Thursday, October 30, 2014

Everyone's Loss

Well, I got my vent out. I REALLY needed that. I have this insane desire to be ‘heard’ sometimes. It’s not totally that; it's when I feel I’m being…stifled. I cannot stand feeling like I'm being shut up or shut down. I had to let it out. I needed to "vent my hurt after not being able to address it with the person who needed to hear it."  (I used your words, J. Nicely said.)

And I did. And I felt better.

And then I felt…numb.  Which was a nice change for the moment.

Now? Now I am just…sad.  An all-the-way-down-to-my-bones…heavy…quiet…sadness.

I know what I did wrong. I chased after someone who decided to walk away. Because he didn’t tell me what he was doing, I would not believe it until I was formally told. And when I wasn’t, I waited…and waited…and got resentful. I needed to hear what was going on, refusing to see the signs, allowing hope on a good day. We all have our “things.” I believed it was a temporary bump in the road, and sat back asking very little and getting less. I would “lash out” (his words). Yes. I would, when he didn’t give what was promised, as little as it was. I saw how my push could make it worse, too.

We are not communicating anymore. The wall has been built, locked, BLOCKED (I had to throw that in! :) ), the door is shut. “Just somebody that I used to know” is repeating itself in my head.  And I understand, too.

We have our ‘pat phrases’ or ‘standards’ that we say to cover certain situations. Funerals…weddings…sickness…hard times… and of course, break-ups. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing; I've been guilty of saying many of them myself. They are meant to acknowledge and show support in situations when there is really nothing that can be said.

I’ve been getting them now.

One of the common ones is that “He’ll never find anyone like you.” That particular phrase I don’t subscribe to. I’ve never said it to anyone, about me or anyone else. But I’m bringing it up because someone recently told me a rather funny story about it that puts it in a different perspective for those who think like that:

  • “Anyway, I was grousing to Crazy Tommy about how “she’ll never find anyone like me” and he started laughing hysterically. “What’s so funny?” I asked. “That comment that she’ll never find anyone like you,” he said between laughs. “Yeah, well it’s true,” I said incredibly defensively and arrogantly. “It may be, but the other truth is she’s not going to look for somebody like you. She doesn’t want somebody like you,” he said. “She had somebody like you and then left somebody like you. Why would she do that just to go find somebody else like you?”

I'd never heard it put like that, but that is basically what I believe. We all can't be everyone's 'cup of tea,' you know. (heavy sigh)  

There are two that are more common:

The first is that “you’ll find someone else.”  I always laugh at that one. I was never looking, and I’m not going to start now, just because of this.

I have a great analogy (I’ve been coming up with some good ones lately. Lol. Tooting my own horn, there) in response to that:

I love my car. No, I FUCKING love my car. I’m so happy with it that if I ever won the lottery I would just fix it up and add heated seats. And because I am so happy with my car, I don’t look at any others. And then one day, I looked at another car at the instigation of a friend. I never would have considered looking at it, otherwise. There was no reason to; I was VERY happy with what I had. And I not only looked at the other car, I took it for a test drive—and fell in love with it. For one moment, I thought I was going to be able to get it. And then I found out I couldn’t. And I went back to my own car, still very happy with it, but things had changed. I found myself still wishing I could have that other car and unable have the same enjoyment with the car that I had been so happy with. I'm resentful that the other car was shown to me, because ignorance is truly bliss. If I didn’t take it for a test drive, I never would have known I wanted it.

That was me. Happy Before. Missing Nothing. Then I was shown something I wasn’t aware of, something that I didn’t know I wanted until it was dangled in front of my face.

If I hadn’t been shown, I would still be blissfully ignorant and happy, and not feeling now like I am missing something.

I am missing something. And I don’t want to be.

I can’t look even back and smile at the good times. (They weren’t just good. They were wonderful and beautiful.)

But right now, I need to go back to where I was. Ignorant and happy. And pretend it never happened.

I have to pretend it never happened...

The other, and most common phrase heard in this situation is:

“It’s his loss.”

--First of all, I am not thinking about his loss; I am thinking about my own.

But beyond that, I have to say that we all lost something. Everyone loses something when this happens. I can’t define what he may have lost; but the bottom line is that there is always a loss when something ends. I know my kids lost something, too. They got attached; probably more so because they were aware of my own investment (This is why my kids are NEVER part of my private life. But I thought this was different—no, it was different). And they lost the ignorant me.

