Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My birthday hangout...or "keep me in suspense"

**Warning: this is long, graphic and quite possibly boring to everyone but me! If you are bothered by piercing, blood, pain or just really long stories, off you go now..* **One more thing - keep in mind that this is one person's experience with suspension. Individual experiences vary greatly and this blog post is not intended to influence anyone to do this or discourage anyone FROM doing this. I loved my suspension, but the decision belongs solely to the person considering it.**

This past Monday was my forty-second birthday. I usually celebrate my birthday in an extroverted manner, lots of friends in the house, lots of music, laughter and noise. This past year has been so filled with changes, so much worry and fear - boisterous revelry just didn’t feel right. For this birthday I turned inward and did something very significant to me, personally. I observed (I don’t think “celebrated” is the right word) this birthday swinging through open space, suspended by two hooks in my back.

Body suspension…why would anyone do that? I think that’s probably the number one question regarding the process. It’s absolutely the question I chose to avoid (the wording would probably be more along the lines of “Why the F*CK would you want to do THAT??”) by keeping the decision to myself (or between myself and Jim) until afterward. That question would most likely be followed by several negative/judgmental/concerned statements about the freakishness of the act. Or the danger, the pain, my questionable sanity – you name it, someone would have covered it. Conversely, I’m sure there are a few people who would have been supportive (if a little dubious) or downright enthusiastic . But the decision and the action was far too personal, too important to me, to let anyone influence me in either direction. I had to come at it straight from my heart. Of course I discussed it with Jim (this is something I’ve wanted to do for several years, actually) and he responded the way he always has when I’ve found myself needing to do something that’s significant to me on a deeply emotional or spiritual level. He expressed his concerns and his complete inability to relate to having such a need – and then supported me.

So..back to the question. Why WOULD anyone do this? It’s painful, it’s repulsive to many, it’s scary, dangerous (even when performed responsibly by experienced professionals). I can’t answer that question – but if you do a little research you’ll find myriad reasons dating back thousands of years. Rituals, rites of passage, overcoming fear, spirituality, performance art – the reasons vary as greatly as the individuals who choose to suspend.

I can only speak for myself…and I’ve found it very difficult to do so in an articulate manner. Every word I’ve chosen so far, I’ve chosen because it’s the closest I can come to capturing something as intangible as an emotion with something as limiting as language. But I’ll try. I don’t remember exactly where or when I first saw a picture of someone being suspended, I just remember that it spoke to me in a very visceral way..I was immediately drawn to it. I knew it was something I would do one day, HAD to do one day. And many of the clichéd reasons do apply – to test myself; could I withstand the physical pain and mental stress something like that would cause? Meditative/spiritual practice; would I be able to find that place inside of me that would allow me to endure the pain? Trust; could I put myself into the hands of a virtual stranger and trust that they would keep me as safe as possible (all the while knowing many of the risks are not in their control or mine)? Trust again; would the hooks hold me? Would my skin hold me? Would my body tolerate it? Would my mind tolerate..and even enjoy it? And there’s that – enjoyment. There is nothing else that can duplicate the feeling of floating, flying, spinning in the air supported by nothing but one’s own skin. All of those reasons are true, but the words really only scratch the surface. The rest will have to dwell inside me, unarticulated but just as real.

So that (clumsily, partially) covers the why. It’s easier to write about the how. How did it happen? How did it feel? How do I feel now? So – a brief history about how I found the person who suspended me is in order. A little over two years ago I decided I wanted to do something kind of “big” for my 40th birthday. Something bucket-list-worthy. Skydiving came to mind..but then the image of someone being suspended popped into my head and that was it. I knew that was it. FINDING someone to perform the suspension was almost as painful as the act itself. To make this story slightly shorter..I was put in contact with Roger "Rabbit" Rodriguez. He has 16 years of body modification experience under his belt, he’s knowledgeable and best of all, friendly and articulate. Unfortunately he wasn't going to be in town for my birthday. Blah blah (life..mine, in the way) and two years passed. Two months before my 42nd birthday he contacted me to tell me he now had a studio (Ancient Adornments) in West Hollywood and was available. I checked out his studio’s Facebook page and there was a video posted of a recent suspension he’d performed on one of his crew members. It was so beautifully filmed, set to music – the “suspendee” was a very pretty young girl who appeared to be very serene and happy. The look on her face reflected a lot of what I wished to get out of the experience – focused, joyful, with a hint of being in some “other place” mentally. If I hadn’t already been absolutely sure I wanted to do this, watching her would have put me completely at ease. As it was, I’ve been sure about this for a very long time, and that just was icing on the cake (haha..birthday pun). I was ready. I was excited. I was completely unafraid.

