Monday, October 25, 2010

Can I see your ID

The other night at work, my bar was crazy busy and I was completely exhausted. I had stayed up until about 2AM for the two previous nights, then participated in consecutive hours of counseling at the counseling center where I am doing my internship (YAY!), then worked, then stayed up dreadfully late again, then got up and wrangled stuff out of my garage for a yard sale, then worked some more. The last place I wanted to be was behind a bar pouring beer and whiskey for a bunch of rowdy tourists. So when I carded the two black, British men asking for Coronas, I was less than happy when they looked at me and asked, "Seriously? What are you wanting to see?"

Apparently there is no ABC board in the UK, because these men honestly didn't realize that they needed their identification on them in order for me to serve them. I sent them up to their room to retrieve their passports in order to make sure I stayed out of trouble. When they returned and I explained that they couldn't even enter most bars in the area without getting carded they thanked me and placed their order for drinks and dinner. It wasn't until later that I learned that the younger of the two was a rising British pop star signed by Simon Cowell. I later looked him up on YouTube. Pretty talented kid. However, I still think it's funny that they were so perplexed when I asked for their ID. They really had no clue what I was asking for.

Ironically enough, another intern and I are on the schedule to lead an hour long discussion on the college campus where we are interning this week about "Your Identity as a Woman." We have had so many discussions about how to approach this topic, because there are so many things we want to say to these 21 and 22 year old women about this topic. You see, this is a conservative Christian school, and most of these young woman have grown up in conservative Christian households. The generic answer that we are anticipating is "My identity is in Christ." And that's all well and good. In fact, when I was 21 and 22, it's the same answer I would have given. But over the course of the last 8 years, with all of my life experience folded neatly into baggage, I have come to realize that "My identity is in Christ" is a complete cop out. It's all well and good to love Jesus and worship God, but WHO ARE YOU REALLY AND WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?

I gave this answer all those years ago, because I grew up thinking it was who I was supposed to be. It was what was expected of me. And no one ever came right out and said it was ok to be anything else. Since I was never one to rock the boat, I never questioned it. And whether it felt right or not, it's who I said I was. And then, because I could only see this one very narrow path that started with a pretty white dress, and had me pushing a stroller around the bend, I never gave myself permission to go a different way. In all honesty, I don't think it ever occurred to me that there actually was a different way. This was, for all I could see, THE ONLY WAY.

Then life happened harshly, and there was no other option for me than to redefine who I thought I was, who I wanted to be, where I wanted my life to take me, and who I wanted to go there with. It all happened so fast, and at the same time, finding myself has been the longest road.

So in an effort to find some sort of resolution to this question of "What is My Identity As a Woman" I am writing a letter to myself at the age of 22:

Dear Sara,
First of all I want you to know that I'm proud of you for finishing your bachelor's degree. I know you are second guessing your decision to major in interior well you should...bad decision, my friend...but the degree will come in handy exactly two times. Once, when you are picking out paint for your home and you chose the lighter shade because paint always looks darker at home, and then again when you decide to go to grad school. It will be useful in no other way. So just accept that. I wish you knew that you were amazing, and smart, and funny, and pretty, and valuable. But I know you don't. I wish you realized that life is much bigger and much broader than marriage and babies and living like you should. I wish you would go to a party, dance with a frat boy, drink a margarita, and have fun...because you're 22 and you really shouldn't be so worried about doing the right thing all of the time. I wish you realized that your parents were proud of you...and I wish you knew that no matter how badly you screw up they always will be. You'll figure it out one day...but I wish you got it now. I wish you could dream big dreams for your life, instead of limiting yourself the way you do. Go travel, see the world, and then come home with stories to tell! I wish you could relax just long enough to see that you are worth it. I wish you knew that God could see your hurt places and doesn't judge you for them. I wish you knew that He loves you NO MATTER WHAT...because your life will be easier once you figure this out. I wish you knew exactly what you deserved...because if you knew that, you would make different choices. I wish you realized that there are no rules, no boundaries, no limits, and no expectations...because you are the one in charge. I wish you knew what I know. Because if you did, you would love you as much as I do.

