For several months, every day started with a black tide that rose and washed over me, leaving me lonely and scared, unable to fully-function—not feeling up to seeing anyone or doing anything. I’ve only just recently found a renewed sense of hope and purpose.
Of course, to keep history from repeating itself, I became determined to figure out why. Why? I have a loving husband, fabulous friends, free time, disposable income, decent health, and even a place to get away, so why in the hell was I so damn melancholy? Why? What was I missing?
After serious soul-searching, I realized what I lacked was a solid sense of self-esteem.
It’s something I’ve been struggling with since my late twenties. At least three days out of every week, I have a crippling level of doubt about my abilities and innate worth. Of course, I’ve mastered the art of faking it. I’ve learned to psych myself up, pull up my big girl thongs, put on the game face, and pretend to be bold and badass. But when the bravado fades, I'm an exhausted heap of unhappiness.
I could blame it on an excessively dysfunctional childhood. Seriously, my formative years were fucked up…like verging on Augusten Burroughs-level fucked up…but I don’t want to blame this on anyone or anything. I just want to fix it. I have to fix it. Why? Because I’m almost fifty years old. I don’t want to waste any more time. I want to be able to fully embrace exactly who I am, become audaciously authentic without fear of judgement, and then use it for good.
After reading dozens of articles on the topic, I’ve compiled the best advice from each on how to achieve real self-worth and lasting self-love. This is what I came up with, in my own words:
1) Treat your body like a temple, not CBGB during the early eighties.
2) Perfectionism is a punk ass bitch...and social media is its BFF.
3) Stop talking smack…about yourself.
4) Know yourself as well as you do your favorite celebrity.
5) Learn to have fun with flaws.
6) Get an attitude of gratitude.
7) Reserve a sheet of gold stars just for you.
8) Double dog dare you to try new things.
9) Realize nothing is as sexy as kindness.
Each week…month…fortnight…hell, however long it takes…I’m going to work on one of these principles. Come along on the journey with me. Come on…please…it’ll be fun. Perhaps, not eating cupcakes with sprinkles in a pile of kittens fun, but definitely kayaking in a kaftan while bourbon-tipsy fun. So, let’s harness the sun and do this. Let the manifesting begin.
When I was raped,
I didn’t scream.
In the next room.
I didn’t want to wake her.
I didn’t want her,
To see me naked.
I didn’t want her to know,
That her grandson,
Was an animal.
Because as taught,
I respected my elders.
More than I respected,
My own body.
UPDATE: I have now found my voice and am not afraid to scream. Loudly.
The Kentucky Arts Council sent out the call for Kentuckians to
delve into their pasts, sift through their memories, and tell the world “Where I’m From." Each poem was to follow the structure and style of the brilliant original “Where I’m From” by our own Kentucky Poet Laureate George Ella Lyon. I decided to take the challenge. The result is below. And as a bonus, I was asked to return to my childhood stomping ground and give it a reading. I saw some old friends, swapped stories and shots of bourbon chased down with of Ale-8-One, won a $10 door prize, and used it buy Berryman’s chili dogs...so I’d say it was a damn near perfect evening.
Where I’m From
I am from
Tidy closets, armed with moth balls,
But stripped secret-clean.
Our skeletons rocked on the porch,
Drinking tall glasses of sweet tea spiked with Maker’s Mark bourbon.
Waste not, want not.
Pretty is, as pretty does.
And, you don’t know your ass from apple butter.
I am from
Reared up on Queen Street,
Riding a chestnut mare named Cleopatra,
And listening to the King…
Until he was found dead next to his porcelain throne,
(My mother wailed for a week, clutching unused concert tickets).
I’m from Mouths,
That tasted of Ale-8-One, small town gossip, steeped sassafras,
Berryman’s chili dogs, Marlboro menthols, and answered prayers.
That played honkytonk piano, birthed slippery calves, rubbed on Coppertone lotion,
Dug potatoes, picked purple irises, and applied layers of lipstick in Pink Frost.
That trod through fresh manure,
Danced in black, shiny shoes in Miss Rosalind’s recital,
And tracked through October Court Days hot on the scent of a funnel cake.
I am from
The rhinoceros that lived in the tobacco barn,
Great Aunt Pearlie’s ghost,
A buried treasure at the bottom of the pond guarded by an albino catfish,
And, a faraway place that never slept called New York City.
(I was determined to live there one day…and I did).
A bone and flesh compass,
Needle never wavering.
No matter how far I get above my raising,
It always leads me back,
To where I’m from.
Click HERE to read more "Where I'm From" poems from around the state.
I did not die at thirty-one. And, found myself at forty-one to be more alive and in love than ever…even at fourteen.
