“Of course, #metoo.” says millions of women. Me, too. Excerpt from Stands Alone.

I had a moment of what must be courage…Holy shit…I posted on Facebook about the sexual attack that happened to me my freshman year of college.  I’ve been thinking a lot about that night that… fuckin awful event…for years. And no, not just when the #metoo movement began…so many of us have been in that movement for decades.

Recently though, what pushed me to go to the page was the attack on Dr. Ford and the slimy mutherfucker Kavanaugh is… an gut observation I made days before information about his drunken wild ways of hurting women came out.  He set off a trigger in me (and in many of my friends, too). He’s THAT GUY. The one at the party to stay away from. And I’m sad that it was true. Sad and angry as fuck that it is true.

So with that in mind I made a small post, “I wasn’t 15 but I was 18…I don’t know my attacker’s name but we know hers…”  And immediately, my post was met with love and support. So much so it left me in tears. I LOVE my FB community. And I value how much they’re a part of my survival.

I’m writing a novel called Stands Alone. It’s about a detective who with the help of her ancestors takes on a white supremacist who starts a race war.  The detective, Tanner Stands Alone, is half Black and half-Native. And yes, of course, I am so working out some ish in this book!   It’s supernatural and dark and gritty.  Not for the faint of heart but let me tell you, if you’re a chick of color surviving in this world, your heart definitely ain’t faint.

In the story, Tanner’s mother, Kate, is Black, a character who has her own story of when she felt the brewing of her ancestors in her blood.  See…this is why art must always be supported and valued. Through my writing I am able to tell what happened to me, changing some details for the sake of this fictional narrative but giving me space to process this.  It was 33 years ago.  33. And thinking about it today still twists my gut and kicks my soul around busting the wounds open again.

That’s what happened when I watched Dr. Ford’s testimony. So much of her assault she survived rang true to mine. The hallway. The bathroom. The shoving into the room. The drunk monster on top of her. Of me.

And last Friday, it took me 48 minutes with my shrink to finally get to the “I didn’t deserve what happened to me.” And then I rushed back into a fog in my head that she helped me find my way out. I was safe. I am safe. But then Saturday another memory rose up and I finally answered ‘yes’ to the question: “If I was even a little bit scared and just let him fuck me quickly so he would pass out, was that rape?”

That will be another chapter in another book.

We’re stepping out of the darkness. As we can. When we can. How we can. There is light. There is healing. And this is how I’m doing  mine.

So, here’s an excerpt  from Stands Alone :  (I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M SHARING MY PROSE…)  Please share.

Kate – excerpt from Stands Alone by Stacey Parshall Jensen

She was late again. Getting across campus always took longer than she planned. She didn’t like to be late. And really hated the feeling of always trying to catch up. Be present. Kate Rogers believed punctuality was necessary for order. And she was trying really hard to get order back. Get more. She knew she had lost her way her first semester at Mankato State University. It was overwhelming when she arrived. Not that she questioned her knowledge. She worked for her high school top grades but she didn’t work too hard. She knew that college would be different and that she might have to put in more time, more focus. But she liked that. She was interested. And curious. And liked being smart. It was a value to her. To her family. Her father, Harold Rogers worked many years in a garage he eventually owned but only found success because of order. He impressed that work ethic into Kate. Ran their home on a clock. On clear expectations and goals so that they could get ahead of surprises. He didn’t see the dark fog rolling into their lives that sucked up his wife, Jerilyn. That dark mist that surrounded her long enough for her to get lost and wander off, leaving him with two little girls to raise. Kate was 6 and Calypso was 4. And then ten years later, Calypso did the same. He wasn’t going to fall to pieces and that was what he told Kate she better not do. And that required order.

But when the fall semester began there were thousands of students on campus who didn’t just ignore Kate, they didn’t even see her. She lost count how many times she was bumped into, when a passing student’s shoulder would bang into hers with no regard. Or when doors would fly open, hitting her in her face. Or when she’d be in line in the student union to order food or a coffee and someone would walk up and step right in front of her. Or on her feet. Sometimes she would make her presence known by saying something or pushing back a bit, but not ever too much. And sometimes she’d get a look of surprise. An occasional apology. But this felt like something permanent was happening. That she was going to fade away and be lost to nothing but the air that lived around other people.