I lost the obvious. But it was more than that. There had been a great friendship there, too. And that is gone. And I treasure good friendships.

And I do understand.

But the loss is still there.


And to the Universe:
No matter that I didn’t want this to happen at all
No matter that I was hurt again by having to wait so long
No matter that it was handled coldly
I finally was told what I needed to hear.
For that,
Thank you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The UGLY Side of Me

Breaking up is EASY to do. Just follow this strategy.

I finally got my formal walking papers. Yeah, it hurt (Duh). I will say it is definitely better to know than to be strung along. However, I still couldn’t understand why it took so long. This is a major flaw of mine (and one of many). My father—who taught me many things not to do in a relationship—did have one good strategy that was fair and effective in any situation: “Nip it in the bud.” If you see a problem, address it. That can be extremely difficult when the other party makes themselves scarce. However, it can prevent longer term problems, more wasting of time, and prevent an actual argument later. I don’t understand what is so hard about just letting someone know how you feel. Especially since we had already talked about such a situation. Before we were anything, we discussed relationships and breakups, and even covered how bad it is to play the avoidance game. Yet I found myself a co-player in that very game, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt that that was not what was going on. Yes, that makes me an idiot. And more pathetic, because I’m trying to have a conversation—an effective form of communication that resolves problems in a timely manner—with someone who’d rather not. In the female/male scenario, the girl ends up reacting to the male’s non-participation with anger and pleading, allowing him justification of his non-communication. It’s a classic, timeless scene. One I should have immediately acknowledged and dealt with to avoid allowing myself to be hurt more. My bad, my shame, my hurt pride.

And anger. At myself and at him. His avoidance and unwillingness to talk allowed tension to develop that never needed to be there, culminating in a…discussion that was used as the ‘reason’ why nothing would ever be able to be resolved, in any way. “Because we have reached this point, nothing else matters.” Unfair. We never would have ‘reached this point’ if you had opened your mouth and been straightforward, honest, and communicative sooner. I was hurt, angry, numb and drained all at once, so I sat down and tried to write out my thoughts, but I couldn’t find the words—correction: I found PLENTY of words, just not the right ones. So I got up from my computer to think. And I went to unclog the toilet (I thought it was apt). Sometimes, they are all full of shit, aren’t they? (That was a vent. I will not allow myself to continue to generalize unfairly.)

I decided to look to an expert for help.  Unfortunately Dr. Ruth and Dr. Phil are out of my budget.  Nora Ephron would have been ideal, but sadly she is no longer here. If she could write such respectful and humane break-ups, they must exist. But then I remembered, too, that she believes in open communication. So I decided to speak to a qualified representative of ‘the other side.’ I thought it might help me understand. On such short notice, I was only able to get this person:

He didn’t so much help me, of course, knowingly misunderstanding what I was asking, and instead gave an outline on his perspective of how to handle this type of situation. Although the strategies outlined are more for the person who wants to effect this form of non-communication, this can be of help to people like me in the future, who are forced to ‘read the signs’ instead of being faced directly: 

Argument Strategy: The Breakup
By The Cowardly Lion

How to retain control of a discussion, to ensure not technically losing the argument. This is used as a means of finally facing a discussion one has been avoiding for some time. Like, “Hey I’ve been unfair to you and I choose not to talk about it and accept any responsibility for it, but if I have to…”

(This type of discussion works best if you are having it with a fucking moron that you’ve been able to continuously put off with the word “later” who refused to ‘take the fucking hint, already.’ At this point now, you are essentially giving them a gift, right?)

For the situation to have reached this level, you have avoided any and all conversation with this person, with the exception of random statements that have never directly addressed anything that was said to you or anything personal. By this time the other person will be ready to give an ultimatum or just leave. Even better! All you have to do is accept their resignation –and you may even get out of having to talk!