The day of my birthday (last Monday, the 9th) finally came and I spent the day relaxing and hydrating. I was advised to come into this completely sober – so no birthday cocktails were had. I drank water, made a playlist on my Iphone (another cool thing about Roger is that he’ll put your own music on the sound system, so the experience is totally individualized and personal), and reading about suspension. I read people’s personal accounts, I watched a few videos, read a lot of FAQ’s. I’m surprised the FAQ’s didn’t generate any jitters – you’d think a list of possible side effects that include pain, shock, nausea, vomiting, convulsions and even death might generate second thoughts. Nope. I just felt completely sure that everything would be fine.

My appointment (I scheduled a private suspension, so the only people present were Roger,three of his crew members, and Jim) was at 8pm. We arrived a little early and checked in with Roger. Meeting him in person only made me feel more secure – he was warm and funny and just had an air of “I know what I’m doing and you’re going to have an amazing time” about him. He instructed Jim to make me eat a light dinner (nothing acidic or spicy or bubbly, he said – as there was a chance I might throw up..and if you know me at all and are familiar with my vomit phobia, the fact that I wasn’t even worried about THAT should make you understand how important this was to me) and we went across the street for some food. We got back a couple minutes after 8 and they were still setting up.

Roger prepped me for what was about to happen, what I could expect, tips about keeping my body as relaxed as possible. After close to an hour they were ready to place the hooks. I laid belly-down on what looked very much like a doctor’s examination table (complete with white paper!) and prepared to be pierced. As the studio is also a training facility, one of the two female crew members was going to place one of my hooks (she has piercing experience, but not with suspension hooks). I never got her name, but she was actually the girl in the video I’d seen, which was reassuring. She knew from experience what I was about to go through. Roger explained that he would place one hook and she would place the other (the suspension I did is called a two point “suicide” suspension. Suicide because the body appears to be hanging from a noose, due to the placement of the hooks in the upper back area). He instructed me to take a deep breath through my nose and then exhale through my mouth as through blowing out a candle. We did one practice breath, and on the second one, they pierced as I exhaled. The hooks went through surprisingly fast, although I could tell it took a lot of pressure to push them through. The sensation was a sharp stinging pain that quickly subsided. Now the endorphins and adrenaline began to flood my body. I still didn’t feel nervous at that point, but there was a mental shifting and realization that this was really going to happen.

They walked me over to the rigging and I stood as Roger attached my hooks to the suspension rig. Jim took some pictures. Once I was all hooked up (haha), Roger pulled down on the rope (the rig is set up like a rock climbing belay – rope over a pulley) to put some tension on the hooks. My skin was pulled taught and upward, creating strange-looking peaks above my shoulder blades. Jim said I looked like an angel whose wings had been plucked. This was when the pain began to become significant. Roger explained how I would go up – that I was to let my arms hang down by my sides and signal him with my hands scooping upward. He let me know that it was best to just go ahead and go all the way up when I was ready (not do it inch by inch) because once your feet are off the ground you’re suspended. It’s not going to feel any less painful close to the ground as it is up in the air, and that the first few moments of leaving the ground are the most painful. Then the body adjusts and you begin to get used to it, and can begin to move around.

He told me to signal when I was ready, there was no rush. He reminded me that as I went up I needed to focus completely on the reason I was doing this, and just let it happen. He’d be watching me carefully for signs of shock and I could indicate I wanted to get down by simply pointing down, no need to speak (which is good..because that’s nearly impossible at first). All the while he gradually increased the tension on the hooks to allow my skin to stretch and me to adjust to the pain (and no one tried to tell me it wasn’t going to’s part of the process). Here is when the fear came. I was shocked (physically as well as mentally) by the level of pain, and I wasn’t even off the ground yet. Was I really going to be able to do this?

