“We Are All Broken, That’s How The Light Get’s In.”~Ernest Hemingway

“I don’t understand why you like me.”

As a kid I loved to untangle necklaces and chains that somehow got rolled up or kinked into a ball.

“Give it to Pam. She’s good at that.”

And I was. I would sit with a safety-pin and gently roll the knots between my fingers with care to loosen them up. Then I would use the pin to pick through and separate the kinks. It was a meticulous puzzle and I got such satisfaction at trying to figure it out. As I worked at sorting out the chaos, all I could think about is how did it get this bad? How does something so beautiful get so twisted and tangled?

tangled-chains

I didn’t have much as a kid. My mother got me a charm holder necklace for my communion. It was the first piece of jewelry I ever owned. I wore it every day. I was careful with it when ever I took it off. I loved it. I cherished it. She would buy me little charms whenever she could. Then one Halloween as my brother, cousins and myself were trick or treating, we were ambushed by older kids. They ran passed and grabbed our candy bags. Three of the bags were snatched instantly, leaving my brother and cousins in shock as they watched their chocolate round the corner without them.  I held on for dear life. My tiny arm was yanked as they held one end of the bag and I held the other. I fell to my knees and then was dragged on my stomach as my costume ripped across the concrete. I never let go but thankfully they did.

We were all scared and ran up the street to tell our parents. They were upset as they listened to the four of us frantically tell the story through tears as our high-pitched words stumbled over one another’s. My mother assured us that everything would be alright.

“Look guys, there is more than enough candy in Pam’s bag for everyone to share.”

I looked at her like Arnold from the show Different Strokes would look at his brother when he said something utterly ridiculous. “Whatcha talking about Willis?” In my head I was thinking:

‘Let me get this straight. Five huge kids come charging down a steep hill for us. They grab our candy filled bags that we spent hours knocking on doors and begging for. My cousins and brother give up their booty in a matter of seconds. I fought and held on as if my life depended on it. At that age and that amount of sweet delicious treats, it did depend on it. And my reward for protecting what I had worked so hard to get, for protecting what was rightfully mine, for being the smallest of the group and taking on THE MAN, my reward for this is to divide MY share four ways?’

unknown

 

I was devastated. The tears rolled down my eyes. As my mother went to console me, something caught her eye.

“Where’s your necklace.”

I grabbed at my neck.

“My what?”

It was bare.

“Where is your charm holder?”

I cried even harder.

“I don’t know!!!”

We sped-walked down the street together. My stomach was churning. We began to see charms scattered on the sidewalk. First one, then two, then three and then there it was the open charm holder with the chain all tangled and knotted up where I had landed and the villains took off. I had saved the treasure but broke the grail. I cried even harder. My mother convinced me that we could fix it.

“You love getting the knots out. It’s not broken. It can be fixed.”

I did get the knots out but the truth was that it was broken. The latch kept opening and the charms kept falling off. The chain looked like it needed to be ironed. It wasn’t the same. It was broken. Beautifully broken. I say that because at 45 I still have the charms and in that experience I understand that it is the careless, often cruel actions of others that make chains, charms, and people broken.

“I don’t understand why you like me.”

There it was again. I wasn’t sure if that was a question or a statement or both. Maybe it was a questment. It was not the first time I had heard it. In fact, in most relationships (all but a few) and even in some friendships I was given this questment. I looked at my friend who had become slightly more than a friend and all I could think about was my charm holder.

The men that I ended things with, with lame excuses weren’t broken like me. They were confident. They handled life’s issues as they came. They came from good families and had very little trauma or tangles to sort through. Being with them made me realize what an utter cluster fuck I was and who wants to realize that? So I left. The one’s that asked the questment are the ones I worked harder to stay with.

I may not look like a disaster but I am. I hide it well. You see, control (or the art of looking in control) is my secret. In keeping control I get to hide my knots and tangles. Yes I’m a mess but I portray confidence always. I make sure I’m always the hardest worker, the best friend, the over achiever. I learn a lot but sometimes know nothing at all. I smile even when I’m sad inside. I don’t know if I’m coming or going but I walk with a steady gait and as if I have direction. In working on other’s kinks, I have the chance to work out my knots through theirs without showcasing my vulnerability. This is why I became a teacher and a healer.

There’s a part of me that is jealous of them. They admit that they’re a mess. That they don’t know which end is up. That they make mistakes that they will probably regret, sometimes that includes me. They fall apart and to them it’s a sign of weakness. To me it’s a sign of freedom. I don’t know how to go there, to completely let it go and fall apart. I’ve been close and I let it go more now than in the past but I always have to pull it together. Control and confidence is all I know how to do to survive.

So in answer to your questmemts both past and present, I like you because you’re like me. We have similar stories although different life experiences. We are sad but try to be happy. We feel unloved and are not sure how to love. We fear abandonment but also abandon. We are scattered, confused, tangled and knotted. Some days feel like they are torture to get through but we manage. We are broken to let the light shine in.

I am broken.

Beautifully broken.

images

I just glue the pieces back together differently.

 

“When You Can Tell Your Story and It Doesn’t Make You Cry, You Know You Have Healed.”~Unkown

I walked into work in a panicked state. I could hear the beat of my own heart and I was sure everyone else could too. I took a few deep breaths and tried to exhale as slowly as possible. I put my purse down and looked at Nicole. She smiled.

“Hey muffin, how are…whoa are you okay? What’s going on? What’s happening?”

Wow, was it that obvious? I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to say or how to say it. This month was difficult for me. I studied my ass off for the last few weeks and took four exams in a week and half while working full time at the restaurant. I was told that the rent for my healing practice was doubling. To make matters worse the holidays were right around the corner, reminding me that not only was I 3,000 miles away from my family but that I was alone.

All of this weighed heavily on my mind but what weighed the heaviest was that this time last year was when the shit hit the fan and left an emotional mess that I had been trying to clean up for the last twelve months. How would I say all of that in the three minutes we had before we opened? In typical blunt, Aries, New Jersey fashion, I blurted out,

“I want to burn my wedding gown!”

IMG_0100_2

The Day I Found The Dress

Nicole laughed out loud. “Okay. Are you sure you don’t want to sell it? I thought you were going to style it and take pictures. Don’t you want to get your money back?”

Nicole had been holding my dress for me. It was too long to hang in my closet and looking at it hanging from the back of my door reminded me of the past. I needed it out of my sight. Nicole said she would store it in her Hopeless Chest. Which I found quite fitting given the circumstances.

Dolly-Parton-Rainbow

“I don’t want to look at it! I don’t want to steam it and take glamour shots of it! I don’t want to answer questions about it. The thought of having to ship it out gives me anxiety! I need to purge.”