But if you HAVE to:

Control the environment:
  • Good:   The other person’s playing field. You won’t have to forcibly evict anyone and you can just walk out after you’ve staged your exit. 
  • Better: Neutral, public turf has the added advantage of hopefully controlling the other party's emotional outbursts. Your exit is still secure.
  • Best:      Text or Facebook Messages… Allows the camouflage of a computer screen or phone. You never have to even face your accuser! This keeps things impersonal (because, hey, they don’t matter anyway), allows for limited conversation, and if you are caught off guard, you are allowed time to regroup. This will also ensure to anger the other person—what better way to avoid facing the hurt you caused? Not only this, you can have it over and done with in a relatively short time. You have an extra ten minutes you can waste, right?
Have your speech prepared. Make sure the words are formal. Stick to your script no matter what is said.

Never allow direct conversation, even if the other person requests it.

Anger is a useful tool. If you can make the other person angry, you can avoid having to deal with any hurt you may have caused.

REMEMBER, keep it formal. Here is an example:

“It is very clear to me that I am in no way capable of having a relationship. I know there is no in-between, which may explain my actions or lack thereof.” (No one can argue with black and white logic, right? AND, you never have to admit anything!)

--At this point the moron on the other end will probably call you on the fact that you just did this in a text, express some sorrow at how you handled it and how hurt she is. Statistics show that 9 times out of 10 she will also get angry, which gives you your edge/opening when she tells you.

          “Well, duh. (insert smiley face)” 

(Play cute. Piss her off more with the emoticon.)

“I’m not sure I have felt this way long, but, I am not relationship material…period…and how I have acted proves it. Every word you say proves it.”

(Again, using logic in a general sense absolves you of the responsibility of directly answering to or acknowledging how unfair your treatment may have been. Partial acknowledgment is enough, right? And, hey, you admitted she was right, too. She should be happy with that.)

Remember: Show no respect to the other person as someone you have ever held in any esteem. Keep it all as impersonal as if you were having this conversation with your mailman—no, you give him Christmas cards don’t you?—the random stranger who sat next to you at a seminar.

NOTE: The goal here is to set the stage to make the other person angry enough to walk away first. This is by far the fastest way. If you can do that, you’re gold. If not:

  • Make sure to NEVER bring up anything specific. The more general you keep it, the more you can absolve yourself of responsibility and humane acknowledgment. And in doing so, you will ensure raising the other person’s ire.
  • Offer to give personal gifts back. This shows you have ‘no hard feelings’, and if the other person says no, then you can easily dispose of them. (Of course, if the other person says yes, they may try to actually get them to meet you face to face. Be careful with this tactic.)
  • Do NOT engage in any actual conversation. Do not allow the other party the introduction of any of their own logical commentary or anything that will force you to deviate from your script, or ‘respond’.

After you've recited the full script--with token, "generous," occasional allowances for the other party's response--say Goodbye.

You started it, you controlled it, and you ended it--all on your terms!

**I should probably mention that this information was not told to me directly, and sent over the internet, instead.

NOW, I will insert my own commentary. I was foolish enough to be played this far in. And I’m foolish enough to want to express myself:
  • This tactic isn’t as useful if you were the one to initiate every aspect of the relationship, including the discussion of future plans.

  • The other party may be emotionally invested, but occasionally even in that state she may have moments of clarity. Stick to the script, even if she calls you out on what you are doing.

  • Be careful not to push her anger too far. She may say something that actually hits a nerve. Something like a reminder that you have a child that you wouldn’t want to see put through this type of situation. If she does have the balls to ‘go there’, take a deep breath, count to ten, and respond with how adult you are and that you will not react in anger to someone ‘you care about’ (This is the only time something personal is allowed. But don’t let it continue; it should be used as more of a distractive tactic, and not to engage further real-ness.) And NEVER acknowledge the truth in that statement, not even to yourself.

But I do have an even crazier idea that may be put aside for future use:

Be up front and honest from the beginning. This will save everybody time in the long run. Even you.

For me, I will now never assume that effective communication is a given with anyone, even someone who appears adept in it. I will learn to read action, no matter what is said in contradiction. I will pull up my big-girl panties, and move on.

And for whomever doesn’t like what I have to say: Suck it up, Cupcake.

I had to. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Greetings From a Hopeless Romantic Fool

I’d like to interrupt my normally scheduled tirade of opinions with more of my own ‘issues’ (part of my contractual obligation with the Universe).

You know that shitty feeling you get after you feel that someone has fooled you? It’s even worse when you realize you’ve done it to yourself (especially if it happens right after they’ve finished with you).