They all had told me the hardest part is letting your toes finally leave the ground, that the body really wants to stay on the ground and it will fight the upward pull. That was true. I began to give the “up” signal and felt myself rising until just my big toes were still touching the ground. Just then, it truly felt like the earth was fighting to keep me on the ground, while the hooks were fighting to pull me into the air. Roger had Jim come over and hold my hands. My toes were still on the ground, I looked like a freakish ballerina. This seemed to be my mental hurdle – letting my feet leave the ground. But I signaled “up” and found myself a few feet off the ground, gripping Jim’s hands until my knuckles went white. The pain became a living thing. I had expected it to hurt – trust me, I didn’t harbor any illusions about it being easy, but I was still truly astounded by how BIG it was. That’s the only way I can explain it. It was all-encompassing and for a few seconds I was terrified. I thought “That’s it..I’m going to be one of the ones who goes up for two seconds and then immediately gives up and comes down.”.

then I thought about how long I’d waited to do this, and how, compared to all the emotional pain of the past few years, this was bearable. Only JUST, but it became bearable. Roger had Jim slowly walk me back and forth – holding my hands and very gently allowing me to feel what it was like to swing. It looked like the world’s strangest slow dance. It was kind of beautiful. Then I let go of his hands and I was completely suspended. I tried to close my eyes and let my limbs relax. Roger told me to move my legs around, and I did – gently and slowly paddling them, turning in very slow circles. I’d been up for maybe five minutes and didn’t notice any easing up of the pain. I DID notice that I felt a little nauseated and sweaty and felt that sort of mental sideways slip that precedes passing out, so I signaled “down”. Roger lowered me slowly down and Matt (crew member and super nice guy) placed a chair beneath me. I sat, but Roger kept the tension on the hooks. Jim brought me my Gatorade and I had a few sips. The nausea passed. The fainty-floaty feeling subsided. The pain did NOT. But I wasn’t ready for it to be over yet, so I stood and signaled Roger to go ahead and take me back up.

This time he had me kind of slowly run forward and as I did, he pulled me up, causing me to swing back and forth. This actually eased the pain of the hooks a little. I breathed. I looked around the room. I moved my arms and legs, bent my knees and pulled them toward me. I could see my refection in the tinted storefront window and it was amazing. I was doing it! I was suspended.

Matt offered to swing me and I nodded. He gently gripped my hips and gave me a push that sent me flying back and forth through the air. I moved my legs and began to spin. I kept my eyes open and watched the room go around, watched everyone below me go around, and then Matt gave me another push and I was swinging again. The pain was still very present, but the sensation of swinging and the utter strangeness of being off the ground but not sitting on something or holding something (it’s far more bizarre than you’d expect..your body doesn’t quite know what to make of it) allowed me to tolerate it. The rigging above me creaked like an old ship as I went back and forth. I slowly stopped swinging and kind of played around with different leg positions. I reached back and grabbed my ankles, which felt simultaneously pleasant because it stretched my tense back but painful because it tugged the hooks harder. I tried sitting Indian style midair, which was fun. Then I just kind of kicked my feet and experimented with my making body gently spin. I focused on the music finally, and decided to stay up until the song that was on ended. By then I knew I was done.

I signaled “down” and Roger lowered me onto the ground. I told them I felt like I was done, so Roger let the tension off the hooks. And here’s the weird thing (as if the rest of it wasn’t weird..), it actually felt uncomfortable when the pulling stopped. I almost “missed” the sensation, even though the pain was instantly gone. We went back into the piercing room and Roger removed the hooks. Then came another unexpectedly painful step (possibly THE most painful part of the whole experience)…”burping” the wounds. Think about it. Yep..air gets in there. It makes sense – your skin is being pulled away from the muscle, there are holes, which are stretched open, and as you move about, they gape a bit and air gets in there. In my case not much, my skin seems to take quite well to having hooks through it. Still, Roger was determined to find any air that might have gotten in. He did this by pressing VERY VERY hard…kind of a massage from hell, over and over. This was the only time during the entire event that I made painful expressions. REALLY painful expressions – one of the girls laughed and said “You didn’t make a face like that the ENTIRE time you were up!!!”.

When that was over I was allowed to get up and walk around. The relief was immense, my feet have never been so happy to feel a floor beneath them. I asked how long I had stayed up, because I felt like I wussed out pretty early in the really only seemed like a few minutes. Matt checked and told me I’d been up for about 20 minutes. And that’s when everyone gave their suspension confessions – “My first time, I was up for about three minutes, got sick and came right down!”. Everyone else’s story was similar and Roger told me I had done really well. I was surprised by that – and by how unaware I was of the passing of time while I was up. I guess my mind had other things to focus on at the time.

