Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Under the Big Top

Welcome 2012, I can't say goodbye to 2011 fast enough. This has been my year from Hell, my life a full blown circus production with all the old fashioned acts. Life under the circus tent - complete with a few clowns, the magicians who make people magically appear in front of our eyes, the disappearing acts where people disappear without a trace, not a sign or word from them ever again.

We even have the standard circus freaks, me, not quite officially the bearded lady at this point in time but I'm afraid if I let things go, give it another year or two, this circus act might be reinstated, with me as the headliner. Another subject all together, but ladies, you know what I'm talking about. These prickly little whiskers that now seem to pop up faster than another corner Starbucks or strip mall. But I'll save that subject for a later blog.

Yes, January 2011 started out immediately with a friend going MIA - a friend with whom I had shared a very deep and personal bond - or at least I thought so. His disappearance almost drove me mad. After many attempts to reach out to him, he did finally surface one day in early August in the form of a scathing email. But it was an email that was so vicious and made no sense that I could never really be convinced that it came from him.

Not long after that, another friend, that I had known for at least 10 years, after many long conversations, topics covering religion to politics, to how people can treat each other so badly, disappeared. Just like that, one day he was gone. Apparently slipped into quicksand somewhere, the Bermuda Triangle or a long lasting coma . I made a few attempts to find him too, but I was already tiring of this search and rescue game that I had embarked on many months earlier.

Then September rolls in, my ex-partner shows up unexpectedly right in front of my eyes. Having last heard from him while he was supposedly at a hunting camp in Maine, only to see him materialize right on my next door neighbors doorstep one week later! Amazing, in the blink of an eye ~ just like that! Magic!

And to end the year with a bang, a new friend ~ one that gave me a bit of hope, apparently buried himself alive in his own dirt and confusion. And with his burial went that small flicker of hope that I had for the immediate future, for 2012. A hope that this one at least was honest, transparent, no trickery up his sleeves. And in all fairness, I guess for all of these "friends" it wasn't so much trickery as cowardliness. A trait they all seem to share.

In the Wizard of Oz, the Lion asks for courage. And this is what I wish for all of my circus friends that have such a hard time being real. To speak the truth, to face your fears, to live courageously~ and I plan to do the same. I discovered in 2011 that the circus life is not for me. So instead of running away to join the circus, I plan in 2012 to run away from the circus and follow the yellow brick road instead. I want courage, faith, truth, loyalty, a brain, all these things that maybe Oz can provide me. But if nothing else, if I can't have all of those, I know I can at least give myself a lifetime supply of Nair facial hair remover, and that's not a bad way to start the year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Not your Mother's Bingo

Yikes - games. I hate them. I guess we learn how to play games as children so that we can deal with all the "games" we have to play in our adult lives. Maybe that is why I find it so unappealing to willingly play games if I don't have too. It seems like every real life moment is figuring out our next move.

But - hey, occasionally I get roped into playing a game or two. Especially during the holidays when family or friends have gathered and we are spending probably way too much time together in one room. I have been known to head up a charades game, perhaps a game or two of Name that tune, Trivial Pursuit or something along those lines. I try to be a good sport and go along with the crowd but usually only after much prodding and guilt tripping from family members. I'm not mentioning anyone by name here, but if you feel it could be you, it probably is.

This is what lead me to playing Bingo on Monday night with my daughter and a group of her friends at The Woods, a bar/music venue (ex-funeral home) in Portland. This is hipster bingo. Better music, more keep Bingo/Portland weird attitude permeating the room. Not your stereotypical seniors night at the church hall, no, Bingo is apparently shaking off its old folks image. These people are young, energetic, and they smell more of cigarette smoke and beer than mothballs. But the game is still the same. Bingo at The Woods is one quarter comedy club (as the Caller calls out "Number Don't stop B11", you know, the song by Journey; one quarter bar, and the remaining half a dimly lit bingo hall, bubbles and all.

As the game begins, all eyes are down, concentrating on the cards in front of them. The Caller begins calling out numbers and you can feel the tension increase in the room. You can tell who the serious players are; they are the ones with these fancy felt tip pens, designed just for Bingo I believe. The rest of us amateurs are fumbling with our cards, punching out the numbers as quickly as we can, frantically asking "what number did he just call?" We are on the floor, sitting cross legged, since the place is packed and we were too late to get seats. Trying to maneuver our many cards, purses, drinks, coats and scarves and not trip any one in the process is another strategy game all its own.

There were gag prizes awarded for the corner games, the kite games, but the real money prizes were awarded for the blackouts. My daughter won $58, and I thought I had won $200. But once I called out Bingo and was called up on the stage, the Caller goes through my numbers and then tells me and the entire audience of about 200 people, "Oh no, we didn't call I-16, Kim is not a winner! The crowd cheers. Really really good for the ego, and for feeling quite incompetent and may I say, stupid. Can't even get a bingo card right. But in my defense, there were two of us working the card as I had to get up and order drinks. Yes, Bingo night wouldn't be complete in Portland without PBR, Spiced (spiked) cider, and Tecate Beer.