IMG_3991

I said all of that in one breath. I swallowed hard as I inhaled. I was waiting for Nicole to tell me I was crazy, to tell me I should re-think things, to tell me that I was being rash. Instead she responded with,

“Well alright! Let’s burn that mother fucker!”

IMG_3993

And with that my anxiety became excitement and my fear stricken face lit up with joy.  I know I had to do something to shift the energy. Helpless needed strength. Hurt needed joy. Sadness needed happiness. Alone needed support. Tears needed laughter.

I began asking my girlfriends if they would take part in “The Purge.” I watched as their faces lit up as they answered yes. They were excited that I was taking my power back.

The dress was all that was left and I wanted it to go. I needed it to go. I put together a Purge Playlist, which included songs about burning, fire, letting go, releasing, getting stronger and moving on. That in itself was cathartic. We packed up the car with firewood, kindling, champagne, snacks, blankets and chairs. Seven women and one child, drove to the fire pits at the beach and let “The Purge” converge.

IMG_4112

Dress? Check! Matches? Check! Blaze Setter? Check! Let The Purge Begin!!!

We ate, drank and danced on the beach. Once the fire was good and ready, I ceremoniously carried my dress from the car down to my support system. We took pictures and I posed with my dress. I cut a piece of it off as, Rod Stewart belted out, “The First Cut Is The Deepest.” I threw the piece on the fire and it shriveled up in seconds.

I went over and picked up the rest of the dress. I carried it much like a groom would carry his bride after the wedding, but instead of crossing the threshold and gently putting her down on the other side, I aggressively, tossed it into the fire and watched as the fabric went up in flames to Jay Z’s, “On To The Next One.” How appropriate!

It went quickly and it felt like nothing I had ever felt before. It was as if the dress absorbed all of the drama, all of the hurt, tears, and pain in my heart and then the fire purged it away.

IMG_3999

I felt lighter and happier as I watched the pillows of smoke fade away into the air. I looked around at my girlfriends laughing, singing and dancing. And as they celebrated this moment of me letting go, of me taking my power back, of me finding my self worth, I realized how incredibly blessed I am. I also realized how incredibly crazy we all are. Crazy in the best and most beautiful way that crazy can be.

The Purge 1

Love them more than words can say!

So next year,  I will light another fire at the beach, or in my fireplace, or in a garbage can in an alley in New Jersey or maybe I’ll just light a match. But when I do I will celebrate the positive choices I have made, instead of mourning the negative ones someone else has imposed upon me. I will celebrate the person that I am and the love that I have to offer. I will remind myself how lucky I am to have so many beautiful people in my ever expanding circle. I have faith that I will find someone deserving of all that I have to give, and if I have the opportunity to buy another wedding gown, I know that that one will be worth keeping.

Like it never happened

On To The Next One!

“Don’t let the fear of falling, keep you from flying.”~Unknown

“I have no desire to be in a relationship, WHAT SO EVER!”

“Wow, ok hater. I don’t hate relationships. I’m just bitter.”

“I’m just over it.”

“I’m frustrated.”

The man who just sat down at the end of the bar chimed in.

“Well I’m pissed!.”

And there you had it. Four woman discussing their feelings on men, dating and breakups and the brave man who dared to put his two cents in.

Hater, Bitter, I’m Over It, Frustrated and Pissed, not the crew you want to encounter on a late Sunday night or any night for that matter. Sitting there talking to my girlfriends about our past relationships and potential dating prospects is what made me decide that I had no desire to be in a relationship.

Yes I’m Hater. I’m the one that falls in love with untrusting men.  This has been happening since my first love at age 15. Being in love is incredible but love without trust to glue it together is just a bunch of parts with no form, no foundation.

HATER photo: Hater Gonna Hate Hater.gif

Bitter on the other hand is trying to move on from her relationship with a man who has baggage galore. He made it very clear that his baggage comes first. She has made it clear that she will not be 2nd, 3rd, or any other number inline other than first. Yet he won’t leave her alone. He doesn’t respect her boundaries and crosses the line every time.

BITTER photo: bitter bitter.gif

I’m Over It is tired of dating the man-child. It doesn’t matter what age they are, they still haven’t grown out of their frat boy, partying ways. Guys, if you’re not in college and you are past your 20’s but you are still doing keg stands, bong rips, lines of you know what, watching a ton of porn or getting black-out plastered, four or more days out of the week then you are a man-child.

GAME OVER photo: Game Over demotivational-poster-190609-29-600x400-1.jpg

Frustrated is exhausted with the cheating, lying, manipulative games that men play with women. You all eventually get caught. There’s no trophy, bonus or ribbons for you playing two women at the same time so what’s the point? Why do you want to invite that much drama into your life? Isn’t life complicated enough?

FRUSTRATED photo: frustrated uh.gif

Pissed is probably angry that he walked into the one bar in Mill Valley with four attractive woman and he clearly did not stand a chance.

PISSED photo: ? 7.jpg

Dating, relationships and break ups are hard and tedious work. They are mentally draining, emotionally exhausting, time-consuming, button pushing…I can go on and on. Being single is easy. Your day is yours. You don’t have to take into account anyone’s feelings, quirks, emotions, habits, or schedule. It’s you and only you. Your baggage is the only load you have to carry. Yet we risk the easy life for that uncertain thrill of love. Why?

SINGLE photo: Single Untitledlll.jpg

The only thing I can compare it to is skydiving in Miami. Why would anyone, in their right mind, decide to jump 12,500 feet from a perfectly good airplane above South Florida summer storm clouds? Because I’m crazy, that’s why. But aren’t we all crazy? Believe it or not we feel more alive when we take risks than when we go about just living. The more obstacles in our way, the bigger the risk, the harder we fall, the more alive we feel.

FREE FALLING

Jumping out of an airplane was the most incredible thing I’ve ever done. It was the most free I’ve ever felt. I was a bird soaring through the sky. I had butterflies in my stomach and a Cheshire grin plastered to my face. Every second felt like an hour. I wanted to feel this way for the rest of my life. Sound familiar?

1934489_1220128945997_6499509_n

1934489_1220128985998_6416825_n

Then it happened. My tandem instructor pulled the cord. We were jerked up by an intense force. The video guy floating beneath us fell like a ton of bricks. God, were we going that fast? My smile fell and fear set in. My heartbeat frantically knocked down all of the fluttering butterflies with Tyson force.

1934489_1220129786018_2173246_n

We went from blue skies and puffs of floating white cotton to stormy gray clouds and sharp falling rain.

1934489_1220129906021_6142697_n

We landed in a field, took our last picture of the adventure and then fled before the lightning could destroy us.

1934489_1220130386033_6963013_n

1934489_1220130506036_6697755_n

As quick as it started it was over. We drove away as the once beautiful, spacious sky now dumped buckets of cold, harsh rain over the van. It was not the ending that I was hoping for but it was the one that I was given.

