A D*#&@^ Named Gary

“A Douche Named Gary” is a piece I wrote for my fiction class at Portland Community College. Feel free to send me any critiques or suggestions. I really had fun writing this piece; I hope you enjoy!*
Perhaps there’s a disembodied soul twin up there in the great unknown, designing my next plot twist—an effort to create an arc from the cause and effect that flows through my narrative like salmon hurling themselves up the fish ladder to reach something they can’t see but know is their destiny. I feel like I’ve been hurling myself towards something for years, but I’ve never been able to precisely pinpoint the end game. I was dragged around in the same whirlpool for ages with the same fish, and then the universe abdicated that program quite abruptly. No effort on my part; no disassembly required; no cessation guide.
nathan-dumlao-491801-unsplash
Sometimes I wish She really was up there doing the heavy lifting, writing my destiny for me, but that would take away the roller coaster of fun that is free will, now wouldn’t it? I imagine the author’s swiftly scribbled notes of my narrative arc, metaphysical coffee at Her side. Maybe a spiritual parrot or something as Her muse. And so, Her Cliffs Notes.
1:4
Cause: In a most formal manner, I was fired from the job I had held for over a decade. The act itself was the very definition of ceremonious and dignified: robotic, clean, unemotional, and professional, down to the silent perp-walk-style escort to the elevator and the fact that I was not allowed to clear out my desk. The desk I had earned—the one by the window I had fought for. Fourteen fucking years at that company and they wouldn’t even give me the courtesy of closure. Add to that the random IT heavy sitting outside the Conference Room of Doom like one of those Easter Island statues, waiting for each of the seven Disposables to depart. Why? Because he had big muscles and could man-handle me, should I attempt to run away from this scenario? Little old me, with my backpack and sensible walking shoes fleeing down the hallway towards what? Where would I go? Were they afraid I’d race around shrieking and weaving my way between cubicles and offices, yelling at the top of my lungs the corporate world version of “The British are coming! The British are coming! Protect yourselves and back up your personal files now!” Was it because they figured they needed to take extra precautions with the woman who is known for smiling through conflict, for her excellent communication skills, and for her continuous positive interactions with colleagues, vendors, and upper management?
Effect: Tears. Not just roll-down-your-cheek driblets. Ones that are akin to the water feature at the park, with salty, chlorinated bursts firing in all directions from my blue-green eyes (they look more green than blue when they are wet) adding gasps for air that feel as though the shock itself is clutching my chest, my neck, my esophagus. That day there was a ripping apart of a work-family built on over a decade of lessons, laughs, and learning, a displacement of the love and respect and journeying. Yes, anger and drama and tumult as well. All of those came out in a forceful spillway of emotion.
2:4
Cause: I decided I would take on this life change like a boss. I was going to be positive and productive and create the life of my dreams! My counselor told me I should take this opportunity to create a new and improved structure for my days. At first, I optimistically told myself I would leap out of bed every morning, perky and full of gumption, making my coffee, and setting about my day, which would include extensive job searching, pensive writing, a hearty workout, and healthy cooking. I would field phone calls from rabid recruiters and have my pick of top corporate positions by the end of the month. My LinkedIn feed would scream YOU ARE AMONG WINNERS!
Effect: They call the corporate version of organizational metamorphosis Change Management. There are books, Ted Talks, thought leaders, all which spew out how best to move forward and in what order, but I didn’t have an infographic or manual to explain what I was supposed to do with all of my recent instability. Rather than the independent, bouncy woman I expected to be, I soon discovered that I struggled to get motivated and had no use for this newfangled routine-in-a-box method my counselor proposed. I wanted to sleep in every day. I wanted to eschew all things corporate. I wanted to make time for cooking and dancing and singing and tv marathons. I rediscovered a whole set of friends that didn’t work the 9-5. Everyone seemed to understand that I needed some time to get myself back together. I’d been working since I was 17! But in no time at all, feelings of guilt about being slothful poked up out of the weeds. Why didn’t I have a plan worked out by now? Maybe I needed to pray. Speak with a career consultant. Use essential oils. Get a whiteboard. I started with applying for unemployment, but I screwed even that up at first. This, of course, was followed by a flurry of letters from the unemployment office stating that I was a dumbass and to restart my claim next week, thereby leaving me without income for several weeks in a row.
3:4
Cause: I had experienced a trauma. My grief was ambidextrous. During the most inopportune of times, my grief showed up to say hello. It blazed a path towards anguish, then took a sharp turn in the direction of the briny depths of sorrow, a true buzzkill at a party, which is, of course, where it manifested itself one breezy evening around the campfire. How can you be sad around a campfire? Take one part hard cider, one part homespun guitar trio playing songs of love and loss, and one part grief stage four: depression, and you get tears of the traumatized. But it’s all about the process, right?
Effect: At first it didn’t seem like healing at all. It was horrifying. Fuck the five stages. Soon I began socially drinking much more often, because how else do you stay connected with your old coworkers when you can’t just walk down the hall? What better way to connected than over a vodka soda? So I found myself a little more than tipsy at a group happy hour with a bunch of old work buddies on a Thursday. How many times can you earnestly say, “Yeah I’m great! Taking some time to figure out what I really want to do!” Sipping drinks took time away from having to speak.
4:4
Cause: This is where I met Gary. The man was a strange combination of archetypes—nerd and jock in one. He had a very straight-laced look, complete with computer backpack and scooter at his side. But then, muscles growing out of muscles. Generally, I prefer an intellectually strong man over one who can pick me up and throw me onto the bed, but I could not tear my eyes away from those muscles. When I looked up into his bespeckled face, dark eyes, and his teeny tiny black mohawk, I felt a surge of liquid courage fight its way from my gut to my lips. I put on what I thought was a sexy smirk and asked him if I could take a ride on his scooter. He responded by ordering two shots of whiskey and telling me, “Only nice girls are allowed to ride my scooter.”
I grabbed both shots and tipped them down my throat, double fisted. “That’s too bad.”
Staying true to his word, he did not let me ride the scooter that night, but I ended up riding him all night.
Effect: At first I didn’t even know he worked with my old employer. I had thought he was just a random guy at the bar that night. No one that I knew was talking to him, and he wasn’t socializing with my previous floor-mates. I figured out later it was because everyone was furious that he (and six others) had hopped into our old seats so easily, without acknowledgment (or really, knowledge) of the culling that had occurred the week before he started. A former colleague told me that a douche named Gary was sitting at my old desk by the window, but it didn’t even occur to me that he could be the new me. Two weeks—fourteen days—after our one night stand, I found out he was my replacement. He was performing my job. He was perched at my desk, kicking his feet up on my storage ottoman. Maybe watering my succulent that had never been returned. The new me had been inside me. And, just like my job of fourteen years, there was no further contact.

