Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Longest Entry Of Them All

Yeah, this is a long one. And there’s profanity! And most people won’t make it to the end. So if you don’t, here’s the scoop. I’m taking a break from blogging until August 1st. Read on if you wanna know why.

My church’s retreat was this weekend, and once again, I’ve come out the other side in a dark dark mood. People go to God sanctioned events, like here, here , and here, and come back sobbing because they’ve seen the beauty of God at work in their life and they’re so humbled with gratitude, they’ve seen God, they’ve been touched by God, God spoke to them and told them what the next year of their life’s gonna be, and it’s so wonderfully clear, they’re so gosh happy glad, they can’t help but cry happy tears of joy joy joy.

And then there’s me.

It wasn’t like I started out the weekend anticipating that it would be awful. I was looking forward to being out of L.A., I was looking forward to going to El Capitan Canyon, again, I think it’s pretty there, and I embraced wholeheartedly Pastor Bernard’s opening Friday night message about how we need to ask God to transform us, how we need to focus on “what does God desire for me in this retreat time,” Great, sign me up, I am SO there, why wouldn’t God come in with a Holy screwdriver and do some tinkering around with my life because there’s more than a few bolts loose, the pipes are leaking, and I’m up to my ankles in brackish waters of uncertainty, doubt, self-hatred. I was fine last week, I’m not fine now, it’s how it goes in Amyland, nothing is stable around here. Or it’s PMS. One of the two.

So. Some brief snapshots of the weekend.

Saturday, 7:15am. I’m on El Capitan’s beach, walking, talking, listening, and waiting on God. I like walking on beaches, and though the waves are puny, and June Gloom is squatting on the skies, I’m okay with it all. I thank God for everything that’s keeping me afloat currently: (crappy temp job that pays the bills, Ethel the car is working thanks to Wella, who still won’t send me an invoice, I got my intrepid band of battle scarred survivors out of Sequence Four of my zombie graphic novel) And then I tell God I’m scared and upset. I tell God that I don’t know what the plan is anymore, and that I would love some divine intervention or guidance, or if He doesn’t feel like being that explicit, the slightest hint of a sentence fragment would be cool too. You know, something along the lines of Zombies…okay! Or Experiencing technical difficulties, please stand by. Or Hot guy back at camp. I tell God to fix stuff. I revise that statement to sound loftier and more church-like, in case God didn’t get it the first time (I doubt that’s the case, but I wanna cover all my bases.) I invite you to come into my life and engage me in whole life transformation.

And I stop talking. I listen. I stand still, look at the ocean, let the waves occasionally drown my feet and cover them with a sheet of sand. I’m not moving until You say something.

I stay there for awhile, until the salt spray makes my ankles too itchy, and then I move, start walking back to the campsite. There’s your answer: pain and discomfort are what causes one to take action.

Which may be more profound than I realize.

Saturday 10:00am – Tulip, our chick pastor, is giving the morning talk, and I am annoyed. Annoyed because I adore Tulip, we’ve had many conversations about God stuff, she knows exactly where I’m coming from, she knows exactly that I don’t have a clue who God is or how He works in my life, she has tried to help me by giving me specific Bible verses to meditate on, which didn’t illuminate jackall for me, but at least I feel like I’m .002% more knowledgeable about the Bible than I was before.

And yet she is proclaiming such a tidal wave of platitudes from the front of the Longhouse meeting tent, that, if she had said these things to me at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf table while celebs like Eric Bana walked by (which has happened in the past), I would have shook the table, screeching “WHAT DOES THAT MEAN!? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN!? (ERIC BANA! YOU NEED A BETTER AGENT! BECAUSE YOU ARE TOO TALENTED AND TOO GOOD LOOKING TO STILL NOT BE A HOUSEHOLD NAME!)”

“God is good, righteous and holy!” Tulip is saying at the front of the Longhouse meeting tent, “We need to pursue goodness, righteousness, and holiness!”

And yet, Tulip does not indicate HOW we are to pursue those things. She doesn’t expound on what righteousness and holiness mean to the common person, or how we pursue it (I have a rudimentary understanding of what goodness means, which translates roughly to Be Nice To People, and I pursue it currently by not saying what I’m thinking when talking to them. Holiness could possibly mean no premarital sex, but I’m guessing there’s more to it than that.)

This is what bugged me about last year’s retreat, and unfortunately, it looks like this year is falling in line with it again: this retreat is about abstract concepts (righteousness), and grand ideas (Engage God), as opposed to specific implementations.

And I feel so out of step with this church. Nobody else appears to be having the problems that I do. Everyone else is singing “Beautiful One I Adore” and “Grace Like Rain” with gusto. During the rest of the day, I catch snatches here and there about how “Tulip’s sermon was so great this morning. We really need to pursue righteousness.” And here I am thinking…

What the fuck are these people talking about?

Saturday 3:42pm – 6:08pm – it’s free time and I’m taking a nap.

Saturday 7:57pm - We’re back in the Longhouse Mesa tent, and I’m sitting in the back row with Virginia, my buddy who’s friends with Tricia (Simon The Dog’s owner.) I’ve already wrestled with the thought of leaving the retreat and heading back to L.A., tossing my cabin key in a fit of fury at the feet of Tulip You make no sense to me, so I’m leaving! Take that, you Platitudinous Hussy!

But then I dismissed it because I understood it’s the action and mindset of a two year old (with an accelerated sense of driving capabilities.) The better thing, the more mature thing, the possibly more righteous thing would be to stick it out. From a strictly secular standpoint, you know the second you leave an event is when the really good stuff comes out, like when you leave a party because it’s boring, and two seconds later, the Coolest Dude On The Planet shows up with a case of Corona and a DVD of outtakes of a misbegotten Anna Nicole Smith movie. So I need to stay and make sure no good stuff happens. Heh.

Pastor Bernard is doing the talk, and really, all I get is something along the lines of “Question: God, what can I do to be more loved by you? Answer, nothing. You can’t earn God’s love. You’re never so good that you deserve God’s love, or so bad that you’ll never receive it.”

I’m reminded of a passage in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray Love. I hate quoting something that’s so ingrained in America’s consciousness that it’s been featured on Ophra’s book club, but there’s obviously something in the material that strike a chord within us all, and that needs to be honored, and not grudgingly so, so here I go:

Paraphrasing a bit, Elizabeth Gilbert is talking about writing a note to herself when she was bawling on her bathroom floor after a messy divorce. She wrote this particular message in her journal as though she was someone else, “a now familiar presence offering me all the certainties I have always wished another person would say to me when I was troubled. This is what I find myself writing to myself on the page:

I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long. I will stay with you. If you need the medication again, go ahead and take it – I will love you through that, as well. If you don’t need the medication, I will love you too. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.”

Elizabeth Gilbert basically is alluding to the fact that it’s God talking to her. And my first thought after reading this passage was that’s nice. I can understand why it worked for her. My second thought was Why doesn’t God talk that way to me? I’m lucky if I get a sentence out of Him, and I haven’t gotten one since last year. My third thought is I don’t want love, I want help.