So that was basically it. Matt showed me a little of the film footage (yet another wonderful aspect of Ancient Adornment’s suspension is that they film it for you and make you a very cool video set to music!!Wanna see? Click here!) and it was unreal. It was hard to wrap my head around the fact that the woman floating around in the video was me. It almost didn’t look like me. I became aware of a massive endorphin high – I was growing more giddy and elated by the second. I felt like I’d been injected with some sort of happy drug and I could not stop talking (poor Jim)! I babbled the whole way home and didn’t stop when we got there. I finally had a birthday cocktail and settled into bed, but it took a long time to wind down. Once I did, though, I slept. Deeply. A rarity for me. I was exhausted and happy and sore and I slept hard.

So was it what I expected? Not exactly – but I mean that in a good way. I’d actually been a little concerned that it would be easy and that I would feel as if it hadn’t been a challenge that I conquered. The fact that it was so much more intense, heavy and painful (and for a short while, very scary) than I had expected, but made it through anyway was rewarding. So..while it wasn’t what I expected, it was what I had HOPED for. It was exactly what it was supposed to be.

Monday, June 4, 2012

..the dog is down, but we're the ones getting kicked does this stuff just keep happening?? It's our 12th anniversary this weekend, something we like to celebrate with a modest (ie; cheapest motel possible, spending most of our time picking rocks off the beach..a free activity!) trip to Cambria for a couple days. We were already uncertain that we'd be able to pull it off this year, money's tighter than ever, so to ENSURE that we can't go, Lucy (one of our three Corgis) decided to swallow a foreign object. The mystery object remained lodged in her intestines and she is waking from surgery as I write this, three thousand or so dollars later. So yeah...not only is any hope of a getaway gone, but the laser cutter we were planning to add to our collection of business equipment is also out of the question. We can't put it on a credit card because we don't have one..nor do we have sufficient credit to qualify for one. So..I had to rape my IRA account yet again (and pay huge penalties and taxes in the process). I guess we'll be spending our anniversary clinking glasses of Coors light and picking through the chunks of mystery rubber collected from Lucy's gut, trying to figure out what the hell it was.

Adding to the fun is the fact that we just found out today that Jim's unemployment benefits have ended. So we now officially make less money per month than we owe for rent (let's not even think about the additional utilities and oh, food costs). Awesome. Jim was told last month that his benefits were good til October, but apparently the state no longer qualifies for the Federal extension...because the state's unemployment rate isn't high enough. *blink blink* *head cocked quizzically to one side* *shaking head rapidly from side to side in manner of wet dog in hopes of making sense of this*'s still not making sense. Or cents.

On a less morose, but entirely unhelpful note, we've had some interesting celebrity encounters over the past couple weeks. I met Rita Wilson at the Toad concert (she was performing), Lauren met Jessarae (son of Luke Robitaille) who was also performing that night, and Jim inadvertently met Marla Maples yesterday at the Face 2 Face movie premiere. She was at the after party and we were wracking our brains trying to figure out why she looked so familiar, so Jim finally just went up and asked her who she was. Heheheh! She was very nice. Oh, and of course we met Katherine Brooks, the filmmaker/star of Face 2 Face (she's also the Emmy award winning director of The Osbourne's and several other shows) but we sort of know her by proxy....long story. Amazing lady, though. I hope to get to know her better. Last night's premier was definitely the only highlight of a really f'd up weekend. Well that's not entirely true - we also vended at Summer Fest (a small local thingy) where we sold a few hoops and I got to do a LOT of hooping along with my dear hoop sistah Katie. It was a really good time. But SHIT, dude.......what NOW???

I'm beyond grateful that Lucy's going to be alright, I love her so much and would have been absolutely shattered if we'd lost her, but this is yet another financial blow that we really didn't need. And I know this entry is really not much more than a sloppily written list of complaints, but this is what's happening now. And this is a blog about life after layoffs & foreclosure. This is how it is. We just need to figure out how to make it better.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

don't you forget about me..

I avoid "sad" movies at all costs. Really, if I've heard "Oh my God, that movie was SO good, I cried the whole time.." you can bet good money I won't be watching it. It may have been a really good story, but count me out. I don't know what it is, really. I know people find tearjerkers cathartic, and on the rare occasion I get suckered into one, unaware of its content, even I find some release in it. But if I can help it, I'll give it a wide berth as I tiptoe around it, doing my best to take in as little of the details as possible. All I need to know is that it's sad, and I'm out.