A few months ago (pre-exposure) someone called me a ‘hopeless romantic’—and I was offended a little. I didn’t want anyone to think of me like that, it’s too weak-sounding. I’d rather be considered a hardass. Since then, I’ve been dealing with a few painful truths about myself. I’ve also found some fun things about me, little idiosyncrasies that I’m beginning to embrace in a way that tells me I’m finally beginning to take myself seriously—all of me, and not just what I want to be seen. I even had a bit of an epiphany.

Yay, me.

After much thought, serious internal seesawing, more thought, ripping off a band-aid and exposing myself more (and still hurting more), I admit it. I am a hopeless romantic. I do believe in happy endings (get your mind out of the gutter).

And I am a fool. I’m so fucking convincing I can make myself believe anything I want to believe. About anyone. MAYBE, even, I was never fooled by anyone. Maybe it was always me fooling myself.

You know what? It’s ok. Well, it will be. I just have to start using my powers better.

Balance is a funny thing—and probably something I will never achieve. The Libra curse. Some days (Ha—only some!) I’m like a damn pendulum, back and forth, one extreme to the other. But I’m aware of it. And maybe I can begin to minimize the distance between ends, slowly getting nearer to balance. At least a little. Before I die. That’s not too much to ask, right?

I don’t want to be hard anymore. And I don’t want to be angry or cynical, either. I have to be honest, I am still fighting that. Every fucking day; epiphany notwithstanding. (It has helped, though.)

Why do I feel the need to be heard? To explain myself? Do I think it’s going to change how you think about me? Make you like me? Or love me?

Why are you even reading this?

(Couldn’t help myself there! J )

I get a little extra verbal when I feel—

Forget it. I’m ALWAYS extra verbal.

I want to be understood. I want to be listened to. I want someone to care enough to listen to me when I talk.

Have you ever been on stage, or in the middle of a sporting arena, and looked out into the audience for that one person who wasn’t there to see you, to be there for you? (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, there’s a scene like that in plenty of movies.) That’s what I’ve been feeling like.

I question that a lot. Fuck it; I question everything. But my first thought about that is, “Why?” Because I do have people around me, who understand me, listen to me…who want to be there with me. Why can’t I appreciate that? I mean, I do, but…why can’t I appreciate it more? Why isn’t it enough? How is it that I can let one situation fuck with my head so much?

Because I believed. Whether or not it was someone else fooling me, or just me all along, I believed.

Belief is a powerful thing. It is the basis for the idea that our thoughts create our existence. It is the reason that so many people use affirmations daily, and that others think they’re a waste of time. It all comes down to what you believe. It is the reason that someone that everyone else thinks has everything would take his or her own life. Whatever we believe is our own truth.

I’m wrestling with my own truths now. But, now knowing my own fantastical powers of persuasion, I can turn them on myself (again—but I’ll try to do better this time, and be a little more conscious about it).

I have to believe in myself more. I have to value myself more. I’ve found that I can have a tendency to separate myself from “everyone else,” where I can allow certain things for others that I realize I don’t believe in for me. Sort of like the idea of believing in miracles, but never expecting them to happen ‘here’. A reverse arrogance, I suppose. You can be or do or have whatever you want—remember, I’m everyone else’s fucking cheerleader. Maybe it’s time to be my own. And to really believe what I say.

Why do I watch the happy endings of movies all the time? Just the endings? Over and over again. Or read the ending of a good book over and over? It makes me feel good. Without cynicism.

I’m not going to let myself get hard. I’m trying to close the distance and separation I feel. In spite of everything, I believe in love, of all kinds.

I believe I need to work on acceptance.

--and patience (that fucking word again).

I will work more on gratitude. I will focus on what is really there, and not what isn’t.

I will believe in good, and love and miracles…for everyone…for myself.

And like Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman: “I want the fairy tale.” Because I believe in fairy tales.

There. I’ve admitted it. To the internet (that makes it binding).

So, I’m a hopeless romantic, and a fool. And soft. I guess I can live with that (I’m going to have to, right?). And so very lucky to have so many loving people around me. I do know they are there, even if I don’t always act like it.

I will try to have more patience (!!!) with myself. I will also try to limit my expectations only to myself and what I can do.

…I have so much to work on…(heavy sigh)…

--but I will still be “offering” my opinions on everything.