*While this piece is based on actual events, it is a work of fiction.

Tinderbeard II: Trimet Boogaloo

After an incredible round of edits from my class at PCC, I’ve rewritten Tinderbeard into an even more dramatic, harrowing, and hilarious tale. Happy reading!


Boots and bags. The flotsam and jetsam of bus life during rush hour clogged the narrow aisle leading to the back of the aging city bus where a seat between a hipster in a skintight hoodie over tightly rolled jeans and a student somewhere in middle school range waited for me, the latter’s shaggy blonde Bieber hair blowing in the wind. The student chewed on a straw and looked out the window, dreaming perhaps of one day daring to kiss a boy or girl and having no opinion of me whatsoever. Hunched perilously over his phone, to the point I was afraid he might tip over and hit his head if we stopped too quickly, the hipster fixed an annoyed look on his face with a frown and furrowed brow. I understood that this was aimed at my presence, and while also I greatly appreciate the gift of personal space on the bus, it just wasn’t happening today.

Doing my best to remain within the confines of my seat, I looked straight ahead, taking note of the distinct differences in hats, jackets, and backpacks spread out in front of me. In relative terms, I was yet an unpolished public transit commuter, always searching for the best brands and hacks to make the commuter life easier. Do you do that? Fixate on something and feel the need to take a mental straw poll to see which people around you are doing it best? It turns out I need a backpack that functions the way Mary Poppins’ does–I’m still doing my research on that one.
Often, I find myself getting lost in the faces of all these strangers, wondering how many connections are made (and lost) on public transit each day, thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to people-watch. This activity has played a large part in my dating life. Instead of sitting awkwardly across the table from a cup of coffee and a dull, glazed look in date #113’s eyes, I challenge them to call out a person and weave their life story. I can talk about myself for hours and never get tired, but I’ve learned that talking about oneself can be incredibly draining to the other party. Also, no matter how much your date is smiling and nodding, he is cringing on the inside and calling you names like Narcissistic Nina behind those eyes. Routing the conversation to a subject that is not listed on your resume is always a welcome change. Trust me, I’ve been online dating for over 10 years.
My eyes rested on an impeccably dressed African-American man who had an utterly fantastic beard. He was also wearing those giant headphones that seem to block out not only outside sound, but sights, smells, and anything else that might interrupt a podcast. Perhaps an accountant? Attorney? Hmmm…talent scout with some sort of side hustle? A few stops later, I heard the familiar beeping of the wheelchair ramp. One by one, riders in the front stood up and made room for the white-haired, wheelchair-bound woman with bags sticking out at every angle. Riders bumped into each other to step out of the way, simultaneously looking around for other seats. Several of them, including the bearded man, began heading to the far back, where there were a few seats left—where I was sitting. Grasping the opportunity to study the man closer, I put my phone in front of my face and pretended to read something very important.
It was longer than the average beard. Two silver streaks ran parallel down each side–very distinguished. Could be early forties but some people go grey in their thirties. The silver streaks seemed to flash in the sunlight, quite literally illuminating him as he stepped into the back half of the bus and took the seat on the other side of the hipster, which is when I realized who he was.
Adrenaline rushed through me as I reached out to tap him on the shoulder, further ruffling the hipster’s free-range organic feathers. HA! I hadn’t planned where I was going to go after the salutation, but my arm was already in motion. It was it too late to turn back now.

“Hey.”
He turned towards me and, clearly surprised, replied, “Oh hey you! How’s it going?”
The bus had paused at a stoplight right before the Broadway Bridge that would take us to the other side of the city. Taking advantage, Free Range stiffly stood up and stalked off, leaving a gaping hole between the bearded man and me. Making sure my curly sand-hued hair was posed perfectly on my shoulder before responding, I crossed my legs towards him and answered with slight heat in my cheeks, “Great, thanks. How’s it going with you?” Nailed it, I thought sarcastically. I noticed his eyes dipped to my chest before he responded. The barely perceptible move may have bothered me in the past. Unfortunately these days, my illusions of grandeur about finding the perfect man who didn’t objectify women were the size of a pea. 
Apparently, that was all he needed to open up a conversation. He remembered quite a bit about me: my passion for good grammar, my favorite neighborhood brunch place (we’d gone together on our first date), and that I enjoyed salsa dancing every once in a while. I was shocked at the number of details he was ticking off so casually. I remembered that he worked in IT or computers, something dough-handed like that at a company downtown-–though that second detail could be construed as a given, considering the bus’s trajectory. I guess I had made an impression on him. It made my heart corners curl up into a coy grin.
While we spoke, I sat back and observed him. He had grown out his hair and styled it differently. Small twists dotted the top of his head. I liked it. Beards have always been an attraction for me, but today his seemed especially well-coiffed. His eyes were kind and he had a welcoming smile that was slightly bucktoothed–like mine. I called mine rabbit teeth and had absolutely hated them when I was younger. I even created a character based around my teeth: Chipper the Chipmunk. Chipper could sing and dance and entertain like nobody’s business. I think I gave Chipper 101 talents so that people would overlook the teeth. Later I realized they weren’t as terrible as I had made them out to be. People tell me these days that it’s part of my charm, and I’m finally understanding what they meant.
Lightning fast, it seemed, the bus arrived at my stop. My eyes traveled up and down the aisle, at him and then away, as I gathered my things, wondering if he was interested in continuing the conversation. I had tried to make it obvious that I was disembarking by shuffling my backpack around conspicuously to see if he’d take the bait, but I didn’t hint strongly enough.