Because seriously, if the issue is Love versus Help, I’m taking Help. How nice, God, you’re telling Elizabeth Gilbert and the rest of us that read her book that you love us. You love us no matter what we do, whether we take anti-depression medication, whether we don’t take anti-depression medication, whether we cry, whether we do things that You probably don’t approve of (sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, double cheeseburgers from McDonald’s), You love us, You love us, You love us. Great. Thanks.

But could you HELP ME.

Because, and this is bad I know, I know, but God’s love, and the knowledge of God’s love, that’s a given. I was born and raised in the church, I know there’s a God, and I know He knows that I’m around. I know that He loves me. I NEED HELP MORE THAN LOVE!

I need help more than love.

I read the passage from Elizabeth Gilbert, and I visualize God there on the floor with Elizabeth, consoling her, maybe giving her a lovely shoulder rub as she scrawls in her journal. I don’t want that.

I want God to pick me up, to carry me away from this computer, I know, I know, I understand I understand. I’m here, I’ll take care of everything. I want Him to call the temp agency and to say, “Sorry, Amy’s not available for the next month or so,” and then bless me with the money to pay the bills for the next month without fear or worry. I want Him to drive me to some house on the beach that He’s found, where’s there’s beautiful sunsets and a tricked out computer and free wireless and a never ending fridge of shrimp, pizza, baby carrots, olives, egg whites, tortillas, chips and salsa, chocolate, and booze, in some bedroom where I wake up and look at the ocean every morning, in some lovely beachfront town where I bike in every week or so and flirt with the grocery store clerk, the mailbox guy, the groundskeeper, or the very industrious acquaintance from L.A. who has figured out where I am because he missed me, he MISSED me, dammit, and he tracked me down because he wanted to make sure I was okay, and he heard I was hanging out in a sweet crib with free wireless and he drove all this way, he might as well crash for the night, no, wait God’s supposed to be in charge, and I’m positive he wouldn’t want THAT, but if He was in charge, then he would arrange circumstances to where I wouldn’t want that, it’d just be me, the computer, the beach, the sunset, the never ending fridge and that would be enough, that would be ENOUGH, and I would write the grand epic that God has always wanted me to write, and maybe it has zombies, maybe it doesn’t, but I would feel secure that what I’m writing is EXACTLY what he wants me to write, because He arranged the circumstances in exactly this way so that I could write it.

I want help. I want someone else to make the decisions for awhile. It would be lovely if it was God. And yet when you don’t hear His voice, when you don’t feel His presence, what are you supposed to do?

And I’m back in the Longhouse Mesa tent, standing next to Virginia, listening to lovely Darla, who I bunked with last year, who is giving her testimony about the power of prayer, about how the past year has been really hard for her, how she went to church every week and ended up crying every week, and how she would seek out prayer partners that really helped her, because she would say, “Hey, would you hold my hand as we approach the throne of God together.”

And that sentence sounds sappy, and certainly not something that I could come up with, because I’m usually so focused on trying to connect with God that the majesty of who He is, is an afterthought. I don’t approach His throne so much as I bawl in my backyard, or shake in my bed, or cry over my laptop (maybe that’s why it’s running so slowly.)

But the simplicity of it. Nothing more than asking someone to hold your hand as you “approach the throne of God together.” Whatever that looks like for you, however you phrase it. It connects with me. And I start to cry.

I start to cry, and I can’t stop, and I am the master of the Silent Cry, where the tears slip down my cheeks without any audible AHWAH! AHWAH! AHWAH heaves from me.

I cannot stop the physical swiping of the tears, and that’s what Virginia notices. And she leans over and whispers in my ear, “Do you want to go somewhere and talk?” And the answer, regardless of what I want (because what I want is that very long paragraph above where God’s my real estate broker/IT guy/Chef/Matchmaker/Creative Guru), is yes, this is obviously what I need, not want. Yes, I need someone to hold my hand while I stumble and bitch and moan my way to God’s throne, okay, fine, let’s go.

So Virginia and I slip out of the Longhouse Mesa tent, and go sit by the fire while everyone else continues to sing and worship in heavenly bliss.

And I tell Virginia what’s going on, that I’m frustrated with the retreat, I’m frustrated with silence from God, I hate my life, “and not to freak you out, but I just don’t wanna do this anymore.”

Virginia listens. She says over and over again that it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault. Initially, I think she has me confused with the scene from Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams counsels a sobbing Matt Damon on the park bench. I am not Matt Damon. My parents are not the problem here, like they are with his character.

I’m telling Virginia my life sucks because God’s not talking to me, not telling me what the plan is, not giving me a lasting hint of glory to beat the black moods away, and Virginia says “You have to rest. You have to rest in God.”

Oh YAY! Another Platitude! Someone forgot to tell me that the theme of this retreat is Platitudes galore. YIPPEE!

“WHAT DOES THAT MEAN!?!?!” I say in the loudest whisper possible.

“It means you rest in Him.”

“WHAT DOES THAT MEAN!?!?!” I say in the second loudest whisper possible.

“It means you rest. How much sleep are you getting?”

“I took a three hour nap today!”

Honestly, I would love to sleep more. I love my sleep. If I had my way, I’d sleep for the next three months, wake up and hope that someone fixed my life for me while I was dreaming away (and yes, Sleeping Beauty is my favorite Disney movie ever.)

Virgina is saying it’s not my fault, I need to rest (whether it’s in God or not), she knows exactly how I feel and probably more people at this retreat know what I’m going through than that worshipping crowd in the Longhouse Mesa tent, but honestly, if that’s the truth, why isn’t that what the theme of this retreat is? If last year’s theme was Why We Believe and this year’s theme is Abundance, why isn’t there a theme of Struggle? Is it because the church has to project some kind of happy face of If You Just Get To Know God, Everything Is Happy Happy HAPPY! Because they don’t wanna scare off people? Because that’s not honest. That’s not real. That just blows.

Virginia wants to pray with me about it, so we do. Virginia does all the talking, I do all the crying. Virginia says in prayer, “How long, God? How long before we get answers?” Will it stick because Virginia’s doing the talking? Dunno. Hope so.

Sunday, 7:15am – I’m back at the beach! This time, I’m not walking. I have selected a very lovely rock, and I’m sitting on it, staring at the ocean (I take the phrase “Be still and know that I am God” very seriously.) The waves are still puny. The sky is still June Gloomy. Pastor Bernard mentioned last night during his talk that we should come to God just how we are, no matter where we are, and to be honest with God about where we are. Pastor Bernard does not know that I do that EVERY SINGLE DAY. Pastor Bernard does not know that I get no answer EVERY SINGLE DAY. For heaven’s sake, if you were just a camper that wandered into the wrong tent, you could listen to Pastor Bernard’s sermon, go off by yourself to talk to God, and get a better response than me. I think Pastor Bernard’s talk must be for every other person at this retreat but me. I think maybe I should skip this retreat next year. Either that, or sign up for KP duty, so the focus is not about connecting with God, but serving other people with vats of potato salad and bow tie pasta.