At fourteen, he introduces you to "A Clockwork Orange" and pot and takes you to a roller rink where he plays hockey. A girl says, “That’s my boyfriend. Which one’s yours?” You point and blush and say, “The one in The Cure tee shirt with the earring and the bi-level haircut.” And you are so proud because he is the raddest dude in the place.
At forty-one, he introduces you to the latest incarnation of his balding buddy’s punk revival band and pain pills, which he needs from decades of irresponsibility and injuries and you need for energy. And he takes you to a skate park that he used to frequent in his bad-ass BMX days. It is filled with teenaged boys on boards and bikes. A woman says, “That’s my kid. Which one’s yours?” You point and blush and say, “The one in The Cure tee shirt with the beer belly and the full beard.” And you are so proud because he is the raddest dude in the place.
At fourteen, you know he is your soul mate because you talk on the phone every night, have both read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and love big dogs.
At forty-one, you know he is your soul mate because you talk all night when you both have to get up early and go to work. And you’ve read everything and he’s read nothing but that doesn’t matter, because he can read you better than a book. And your big dogs are your family and have taken the place of the children you both chose not to have…even together when you were miraculously given that option.
At fourteen, you know he will be a good lover because he has watched porn, and dated a girl two years older, and bites your bottom lip when you kiss.
At forty-one, you know he will be a good lover because you are a good lover and will make certain of it; and he knows his way around when he goes down; and there is a mutual acceptance that neither body is what it used to be, but that experience and commitment can make up for a flat stomach if the lighting is just right. When all else fails, you just crank up "Do It All Night" by Prince.
At fourteen, you get jealous because he keeps a picture of his ex-girlfriend in a shoe box in his closet and still hangs out with her brother.
At forty-one, the ex-girlfriend is an ex-wife who could have been a lingerie model. He loved her so much that he gave her his granny’s heirloom ring, and offered to adopt her daughter, and waited celibate for sixteen months while she served a stiff sentence for a fourth DUI. You fear no man can love that way twice, but you’re willing to suffice with whatever is left, which with him is more than enough.
At fourteen, you dream of a wedding to a pop star or a royal, or both…you’ll marry Prince. You’ll wear a tiara and purple ball gown and ride through the streets to the flower-filled church in a crystal carriage drawn by unicorns. There will be fireworks and, of course, doves. But, not the crying kind. You’ll hold your reception in Milan or on the moon. He'll play a song written especially for you. All your friends will be so jealous, and that’s really all that matters.
At forty-one, you know how hard marriage is and how often it fails. And yet, when you look in his eyes you know that if there were ever a man with whom you could spend forever, it is him. You are way past white. Besides, you know what looks good on you…you’ll wear red. There will be no flower-filled church. Neither of you believes in organized religion, and the best florist in town just happens to be his one-time-lover. Instead of a crystal carriage, you’ll employ a yellow cab to make certain all your drunken friends get home safe…because they will party like it’s 1999.
Yes, I am more in love than I have ever been in my life, even with Prince. For better or worse…because at fourteen, you just think you may be able to die of a broken heart. At forty-one, you know you actually can.
Last night, a friend celebrated turning forty with a wake to mourn her lost youth. We, guests, were asked to bring a eulogy or short poem to bid farewell to the charismatic and carefree girl we once knew. Instead of saying "goodbye," I decided to offer a little advise on how to say "hello" to better days ahead. I can attest that, done right, getting older and getting better can happen simultaneously.
So, this was my offering to her:
As a woman who saw forty nearly eight long years ago,
I've learned a thing or two I think that you should know.
This is the truth about passing youth.
You CAN teach an old broad new tricks.
So, try everything and regret nothing.
Don't wait until you're eighty-eight,
Revert back to childhood now.
Embrace your inner ninja fairy princess.
Believe her when she says you can still be anything you want to be when you grow up...
if you choose to grow up.
Listen when she tells you that "because it'll be fun" is reason enough...
Know that happiness has nothing to do with luck.
It has everything to do with not giving a fuck
About the opinions of anyone who doesn't either
Pay your bills, give you thrills, or supply you with the pills that will keep you spry.
Happiness is a choice. Just make it.
Lastly, if you want to leave a stunning corpse,
Start immediately by embalming yourself with bourbon.
When we decided to run away and become lake lizards, one of the most important parts of the process was purging ourselves of belonging that weren’t conducive to our new, downsized lifestyle. I got rid of over thirty pairs of heels, two garbage bags full of Halloween costumes, bins of books, and a whole box of kitchen gadgets (though to be fair, I didn’t know the uses for most of them). I managed to convince Frank to give up his beloved Christmas Story leg lamp, an assortment of bongs, dozens of VHS tapes (of brilliant films like Ernest Goes to Jail), and a bunch of extra bike parts from his BMX days. But, the one thing I couldn’t force him to pare down was his tee shirt collection. For the last thirty years, he’s been gathering shirts from concerts, skate parks, dive bars, and thrift stores. He’d rather part with a testicle than his tees. And, I like both his balls, so I opted to find a way to make them fit into our life and into our captain’s bed.
