best of it. It’s not that bad.”

JR is constant motion running me through the homeless village like a tourist, waving and smiling like I’m the new kid in summer camp. He moves through the groups introducing me to his people. “Julie is a journalist reporting on homelessness . She’s writing about us.” Some people want to talk to me, will let me take a picture, most aren’t too impressed. They’ve seen the reporters come and go. They are still here either way.

JR hit the road five years ago. He only wants to tell me he prays with people and uses what money he has to feed the hungry. He says he’s on foot but that’s the only detail he’ll fill in.

He stops and leans in to tell me something.

“These are the people this country doesn’t work for and more and more are coming every day. When I got here a few months ago there were twenty of us—now it’s four hundred and still growing.”

I ask him why he thinks it’s happening. “ Nine dollar hour jobs land you here. There’s not enough left over for rent and rents are too high anyway. How you going to pay rent when it’s 15 hundred a month and you don’t even make that?”

He says if one thing goes wrong, you get sick or have a car break down then you can’t recover, although people try.

“Why work and still live here? Although lots of people do. I see them getting up early and heading to work. I couldn’t do it.”

JR had been in the military and construction at one point. “This is hard but it’s nothing to compared to what I’ve seen. I’m okay. I do feel sad for the young ones out here. I don’t know how they ever get out of here. There’s really no way.

We make our way back to his tent and driving range. We go back to our golf lesson.
“Okay JR, settle in. Let’s see you breathe into the shot. Hands, shoulders, feet. All good. Okay, give it a whack.”

He winds up, swings easy. The ball pops up straight and lands about 150 yards away. He smiles. I clap.

The sun is going down. “Better get you out of here missy. I’ll walk you to the gate.”

As I leave there is a young family setting up a small outdoor grill. The dog is tied to a stake in the ground and the kids look hungry.

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The Rise of Hysteria and Obedient Women

He reminded me I have no voice–the young Mexican guy.

The singer songwriter from Austin, Texas, his state flag mounted behind him next to the candles, you know the ones in the jars with the Virgin Mary, yes, those, singing in a tiny club up the stairs and over to the left- incited revolution.  David Ramirez fired a shot through song for what is to come: rage, despair, and more deeply troubling— resignation.

Don’t get me wrong there are people raising voices-but so few are women. The ones who do speak, urge calm. That’s not the right message.

Ramirez sang of throwing out the baby, a depiction of white America forgetting how we all really got here, he shattered himself on the stage crooning and yelling, sweat pouring from his face, soaking his beard and stringy brown hair, his eyes filled with exhaustion. He was like Dylan, if Dylan could sing.

Why can’t we, us, women-those who stand to lose everything get the steam up to lay it on the line the way this guy does?

 

Girls obey. That’s the rule handed down by God and enforced by culture. You don’t obey and the penalties are steep. “Lock her up!” they yell. Burn her, she is a witch. Hysterectomy. Look up the origin of that word. Restless? How about a lobotomy? Don’t believe it? Ask Francis Farmer how it worked. This is all recent history, recurring history, persistent His-story.

You damned right my normal response is tepid. And terrified. Aren’t you?

 

I don’t need the faithless fundamentalist Christian pew anymore, nor the patriarchy, or belt or threat because I have become expert in keeping myself down.

The shame of shouting and possibly being told to “calm down” is apparently greater than the threat of losing our country, our work and our world.

How sad is that?

I am told to keep an open mind, told it is not yet time to be so concerned.

If it is not now-then it will it never be, the God damned time.

 

I am not trying to hurt your feelings because you disagree but frankly what we face is bigger than your feelings and mine. We’re reasonably discussing the rise of a fascist- old school style. The rest of the world sees it.

I may lose my mind, my friendships, my love–but we stand to lose quite realistically –everything. Our sacred Pacific Ocean has been under threat to drilling off the Northern California coast for decades-this president has no qualms with drilling, we may lose our Oregon trees to old school, largely unregulated milling. Can we talk about what we’re doing to face down this threat rather than “being calm and open minded?

 

Are you afraid, like me?

That’s what’s at the root of all this, you know. It’s not politics or losers and winners–it’s fear. It’s the fear for children and grandchildren, for friends and people we’ve never met.

It’s not about me or you–but us.

For people who, like my friend often says, will die and never know why. For those under threat of deportation or arrest or merely having their life’s work trampled to shit.

I’m a journalist. I’m aware of seeing my profession turn to a sideshow. But the part I don’t know scares me even more. The part where protected lands are drilled, fucked, broken and used up. Where girls die again in back alley abortions, where gay people are shoved into airless closets, where black lives do not matter and children are ripped from loving parents because someone says they are criminals for wanting a better life. Where Jews who have endured and endured have to somehow do it again. Where sick people will die because, yet again, they cannot afford treatment.