I talk to God again. I tell him I’m frustrated again. I tell him I need a plan again. I tell him I need a sign again. I’m breaking down in the middle of this talk, because it seems so futile. These thoughts are nothing new. I’ve been thinking these things, and praying these things for at least two years now. There is the briefest of reprieves every now and then, a fun night out here, a good writing session there, but overall, the majority of my days are me stumbling around going is THIS it? Is THIS it? Is THIS what I’m supposed to be doing with my life!? Assuming I understand and am following the whole Good/righteous/holy thing by default because my life is so boring that there is no opportunity for sin in it currently, is THIS WHAT YOU WANT ME TO DO?

And no response.

I see a few dolphins in the surf. Pastor Bernard would be overjoyed, and say THAT’S THE SIGN YOU NEED. God displaying Himself through nature and la la laaaaa. Those dolphins are a SIGN, dammit, and you’re too wrapped up in your gloom and doom to fully appreciate the DOLPHIN SIGN!

I see the dolphins. I note the dolphins are there. It’s not like they’re jumping up and down in choreographed dolphin dances like you see at Sea World. It’s more like you see their fins winking here and there. I attempt to take a picture of them. I have no other response to them.

Sunday, 9:36am – I ask Tulip over breakfast what exactly she means by us pursuing “goodness, righteousness, and holiness.” She predictably responds with, “What do you think righteousness means” (I’m no scholar, but I’ve been around enough pastoral people to know that they love to respond to questions by saying “What do you think (whatever I said that you take issue with) means?” It gives them a starting place to work from: this person is angry/sad/misinformed/didn’t get what I meant.)

I bat back with, “I don’t know, you’re the one that said it.”

Tulip then says the very simple answer that goodness/righteousness/holiness can be pursued/obtained by us reflecting Christ’s character. His love for us, and all that. She goes on to mention we should reflect the Fruits O’ the Spirit, which can be found in Galatians 5, verses 22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against those things there is no law.

I’m sticking with my original thought of Be Nice To People and calling it a day.

Sunday, 10:23am – We’re back in the Longhouse Mesa tent. I’m crying again. I’m nothing if not consistent, but this time my seat mate is Tricia, not Virginia (Virginia’s sitting with her cousin.) Tricia also notices the swiping of the eyes, and asks what’s going on. She’s asking this as Pastor Bernard is talking about how we all need to seek solitude and meditation as a way to engage God. Again, if you were wandering into the tent right now, it would look like Pastor Bernard has all the answers. Pastor Bernard does not know that I engage in solitude and meditation on a daily basis. Pastor Bernard does not know that it doesn’t work for me. Pastor Bernard does not know that I want to repeatedly slam his head into the tent pole in the middle of the Longhouse Mesa. But hey, maybe I’m the only one that God doesn’t reach through solitude and meditation. So I shall keep my violent tendencies in check.

I adore Tricia, who is perhaps the one person in this church that I don’t bother to lie to, because she is the only person I know who has experienced such catastrophic amounts of grief - events that neither you or I could bear without indulging in massive amounts of alcohol that would be enough to kill a small horse - that there is no use in being anything but bare bones honest with her, because whatever you’re going through can’t possibly measure with what she’s been through. Not that she lords it over you, oh hell no, she doesn’t. It’s just that she’s not only been through the depths of despair, she’s probably got them catalogued in her very own I Absolutely Believe In You, But Honestly, Fuck You God, Love Tricia Dewey Decimal System (totally my interpretation, hers is probably less offensive.)

Pastor Bernard is directing us to go off on our own little lonesomes to engage God in stuff before coming back to take Communion. So there’s the Golden Window of Opportunity for me and Tricia to strike out, find a bench outside and for me to reiterate my emotional puking of yesterday night to Virginia, except now it’s to Tricia. And nothing’s changed in between puking bouts, so I feel very foolish. Here, let me puke on YOU how I don’t feel God’s presence! Line ‘em up! Who’s next!? Who else wants a river o’ bile from ME!

I say the same things, with the added bonus of the Ms. Grumpy Spell-It-Out Pants that’s been kickball in my head: if you didn’t question, you’d be blessed. If you could just shrug off all your questions, you’d receive such a wonderful feeling of being loved, of understanding what God’s plan is. You’d experience His presence if you just stopped arguing about what does it mean, what does it mean.

Let’s just let that red rubber P.E. dodgeball sock you in the face a bunch of times.

You’re not experiencing God because you’re not doing it right. You’re not praying the right way, you’re not praying for the right things, you haven’t found the magic combination of words and phrases that would cause God to open the floodgates and razzle dazzle your life around in a Rubik’s Cube tornado of WOCHA WOCHA WOCHA WHOO PRESTO! BRAND NEW LIFE FOR YOU!

Yes, I know those thoughts aren’t real. Yes, I know they have no bearing in reality. I know they’re not what God thinks, or what God wants for me.

But where, oh where, is the RIGHT ANSWER!? If God is sitting right there next to me in the Longhouse Mesa tent, and He knows I’m thinking these things, why doesn’t He take over my head, for the briefest of moments, and send some kind of Almighty Text message?

I tell all of this to Tricia, who sits and lets me spew. And what she says is “I think you’re unfortunately still in a period of waiting.” Not exactly what I want to hear, but it makes sense, given everything that I’m not getting.

She also says the sanest thing I’ve heard all weekend, which is “Sometimes, it’s all you can do to stay in the ring.” Meaning that you take punch after punch after punch that Life dishes out, and it hurts, it blows, you lose teeth, but you don’t get out of the ring. According to Tricia, you stand before God and say “I really hate You right now, but I’m not leaving, so You’re gonna have to do something here, because I’m not going away, and I totally believe in You.”

So that brings us to here, right now.

This is me, standing before God, in front of all you cyber-witnesses. This is my prayer to Him, this is my conversation with Him. This is my attempt to engage with Him. Bear in mind that there’s nothing new in here that He hasn’t heard before. It’s the whole accountability thing that I’m hoping does the trick. The public humiliation that would come when it turns out I spew this prayer, and then tomorrow receive the call that somebody wants to buy my script. Grab the popcorn, feel free to take notes and feel superior (kidding.)

Dear God,

I don’t hate You. You haven’t taken away beloved friends or family. You haven’t yanked out material comforts such as clothes/housing/car/dayjob (or if You have, it’s been very briefly) from under me. You have provided me with what I need to exist up to this point, and I humbly thank You. Please don’t take this blatant opening statement as reason to suddenly strike down Mom/Dad/Agatha/Mr.Agatha/Baby Bug with something, because they all read this blog, and would totally hold me accountable should something happen in the next year, and I seriously cannot handle that kind of guilt.

I don’t hate You, because You have provided me with the means to get this far in life. Even if I don’t know what’s going on, You do, and when it comes to superficial things like Ethel the Car dying, or My Temp Job’s Ending, and I Don’t Know What’s Next, or My Temp Job Is So Awful I Want To Jam Pencils Through My Ears And Staple My Boss’s Lips Shut, You are always there to fix it.

