Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Piss or Get Off the Pot.

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Girl Warrior. Make this the year you piss or get off the pot. This is your great big powerful year where you kick all the excuses, delaying tactics, postponing, stalling and deferring to last year’s dragging-your-feet curb. No more of that. It’s done.

The clock is ticking and the truth is there is no more time to waste. Time waits for no man. Or Girl Warrior. So get on with it.

This is the perfect time to pull all your dreams, plans, schemes, resolutions and to-do lists out of the vault and unleash them. This is the perfect time to show the world just exactly what it is you can do. This is the perfect time to rally your troops and all your resources and get some shit done. This is the perfect time for action not reaction. This is the perfect time to become a force to be reckoned with. This is the perfect time to light that fire in your belly. This is the perfect time to take your life to the next level and beyond. This is the perfect time to have the best year of your magnificent life.

What’s stopping you Girl Warrior?

Take a moment to think about what exactly it is that’s holding you back, keeping you from doing all the things you want to do and accomplish. There’s probably a lot of negative self-talk and emotional baggage fogging up your beautiful brain and clogging your thinking. It’s creative constipation caused by the likes of fear of failure, fear of disappointing others, fear of making waves, fear of losing friends or family, fear of being considered a bad girl, fear of being abandoned and left alone, fear of being thought of as crazy. So what.

Say so what to all of those fears. Odds are, none it’s going to happen anyway. And if it does, you’ll deal with it. Head-on and brave-on like you always do. Don’t be afraid to be a little bit crazy either. It’s the juicy sweet stuff of imagination and innovation. Harness it and make it work on your behalf. Make it crazy vision. Crazy inspiration. Crazy motivation. Crazy inventiveness. Crazy originality. Crazy artistry. Crazy genius. Crazy love.

So Girl Warrior, go completely crazy this year doing all the mind-blowing extraordinary awesome things you’ve been putting off. Make this the best year of your life.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Look What They’ve Done to my Song, Ma.

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I don’t know what it feels like to be a woman. Crazy I know. But the truth is, I really only know what it feels like to be me. And to make matters even more ambiguous, I only know what it feels like to be me at this very moment. Like most people, I’ve been changing since the day I was born. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. Intellectually. In every conceivable way, I’ve changed. And so have my feelings and perceptions of myself. Ergo, the only “me” I really know is the one right here, right now, typing these words.

Lately I’ve been thinking about gender fluidity, a term I must admit I’d never heard of, until I read this bit online about Miley Cyrus, where she said that she was gender fluid. Although I’m not entirely clear on what this means, something about it resonated with me. I know, more crazy talk. Me? Miley? Worlds apart, right?

And then I watched one of her Backyard Sessions with Melanie Safka and thought maybe we aren’t all that different. Maybe no one is. Is it possible that human beings, from all different walks of life, have more in common than not? And that we all defy being defined, limited and restricted?

The pair was performing an old tune of Melanie’s, and one of my all-time favorites, called Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma. And in that moment, I was charmed. I had loved Melanie back in the day, and truthfully I thought she was dead. But there she was, as beautiful and quirky and amazing as ever. Watching her and Miley took me back to my bedroom floor at 204. I used to lie on my back, with my head right next to the record player, with my eyes closed, and belt out this song over and over and over. I couldn’t get enough of it.

It’s funny how things go round and round. Like that song. It came to mind a few years ago when I wrote this love song for Eric for our wedding. A very talented bluegrass musician was helping me refine and polish it. He was also attempting to teach me bluegrass guitar, which was undoubtedly frustrating for both of us. And let me stop here to say, I’m not a bluegrass musician, Eric is.

During that time, when the bluegrass musician and I were working on my song, we had very different opinions on how it should sound. To him, it was bluegrass all the way. But to me, it was a sweet little folk tune with a hint of an Irish lilt in its cadence. At one point in the song-making process we were camped in completely different worlds. But in the end, Fragile Moment landed happily in the most harmonious place within my beating heart. Not my vision going in, but exceeding all expectations when it was done.

But in the beginning, I’d come home from one of our sessions and think, ‘look what he’s done to my song, Ma.’

So there’s Melanie’s song and there’s Miley’s backyard. And then there’s me, and this gender fluidity, that makes sense on some level, despite not fully understanding. But I am intrigued. In fact, so much so, that I declared to my youngest daughter the other night, that I think I’m gender fluid.

“When did this happen?” she asked sardonically. Admittedly, a very reasonable question for her to pose, especially to me, a person who has been known to utter lots of utter nonsense but nothing of this ilk. If I could have read her mind, I’m pretty sure she was thinking, ‘what the fuck mother.’

“When I stopped having my period,” I blurted.

I don’t know what made me say that. But I do know, that around the same time, Ma died, and then The Old Man did too, and then I started to feel differently about everything. Including myself. The “me” I thought was me was being whipped and refashioned by this menopausal hurricane. I’d had the first real brush with my mortality and it scared the shit out of me. The worst thing was, much of the time, I felt irrelevant, insignificant and invisible. I loathed feeling irrelevant and insignificant. My feelings were hurt. I felt unloved by the universe. But I have to say there was something incredibly liberating about feeling invisible. I was flying effortlessly under the radar and for the very first time in my life I felt free to say and do whatever I wanted, as long as it wasn’t causing harm to others or myself.

Since my period stopped I’ve started. And like Miley, I’m just me.

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Backyard Sessions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GX9A5vv-jOM

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: 1 Million Likes and My Dad will Quit Smoking.