Would I jump again? Hmmm, well I know I will never skydive in between thunder storms in Miami. But given safer, less volatile circumstances when the time is right, my fear has faded and my heart has healed, I’m sure I will fall in love again. I mean, jump again.

Foto-0078

In time,  I will take that risk. I’m sure Bitter, I’m Over It, Frustrated and even Pissed will fall as well. Hopefully we learn from our mistakes and we see the obstacles more as road blocks and detours than a new adventure to overcome. Time heals all wounds. Lets hope that it also makes us wiser. Here’s to being smarter, falling in love and skydiving.

“In the stillness of the mind, I saw myself as I am-unbound.”~Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

I was in Spain with two of my closest girlfriends, Erin and Mary Anna. It was the perfect vacation. Four days in Madrid, seven in Mallorca and three in Barcelona. Unlike most of my past vacations where luggage was lost or flights were delayed, the vacation had not one hiccup. We were all on the same page the entire trip.

IMG_2706

We ate and laughed and ate and drank and laughed and ate some more. Every meal was an entrée for each of us and one for the table. The table was our fourth and she loved to share her food with us. Every restaurant was better than the next and the wine was fabulous. Hangovers did not exist. Our trio rose bright and early every morning. Maybe that’s because every hotel had the tiniest cot sized beds. Apparently Spain did not believe in queen or king beds. We Ricky and Lucy-ed it the entire trip but we didn’t care.

IMG_2789

Mallorca was heaven. Beautiful beaches with even more beautiful people frolicking in it’s sands. Most were lean, toned, tanned and naked. Men stuffed their unmentionables into the smallest, tightest bottoms. Women went topless and children without any clothes at all. Every morning we went to our spot on the beach right near the hand carved tables topped with palm umbrellas so that my Irish friends had some shade. We would sit there for hours. Words were barely spoken. We read, slept, stared at the waves and people watched. It was the most relaxing, no care in the world vacation. We were thousands of miles from home and it felt great.

IMG_2829

Right at noon, every day, Mary Anna would tap us. “Look, there he goes.” We would all sit up and watch as what could only be a Greek God in a shiny, black, spandex speedo make his way to the ocean. Every muscle in his legs, arms, back and chest were defined yet not too bulky like the Guidos back in Jersey. His skin was a golden brown and his hair was as gorgeous as an onyx gem stone. His face looked like it was meticulously, sculpted from the most-perfect marble. His walk was graceful, slow and deliberate. He would stand in the wet sand, head down, chin slightly tucked in, arms down at his sides with his palms facing forward. He waited for the sea to lap at his toes. The salty water would roll in and that was his cue.

cropped-img_09231.jpg

His taut arms would slowly rise from both sides of his body as did his head. It was as if the sun and sea were his puppet masters and he was connected to their strings. The sun reached high noon and so did his arms and head. He let the rays kiss his face as he reached to touch it’s energy. He would stay like this for a minute and then go through the whole cycle two more times holding the third and last pose for a few minutes. When he was finished, he would turn, face us and slowly and deliberately walk again.

buildingsandlazuse128

We would imagine him walking to us, like Bo Derek, this was the female’s version of the movie 10. Except he walked to us and then past us, back to his towel where his perfectly toned, tanned blonde Greek Goddess awaited. We all would sigh and then giggle. We nicknamed him Adonis and he was our cue to grab lunch.

Lunch consisted of three meals plus one for the table. Afterward we would take a walk and look at the trinkets in the different shops along the boardwalk. Around 2:30 pm, we would return to our spot at the beach. Adonis and Athena were usually gone by this time. I’m sure they were picked up by a cloud and returned to the Heavens.

Foto-0078

In their place was Erin’s buddy, Magda.

Magda was this shriveled up little woman. She was probably in her 70’s and basked in the sun everyday. She wore a hot pink bikini with matching lipstick. Her hair was long and bleached blond. She wore it in two crooked, high pigtails as if she were still a child. Her skin was as dark and wrinkled as a raisin. She looked like Magda from Something About Mary so that’s what we called her.

Every afternoon Magda waited for Erin. Her towel would be uncomfortably close to ours. If Erin sat up, Magda sat up. If Erin walked to the water, Magda walked to the water. Magda watched Erin’s every move and then as if on a 30 second time delay she would mimic the motions. Magda never spoke or even tried to communicate with Erin. Erin said hello. Magda just smiled and went on imitating. It was mine and Mary Anna’s afternoon entertainment.

One afternoon we decided to shake things up. Mary Anna and I decided that we were going to try kite sailing. Erin’s response, “That looks like too much work for me. I’m going to switch it up myself and read by the pool. I need a Magda free afternoon.”

Mary Anna and I headed to our lesson which consisted of her not being able to get up on the board and me being able to stand up there all day long but having no strength to lift the sail. She not so gracefully and repeatedly fell into the ocean and I looked like I was trying to poop in it. We returned to the hotel pool looking like drowned rats.

The hotel pool was always vacant. Empty rows of lounge chairs framed the pool everyday but no one laid in them.

IMG_2759

Why would they when Mother Nature provided crystal blue, salty waters to soak in, soft, silky sand to lay on and the gorgeous Adonis to look at? As you could imagine, Erin was easy to find. She was sitting up reading a book and laying right there in the chair next to her, in her hot pink bikini, was her friend Magda. I about peed myself.

The next day we followed our routine. As we sat at our spot on the beach staring at the waves in the ocean, something happened. I lost time, I lost all thought, I lost myself. I missed Maryanna’s tap and Adonis’ sun salutation. I was at the beach but I wasn’t at the beach. My body was there but I was somewhere else.

“Hello, hello! Earth to Pam-el-a.”

Mary Anna was snapping her fingers in front of my face. I was groggy as if I had just woken up from a peaceful sleep but my eyes never shut.

“Where were you?” Mary Anna laughed.

I felt an amazing calm cover me like a warm, cozy blanket. I smiled and spoke slowly.

“I haven’t had a thought for the last 20 minutes. Me? Not thinking. Do you know how incredibly hard that is for me? Nothing. Not a thought, image, picture. Not even Adonis. Nothing. It was incredible.”

552045_347572355332455_667607768_n

Erin sat up. “Aww you had your first meditation. Pretty cool huh?”

Yes it was.

In that moment I realized that my whole life revolved around holding on. So much so that even my muscles, my joints, my jaw, my bones and my internal organs were in a forever state of gripping, tensing and clenching. Holding on to my thoughts created a rippling pattern through my body and through my life. I cared too much about my thoughts. I cared too much about other people’s thoughts. I let my thoughts talk me out of doing things that felt good because I was afraid how others may view me or think about me.