And I seriously don’t want you to think I don’t appreciate all those things, because I do. Thank you for Darla's testimony about prayer, thank you for Virgina listening to me spew, thank you for Tricia, so much wiser than anyone else at that damn retreat. Thank you, thank you, thank you, amen.

Which is why I can’t help but feel like an ungrateful brat for what’s about to come. Every time I hear the lyric “Your grace is enough” it makes me feel like I shouldn’t ask for anything more, or to discuss anything else that’s going wrong with my life. Because your grace is supposed to be enough to answer any lingering questions, right? That’s what the song says, right?

But I don’t feel it.

And this is the thing, God. This is The Thing That’s Going On With Me. I don’t need to type it, because You already know about it, but the idea here is to be held accountable to a cyberaudience of friends, acquaintances, or random peeps who stumble onto this blog because they’re looking for Tyron Leitso or Jean-Jacques Feuchère or whatever else.

I absolutely know You exist. I absolutely know You’re sovereign over my life.

But I don’t feel Your presence. I don’t hear Your voice. I don’t know Your answers, in a way that’s personal to my life.

I have asked You to come into my life and change things. I have asked You to lead me down the path that You want me to go. I have asked You to give me a vision of what You want me to be doing with my life, with the abilities that You have given me.

I have gotten no response.

But I don’t hate You. Honestly. It’s more like I feel that, and I know how ridiculous this sounds, but I feel like You’ve either forgotten about me (not surprising, given the fact that there’s a bunch of other stuff wrong with the world), or have gotten bored with my repeated Fix This prayers because there’s something obvious that I’m not doing, some obvious red button I’m not pressing, some turn of phrase that you, the Almighty Board Operator, sees and then sighs in the corner, why doesn’t she press floor number 12? Floor number 12 is where all my blessings are! Why is she repeatedly jabbing floor number 6? There’s nothing there! Why doesn’t she GET that!?

God, people have told me that you’re not the Board Operator. People have told me that you’re not in the corner rolling your eyes, you’re not hovering in the rafters, pinging spitballs at people who do the Hands To Heaven thing when singing to You. People have told me that You are not anywhere else other than WITHIN ME.

But I don’t feel You.

Which is why, when I don’t feel you, I feel like I’m doing something wrong. People have told me that it’s not about the right combination of words, the right button to push, the right hoop to jump through, and I understand that intellectually, but I don’t know what else to do. I’m out of ideas. I’m out of blog entries, actually. I don’t know what the plan is, I don’t know how else to engage You, I’ve prayed, I’ve meditated, I’ve asked other people what You’re talking about in Scripture (because I’m not smart to understand it on my own), I’m not especially illuminated.

And I still don’t feel You.

I don’t know what else to do. So I sit here and the computer and cry and drink wine and water chasers. I know You can hear me. I don’t know why You don’t answer.

Please answer. Please answer. Please come into my life and change everything around. I don’t like the curtains, have at them. My mattress sucks, do something with that too. I’m partial to the color black, I hope that stays, as well as my Itunes soundtrack, but if You’ve got other, better ideas, have at it. (and this is assuming ahead of time that Your idea of better and my idea of better synch up, as opposed to me being stuck in the Ninth Circle of Hell of Endless Praise Songs That Have No Meaning For Me.)

Do something, God. It’s not like I have a plan that I’m relentlessly sticking to, despite all Your evidence to the contrary. I’M ASKING YOU FOR THE PLAN. Please understand that, please understand that.

Please talk to me. Please, please, please. I don’t hate You. I’m pissed, but not approaching hate. And I’m not leaving. I am in Your face, and I’m gonna continue to be in Your face, and I am going to whine and bitch and SCREAM AT YOU UNTIL YOU DO SOMETHING.

I’m not going away. And hey, God, I totally believe in you. But man, You really do suck right now. You suck not by talking, not by doing. But by NOT talking, and NOT doing. You’re like a fucking guy, God. Maybe if I never call her back, she won’t remember we used to go out. Nice.

I am not going away, God. I still believe in you, and I still love you, but You’re going to have to do something with me because I’m not leaving.

Love, Amy The Writer.

So, Gentle Readers that have made it this far, I think I need a break from blogging. I am the only blogger in my circle that I know of that posts on a regular basis, and while that means I get the Gold Star for Diligence, I think the proverbial tank is dry. I blew it all out on these 11 pages.

Secretly, I’m hoping that God takes the challenge and does some whacked out stuff that will demand instant blog documentation.

I’m not shutting the blog down completely, but I do need a break. Let’s give me the month of July, whatdya say. Check back for an update on August 1st. Unless God decides to do a miracle. Should we test Him? Should we? Should we?


Monday, June 25, 2007

Soon soon...

I'm still working on the entry, folks, it's going to be a long one (it's already at ten pages) and it's going to be the last one for awhile, so patience courage, and all that fun funky stuff, and it'll be there when I can get it proofread and up.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Enforced Secret Joy #44: Cuteness Beyond All Measure

One Baby Hazel is cute.

One Simon The Dog is cute, too.

But Baby Hazel AND Simon the Dog? Together? In the same picture? It's TOO CUTE FOR WORDS! I CAN'T STAND IT!!!

Dear God, thank you for Baby Hazel. Thank you for Simon the Dog. Thank you for Baby Hazel's parents and Simon's owner Tricia, that they trust me so implicitly that I can grab Baby Hazel, a glass of wine, a camera and go upstairs to find the dog and nobody says boo, nobody thinks whoa, that may be a bad idea. Thank you that Simon is so patient. He might be just as patient as you, God. Because honestly, look at that face. Thank you that Baby Hazel did not slide off the chair (though my hand supporting her might have helped a bit) Thank you that my camera battery did not die until after I got these shots. Thank you for other peoples' babies, other peoples' dogs, and thank you that I got these pictures, which make me smile. Thank you thank you thank you. Amen

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Validation from WHERE!?

I have a fabulous friend named Myrtle. And I don’t say fabulous lightly, as in “She’s fabulous because she knows cool people who throw killer parties.” Or “she’s fabulous because she’s an artist and lives in a loft downtown.” She’s not that pretentious type of fabulous.

Myrtle embodies every inch of the word fabulous because that’s the inner core of her being. She also embodies plenty of other words that end in “ous” like fabulous, bodacious, curvaceous, gorgeous, boisterous, ferocious, gracious, humorous, luscious, precious, raucous, scrumptious, sumptuous, and looking at that list now makes me think all those words are misspelled. HA!

Myrtle is an actress, a very good one, and the kind of fabulous whose personal style harkens back to those chic flapper styles of the 30s and 40s. The type of fabulous that has one of those cast iron beds with iron curlicues on the posts, and billowy curtains all the way around, and a tinkly wind chime in the middle, and a one eyed cat that sleeps at the foot of the bed. The type of fabulous that can wear a boho chic style, do cheese and champagne (champagne, darling, it has to be champagne) picnics in the park, talk her way to the front of a club so we can dance our asses off, pack up her life and move to Paris because the city is calling to her.