I know what you’re thinking. Why is this outspoken feminist folding and putting away her husband’s laundry in the first place? Because left to his own devices, Frank will stuff the drawers so full that the bottoms pop out, and we have to replace the damn things. And, I'm a control freak I just sleep better knowing that there is order, not chaos happening underneath me as I slumber.
Now back to this life-changing solution to the great T-shirt quandary. It’s all in the folding…or lack thereof. The traditional way to store shirts is to fold them flat and place them one on top of the other in the drawer. When stacked this way, you can only see the ones on top and when you pull one from the bottom it wreaks havoc on the whole pile. BUT…if you do more of a roll on them by folding them into fourths instead of just in half, and then place them side by side, you can see all the shirts at once. Also, you can remove the desired tee without disturbing any of the others.
Female friends (and fashion-forward men), this method also works with leggings. So, f*ck folding. I am here to extol the roll. Hallelujah.
Come the first snow each winter, Granny Ison used to trudge outside, get a bucket of the white stuff, and transform it into the sweet treat known as snow cream. To my young self, it was a magical mixture. But, as an adult, I know there is one ingredient that makes everything a bit more magical…bourbon.
So, here is my recipe for Kentucky Snow Cream.
Mix milk, sugar, vanilla, and bourbon.
Pour over snow. Begin with 8 cups and just add more as needed. It is free and plentiful right now.
Blend until creamy.
Scoop into bowl or cup (preferably metal to ensure maximum chill is preserved).
Enjoy winter’s wonderful bounty.
Usually I take everything on social media with a grain of salt (or a ring of it around the rim of a margarita glass), but yesterday I read a thread that I could not get out of my head.
A friend posted this meme from Francisco Rendon of our fabulous First Lady, Michelle Obama. One woman’s immediate response was “Bitch.” When questioned on why she disapproved of our FLOTUS, she offered the following, “Mrs. Obama has made so many faces that are unladylike in photographs, refused to say the pledge of allegiance, or to put her hand over her heart, and has said so many things to turn me off, that I will be happy to see her leave the White House. My ideal First Lady was Jackie Kennedy. Poised, intelligent, beautiful, classic in her dress and carriage. A far cry from our current First Lady.” She later went on to add, “When I SEE her (Michelle Obama) do disrespectful things in public, I feel like she shows the worst possible side of herself. Public appearances are such fleeting moments for most First Ladies. How difficult can it be to smile and ‘play nice’?” She went on to ignore facts disproving her allegations, but did offer an apology for not “acting like a lady” herself during this exchange.
So, essentially, this person dislikes Mrs. Obama because she does not fit her notion of what it means to be a “lady.” And, thank God for that.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a lady is defined as:
So, if my goal is to be a lady, I simply must be born to a wealthy man, then find me a man to court, and then behave in a mannerly fashion for the rest of my life. Or, I could be a fully-functioning human with her own accomplishments and agenda.
Historically, to “act like a lady” meant to sit down, keep your mouth and thighs shut, smile demurely, and wait patiently until you were told what to think, say, and do. A lady was expected to look pretty, be sweet, and never raise her voice or eyebrows, especially in challenge to anything said by a man.
If suffragettes Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone had “acted like ladies,” we wouldn’t have the right to vote.
If Rosa Parks had “acted like a lady,” the Civil Rights Movement would have taken much longer to gain the momentum needed to end segregation.
If Marie Curie had “acted like a lady“ we would not be able combat cancer through radiotherapy.
If women like track star Babe Didrikson, skater Madge Syers, and tennis great Lucy Diggs Slowe had been satisfied to just sit on the sidelines with their ankles crossed, we would not have modern role models such as the players of the WNBA, mixed martial artist Ronda Rousey, or SI’s Sportsperson of the Year, Serena Williams. On a side note, I seriously doubt the coaches of these awesome athletes ever ended a pep talk with, “Now, get out there and act like a lady.”
If computer trailblazer Grace Hopper, had “acted like a lady” there wouldn’t be the accessible technology that is allowing me to blog right now.
The list goes on and on.
“Acting like a lady” is a huge obstacle when it comes to becoming a bold, brilliant, powerful, passionate woman who is not afraid to speak her mind and follow her heart.
I also have to address the request that the First Lady “play nice.” First off, why play nice when you can just genuinely be nice. The phrase itself implies duplicity.
