How Do You Spend a Lonely Life?

Wanted:

Someone who breathes from the diaphragm.
Compassionate. Balanced.
With a strong inner ear.

Must love reading
The sun as it shines through the windows,
Stretching, dancing, laughing, telling stories,
Making breakfast.

Someone who feels music with their whole body.
Who wants to grow things,
and decompose things,
and grow things again.

Someone who puts their hand on my lower back as we cross the street,
and their arm around my shoulders when I am cold,
and their fingers through my hair before we fall asleep.

Someone who is strong in ways that I am not.
Who stands on all four corners of their feet
Someone who listens for understanding.
Who weathers a storm.
Someone who chooses me.

I’ve been single for nine years. It hasn’t felt like a choice, but looking back, it probably was. They say in numerology that energies move in nine-year cycles. Last year, was a 9 year (2 + 0 + 1 + 6 = 9), which represents the end of a cycle. This year is a 1 year (2 + 0 + 1+ 7 = 10, then 1 + 0 reduces to 1), which is the year of starting over. The year of my last break-up was 2008 (2 +8 = 10 = 1), also a 1 year.

I’m not big into numerology; I just found that interesting. Normally, we think of the beginning and ending of a thing—a relationship, an event—but this hasn’t been so much a thing as the lack of a thing. While I’ve watched many friends start and grow their families, I’ve spent the last nine-year cycle in a relationship with myself. As with any relationship, I’ve learned a lot about the other person.

For example, I’ve learned that, left to my own devices, I can eat an alarming number of chips. (After all, chips are my favorite food.) I also will watch a wide variety of shows on the old Netflix, sometimes following whims that I’m sure another person would find annoying.

That’s the beauty of being alone; no one to argue with. Not that I ever have been much of an arguer. All my relationships have been very polite, which is probably another reason I don’t mind some solitude. As a people pleaser, I often will give up my own wishes to avoid confrontation, or because I just don’t care enough to fight about it, and all that compromise leaves me feeling drained.

When I’m alone, I can feel whatever I need to feel, process it however I need to, recharge, hide out. I can put myself back together in peace, without the pressure of anyone else’s gaze. I’ve often thought you must have to be brave to be a parent—to know that your children always are watching you and learning even the things you don’t intend to teach.

I asked my friend DeAnna what it’s like to have her children and husband always around. I think I said something like, “You must feel like you have no place all your own.” Her reply had never occurred to me. She said, “Well they can’t get in your mind, Cara.”

DeAnna’s such a cool mom. She really treats her kids like whole people. For example, as she lists the children’s activities in her holiday letter, she says things like “he seemed to enjoy it,” or “she appeared to have a good time.” Even while her children are young, she doesn’t presume to know what their inner lives are like. She also knows that if she’s not happy, her kids are not going to be happy so she continues to pursue her own passions. It doesn’t hurt that she has a supportive husband who seems to take his role as a father equally seriously.

These are the kinds of things I think about as I try out some new farro-kale salad recipe for dinner and end up watching a show called The Fantastical World of Hormones.

The first couple years after my break-up, I really didn’t think I would be single much longer. I held onto the hopeful notion that my new life, my new self was just around the corner. But as the years have gone on, I’ve grown less hopeful, and I’ve had to grapple with the idea that I might not ever be married, or have children. That’s been a tough one to swallow. I’ve had to ask the question: What is my life worth if I am single? Does it still have value, even without a husband or kids?

What Do You Do With Eternity?

According to fan sites, Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) spends 12,403 days, or about 34 years, living the same day over and over again in the movie Groundhog Day. He goes through stages of disbelief, anger, fear, ecstasy, hopelessness. He indulges every sin without consequences. But even with total freedom and power to do whatever he wants, Phil grows bored. He gets depressed. He tries to kill himself. Yet every day he wakes up stuck in the same place, at the same time, like a needle stuck in a groove on a record.

