I’ve Never Read A Maya Angelou Book….BUT

….I’ve had a quote of hers, handwritten in my twenty year-old script, framed in my apartment on a scrap of torn memo paper when I first heard it and it resonated. Two quotes of hers in fact.  The other quote is next to my bed; we’ll get to that. The first:

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We make a lot of excuses for people.  But they show you who they truly are when you JUST LISTEN.  They can try to talk around it, attempt the smoke and mirrors.  But all you have to do is be quiet and listen.  Not to words, necessarily, but to their every innate method of movement. They are giving you every opportunity to run in the other direction. They want to wave a white flag on your behalf, giving you any out they could possibly invent.  I’ve been, oh how should I put it, incredibly fucking stupid for not listening to this advice.  The individual in your life who you’re making excuses for is holding a billboard that says, “I AM NOT THE PERSON YOU THINK I AM.”

Listen.  

Their actions, or lack of actions, show you every day.  Loud and clear.  Megaphone-howling, pyramid-climbing, polyester-wearing, screaming at the top of their cheerleader lungs, “BELIEVE ME.”  Sometimes with a marching band with streaming flags and teenage acrobats, but that’s usually for bowl games.  Sometimes with a silent glance, but one that, with a recipient’s clear, dare I say, sober, head, it is as loud as the bagpiper at Spanish Bay.  And we all love that guy.  But, yeah, he’s loud.

We’ve all come across a lot of liars.  Often we’ve been that liar.  From a little white, whispery one that slithers from lips without a second thought to the creation of another persona of a human being that isn’t truly us.  We’re all liars.  Go ahead, say you’re not.  LIAR.

It’s a quote that gets me through tough times.  Because it reminds me that we’re all just human beings.  We make mistakes.  More often we tell the truth.  Yes, I just called everyone liars three sentences ago; stay with me.  I believe that people tell the truth; and then they alleviate a potentially high-risk situation by pretending it was just something said in passing. But, it is we on the receiving end of a truth we don’t like who choose to define it a different way. A way that fits us, a way we can analyze into a completely different box, and cram it into that (GET IN THERE), box that we’ve chosen to, (HOLD ON!), make it fit.  (LOOK AT THAT, I KNEW IT!)   And we make them out the hurtful truth-tellers to be bad people.  They’re not.  They’re bad truth-tellers.  Because they don’t stick to it.

There are some that tell the truth and their truth is amazing.  It fits your truth, and wow you’re on the same page, with the same timing, and, are those butterflies?  This is a rarity.  So, you know what, a-holes?  I mean, ahem.  You know what, lovely people in the world reading this?  When you find it, open your eyes.  There’s not something better coming along.  If you’ve found someone you connect with, who makes you laugh til your sides hurt, who challenges the very core of your being, who wants you to find work you love, who wants you to travel, see the world, so you can tell your kids about it….you know what?  I’m sure the next gal at happy hour will do just that. Dime a fuckin’ dozen, we are.

God knows my friends have been put through the ringer, both male and female (if you’d like a list of these people who have caused said ringers, I have it both chronologically and alphabetically, so please be specific. WARNING: I bear no responsibility for you being on this list).

But I think we hear what we want to hear, what fits our ‘schedule.’  When we DO hear their truth, we move some words around, add some inflection, analyze it until it has too much meaning, and then come up with a whole newly defined strategy with zero basis in its origin. And this is why I now choose to go underground and live with mole people in the NYC subway.

I kid.  Unless, well, give me a week, I may sell all my shite on Craigslist and my sassy new chevron living room rug to Goodwill. [Friends, take note: I will need someone (I’m looking at you, Kelly) to remove my boxed wine from the fridge, someone (oh sister,Therese) to delete my Netflix Watch List because no one needs to see how often I watch Masterpiece Theatre and Battlestar Galactica, and only Alex is allowed to go through every piece of paper and discern who can read it. Please, no excitement, there’s nothing in the nightstands, I’m way too straight-laced  – although suggestions can be sent via email or in the comments below].

Anyway, back to the point.  When people show you who they are, don’t make excuses for them.  Believe them.  They’re telling you their truth.