But one day you'll get there...and we'll meet up somewhere, shake hands, and have a diet coke...and then I will know that you are ok. And then you will know that I am too. You should know, Sara, that the road is going to be rough for a while...but I will not give up on you.

Whatever you do, just keep going. Because once you catch up to me you'll see that it's about to get so good.


Eight years ago, if someone had asked who I was, I wouldn't have known how to answer them. Now...there's so much to tell, I don't even know where to start.
But at least I know who is in charge of the story.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Please Advise...

The other day I found myself driving behind a mobile memorial. It was a Honda Civic with a large motorcycle shaped cling'em to the back windshield that said In Memory of Robbie, who apparently died in 2006. I know a lot of people do this, but I've honestly never really understood it. Why does it make someone feel better to broadcast their pain on the rear windshield of their car? I have searched all the dusty corners of my brain for some sort of rationalization that makes sense as to why someone would feel compelled to do this, and I've always come up with "'s not my car, so what do I care what they do?" But on this day, the memorial cling'em got me to thinking...and less than a mile later I had mind bloggled.

Over the years, I have been given lots of advice. Most of it I never follow, because usually one of two things happens. I'm either A. Way too stubborn to listen to anyone else, or B. people give stupid advice.

Example for Part A: "Don't get married. You deserve better." Need I say more?

Example for Part B: (After I had a miscarriage) "It's for the best. That child wouldn't have been right." Seriously? That's your pathetic attempt at consolation? Could you please not talk to me anymore? Ever.

But during the course of the last 29 years, there have been three pieces of advice that have stuck with me. The first came from the mouth of a woman that I worked with at a furniture store. She was older, overweight, and jolly. She wore her glasses on a chain around her neck, and I adored her. It was just prior to my marriage to Ex, and she pulled me aside to tell me the one thing that she had learned over the course of marriage, divorce, and marriage. She sat with me one afternoon on a viciously overpriced tufted sofa and said, "You will be in the mood to love at different times. That needs to be ok." She went on to clarify that she wasn't talking about sex, rather the mindset of loving someone. It was a simple piece of advice, but it carved out a place in my memory bank, because for the first time I processed the concept that loving wasn't about a feeling but an action. Over the years, this piece of wisdom has made more sense to me as my perspective on love has shifted and evolved. I get what she was trying to tell me now. Love fits differently from day to day. Some days it's a pair of ill fitting jeans, and some days it's a pair of flannel pajama pants. But each day you put it on one leg at a time and wear it the best way you know how.

The second piece of advice was given to me in a moment after my divorce from Ex. I was struggling with figuring out my new identity as a young, single, christian woman. It was difficult for me to mediate the bickering feud between "good christian" and "single horny female." Within the safety of friendships that left no room for judgement (which are few and far between, might I add) I bared all and shared the frustrating fact that I wanted to be a woman who could love God and have sex at the same time! For a while I navigated these muddy waters fairly easily by talking about dating with these "safe friends" and then going to church and worshipping God like a good little girl on Sunday mornings. It worked pretty well for awhile until the leader of the praise and worship team asked all of the team members to sign a "covenant." I knew as soon as he pulled out the c word I was in trouble. It was pretty much like I expected. Don't wear revealing clothing. Don't show up late to practice. Don't speak ill of church members. And then the scarlet A....Single members will not have sexual relations. Oh. Shit. I struggled for a full week about signing this covenant, because I didn't want to sign something knowing I was going against it. But I didn't want to step down either, because I loved singing on the praise team. The little angel and little devil argued loudly in my mind all week long, until finally one night I sat with my sister and my aunt at my grandmother's table and shared this struggle that had hounded me like a hungry dog for days. I expected a long drawn out discussion, something to assuage my fears or give me clarity on the issue. I needed a long intense discussion about the subject. And my aunt looked at me and said, "Just sign it and do whatever you want." Simple as that. And while many would argue that she was encouraging me to compromise my integrity, what I heard her say was "You are in charge of you." Period. It was the first time anyone had given me permission to think for myself and make my own rules. If I wanted to love God and date I could! If I wanted to worship in peace I could! And if I chose not to piss away my god given sexual peak on years of celibacy, it was MY decision and no one else's! And to this day, whenever life challenges me to own a choice that goes against my upbringing or social acceptance in general, I hear her voice in my head saying, "Just sign it and do whatever you want." And then, to the general fear and chagrin of all of those that love me....I go out and think for myself.