Eventually, after trying every self-serving thing he can imagine, Phil gets the radical idea to turn his time to helping others. At the same time, he starts to pursue his own passions, a little bit every day. Time begins to have meaning and purpose. He learns to love others, to be loved by them, and to feel the pleasure of mastery. He becomes a musician, a sculptor, a doctor, an intellectual. And that is when he really falls in love with another person, and when she really falls in love with him.

I like to think that I’ve spent my last nine years in a similar process. While I haven’t achieved much mastery, I have put in a lot of effort to get to know myself. And I’ve stripped away a lot of layers, dealt with a lot of pain, uncovered a lot of hidden wounds, grudges, arrogance. One thing’s for sure: when you’re alone with yourself, you find out how imperfect you really are.

It’s like the mirror of truth at the Southern Oracle in The Neverending Story. Atreyu is told that when he looks in the mirror he will see his true self. Even great warriors have fallen at the realization—kind men discover they are cruel; brave men find that they are cowards. When I am alone, I have no one else to blame, or deflect my anger to. There are no scapegoats. Just me. If there are dirty dishes in the sink, it’s because I left them there.

I have chosen to stay single because I haven’t felt the right way about anyone, and they haven’t felt the right way about me. It’s not that no one has been worthy; I just haven’t been in the right headspace for dating and also, the older I get, the fewer people I am attracted to. (Maybe it has something to do with hormones. I should watch that documentary again.)

When I was young, I was constantly, deeply, hopelessly in love. The object of my love changed periodically, but the feeling always was there, that obsessive, possessive need to be wanted by another person. I thrived on romance like a drug.

Over the last three years, I’ve pretty much stopped dating all together. Again, it’s not that there haven’t been worthy candidates, or that I haven’t tried at all, but it doesn’t feel the same. I can’t play the games anymore. I want something deeper than drama, something more consequential than sex, something more balanced and sustainable. I want a whole relationship with another whole person.

I don’t know what the next nine years look like, or whether I ever will get married or be a mom of any kind, but I can tell you one thing: If I am still single nine years from now, I’m going to be a hell of a guitar player and a much better cook.

 

Life and Death

A couple of days ago a friend and colleague of mine lost her father suddenly. It’s hard to know what to say when something like this happens. This kind of death carries a heavy grief, filled with so many what ifs and unanswered questions.

How you get through it depends on what you believe, I guess. Believing in an afterlife helps, or in some kind of divine logic. If you don’t have anything or anyone to give your grief up to — like God, or Jesus or the universe — then you might feel kind of stuck with the sadness for a while, struggling to process it.

Another friend recently went through a scare when her niece nearly died from a sudden illness. My friend and her family sat vigil in the hospital for days and nights on end. Even though her niece came through, my friend says that she feels a new kind of pain now, a deeper pain. There’s an anger and a shock when bad things happen to good people. Because even though we all know intellectually that good people suffer all the time, many of us still never think it will happen to us. It’s a loss of innocence, when we see how unfair life can be.

I haven’t been reading fiction over the past several years. A few books here and there. I took some deep dives into Infinite Jest, but still didn’t finish it. I read George Saunders stories. I read My Struggle (just the first book) by Karl Ove Knausgaard. Then a few months ago I joined the kind of book club where you actually read books (although I like the book club where you just drink wine too). The first book we read in Actual Book Club was The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht. The second meeting, it was my turn to host.

I put some choices out to the group and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy got the most votes. I felt a certain hostess pressure. But when I finally sat down to start the book, I struggled to get through the opening chapters. The relationships were difficult to remember. I kept confusing the main characters, boy and girl twins, because their names didn’t correspond to my gender associations. The girl twin is Rahel and the boy twin is Esta. Typically, I associate girls’ names with ending in ‘a,’ so I kept thinking Esta was the girl; and the name Rahel, ending in ‘el,’ made me think of the masculine pronoun in Spanish.

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I reread the first part like five times. And then I made myself a cheat sheet, which helped a bit.