 

The second quote that is in my apartment:

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Oh.  OHHHHH.  This is a doozy.  I need a moment.

 

 

Ok, I’m back. I’m going to make t-shirts with this sentence on it.  I’m going to be THAT girl wearing THAT T-shirt: new goal announced. Yeah, June 2014! $12.99, get ’em here!

Seriously, though…I put people before me.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  I put the wrong people before me.  I’ve had many well-meaning people (“You’re fantastic…you’re sensational…you’re one of a kind, BUT…”), and I have put more sensitivity and thought into what they want to eat for dinner than a cumulative thought as to what charities I’m donating to this year.

And now I want to take a butter knife and pull a Van Gogh.  But at least, I’m being honest.  I dare you to find someone more so.

I feel my online dating friends, the less successful ones than those that have met their literal match on Match, can understand this the most.  And I am most guilty of this.  We spend so much time thinking about the wrong people, mainly because we think they’re the right people, and shocker, they don’t deserve the amount of time and energy we’re spending on them.  Truthfully, if I spent the same amount of time following my dream of being a writer, or putting my mind to curing homelessness in San Francisco, or creating a new cable company so that Comcast can go to cable hell….as I spend on thinking about guys who don’t deserve it….well, Bay Area, you’d all be getting HBO for free.

There are so many good people in the world.  People who will and DO love us unconditionally, think we’re sexy, fantastic, awesome, witty, hilarious…the list goes on an on.  And there’s no “BUT” following any of those statements.  “But” negates everything said before that.

You just are sexy, fantastic, awesome, witty, hilarious.

What should follow is: “And I’m lucky to know you, and can’t wait to spend more time with you.” Find that person.  The rest, we’re spending too much time on.  Good….night.

 

Things My Brain is Thinking About When No One is Looking – Part VIII

My train of thought today –  I really should use my power for good.

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  • Tonight is bar trivia night.  I lerve trivia.  And I know stupid shite like Debbie Gibson’s middle name (Ann), that a rat can last longer without water than a camel (longtime NYC residents unite!), and that Leonardo da Vinci could write with one hand and draw with the other simultaneously.  More importantly, my team’s name is “We Don’t Care about Your Kids,” and I didn’t even name it!  Ah, kindred spirits.
  • It’s possible I’m wearing mom jeans today. I can’t decide.  I suppose if their fashion status is questionable, the answer is yes.
  • Speaking of mom, I’ve been evolving these past two years into her clone. Habitually, I use the word “slacks” instead of pants, calls people “pills” when they’re being annoying, and strongly believe that “Nothing good happens after midnight.”  I go through two books a week on tape and constantly tell Mac the dog that “the kitchen is closed” whenever he looks at me and wants more food. It’s like instead of Revenge of the Sith, it’s Revenge of the Sheila. She always said we’d end up like her.
  • Speaking of Star Wars, why are they making three more Star Wars movies?  I love me some J.J. Abrams and all, but why, why are we doing this?  Have we learned nothing between the years 1999 – 2005?  It’s like that saying, “Fool me once, shame on me.  Fool me twice, and I will toilet paper the entire campus of Lucasfilm.”
  • As an unemployed person, I have a request (and let me point out that I know you mean well and are being polite). BUT – please stop asking me “And how is the job search going?”  It’s unsettling and makes me want to hit the bottle.  I WILL TELL YOU. Thankfully, through this process I’ve learned that “I am not my job,” because losing a job would mean that I, too, as a human being are lost.  Even though this identity struggle has not yet involved barbiturates, it kind of makes my self-esteem plunge south.  Then I want to ask the following of you:
    • How is your parents’ divorce going?
    • How is that STD treating you?
    • Lose that last ten pounds yet?
    • Did you get fired?
    • When are you ever going to get married?
    • Or my favorite…. Are you pregnant?

Again, I know you mean well.  Thank you.  I recognize your well-meant interest in my personal and professional well-being. Now stop.