At the Jersey shore I did my hair and makeup to go to the beach. I laid on my towel with one leg up because in my mind that made me look sexier. If I went into the ocean I made sure to immediately return to my towel to fix my hair, apply lip gloss and make sure my makeup didn’t run. You never knew when a cute Guido would walk on by.

I didn’t appreciate the natural beauty of the sand, sun or waves because I was too busy in my thoughts. In my head. In my appearance. My head was constantly going. Hunched over in a dark space producing thought after thought after thought with no rhyme or reason and with nothing of beauty that I could appreciate. I didn’t notice people around me. How could I when I was too busy creating and holding on to my thoughts? I never realized just how exhausting it was.

crazy

Adonis, Magda and Mallorca in just being themselves changed my life.

Adonis taught me to appreciate and notice nature. To take it slow and soak it in. To not care if the whole world is watching. Love life and offer gratitude for the life you love.

Magda taught me to appreciate and notice others. They say that imitation is the best form of flattery. I want to believe that’s what Magda was doing. You don’t always need words to communicate appreciation. Actions are much more powerful.

Mallorca taught me that a place so beautiful, tranquil and peaceful not only exists outside of your self but also within. Even though I couldn’t fit into my shorts by the end of my vacation, I felt lighter. I felt happier. I felt more at peace in my life than ever before. It was 2005 and my journey to letting it go had just begun.

In my toughest times, as in right now (see Empathy vs Sympathy blog post ) I return to my Mallorca within. I walk slowly and deliberately to the sea and I praise the sun, sky, ocean, Adonis and Magda. I try to be grateful for all that I have and all that I don’t have. But most of all I try to let it go.

Namaste.

“Laughter is an instant vacation”~Milton Berle


Laughing

“I want people to remember me in laughter.”

This is what my step-father, Bob said to me when he realized that stem cell transfer was not an option. The cancer had spread to his brain. The doctors gave him a week, two at the most. All they could do was keep him as comfortable as possible.

Bob took a page from Little House on the Prairie actor Michael Landon’s life. Michael Landon was diagnosed with cancer on April 8, 1991. He appeared on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show on May 9, 1991. He laughed and joked with his old pal. It was hard to believe that he only had a few months to live. Landon passed away July 1, 1991.

“Remember me with smiles and laughter.

For that’s the way I’ll remember you all,

If you can only remember me with tears,

Then don’t remember me at all.”

By: Michael Landon

 

“Pam, I hate wakes and funerals. I think they’re morbid, sad, expensive and way too drawn out. If it were up to me I would be cremated and you guys would take the insurance money and throw a big party to celebrate my life. I want people to remember me in laughter. Not like this.” He pointed at his frail body and the tubes sticking out of his arms.

My family was your typical Catholic family. If possible a priest would come to offer the Sacraments. We would hold vigil at a funeral parlor for two days. The deceased body would lie in a coffin at the front of the room so that family and friends could pay their respects. Then on the third day the body would be brought to the church for Mass before the burial. He’s right it was morbid, sad, expensive and long.

“I don’t like any of it but I know your mother may need it. So…” He hesitated. “I’ll agree to…” He held up one of his bony, long fingers. “One day. One wake day. That’s it! ONE! You promise?”

“I promise that I’ll tell her but you know Moe (my mother’s name is Maureen, Moe for short). She kind of does her own thing.”

“I know. She’s gonna be the death of me.” He laughed that wonderful, sarcastic, Big Bob laugh.

IMG_1784

 

It was one of the best laughs I’ve ever heard. Right up there with my Aunt Dee-Dee’s. She would laugh so hard that she would pee her pants. As kids her children were embarrassed by it. As adults they have found it to be one of her most endearing qualities. Imagine being able to enjoy life at a level that your happiness makes you lose all bodily functions-WOW! Those two knew how to do it right.

IMG_1783

“Please promise me that you WILL CELEBRATE. That people WILL laugh.”

I smiled and promised and cried and smiled again. The next day was rough (see blog post: “What good is the warmth of summer…”) and the following Wednesday, February 28, 2001 he was gone.

I knew it as soon as I pulled into the hospital parking lot. It was like something was being pulled from the center of my chest. I felt weak and then I heard it.

“How do I say goodbye to what we had?

The good times that made us laugh

Outweigh the bad.

I thought we’d get to see forever

But forever’s gone away.

It’s so hard to say good-bye to yesterday…”

Boyz II Men belted out their sad ballad on the radio and I knew that song was meant for me. I walked to his hospital room to find my mother standing in the hallway in tears. She looked at me and shook her head.

“You just missed him. He passed a few minutes ago. It was bad. Really bad.”

I ran into his room. He didn’t have the peaceful sleep of death you see in the movies. I hate Hollywood. You can see that  he went kicking and screaming. His mouth was open mid-scream and this is how he went.

I hugged him and sobbed. I kept asking if he was blessed, if the priest came to bless him. I hadn’t been to church in years and yet this was my only concern, that he was given his Sacraments. That he was blessed before he passed. My mother said yes. I could tell she was lying but I didn’t care because it made me feel better.

Later that day as we started to make funeral arrangements, I told my mother what his dying wishes were. One day. No funeral. Cremated. She said that we should cancel the fundraiser. I totally forgot about the fundraiser. About a month earlier I had put into motion a fundraiser at a VFW hall to raise money for the stem cell treatment. At the time it was a new treatment that was not completely covered by insurance and we would need to hire a nurse to take care of him during the day.

“Absolutely not! He wanted us to have a party and that will be his party.”

I told her I would handle it. My cousin Robyn (a fellow Jersey City Police Officer) had already gotten the hall and all of Bob’s friends on the police force were looking forward to it. My mother was hesitant but I insisted.

For the wake, I put together a thoughtful and happy eulogy about this serious police officer who was not afraid to take risks and wear a wig and pink dress while doing it. No my step father was not a cross dresser. It was for a 70’s party my parents had, where 6’4” Bob did a performance to “Bobby’s Girl” dressed in drag underneath a spinning disco ball.

I stood with my two brothers and mother behind me as everyone laughed and smiled throughout the walk down memory lane. I went up to the coffin at the end of the wake.

“That was just a taste. Wait til the party.”

I leaned in and kissed Bob’s forehead. A few weeks later we had the most amazing party ever. People showed up with kegs of beer, bottles of booze, DJ equipment, more food than anyone could eat, cards for poker and old pictures of my step father. The party started at 3pm and ended after midnight.

People danced, sang old songs and told many Bobby Hawk stories. I mingled with Bob’s past and present. Everyone he knew and loved, mixed with acquaintances that he never realize he had impacted,  were all there in one room sharing his life. But most importantly, they were all laughing.