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The story jumps between the 1960s, when the twins are children, and the ‘90s, when they are adults becoming reacquainted with each other after a long separation. I was slogging through it, not getting into it, and then there was a kind of tipping point. At book club we decided it happens when the narrative starts to catch up to itself — when you finally start to see the events that have been hinted at and foreshadowed begin to unfold. I haven’t confirmed this, but it felt to me like the language got less fussy. I didn’t have to work as hard to understand, so I just started to flow with the story.

This also is the time in the book when Roy unleashes a very Knausgaard-ian-ly realistic, Lynch-ian-ly grotesque scene of child abuse that is so disturbing that I had to put the book down for a couple of days. There are several times when the writing is so visceral, and so barbaric, that it takes fortitude to read every word. You want to close your eyes like in the movies, but there is no way through it except through it.

Despite my resistance nearly all the way, I was in body-shaking sobs by the end. I felt like a stronger person for having allowed myself to mentally experience the brutal unfairness that Roy describes so vividly. She also applies that sensual realness to love scenes, which sort of balances the scales a bit.

[Spoiler alert] This book came out in 1998, but the police brutality theme is eerily current. My famous friend DeAnna and I were the only two to finish the book (which was no small feat, let me tell you) and we were both thunderstruck by about five pages toward the end when Roy dissects the rationale of the policeman beating Velutha to death. The way she describes the coldness of it and detachment of it – like the body attacking a disease — is chilling and terrifying.

There is very little justice in the world that Roy describes in The God of Small Things, and very little comfort. It just so happens that Roy recently announced she is working on a second novel. I might have to wait about 20 years to read the next one. Maybe by then I will have recovered.

But apparently, I hadn’t had enough of India, so I picked up a book that my dad had given me to read a long time ago.

shantaram

I love how Chester snuck into this picture.

Despite his reassurances that it would fly by, and despite other friends telling me how much they enjoyed it, I just hadn’t been able to get into Shantaram. But with India on the brain and emboldened by the slog through the first part of Small Things, I decided to try again. I gave myself a deadline. I would try to finish it in time to return it to my dad the next time I saw him, which gave me about 10 days to read 930 pages.

Shantaram is quasi-autobiographical (you don’t exactly know what’s real and what’s embellished, but you get the feeling that Gregory David Roberts knows a fair amount of what he speaks. And what is up with having three first names? It almost always sounds pretentious, right? Unless the person has three diminutive names, like Billy Joe Bob).

The narrator is an Australian fugitive who goes by the name Lindsay (later mostly called Lin or Linbaba). The story opens in the 1980s as Lin enters Bombay on fake papers. All we know is that Lin has recently escaped from an Australian prison where he was serving 20 years for armed robberies that he committed to feed his heroin habit.

Lin joins the local expat community, and falls in love with a woman named Karla, who, like all the non-Indian characters in the book, made her home in Bombay out of a desire to disappear. The expats Lin interacts with operate at varying levels of petty crime; and the Indians Lin interacts with range from slumdwellers to Mafia kingpins.

Like The God of Small Things, Shantaram depicts brutal suffering. Children sold as slaves, slumdwellers dying of cholera, paper-thin homes ripped through by fire and drowning in shit, starvation, rats the size of cats, malicious packs of street dogs, violence, soul-less sex, drugs, corruption and gruesome torture that seems to have no bottom, no end. It is all so unfair. The most unsettling part is that you can tell that the bad parts are real, because no one could make up the kind of cruelty that The Greg Pirate Roberts writes about.

Yet, intertwined with all the suffering, Lin experiences a different and cathartic kind of love. In particular, Lin’s guide, Prabakar “Prabu” Kharre, embodies the moral, noble heart of India. With his radiant, honest smile and his relentless optimism, Prabu insists on seeing the bright side. When tragedy strikes, Prabu says, you are very lucky, it wasn’t your house that burned down. You are blessed; it wasn’t you who died of Cholera. At first, Prabu’s approach might seem callous or selfish, but as Shantaram unfolds, we learn along with Lin, what Prabu has learned from a lifetime of inconceivable unfairness and unmerciful fate — the only way to survive is to purposely and intentionally insist upon seeing the light.

