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A Burdensome Personality

I feel sorry for my daughter, I really do. The older one, not so much the baby, yet- I’m hoping by the time she grows up a little bit, so will I have. I’m not holding my breath. You see, for some odd reason, I am genetically predisposed to foolishness…I only want to make people laugh, to be entertaining. What better audience than a few fourteen year old girls who have nothing better to do? I’m not going to go into specifics here, most of it is just too awful to write down, but the thing is, I can’t help it. Sometimes my daughter laughs, her friends ALWAYS do, but at some point she gets that desperate, pleading look in her eyes that says “MOM…please, stop.” Oh, if only I could. Like last night when I performed the entire song “Give it Away Now.” by the Chili Peppers for her and her best friend Matty in our very own kitchen. Yeah, cringe worthy, I know- but it happened so organically, and the baby LOVED it, and quite frankly, I couldn’t believe I could still remember all the words. Anyway, you try starting that song and stopping in the middle. It’s nearly impossible.

Anyway, this is a recurring theme in my life, this silly, uncalled for behavior. As a matter of fact, the only time I can think of when I haven’t been this way are the times when I was using, still. That crap just sucked the funny right out of me and replaced it with a whopping side of bitch. I couldn’t laugh if I wanted to, unless it was evilly, right in your face, after I had just broken your heart or stomped on your dreams…well, maybe I wasn’t that bad. Ok, I was, but it pains me to think of it. I think it’s much better to be funny.

As far back as I remember, I have wanted people to like me- not just like me, even, but adore me. It KILLS me when someone just happens not to, for no particular reason. Even if I can’t stand them, I really want them to like me. I have no idea if other people are like this or if I am just the only one who is uncool enough to admit it, but there it is. When I was a little girl growing up, there was a lot of tension and fighting and anger and always the threat of violence to come in our house (sorry mom), and because of that, I found it very important that people outside our home loved me. I found other kids to be too shifty and unpredictable, so I forged friendships with teachers and store clerks and neighbors and any other grown up I could get my self in front of. I’m lucky I wasn’t molested a billion times, now that I think about it. Anyway, I learned that if I was smart and if I had good manners, and if I engaged in conversation, I was accepted. This has served me well throughout my life.

I also learned about reading people- you can get a sense of what type of person you are dealing with by simply observing them for a moment. Trust me, there have been plenty of times when I didn’t do this and wished later that I had! I also have a habit of jumping straight into an interaction without pausing at all, and I have definitely embarrassed myself. Anyway, I don’t think there is anything wrong with sort of adjusting your personality settings to harmonize with someone else’s- I think everyone does this when they are able, until they can get to know someone a little more and reveal more of themselves. My point is that some of the habits I learned very early in life have continued to be a benefit to me even now, and I’m grateful- without them, I think I would be very hard to take sometimes.

At work, it’s an uphill battle some days…me, fighting with myself to stop talking, to focus, to   at least turn around and face my computer and make it look like I’m accomplishing something. In my office, I have sort of established myself as the “class clown”, and sometimes, (not all of the time, but it really does happen) I am honestly baited into conversations because of that. Sometimes, it’s even my boss who does it. I always tell them, when I’m being quiet, you should leave me alone, but no one listens…it’s incredibly hard for me to focus on the task at hand. Yeah, yeah, I know- sounds a lot like ADHD, right? Well, surprise, surprise- I was diagnosed with that years ago, now. Unfortunately, the only drugs that seem to work for me are the very drugs with which I seem to have a particular rapport. Even more unfortunately, I can’t get past the idea that the dosage instructions are just sort of loose, theoretical instructions, open for my interpretation. Which is why my doctor won’t let me have them anymore. Anyway, I have good days and bad days, and I make my boss laugh (even when she is trying very hard to be stern with me) so I guess that is good.