This last piece of advice is the oldest. It dates back to my high school days. I was struggling with feeling lonely and out of place, and as usual I poured my feelings out to my mentor who had heard all of my struggles and self doubts. And in the middle of vomiting up my emotional confusion, I realized I was pouring this grief onto a woman who was undergoing treatment for a recurrence of breast cancer. And in that moment it hit me like a ton of bricks that I was the most selfish human being on the planet. I immediately groveled at her feet for forgiveness. "Here you are dealing with cancer, and I'm whining to you because I'm lonely!?!?! I'm so sorry!" And this amazing woman took her hand and tilted my face up to look at hers, and said, "If it's a big deal to you, then it's a big deal." Her selflessness was almost as beautiful as she was, and this one sentence has made its home in my soul. It has since become part of my mission in working in the field of counseling, because no matter how trivial it sounds when it spills from your lips, if it's a big deal to you, then it's a big deal.

While driving down the street the other day, behind the mobile memorial, I was reminded of this piece of wisdom, given to my by my precious friend. Suddenly, the need for people to plaster their pain on the rear windshield of their car made perfect sense to me. Because it's not just a memorial cling'em to them. It's a reminder, every time they see their car, that there was someone in their life that took up part of their space and part of their being, and their absence has left a hole so big that it's necessary in their hearts to make other people, people driving to Wal Mart, or people on their way to the gas station, aware of the fact that yes, someone is missing.

I got it, because of a pine cone. E gave it to me in the parking lot of daycare one day. He "found" it for me. And we took great care to find the perfect home for it in my car. He gave it to me, because in that moment, he thought I was a pine cone kind of special. Much like I always did with the memorial window cling'ems, there are probably a lot of people that wander past my car, see a random pine cone baking on the dash and think "Why on earth would anyone do that?"

And about 15 years after she first said it, and 6 years after she died, I still rely on her wisdom.

If it's a big deal to you, then it's a big deal. Period.

In other words...You Matter.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Thoughts about Paul

You're probably thinking this is some deep introspective blog about the guy in the Bible. I hate to disappoint you, but it's not that at all. Instead, it's about some guy in a bar.

It's safe to say that the past couple of years have worked overtime at killing the hopeless romantic within me. In fact, there is a budding skeptic trying feverishly to take her place. In recent months the skeptic has even been winning the battles. But the hopeless romantic is quietly waiting in the corner, holding her breath, with the hopes of winning the war.

For the past month, I have been working as a bartender at a local hotel that accommodates mainly business travelers. Any given night of the week, there are any number of them perched at the bar, drinking beer and scotch, and shouting at the TV behind me that is almost always broadcasting some sporting event. Through the weeks, I have gotten to know many of them as "regulars." I know their names, where they come from, what they drink, and often times, why they feel so compelled to drink it.

For example...

Kenny is the red head who drinks Coors Lite. He is quiet, but pleasant, and he cheers for the Cincinnati Reds, caring nothing at all about any other sport. Kenny is recently divorced, and no, he doesn't want to discuss it. So don't ask.

Stan is a divorced millionaire from Denver who drinks Dewars and water and looks like Gene Hackman. By his fourth glass of scotch he begins talking with an Italian accent. If I happen to talk in an Italian accent back to him, I get a $20 tip. I may or may not take advantage of this little bit of knowledge every Monday-Thursday night at 9PM.

Doug is from Philadelphia. He is loud, like a proud yankee should be, but he enjoys the quiet seduction of a good Cabernet. He hates every sport, and instead prefers Dancing with the Stars. He is very much opposed to Germans, although I have yet to understand why. However, it never fails that by the second glass of red, he has mentioned something about the "loud ass Germans" in our very strange conversations.