Faced with the weight of your grief, you can howl and scream, pound your fists, stomp your feet, curse the world, denounce God, give up hope, lash out, cut ties, gouge out your own heart, blame everyone you know, deny the truth, stuff down the parts you don’t want to remember, block out and numb out the things you don’t want to see or hear. You can rage, rage, rage, but none of it will change a damn thing.

On the surface, you could read Prabu’s character as a simplified stereotype, a goofy Uncle Tom type, smiling comically and getting cheap laughs from his broken English, as in the scene when he first approaches Lin:

“Good mornings, great sirs!” he greeted us. “Welcome in Bombay! You are wanting it cheap and excellent hotels, isn’t it?”

But throughout the book, Prabu is a constant reminder of goodness. His genuine care for Lin and others, his humor and spirit wash even the most heinous of realities with the soft light of compassion.

I don’t know why good people get sick. I don’t know why good people die. But I know that the only real weapon we have against suffering is love. Love can’t survive in a hardened heart; there’s no room for love when you are pumping venom or churning bitterness, blaming everyone else, carrying a big old chip on your shoulder. Love can’t survive in suffering. But also suffering can’t survive in love. And the thing about suffering is that it has an end — human bodies are built with an auto-shut-off safety function. When we reach a certain level of pain, we go numb. We can’t feel it anymore. But love is limitless. There is no end to how deep it can go. There is no ceiling. It just keeps getting more and more creative in how it grows. The more you feed it, the more surprising it is. And just as you can’t close your eyes and continue to read the book, the only way through is through. And until you actually get there, you have no idea the gifts waiting for you on the other side.

So, if you have a copy of Shantaram holding down a bunch of papers or propping open a very heavy door, all I can say is: It will fly by, I promise. I really enjoyed it.

Hiking with Dad

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Toward the end of our first hike together in a long while, my dad asked if I ever regret not getting married.

We were back on the asphalt after four hours in the wilderness, walking the final stretch to our parking space, way down in the Day Use Lot, which Dad said would have seemed unbearably far from the trailhead back when he and his brothers first started coming up here 25 years ago, when barely anyone knew about this place yet.

I said no, I don’t regret it, mostly because of what I have learned about relationships since calling off my wedding five years ago. I have dated rich guys, poor guys, train-hoppers, musicians, writers, a painter, a chef, the VP of an ad agency, an evangelical Christian, a Muslim, an amputee, and lots of other dudes with lots of other things that made each of them unique. What I learned was that none of that stuff matters. Not money, or physical perfection, or even religion. What matters is that soul connection—humor, laughter, communication, trust.

Dad: “I guess we’ll just find you a one-armed, homeless Muslim and you’ll be all set then.”

This is the kind of wisdom you get on a Friday hike with Dad.

We left the house around 9:30 a.m., cutting across the Diagonal, past Coot Lake, where the roads are called Niwot and Neva and Nebo. We went up James Canyon, through Ward, the kind of funky little mountain town where things are just a little too rusted out and broke down to be quaint. The charm in a place like Ward lies in the freedom to live however you want to, I suppose.

The sun was already blazing and there wasn’t a significant cloud on the horizon when we arrived at Brainard Lake and bought a $10 day pass from the salty old ranger woman, who nonetheless told us to keep our “eyes on the skies.”

Dad had packed us a lunch of turkey sandwiches, chips, Sweet Cajun Fire trailmix, and yogurt-covered pretzels. We sat on the hillside just above Lake Isabelle, and Dad told me about a time long ago when he and his brothers tried to take the trail further beyond the tree line, up to the ice field on Isabelle Glacier. None of them had done much serious hiking then; they were eager and enthusiastic, until they found themselves stuck on the rocky slope as the sun started to set, and their excitement turned to fear. They eventually made it down, but they still talk about it to this day.