It weighs on me sometimes, though. I struggle in certain situations where I wish I could be more adult. I have had lots of times when I should have spoken up, corrected someone’s misunderstanding or let a person know the way they were talking to me was not okay. Now that I am really reflecting on it, most of those times were far in the past, so maybe that is just something that changes as you get older, but it has affected me, changed the way I think about myself. I am not always taken seriously, because I am funny. This does sort of make sense, but the thing is, I am not an idiot…just because I have a sense of humor doesn’t mean I have no brain. On the contrary, you would think it meant the opposite, if you  really mulled it over. I get flustered and frustrated pretty easily, too, and I have a really hard time not just controlling my emotions, but not allowing them to take over. I am an open book, my heart is on my sleeve, I am who I am.

Sometimes I really would like to be different. I keep waiting to feel like a grown up, but I never really do. Sometimes I think it would be great if I were more subtle or mysterious, able to keep my composure, play hard to get,…just be quiet every now and again. But I am none of those things. If I am being mysterious, I am up to no good. If I appear to be calm and composed, I would look out- I am probably experiencing the calm before the storm and I am about to totally lose my shit. If I am playing hard to get, I’m just not interested. And   if I am quiet, I am reading a book (and my mind is anything but quiet) or I am unconscious. This is just who I am.

Last time my mom was here visiting, I told her how I felt- that sometimes I wished I were more appropriate, less…me. She told me she often wished the same thing about herself, (which I found surprising as my mom always gives the impression that she is quite pleased with herself… 🙂 ) and that a good friend of hers once told her, “all that stuff you’d like to change about yourself is the very same stuff that makes people love YOU. You are different and funny and real, and that’s what sets you apart.” And I get that. I really do. Some days I exhaust myself and everyone around me with my gigantic, burdensome personality. It’s not always a blessing. But it does make my life more interesting, and it does help me meet a lot of people, and it certainly does start a lot of great conversations. Most of the time I would rather be me than anyone else in the world. Which is a good thing, because I suck at being anyone else. Now will someone please try to sell my daughter on this? And I promise, no more Chili Peppers.

Next time, it’s gonna be “Suck my Kiss.” I’m kidding, I’m kidding…geeze.

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Routine Maintenance

Recently, I had the extreme pleasure of being sent for my first mammogram…although I am only 36, I had been having some increasing pain in my left breast- so much so that I finally went to the doctor to have it checked out. Mind you- living, as we do, in this wonderful age of Google and WebMD, I was already a complete basket case by the time I got there. I found myself waiting in my doctors exam room, in that thin, blue, paper “robe” they give you, fighting back tears, sure I was lugging around a boob full of stage IV cancer. I lay there on the exam table, fondling myself like a sixteen year old boy (only I was looking for lumps, thank you.)while salsa music played through the speakers in the ceiling, making me feel like I was in some bizarre indie movie. Right before my doctor came into the room, I found them- two small lumps I hadn’t been able to feel before.

She found them right away, too. Very cheerfully, I might add- “Oh, yep. There they are. Two lumps, here, and here!”  Gulp. “They feel cysty to me.” (I swear she said “cysty”).

“They don’t feel cancery?” Was my intelligent, well thought-out question to her.

“Nah. But let’s send you down for a mammo and get it checked out.”

Great! Which is how I found myself, a few days later, at the breast care center, in another room, in another robe, standing awkwardly in front of another overly-cheerful doctor type woman. I knew she was a different woman, however, as she had a German accent. And she was white, while my doctor is not. Why all the cheerfulness, I could not tell you, but I suppose it is to lighten the mood of what could become a very, very bad day.

Lucky for me, the worst part of the day ended up being the part where I had to stick my left breast into a machine that would then proceed to be turned on and used to squash that breast until it was approximately a foot and a half long. I am not shitting you, read this sentence back to yourself, replacing my breast with your own, and tell me it doesn’t sound ridiculous. It sounds more like a medieval torture device than cutting edge technology. Which must be why, looking down at my long, flat, left breast, I got the worse case of giggles I’ve had in a long time. So much so that the radiology technician also started laughing.

“What’s wrong?” She asked me, catching her breath.

“This is fucking hilarious!” I gasped, falling apart all over again. I really did say that. I have a problem maintaining my composure in frightening medical situations that are also, oddly, funny. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who has been around while I have had my babies.