Also, playing nice will not help will you get ahead, but it will help get you dead. In their article, “Self Defense Myth—Don’t Fight Back or the Attacker Will Become More Enraged and Hurt You Worse," the website SelfDefenseCentral.com explains, “Current evidence is overwhelmingly in favor in most cases of fighting back. So why is this myth still so often prescribed? My theory is that past inadequate training, poor socialization of women, and 'good ole boy' mentality historically conditioned women to play the consummate victim. With all this conditioning to fight against, women in general were typically not empowered to fight back. In fact to the contrary, women were taught to be 'nice' and not make a scene.”
Women, it is time to abandon this antiquated view of the female ideal. We must choose values that empower us while uplifting others, not those lame qualities that were deemed appealing by a patriarchal society where we were underserved, underappreciated, and underestimated.
Instead of striving to “act like a lady,” I will strive to “act like a woman.” Keep your pearls and poise, give me compassion and courage, empathy and ethics, power and purpose, and an open-mind filled with all kinds of original thoughts and controversial opinions, which I shall not be ashamed to voice.
Those who demand I “act like a lady” will see just how unladylike I can behave.
Let's begin with a haiku, shall we?
Yoga, kale, more sleep, less booze.
None kept past midmonth.
I've never been able to keep a resolution, at least not a big one like saving $5,000 or running a marathon or writing for five hours every day. So for 2016, I’ve come up with a baker’s dozen of mini-resolutions. These are small feats that I feel will enrich my life but not take so much time and effort that I become overwhelmed and give up. No hard core, every single day, crazy-making, dread-driven tasks. Instead, just little life enhancers.
1. Choose one go-to karaoke jam, learn all the words, and choreograph some fresh moves to go with it. Right now, I’m leaning toward “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon.
2. Date more. Don't judge, I'm not stepping out on Frank. Quite the opposite. I'm going to make the same effort I did when we were dating. You know, flirt like I don't have a ring. Look at him through lover’s eyes. Plan surprises. Gussie up, just for him, on occasion. Laugh at his jokes instead of rolling my eyes. Go to the movies, share popcorn, and then hold greasy, buttered hands. Maybe do other things with greasy, buttered hands.
3. Reclaim the splits, and then not be afraid to haul them out as an ice breaker at parties.
4. Read outside my comfort zone. Peruse graphic novels and comic books, especially “Batman” so I can join my husband with his “Gotham” obsession.
5. Love my liver. After twenty-five years of living like a frat boy on spring break, it's time to give my liver a vacation. Before you look out the window to witness the flying pigs, let me just clarify, I'm not going to stop imbibing. I'm just going to focus on conscientious consumption. Drink less, but enjoy every sip more.
6. Turn on some tunes, crank up the volume, and dance my ass off…often...and just because.
7. Put that kettle to use and drink a spot of tea. No fancy loose leaf picked by a Peruvian shaman and then steeped in some diamond-inlaid infuser necessary, pre-bagged will do just fine.
8. Master the art of the guilt-free "no." I want to say “no” like a toddler does—loud, proud, with a foot stomp and no remorse.
9. Get a globe and figure out exactly where shit is happening in our world. Also, a globe is a good reminder that we all share one precious planet.
10. Finish “The Queen of Hawthorn Holler”...for real this time. It is time to give this novel wings, push it from the nest, and let it either fly or crash to the ground.
11. Become really competent and comfortable using power tools so I can create driftwood art and build a desk and chainsaw carve a Sasquatch sculpture.
12. Post a You Tube video, and resist the urge to read any of the comments made about it.
13. Blog on a regular basis.
See, I’ve already got a good start on #13. I think this is going to work. 2016...indeed.
First let me say, I’m not exactly sure where the craw is located, anatomically speaking. But, I know when something gets lodged in it, the craw gets chafed, irritated, and the discomfort leaves you perpetually pissed off.
So what has been in my craw for most of 2015? Aside from Donald Trump, of course. That damn State Farm commercial. Every time I see it I ask myself, “Why is this still airing and why hasn’t everyone on the advertising team that created it been fired?” You know the commercial I’m talking about. It starts with the guy at the party who says, “I’m never getting married.” Then, we see him buying an engagement ring. He follows suit with, “I’m never” having a child, living in the suburbs, driving a mini-van, having a second child and then he DOES all of these things. At the end of the ad, he is cuddled on the couch with his adoring family and says “I’m never letting go.” Do you see the fucking problem here? If the rest of the commercial holds true, this means he WILL let go. Whenever he says “I’m never,” he does it. So, his wife better get a good lawyer and second job, because this dude is totally abandoning her and those kids.
For the first time in months, my craw feels clear, and I’m ready to start a brand new year. It's very liberating. I think everyone should give craw clearing a shot.
*If you’re wondering what the above photo has to do with this blog. Nothing, except that Oscar Brown the Meanest Cat in Town obviously has something stuck in his craw…and has since birth.
the bourbonistA, Promoting Debauchery and stamping out political-correctness one blog at a time.