Sean is from Nebraska...a husker. He is here on business related to the May Flood, and is currently in his last week here. He is a skydiver, and sticks to a low carb diet. Except for liquor. Sean drinks Glenlivet, on the rocks with a side of rocks, and drinks a lot of it. He has a wife, Karen, patiently waiting for him back home, and every night at 8:30PM he gets out his iPhone to give her a call. Sweet, huh? Oh yeah....his girlfriend, Kasey, flew in from Atlanta last week to spend the week with him. She drinks Fuzzy Navels and has an affinity for Coach.

These men have done nothing to aid in the survival of the hopeless romantic.

And then there's Paul. Paul is from Texas, and his smile is as big as the state he calls home. He is a distinguished man, probably pushing 70, but his face wears the excitement of a frat boy on his 21st birthday. Paul wears neatly pressed button down shirts, nice dress pants, polished shoes, and the leftovers of a very pleasant cologne that has been working hard at professionalism since early that morning. He exudes pleasantness, and when he grins, his eyes dance and even his wrinkles smile. Paul wears joy as if it were a pair of Prada sunglasses, and I like my job better when he is on the other side of the bar. Paul's wife is an opera singer who travels frequently, but he smiles when he talks about her. When they have time, they like to go to their vacation home and drink wine and cut limbs of cedar for the fire place. He drinks Corona with a wedge of lime, and every night, he pulls up a seat at the bar, the far left one to be exact, I grab his first Corona and ask him what he would like to have for dinner that night. He always gets a lettuce wedge, and often accompanies it with a ribeye, medium, or a plate of crab cakes.

Over the weeks Paul has gotten to know me as well as I know him, and he asks to see the newest pictures of E and keeps tabs on my love life. This past week, the night before he would be flying back to Texas for the weekend, he asked what I had going on this weekend. I told him I had a few days off work and I planned to let a nice boy take me out on a date. (Stay tuned for a blog about that, I'm sure.) Upon hearing that I had romantic plans, Paul became grandfatherly protective, and he asked 10 kinds of questions about the "character of this young man." He wanted to know if he was good enough for me. I assured him that I felt positive that he was, and when he signed the tab for the evening, he looked at me and said, "I want to know all about it next week!"

Then, Sunday night, as I was putting my money in the hotel office and returning the bar keys to the front desk, I walked out of the door to see Paul checking in for the week, button down shirts on hangers in his hand. He saw me and his eyes lit up. "Sara! How was (lowering his voice) your date?" I replied that it was wonderful, and he said, "How about a date with me at the bar tomorrow night at 7PM? I want to hear all about it."

The next night, at 7PM, I pulled a Corona out of the cooler as Paul walked around the corner. He pulled up his usual seat, placed his dinner order, squeezed the lime into his beer, and leaned forward asking, "So?" I filled him in on the fun of my weekend, him smiling the entire time. And in that moment I was struck by his happiness and obvious joy. So I asked him, "Paul, why are you so happy?"

He looked at me like he was about to tell me a secret, so I leaned forward a little. "I have absolutely NOTHING to complain about. Loving my wife is the easiest thing on the planet. My world is better because of her, because everywhere she goes, she makes bright brighter. I am just damn lucky."

Silently, the hopeless romantic in me replied, "Wow. I hope someone talks about me like that someday."

And then as if Paul had heard me, he leaned in further, reached across the bar, took my hand, and met my eyes with his. "Do you know why I eat in the bar every night?"

"No...why?" I replied.

"Because you remind me of her. Some guy out there has no idea how lucky he is going to be one day."

And just like that, the hopeless romantic exhaled.

There was nothing left to do but reach for another Corona, and grab a wedge of lime.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Other G Spot

I have noticed a pattern in my life. I blog about it for the world to see...and then completely abandon my blog for weeks at a time. The response to this is a deep sense of guilt, like I am an infidel to the blog gods, and my cousin posting on facebook that she is going to send the blog police after me. I wish I could blog more consistently, simply because when I gather up all of my thoughts and box them up nicely in my corner of the internet, I feel a little bit lighter. However, life, lately has not been conducive to sitting around boxing up thoughts. There's just been no time for that.