IMG_1782

Every year this week is a little tough for me but the memory of that party reminds me that he is not gone. He is in every laugh I hear and in every chuckle I make. He visits me in my dreams and reminds me that Charlie Chaplan had it right when he said, “A day without laughter is a day that is wasted.”

“Holding on is believing that there’s only a past; letting go is knowing that there’s a future. “– Daphne Rose Kingma

The things that make you, you are the things that friends, family and lovers are drawn to. Maybe that thing you do is something they value. Maybe it’s something they wish they could do. Or something that is the complete opposite of what they do. It intrigues and draws them in. That thing you do may be conscious but most often than not it is subconscious. It was formed from a collection of experiences, relationships, situations that were beyond your control. It was your unique way of processing, sometimes surviving, the past.

I’ve heard my boyfriend tell people one of the things he admires most about me is that I love people. I have a huge heart. I go out of my way to help others and to keep friendships and relationships. It’s also the thing that drives him nuts about me. He feels that I may hold on too long to relationships that are in his mind “toxic” or don’t serve my higher purpose. His analysis of this thing I do, this holding on too long, turned into a heated discussion when my reality TV ex (see blog post https://therearenolimitsblog.com/2014/07/21/truth-is-universal-perception-of-truth-is-not-anonymous/) began to pop up in my life again.

First it was the endorsement of skills on LinkedIn. A site my ex rarely used in the past. I ignored it. Then it was the Facebook friend request. He deleted me over a year ago because he got engaged. I ignored that as well. Finally the phone call. He left a message. “I hear you have some important news to tell me.” I guess he found out that I was in a relationship. Last we spoke I was single.

unfriending_zps6f09747a

I did not call back but I was clearly agitated at his attempts to contact me. I forgave him after our break up. I even helped him get back together with an ex. I thought we were friends and then his mug showed up on “The People You May Know” slide on Facebook and I realized that in a simple click I was thrown away.

firstLogo

My boyfriend called me out on my agitation of the whole thing. He pointed out the fact that this person who treated me like dirt from beginning to end, as well as a few other people, were still some how connected to my life.

“Why do you hold on so long?”

“What am I holding on to? I haven’t responded to him at all. I didn’t accept his friend request. I didn’t acknowledge him on LinkedIn and I’m definitely not returning his phone call. I don’t have anything important to tell him. He’s not a part of my life.”

“But he is! He’s a part of your life because he affects you. Why do you let these toxic assholes affect you?”

I’ve been pondering his inquiry all week. This is what I came up with:

Being abandoned by a parent is an issue I am still coming to terms with. I’m 43 and have done years of therapy, reading and alternative healing. Granted my coping skills are less destructive, less controlling and much more positive than when I was younger but yet I still have this thing. This thing I do. This holding on for dear life. But what am I holding on to?

And then it came to me. I’m holding on to HIM! I’m holding onto my father. I hold on because he never could.

the_past1

You see for as much destruction and chaos that my father caused, he had his moments. They were few and far between but he had these glimpses where I knew that he loved me, that he adored and cherished me. The problem is you can only love, cherish and adore some one as much as those emotions exist for yourself.

I spent my early childhood trying to show my father how special he was. Praying that I would win out over the drugs. I forgave him when he beat me. I forgave him when he beat my family. I forgave him when he promised to visit and never showed. I forgave him every time he went to jail. On the day that he told me that he had to leave. I begged him to stay. I knew that if he stayed I could make him see that he was worth something, that he was special, that he was important. People would call my father “garbage”. I wanted him to know that he was not something that you just throw away.

newyorker8012012003BEST

He left when I was eight. I wouldn’t see him again until I was 24. It was his request on his death-bed to see us. My brothers refused to go. I had to go. It was our final chance to make things right. To finally let go. In that moment, that tiny glimpse of time, he decided to pretended to not know who I was. So I continued to hold on.

HangFrog

I hold on to every relationship, good or bad. I don’t hold on forever. Eventually the bad ones do fade but they haunt me. They affect me, as my boyfriend so fiercely pointed out. Why is it so important to me that they stay? Why does it bother me so much when they go? Why does it mean something to me when they come back?

And then I realized. It’s not about me making them feel like they’re worth something, that they are special, that they are important, that they are not something you just throw away. It ‘s about me feeling that way. I’ve been holding on to these relationships that have only given me glimpses of these rare, insignificant “special” moments because my father didn’t hold on to ME. I needed him to make me feel all of those things and he didn’t, wouldn’t or couldn’t. I’ll never know.

Now that’s not to say that holding on is a bad thing. One of my oldest and dearest friendships is with someone I dated and the relationship went sour (see blog post https://therearenolimitsblog.com/2014/01/20/forgiveness-does-not-change-the-past-but-it-does-enlarge-the-future-paul-boese/). I still refuse to just throw someone away so easily. People are people. We do awesome things and we do crap things. We’re not perfect. I just need to find the balance and know my self-worth.

To Hold or Not To Hold Formula:

Not To Hold:

G + S + A + I ≠H    

Good + Shit + Asshole + Get the Imodium ≠ Hold.

Hold:

G + F + L + HA + M + (1SM + 2SM) = H

Good + Fun + Love + Laughter +Memories +One or Two Shit Moments = Hold

^FOREVER or FOR NOW depends on future variables.

Some times you need to let go.

Some times you need to let go.

“My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.” ― Johnny Depp

Teaser from a new project I’m working on.


“Does it hurt?”

The monotone voice of my friend Lisa could barely be heard over the buzzing of the tattoo needle. I was staring at the floor and in an even more monotone voice I answered.
“Yes.”
“Sorry.”
“It’s okay.”
“Are you doing Reiki?”
“Yup.”
“Is it helping?”
“Can’t tell. My whole body is numb.”
“Sorry.”
“Not your fault.”
“I feel like it is.”

Lisa’s friend Jackie started to laugh hysterically. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you two like this. You’re like zombies instead of the usual energizer bunnies. Those guys are assholes. It doesn’t matter who they are. They won’t get away with it.”


It was the day after the 2010 Super Bowl and my tattoo do over was complete. I had that stupid unfinished, breakup, butterfly on my lower abdomen for 15 years. Even though I got it to get over the end of my five-year relationship, it never reminded me of him. Maybe that’s because the story of the tattoo was so utterly ridiculous that it over shadowed the loss.


In 1995, Christine, my best friend from high school, moved into my apartment and my brother, Richie moved out. He still had keys and stayed on weekends but he no longer paid the rent. I came home in my usual sad slump, wondering if I hadn’t made the biggest mistake of my life by breaking up with Dave. I walked in to see Christine, Andrea and Craig drinking wine and looking over a bunch of binders on the dining room table.

“What’s that? What are you nut jobs up to?”