Myrtle is also very spiritual (maybe that makes her pious) and her spirituality is all encompassing in a way that would make traditional Christians frown. Because not only does she make jewelry that she charges with earth energy, not only has she described to me in great detail the kind of face that the moon is making right now, not only does she believe in God and Jesus too, but she does readings using dice, tarot, and numerology. She’s offered to do readings for me in the past, and I finally decided to take her up on it.

The traditional Christian would say I’m taking the express elevator to hell. That dice, tarot, numerology, hell, maybe even the one eyed cat are instruments of the DEVIL, they are. The secular person would say eh, who knows, but you can’t put any stock in readings, it’s like deliberately reading the wrong astrology sign to your buddy and getting the whole, “Ohmigosh that’s EXACTLY how my day’s been like” thing.

(Incidentally, there’s an occasional visitor to my Small Group who swears by praying over her Bible, standing it up on its side, and whatever page it flops opens to is the page God wanted her to read.)


But I was curious to have Myrtle do a reading for me, so I could compare and contrast. Because I’ve been waiting and waiting on God, and all I get is the whirling tornado of self doubt, despair, and anger, with no still small voice to halt it in its tracks.

And because I absolutely believe that God can use whatever He wants to reach me. A burning bush, a prescient song on the radio, a timely phone call from a friend, or the fabulous divining soul of Myrtle. It’s not like I’m checking God at the door to Myrtle’s house. It’s not like I’m giving up on waiting on God, turning my back and bowing down to the DEVIL. I’m bringing God in with me, to sit beside me on Myrtle’s fabulous bed as we split a bottle of red wine and eat pistachios and cashews, and to see what her dice, her stones, her books, will say. I probably wouldn’t have done it if Myrtle didn’t believe in God. But I know she does, we’ve had extensive discussions on it before. And fi on anyone who says she doesn’t believe in the right God, or if she does believe in the right one, she wouldn’t engage in the rest of it. It’s GOD. There is no right or wrong God, and no right or wrong way to reach or talk to Him. Kissing the floor with your forehead isn’t more authentic than praying over a flopping Bible, or meditating over a pair of dice on a cast iron bed with a one eyed cat zoned out on catnip. My two cents.

Incidentally, Myrtle started with a prayer to God, asking Him to be with us during the reading, to grant us wisdom and discernment, to work through her during the reading. And I slapped on the God lens for the rest of the evening, carefully examining every statement the book said as we threw the dice, added the numbers, turned the pages.

None of it was surprising, save the part where it looked like the book was recommending that I enter a period of solitude when we were asking about my current job situation (not sure how I can pay the bills without the socialization that comes with a dayjob.)

But everything else, all the questions I’ve been wrestling with in the slimy mud pit of WHERE’S MY ANSWERS DAMMIT, all the answers that I think are the answers but have had no discernable confirmation from above, below, outward or inwardly, there they are in the pages of a book, the roll of a dice, the gentle words of Myrtle who’s known me for years and urges me over and over, “Let people love you, Amy. You don’t let people love you.”

And while I still don’t know what that means (nothing new, I’ve never understood that let people love you concept, most likely due to my lack of grace for myself, I’m working on it, I’m working on it), the rest of it was beautiful in its validation. I absolutely believe God was speaking to me by it. God loves to surprise people, and there’s no better way He could have done it even if He had decided to speak to me through the rose bushes in the backyard, or the dirty socks in the laundry basket, or the dust bunnies under my bed (though that would’ve been interesting to see Him try.)

A lot of the anxiety I had been trying to slough off for a couple of weeks is gone now. Not a POOF kind of gone, but more of a receding, like watching low tide go out on the beach. I think that’s how it is a lot of the time. We look for the POOF of an instant solution, an instant positive emotion to overtake us and make us feel Insta-Better. When it’s more of a receding, leaving the sand behind to dry and solidify underneath our feet. Which then becomes the landscape for one of those hokey Footprint In The Sand inspirational posters.

No, don’t do it.

No, really, don’t.


I CAN’T HELP IT!!!!!!!

Ha ha ha ha.

But honestly, we have to, because that’s just as authentic as say, THIS. So there.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Enforced Secret Joy #43 – The Chihuahua Puppy Hanging Out On My Block

I was walking home from my morning gym workout. I was feeling very accomplished with myself, for making it to the gym in the first place, that I walked there, that I survived the Bodyworks class, thanks to my 400 crunches a day ab workout (my triceps, on the other hand, need help. I swear, Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 really wrecked the normal upper body image for women everywhere. We’ll never recover.)

And I’m in a chipper mood, chatting with God every step of the way, and then I see this lil’ dewdrop of adorable fluff. So I have to run grab my camera and document the moment.

Dunno if it’s a girl or guy puppy, don’t even know if it’s a puppy. Don’t know what its name is, but I’m saying it’s a girl, and I’m saying her name is Buttercup. Because she looks like a Buttercup, and Princess Bride is the only movie I like that proves definitively that I am a chick. She belongs to the construction workers working on the house, and they staked her Extend-A-Leash to the ground with a screwdriver, which is pretty ingenious.

She’s got plenty of room to run around and play hide and seek with me and the tree. And she was skittish at first, but I won her over, because I am Amy The Dog Whisperer. And because I didn’t try to pick her up. I’m pretty sure that would’ve scotched the whole deal.

Dear God, thank you for Buttercup (or whatever her real name is). Thank you for her golden brown color, thank you for her floppy ears, and her velvet muzzle. Thank you for the little tiny things you like to surprise me with on a daily basis. Please let me continue to have open eyes and an open heart to appreciate them. Yeah, that’s about it. When it comes to cute puppies, does anything else really need to be said? I think not. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


So I finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love . It ends with the obligatory happy ending, where she meets a new love in Bali and it looks like they’re going live a Happily Ever After ending, where they globetrot the world together, and that’s annoying to the single female writer in Los Angeles. But I have to say, I’m glad I read this book when I did, because all the empowerment talk of letting go of the past, and teaching yourself to be your own admiral of your boat, and to actively seek out peace to restore your own soul has really been helping me.

Here’s an excerpt:

I keep remembering one of my Guru’s teachings about happiness. She says that people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive on it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the word looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessing. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment.

The Christian version of this is that Happiness, i.e. Inner Peace doesn’t come from God whacking you with the Inner Peace Stick. It’s a spiritual fruit, the result of a life pursuing God’s will, la la la.

But reading Eat, Pray, Love certainly makes one want to jet off to Bali, where apparently the lodging is cheaper than cheap, the population is filled with people who can heal your physical pain, interpret your dreams, give you physical or metaphorical talismans that will help you find love, help you find the answers to fill the hole in your soul, (all the things God’s supposed to do, but hasn’t yet), all the men are devastatingly attractive, and you will find your true love there, oh yes, you will.