  • Why in the sam hell (another ‘Sheila-ism’) are iphones made of glass?  We put men on the moon 60 years ago, but we are making our phones out of GLASS? Things we poke at while jogging, shove to the bottom of our purses, and give kids to distract themselves.  Glass.  We childlock a shoe closet, but we give our children in a high chair a glass object with which to throw around.  Fortunately, when I got my iPhone5, I remembered I was a klutz and signed up for the “I will definitely drop this within the next 3 minutes” insurance, and so only had to pay a small fortune to get it replaced. If I can offer you any advice (in addition to “Never get involved in a land war in Asia”), get the monthly insurance. Because Steve Jobs didn’t like plastic.
  • Speaking of Jobs, have you seen the trailer for the Ashton…oh, I can’t be bothered, I have to get ready for trivia night.

I’m by ZERO means a feminist. But….

Today, I read an article about rape-culture and I had mixed feelings.  Whereas most females will most definitely have a different perspective,  I DO believe that people are  responsible for their own actions.  But, that doesn’t mean that someone, anyone,  gets to take advantage of that.  As this particular article, and subsequent marketing campaigns, state: “Not being able to say no does not mean yes.”

This is all to say that tonight, or this morning at 3am, I’m pissed.  At one of my favorite bars that I frequent, I was in the position to aid someone dear to me to a cab.  Leaning on me with all of her weight and unable to walk a straight line, I totally sympathized.  We’ve ALL been there, and because I’ve been there too often, I’ve lightened the alcohol intake recently and take care of my people.

But as I struggled to get her to a cab TEN feet away, I was met with incredible resistance.  From her?  No.  From FOUR different men within a few feet, belonging to different groups, who wanted to buy her and myself a drink, with a ‘hey, where are you going, looks like the fun has just started. Don’t go.

In the newfound practice of biting my tongue (which I’m now believing is ridiculously overrated), I said nothing for a FULL 20 SECONDS.  For anyone whom knows me, this is a lifetime.  Until the 27-year old douchebag said, “let’s get her another and see what happens.”  With the bouncer at Balboa ignoring my request for assistance, I tossed her 115 pound frame to my left side, took his face in my right palm, shoved him off-kilter, and stated, “I will END you.”

Keep in mind, I’m stone-cold sober.  I literally have a glass of water in my hand.  I request to place said glass of water on a nearby outside table, as I cannot hold her and it simultaneously.  The two gentlemen at the table said, and I quote…”why don’t you two join us? We could have more fun.”

In an attempt to not put men in headlocks in bars as I have a well-documented history of doing, I ignored them and had a lengthy discussion with the cabdriver about the necessities. I closed the cab door, sent her on her way, realized how many times my friends over the years had done the same, and said a silent prayer to each as I stepped away from the curb. Then, I knocked the glass of water into those two gentlemens’ laps and threatened their young lives if they ever felt the need to talk to anyone I knew within a 2 mile radius.

This is all to say – we need to take care of people who mean something to us.  Because, I’d hate to say it, but no one else is.

The Bitter End – or better yet, the End of the Bitter

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I got slapped in the face the other day.  Not literally slapped, that was a few months ago. I mean metaphorically. Stay with me, people.

A guy I went out with whom I now am happy to call a friend, informed me of something the other night over dinner.

 

He: “When it comes to guys, you’re bitter. You need to find some Zen.”

Me: “F*ck Zen.”  (pause, as he raises his eyebrows in victory)  “I mean, yay zen, totally!”

He: “You’ve been hurt, but so has everyone.  Take it all in stride.  You’re on a timeline, and it’s a made up one. You’ve made it up.”

Me: “Easy for you to say, you’re the one with the girlfriend who’s 6 years younger.” (I didn’t say this, but I thought it.  I DO sometimes bite my tongue).

He: “Let go of the idea that there’s not enough time. You are the source of time in your life.”

 

Smarty pants.

 

So yeah, well, I’m bitter. Because I’ve been put through the ringer.  More than once.  More than twice.  More than three times.  Really, they should name a church after me.

But really, he’s absolutely right.  With some of my recent angry actions, I’m hearing it loud and clear now, as I have taken it out on people I shouldn’t have.  I am bitter.  And I don’t want to be.