On the other end of the scale, she had girls in her dorm whose open piercing fascination with her left her feeling exposed. All the time. These girls were the ones with long blonde hair and flat asses who reached for Kate’s curls. Stared hard at her dark skin. They would openly look at their own breasts in the community showers comparing the shades of brown on their nipples to her black. They didn’t even try to hide they were doing this. They didn’t say anything to Kate’s face but after she fought the urge to run, she would finish her shower and leave the room with some shred of dignity, their voices would rise up with astonishment and even glee. “Did you see her ass? It’s so round. So high. And her nipples? O my God. How can they be even darker than her skin? But her bush? Wow! That’s a bush!”

To avoid this fantastic show she seemed to be starring in, she eventually got very early and took her shower. Or in the middle of the night when the dorm floor was quiet.

She was the only Black girl on her that floor. And one of only four in the whole building. The other three never spoke to her. Or to each other, as much as she could tell. They kept their heads down. Moving in the shadows.

It was different for the Black guys, though. At least those who were football players. They got celebrity status but Kate knew that was more than how good they were on the field. She knew the fascination was there, too. Riding up close to an angry brewing of twisted envy that could explode into hate very quickly. She didn’t talk to any of them, either. Maybe their status had to include the beautiful homegrown Minnesota white girl on their arm. Maybe they too were just surviving.

Patsy Holman was Kate’s first roommate. A quiet small-town girl who claimed at first that her job would keep her away from their dorm room for most weekends which eventually turned into her coming back to change clothes and belongings until all her shit was gone. In one month. No harsh words. No racist comments or even weird stares. Just a going away. In fact, Kate wasn’t even sure if her being Black was the reason. And she didn’t complain. Her room became hers alone which was good but the flip of the privacy was the sadness of solitary living. And even after Patsy things were all gone, Kate kept her own belongings to her side of the room. She had declared her major in anthropology and had begun to create a work space that fed her curiosity. Her studies. But only on one side of the room.

Kate’s life was class and work-study at the library. She heated soup on her burner in her room. Made popcorn and drank water and tea while she studied the leading minds in Black anthropology. She knew her own mind was expanding. She could feel it actually growing. Pressing up against the inside of her skull.

Sometimes, to her shock, she’d read something that not only ignited a new thought or pushed a low brewing one to a burning height, she’d feel her blood rise up in her body and she’d get a flash of a vision of a life that felt like hers. Before hers. It was odd and scary. It was being awake in a dream. Not floating but existing in that dream. Not just point of view but seeing. Seeing. Feeling. Being in the dream.

The contradiction that made Kate finally run from her dorm room one night was feeling alive with more memory and more story than her tiny body could hold and being invisible in this college campus world. How could her feelings be so profound, so necessary when no one was seeing her?

She threw a sweater on over her long sleeve blouse so worn the cuffs were frayed and the elbows soft. She wore dark corduroy slacks. Big flared legs. Black beaded belt to hold them up. Her boots were tan and like all her clothes, worn. Nearly used up. But she didn’t care what she looked like. She needed to get out of the room.

She left campus, walking away from the tall buildings, the stadium, the students hanging out in rooms sharing their lives, their dreams. The weight of feeling she didn’t belong was crushing her and if she didn’t move fast and far enough away it would kill her.

At the corner behind the gas station was a bar. A club. The Road Runner. She had seen it before from the city bus she sometimes took to go exploring the city. But never paid it much mind. That evening though, walking past it, she heard the music first. And then she saw the people streaming in. Young people. Dressed for the disco. Afros were big, glistening in the neon lights of signs in the window. Some were dancing in their boots before they even went in, bumping and grinding. Laughing. Loving each other. Loving life.

Kate wove her way through the crowd at the door intent on passing by. But the big bouncer in his black leather jacket, his tight flared jeans, one gold ring set high on his knuckles, called out to her.

“Hey, baby girl. Where you going?”

Kate shook her head, smiled and kept going.

“You know you wanna dance. Come on, sweet thing.”