But then I can’t help but think that if I went to Bali now, that the countryside would be overrun with single American women just like me who had the exact same feeling when they read the book. If you’re holding the book in your hands, that wave of opportunity to explore a soul-stirring paradise has passed, and you should have ridden it when she did, back in 2003. I was getting my self-esteem stomped on in 2003 by assorted guys and crappy bosses. Obviously in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Elizabeth Gilbert says that one of her best qualities is that she can make friends with anyone in anyplace, at any time, which is one of the primary job qualifications you have to have in order to be a travel writer, (which is where she started.) I don’t have that quality at all. I am not a people person, I am a people WATCHER. With a really short attention span. One of my great qualities is taming kooky bosses (not crappy ones), how is that going to help me in a foreign country? So I’m not sure jetting off anywhere would be the most beneficial thing I could do, especially with not having a steady job to fill the bank account. The flip side of it, is of course, is once you get the steady job, you really can’t go anywhere, so if you think this is what you need to do, if you really think you have to go someplace else, you better do it now.

And I don’t feel the call. I feel a reluctant oh I guess so to get out of L.A., but it’s not a burning itch that would signal a call. It’s more of a drowsy someone come in and take control of my life and force me to do the things I don’t have the strength or desire to do myself. Like wanting someone else to have the call for me, and drag me to it.

But certainly, I think one of the first steps would be to try and pursue happiness here in Los Angeles. Elizabeth Gilbert fills page after page of how she did this, that and the other in Italy, India, and Indonesia. The food is always wonderful (except for one incident of greasy Pad Thai), the environment is always stunning. If she came to L.A., would she find ANY rapturous food (that mere mortals can afford?) Any surroundings that would provoke bliss? Is there a real authentic experience to be had in Los Angeles? Maybe a summer night at the Hollywood Bowl, but outside of that, L.A. seems to be strangely devoid of transcendent experience. Nobody comes here to vacation, you know. I think it’s very telling that the only thing terrorists have plotted and failed to blow up in Los Angeles is the airport. ‘Cause there’s not a lot else in Los Angeles that you could destroy and bum people out about. You really gotta work at creating transcendence here. Work for your bliss.

So I try. I decide I’m gonna hit the beach. Santa Monica Beach isn’t the cleanest beach around, but it’s still a beach, and it’s got a pier, and I know the hidden places to park, so I’ll start there. Maybe hit a different beach every weekend until I find one I like.

Albino me has no interest in sunbathing, but I like walking on the beach, so I wait until the sun is later in the sky, and trek out. It feels like I should have some raging burning life question I need to talk to God about and settle once and for all. Something like Should I move away? Should I give up writing? Should I stop writing for zombies and write for Veggietales? But I know the answers to all of that is no, no, and no. And I’m trying hard not to ask questions I know the answers to already.

But maybe this IS the authentic experience in Los Angeles. Walking around and asking questions to God/The Universe/Whatever Higher Power You Believe In that you already know the answers to. There’s a shitload of questioning people in the Los Angeles population. I bet a lot of them know the answers already.

It’s taking action to make those answers happen that people need help with. We’re all so LAZY, more willing to mope around in our narcissistic pit o’ me. So I’m steeling myself to try again. And again. And keep trying until it happens for me. With God’s help.

Margaritas also help for an authentic experience in L.A., especially if they’re at the restaurant at the end of the pier. Catching the mariachi band on a coffee break before they start the next round of singing is funny too.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Enforced Secret Joyful Memory Number 1 – Ernie and Bert at the Vet’s Office

Yes, I’m changing the rules once again. It’s not that I’ve run out of Joys to document, but this week, one memory keeps bumping the front of my skull over and over again. And it’s not the type of memory one would consider joyful, but then again, do I ever do anything the right way? No I don’t. I do not.

So here we go, Fridays will now be either Enforced Secret Joy Days, or Enforced Secret Joyful Memory Days. Ahem.

If you’re looking for a Grand Prize Winner in Ultimate Stupidity, you really can’t do better than a purebred cocker spaniel from Alabama. Of which I had two (technically, I had three, but the first one was not purebred, and was much much smarter than the other two that came after her, and when I say smart, I mean she learned how to stick her snout into a long green plastic cup to get at the chocolate milkshake inside.)

I named our purebred cocker spaniels, and I named them Ernie and Bert, because I could, and because they were girls, and I am contrary like that. Their middle names were Gus and Jaq, after the Can-Do mice from Cinderella. Since they were purebred, they had official paperwork for some national cocker spaniel registry somewhere, and my Mother The Phone Harpy Who I Love Very Very Much extended their names to Bernadette Jacqueline and Ernestine Gustina, to make everything nice and proper. This made them seem like debutante dogs, (three years later, they were tapped for my hometown’s Doggie Ball, the canine debutante party benefiting the Humane Society) and while visions of gently loping golden brown puppies wearing white leather gloves and batting eyelashes over Victorian fans may have been appropriate for such weighty feminine names, the reality is they were Ernie and Bert, and they were gloriously stupid inbred messes, and I loved every bit of them.

My father, the Great Stoic Wonder, maintains to this day that Bert was not stupid, even though she was the runt of the litter, and not even our first choice. Our first choice after Ernie was spirited away the night before we came to get them by “Satan worshippers needing animal sacrifices” the owner breathlessly asserted us. The owner had an electronic organ playing hymns in the background of her answering machine message. I love the South.

If you ask my Dad, Bert was not stupid, just intensely curious about everything, even things she had examined not more than three seconds ago (the backyard, that squirrel, that other dog who they SAY is my sister.) Ernie, on the other hand, was terrified of everything, which we chalked up to a baby gate falling on her during her first year of living with us. Ernie couldn’t stand to be alone, and Bert couldn’t care less.

But because both were purebred, both had major medical issues for most of their life. Bert’s thing was vertebrae. They slipped, they fused, they did things they weren’t supposed to do, resulting in major surgery where Bert got out the other side sporting what the vet pronounced as a “Tiffany neck in a Wal-Mart body.”

Ernie’s thing was cysts. The older she got, the more they cropped up. External, internal, where ever. Mom and Dad never seemed to notice, since they were with them 24/7. But I’d come home from college, bestow tummy rubs on Ernie, and immediately shriek that I had found a tumor, a TUMOR, what’s wrong with you people, can’t you feel this marble just below her ribs, why aren’t you taking care of these dogs! So we’d trip off to the vet, and the vet would say it’s a cyst, go home you freaked out family with the ineptly named dogs.

It was during one of these examinations that my Joyful Memory happens. Ernie was on the table again, the vet was patiently explaining again that it’s a cyst, don’t worry about it, “You only worry when you can’t move it around.” We had taken Bert with us, nothing was wrong with her (that day), but these dogs were rarely apart, though I suspected Bert wouldn’t have batted an eye if we had taken Ernie to Disneyworld and dropped her in the backyard complete with Mouseketeer Ears and a Donald Duck T-Shirt saying I Went Someplace You Didn’t Go SUCKA!

After observing Ernie on the table and surmising that things were relatively okay (weird, but okay), Bert decided she was going to hunker down in the open doorway, facing the rest of the vet office. She looked very regal, her front paws stretched in front of her, head NOT down on paws, but alert and up, silently approving the presence of everyone who walked by her.