Dad’s older brother, Dave, has become a kind of shaman, an evangelical from the church of the mountain. For Dad and Dave, these hikes are like spiritual pilgrimages. They don’t rack up 14’ers or trudge road bikes up the twisty roads just to prove they can. It’s not about speed, endurance, or fancy gear. It’s about tapping into the deeper wisdom of the natural world.

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On the way back, as we crossed over a sparkling creek, Dad bent down and submerged his bandana in the water. “This is what we call BDT,” he said. “Bandana Dipping Time.” IMG_3435

A little while later, we met a family on the trail. The wife asked Dad if he spoke Japanese, and if he knew what the writing on his bandana meant.

Dad said no, but he heard that the same kind are worn by street vendors in Japan who sell ice cream and cold treats. “So, every once in a while,” Dad told the woman, “someone will look at me like, ‘Hey, you got a Sno Cone for me, or what?’”

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The bluebird skies started to turn to gray, and thunder followed us down the mountain. Dad joked around like he was afraid, but he wasn’t. When you’ve been coming up here as long as he has, you know how to watch the skies.

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These wooden paths remind him of the moving walkways at the airport.

We took the scenic route back, around Long Lake, where every vista was more beautiful than the last. The bark on the trees looked silver under the muted light of the rainclouds and their insides burned orange and gold.

We talked about the husband I haven’t met yet.

Dad said, “You know, he’s not just going to materialize out of thin air. He is out there somewhere right now, walking around, not knowing that he is looking for you and that you are looking for him.”

“I know, I know,” I said, but I must have still seemed skeptical.

“Don’t worry,” Dad joked. “This will all make a lot more sense when the ‘shrooms kick in.”

Harry Belafonte lays down some truth

Last night I had a whole house to myself, so I planned to make a Thai stir-fry and watch some corny movie. I turned on the TV and happened upon the NAACP Image Awards. I am a sucker for any and all awards shows, so I kept watching.

It was mostly what you would expect—a few A-list celebrities, like Halle Berry and Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Quentin Tarantino, LL Cool J—mixed in with a bunch of people you kinda, sorta recognize. (Is that Buuud from The Cosby Show? … It wasn’t). And the adorable little girl from Beasts of the Southern Wild with the name that no one can pronounce. And this white dude who stars with Washington on the show Scandal:

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That’s right. It’s the guy who killed Patrick Swayze.

It was disappointing when people weren’t there to get their awards. Denzel wasn’t there. Omar Epps wasn’t there. Viola Davis wasn’t there. They gave Kerry Washington something called the “President’s Award” for her humanitarian work. I think she is a great actress (I mean, did you see Last King of Scotland?) but the shlocky PR video that they showed before she accepted her award was nauseatingly contrived. And I get that she is beautiful and has broken through to mainstream success, but ugh. She just ended up sounding conceited and self absorbed.

I have to admit that when 85-year-old Sidney Poitier took the stage and started slowly reading from the teleprompter, I was expecting a few sweet sentiments or maybe even a prepared speech written by some twenty-something awards-show writer.

Harry+Belafonte+Sidney+Poitier+Film+Society+6zLdECUDEsqlBut then something changed. He began to light up as he talked about Harry Belafonte, also 85, also one of the trailblazers of African American entertainment, also a pillar of the American civil rights movement.

It is easy to forget, in these post-politically-correct times, when we have a black president, when a we have movies like Django Unchained with a slave for a hero, just how much work it has taken to get to this point. Just how much struggle and pain it has taken. I mean it is easy for me to forget. For other people, it is absolutely impossible.

Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte remember the world before. They remember segregated America, and Medgar Evers and Emmitt Till, and Mississippi Burning, before it was a movie. When it was real. When these were real people being murdered for trying to challenge our country’s hypocrisy.

They remember the people they knew as children who told real stories of slavery. Not Tarantinoan revenge fantasies, but real-life recollections of violence and oppression that most of us will never even come close to understanding. The kind of suffering that crushes a human being’s soul.