Believe that.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Mother Nature is a Bitch. Just Sayin'. (TMI for you boys)

After a couple of months without a visit from Mother Nature I was all set to do the Menopause Happy Dance. Had my outfit picked out and everything. And then She had to go and let me know she wasn't done with me yet. She even gave me the 'gift' for my birthday, and then again this week, just two weeks later. 

That was probably my fault; I did say I was going to celebrate the whole month.

Of course, I don't remember inviting her.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Weight of its Release

There’s a saying that you don’t feel how heavy a burden can be until you feel the weight of its release. We carry around things that bother us, allowing them to continue to hurt us. We carry around the wrongs that we’ve done or that we feel others have done to us, making them a part of our daily lives where the rest of our thoughts and actions become reactions. Most of the time we don’t even realize we're doing it. A lot of times, the letting go of it happens almost imperceptibly, very gradually over a period of time and one day we realize that we feel better about it, or at least not as bad. Hence the phrase, “Time heals all wounds.”

And then there’s the other let-go: the epiphany.

Let me take a moment to say that word three or four times. Epiphany. e-PIPH-any. e-pi-PHANY. (Some words are just fun to say!)

Merriam-Webster defines epiphany as:
1.       a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something;
2.       an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking;
3.       an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure. defines it as:
1.       a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

The operative word or theme here with an epiphany is “sudden.”

We all have experiences that mark us in some way, good or bad. When we’re dealing with the experiences that are not so desirable, sometimes we tend to “celebrate” them more. We wear our scars as badges in a way, and let them define us. They can also confine us; by becoming a comfort zone (we may not be happy there, but there is comfort in its familiarity), and by limiting our allowance to enjoy ourselves fully. And we don’t step out of it for fear of being hurt or made to feel uncomfortable again.

What ends up happening is that we either grow more fully into it over time, limiting our happiness even more, or we gradually grow out of it/move on/accept it/get over it/deal with it/suck it up.

I’d like to say something about the word “acceptance”: it may not mean what you think it means, or at the very least it can mean more than you think. To be able to deal with a situation that we perceive to be negative, we have to accept it for what it is. Many people can insist they have accepted something, yet they become vocally belligerent against it at the mere mention of it. That is not acceptance, and that is proven by the verbal protest. True acceptance is not only acknowledging the reality of the situation/condition that is usually negative or uncomfortable, but not attempting to change it or protest it in any way. If you are still negative about that situation in any way, you have not fully accepted it. If talk of it, or seeing a person involved in it, or any trigger of it causes a negative reaction you, you have not accepted it.

We’ve all had experiences we’ve moved past in some way, with or without acceptance. We get older, time passes, and we realize something that once hurt us didn’t anymore. Or, we have the epiphany (epiphany, epiphany, epiphany…) and all at once everything is fine. It’s important to not only recognize that when it happens, but to celebrate it as well. We should celebrate and be grateful for anything that makes us feel better.

I’ve had two moments that I have considered epiphanies; one last year, and the other just two days ago. While there are many different situations that can be unpleasant to us, both of my instances had to do with my feelings of being treated unfairly by another person. We’ve all been through it, and I’ve been through it many times before myself. What sets these two instances apart from the rest was in each case the instant realization that I had the moment I was released from the negativity of it. It was an incredibly physical feeling of suddenly not being hurt by it anymore. I am obviously a late bloomer if I never noticed anything like this before in my 40+ years. But I have to talk about it, because the feeling was and is still incredible. “The weight of its release.” Wow.

When I mentioned my unhappiness at being treated unfairly by another person, I am aware that it stems from my own expectations of how I expect the other person to act. Sometimes our expectations are based on assumptions we’ve made of the other person, sometimes they have to do with the assumption that somebody else will act the same way/say the same thing/do the same thing as we would, and sometimes they are based on the past precedent—the way that person had treated us previously. My expectations had to do with my previous treatment. People change. People change their minds. Accepting that is very hard. So is letting go of expectations. Technically, or maybe in a sense, expectations should not exist. Sylvia Plath said, “If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.” This is a tough line to walk. Sometimes we don’t realize we have expectations of other people until they do something that surprises us—and usually, that surprise is a disappointment. On the other hand, an expectation of someone is almost (almost) a sort of “benefit of the doubt,” and a measure of support that shows we believe the other person is capable of something positive, even if it is only the ability to treat someone else fairly.