Silence is a kind of insanity.

 

 

 

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The True Chill

His e-mail title was, “comma before a quote.” I opened the e-mail which began, “I keep making the same correction.” Anyone who writes and receives an e-mail from their editor like this most likely has that all over body cringe.

Uhhh.

Grammar mistakes are like kryptonite for me. I immediately fall down the elevator of shame that is an express ride to shame.

Confidence is an odd thing.

When I have it, I can do anything. When it’s lost, I’m lost.

Right now I’m in the dreaded lost phase. Everything I write seems disjointed and oddly shallow. There’s no there– there. Commas are becoming unknown to me in my mad dash scramble to conquer my inner fourth grade teacher who red lines my paper.

I’m having a glass of red wine in one of my favorite pubs and this is my thought stream:

“Aren’t you too old to sacrifice your skin for that? Or: Can you afford to have wine out, especially when paying your own way seems tougher by the minute? Or: Aren’t you too old to be out? Or: People are looking because I look terrible. Why did I get this nasty cold? Maybe I’m out of touch with my health.”

What causes this sudden, ‘I’m naked on a stage and looking my worst’ thing to happen without apparent warning?

I’m not sure but my guess is this happens as the result of a few things stacking up which become a perception or story of reality. A person doesn’t smile back, you run into someone  who actually doesn’t like you, you get a bill and think–holy crap, how is that getting paid? and you step on a scale or look at that spot on the back of your head and voila! You feel badly. Throw in an errant comma and–burned toast. You crumble apart.

Confidence: Zero.

It’s these times when I either tuck into bed with Netflix and make the world go away or reach out to someone who I think is for sure going to be nice. But frankly Netflix and chill is not a one size fits all solution. I know–heresy–but I’m thinking there are only so many period dramas to hide in. I’m also thinking calling on your person to solve the confidence problem may not be the way either–not all the time. They may need a minute too.

So, what’s my move? I’m going to try none of the above. Maybe a brisk walk until I notice that through the windows of those houses I pass are people all playing out their lives in the best way they can. Even the really pretty homes filled with pretty people have imperfect days. I am most certainly not alone.

I’m also thinking that my problem is one of self absorption. If I was doing something kind for a friend or a stranger, I wouldn’t care about my own thoughts so much. Confidence is based on self esteem. Self worth is based on what we bring to the lives of others.

Stop! Breathe!

Now my mind is going to a new plot where I am critical of how myopic I’m capable of being. But that’s not helpful either. This is the time for perspective. Some days you cuddle the dragon until he wants to use his fire to make smores and sometimes the dragon walks by and tells you you’re ugly and sets fire to your offerings.

Everyday isn’t going to feel like a victory. But that does not add up to the measure of me.

Life is long. The story, too, is long. No one day or snapshot is the full story and no one day tells me if I’m okay.

Time to think long term. Take off those shoes. Write something to a friend. Tell some folks you love them. Look at a picture of your people and reflect on those times when the dragon ate out of your hand–happy. Those days are there too. For all of us.

Dark days are present sometimes. It’s getting cold and I’m turning up my collar on my coat. I never feel quite as carefree when it’s cold. That’s a factor to consider in the loss of confidence as well. I’m also affected by my sense of being connected to a larger community. On days when I’m not dialed into the world around me, I feel lost.

It’s most certainly not the time to pick on me….nor you.

Let’s say it together: “Today is not my only day. There is no permanent record. I am doing my best most of the time and most of the time it’s totally fine.”

If that isn’t enough, perhaps looking ahead to better days. Plan a vacation that may be possible, think of a holiday and research a cool, new dish to cook or make up a fitness goal.

“This whole adventure is up to us to make up,” my friend Vanessa reminded me. And, hey, I have a friend–so that’s good. Oh and I have an amazing guy who loves me and children and grandchildren and sometimes work is so meaningful too.

Maybe I’ll take a hot shower and breathe out, “Thank you, thank you.”

Confidence smonfidence. We got this.

 

 

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Filed under aging, anxiety, depression, examinedlife, faith, freedom, love, mothers, Uncategorized, women, Zen

Ten Ways to Tell if Your Guy(partner) is a Grown Ass Man(person).

Let me be clear I stand on no high ground here. If there’s a way to make a poor choice–I’ve done it. But lately I’ve been hanging around with a grown ass man and despite the fact I’m a slow learner some things are coming into focus.