Being bitter doesn’t mean that I’m not over the pain of the past relationship.  I am. And I don’t want those people back in my life (stop emailing me, jackass), the ones that hurt me.  But I didn’t realize until this conversation that I’ve still carried the anger of wasted years and shed tears.  So, it took someone who didn’t return my affections to inform me I was bitter.  Oh, the irony.

This whole process has been exhausting. I’ve lost new friendships because of my bitterness. It’s been mostly infused with Sauvignon Blanc, which helps nothing, and only exacerbates my already over-opinionated mouth and my eventual embarrassment.

Yes, I did the best with what I knew at the time. But anger causes wrinkles. And a few other things, I’m sure, but most importantly, wrinkles.

There is no point in continuously beating myself (and guys) up about something I cannot change.  Sure there are things I don’t like about my life.  And there are things that I don’t have in my life that I thought I would by now.  But I’m the one that’s increasing the impact of their absence.

My aunt passed away a few days ago, and as my mom said, it’s a reminder for me to “give the loved ones around you a big hug and enjoy as rich a life as you can.  Every minute counts. Live and love your life.  You’ll get over the bumps.”

That’s been my big takeaway from all of this these past few days.  That I have the power to write my character as a hero rather than a victim.

Because in fact, I am proud of myself.  It took supreme courage to resolve to find something, and someone, better for me. Rather than pursue doomed relationships for fear of being alone, I chose life.  And radically improved the outcome of my own.

You can accept or reject the way you are treated by other people, but until you heal the wounds of your past, you will continue to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex, but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories, and make peace with them…. Iyanla Vanzant

Now watch this, it makes me happy.

Things My Brain Is Thinking About When No One is Looking – Part VI

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  • I’m a smart gal.  But for the past 4 months, I’ve lived with no health insurance.  COBRA is a joke and a half, and I’m still trying to figure out what the Christ Obamacare is.  It sounds great, thanks, so where is it, and why as a girl with an incredible education who has been employed and paid her 30% of income tax not able to receive it when I need it?  Now I’m paying a ridic amount of money every month just in case some schmuck runs a red light and creams me in the pedestrian crossing.
  •  Why can’t I invent something?  People create stupid shite all the time, stuff that is amazing.  Knives that cut through tin cans…the ShamWow….hell, I practically invented the Snuggie. Except I didn’t, nor have reaped its $200m in revenue.  Sometimes I just want zits so I can use ProActiv.
  • The below quotes are from real life, but will not be attributed to any specific human beings, as to keep their anonymity, self-respect, and livelihoods in place. I am always referred to as “Me” because I don’t give a shite.

Me: …Taking care of the pooch…

BFF: You’re such a good mom.

Me: This is the closest I’ll get.

BFF:  Shut it morbid mammary. You’re gonna have a litter of kids some day, and I’ll be the cool gay uncle.

 

Me: Well, why do you think he’s a jerk? I mean, you were there on the golf vacation, don’t you like golf?

He: Oh, I golf… but he thinks its important.

 

At the Genius Bar in the Apple Store:

Me: Um, ignore the rotating desktop wallpaper of Bradley Cooper images on my laptop. I’m just having battery issues today, if you can fix that.

Thomas, Genius Bar employee, 70 years old: I’m sure that you’re not the only girl in here who has a crush on Bradley Cooper.

Me: it’s not a mere crush, Tom.  It’s an obsession.

Thomas: Well I promise to fix your battery to allow the obsession to continue. Although, if I couldn’t I’m sure you’d find a way around it.

Me: It’s like you know me, Thomas.

 

After a bad date:

BFF: You rejected him like a bad transplant.

 

Me: If I hear “Eileen Burke, party of one” called out in a restaurant or seen on a placecard one more time…

BFF: Better than saying “Eileen, plus Party of asshole…”

Yes, yes it is.  Eileen, “Party of One” does not suck. In fact, that’s the title of my next book.

Rock Bottom, Sign of the Apocalypse, or Just Me Being Me…?