I have so much to say on that subject. I’ll be writing more about that later.

I cannot change anyone else. I cannot control how they act. I can only control myself—or try to—and my reactions. This is not new information to me or anyone else, yet it is still not easy to fully accept—or to accept it almost in terms of an acquiescence or surrender, where we just stop fighting it. I think that is along the same lines as the inner battle many of us have with the idea of forgiveness, that by forgiving someone (or by becoming accepting of the way they are) we are showing tolerance or allowance for their actions against us. “You hurt me, you should either make it up to me or pay for it.” That’s a double–edged sword right there: it is based in pride and judgment (which is never good) and it is an emotion that holds us, ourselves, hostage for however long we hold on to that feeling.

There are ways of dealing with disappointment in other people or situations. First, there is distance, you can remove yourself from the situation. Sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you feel that it is something that can be worked through, but you won’t know until you try. Only you know the worth of something or someone to you to be able to make the decision to try to change a situation with that person, and only you can decide when or if the time is right to leave it alone. I remember reading a book a long time ago (I can’t even remember what it was) that suggested using the element of the ridiculous to change the way you perceive something: “Oh look, he said he was going to do that yesterday and didn’t do it until today, how cute is that?” While that is ridiculous, it is an extreme take on the idea that by changing our own thoughts, we can change our perceptions, expectations and, eventually, our reality—which I DO believe (there will be more on that later, as well).

Whatever the case or reason, I woke up Friday morning with a noticeable feeling of surrender to a situation that has been hurting me for some time (and, yes, coloring every other aspect of my daily existence), and with that feeling of acceptance was a palpable feeling of relief. With relief comes peace. I had not felt that in a while. I am obviously the type of person that needs to be hit over the head with something before I notice it. This was one of those hit-on-the-head moments. And it felt good. “The weight of its release.” All of a sudden, I was ok. No, the situation has not changed, and I don’t have what I had wanted out of it. But I’m good. While I still have hope, my hope is for nothing specific and nothing dependent on that other person; my hopes and expectations are solely dependent on me, to be happy again, fully happy like I was before. And I will be because I can see my own improvement daily. And I don’t expect too much of myself either; progress is not always a direct route upwards. I may have moments of not feeling that peace; however by the simple fact that I have experienced it I know it is possible, and if I had it once I can have it again.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Universe for epiphanies in general, and my awareness that I have had and am able to have them (I would also like more, please, when I need them!). Sometimes, being hit on the head is a good thing. And once more, I would like to express my delight in just saying the word: epiphany…epiphany…epiphany (that word is almost as much fun as Ogallala)!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Nick's Tavern, the North End, Maria and my FRIENDS

I'm part of a group of friends that try to get together for poker once a month; it doesn’t always happen that often, though, but we try. Sometimes there’s too many of us to play any seven-card games, and sometimes we just have enough to play Whist. It doesn’t matter how many are there—it’s always loud and the majority of the conversation would probably offend many (Italians tend to have unique ways of saying everything). And we eat, play poker, and laugh. And laugh.

And laugh.

I met them all in 1991 through my “First Ex,” Michael, when he and I owned a bar in the North End of Boston. He was born and raised there, and so were they. I was the outsider. They were strange creatures who lived with their parents until they were 30 (what???) and got their driver’s licenses well after the 16 and ½ that my own demographic peers and I salivated waiting for. I know what they thought of me, too; they’re not shy, either.

I’m not unfamiliar with the Italian ways. I’m Italian. But my family moved out of the city when I was 6 to a suburb south of Boston and I became more of a “weekend Italian.”

For whatever reason, they liked me and accepted me as one of their own (who can question their judgment? They’re crazier than I am!). Unless you’ve ever barged in on an ‘inner circle’ of a small neighborhood, you won’t understand how big a deal it was when Mike and I split up and they remained friends of mine (I’ve written before about the “custody battle” he and I had over Maria. It was HUGE. None of them were supposed to stay friends with me because they were “his friends first.”)

We had Nick’s Tavern for almost 7 years. It was the best little bar. You could almost have called it a “family” bar. Of course, taking our toddler Deren for walks in her stroller downtown and Faneuil Hall could be a little embarrassing when she would point to and loudly announce all of the beer and liquor signs she saw.