I don't know if I'm just a wuss, or if there's any credence to my typical excuse - which is this (I should have it printed up on business cards as a sad movie avoidance mission statement): "I find myself dealing with sadness FOR NO GOOD REASON way too often in my life, WHY would I do it on purpose???". I don't know if everyone who suffers from depression/bipolar disorder/*insert your mental illness here*/ feels this way, but it's a hangup that will probably be with me the rest of my life. A trail of unread/unwatched Nicholas Sparks stories will follow me to my grave, and I'm okay with that.

So as I lie here, puffy eyed and wet-cheeked after an innocent viewing of The Descendants...hmmm. I still stand by my mission statement. But if I had to get suckered into one, this was worth it. I KNEW the subject matter was potentially sad, but I didn't really comprehend the depth of it.

It made me think (and that's probably the heart of the loathing of anything that makes me think more than I already do). I wonder how most of my loved ones, those I keep closest to my heart (there are fairly few of you, so you probably know who you are) would remember me when my life ends.

I've not been perfect by anyone's standards, especially not my own - but I've been true to myself. I've been me. So if you love me, but, upon my departure, you discover some less-than-savory details about my life (and some of you will..), will you STILL love me (and my penchant for run-on sentences)? Will the reasons you loved me prevail over anything you might learn? Am I one of those people who will be looked back on with a half-smiling, half-sad shake of the head and remarks about my having been a free spirit? Or will people just think "Wow..that chick was a self-centered a**hole."? And in the long (or short...I guess that's part of my point..who knows how long we get?) run, does it matter? Should I live my life always wondering how a particular action might be perceived by a particular person once I'm gone? Am I even ABLE to do that? Judging by my present standard of living, I'd have to say no. So what was my point??

Oh Descendants? Pretty sad, but good. And if my eyes look a little puffy tonight, SHUT UP, it's allergies.

Monday, May 21, 2012

working title

So...for a minute there it looked like I was going to start posting regularly and even put some effort into the writing. *insert gameshow buzzer sound here* Yeah....I don't know who I was trying to kid. I will never be anything but sporadic at best. It's in my DNA.

Hmmm...things that have gone on lately: we had a big vendor show, Conejo Valley Days, which is our city's big annual carnival/craft fair. We didn't do well. At all. The only reason we made a profit at all was because we didn't have to pay the full vendor fee thanks to having good friends in the right places. It was a good experience, though. Learning to set up our booth, talk to living, breathing customers (as opposed to our usual online ones), toughing out long hours four days in a row, and meeting some really great no major complaints.

I completed the April 30/30 hooping challenge (hooping 30 minutes a day for 30 days in a row) and Jim completed it with me! I'm so proud of him, it's difficult for someone who's USED to hooping a lot, it's ridiculously hard for someone who isn't, and he hung in there.

The printing business is picking up slowly...but things are scary. Jim's unemployment benefits will run out soon and we'll need for him to take over the printing side of things as his Real Job and be able to actually make enough money to live on. We're not quite there yet, the rent here is high..and yeah. *GULP* We shall see. We're flying, as always, by the seats of our respective pants. I'm sure just about everyone thinks we're insane, but we're determined to make this work somehow.

We went to Renaissance Faire twice over the past month - it's an annual pilgrimage for us, and we had a blast. We've had to cut back on a LOT of the things we used to do, but Faire is one of those things we just can't give up. We've got another vendor event coming up - this one is more hoop related, so hopefully I'll sell a bunch of hoops and make gobs of money. We also get to bring our other merchandise, we'll see how that does at this particular venue. If nothing else, it's an excuse to hoop with a bunch of kids and have lots of fun. OH, TOAD SHOWS!!! We'll be working the merch booth for two Toad shows in San Diego and one in Agoura Hills. Can't wait to see those guys again!!

Um....yeah, I wish I had something poignant and observant to say, but it's just not happening right now. (wait..does it ever happen??)

I watched the eclipse last night - Jim was out working on a film project, so I was alone. I sat on the sidewalk, snapped a bunch of pictures, tried to resist looking at it directly (with marginal success..) and enjoyed the eerie light and shadows. Maybe I'm just imagining it, but the peculiar and rare juxtaposition of moon and sun left me feeling oddly balanced and content. Why does it always take peculiar, rare conditions to produce that feeling in me? Another DNA quirk is all I can figure.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I don't think Houston really cares....