And the minions came. Oh yes, the minions came. Everyone at the vet office knew who Ernie and Bert were, they were the ineptly named cocker spaniels who showed up every three weeks because something else was going wrong. And every nurse, every orderly (or whatever you call random office P.A.s in a vet), every other doctor that walked by stopped and dropped to their knees in front of Bert The Majestic, offering up ear rubs galore, “Hey Bert! What’s going on? Whatcha doing here today?” Then they’d look past her, and see Ernie on the table, “Oh, it’s Ernie, huh?” And Bert would accept the ear rubs with a knowing nod, yes, it is NOT me today! It’s the other one! You may pass and go on about your day.

It’s such a bizarre memory. Ernie on the table, Vet moving her marble cyst around and around “See? It’s not on a stalk! You’d be in trouble if it was on a stalk!”, Bert in the doorway accepting tribute from the vet staff. And yet it makes me smile every time I think of it. So it’s a joyful memory to me. And I christen it so now.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Courage, friends, it's a long entry

Okay, let’s see if I can make this puppy fly tonight. It’s gonna be a long one, I can tell already.

A disclaimer: I’ve been reading again. Actual books, which is unlike me. Even though every writer worth their salt should ALWAYS be reading books. Since it’s summer, and we’re officially done with TV shows until Fall, I have time to read books. And since too many people recommended it, I’m reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love . But I could be reading anything good, and be struck with the same realization that I need to be MORE of a writer. I need to string a florid phrase, I need to describe a situation with just the right words, I need to inspire feeling in those to read me, just like I’m inspired by reading Elizabeth Gilbert. Hence, I will do my very very best to inhabit the shoes of a Writer, and the fact I just used two “very”s automatically means we’re doomed. We’re hosed, people. I apologize in advance.

Our entry tonight actually starts yesterday, as the Unnamed Charity Event that I had been helping the Event Planner for the past three weeks finally happened. I had taken this short gig in order to escape the Pay TV division of the Unnamed Movie Studio. I knew it was going to be a nightmare, yet I knowingly and willingly made the choice to do it, knowing it was the right choice to make (anything would be better than Pay TV), but I landed in yet another miserable situation. Which begs the question of whether my life has devolved to a series of one miserable circumstance after another, only varying in degree of intensity. Not a lower level of Hell, but an antechamber, with new horrors in colors of orange, purple, and yellow, and vendors who haven’t invoiced us yet, and fax machines that don’t have ink, and delivering parking instructions to all the major agencies who will someday kill to rep me, I tell myself so I don’t shoot myself right there on the Wilshire corridor.

But let’s not wallow.

The Unnamed Charity Event yesterday was a music and arts and crafts festival for kids (or rather, industry kids, whose moms and dads are shakers and movers in the industry and can afford $1500 a package.) So there were plenty of arts and crafts booths for the tiny tots to knock themselves out on. Balloon drums, Necklace Making, Dress Like A Rock Star, Custom Spray Paint Your Uggs Boots, and then…the tattoo booth. Not real tattoos of course, but spray paint ones, administered by a very jolly Tattoo Man and his staff of five. They last three to five days, and everyone wanted one.

I had been in close correspondence with Jolly Tattoo Man, as we worked to get his issues taken care of (we’re working three hours, no wait, we’re working four hours, unload your equipment here, then park HERE, not there, HERE.) And he wanted me to make sure I stopped by the booth to say hi, having spent hours and hours on the phone.

So when I got my break from the Check In Table, and after eating two Churros and one Fudgesicle (everything’s FREE), I headed over to say hi. And Jolly Tattoo Man is so jolly that he INSISTS I get a tattoo, I HAVE to, he’ll take care of me PERSONALLY, he’s having such a great time at this event.

I just have to pick a design.

This is a kid’s event, so no peeing Calvin and Hobbes tats here. There’s shimmering hearts, suns, moons, stars, astrology symbols, and Chinese characters indicating lovely states o’ being, like Good, Luck, Dream.

It’s here that I remember I’m supposed to read Scripture at church Sunday. And I think it would be funny if I waltzed up in front of the congregation with a tat winking out from the inside of my wrist. Not that we’re an uptight conservative bunch. We’re not even a congregation so much as a loose collective. But it would make me laugh. On the inside.

There aren’t any God tattoos, however, nor are there any Spiritually Seeking, Relentlessly Questioning, Overall Befuddled tattoos. I’m looking at the choices of the Chinese characters: Love, Wish, Awesome, Courage.

Courage. I pick Courage.

I pick Courage, not because there’s a zinging feeling through my soul of YES! THIS IS THE TATTOO YOU MUST HAVE, but because it’s the best of an awkward bunch, and it’s still an awkward choice, but I think that Courage is a good quality to have, and maybe imprinting it on my wrist will, I dunno, remind me that I need to be brave?

About what, though, about what? I wonder to myself as Jolly Tattoo Man gently takes my wrist and applies the design (bigger than I thought it would be, but again COURAGE, Amy, COURAGE.) he does a nifty shadow effect, and highlighting detail, but I stop him from using the glitter spray, since I am not five years old.

So now I am the proud owner of a 3 to 5 day Courage tattoo, and I have to take their word for it that it means Courage, and not Easily Duped American.

Driving home after the event ended, I find myself thinking about Courage. Courage. I hear the Cowardly Lion now, and his song that always meant time to take a nap or get another Coke from the kitchen when I would watch Wizard Of Oz on the CBS broadcast (brought to you by Kraft Macaroni and Cheese!)

What does courage mean? Let’s get an official ruling from dictionary.com

cour·age [kur-ij, kuhr-]–noun
1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.

What am I fearing in my life right now that my Courage tattoo could chase away? I’m on the verge of tears at any given moment these days, those tears come from someplace inside me that’s that’s what, grief? Depression? FEAR!? A-HA! I FOUND YOU, FEAR! NAME IT AND CLAIM IT SO I CAN FLASH MY COURAGE TATTOO AND BANISH IT!

I’m scared I’m not a good writer. I’m scared I’ll never sell a script. I’m scared that I don’t have a plan. I used to have a plan, I had goals, and steps and progress reports and charts and deadlines and everything. And those goals, those steps, those reports, have not worked. It’s not an isolated incident. I’ve taken writing sabbaticals, sometimes by choice, sometimes by jobs being ripped out from under me, and nothing has produced a piece of material that sold. Yes, there have been plays I’ve written that I’ve co-produced, and rapturous response followed, but the last one of note was two years ago. The pressure to beautifully yak up another fully formed masterpiece to once again sound the trumpets that AMY! IS A GREAT WRITER! ALL THAT TIME SHE DIDN’T SHOW YOU ANYTHING WAS MERELY HER COOKING UP THIS WORK O’ ART IN HER LAB! Is enough to make me want to carve up this 3 to 5 day Courage Tattoo because the stuff I’m working on now people don’t LIKE, they liked the OTHER draft better, go BACK, no, DO THIS, no, DO THAT, no DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING, THAN THIS DRAFT YOU GAVE US BECAUSE IT BLOWS!