“Well.” I paused in case he wanted to interject. “Great to see you!” No dice. My bag slung over my shoulder, I lifted my body off the sticky plastic seat and waved my goodbye, immediately kicking myself for not being bold enough to say anything as soon as my Adidas hit the pavement. I wondered if he was watching as I sashayed out of sight.
When I turned the corner, I whipped out my phone and typed “Tinder” in the search bar to see if anything came up. I labeled all of my Tinder dates “Tinder so-and-so.” Tinder Adam (smoker), TInder Ben (too clingy), Tinder Christian (not clingy enough), TInder Daniel (dumb as a Chia pet, with the same hair). How else did a serial-Tinderer keep track? None of the names seemed like they fit him.
Shame me all you want, but I’d probably been on 10-13 more first dates since last summer–it shouldn’t completely come as a shock that I had no idea what his name was. And since stumbling upon him, I hadn’t stopped to ask myself if I was actually interested in this man, or if he was just going to end up being another write-up in my dating blog, just another number. Though the convenience of online dating seemed to create favorable odds, it had started to feel like shoe shopping. Five years ago I would have been horrified that I couldn’t remember his name. Now, sadly, it was practically expected.

I supposed it wasn’t meant to be, then. Neither of us had had the guts to speak up and ask the other out. Of course, I was assuming he was interested after all the things he remembered about me. Wouldn’t you? Who knows if I’d ever see him again. I had been running extremely late that day, and sometimes I took the other bus that came to my stop, and other times I went to work at 7:00 rather than 7:30…clearly this wasn’t going to turn into a thing. So I stopped trying to analyze and forgot about it.

A month later, I had missed my first two busses and was incredibly cranky on a Monday morning. I was carrying not only my backpack, but a cowboy hat and yoga mat, and I was beginning to sweat, knowing the bus was less than a minute away. My jacket half on and half off, I had run to the corner unabashedly and made it just in time for the 17 to pull up. I stormed on, breathing heavily and striding with fraudulent purpose, and headed toward the back as usual, but a silver glimmer caught my eye. It was TinderBeard! I stopped dead and did a military swivel in order to take the seat beside him. He looked at my cowboy hat pointedly and gave me The Look.

“It’s for a work event…” I trailed off, realizing that no amount of explaining would make this cowboy hat any cooler. I said it with a sheepish smile, enough to let him know he couldn’t faze me. We slipped into conversation easily once more, and I thought this HAS to be fate! We had both been running late that day, and sometimes I rode the other bus, and there had been a seat open next to him. This was totally a thing. Why are you so excited? You don’t even like him that much. Do you? What would you say if he asked you on a date? I needed to know if fate was trying to tell me something. I wanted to be wide open to the message, even if it turned out to be another flop.

He still wasn’t receiving my ESP message! Green light after green light sprinted past my eyes. Where are all the red lights when you need them?? I was definitely curious to know if he wanted to hang out again, and I was trying not to lose my nerve to do the asking before I had to get off the bus.
Our three-date Tinder saga the summer before had ended amicably enough. At the time we met, we had simply been looking for different things; I refused to pursue something that may or may not pan out. I’m very cut and dried. Tinder is for finding a relationship–stop laughing–not friends. If I don’t see it going the way of romance, I don’t seek out a further connection. I am an old fashioned girl in a digital world.
He preferred to look at it a little differently. His wish was to begin with something casual, sexually speaking, and if it turned into something else, great. If not, a bed buddy was just as good. I had declined his polite offer. But all had ended in what felt like friendship, though we never saw each other again.

And yet…it seemed like I should do something about this situation. It had been dropped in my lap so…casually, so…obviously, so…intentionally?
It was do or die time. We were three blocks from departure.

“Well.” I paused. “Let me know if you ever want to hang out!” I offered. I couldn’t bear to put it in the form of a question. This way he had an easy out, and didn’t have to respond yes or no to my face.

To my surprise, he quickly replied, “Sure, but I don’t have your number anymore.” I whipped out my phone and typed his number in.

Several hours later I texted him. I wasn’t sure what to say, exactly, about his name having left my head many months before. Smiling to myself and realizing I had absolutely nothing to lose, I wrote, “This is Becky from the bus this morning. I have to admit…I have forgotten your name.” Blushing smile emoji.

smile
Two words in response: “Thank God.” I released a sigh from deep within and continued to read, “Me too, and I was going to play it off until you texted me.” Laughter emoji.
The best relationships are built on honesty. Maybe this could be the beginning of something. Did it have to be a dating thing? What if it just floated out there, unknown but still having form? Maybe I could afford to be a little less cut and dried this time.
 

TinderBeard

Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for This Curious Universe. For those who have read my work consistently over the years and have reached out, I am so appreciative of your support and encouragement. I am still Curious! Life just happens at a speed faster than I can run some days, and sadly, extracurricular creativity can be shoved to the side because it fits easily under the laundry…the dishes…grocery store…you understand.
These days, outside of my day job as an events and communications associate, my writing energy has been moving in the direction of fiction. Though I consider myself more of a nonfiction writer, I find incredible value in taking courses across the board at Portland Community College. For the last two terms, I’ve been taking Elements of Fiction. That’s right—same course, same teacher, two terms in a row. The instructor, Wes Griffith, is funny, empathetic, highly motivational, well-read, and downright magnificent. I presented this latest piece last week in class. I recieved creative, useful feedback and can’t wait to sit down and dive into the changes.
And so I present my latest, as yet unedited, based on true events, short fiction: TinderBeard