She slowed down and turned to face him. She couldn’t help her smile because his was contagious. “Nah. I have to get back to….my studies.”

“What you study, girl? On a Saturday night?”

She checked his expression to see if he was teasing her but he checked the licenses of the squealing girls and let them in. He looked back up at her.

“Anthropology.” she answered.

“Sweet. What better place for some research, right?” This time he laughed.

Kate had to laugh, too. More young people parked and headed to the door as Sly and the Family Stone started playing inside. She heard the roar of cheering and then the voices joining in to sing along. She realized then that she had just seen more Black people in the last three minutes than she had seen in one month on campus.

 

The DJ spun Sly into Parliament and from there to Earth, Wind and Fire, Wild Cherry and Brick. And she danced. She started slowly, sipping a drink by the bar. Watching but moving slowly. She knew beat. She thought of the dance parties she’d have with her dad. So few but they were the best nights. When he’d be nostalgic for some life he didn’t tell her about but could be convinced to turn the record player up and they’d dance. She missed those nights. She missed him.

The night went on and drinks flowed. Dance partners gladly bought her more. That’s what the men did.

When the lights came up and it was time to go, Kate’s blouse was drenched. Her face glossy with sweat. But so was everyone else as they headed to the door, spilling out into the night. That’s when she felt her buzz. The cool air tickled her body. She shivered and tried to put her sweater back on. At some point she tied it around her waist but untying it proved to be more difficult. That’s whiskey sours.

One of her dance partners, Joe, laughed and helped her. Her knees were shaky. She stepped back with a loud “Whoa!” He caught her arm. He, too, was sweat covered. His Afro cut short and close to his smiling black face. “You okay?”

Kate grounded her feet and forced a deep breath. She wasn’t a drinker. Didn’t much in high school. Had a few beers at her graduation party her dad threw her at the garage but not much after that. Her head felt light. Like it could float away.

Another big guy, this one wearing his MSU Maverick football t-shirt joined them. “We’re rolling at Walkers. Let’s go.”

“Sweet! Come on.” Her dance partner steered her towards the flow of people heading around the corner of the bar down the parking lot. Tucked behind the club was a sprawling apartment complex. Mostly students lived there, packed into well-worn units. They were cheap. Close to campus. And close to the Road Runner. All that any student needed.

“Nah. I should go back to the dorms. But thanks—“ Kate pulled away from the guys.

“No, Come on, girl.”

Kate looked again at the young people. How connected they seemed to be to each other. Hugging. Holding onto another as they walked, sashayed. Danced down the parking lot. Three girls, all Black, all beautiful and like Kate, sweat-covered, came up behind them. “Joe! Joe! Joey!” They singsonged, dancing around Joe. He took them in his arms. “This is my new friend, Kate who needs to keep dancing but won’t admit it.”

The girls expanded their circle drawing Kate in.

 

An hour later, the students packed so tightly in the living room of the tiny apartment, moved like one grooving beast. One grinding monster. Those there to drink only stood guard over the keg in the kitchen. Those there to get higher were against the walls, passing joints. But the dancers met the bass of the funk with abandonment. A freedom that Kate had never known. Walker, Joe and their friends were all football players and partied like this as often as they could. That’s what the girls told her on the way to the apartment. They all worked hard and deserved this. No one wanted to discuss their studies, their classes, which professors were cool and which needed to retire. No one asked where she was from or if she felt she fit in. They just brought her in.

She was still dancing as she made her way down the hallway to the bathroom line. Her buzz was heavy in her body. But dancing kept it moving. Surging around her body, away from her head. She thought water. She should get water. That’s what she actually said out loud when his big chest met her chin. He towered over her. He was white. All muscle. Red face like a boulder, rugged. Jagged. He pushed her backwards into a bedroom across from the bathroom.

Kate stumbled. She tried to get her footing but for all his bulk he was swift. He knocked her back on the bed. She fell hard, eyes on the ceiling. She sat up to see him shove an easy chair in front of the door. It was overstuffed. A knitted afghan over the arm. Torn upholstery on the seat.

“What? What? What are you doing?” She was able to say. She thought she said.

He didn’t answer though. He showed her.