So anyway, it turned out fine- whatever the “cysty” lumps were, they vanished  in the minutes just prior to my mammogram, making me look like a lunatic- which I was okay with, considering. But it did make me think about the stuff girls go through as part of the routine maintenance of being female. I’m not just talking about the medical stuff, although you would think that would be enough- the yearly subjecting of one’s vagina to a speculum, need I say more? While the men among us suffer through, what? The occasional fondling of balls by a hot nurse who asks them to turn their head and cough? Oh, brother. Must be tough. I’d like to see how well they’d fare with a glorified shoe horn in one of their orifices, being cranked open like an old garage door whose contents are about to be handled and examined. I bet there would be a shortage of gynecologists if men had our genitals- it would probably be a much riskier profession.

Having lived with a man for the past several years, and believing him to be fairly representative of your average, works-with-his-hands, every day guy, I gotta say- this is some bullshit. His grooming routine requires less than ten minutes of his entire day (not including showering or baths, which take so much time as to be a little suspicious. I don’t really want to know what he is doing in there.) He brushes his teeth, he combs his hair. If he can’t find a comb, he puts on a beanie. He puts on clean clothes. If there are no clean clothes, he sniffs the ones he thinks may be cleanest. He puts them on. That’s it. If he’s really trying to look snazzy, he may shave or put some gel in his hair and wear a button down shirt that he dead refuses to iron, so it looks like it has ruffles down the middle of his chest. No amount of pleading from me seems to make a difference, so I stopped trying. Let him wear ruffles, then. Whatever. Apparently, he’s secure in his manhood, right?

The stuff I need to do to my skin alone, before I even start putting on my make-up, takes me longer than his entire regimen in the morning. I bet you women spend a quarter of their lives devoted to their appearance- thinking about clothes, make-up, acne, fat, toenails, fingernails, eye brows, teeth whitening, underwear, hair cuts, beauty products, other women’s clothes, jackets, purses, make-up…it never really ends, does it? And that is just the thinking part. Don’t even get me started on the activities we actively engage in pursuing, maintaining, recapturing, correcting and still, never really achieving more than an evening at a time of feeling ENOUGH.

You know, I started this blog with the idea that I would do a bunch of different stuff (above and beyond all the crap I already do) to my face and my body in the hope of achieving a feeling of prettiness again, which I feel has been fading from my life lately. Over the course of the last couple of weeks, though, I have so enjoyed writing about other stuff, it has made me so happy, that I have started to FEEL really great again. Because I have felt so great, I am going out into the world with this light inside of me that people respond to like you wouldn’t believe. I am happy. And wouldn’t you know it, I had it all wrong- sure it’s nice to be beautiful, and every single woman in the world deserves to feel that way, to be that way, in the eyes of the people who matter most. But physical beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, anyway, and when it is me beholding myself in a mirror, I am always going to fall short, every single time- no matter how much time, money and effort I put into it. But should I catch sight of myself in the middle of what I am doing right now- sitting in my kitchen, in my jammies, with no make-up on and my hair in a pony-tail, I bet you I would think-“Whoa!” When I see the face of a woman passionately involved and enraptured by the thing before her. Or if I look at a picture I have of myself immediately after giving birth to my oldest daughter- the look on my face, that smile…

You know that saying, “beauty is only skin deep.”? I get what it means, but it leaves a lot unsaid. True beauty comes from a much deeper place, a place that may not exist for some of us until we are older. Which is why God makes young people so gorgeous, so that they have at least aesthetic beauty until they grow up a little and have actual value. Otherwise we would kill them. So if I have to age and get wrinkly and whatnot, at least I have this- the consolation that my true worth was never my appearance at all. Even if it means I have to stick my breasts into machines every once in a while.

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Cadillac Problems

This has been a tough week for me. I don’t know how to explain myself without sounding like a total asshole, so let’s just say…you know how some people, when asked to do something that they really don’t want to do, sort of rise to the occasion, buckle down, and just do it? Well, that would not be me. I am the one who whines, bitches, pouts and expects the world to understand that I am different. Special. Exempt.