Christine informed me that Craig had just finished tattoo school and that they were going to be his first customers. They were deciding on what to get. I gave my “tattoo’s are stupid” speech. I rambled about how it’s with you forever and what happens when you get old and have kids or gain weight and how drinking while getting a tattoo is dangerous. I poured a glass of wine and shook my head in protest.

After two glasses of vino, I was feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Andrea and I decided that it would be a good idea if Christine’s two best friends designed her tattoo. This way it would have meaning and she could have us with her at all times. We settled on the sun, moon and stars design. Another glass of wine really brought out the creative juices. We decided that everyone has the usual blue ink tattoo. We were going to make this one her favorite color but since pink wouldn’t really show we choose the next best thing. And there it was. Craig went to work on our masterpiece and within no time Christine had a tramp stamp of the sun, moon and stars in Red. It looked more like a skin carving then a tattoo but through drunk eyes it was a Dali.

One more glass of wine and I talked myself out of getting my usual break up haircut and getting a break up tattoo instead. It needed to be small and inconspicuous. I wanted it to represent beauty and freedom. I had an obsession with butterflies at the time. I had butterfly shirts, skirts and pajamas. So why not a butterfly tattoo? I decided on a thumb sized, side profiled butterfly positioned on my lower left abdomen so that no one could see it and it wouldn’t show when I wore a bathing suit. My freedom butterfly would remain caged in my bikini area. Craig suggested that I put on bathing suit bottoms so that we could get the correct location.
Craig was a bigger sized man. It was difficult for him to get the right position to do my tattoo. We opted for me sitting on a dining room chair, while he sat on the floor in front of the chair with his legs straddled on either side. I rested my feet on each of his knees and slightly pulled down my bathing suit bottoms on the left side. Craig leaned his back on the couch for support. Christine and Andrea sat on the couch on either side of him to watch the artist at work.

The buzzing began and my heart raced out of control. I thought I might pass out. I fucking hate needles. Maybe it’s because my father was a heroin addict or maybe it’s because they just plain hurt. They freak me out. Just the sight of one makes me lose consciousness. I was so bad that my doctor had to develop a “Pam Needle Protocol” to give me shots or take blood. I would lay down and face the wall so that I couldn’t see anything. She had a small radio next to me that I would turn up really loud so that I couldn’t hear anything. Then she would give me chocolate to boost my blood sugar or maybe it was positive reinforcement. I didn’t care. It lessened the fear. And now here I was volunteering to have a newly graduated tattoo artist scrape at me over and over with an ink filled needle. What the hell was I thinking? A tattoo? Me? Really? Damned wine! Shitty breakup!

“You’re doing great! You got this. Just hang in there.” Christine cheered. I heard the living room door open behind me as Craig finished the outline.

“WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE!” Richie sounded furious as he stormed toward my chair. He looked befuddled when he saw the tools.

“I’m getting a tattoo.” I said as if the situation was as normal as if I were baking a cake.

“I’m… I’m…I’m telling Mommy!” Richie sounded like a 10 year throwing a tantrum.

“I’m 24 and I live on my own. I can get a tattoo without Mommy’s permission. Besides you have that stupid, Guido, tribal tattoo on your arm.”

“Yeah which Mom hates and slapped me in the head for getting.”

“Why are you so pissed off? It’s just a small tattoo?”

“Pam, I walk in to see some fat guy.”

He looked at Craig. “No offense bro.”

Then looked back at me. “I see this guy sitting between my sisters bare legs. I could only see the back     of you from the door. From there you looked naked from the waist down and his head is between your legs with your two friends watching and cheering you on. What the fuck am I supposed to think?”

     We all started laughing uncontrollably. We called for a wine break which lead to me ending my tattoo session. I told Craig that I would let him fill it in another day but I never did. For 15 years I told that story and showed my unfinished tattoo to drive the story home. It always got a laugh especially because it barely looked like a butterfly done by a tattoo artist and more like a weird insect that was hand carved in prison.


     I barely looked at my new rainbow, lotus flower tattoo. It was smothered in vaseline and covered with gauze. It was a gorgeous sunny February day in Florida, I was 1900 miles away from the eerie winter in Jersey, yet all I wanted was home, the snow and my jailhouse, butterfly tattoo.

“Heroes are made by the paths they choose not the powers they are graced with.”~Brodi Ashton

I joined Facebook in August 2008 to help put together Saint Dominic Academy’s 20th High School Reunion that following year. A few months later I received a Facebook message from Rob.

Rob and I went to Our Lady of Victories Elementary School in Jersey City for most of our adolescent years. If you read any of my previous posts you would know that I was a very shy girl and only had a few close friends. Rob, at the time, was not one of them. At least not until Facebook.

Rob was worlds away in Iraq. The mullet (it was the 80’s, even I had a mullet), cut off rock t-shirt wearing, goofy kid from O.L.V. was a Marine and had been for the last 14.5 years. Facebook made him feel closer to home and nostalgia for the past, while the sands of the desert did anything but.

Rob was intrigued by my teaching career and my knowledge of Reiki. I was fascinated by his motives to join the Marine Corps and what made him stay for so long. I was mentoring at risk teens and giving them tools to overcome emotional obstacles that were hindering them from being successful. While the Marine Corps mentored Rob by giving him tools to suppress his emotions because they could quite possible be the obstacles that could get him or a fellow soldier killed or hinder the success of his mission.

“The U. S. Marine is a professional who stands ready to fight anytime, anywhere, any enemy that the President and Congress may designate and to do so coolly, capably, and in the spirit of professional detachment. He is not trained to hate, nor is he whipped up emotionally for battle or for any other duty the Corps may be called on to perform. Patriotism and professionalism are his only two ‘isms’ ” 

Col Robert D. Heinl Jr. USMC (Ret) 1970

For the armed forces, detachment is a good thing, a survival tool and a cherished gift. But detachment was not what got Rob to the Marines. In fact it was a deep sense of connection that gave him purpose and a path to follow.

In the fall of October 1993, Rob watched Somalia militants drag the dead body of an American soldier through the streets in his underwear and boots. They dismembered the soldier and danced with his body parts in the main square.

Rob wanted his life to have meaning. He felt lost. He was searching for a calling. It came that day through a newscast. This incident was portrayed in the movie Black Hawk Down but Rob didn’t need Hollywood’s version to motivate him. He wanted to help. He wanted to make a difference.

Rob enlisted in February 1994. Family and friends didn’t think he would make it through boot camp. They said he was crazy. They’re doubt only pushed him more. Now over 20 years later he has served 10 tours, 7 of which were combat tours.