But let’s not wallow.

This morning, I read Scripture in church, and it’s not until I get there, and huddle with Pastor Bernard about the proper way to pronounce “Denarius” (Bernard’s response is “Up to you, I’m saying “Day’s worth of wages””) that it hits me that maybe Courage is supposed to get me through my two minute bout of public speaking. I don’t necessarily hate public speaking, but I do hate people looking at me. But it’s not like I have to have the thing memorized, I can read it from the sheet, so all I’ll be seeing is this, and my Courage Tattoo egging me on.

Then, about five minutes before I’m supposed to go on, I get the brilliant idea that I should take my camera up there with me and take a picture. Why not!? Because church isn’t about you and what you want. But it’ll be great for the blog! My Mom hasn’t seen the new digs we moved into! It’s proof that I did it! No other Scripture Reader has gone up there and taken a picture! I’ll be unique! It’s uniquely me! It’s not about you. It’ll take, like, two seconds tops.

There’s three seconds worth of terror as I fly by the seat of my pants and juggle the microphone, the camera and my script, but I asked everyone to smile, and as you can see, most everyone gamely did so (When I showed Roomie Heckle the picture, he said, “Nobody’s sitting in the front row.” Nobody ever sits in the front row of our Loose Collective. Nobody. It’s a thing with us. Roomie Heckle also said I was going to hell for taking a picture from the pulpit. I didn’t have the heart to tell him we don’t actually HAVE a pulpit. But the question of whether I’m going to hell is still up for grabs. I notice Pastor Bernard’s wife, Bernice, is not looking especially thrilled.)

I got through the Parable of The Vineyard And The Workers without further incident. It was so frightfully easy that Courage wasn’t even a factor, so this Scripture Reading Avec Camera, while fun, couldn’t be the reason I needed a Courage tattoo, right?

Late in the afternoon, I decide I’m going to LACMA. I can’t stay in the house, I’ll be swallowed up by the Your Life Sucks So PANIC Tornado. I shove the camera, Roomie Jekyll’s LACMA card, my Ipod, Eat Pray and Love in a bag and take off on foot.

LACMA’s a bit of a bust, since two floors are closed for renovation. I say hi to my boyfriend briefly (he’s upset that nobody stops to pay attention to him,) and decide that maybe I’ll head over to Callender’s to have a glass of chardonnay, and read Elizabeth Gilbert at the bar and pretend I’m in Rome eating authentic pizza and learning Italian. That seems like a plan. A PLAN.

So I start meandering, and I’m talking to God and trying not to ask questions, and the conversation is going something like it’s just that I don’t know what Your plan for me is, and I would very much like to know, so I can get it in gear and be in Your will and make life all sorts of happy and beautiful, so if You feel at all like sending a sign, go for it.

That’s when a guy suddenly falls into step with me. “Hello,” he says in accented English, “Did you enjoy the concert?” He’s around 50, fat, coke bottle glasses, loud obnoxious blue shirt. He came up from behind me, which must mean Amy’s Amazing Ass once again cast its unstoppable powers of attraction without asking permission.

I remain remotely polite, saying I didn’t go to the concert, but he doesn’t let up, and doesn’t go away. His name is Eddie, he’s originally from Havana, been in Los Angeles since 1997, blah blah blah, go away, Eddie, go away. Take the hint that I’m not looking at you as a sign and go away.

A sign. A part of me is thinking This is my sign? Creepo Random Eddie is a sign? NOOOOOO! I don’t wanna talk to him! He’s EXTREMELY friendly, and I’m getting weirded out. He is not my sign. He is not my plan. He’s NOT.

We’re out of the park by now, and I don’t want him following me to Callender’s, so I say I’m going the other way and say goodbye. I’m now walking towards my house, so the question becomes do I bag the Callender’s idea all together for fear that Eddie will make his way there and I’ll look like a moron if I walk in the door and he’s at the bar? Or do I damn it all and plow forward, intent on creating my idyllic alcoholic literary scenario?

I actually stop and ask God. What’s the plan? What do you want me to do?

And then I realize it. The fear. It would take more courage to NOT go home and to go to Callender’s, braving any Creepo Random Guys past or future, in order to create my idyllic alcoholic scenario. Creepo Random Eddie was not a sign, but I think he was a test. And I look down at my wrist to see El Courago Tatto-O smiling up at me. Yeah? Yeah? Yeah?

Off I go on an extremely roundabout route back to Callender’s. I stake a place at the bar, order a lovely glass of Chardonnay recommended by Jimmy the bartender and finish the Italy chapter of Eat Pray Love while the rest of the gentlemen in the bar are pissed that the cable’s out and they can’t watch the Red Sox versus the Yankees on the TV.

And I’m enjoying a lovely buzz, since the glasses they pour are quite sizeable, and the obligatory piano bar player is playing the NOT obligatory piano version of Engima’s “Principles of Lust Part B: Find Love.” Most folks just listen to “Principles of Lust Part A: Sadeness.” You’ve gotta be REALLY dedicated to get to Part B. That makes me smile. I am so lucky I had the Courage to get to here tonight.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Enforced Secret Joy #42 – Baby Hazel’s Free Floating Hair

Check out Baby Hazel! That’s a SMILE! She’s smiling at ME! She hasn’t figured out my boobs aint feeding anybody anytime soon!

What’s really impressive about this picture isn’t the fact that I’m taking it with my right hand and still able to nail picture composition, but Hazel’s free floating hair.

Observe from a different angle (still me taking it one handed, I was able to do everything one handed except open the beer. Randolph, a fellow Small Group member, did that one for me.) :

I’m reminded of the fact that Bug, my five year old niece has a friend called Electric Hair Lily (okay, that’s what Bug’s mom, Agatha calls her). And yet Baby Hazel’s stylish vertical coif is not the result of static electricity. It’s that way ALL THE TIME. I know, we’ve tried flattening it down with our hands, and it only pops back up, like a wispy weathervane, floating this way, floating that way, anyway but back on a Baby’s head like all baby hair should go.

It’s like a radiating half sun, it’s like a hairy laurel wreath, it’s choppy, uneven, falling out on one side, and would look like what would happen if I sucked down four more beers and got out the scissors. Et voilà ! Votre beau bébé est une oeuvre d'art (vous me devez cinquante dollars)

It’s the most awesomest thing I’ve seen all week.

Dear God, thank you for Baby Hazel’s free floating hair. Thank you for Baby Hazel, thank you that she’s learning to smile, thank you for my literal multitasking act, where I was able to take pictures, hold a baby and drink a beer pretty much simultaneously. But in all seriousness, thank you that Baby Hazel’s hair is as whacked out as it is. How can you not smile at hair like that? She’s gonna grow up to be some sort of beauty queen, and we’ll all nod and wink at each other and say we knew her when she had duck lips and flyaway hair. Thank you thank you thank you. Amen.