He pushed her back on the bed and crawled on top of her. Pressed his big knees on hers. She struggled against his chest. She hit him. As hard as she could. Like smacking a brick wall, she left no mark. Caused no pain. He grabbed her wrists and pinned them over her head.

Kate was sure she would vomit. She tried to kick. To get some strength. To sober up but he was stronger. Bigger.

She felt the blood in her body surging. Scrambling to race away from her skin. To get to her brain to help her escape. She started to cry. But he had moves. He had skill. He was able to knock her back, pin her down and get his dick out of his pants at the same time. With his height. With his strength. He was a swiftly moving monster.

He kept his knees on hers while shoving his dick on her face. She gritted her teeth. Locked her jaw. He grunted and pushed it harder on her mouth. She couldn’t cry out because if she opened her mouth he would win. He would get what he wanted from her. And what she wanted was…to kill him.

In that moment, in those gut-wrenching moments of terror, the vision of biting his penis off quickly, surgically, with her teeth, sharpened by the weapons of her grandmothers, their force raging through her body, came over her. Came through her. He could bleed to death. She had two seconds of clarity in the fog of the attack to see. To feel the rage. Killing him wouldn’t be just for her, or for the women caught in his way in the future. It would be for every man who used his dick as a weapon because he believed it was his right to do so. For every man who used his power to wrap his hands around the necks, the wrists, the ankles of women before her. Those men who threw punches, broke ribs and faces and then in the bloody mess they created, they raped. She felt the fight rising in her blood. Saw them. Her ancestral grandmothers fighting back. Poor Black and brown woman terrorized in alleys, in warehouses, in factories. She saw them running the long rows of the cotton fields. Digging their way across the dirt floors of sheds and barns. In tenement houses. In alleys behind bars. In schools and churches. There was no place to hide, no place to heal. She felt the skin on their backs being ripped away as their insides were ravaged by the prick of a powerful white man. One who believed they were only animals created for his violent taking.

But she could kill for them. For herself.

A growl rose up on Kate, rushing to escape her with blood and bile from her innards, with the vomit and booze choking her.

The door opened, banging against the back of the easy chair.

A Black guy, another football player, peeked in. “Oh, sorry, man,” he said, pulling the door shut.

That second of him opening the door was the second Kate hollered. “No!” She wanted to shake the walls with the pitch of her scream. Her mouth opened and she tasted the monster’s prick instead. But this was the seconds she had. The seconds she was given. She could bite now. She could gnash his dick off now. She could kill now. Or she could run.

This was also the second he looked back over his shoulder to the door. The second that he let up his grip on Kate, just a little.

She shoved the beast of a man away from her, scrambling to get out from under him. Still screaming. “No! No! No!”

The football player at the door pushed it open wider. He looked surprised. Helpless. He didn’t seem to realize that he didn’t just save Kate but he saved the life of the man crushing over her. The attacker. The monster.

Kate screamed more. And more. Like a feral animal. Wrongly caged. She ran at the easy chair. One foot on the seat of it, the other on the top, she tried to fly over it. She was flying away. She was escaping.

She tumbled into the guy at the door, knocking him into the hallway. The music was loud. Thumping but her heartbeat was louder. She tore at the football player she landed on, not wanting to be touched by anyone. She pushed on him and got up. She didn’t know if the people waiting for the bathroom, smoking weed, making out, hanging in the hallway noticed her. Or knew what had happened. She didn’t see their faces. They were just obstacles in her escape.

She shoved her way through them, bursting back into the living room. Tears ran down her face but no one did anything. No one saw her. They still didn’t see her.

She made it through the dancers, past the flowing cups of beer laced with rum, passed the joints and the pipes. She ran past the booze-laced gazes of the other players, past the women they were grinding on and out the door into the courtyard.

She burst into the night, her soul twisting with pain. Her belly alive and inflamed. Her blood rushing to her ears with the cries of her ancestors. The loudest came from a vision Kate saw in her mind. An African warrior, a woman as dark as the night sky, her eyes bright and fearless. It was Ke. Screaming in Wolof. “Dangi! Dangi!” Run.