Those years were also the roughest for me. To say my relationship was rocky is downplaying the truth. I’ve written about that before; I won’t elaborate now. I’ll just say we were fighting a lot of demons.

And his/my friends kept me sane—well, they just kept me.

After Mike and I split in ‘98 and I moved out of the city again in 2001 it was harder to stay in touch. I married my “Second Ex,” Adam then, had another child…you know how it goes. It wasn’t until Michael’s mother passed in 2009, when we were all together at the funeral that we planned to start playing poker again, once a month at Maria’s house in North Square.

It was exactly like they say, that "no time at all had passed". Because Adam and I were driving 40 miles from Taunton, they would accommodate our schedule first. Michael came to a few of them, but his schedule prevented him from making it to too many until last year.

This was taken in May of 2013 at Maria's new place (and 3 years after Adam and I split up). How many other women could be playing poker between her two exes like this and look happy? And we were all with "our" friends. Of course, everyone else said the guys were smiling because they didn’t have to put up with me anymore! Maybe so, but everyone is smiling. I really should frame this.

Maria passed a year ago last week. The day of the funeral was surprisingly warm for October, and after the reception we spent the remainder of the day sitting around a table in front of Starbuck’s on Atlantic Avenue and we just talked. And, still, we laughed. They made fun of me—and themselves—for allowing an ‘outsider’ in. I love all of them, no matter what they call me. J

We played poker again tonight, for the first time in a couple of months, making extra effort to be able to get together this week, for Maria. We laughed all night. (Turned the air blue, too.)

Friendship is so very important. I can’t say that enough. With them, and because of them, I can laugh at many things that happened during those years. How many people can look back at periods of their lives that they considered their darkest and laugh—really laugh? We have some great memories and we are making more. I’ve said ad nauseam and will probably continue ad infinitum how grateful I am for the friends that I have around me, and how lucky I know I am.

My father finally retired and now has time to spend with friends; he talks about this new chapter of his life, how much he enjoys it. When I hear how excited he gets I sometimes wish he had this sooner. That only underlines to me the importance of having good friends, and being able to spend time with them. I’m constantly pushing my older daughter to go out and make friends all the time, because I don’t want her to miss out.

You will never be alone when you have good friends. Whether you see each other all the time or only sporadically, you know they’re the good ones when it seems like no time has passed since you last saw them and you always pick up where you left off. Donna and I have been together since we were 6. That’s 41 years now (she LOVES when I say that)! And I have a close circle around me now of real friends comprised of high school classmates, co-workers and Friends I Met On Facebook. And I have my North End friends. And the friends I met when I worked in Mississippi for 2 months two years ago and we still keep in touch. (They may be surprised how often I think of them. I had a great time with them.) And I have friends that I can only keep in touch with on the Internet, because of the distance we live apart (and even job schedules). I love Facebook. Did I mention how lucky I was? I am, truly. I may say that a lot. Deal with it. It’s the truth. The people around me are good people. You all played a part in who I am and how I am (credit or blame, you decide). And I really do love you.

To my North End friends: you are a wonderful and insane group of people. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for the constant laughter. I love you, you “____”! (I will not insert their word here; it’s even worse than my favorite word ‘fuck’!)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

If I Show You Mine, Will You Show Me Your…Playlists?

What's on your playlist? Taste in music is a funny thing; it's the same and different for everyone.

Am I a music snob? Yes and no. I don’t have enough actual technical musical background to know all the terms for instrumentation or even the terminology of the full breakdown of songs--

But I do have opinions.


(About everything!)

I’ve written about music and concerts before. I call music the “Universal Leveler.” When people listen to music together they are all the same and all one. Just look around an audience at a concert; it is easy to pick out any two people that you know would not hang out together on a weekend—but watch them sitting next to each other at a concert they are both enjoying and see the easy friendship that is between them for that time (the same can be said about people watching sporting events, but only to some extent because of the rivalry involved). Look around when an audience is enthralled. Everyone has the same look on their face. They sing together. They dance together. They are together.