Boots, bags, the flotsam and jetsam of bus life clogged the narrow aisle leading to the back of the city bus where a seat between a hipster in a skintight hoodie and a student somewhere in middle school range waited for me. The student chewed on a straw and looked out the window, dreaming perhaps of one day kissing a girl and having no opinion of me whatsoever. Hunched perilously over his phone, to the point I was afraid he might tip over if the bus stopped too quickly, the hipster fixed an annoyed look on his face with a frown and furrowed brow. While I understood greatly that personal space was the most prized possession on the bus, it wasn’t happening today.
TriMet D40LFR bus
Doing my best to remain within the confines of my seat, I looked straight ahead, taking note of the distinct differences in hats, jackets, and backpacks. In relative terms, I was yet an unpolished commuter, always searching for the best brands and life hacks to make the commuter life easier. Do you do that? Get fixated on something and feel the need to take a mental straw poll to see which people around you are doing it best? Often, I find myself getting lost in the faces of all these strangers, wondering how many missed connections are made on public transit each day.
My eyes rested on an African-American man who had an utterly fantastic beard. He was also wearing those giant headphones that seemed to block out not only outside sound, but sights, smells, and anything else that might interrupt a podcast.
A few stops later, I heard the familiar beeping of the wheelchair ramp. One by one, riders in the front stood up and made room for the wheelchair-bound woman who was boarding. Several of them began heading to the far back, where there were a few seats—where I was sitting. Grasping the opportunity to study the beard closer, I put my phone in front of my face and pretended to read something very important. It was longer than the average beard. It had two silver streaks running parallel down each side–very distinguished. The silver beard streaks seemed to flash in the sunlight as he stepped into the back half of the bus and took the seat on the other side of the hipster, which is when I realized who he was.
Adrenaline rushed through me as I reached out to tap him on the shoulder, further ruffling the hipster’s free-range organic feathers. (You like that? I just thought of that one all on my own.)
“Hey.”
He turned towards me and, clearly surprised, replied, “Oh hey you! How’s it going?”
The bus had paused at a stoplight right before the bridge that would take us to the other side of the city. Taking advantage, the hipster stiffly stood up and stalked off, leaving a gaping hole between the bearded man and I. Making sure my light brown curly hair was posed perfectly on my shoulder before responding, I crossed my legs towards him and answered with slight color in my cheeks, “Great, thanks. How’s it going with you?”  Nailed it, I thought to myself sarcastically. Couldn’t think of anything more creative?
Apparently that was all he needed to open up a conversation. He remembered quite a bit about me: my passion for good grammar, my favorite neighborhood brunch place (we’d gone together the first time we met), and that I enjoyed salsa dancing every once in a while. I was shocked at the amount of details he was ticking off so casually. I remembered that he worked in IT/computers/something dough-handed like that at some company downtown–though that second detail could be construed as a given, considering the bus we were riding on. I guess I had made an impression on him! It made my heart corners curl up into a coy grin as the exchange continued.
His hair was longer than I remembered. Small twists dotted the top of his head. I liked the new style. The beard had always been an attraction for me, but today it seemed especially well-coiffed. His eyes were kind and he had a welcoming smile that was slightly bucktoothed–like mine. I called mine rabbit teeth and absolutely hated them when I was younger. Now people tell me it’s part of my charm. I finally understood what they meant.
Lightning fast, it seemed, the bus arrived at my stop. My eyes travelled up and down the aisle, at him and then away, as I gathered my things, self-consciously wondering if he was interested in continuing the conversation. I had tried to make it obvious that I was disembarking, to see if he’d take the bait and ask me out, but I didn’t hint strongly enough.
“Well, great to see you!” My bag slung over my shoulder, I lifted my body off the plastic seat and waved my goodbye, immediately kicking myself for not being bold enough to say anything as soon as my Adidas hit the pavement.
When the bus had cleared from view, I whipped out my phone and typed in “Tinder” to see if anything came up. I labeled all of my Tinder dates “Tinder John,” Tinder Christian, (In case you’re wondering, yes I most certainly do sing Sister Christian in my head every time I saw that name.) Tinder Richie… How else did a serial-Tinderer keep track? None of the names seemed like they fit him. Shame me all you want, but I’d probably been on 10-13 more first dates since last summer–it shouldn’t completely come as a shock that I had no idea what his name was.
I supposed it wasn’t meant to be, then. Neither of us had had the guts to speak up and ask the other out (Of course, I was assuming he was interested after all the things he remembered about me. Wouldn’t you?), and who knows if I’d ever see him again. I had been running extremely late that day, and sometimes I took the other bus that came to my stop, and sometimes I went to work at 7:00 rather than 7:30…clearly this wasn’t going to turn into a thing.
Until a month later. I had missed my first two busses and was incredibly cranky that Monday morning. I was carrying not only my backpack, but a cowboy hat and yoga mat as well. My jacket half on and half off, I had run to the corner unabashedly and made it just in time for the 17 to pull up. I stormed onto the bus, breathing heavily with purpose and headed toward the back as usual, but a silver glimmer caught my eye. It was TinderBeard! I stopped dead and did a military swivel in order to take the seat beside his. He looked at my cowboy hat pointedly and gave me The Look.
“It’s for a work event…” I trailed off, realizing that no amount of explaining would make this cowboy hat any cooler. I said it with a sheepish smile though, enough to let him know he couldn’t faze me. We slipped into conversation easily once more, and I thought that it HAD to be fate! We had both been running late that day, and sometimes I rode the other bus, and there had been a seat open next to him. This was totally a thing.
He still wasn’t receiving my ESP message! Traffic light after traffic light darted past my eyes. I was dying to know if he wanted to hang out again, and I was trying desperately not to lose my nerve to do the asking before I had to get off the bus. Our three-date love saga last summer had ended amicably enough. At the time we met, we had simply been looking for different things; I refused to pursue something that may or may not pan out. He looked at it a little differently. His wish was to begin with something casual, sexually speaking, and if it turned into something more serious, great. If not, a casual bed buddy was just as good. I was a little more old fashioned, and so had declined his polite offer. But all had ended in what felt like friendship, though we never saw each other again.
It was do or die time. We were three blocks from departure.
“Well…let me know if you ever want to hang out!” I offered.
Immediately he replied, “Sure, but I don’t have your number anymore.” I whipped out a piece of paper and scribbled as he recited his number to me.
Several hours later I texted him. I wasn’t sure what to say, exactly, about his name having left my head many moons ago. Smiling to myself, I wrote, “This is Brandy from the bus this morning. I hate to admit this, but I have forgotten your name.”
Two words in response: “Thank God.” I released a sigh from deep within and continued to read, “I forgot yours too, and was going to play it off until you texted me.”
Great relationships are built on honesty. This could be the beginning of a beautiful thing, TinderBeard.
 