 

 

 

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Vanity, Prince and Jesus

So I saw the news last night about her death and watched a video of Vanity 6 singing “Nasty girl…dance, dance, dance…” on Youtube before I fell asleep. This morning, I read this beautiful homage Prince made to his dear friend, to one of his first loves, to Vanity… to Denise.
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I remember hearing about Vanity being born again. Of a scary health incident. I don’t remember what she had but I  knew it was related to her years of partying hard. I knew that the toll was taken on her body and at some point, when it was dying I thought I read that she saw herself floating above it.  Her soul was leaving but Jesus appeared to her. And she was given a choice. And she chose life.
 
For all my partying years I didn’t “do” drugs. I tried them (someday I’ll write about those experiences. They’re kinda funny if I tell them from the perspective to support that point of view. Notsomuch if I’m being honest) but for sure I was always so afraid I would like them and I knew there would be no turning back for me. Even in my boozy haze I knew that much.
 
But I remember giving Vanity, Denise’s, rebirth a lot of thought. I wondered how she could turn her back on what had to have been a really amazing life, right? She was a Prince chick. One that he loved. And she was dancing and singing and everybody wanted her, right? Doesn’t that make for a fabulous life?
And then I wondered about what it really meant to see Jesus.  What does He say? Is it scary? I used to have a tenuous relationship with God. And therefore with his Son so I was curious about what happened to Vanity back then. 
And then I wondered if I was going to have a “come to Jesus”. I wondered if I was worthy of one or if I needed to hit my rock bottom and o my, was I scared of what that bottom would look like. There would be wreckage. Irreversible, I was afraid.
I was lucky, though, that my “come to Jesus, it’s time to change your ways” moment came wrapped up as a child. And Lanee Bird changed my life.
 
And now, years later, when we say Rest In Peace to another singer, another celebrity, …people I don’t know in real life but I grew up with, I’m thinking of how they laid the soundscape of my trying years, of my angsty years, how they soothed me or moved me during the time I told the lies to claim  I knew myself so I didn’t have to admit I didn’t have a clue.
 
Prince. Vanity. So much funk. 

A Toast to PSH Collective, First Girl I Loved and SUNDANCE!

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Before this all goes into a suitcase. Before we load up the car with bags, boots, and Kind Bars for the road trip, I have to take a moment and not just pinch myself but give a huge SHOUT OUT to some incredible filmmakers we now have the privilege of working with.

PSH Collective, writer director Kerem Sanga, producers Ross Putnam, Dave Hunter and Seth Caplan  have made this beautiful film, First Girl I Loved.

And we, Through The Wilderness, had the business savvy (If I dare say so, myself) to invest in the film. And now, as Executive Producers, we’re on our way to Sundance for its world premiere. I can’t wait for the audiences to fall in love with this film!

I have dreamt of attending Sundance for years. Long before I even had an idea of how I could write scripts, let alone, make a movie.  It can be something terrible when what we don’t know manifests into an obstacle so large you never hunt down your dreams.

But I did…against huge odds. I did.

I moved to Los Angeles in 2008 to pursue film. I wasn’t sure how that would look. I was determined to get into film school, though. I ached to learn how to write a script.  How to envision a story for the screen and then bring it to life. I WORKED hard to learn what I could and got into USC School of Cinematic Arts MFA in Screenwriting program fall of 2008 (days after my wedding– there were a ton of firsts happening that year!)

In my very class at USC, I met a young guy who was really smart and funny. And he had a ‘voice’.  He had what I knew we each could have. What we would work towards developing. He had what plenty more other writers did in the program, except his was defined. It was unique. Stood out. And he was a hard worker. He gave everything to learning more.  I admired that. Kerem and I became friends for more than his approach to screenwriting but because I found him silly and refreshing.

I think it was that first week or so I met Ross, too. I remember taking the bus from USC north to Echo Park and thinking…”how can a dude so young be so smart?”  And Dave Hunter…he just makes me smile. His storytelling is incredible and entertaining.

By the end of two years I had been in classes with Kerem, Ross and Dave. We were friends. Beers had been shared. They knew and dug my husband. And I was a supporter of their endeavors.  I became a fan, though, when the scenes from the last class I took with them made its premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival years later. The Young Kiewslowski moved me. I was touched by frank and tender characters. By unique story. It was fresh and authentic.