So after several games and several small wins among friends, bundled up we headed out into the cold Portland night to go home. There were good laughs, good friends, and it was actually a really good time. Who knows, maybe this is our mother's bingo. As they would slip out on a Sunday afternoon to go play, we thought "Boring, boring, boring" - aah, if only we had known.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

All is calm ~ All is bright

Driving up to Portland last week, my fourth trip up here this year, and again, with 10 hours in a car by yourself, it is amazing where you will travel. The actual physical destination is just one of the many places you will go on your road/mind trip. I thought back to last year at this very time. My life was falling apart but I put my best Mrs. Santa Claus foot forward and tried to act jolly even if a bit tired, somewhat overwhelmed, irritated with my partner (I know Santa's work lasts all year, but around this time Mrs. Claus has to be seriously one eggnog away from packing it up and moving south). Still, I managed to feign affection for this sometimes challenging time of year.

I arrived in Portland around 5:30 Friday evening, lots of traffic coming into the city. Holiday time, weekends and rush hour aren't usually a great mix. The city looked beautiful, with snowflakes hanging, and even though it was a bit foggy, I could see the city lights reflected in the water as I drove up I-5.

When I made it downtown, parked in a parking garage and started walking down Washington Street, the city looked magical. All the trees were lit with what looked like very pale green lights (they could have been white, not really sure), people were out everywhere, walking briskly in their scarves and hats on what I am guessing to be a rather unseasonably warm Portland evening in December. There was life all around me, it was vibrant. It felt like Christmas, the type of Christmas I always dream of. Those dreams include; cold weather, bustling city shoppers, lots of lights, Christmas carols off in the distance, and a feeling of calm even in the sometimes hectic-ness of all it.

I was here last year at this time too. This will be my third year in a row to come to Portland to spend Christmas with my daughter and it always brings home the true spirit of Christmas. Home is where your heart is. So I guess your "home" can be many places at the same time. It comes down to people, people you love, people you care about, maybe just as Barbra Streisand has said, people who need people.

For this one season it seems we put our financial worries, our health worries, our general life worries on the back burner long enough to put a batch of gingerbread men in the oven instead. Not so much denial about what is going on around us, but more a time out to appreciate all that is good. And hopefully we all have some good. There is a softness to the season that prevails even as the commercialism and the in your face adverts try to sink you. There is one thing we all have in common, the one thing that lives in all of us, a spirit of hope, that never-ending hope that things can always get better, that love is alive, that life is worth living.

I don't think I've heard a more beautiful quote about Christmas than the one made famous by Agnes M. Pharo, which I have used many times before but it bears repeating;

"What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace." Agnes M. Pharo

Merry Christmas everyone :-)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sharks and Hearts

I'm giving up my Carrie Bradshaw persona, one of being over analytical, over sensitive, over forgiving when it comes to relationships and am now going to proudly take on the Samantha Jones, I love you, but I love me more attitude.

I've been single now for a little while - never expected it in my mid 50's, but then again, none of us know what awaits us in our future. Sure, we make plans, we plan on forever, but forever lives in our heads and is felt in our hearts but that doesn't mean it exists in the physical realm at all.

Dating at this point in time is very different than when you are in your 20's or 30's. There is a feeling of now or never, don't waste my time, put all your cards on the table, life stories are shared in a matter of hours. We don't have the luxury of time, of getting to know each other slowly ~ steeping like a good English tea in a fabulous little tea house - we are more like a quick cup of coffee that we grab through the Starbucks drive-through, gulping it down quickly on the interstate.

Being middle aged and meeting people whom are also middle aged (ok, I know, I am taking some liberty here with the definition of "middle-aged", but this is my blog) is a whole lot different than meeting people in your 20's and 30's. In some ways we feel even more connected, like old war buddies, we've been through similar battles. And all battles impart scars and leave you with an entirely different outlook than before you went to war, a bit jumpy, edgy, nervous and spending more time than you like inside your own head. We come wearing our armbands of compassion, but we also secretly pack our fears and scepticism inside our boots.

I've been amazed by the stories I've heard; about good love gone bad. About dealing with users, cheaters, fakers, great pretenders, thief's of the heart, thief's of the soul. And these stories are not confined to one gender, they cross borders, they do not discriminate. If you are single at this age in your life, you have more than likely at least once fallen into the shark tank of love, got seriously chewed up, luckily spit out, only to land on dry ground, bleed a bit and wait to be resuscitated, hopefully with all limbs still intact. They say in every life, inside every person, there is a heart once broken. Some get just slightly cracked while others get completely pulverized.

v. pul-ver-ized, pul-ver-iz-ing, pul-ver-iz-es
*1. To pound, crush, or grind to a powder or dust
2. To demolish

* Great if that involves food and some kind of kitchen appliance, not so great on a heart or any body part.

But no matter how much damage has been done, how much hurt we have endured, we still want to try it again. It is why we are alive. To make that connection. To feel passion, intensity, heat. I heard a line the other day about love, and losing love. It was something pertaining to the fact that when your heart is broken, when you hurt, you know it was a love that was worth having. Pretty profound, even if the line came from Phil on an episode of "Modern Family" so not sure if it really is true, but I like how it sounds. It is always amazing to me the strength of the human spirit, the will to live, the will to love, the will to keep going, to keep having faith. Faith in something. We all want to believe. If we can't have Santa, the tooth fairy, the results promised from the "As seen on TV" ab exercise machine, we can always hold on tight to that belief in the power of love.

I want to fall in love again, or I should say, be in love again. The falling part isn't so good. And it isn't love that people are afraid of, it is what happens to us if we lose it. Nothing feels worse. But like car keys, your pin number, occasionally your own mind, it does create panic when you lose them, but it sure feels good when you get them back.

Falling back in Love