 
 

Imagine If…

If I could imagine what life may have looked like, had I not taken this particular journey, I would ask—why did I choose this life? Some people believe that our souls choose this particular body in this particular time and place before we become a fetus, before we are born into this world. Given a true choice, wouldn’t I naturally opt for a thinner body with medium size breasts and straight teeth?
Erin Pavlina makes these assertions:

When you are in the ether you remember that you are a part of consciousness and that you are being sent out into the world to experience, learn, and grow.  You know that physical life is temporary, and that the pain and adversity you face as a physical being is but a moment in your existence.  Why do people choose to enter a life that is filled with pain and torment?  Because from the perspective of the ether, any pain or adversity is but a blip of discomfort in the grand scheme of things.  It’s like asking if you are willing to suffer a paper cut in order to gain vast wisdom and knowledge and tremendous personal growth.

In my mind, I imagine it like a rope swing. I think about the journey that my roller coaster self-esteem-driven body has taken me on, and I see myself considering the options of taking another bite—would I let out a barbaric yawp into the ether and fly into the wild earth? Or would I stay safe—take another bite and let myself sink further into my comfort zone?
If I’d let go of the rope and created a life for myself, full of lean, athletic bodies, popularity contests, and a virginity that withered well before my twenties, who would I be?
Would I have been that vulnerable woman who said yes to the unknown? Would I have met a man in college and stayed in the Midwest? Would I be a mother? Would I tuck my children into their beds at night, kissing their soft cheeks, brushing hair from sweaty foreheads, shushing their protests, then closing the door silently behind me in sweet relief of another day without tragedy?
Would my husband and I become so used to our mundane life that we approach our fifties without a hint of sexual desire? Or would one of us be struck with a yearning so great that we must express or explode—and because the other is our best friend, we must confess—that the tumble-dry cycle of our sex life simply isn’t enough?
Would we then go to a series of sexual enlightenment workshops, awkward at first because this is all new, and sometimes the worn-in feeling of familiarity is much preferred over the fear of the unknown, to find later that we have both fallen in love with our instructor (And who wouldn’t? They are all at once sensual, kinky, loving, torturous, and safe.), who then somehow convinces us that this is completely normal and is actually a reflection of our renewed lust for each other?
Would we then leap back into our home life with gusto and a plethora of spontaneous sex—in closets when the children are in twilight sleep, on the balcony where our neighbors just might see, or with a voracious interest in play toys of all kinds?
Would I, as I am inclined to do, reflect earnestly in my journal, each paragraph a rabbit hole for the next great big blank page?
Oh white space, you are inviting. You tease with your crisp cleanness and your ample availability. You offer your lush white bosom as a landing pad for a sprinkle of thoughts, then a deluge, then a monsoon of words and creativity. I am wet with your weather. Consume me, let me soil your innocence with my wisdom as well as my curiosity, for it is that which completes the circle in the end.
Imagine if…