When the fundraising campaign came for First Girl I Loved, it didn’t take us long to get on board.

PSH Collective is a small but powerful group of filmmakers. I now call Seth, a smart and powerful producer, a friend, too. It’s truly an honor to be a part of this film. And to bring them all into the Through The Wilderness tribe.

So, here’s a Toast to PSH Collective, First Girl I Loved and Sundance.  Let the party begin!

 

 

 

 

Shifts for this blog Toast…

 

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Good morning.

It’s finally coming together. My new  office.  This photo was taken from the doorway. Yes, I have a door.   A DOOR!

This new office, this creative space comes at a time when I feel a shift happening in my own work, the business part of it, how I make my presence known and how I use social media including this blog.

Through The Wilderness, LLC is coming up on its second year anniversary in March.  In two years we’ve produced two unique short films and hope to find festival screenings for them. But the bigger goal is to garner financial support for the feature-length, hence the shift in how I use social media.

Also, related to a recent birthday, a new year, and some life crap that knocked the wind out  of me, I am more contemplative about what I actually give a fuck about. Who. What things. How often.

And this has me thinking about when I feel the need to make that known. If I have a topic that I feel the urge to say something about, how do I do that? And…how do I do that with a blog that was originally designed as at “Toast” where I felt compelled to raise my glass to whatever topic I chose to write about. That has shifted.  Yes, there is still plenty to “Toast”. In fact have an idea for later I’ll post.  But “Toast” is also my addiction.  LOL. It’s comfort. It’s nourishment. It’s go-to when I’m hungry. It’s satisfactory when moments in life isn’t.  So, the shift for this blog will now include the topics that light me up, that may hound me in the middle of night, that make me wanna holler, that make me run for cover.   I’ll write more political pieces. Social and cultural commentary.  Basically, I’m going to take my rants from FB to this blog and see what blossoms.

The shift is an expansion but a good one. A needed one for this writer.

And I hope to bring you with me. I would LOVE more dialogue. More support of what is important of us, like peace and health and kindness and equality.  I’ll write more about the creative life, the world of cinema as a filmmaker of color, a storyteller.  I’ll write about being a wife, a partner, a mom, grandma, daughter, aunt and sister.  I’ll write about being a woman over 40 (ahem….).

I hope you’re with me.

Wishing you peace. Always.

 

 

Not a Toast…on MLK Day…

I struggle this morning to find the music I need to write to…because I am attempting to avoid some pain. That deep pain of racial upset, discord…from the hate that runs rampant in our country today. As the numbers of followers of evil men grow, the ones that openly carry weapons with their racism to shoot to kill because it is their right… as white… The ones who wish to close the borders, cage Muslims, hunt Black youth, rape Native women, strip away dignities, deny care and health, stamp out the futures for children and women because of the color of their skin, because of how little they have… as the followers of evil men grow, I feel my anger drain to sadness.
 
I know at some point I will listen to the words of the great Martin Luther King, Jr. today and I’ll cry. I always do. I know that I carry within me the stories of my ancestors before me. I know these stories. Of Black slaves. Of persecuted Native women. Of poverty-stricken souls. I know these people. And today, when we honor the man who had such vision to dream of a better tomorrow, a time of equality, peace and love, I will want to do that, too. For me and for you. And for all these ancestors in my heart. In my DNA. I will want to keep dreaming and wishing.
I don’t want to fall victim to my own discouragement. I don’t want the larger forces that wish for those of us who believe in peace, to win. I don’t want to fall defeated, to take on exhaustion as a failure and go away silent except for the sound of our muffled tears.
 
I’m at the page trying to write, trying to lose myself in fiction because real life is really hard. And breathing is a task.
 
I’ve been rereading Toni Morrison’s “Playing in the Dark” fascinated by her wisdom and pondering my own lens to the stories I tell. I am wishing that I find strength to keep going because I don’t know how to do anything else but this, to tell a story in any other way than I do now. Tough. Gritty. Truthful (according to my own truth… and not anyone else’s).  I am tired.
 