Back to my opinions (it always comes down to that, doesn’t it?):

I don’t like listening to songs recorded ‘live.’ I only like live music when I’m there in person to hear it, or watch it on video. Being at a concert and feeling music is sexy, and I’m fascinated watching people play instruments—their talent is enviable. But when I want to go out dancing, I want to hear the song I know as I know it, recorded, without anyone else’s influence on the song. There can be one or two exceptions, but if I know I’m going out to dance there had better be a jukebox or DJ there. This does not mean, though, that I won’t just start dancing (or singing) anywhere if the mood strikes, whether the music is live or recorded (I love supermarkets and elevators). I don’t care for live bands at weddings, because I like to dance at weddings. I wasn’t the little girl who planned her wedding years in advance, but when I got older I did realize that I had 3 ‘rules’ for my own wedding, if I ever got married, and one of them was that it HAD to be a DJ and not a band (the other two were that I did not want chicken cordon bleu on the menu and that coffee must be served the entire time—I hated being at a wedding, seeing the full creamer on the already-set table and not getting that damn teeny-tiny cup of coffee until after the cake was served). When I did get married, I spent more time communicating with the DJ than anyone else—the poor guy!

If I fall in love with a song, I make everyone around me listen to it (with a full lecture on what makes that song special), but as much as I will share music it is also very personal to me. If someone ‘sends’ me a song, I read the lyrics (if I don’t already know them) and take them to heart. My best friend, Donna, calls that “speaking Susie,” when someone sends me a song. (I’m not giving away any secrets here, this is common knowledge in my corner.)

People can be stereotyped, in a way, by the music they listen to, and even the music itself. I’m somewhat guilty of categorizing like that. My two top categories/stereotypes of music—and not favorable distinctions—are ‘bar’ music (Jimmy Buffett, anyone?) and ‘wedding’ music (Kool and the Gang recorded other songs besides “Celebration” you know).

--Let me apologize once more to my wedding DJ. I could probably have just shut up after I gave him a lengthy list of what to play and what not to play!

A couple of years ago, I was helping a friend with her iPod and was shuffling through her music. It was all Christian Rock, Jimmy Buffett, The Eagles, older Aerosmith and a few more of my ‘favorite’ stereotypes. I laughed and told her that if I were to judge her by her musical taste she would be a “religious alcoholic.” I think that’s when I realized some of my snobbiness and guilt at pigeon-holing people.

My iPod (I won’t get into how much I hate Apple; I’ll save that for later. I have an iPod only because of the price at the time—I sold out for an extra 40gb) has 160gb. It is full because I need to take as much of my music as I can with me to be able to listen to whatever ‘mood’ I am in. The many, many playlists are sorted by genre, theme, artists, mood and people (and titled accordingly); some have many songs and some only have one. I can listen to song after song after song, or I can listen to just one or two on a continuous loop—whatever I feel like. I get a lot of inspiration from music, and if I get an idea during a song, I’ve been known to listen to that song for days to keep the feeling going. The same goes for when I’m being maudlin—one song can support me for days, even weeks.

A friend and I went out the other night, and we ended up in her car listening to her iPod. Kara’s car was new enough that when she plugged the iPod in, the playlist showed on the dashboard screen. We scrolled through the list, stopping to sing one or two of them--loudly and maybe a little tipsily (LOVE those sappy 70’s songs). She did not have any playlists, so all of her music was there, and I realized I was paying close attention to what she had. (She had good stuff; even some of the same classical recordings and audiobooks that I listen to.) When I drove home I was thinking about that, reading her song list, and realized how personal I thought that was. Then I realized that I don’t let anyone go through my playlists; if someone is in the car with me and we’re listening to my music, I will let them skip through the songs and choose one they like (because I know I like all of them), but the playlist is already open and they cannot see the others. Not that I’m worried about being judged—although judgment could be made—they are just personal enough for me not to want to share.

I’m reading through my playlists now and laughing. There are over 60. Three of them are for my kids (one for each separately, and one of music they both like), maybe 20 of them are separate artists, and the rest are people and very specific moods (I have four for anger and five for happy/positive, sorted by my own idea of subtle nuances). I even have a playlist of songs that I absolutely hate but love the lyrics to. If I were to judge myself (aside from thinking I had fabulous taste in music), the first assumption I would make was ‘fickle.’

But you’ll have to take my word for that. Because you won’t see the rest.

--Timing is a funny thing. I just--I mean just--got 'nominated' on Facebook by my best friend Donna to list my top 10 'influential' albums. And I can't. There are too many levels of 'influential', and tomorrow I may feel differently!