I have spent the last few weeks in the hasty throws of "I think my life might make me cry." Nothing terribly bad is happening. Nothing at all. In fact, many good things have come to light. It's just that I have been So. Terribly. Busy. I have started my internship for grad school, which means that about 15 hours a week I am getting paid absolutely nothing to sit in a counseling center and counsel mostly young woman who are also in some precarious stage of "I think my life might make me cry." And about 38 hours a week I am behind a bar making concoctions with Jack Daniels and dry vermouth that sound absolutely disgusting, but some 60 year old businessman from Denver thinks are worth $8 a pop. And another 5 or so hours are spent in supervision for my internship. And then a number of hours, which I hesitate to try and quantify for fear that the lowness of said number will make me actually want to slit my wrists, are spent mothering the most delightful little "shree year old" on the planet. Thankfully, he seems so happily distracted by the fullness of his life that he hasn't yet realized what a crap mom he has. He is too elated by the fact that he just found me an awesome shaped rock in the parking lot to care that yet again, he is getting dropped off somewhere. But I know...which is why I have numerous little treasures that E found in some parking lot somewhere in all of the little nooks and crannies of my car. And it is also exactly why they will stay there.

The past two weeks have been crammed full of busy-ness to the point that I was having to plan what time and where I would shower a couple of days ahead of time. The volcanic eruption of thoughts in my head sounded something like this: Ok...I'm leaving work now, so when I get home I need to put my clothes directly in the washer-don't forget to feed the cat while you're out didn't feed her yesterday...and you won't be home DON'T FORGET...-then take a shower, but don't wash your hair-your hair looks better when it's a day old-and don't forget to put the clothes in the dryer before you go to sleep because then you'll be fucked-and tomorrow you have to be in class at 8-and you were supposed to turn in that assignment, but since it didn't upload don't forget to tell your professor and leave him a copy-did you feed the cat?-Washer's not done yet, but don't forget to put your clothes in the dryer so that tomorrow you can get up and be out of the house by 7. Don't forget to put your work clothes in your car in the morning...because you'll only have 30 minutes between class and work, so you can change right before you leave. Then when you get off work go stay at your moms because E will be there and then the NEXT day you can wake up with him and take him to school. Don't forget it's Red Day at make sure he has something red to wear. And he needs to take something for Show and Tell. And your mortgage is due by the end of the week, so if you don't spend any money between now and 4 days from now and you get your paycheck on Friday, you can send in your mortgage just in time. Ok...sounds good. Go to sleep. Two hours later....did you remember to put the clothes in the dryer???

My mind has been a madhouse. But this weekend, I hit a nice little spot of "good." A g-spot if you will. Everyone who needed to be counseled was counseled. E was sent off to school, items for show and tell in hand, to be picked up by his dad for the weekend. And I was OFF WORK. It was the first opportunity in two weeks to not run around bathed in my own insanity, to not feel like I was one "oh dear lord the sky is not as blue as it should be" away from tears, to not feel like I could breathe. So I spent time with my friend, slept in, did some laundry, took a long shower, cooked a nice meal, drank a bit of an adult beverage, painted my toenails, read a little of my book, went to see a movie...and blogged.

It may not sound like much...

...but I feel like God has dripped mercy, drop by precious drop into the marrow of my bones. I feel like life has paused just long enough for me to inhale and exhale deeply, and be aware again of the little benign noises of my home. I feel like normalcy has wrapped itself around me like a nice fuzzy blanket. I feel like I have been given the sweet reminder of what it feels like to sit on the couch and think long and hard about what I would like to do I did it. And when the answer was "nothing" I put my book down, curled up with normalcy and took a freaking nap.

Dear Lord,
I am thankful for the direction of my life. I'm thankful for the path that I am on and that this time next year I will look back and say "it was so worth it." I'm thankful that my life has a purpose and that I am well on my way to experiencing it. I'm thankful for the busy-ness, because it means that I am going somewhere. But thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me a refreshing pocket of "good." Thank you for good company, a light movie, a tasty meal, a nice little buzz, freshly painted toes, and an updated blog. I am so very thankful for this time. Amen.

As g-spots go, this one was pretty easy to find.