I was impressed recently when I heard Tarantino defend the brutality depicted in Django Unchained by saying: Yes, it is violent. But what really happened during slavery was much, much worse.

Considering that slavery in America ended less than 200 years ago, we have come miraculously far toward becoming a nation that truly provides liberty and justice for all. But you need only to look at the poverty and crime statistics to see how much further there is to go. Which is why what Mr. Belafonte said last night was so powerful:

The group most devastated by America’s obsession with the gun is African Americans. Although making comparisons can be dangerous, there are times when they must be noted. America has the largest prison population in the world and, of the over 2 million men, women, and children who make up the incarcerated, the overwhelming majority is black.

They are the most unemployed, the most caught in the unjust systems of justice, and in the gun game, the most hunted. The river of blood that washes the streets of our nation flows mostly from the bodies of our black children.

Yet as the great debate emerges on the question of the gun, white America discusses the constitutional issue of ownership while no one speaks to the consequences of our racial carnage. Where is the raised voice of black America? Why are we mute? Where are our leaders? Our legislators? Where is the church?

Not all, but many who have been recipients of this distinguished award were men and women who spoke up to remedy the ills of the nation. They were committed to radical thought. They were my mentors, my inspiration, my moral compass. Through them I understood America’s greatness. Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Bobby Kennedy, Connie Rice, and perhaps most of all, Paul Robeson. He was the sparrow. He was an artist who made us understand the depth of that calling when he said, “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are the civilization’s radical voice.”

Never in the history of black America has there ever been such a harvest of truly gifted and powerful artists… our nation hungers for their radical song. Let us not sit back silently. Let us not be charged with patriotic treason.

—Harry Belafonte

Some bloggers today have called his speech an “admonishment” of black America for not doing more to end violence. I did not hear it that way. I heard it as a call to action. I heard it as big love. I heard it as power. The same kind of power you hear in the words of Frederick Douglass, or Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King, Jr, or Malcolm X.

As Mr. Belafonte spoke, the crowd was visibly moved. Everyone who took the stage after him made reference to his speech, including Jamie Foxx, who said that while he had planned to talk about “me, me, me, I, I, I,” instead gave a beautiful, heartfelt thank you to those who paved the road for him and others. Not just in Hollywood, but every African American who suffered the inconceivable cruelty of slavery.

He acknowledged Quentin Tarantino for telling the story of Django Unchained, and Kerry Washington for the role she played in it. The role of every black woman who ever took a lashing, and worse. Before the network cut him off to show some commercial, Foxx sang an impromptu a cappella rendition of the song “No Weapon” as if singing to every sister, mother, auntie, and grandmother:

I know that a lot of people will not hear Mr. Belafonte’s words the way that I did, but it gives me hope that he said them. I do not think he was speaking only to black America. I think he was speaking to all of America, and to all artists, to be brave, honest, and radical in our compassion. We owe it to each other and to every American who came before us.

The Rob Delaney School of Manhood

Last Friday, I was lucky enough to score a free ticket to see Rob Delaney at the Scottish Rite Theater, aka, Austin’s freemason headquarters. Apparently, when they aren’t performing ritual sacrifices and inventing new satanic tax codes, they open their doors for comedy and rock shows.

On the outside, it looks like a church. On the inside, it looks like a place where Scooby-Doo would hang out with Phyllis Diller and the Harlem Globetrotters: dim lighting, red walls, brown wood paneling, ornately framed paintings of old white dudes whose eyes follow you as you walk down the hall. And globes. Lots of globes. Maybe they use these to plan out the New World Order to scale. When I went looking for the women’s restroom, I expected it to be a port-o-potty in the back alley. The first thing my friend said when we walked in was, “this place makes me want to break some shit.” Luckily, there was also a sign with an arrow that said BAR.