...but we may have a problem here. I think I'm addicted to the IDEA of caffeine. Don't let the picture fool you - that was the result of a week or so of my just being too lazy to bring the cans downstairs to recycle them. Not a day's consumption. I love Diet Coke. I admit it. I've never been able to make the jump to coffee. I love the way it smells, can't stand the way it tastes. Apparently my tongue lacks the coffee-drinking-grownup-person gene. Unfortunately the rest of my body lacks the stay-awake-unassisted gene and Diet Coke is my coffee. I actually drink it with my breakfast. I probably should pour it into a coffee mug to avoid the weird looks I get when I do it around people unfamiliar with this particular quirk of mine.

The thing is, I don't think caffeine really does anything for me. I really don't feel any more awake after my morning Cokefest. If, however, I skip it (and that rarely happens..) I feel like I missed my opportunity to get a little energy boost. Is it possible to be experience a placebo..non-effect? I'm aware that whatever I'm getting out of the caffeine is mostly psychological...but because I'm AWARE of it, I'm not really getting any effect. And yet I still do it. Let's all ponder the craziness of this. I'll be right back, just need to go grab another Diet Coke.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I think life has a voice. It whispers to us, it's brutally honest and most of us have become really adept at tuning it out. We hear it, but we don't really listen. "That isn't really good for you.", it scolds. "You THINK this is really important right now, but it's not." it insists. Yeah, yeah...I hear you, I hear you. And then we do what we're going to do, or keep obsessing about that thing we want. We stare straight ahead, focused on that unobtainable something, never looking left or right. Missing all the scenery.

But every now and then something happens that gets your attention. The voice shifts from a whisper to a shout. "HEY!! Look over here for ONE SECOND, OKAY??? I'm going to show you all the things you CAN have, if you just look around you.". You allow your focus to shift from zoom to wide angle and all kinds of things float into the frame. Whoah...where did all of THIS come from? Was this always here? Maybe, maybe not, but it's here now, and it's for you. And then you shift your focus back to whatever it was you wanted or needed so badly, and it doesn't even look the same. It's smaller somehow, when placed in perspective. It's suddenly so much less important. Maybe you don't want it anymore, or not as much. It's sort of uncomfortable to realize were so accustomed to wanting it, how will you fill the time you used to spend pursuing it?

Then you switch back to wide-angle again. Oh YEAH. That's how.

I wish I listened to that voice more often, instead of always waiting until it screams for my attention, but I'm grateful for it nonetheless. Maybe I'll manage to stay tuned in a little longer this time around.

Friday, April 20, 2012

All I Want

I'm sitting at my desk right now, watching as my ex-husband drives away with our daughter. When he and I first met, he was in love with his car. An Acura Integra, he bought it new, it was the car he wanted and it made him happy. He spent hours in that car, just driving. I can't see an Acura Integra on the road without thinking about how much he loved his. Years later, after we'd married and divorced, he bought his next car - a Mustang. If there was ever a car he wanted more than his Integra, it was that Mustang. He worked hard, his job paid well, and he got the car. He got what he wanted. A few years later, it was totalled in an accident. Another driver ran a red light and smashed right into him - my daughter and his stepdaughters were in the car. None of them were hurt, thankfully. By then he was remarried and it wasn't practical to get another Mustang. He got something more sensible, something more suited to the needs of his family. It's a cute car, it looks like a toy. As I watch him drive away, I know this car will never feel like the Acura or the Mustang felt to him. It's not what he wants, but it's what he needs and what he can have.

I'm really not sure where I'm going with this. I guess I'm thinking about sacrifice and acceptance. Sometimes you give up something you want because there is something you want MORE, that means more to you than what you're giving up. Sometimes that's worthwhile. But other times it just feels like you can never get what you want. I'm watching him through the window of a rented townhouse. I'm not where I want to be. We (my current husband and I) wanted to keep our home, and we didn't get what we wanted. There are a lot of things I want - material and not, and so often these days it just feels like I will never get them.