IMG_1700In an earlier post I shared some of the things I was angry about since this dance with the Big C began last fall.  Mostly bat-shit crazy, Mad Hatter things that have been overwhelming and downright mystifying.  The bubbling brew of oozing gooey undisguised and unrestrained emotions.  My psychological backpack is already jam-packed, yet I continue to gather more of these sour candies with each passing day.  It’s been a real slice and I am grateful to everyone who is on the road with me.  I’m especially grateful to those with large hearts and even larger compassionate muscles who haven’t judged.  Just walked the mile in my moccasins.

One of the big things I have wrestled with in this messy muddy life I lead is that there is just no way to sanitize these emotions. I wish I could.  But the truth is, they are there.  Maybe they always were and E’s cancer just brought them roaring to the surface. Demanding that I take note.  So I have.  And the thing is, I can’t paint a pretty picture.  Won’t even try.  All my life I have been referred to as “such a nice person.”  Well, there isn’t anything nice about this.  None of it.  So if you will indulge me one last purge, one final rage, one more dump about anger, then I think I’m done here.

Warning: Some of you may want to quit reading at this point.  No hard feelings. This isn’t for everyone.  I get that. You can move on and read the blogs about flour-free recipes or how to make a tee shirt from toilet paper.

There is one colossal thing that I’ve been livid about for years.  It trumps all those other things I’ve been mad about.  Makes them seem almost trivial.  Not even deep enough to be superficial. It’s the Big Kahuna of piss-offs.  I intentionally left it out of my first rant because it’s been such a sensitive thorn in my side.  And believe it or not, I was still trying to play nice in that post.  But since this is the final puke-up, here goes.

E smoked.

Not casually.  Not after dinner.  Nor while on vacation.  Not like those rare birds who bum smokes at parties but never indulge otherwise. It wasn’t a bad habit he picked up late at night while playing in bands.  E was a hard-core smoker from the time his was nine years old.  He chain smoked. Tons. It was the first thing he did when he got up in the morning and the last thing at night.  If he couldn’t sleep he got up and had a cigarette. It comforted him in ways I never could.  It was his best friend. An extension of his yellow nicotine stained fingers.

No one knows with 100 percent certainty that smoking was the cause of his disease. Even the doctors who treated him, and the nurses who cared for him, left the door open for other possible explanations.  Cancer does strike randomly.  Nonsmokers get lung cancer.  Health nuts, who only eat organic foods and run ten miles a day, get stomach cancer.  People who wear big floppy hats and cover themselves in gobs of suntan lotion get skin cancer.  We know this to be true.  Stress and inflammation are often at the heart of many diseases, from head to heel.  I get this.

But here’s the two thousand pound elephant in the room.  E stuck a carcinogenic substance in his mouth for 45 years, every day, all day.  He has mouth cancer. Mathematical equations aside, odds are cigarette smoking most likely caused this thing.

And I’m mad as hell about that.

Before our daughter was born I begged and pleaded with E to quit.  Once M was here, I tried every manipulative trick in the book.  Of course, intellectually I knew this had to be his decision. He had to hold his own come to Jesus meeting.  I had no control over this.  I understood addiction. Having grown up with an alcoholic father and personally battled with uncontrollable sugar cravings my entire life, I knew what misery looked like.  I’d grovel and drag myself through the mud just for an O’Henry Bar. I know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night needing to feed.  I will always be a sugar addict, whether I eat the stuff or not.  I’ve also smoked.  I know how hard it is to quit. I bawled like a baby for two weeks solid the last, and final, time I quit.  It was pathetic.  Not one of my more graceful and exemplary times.

Because I knew intimately how difficult quitting smoking could be, I exercised as much compassion and understanding as was possible with E. But I’m only human after all.  And I have my own crap to deal with. There was always this underlying resentment about him not quitting.  I often viewed it as defiance.  Not something he couldn’t do.  But wouldn’t.

There were a couple of occasions over the past 20 years where E attempted to quit.  His longest smoke-free period was about four months.  Most of his efforts were futile though.  When it came to quitting, the best he could commit to was “someday.”

Over time, my protests and admonishments ebbed and flowed in volume and frequency.  I also had a comrade, a buddy, a conscientious objector who shared my concerns.  I went from wanting to shield my daughter from a swath of cigarette fumes to having her join me on the protest line.  M and I were a united front on this issue.

At times we were passive aggressive in our objections and disapproval.  Never really coming out and saying, “You’re an asshole for treating this so lightly,” but implying it just the same, in our offhanded comments.  These ran the gambit from the descriptive, “The garage looks like a butt factory” to the succinct, “you reek.”  His habit was bringing out the worst in us.  We were evil twins.

But once E’s mouth cancer was confirmed, no one dared to say, “I told you so.”  We knew there was a good possibility something like this could happen. He was playing a risky game with much at stake.  Sad thing is, E knew it too.  That was the frustrating part.  Just like quitting  might happen “someday” so could getting cancer.

It’s a peculiar thing how love supersedes everything at times like these. Instead of thinking, “I knew this was going to happen.” All I could think about was losing him.  Nothing else mattered.  The cause was irrelevant.

Having said all that, I’m still angry.  At E for not quitting before it came to this.  At his doctor, for not ever suggesting he should quit.  At myself, for not being more persuasive, not fighting hard enough.  At God, for not answering all those millions of prayers.

Pointless self-flagellation.  I know.

One last thing.  All over social media sites, but Facebook in particular, there have been these images of kids holding signs that read something like, “My dad says that if I get 1 million ‘likes’ he’ll quit smoking.”  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry the first time I saw one of these posts.  For the most part these are scams called “Like Farming”, which can generate tons of money for the owners of those phony pages.  Scams or the real deal aside, I found them disturbing.  Because M and I know the truth.  It will take more than 1 million “likes” to make someone’s dad quit smoking. No matter how much they love you. It just doesn’t work that way. Nothing’s that simple.

I’m angry about that too.