I am not proud of this, and most of the time I can conceal it in the outside world. At home, of course, my family and some of my friends (those lucky suckers) get to see the real me. The Courtney who yells and complains and…well, you catch my drift. I’m sure I can’t be alone in this, that there are other people, at least one or two, who behave differently behind closed doors. Right? Anyway, this is usually not so bad, it doesn’t last long before I am my cheerful old self again. Once in a while though, I can’t shake it.

This has been one of those times. Work is really challenging for me right now…I just deleted the whole paragraph I wrote here, it was so whiny. Here’s the deal. I am tired, I’ve been sick, and there are lots of other things I would rather be doing than working ten hours a day. These are my feelings. At work, we are short handed, on a deadline, and way behind. These are the facts. And here I sit, making a big old fuss over the fact that they need me a little bit extra right now.

What I need to remember is this ( and I am going to be very honest about some shit you may not know about me ) : There have been great lengths of time in my life where I was too much of a mess to do anything at all for anybody. The problems I have today are so beautiful compared to the problems I have struggled with in years past, I am actually smiling right now thinking about it. Not because it is funny, but because, (Thank God) I am finally remembering and feeling how blessed I really am.

You see, I was one of those girls you might meet and later think “Wow…that chick was a hot mess.” Or, if it was a good day, “What a nice girl…what a waste, eh?”. There was a time in my life when my addiction to drugs was so crippling, I could no longer participate in life like a normal person, and I existed in that alternate universe of a drug addict- a world that is going on all around all of us, right now, twenty four hours a day. I am not that girl today, but there was a time when I was afraid that was all I would ever be. I did not know how to change, and fear kept me frozen for many years.

I was talking to some girls recently about the blessing of keys- sounds weird, right? But for me, the keys on my key ring mean something. One of them goes to the front door of my house, one goes to my car, (the rest of them, I have no clue where they go anymore, and I don’t know why I still have them) I used to have one to my old office. When I was using still, I didn’t have keys to anything. At different times, I had no home of my own, no car of my own, no hope in the foreseeable future of getting those things. I had lost the privilege of access to my own mothers house, for Pete’s sake. Today, those keys are something I take for granted most of the time, but when I think about it, it’s pretty amazing.

This is not easy for me to write about- not because I am ashamed of it (although I am certainly not proud), I am not. It’s part of who I am, and there’s no point in shying away from that. But it does make me feel sad, a little bit, to think about those years I could have spent doing so many wonderful things. And it makes me feel uncomfortable as hell to see me, as I was then, through clear eyes. The important thing is, I DID change. One day, I was just too beaten up to go one step further on that path, and I gave in. In the circles I run in, we call that surrender…and it is good.

When I look back on the things that happened in my life after that, it’s sort of unreal. I was so thrilled to be living my life finally, I never once got hung up on how far behind everyone else I was. I never even thought that way. I was thirty when I finally opened my first bank account. My daughter was seven the first time she had her own bedroom. I was thirty three when I rented that apartment with it’s two bedrooms, and I was never more proud. It was actually a dumpy little place in a pretty bad area of Sparks, Nevada, but I was happy as hell. I had a full time job that I never missed and I went to school at night, full time, and I was exhausted. But I was clean, I was happy, and I was free. Nothing mattered more to me than that.

When I moved back here to the coast, it wasn’t without a bit of hesitation- I was leaving behind a life that was pretty good to return to a place where I’d caused a lot of turmoil and heartache. But I had this amazing job opportunity, and I was homesick, and I thought it could be better, this time. When I got the job I still have today, I walked through the parking lot every day for a year pinching myself. No way, this could not be my life, they were going to find out who I was and ask me to leave. But that never happened, and in the last four years, they have learned ALL about me, and they love me anyway.

Today, I have a house I love, right up the road from the beach. It has a claw foot tub in the bathroom, a nook off the kitchen with sky-lights where I sit now to write this. It has a cool little hidden courtyard in the back full of jasmine and ivy and flowers I can’t name. My two beautiful daughters each have their own room. The bills that arrive here are addressed to me, and most of the time, I pay them. What I am saying is, it seems pretty ridiculous to complain about where I am when you think about where I was, and where I could have wound up.

If no one else gets anything out of that, it sure helped me. I’ll talk to you guys later. I have to get to work. And I’m going to do it without complaining.