During the time of our first communications, Rob was a Gunnery Sergeant on a Transition Team on the border of Iraq and Syria. He was training Iraqi Border Police to have “positive control” over their borders. Their tactics were to protect Iraq against possible bombers. Yet under these hostile circumstances Rob found the time to utilize this social network phenomenon to ask friends and family in the United States to send clothes, toys and games to the Iraqi village children for Christmas.

Toys sent from the US to Iraq

Toys sent from the US to Iraq

Rob couldn’t spend the holiday with his beloved son. Such is the life of a Marine. Duty comes above everything else. It broke his heart but where many would have become hardened and cold from the years of battle, the years away from the loves of his life-his precious son and his now wife Jen, the countless days living in extreme and less than comfortable circumstances, continents away from home and all that he knew and loved, Rob still felt connection, attachment.

Rob helps out

Rob helps out

This Marine had more than the two “isms”. Yes he had Patriotism and Professionalism but he also had Humanism. The 1993 Somalia Newscast, intense training, combat, the daily uncertainty of whether he would live or die and the longing to be with his family couldn’t detach him from his big heart and his connection to the human race.

Local Iraqi children enjoy their presents

Local Iraqi children enjoy their gifts

I had promised myself that I would cancel my Facebook page after my reunion. But after getting to know Rob and seeing the amazing things he was doing, I changed my mind.

Facebook made the world a smaller place. It opened up the opportunity for connection with old friends, with strangers in other countries. It put human faces on the war that the news just couldn’t or most often wouldn’t do in 60 minutes. It helped others see that social media could be used for good. It could help a soldier get through another day. It could make a village child, living in the middle of a war, smile.

Holiday photo

Holiday photo

It could make a civilian feel like they contributed but most of all it could prompt people to pay it forward. Good deeds are contagious.

Group hug

Group hug

“There’s a piece of me left behind from every tour. It’s hard but this is the life I choose and the sacrifices I live with. I hope that when this job is all said and done, I have made a difference. I think I have.”

Robert Thomas Mantilla, Master Sergeant/E-8, U.S.M.C.

Please wish my friend and a hero a Happy Birthday.

Rob, your selflessness has made a difference and your sacrifice is appreciated more than words can ever say.

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.”~ James A. Hetley

New York in December is buzzing with energy. Blinking lights, holiday decorations, over the top window displays and crazed shoppers are a sensory overload. Mini ice skaters circling the massive adorned tree at Rockefeller Center and the huge piano at FAO Schwartz, that was made famous by Tom Hanks in the movie Big, are a must see.

73cb3586de03c0e2aef44fd870e77dfa

My youngest brother, Jason, had a month-long leave from the Marines and although we took in all of those festive sights, what we really came to see was quite the opposite.  Jason, his then girlfriend, Emily and myself headed to what was formerly known as The World Trade Center but after the devastating fall of the Twin Towers had been renamed Ground Zero.

It was a little over a year from that tragic day where other countries daily lives became America’s inconceivable reality. Jason, like thousands of other soldiers of the armed forces, received his papers to head to war. He was being sent to Iraq after the holidays. He was given a one month leave to see his family for what could very well be his last visit.

I learned of the news via telephone. It was so hard to believe that my little brother who for years was the rebel that we feared would be lost to a delinquent life was now given orders from the United States of America to protect and serve.

Jason M. Hawk

CPL. Jason M. Hawk

“I believe it is the nature of people to be heroes, given the chance.”~James A. Autry

 

“Pam, I have a big favor to ask.”

“Sure. What? Anything.”

“When I come home will you come with me to Ground Zero? I wasn’t there when the towers fell. I need to see it. I need to know what I’m fighting for.”

“Of course.”

I swallowed hard. Going to NYC was tough. There were armed soldiers on the buses, trains, bridges and tunnels. Missing person posters replaced concert posters and there was an eerie stillness that could be felt even when the streets appeared to be busy. I didn’t like going there but if my brother needed to be there then so did I.

Ground Zero

Ground Zero

The area where the towers once stood was now fenced in and looked like a leveled construction site. Jason showed his Military ID card. It took some time to be cleared to enter but eventually we were let in. Once we stepped foot on that sacred ground we became silent. My eyes couldn’t open wide enough to take it all in. Mayor Bloomberg could be seen in the distance amongst NYC Police and Firemen as cranes and tractors moved the mangled debris of that terrifying day.

I looked up, like I did the first time and every time after that. I always marveled at the strength and magnificence of those buildings.

The Towers

The Towers

Only this time my awe was replaced by loss. Narrow, wooden, fenced in walk ways were created around part of the perimeter. The fences were covered with a collage of missing persons posters, flowers, cards, stuffed animals, pictures of loved ones lost, drawings, stories and poems. I wanted to read them all. I wanted to remember every face and touch every stuffed toy as a form of condolence and sympathy for the fear they must have felt that day and the sorrow that their deaths have brought to their family and friends.

wall-of-missing-people1

I was swimming in a sea of sadness when I heard my brother call us over to him. He had tears in his eyes and with a choked up voice he pointed to a poem on the wall and asked us to read it. The poem was a beautifully written tribute from a mother to her daughter. It was accompanied by a picture of a lovely young woman with a warm smile and vibrant eyes. With each word you could feel love, pride and respect. With each line you wanted hope, faith and joy but the empty spaces between the lines and between the words were filled with anguish, mourning and despair. Those small, white voids told a story of an even  bigger void. We wept as we read the poem.

Standing next to us was an older woman who was also weeping as she blankly stared at the poem. She looked toward my brother and spoke.

“Did you know her?”

“No. The poem was just so moving that it brought me to tears. I’m a Marine and just got my orders to serve overseas. I felt like I needed to see this for myself before I left. Did you know her?”

“Yes.” She paused for a few seconds.

That’s my daughter.”

My brother apologized for her loss and hugged her tight.

“I’m going over there to fight for your daughter.”

On his way! To Serve and Protect

On his way!

She thanked him and blessed him and thanked him again. Jason introduced us to her.

“Your brother is a brave young man. I will pray for his safety.”

Her prayers worked. Jason came home safe.

Her prayers worked. Jason came home safe.

 

This show a calmer side of my mother. Minutes before she was frantically running towards him while squealing his name over and over.

This shows a calmer side of my mother. Minutes before she was frantically running towards him while squealing his name over and over.

In that moment I felt a deep connection to my brother, to this stranger, to The Towers, to all that lost their lives in 9/11, and the men and women of the armed forces that would risk their lives so that ours could be protected.

 

To Serve and Protect

To Serve and Protect

Wishing the Marine Corps a Happy 239th Birthday and a Happy Veteran’s Day to all of those that have served and still serve in the armed forces.

“The darkness of the whole world cannot swallow the glowing of a candle.”~Robert Altinger

It was the fall of 1986, my sophomore year at the all girls, catholic high school of Saint Dominic Academy.