I’m thinking of this next year and what it could bring. If I show up. But today, I’m feeling the struggle. And am sitting in my office with only the sounds of my finger tips on the keyboard.
I am avoiding music. Of civil rights. Diverse voices that sing the blues. That make me wanna holler. I can’t force myself to deny struggle or betray by listening to something poppy and joyful because I struggle. I struggle. 
So this isn’t a Toast to anything…
 

Toast to What I’ve Learned in 50 Years

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What I’ve learned in 50 years could either be a long list, perhaps written in a roll of toilet paper because that’s it worth, or it just might be a short tweet on my struggling Twitter account. Or smaller still, a slogan. A bumper sticker. A tattoo. One word:

Shit. Nothing. Breathe. Dream.  Run. Defend. Attack. Dance. Chocolate.  

Toast.

Or many words. Pages and pages.  That’s the internal conflict.  So many questions. Why at 50 do I still have so many questions?

Why do I ramble? Meander?  Is it because life feels that way at times? Random yet moving…forward? Should I charge ahead? Have I done that? Did it work?  And why am I just so fuckin tired? Why can’t I marathon watch Frazier and just let life slide on through the room? “I’m cool. I got a blanket. Some tea and toast, I can chill here.”

As I figure out the answers to these questions, I’ll start with the top 10 things that come to mind when I ask myself what I’ve learned in 50 years.  And just so you understand this list,(which could be totally different tomorrow) this is where I am today. It’s an early dark and cold January morning in Minnesota. I’m in my in-laws’ kitchen. It’s been weeks since I’ve been home to Los Angeles and I feel that. Last of my sticky oatmeal is drying in a bowl.  There’s hot tea with smooth and creamy flax milk in a mug. I’m on my way to babysit my god daughter this morning before spending the day at the movies.  And yes, I have strep throat. (On antibiotics so I’m not a health risk to anyone but myself…but I feel shitty nonetheless). Happy Birthday to me. 

So here are the 10 today:

  1. Family is everything.  If you got some in your life and they’re good to you, cherish them. If they’re not so good, know that you can create family with folks who are. If they hurt you, know that it’s not okay that they did. And also know it’s good for you to forgive them even if they don’t change, even if you don’t/can’t have them in your life. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. 
  2. Being a good friend goes a long way because when you have good friends who give you love, support and acceptance back, your life is lit up in ways you never dreamt. Besides…
  3. Laughter really is good for your soul!  Laughter with a friend is priceless so try and do that often. And loudly.
  4. Tending to your needs is okay.  Give yourself permission to do that. And if you can’t do that, then find someone who will.  In fact, if you’re reading this, then I give you permission, if that helps.
  5. Dreams can come true but I guarantee you they won’t show up like you dreamt it. That’s the thrilling joyful part of life. Don’t let being afraid of the dream being anything different than how you see it or write it in your head be the reason they don’t manifest. Be open.
  6. Make sure your partner/spouse is your best friend because when things get shitty, and they will, treating them as a friend, with basic kindness, compassion and understanding could help you through the shitstorm as it hits.
  7. Shitstorms can be damaging but also can be fertilizers for the new to grow.  (and yes, sometimes this one is  a hard stretch for me to believe while I’m running for cover but it’s true)
  8. You won’t die of a broken heart.  You may hurt for a long time. Even forever. But it can’t kill you.  How you handle it could.  
  9. Figure out “how many f*3ks you have to give”. And if it’s none, then right on.  If you have a few for family and close friends who include you on their list, then alright, too.  Remember though, everyone makes mistakes. All the freakin time. Allow for this. Understand this. Forgiving humans for being human means forgiving yourself, too, because you should be on your own “give a f*#k list”.
  10. And the 80’s still rule.  And 70’s classic rock is the best. And it’s totally okay to embrace that. I have with full force. I sing along to the Bangles and dance to Sheila E and still swoon over Prince.  I don’t wear the shoulder pads or rat-comb the hair any more but I am a child of the 80’s and for all that’s holy and neon, it’s a decade that still rules. And some days working out is just air-jamming to Heart or Foghat in my car.  It counts.