Tangled, But Not Tied Up

Last week a special Trail Blazer alumnus passed away. I didn’t follow Jerome Kersey in his heyday, however, his presence in the Portland community was very well known by fans and non-fans alike. He became a Trail Blazer ambassador after retiring from the NBA in 2001, and went above and beyond his duties. He made a positive impression on many, and was a true community leader. I even had a few interactions with him at a favorite restaurant that we both frequented a couple of years ago. He was always smiling and friendly to everyone at the bar. Many people have expressed warm remembrances of him from years past, including this beautiful essay by a friend of mine. It’s safe to say that Portland is feeling a great loss this week.
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Jerome’s death made me incredibly sad—it hit unexpectedly close to home—but also very pensive and a little tangled inside. I had just come off of a first date when I read about his death on Facebook. I was flying high—my date was nice, a gentleman, adventurous, and he was willing to go zydeco dancing with me, which was a first for both of us, and very cool of him. I was patting myself on the back for taking a chance on someone I may have passed by in another life. We met speed dating, which, let’s be honest, is always a guessing game as to whether you just wasted $29 or met some really cool people that you may or may not ever see again.
So when I read about Jerome’s death, I instantly started reviewing how I spend my time and who I bring into my life. Since I moved to Portland almost 12 years ago, my life has taken many twists, turns, and curved paths that I could never have foreseen. It made me want to reach out to you in the best way I know how—through writing.
I want this blog post to function in two ways: 1) As my Christmas letter for 2014 to tell you what I did last year, and 2) As a way to dispense what I’ve learned in the past year (Okay, 14 months). During December, I kept finding excuses to put off the writing of my annual Christmas letter, and I wasn’t sure why. Now I realize I had so much more to process about my past year before sharing it. Normally I send these out to close friends and family only, but we are all one, we are all family. I love you, and I want you to learn my life lessons along with me. I’ll share my thoughts with you and use examples from my past year to make sure you get the best of both worlds.
Spoil yourself.  Spend the money. Take time off. Go somewhere new. You’re worth it! In 2014 I took my third annual solo beach vacation. For three days I ate decadent food, walked on the beach, drank wine, got my nails done, and did whatever my heart desired. I truly pampered myself. I also took a five day camping trip (between several shorter camping trips) to the Olympic Peninsula. It was so awe-inspiring and beautiful! In the fall, I went to New York. If you’ve read this blog in the past, you may know the story that goes with this. If you missed that one, read about it! What an amazing trip. I enjoyed staycations and fancy dates with handsome suitors and nights out on the town with good friends. I’m so blessed to work at a company where they reward loyalty with quite a bit of vacation time, and boy did I take advantage of it!
Challenge yourself. Some of my biggest challenges in life have been the result of belly dance. When I left Ohio, I could shake my booty with a little rhythm, and that was the extent of it. I had no formal training at that point, and I never thought that dance would be something I would later take on as an amateur performer. But then I met Yemaya, a professional belly dancer who also happens to be my long lost third cousin. She somehow convinced me that I was going to be a belly dancer one day. My style had never been particularly feminine, and when she said that, all I could picture was a horror show of obnoxiously bright sequins and awkward dance moves to snake charmer music. However, I allowed her to tease me into a few lessons, and from then on, I was in love. Soon I was practicing multiple times a week, taking every available workshop, and started performing in 2007, debuting at the Oregon Country Fair’s Gypsy Caravan Stage.  In the past few years, I have fallen into a “comfortable sweatshirt” type of relationship with belly dance. I still practice and even learn some new skills sometimes, but rarely do I try anything that really scares me. For the last two months, however, I have embraced the sword! Sword dancing scares me—big time. I took a four week course more out of dedication to my teacher than actual interest, but I should have known that it wouldn’t stop there. Now I’m signed up to perform my sword dance in front of a crowd, with the assumption that I won’t allow it to fall off my head and pierce someone’s foot. Terrifying? Yes! Essential to grow as a dancer and as a person? Absolutely!
Hope for Andrew edit
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Embrace Your Sexuality. Yep, we’re talking about it. In the past, I hadn’t been confident in my sensuality or sexuality. This was caused in part by my weight issues as a child, my perceived lack of femininity as a young adult, and being from just above the Bible Belt in the Midwest, where traditional values and conservative ideas still have a hold on the population. I envisioned that the right type of sexuality centered on a husband or at least a serious relationship. I thought that sex under other circumstances was not wrong per se, but not ideal, and not really necessary. I believed that expressing your sexuality freely maybe made you just a little slutty, if not an actual slut. In acknowledging my feelings of judgment, I also recognized that I had mistakenly thought that my lack of sexual expression was a character flaw; now I understood that judging others was a defense mechanism, and my personal level of sexual expression is not a flaw. It is wholly mine, and I must engage it in a way that is true to my own nature and not anyone else’s. Make sure to explore this side of you, even if you’re not in a romantic relationship, because it is so important to know that side of yourself before you share it with anyone else.
Life is short! Do what makes you smile and giggle, and spend time with people who inspire you. There have been so many times that I have stayed home to get a proper night’s sleep, only to find out the next day what unbelievably cool exploits I had missed the night before. If I had a nickel for all the times I’ve heard, “You can sleep when you’re dead!” I would be a millionaire…okay, maybe I’d have a few bucks. But you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong, I value my health and I truly feel my best when I’ve had a good night’s rest, but sometimes it is totally worth it to take a chance and stick it out for a little while longer. Nights that I stayed out with the Hash House Harriers for one more conversation, or salsa danced for one more song almost always ended up with new friends, new plans, or a memory I would never forget. I knew that I would feel tired in the morning, but I also knew that I was put on earth to experience those blissful moments…and I have had so many of these moments this past year.
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Make every movement with love and authenticity. This is a big one for me. I am a people pleaser. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with bringing joy to your loved ones, making yourself happy and loving who you are will bring you the most joy in this world. Don’t worry about impressing others or fitting normative expectations of your culture. Live with authenticity in your heart and express gratitude for it daily. Be Love, every day.
2014 was a fantastic and enlightening year for me. When I think about the possibility that life can be cut off so abruptly, the way Jerome’s was, it makes me sad, but it also makes me grateful that I do the things I do, know the people I know, and experience miracles every day. Nothing is ever perfect, but my perfectly tangled existence is absolutely an abstract design of immaculate beauty.
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WHY: Part II—Precious Fragments

This “Why” series is a way to bring me closer to you—by revealing my inner-most thoughts and being 100% vulnerable with you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking my words and embracing them with love and kindness.
The first time I was completely vulnerable with a man, it changed my being. Bringing it back now, I feel exactly the same as I did in that moment. My breath is ragged and my chest is warm. I have a sense of exhilaration that it happened, but also sadness that my moment with him has passed. The most important part of it, though, was that I felt liberated.
Whenever I go back and read the poems I wrote for my college thesis, I am so impressed at how much raw emotion I allowed to spill onto the pages. I wasn’t scared of making someone uncomfortable with my words or that they would judge me. I didn’t fear my teacher would read the lines and immediately fail me because I wasn’t Sylvia Plath at 22. I just wrote anything and everything that was inside of me, and it was good stuff!
I hear a song, 25 years later, and it reminds me of the times I danced in the summer darkness among the lightning bugs, and how I felt in the very heart of it. I remember the feeling of being absolutely free, absolutely me, without a care in the world. Granted, I was 10 years old at the time and wasn’t concerned with having a 401k or what I would be when I grew up, but so often, even as children, we burden ourselves with too many thoughts. You know that blonde chick that everyone makes fun of because she’s empty-headed? Sometimes, I envy her. Sometimes it is essential to let go of our thoughts and just feel.
One thing my belly dance teacher always reminds me to do is to let my emotion out while I’m dancing. Claudia says that a dancer can have the most technically precise moves and the most beautiful costume, but without tarab, there can be no complete dance. Tarab has no exact English definition, but the closest I can come up with is “a shared experience of musical ecstasy.” Or “When reaching the epic moment of a feeling derived from hearing music, whether it instrumental or voice or both together expressing either joy, pain sorrow or any other intense emotion.” (Written by Mohamed Shahin and Hanna St. John) This, to me, is exactly what it means to show one’s inner truth.
I have a friend who comments that his son lives fully in the moment, every minute of every day. His face lights up when he talks about how happy it makes him to see his child in this way. Wouldn’t it be great if we all lived in the moment like that?
These days it’s much rarer for me to let go. Is it because I’m older, set in my ways? It still happens occasionally if I’m dancing, if I am feeling particularly brave, or if I’m in a foreign place and just don’t care what anyone thinks. The most interesting times are when I’m wearing a costume or a wig; I’ve noticed it gives me a mental get-out-of-jail-free card. I wish I could let down this wall I have built with more regularity—I have the potential to free myself at any time. Why don’t I? Why don’t any of us?
I read a piece by Wayne Dyer before Christmas about making peace with relatives during the holidays. It struck me that, regardless of the focus on relatives, it turned out to be entirely fitting for this post.
The conflict seems too often to be a choice between being authentic, which means no peace with certain relatives, or having peace at the price of being inauthentic. Being peaceful and authentic can define your relationship with your relatives. First, though, you may have to assess your relationship with the closest relative of all—you.
Can I be extra real with you guys for a minute? Extra-extra real? It seems like, in the past, when I’ve taken those chances and displayed my authentically weird-silly-petrified-confident-lost-found-Quakerific-dancing fool-giggly-imperfect self, I haven’t gotten the results that I’ve wanted. And it crushed me. So I sit, and I reflect on Dr. Dyer’s words, and I wonder, can I be brave again? Is it worth it? I think we all know that the answer is, unequivocally, YES. In our minds we know it, in our hearts we hold it. The answer will always be yes.
In the light of the coming New Year, let’s carry on the tradition of challenging ourselves to be better, to improve something about our lives and to make peace with our authentic selves—whoever that turns out to be. You could make a list, like I did last year, or just hold the intention in your heart. Either way, I dare you to love and express the true YOU in 2015! If you’d like, please share one thing you intend on doing in the New Year that will create a more genuine you.
Vulnerability