First: I had the good fortune of grown ass man friends. They were the ones helping me, letting me lean on them from time to time and being reliable while my boy was out playing. I’m so grateful to those grown up guys who showed up and showed me what a grown ass man really looks like. If you find yourself leaning on your friends rather than your partner–chances are he’s not grown.

Second: age has nothing to do with it. I wasted months of my life on an old guy who was damn near seventy still trying to be the captain of his high school football team surrounded by cheerleaders. His self-esteem was so low he couldn’t stop playing games. He was so desperate to be admired. I feel bad for him, but not too bad. If your partner can’t commit to a plan, a phone call and a relationship, no matter what else he says, he’s not a grown ass man.

What follows works for any gender and any pairing. I’ve just selected my own experience so I’m using man to fit the role since I’m a cisgender, heterosexual female. You can substitute woman or they and it still works.

So here are the ways you can tell if your guy is a grown ass man:

  1. He is not ambiguous. Having been successful in his life he knows what he wants and how to achieve it. He will be clear with you what his intentions are and check in early and often to see if you share those intentions.
  2. He budgets accordingly. There is no worse feeling than being with a guy who acts like you’ve taken him to the vet for neutering every time the check comes. A grown ass man sets his cash aside to accommodate his plans. That doesn’t mean he has to be rich to be grown but he does have to plan a date he can manage. If it needs to be a split check he tells you in advance so you can act like a grown ass woman and bring your money.
  3. He likes you. Grown ass men don’t treat their partners like a chore or some add-on to their fabulous lives. He will enjoy your company, like talking to you, share your interests and care about your people. He will be interested in you even when you have a headache.
  4. He will do what he says he’s going to do. A grown ass man has no trouble telling you when he will call and then call at that time. The same holds true for getting together, making plans and ultimately creating a life.
  5. Grown ass men don’t need to lie. He will tell the truth because he has nothing to hide. He’s made mistakes and moved on. He’ll tell you about the good and the bad without hesitation because he is confident in his ability to persevere. He does not do things he is ashamed of as a rule, but if he makes a mistake, he’ll tell you.
  6. He will listen to advice and seek counsel. Grown ass men are smart enough to trust collective wisdom. They don’t have all the answers nor do they have the need to know everything. They have learned that’s not realistic.
  7. Grown ass men are emotionally available. He will cry when it hurts, he will laugh when it tickles him and he will draw pictures of little hearts and flowers on a card if he is so moved. A grown ass man has no need to prove who he is and no need for credentials that make him seem more like a robot. He will respect your emotions as well, knowing that our emotions actually drive our actions, not just yours, but his too.
  8. Grown ass men enjoy sex–with you. They also enjoy talking, cuddling, going to movies and doing other things. Grown ass men are people who have many interests and enjoy exploring them. They are not out for a conquest and they don’t think it’s your job to worry about their sex drive.
  9. He will support you for who you are. Because he knows himself, he knows what sort of  characteristics he values. If you hold those characteristics and he’s decided to be with you then he won’t be out to change you or your priorities. In fact, a grown ass man is more likely to help you achieve your goals and deepen your other relationships.
  10. Finally, a grown ass man is seeking a grown ass partner. He is looking for someone who has done the work to be clear on what is important, who is not insecure, needy, clings or otherwise hoping to find a partner to complete them. A grown ass man wants a partner who is respectful to him and to themselves and does not look to see anyone subjugated or treated as a lesser partner.

I can’t speak for anyone else but I was enculturated to think the nice guy wasn’t as cool as the guy who thought he was too good for me and also to believe that the guy who made me feel insecure was exciting. When I finally moved past that, I couldn’t believe I ever thought that way.

Being loved by a grown ass man makes life better, easier and more meaningful. Being kept off balance makes life more difficult. Achieving your goals is like pushing that rock up a hill everyday and getting nowhere when you’re dealing with a boy who sucks your mental and emotional bank dry. We all need support. If your partner isn’t grown then chances are he’s throwing barriers in your path.

It’s better to be single than trying to make it work with someone who is not grown enough to know how or simply doesn’t want to. Be good to you. Cut them loose. Be who you are and your grown ass man will show up, or not. But either way you don’t have someone pulling you down. Either way you’re better off.

Oh and one final thought–a grown ass man is sexier and more attractive in every way. He has no need to prove anything so he is confident and loving. He is fun and also thoughtful.

Maybe, just maybe, if nice guys finish first and grown ass men are the ones in relationships these boys will figure out it’s time to grow up. It won’t help you, but it might help the next person who comes along.

 

 

 

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Filed under #connection, #education, #happiness, #men, aging, anxiety, break ups, dating, depression, examinedlife, faith, freedom, getting even, God, love, matchmaker, Mid-life, online dating, Uncategorized, women