But does it even matter? I remember how much I wanted my ex-husband (before he was my ex, or even my husband for that matter). That was a hard-won battle. I wanted a relationship, I wanted marriage. I got what I wanted and it eventually became something neither of us could bear. So we parted and are both better off for it. Is there any satisfaction in getting what you want if it's ultimately something you maybe shouldn't have had? That's not to say I regret it, I would never have had my daughter if I hadn't fought for what I wanted, but I DID campaign pretty hard for that relationship. Maybe if it was meant to be, it wouldn't have been so hard to get. It's sort of like our house - we wanted it, really wanted to keep it. At the same time, it was on the verge of needing major, expensive repairs that we can't afford. We can't afford them because we're trying to live life the way we want to, as artists (which equals not a lot of income just yet). If we'd gotten what we wanted, it would have come with a heap of worry and frustration.

I don't think it's possible for me to completely refrain from wanting certain things, but I'm trying to accept that there are some things I just shouldn't have. I might still get them if I fight really hard - but if I SHOULD have them, if they are things (or situations) that will truly bring me happiness, maybe there shouldn't have to be a fight. Maybe my single-minded focus on the thing I want so much is causing me to miss out on lots of things that are ultimately better. Maybe I should just stop wanting and see what comes.

Right now, though, I want a cocktail. And that's something I can have. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Artifice..or, if you stand by me, I'll stand bayou.

So..I have this weird mental device I employ to help me fall asleep at night. One of the many joys of bipolar disorder is the inability to turn off my brain (In the medical world it's known as "racing thoughts"). I can lie there for hours with a random thought, a piece of a song or various other mental flotsam and jetsam just looping over and over. I know everyone has these little bouts of insomnia from time to time, especially under stress, but for me it's pretty much the norm. So over the years I've developed what I call sleep fantasies.

Sleep fantasies are various mental scenarios of either places/circumstances that I'd enjoy sleeping in, or places I'm grateful NOT to be, safe in my bed instead. That sounded weird, let me try to explain - an example of a place I'd LIKE to sleep: I have this weird obsession with the bayou portion of the Pirates of the Carribean ride at Disneyland (more on this later). My favorite part of the whole ride is the very begining, when the boat is floating serenely past little houses on stilts rising out of the water. The windows glow with light from within, fireflies blink above the water, a man in a rocking chair lazily plucks chords on his banjo. It's so peaceful..and yet you know crocodiles may lurk in the water. No matter, you're tucked safely away in one of the stilt houses. I like to pretend I'm in a little bed in my own little stilt house, drifting to sleep with the sounds of the bayou outside my open window. I have a collection of these little scenarious stored away in my brain, and sometimes they help reel my racing thoughts back in. My mind quiets, I sleep.

An example of a circumstance I'd NOT like to sleep in: on a woven mat on the floor of a hut in a third-world country. The type of place where entire families sleep on the floor, various (and often venemous) creatures crawling over thier bodies. *shudder* *SHUDDER SHUDDER* Why would I even think about that? Because then I focus on how safe and comfortable my own bed is and I feel grateful and somehow soothed. The scurrying in my brain gradualy slows, then stops, and I sleep.

Kind of weird, maybe, but it sometimes helps keep my squirmy-restless brain busy long enough to let my body fall asleep. Back to the obsession with the bayou in the Pirates ride. I was playing that fantasy loop in my head a couple nights ago, trying to get to sleep. Then I started to wonder what it would be like if I were actually allowed to spend a night there somehow. Like, what if Disneyland offered some kind of overnight package that allowed people to sleep in one of the stilt houses (yeah..imagine the price tag on THAT little number)? Wouldn't it be awesome to get to do that? But then I thought..hmmm, maybe not. Maybe if got to spend a whole night there instead of the few moments it takes to pass through it on the ride, it'd lose its charm. I'd notice a repetition in the bayou sound effects. It would become apparent that it was a recording. I'd start to notice the flaws in the special effects, I'd detect the human element in it and the fantasy would crumble. It's better to just have a sense of it that I can play in my head, unsullied by reality.

That got me thinking (oh no, exactly what I was trying NOT to do - THINK) about how that same phenomenon relates to human interaction. How the less we know about a person's behind-the-scenes reality, the more we can idealize them. Maybe that's why relationships are so exciting when they're new. You just focus on the appealing parts of it, you haven't had time to start noticing the human element. The flaws in the special effects. Maybe it's why sometimes long-distance relationships, or even relationships that develop between a prisoner and someone in the outside world seem to unravel once the barrier of distance is removed. With the barrier in place, you can control how much of you is revealed. You can show just your shiny side, and keep the less attractive mechanics hidden. At least for a while.