WHY: Part I

Today I went back and read a post that I wrote some time ago. It was a bittersweet commentary on the trials of my weight loss journey, but also a heartwarming reminder of how far I’ve come. The reason I went back to it today was because of the fitness group I joined on Facebook. We were asked to write about our “why.” Why are we choosing to lose weight right now? What is our motivation to achieve our goals? Originally I shared the following piece only with the fitness group, but I decided I needed to get this to a bigger audience. Following is my “why.”
I’ve struggled with my weight and abandonment issues from my parent’s divorce my whole life, and because of that I find it hard to follow through with the things I really want to accomplish. I either give up and desert the project, or, more often, sabotage myself. This includes goals involving my passion for writing, my fervent need to be beautiful (AKA, skinny), and finding (and marrying) the love of my life.
For the longest time, even though my self-esteem wasn’t the greatest, I didn’t stress a whole lot about being fat because I never expected I could change it. When I did finally lose weight, it started a whole domino effect of anxiety because I had all this new pressure. Where before it never mattered because I had zero expectations, suddenly the world was at my fingertips and I was completely unprepared. It was really easy to blame others for my shortcomings, and for a while I thought, things haven’t changed a bit. Why not just stay how I am? My life is fantastic, even if I’m not living the dream of marrying Dr. Handsome and writing that bestseller. I’ve got great friends, a steady job…I have good dates here and there. I can hack it a little longer, getting by how I am. But that’s not how I want to live my life. I want to set meaningful goals and attain them, NOW (starting with being focused on them better). I want to be able to tell myself every day that I am worthy of a beautiful and healthy relationship. I want to break the chains of inadequacy that I’ve carried from a very young age—and that I’ve continued to carry all on my own, using them as an excuse to be average.
Doing all that takes a concerted effort, and a community. I’m so used to doing things for myself, being single for such a long time, but letting people in, and, God-forbid, letting others see my vulnerabilities, is so important. It’s not something I do lightly. It takes faith in my community, and love for myself.
I know that I have to let go of my past in order to be the future amazing Becky that’s always been inside. Grasping onto my communities’ outstretched hands is a great start. Spending time with people from all corners of my world is a very important part of that. I’ve got my running community, my writing peers, my dance family, my work buddies, fellow gamers and hikers and coffee-lovers, Blazer fans, my blood family. But it’s more than just spending time, and it’s more than just hoping a few of you will read my blog and empathize. Getting vulnerable with yourself and your “people” is not a one-stop deal. Clearly, you readers have seen that for the last two years that I’ve been writing this blog. Of course I hope to inspire others, but letting out my fears and emotions in this medium is a very important part of my process, and I thank you for being my audience and safety net. You, love, are a very big part of my success in this life, because we all need love to thrive.

All you need is love

All you need is love


This is the first piece in a miniseries called WHY. I look forward to sharing parts II and III very soon.

Who are you? Speak your truth!

“Oh I could sing such grandeurs and glories about you; you have not known what you are. You have slumbered upon yourself all your life. Your eyelids have been the same as closed most of the time…Whoever you are, claim your own at any hazard! These shows of the east and the west are tame compared to you. These immense meadows, these interminable rivers, you are immense and interminable as they are.”Walt Whitman
I am a Contradiction
Are we all a contradiction? Is this something that rings true with you as you read this? There are so many times that I fear it makes me less perfect, less like everyone else, but I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Is it, then, what makes us so fascinating and indelibly human?
The truth should set us free. Right?
My Truths
I love the limelight—when I choose to turn on my “light,” my friends call me The Belle of the Ball. Generally I will take any chance to stand out and call attention to myself, sometimes taking it to a narcissistic level. Strangely, though, in my natural state, I am still, quiet, and blend in. Perhaps this is the reason I need that “switch” to turn me into someone else. I’m not sure if I feel that my value goes one way or the other when I am Belle and when I am Becky, but I have always noticed these two distinct sides of me.
There are times I feel lonely, and that is when I start putting myself down for being single. Damn you, society, for putting those thoughts into my mind. Damn you, subconscious, for letting them fester. Single is not a negative thing; it does not mean unlovable. In fact, single means not willing to settle for less than I deserve. So when I am feeling lonely, I should be celebrating my independence and cautious nature in choosing who I will spend my life with. Besides, I am constantly surrounded by loved ones. I know I’m ready for my big romantic love, but perhaps he is not quite ripe yet. Who knows? I can’t let it stop me from living an amazing life.
I am very physically active and live a healthy life, yet I still see myself as the “big girl.” I was uncomfortably overweight for a large part of my life, and it became who I was—how I identified myself. It’s been 10 years since my drastic weight loss, and still I have fears and uncertainty about how people view the physical part of me.
“You think of yourself
as a citizen of the universe.
You think you belong
to this world of dust and matter.
Out of this dust
you have created a personal image,
and have forgotten
about the essence of your true origin.” – Rumi
I dance on stage in front of dozens, exposing my vulnerability and body, and yet I cower in fear at the thought of approaching a handsome, confident man.
I am full of energy and life, yet I am exhausted much of the time. I often do not listen to my body when it says STOP.
And this whole recent breakup…the religion thing…I love the fact that it made me question the truth about my own faith. I’ve been delving more deeply into my Quaker roots, and I find it fascinating to study other people and their experiences, whether or not their beliefs match my own. My faith, though not always front and center in my life, has always been essential to me. I’ve found it helpful to read several books in the past few weeks, including a great one written by a Quaker kid I knew growing up, called The Unlikely Disciple. I followed that up with The Year of Living Biblically. Talk about contradictions.It highlights the ridiculousness of trying to live literally by all of the Bible’s rules. At the same time, it weeds out some very simple but eternally applicable lessons that the Bible deems important. Another useful text is one that my mother sent me at the beginning of my breakup, called A Quaker Book of Wisdom: Life Lessons in Simplicity, Service, and Common Sense. It has reconnected me with some of the testimonies of Quakerism that sometimes get lost in the fray of everyday life.
My truth is that I don’t fit into a pre-made box. My mold isn’t shaped like a puzzle piece; it’s more like a dodecahedron. So where does that leave me? How do I find my people? My calling? What drives me? Do I have to categorize myself in order to find someone that I mesh well with? In some ways, my versatility makes me very easy to get along with. In other ways it alienates me to a point where I don’t know how to define myself. Let’s be honest, sometimes questioning can lead to an amazing breakthrough, but there is always that fear that it will lead to nothing. I suppose all I can do, all any of us can do, is to stay open to the journey and experience it with gratitude and a true lust for life.
Whoever you are, claim your own at any hazard!
What is your truth?