The actual theater had old wooden auditorium seats and a backdrop depicting some kind of ancient vista as seen through Greek columns, which I imagine the Austin Illuminati uses as a set when they videotape themselves shaving designs of pyramids and eyes into each other’s balls. As we sat down with our $7 rum and Cokes in between a nice Dell employee named Tab and a woman with the loudest and most awkward laugh since anyone ever, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

If you don’t know Rob Delaney, let me lay down some knowledge on you. I first fell in love with his writing when I read an essay he wrote for Vice.com, titled Problem Areas. It begins like this:

Hi everybody! How’s it going? If you’re a woman, I hope your answer is “I’m fucking starving!” Bikini season will be here before you can say “Jamochachino Surprise,” so you better be torturing yourself and focusing your meager intellect and out-of-control emotions on shedding those pounds, girlfriend!

He goes on to mock the ridiculous culture of beauty worship (perpetuated by both men and women), that routinely mind-fucks generation after generation of women into believing that their natural bodies are gross, that their instincts are untrustworthy, and that their value as human beings goes up as the numbers on their scale go down. He rattles off a list of just some of the things that are probably wrong with your body, including:

Saddle bags, upper-arm fat, cottage cheese thighs, midriff-bulge (aka F.U.P.A aka “gunt”), flat chest, asymmetrical breasts, butt-beard, bacne, pit-cheese, cankles, surprise tampon string cameos, eczema, ham spatula, ashy elbows, feet of any kind, hairy knuckles, beef knuckles, uncle’s knuckles, vaginal halitosis, bald spots, loaf latch, sideburns, flatbottom, creeping jimson weed, dowager’s hump, treasure trail, Pepperidge Farm, razor bumps, leakage, phantom dangle, and panty dandruff.

My favorite is Pepperidge Farm.

Of late, Delaney has become a pretty big deal on ye olde Twitter. He has more followers than God and is routinely hilarious in his political commentary, bathroom humor, and sexual non-innuendo. It’s non-inneundo because he doesn’t innuendo it at all. He just comes out and says whatever the fuck is on his mind, and I respect that.

Have I mentioned that he has the bone structure of Superman, crossed with Jon Hamm, crossed with a Kennedy?

My adult woman self wanted Mr. Delaney to come out like the James Bond of comedy and deliver a cleverly crafted satire of our current socio-political climate. My inner adolescent fantasized that somehow the house lights would go up, we would lock eyes, and, he would take me out for an innocent, but sexually-charged post-show ice cream cone and then we would become best friends, and then I would meet his wife and we would all three become best friends, and then they would invite me to a party in LA where I would meet Ryan Gosling and we would get married and Rob Delaney would be the maid of honor at my wedding.

What actually happened was more surprising and, in many ways, more satisfying. (Ok, maybe not more satisfying than sex with Ryan Gosling, but still.) He was just really real. He talked about the humiliation of being a bedwetter as a child, about his struggles with alcohol, and a drunk driving accident that landed him not only in casts on both arms, but also in jail. (Sounds like a laugh-a-minute, right? Well, it actually WAS.) He talked about the joys and fears of fatherhood, and about how insanely hard it is to maintain a healthy marriage. Perhaps the biggest laughs of the night came as he described how sometimes he wishes that he and his wife could forego the infuriating difficulty of talking and just beat the shit of each other.

I left that creepy-as-fuck Scottish Rite Theater having laughed my ass off and with a much clearer idea of what I want in a man: Honesty. Strength of character. Humor. Vulnerability. Willingness to admit and learn from mistakes. Passion for the adventure of life, even when it is painful, and raw, and messy.

I am sure if I knew Rob Delaney in real life, I would sometimes think he was an insufferable shithead. But that is what it means to be human. We are all insufferable shitheads sometimes. Thank you, Rob Delaney, for having the courage to joke about it.

My favorite Christian

On this day in 1955, my mother was born. She was raised on a plot of land just outside Vermillion, South Dakota, in a farmhouse built by her grandparents.