Then time goes by. The shiny surface shows hints of tarnish, you get glimpses of the not-so-pretty side. The fantasy dissolves and you're left with a mixture of the things you found appealing to begin with, and all the other parts that make someone who they are. The quirks, the flaws, the strange habits..all of it comes to the surface eventually. Maybe that's how you know someone really loves you. When the special effects fade and they see your gritty inner workings. And they stick around anyway. ....Maybe I should just take sleeping pills.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A year later and look how far we've...fallen?

Wow..I've been thinking a lot lately about this blog and how severely I've neglected it, but I didn't realize it had been over a year. Ironically, the last entry mentioned the sale date placed on our home by our lender, and my hope that the law firm we'd hired would come through for us.

Here's the Reader's Digest version of what's happened since then: The law firm we hired was indicted for fraud by the California state deparment of justice and disbarred. Down the drain went our several thousand dollars and any hope of them helping us.

Along came a woman named Lynne Leary with a company called Fidelity Financial Group, trying to get me to sign on with her, telling me she was certain her company would get our loan modified. After having been ripped off by Guardian and now Kramer and Kaslow, you can bet I was a little gun-shy (a tad "leery" if you will) about another company attempting to "help" us. She went as far as to meet us out for dinner, along with her husband, to demonstrate her sincerity and integrity. Roll forward to September of last year; our house was about to be taken in foreclosure, we needed to know immediately whether to take action (they'd already had us file emergency bankrupcies twice) the next day to stop the sale...and Lynne wasn't answering our calls. Her excuse the next day?? "I left my phone at the gym." As though that one cell phone was her only means of reaching us, when she KNEW we needed a response. Lo and behold, the house was sold.
Yup, folks, this woman who PROMISED me we wouldn't lose our house (I can show you emails from her..) let us lose our house. And then the entire company refused to respond to our calls or emails. The only response I ever got was a threat to refer us to their legal department if we did not retract our complaint to the BBB and Department of Justice about them. Ahem. Yes..there were threatening to sue us for complaining about how they took money up front for loan modification assistance (illegal), then failed to provide us with the services they offered, and failing to refund our money (their policy stated refund would be given in the case of a lender refusing a loan mod). Down the drain went THAT money, plus..oh, our lives.

The bank sent in their real estate agent the same day we found out we'd lost the house. He arrived on our doorstep and told us that the sooner we could get out of the house, the more "cash for keys" the bank would give us. Cash for keys is a small sum of money offered by the bank to entice the family to leave quickly without damaging the house. It's supposed to help out with the expenses of moving (security deposit on a rental, etc.). What it does is force you to feel under major pressure to move your entire life into the first rental you can find....and YOU GET TAXED FOR IT AS INCOME!!!!

We frantically began looking for a house to rent - with our print business and our 4 dogs, we required a garage and a yard, so we needed a house or townhome. Plus we needed to stay in our current city so that our daughter could complete high school (she graduates in 2013) and not have her life totally upended. We had problems because our credit is awful (thanks to not only the foreclosure, but the fact that we did debt consolidation the year before..apparently owing nothing and having no credit cards isn't good) and we had 4 dogs plus our tenant (who had been renting a large room in our house). Luckily we were accepted by the owner of a nice townhome - it's way smaller than our place, so most of our stuff is still in boxes 6 months later, and the rent is higher than what our mortgage payment had been before it adjusted up (causing the need for the loan mod and the fuckarow that ensued..)...but hey, it's a roof over our heads.

We're barely making it. Jim's unemployment, the income I make from my Etsy shop and the rent our tenant (thank the lord he agreed to move with us) pays is JUST enough to cover the rent, food, some of the bills (I have to do some creative juggling) and expenses each month. We live in a constant state of panic, wondering if we'll make the rent.
We're still working hard to build the printing business, I'm still running my stamp business, Jim's trying to find a job.
We're definitely not where I'd hoped we'd be (ie; still in our home with an affordable loan) a year ago.

On a happier note, we're healthy, we're still working toward making a living doing what we love to do, I'm still hooping a LOT, we have a lot of amazing friends and family who came through for us when we needed help with the move, and the shower in this bathroom actually looks clean after I clean it! One thing I don't miss about our house is the fact that our master bathroom was about to pretty much disintegrate. So there's that.
Always a silver lining...

About Me

Hippieville, CA, United States
This is the story of life after losing the "real" job and the house, trying to find the middle ground between making a living and actually living.