Possibilities

Oh, Pandora.
As I listen to Counting Crows’ Long December on my Pandora app, a Christian Mingle ad pops up, and I have to laugh at the irony.
I haven’t posted about anything really personal in a while. I know you’re missing my normal onslaught of online dating stories and woes. Until recently, I was starting to think that part of my life had finally set sail.
I met someone I connected with. We had so much in common—our love of the Blazers, of running, of being childishly, ecstatically nervous around each other. Terrified butterflies were ninja-fighting in my tummy every time I walked out the door to meet him.
We were so alike but so different.
Then, the talk. We had differences, yes. Major ones? Oh yes. Stomach-curdling, I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-it differences. The distinction between compatible or not came down to one word: religion.
That was it. None of our chemistry, our smiles, our kisses, our electricity, mattered. We couldn’t find a middle ground. How is it possible that two people with such a connection could find the one giant elephant-in-the-room issue that so easily broke us apart? What was the purpose of our meeting?
When the ice shattered, it didn’t leave anything intact, but all the pieces were still there. We could still feel each other but we couldn’t see each other. We could hold hands but we knew the mountains would move between us soon enough, cutting the rope that made us an “us.” It was done.
But we must move on. That’s how life works. Failure is a teacher. It may be a bitch, it may take things away, but it shows us what could be.
And sure, it can be a bitch, but it can also be a fairy godmother; it gifts us possibilities. And now I know that real love IS possible.

Love

Love Yourself First

14 in 2014 – Let's Do This!

The time has come to set some new goals. It’s quickly closing in on the New Year’s Eve countdown, so why not? Before starting my list, I have to note that my numerology number for next year represents Beginnings. How great is that? That may seem like a given, considering that’s pretty much everyone’s theme for starting every new year, but I really think that 2014 will be a year of astounding changes and new opportunities for me, in particular. I have noticed that many doors have closed this year, and people or things that were clinging to me have been noticeably slipping away—some sneaking quietly in the night, and some going out with a bang. All of them needed to go, whether I was truly ready to say goodbye or not. As they say, out with the old, in with the new! So, without further ado, here is the list!
1) Have my last first kiss
There are no guarantees in love or life, but I’d certainly love to have my last first kiss in 2014.
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2) Trust my gut feeling – and always be proud of the decisions I make
Sometimes I let fear rule my decision-making. Sound familiar? If so, congratulations! You’re human. Let’s work on it together.
3) Take a vacation to somewhere completely new
My initial thoughts are New York City and Miami. Who’s coming with me?
4) Finish the novel I started
I wrote 33,000 words of this novel, tentatively titled “From Rich Soil,” in 2011, and now that I have figured out the ending, I’ve got to get the words out of my head and onto paper (or into Microsoft Word, as the case will surely be).
5) Run a new race
I’m all signed up for Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon and ready to set a new PR! Actually I’ll be running at least two new races next year. I’m running the Chocolate Run next year as well as participating in their ambassador program. This race and the ambassador concept is a first for me, and I’m very excited to see where it will take me, in my running and in my writing. Bonus – I will be running in a new racing city: Seattle!
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6) Salsa dance in a new city
Speaking of Seattle, I’m thinking it’s time to take on their salsa scene!
7) Go wine tasting at a new winery
Taking fantastic winery suggestions and applications to be my partner in crime!
8) Take a new class
Nutrition? Samba? Archeology? What exciting things will I learn this year? I am a student of the world, and I love to learn continually.
9) Use my new tent as much as possible + rent a cabin or yurt on the coast
I bought a new Kelty and I’m eager to use it!
10) Go to Crater Lake!
One of the most amazing natural sights, and I’ve never seen it in person. How can this be that I’ve lived in Oregon for ten years and not seen this monolith??
Crater Lake 2
11) Be gentle
This encompasses everything and everyone. I vow to be gentler with people who are different than me, and I vow to be gentle to myself when I am feeling critical of my own actions.
12) Be healthy
I’m not going to state a pound amount of weight loss I am shooting for (although I have one in mind), but I will tell you that I want to be more healthy and only eat when I am hungry.
13) Triple the love in my life
No, this does not necessarily mean get married and have a baby this year (Please don’t tell my parents…they will use this against me). I just want to surround myself in radiant, hugging, giggly, sometimes blush-inducing LOVE! That goes for familial, platonic, and romantic love. Help me share the glow!
14) Be grateful every day
It’s a pretty simple idea. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget how great I have it. Join me in remembering every day and treasuring the feeling.