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  • I just became friends with a blind golden retriever puppy named Ray Charles on Facebook.
  • I’m drinking wine.  From a box.  By choice.
  • I’m more than mildly interested in @AmandaBynes twitter feed.
  • I will be direct messaging my mother’s phone number to anyone who feels the slightest need to cry and complain.  Sheila will set you straight.  There’s no shortage of the following:
    • “Get out of your jammies”
    • “There are other fish in the sea”
    • “Stop finding men with major flaws.  You haven’t been put on this planet to fix them.”

You begin the conversation in fetal position and within 10 minutes, you’ll be doing three loads of laundry and cooking a three-course meal.

  • Exact conversation from my life:
    • He: Do you actually have a huge framed photograph of a football above your fireplace?
    • Me: Obvi.
    • He:  I don’t know if that makes you weird or amazing.
    • Me: If you have to ask, the exit is the same as the entrance.
  • I bought a satin blouse.  I have to dryclean it every effin’ time I wear it.  Fingerprints, water spots, wrinkles – satin is my kryptonite. Thoughts from my cerebral cortex will actually mark this damn thing up. But DAYEM, it’s hot.
  • All day.  Everyday.  I talk to myself.  I find myself quite amusing. I didn’t realize I even did it until I traveled cross-country for a month with a friend.
    • Elizabeth: What?
    • Me: What.
    • Elizabeth: You just said something.
    • Me: I’m not talking to you.
    • Elizabeth: Oh.  Because we’re the only two people IN THIS CAR, I assumed you were talking to me.  Nutball.
  • When I do talk to myself, the most often question I ask myself out loud is: “GAHHHH!  Why do I do the things I do???”
  • I just found my high school picture.  I could have taken it yesterday.  Same haircut, same everything. Personally, I’m quite proud of looking the same way I did in high school. I mean, you’ve seen Facebook.
  • I try to fit, “You know nothing, John Snow” into conversation at least once a day.

A Lone Rose.

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Yesterday, I arrived from LAX, a mere hour flight from my home after a, well, let’s just call it a disappointing weekend in LaLaLand.  I’m sure that’s not the first time a person has said the city sent them packing, literally and figuratively.

 

Circling, circling, circling, my plane’s repetitive cycle almost made me dizzy, waiting for the unending fog to break even for a moment.  An additional sixty minutes on a race course, with a finished book and a touchy-feely neighbor.  I felt like I was being punished for something, and I racked my brain to figure out the last 96 hours.  What must I have done wrong in a past life?  Did I habitually kick puppies?  Did I back into my neighbor’s painstakingly planted hedges? Did I run a red light, or cut off an elderly person, or make faces at a baby until he cried?  Not this week.

 

This weekend I found myself in a place I knew very well in a city I didn’t know at all.  A place of loneliness, left once again and had to buck up, buttercup, and figure it out.  Thankfully, through infinite kindness and open hearts, I was able to do so.  I much prefer open hearts than closed ones.  Obvious statement, still worth noting as the closed ones continuously find me. I think they have GPS.

 

There’s constant uncertainty in our lives, I know this.  A friend told me on Thursday to find the Zen Master in myself and “just chill, enjoy hanging out with people you are into… let something develop organically.”  Doesn’t that sound lovely?  Sign me up.  Put me in line, right next to the sign that says, “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”

 

At night, I just listen to my book on tape, hoping for sleep within three hours, and have faith in the fairly large certainty that I’ll wake up in the morning. Fear only has as much power as I give it space.

 

This past weekend, I also rented out my apartment.  If my landlord is reading this, this is a lie, and someone has stolen my computer and no one stayed in my apartment this weekend. Upon returning yesterday, I did the simple laundry required and unpacked my bag, while trying to embrace season 1 of Scandal on Netflix.  It was only tonight, 36 hours upon arriving home, that I noticed a new addition in my kitchen, mere moments ago, as I stirred my Paul Newman pasta sauce. A lone rose, sitting in my spoon rest, where I almost lay my marina-covered ladle. Putting all utensils and pots aside, I picked it up, a delicate flower, cut off at the stem, trying to hold onto its golden vibrance.  There was no reason for a simple rosebud to be in my spoonrest, but it gave me great pause, its simple beauty, alone and waiting to be noticed.