In many ways, 1955 was not that long ago, but, when you really think about it, it blows your mind. The farm where she grew up was homesteaded by her ancestors in the late 1800s, when the West was still wild, and when no one knew for sure how this whole United States thing would turn out. (See the show Deadwood for an idea of what it might have been like.) Even in the 1960s, my mom went to a one-room schoolhouse, where she was one of the only students in her grade, all the way until high school.

The youngest of five children, she came into this world at a generational turning point, the middle of a century, the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. Her father was born in 1902, and was, by all accounts, as much a product of the 19th Century as I am a product of the 20th.

When she came of age in the 70s, my mom was a bit of an outcast. She describes this in a self-deprecating way, but to me, it sounds like she was just awesome. She wore bell-bottomed checkered pants and pea coats, and her hair down to her ass, and made friends with people in the American Indian Movement. Then she joined a commune and became a premmie (a follower of Guru Maharaji), and met and married my dad.

After my folks were de-programmed and realized that Guru Maharaji was not the savior, but was just taking their money to buy Rolls Royces, they pretty much steered clear of organized religion. The closest we got was the non-denominational church that my mom started going to when I was about 15. They talked about Christ, but only in the way of like, There-Once-Was-This-Dude-Who-Did-Some-Cool-Stuff.

So, imagine my surprise a few years ago, when my mom became a born-again Christian. I mean, this is the same woman who, when I had a problem, used to advise me to consult a crystal or pendulum. Suddenly, she was spouting bible verses. Everything was “Jesus this” and “Jesus that.” I finally got to the point where I was like:

“Hey, Mom, next time you think of something to tell me about Jesus, just say it quietly in your head, okay?”

To be honest, it kind of freaked me out. But then I started listening to her. Really listening. And I realized that she absolutely believes. In God. In seeing the best in people. In the power of prayer. And in the generosity of heart, of mind, and of spirit. Above all, she absolutely believes in miracles. And that is beautiful.

She has helped me to see that, even though I haven’t accepted Christ as my “savior,” I still appreciate the impulse, and I honestly, truly believe in the fundamental ideas of Christianity (and most other major religions):  Compassion. Forgiveness. Love.

I made her this video for her birthday. She got a kick out of it, and I hope you will too.

I love you, you stupid assholes who post comments on the internet

I was raised in one of those “spiritual but not religious” households. Even though we didn’t follow a specific religion, my parents were former hippies, who instilled in us the importance of tolerance and acceptance.

I grew up in a New Age-y college town, where we regularly reflected on Buddhist principles of non-judgement and non-attachment. We meditated to release our suffering and recognized that we are all spiritual beings going through a human experience. Though we feel like separate individuals, we are really one — the same energy, from the same origins, born of the same stardust and magical spark of life.

I have also studied the nonviolent principles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi — seeing that the only way to truly combat hatred, injustice, and prejudice is to disarm it. Anger only breeds anger. Bitterness doesn’t hurt your enemy, but really only hurts you. It hardens and calcifies into a toxic pit in your heart, which can manifest physically as depression, substance abuse, and even disease.

Therefore, when I happen to scroll through the comments section of an article or video on the internet, and find people with differing views from my own, I might get “triggered” at first. But then I ask myself, am I really “being the change I want to see in the world” as Gandhi suggested? Rather than seeing the “other” as my enemy, what if I were to bless them? To practice radical compassion and acceptance?

So, hey, I just wanted to tell you that I love you, you ignorant, ignorant fucks.

I’m sure you don’t mean to sound like callous, resentful, utterly unreasonable assholes with no comprehension of history, the laws of physics, or basic human decency.

And just because you are racist, misogynistic homophobes who seem to practice no self-exploration or critical examination of your worldview doesn’t mean that you are inherently bad people. You probably learned it from your completely irrational and backwards parents. Heck, we are a young society with a looooooooong history of racism, sexism, and violence. I recognize that your actions are not you.

So, yes. I love you, you hateful shitheads. I really, really love you.

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