8e8c4bab85f03e46abce79f293c56004

I was sitting in religion class watching a few of my classmates emotionally torture a new student. Christine came to our school a few weeks prior from Saint Aloysius Academy, the all girls catholic school down the hill. St. Al’s had a reputation of being the “slutty” school while St. Dom’s was referred to as the “snobs” on the hill. I’m sure the flies on the wall of St. Dom’s would beg to differ. It was more likely that our penny loafers, knee-length potato sack skirts, light blue collared button downs, layered with a navy blue v-neck sweater and matching blazers and name tags, camouflaged what the short skirts at St. Al’s screamed.

Sophomore Year Photo.  Aqua Net and a dream!

Sophomore Year Photo.
Aqua Net and a dream!

 

Christine, in true St. Al’s fashion, showed up with her skirt rolled up high and her shirt buttoned down way too low. She was ready to be seen and most definitely heard. She already knew half of our class from elementary school and playing softball. She was loud, silly and knew how to get a laugh. She was more comfortable on her first day then I had been after one year. It was as if she was returning home.

Christine hung out with her childhood friends from the Park (Country Village Park). I was friendly with those girls but didn’t really know much of them outside of school. I was considered an Ege Avenue girl. Ege and the Park, like every other section of Jersey City, had issues with one another. Jersey City was the West Side Story of New Jersey. The Park crew hated Ege, Ege hated Marion, Marion hated The Heights, The Heights hated Hoboken and vice versa, versa vice blah, blah, blah.

The guys didn’t leave their turf unless they were looking for trouble. The girls would occasionally roam from turf to turf out of boredom or curiosity. The guys loved it. Fresh meat plus a chance to one up the other turfs by stealing their girls. The home turf girls despised it. Us Ege girls especially hated the Heights girls with the hot pink convertible.

Ladies this isn’t Grease and our guys are a far cry from Danny Zuko and Knicky. Go home!

Years later I would become friends with these girls and have a crazy, pink convertible, Wild Wood summer weekend but for now they were the enemy.

For weeks Christine and her friends let their presence be known and then something happened. The happy, popular, always cracking a joke new kid was sad, alone and quiet. She sat by herself at lunch as the Park girls took turns giving dirty looks and whispering to one another. When your class consists of only 121 girls it’s only a matter of time before everyone knows your business. I was told that Christine’s boyfriend was originally her friend’s boyfriend and that friend recently stole him back. It’s like tennis with a guy only less fun. Oh high school! For whatever reason the crew picked sides and Christine stood alone.

30 love

30 love

 

I knew what it was like to be alone in a new school with mean kids. I was the shy kid that was too afraid to let people in for fear that they would find out about my drug addicted father that abandoned me or that I was on food stamps or that most of my clothes were hand me downs. When I transferred schools in the 4th grade my nickname was Polyester Pam. Sure laugh it up. Funny in hindsight but not so funny when you’re the new kid in a school where everyone is wearing the latest 80‘s Jordache Jeans and you’re wearing used 70’s brown polyester pants. Even less funny when a few days later you get outed for wearing two left shoes to school.

alligator2left

As I stood in the corner of the school yard with my right foot hidden behind my left, I remembered thinking that living with my father was less torturous than going to this school. I was depressed and slipping into a black hole when later that day I  got a note from, Linda, one of my classmates.

Do you want to hang out after school?

It was the first time I could breath. Linda and I became good friends. We did homework together and had sleep overs. She let me borrow her clothes and taught me how to curl my hair. She made school more bearable and helped me come out of my shell. I wasn’t popular by any means but I wasn’t the quiet, two left feet, polyester wearing weirdo either. That in and of itself was an improvement.

Back to Mean Girls 1986. The bell rang and it was time for religion class, where the two opponents were corralled in a classroom that used to be a nun’s bedroom before the building was converted into a school. The classrooms, much like our Bible readings about Israel, were a crossroads. Israel saw many wars because it was between Egypt and Sumeria. The classrooms of St. Dom’s were the crossroads for everything that happened outside of school.

I watched as Christine sat on the opposite side of the room from her former friend, which in our classroom put her at about a whopping six-foot difference. I then noticed that attached to her frenemy’s name tag was a picture of the stolen and re-stolen boyfriend. She sat with a smug look on her face as she ironically laid her hands on top of the Bible that sat on her desktop. I rolled my eyes and as I turned to face forward I noticed another picture of the boyfriend attached to someone else’s name tag and then another and another. War was waged and Christine was outnumbered.

I felt sick to my stomach as I watched Christine’s face get red and her eyes fill with tears. Her frenemy smiled with satisfaction. I remembered Linda and wrote a note to a stranger.

I don’t know everything that is going on but if you need someone to talk to I’m a good listener. Pam

That night we talked on the phone for hours. We became best friends. By the end of sophomore year everyone was on good terms and even I developed friendships with the Park girls. It’s where I hung out from Junior year on and lived for 10 years of my early adult life. Sorry Ege.

Big haired Christmas 1987

Big haired Christmas 1987

High school is tough. I should know I not only spent four years as a student, I also worked eight years as a teacher. Throughout those years, we’ve all had our misunderstandings and out of misunderstood fears we’ve resorted to some sort of bullying as a form of protection or retaliation. I am not proud to say that I had my “asshole moment” behind those very walls. I’ve apologized to Heather in her yearbook and when her brother passed. I hope she still knows how truly sorry I am.

Almost 30 years later and Christine and I are still best friends. She is more than a best friend. She is my sister.

Senior Prom 1989

Senior Prom 1989

We have seen each other through break ups, makeups, the deaths of my step father and her twin brother, miracles and disasters, embarrassing moments and victorious ones. We were room mates for so long that we could almost be considered domestic partners. We’ve traveled, argued, cried but more often than not we’ve laughed.

Hawaii 1999

Hawaii 1999

Cabo 2000

Cabo 2000

I am thankful everyday that I wrote that note. I am even more thankful that Linda taught me how to courageously act on my empathy. She taught me to sway away from the masses and lead with your heart. If she never wrote that note than maybe I would have never realized my own bullying with Heather and not have made amends. How awful that would have been! Maybe I would have been too afraid to write mine. And maybe I would have missed out on one of the most important friendships of my life. I’ve learned that one small action could change someone’s life, maybe even your own.

My wedding date 2006

My wedding date
2006

My birthday 2008

My birthday 2008

Going away party 2009

Going away party 2009

2011

2011

“It’s not what you have on the outside that glitters in light, it’s what you have on the inside that shines in the dark.” ― Anthony Liccione.

Christine visits me in SF. Last week. I should have rethought the shirt. Oh well .

Christine visits me in SF.
Last week. I should have rethought the shirt. Oh well .