Fierce Friends

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She sat across from me trying to be a million miles away. Hiding her face behind a tissue as if she could just disappear like an infant playing peek-a-boo. Be blissful and innocent-where there’s no pain. No words like death. I grabbed her hand against her will and collapsed it into mine. Allowed it to melt and the world wash away for just a moment. I asked for us both to take a deep breath and talk about IT. Talk about death.

Now who in the hell wants to lay in that pile of shit? And like all smelly things, its messy.

Death means body parts stop working, things breaking down like a salvage junk yard. “Welcome to Pull-A-Part! Where you slowly loose yourself against your will!” Parts fall off along the way to the back door. First the front end. Then a carburetor. Then the whole damn transmission. The rest of us are left standing on the side lines having been invited to a show we did not want admission to. With not one DAMN thing we can do; helplessness is like swallowing a box of rusted nails for dinner with no chaser.

I asked her what she needed. She finally sobbed and shook her head unknowingly. How do we ever really know what the reaper will leave at the feet of the living? Perhaps just more rusted nails to swallow. And although I cannot swallow them for her, I can be the chaser that makes the pain sting a little less. I can SHOW UP. You don’t leave your people to stand in the wasteland on their own. You show the fuck up. Not in the let me toss a casserole at you while I whiz by your house, but the kind where you are there. In IT.

As a friend, I am fierce. It may be intense at times- and it’s not uncommon I get that look of, ‘WHY oh why are you saying this hard-ass thing to me right now?’ But I will. I have made the mistake of letting it pass by and it is one of the few regrets I live with today. I think it’s a regret that at the end of of life, we all think about.

I hear story after story of humans attempting to make another human connection. Craving that rich, deep sense of good love shown in bright eyes staring back at them- smiling, laughing and maybe even crying. What is so painful is how often the moment gets lost in the business of life and soon the friendship is lost because one too many moments have crept on by.

I can’t say I won’t be guilty of some moments- but I refuse to not show up when it matters. It is the sugar of life that makes so much of the bitterness melt away. When moments are difficult, we cannot cut and run. If we do not want to be left in the wasteland lonely, eating our rusted nails of grief and loss, then we are called to do the same. I said to my spouse recently that we are entering into the season of our lives where death is knocking. If we are friends- I will be your fierce warrior. I could also be a little intense and annoying (like I am licking your face non-consentually), but I will be there. And I hope you will too.

LIVE.OUT.LOUD.

Where Is The Love?

Today I made myself sit and stare at it. Just sit and look- see it more closely. Normally, I would flip past it, hide it and even become angry about it. Why did I have to see this? Why am I being tortured with the notion of having a seemingly mindless moment to only be flooded with memories of his face- HIS FACE!

But today, I just examined without judgement of myself or him.

I took a moment to wonder about the lives of those that did care about him, those that suffer because he is gone and remember that his (possible) children lost him for so long because of what I did.

Just a year ago my brother and perpetrator took his own life. My sweet sweet sister told me, I suppose knowing that I would want to know- but not exactly why. I looked at the message and slumped down onto the bedroom floor and began to shake with grief-relief. Maybe we call that griefalief? All my life I have been attached to this person whether it was in my heartache and rage as an adolescent to the rebirth out of the ashes of his abuse as an adult. I have learned how to carry him with me inside the story I tell, one of pain and loss; one of redemption and passion. Like my very own tiny tale of life and it’s my story- my ending.

Since that time, my sister, who shared a relationship with him ongoing over the years, has posted pictures of him on social media. The devil that it is, Facebook too offers us growth if we decide to accept it. And at first, I said, “FUCK THIS!”, had my verbal tantrums and avoided seeing his face like it would some how burn mine off. Like really Alicia- you give no one your power, why would a photograph get yours now? But his face……. Burned in my brain like the scar on my forehead. I thought I had done all the embracing of my story in his, but like all of life….there is always more to learn.

And as I cried on the floor, my daughter and husband sat on the floor to comfort me. They were confused as to why I would cry and frankly, so was I. And yet I realized his time of potentially haunting me at some future family gathering was over. I would not have to discern between my mental health and making my family happy. But I was also so very sad for him- unlike some- it was a shitty and fucked up existence from what I could see from a distance. Life had never really let up and he had no relief or redemption. And although I will never stop saying that the best revenge in this life has been my happiness, for him, it would have been a nice ending to hear he had gotten help or maybe just some relief.

All this may sound crazy, but I have learned more about his life. My mother told me about how he had come to live with her and my stepfather at a young age after being left in cars for hours as a toddler so his mother could party and gamble. He was locked in closets and hurt by other people…..abandoned by his own mother. He came into this world broken and the only thing he knew to do was break others. He often drank, smoked marijuana and did terribly in school. I was just another thing on his path of destruction.

I have grown so bold with my mother that I told her about how much it hurt to see his face invading my phone screen and how others’ kind and sweet sentiments about his life were like puke in my mouth. She was understanding and I was able to ask about him further. She gave me a gift in that moment. I asked her why she did not think to recognize his potential to hurt others? She told me of stories of how she knew to look for adults- she knew to be weary of the sweaty conniving men who may hurt and abuse little children, but no one talked about the cycle of sexual violence occurring from one child to another.

And that’s just it. Here we are once again crossing paths with the three-headed Dragon of Shame. It seems I am doomed to the role of broken record, pleading with people to see how our silence shreds through the option of healthy existence. And here with him and his face glaring at me through my phone, I am reminded of how we have the capacity to destroy one another. We pick one another off like ticks on mangy dogs inflicting as much pain as we can muster in the hopes that we can squeeze out our shame onto another human and rid ourselves of ours. Or worse yet, we cannot bear witness to the happiness and innocence of another human and instead whittle our way through their bodies until we successfully excavate their soul.

I suppose all that truth is a little harsh. We are not all by nature mean or cruel and I remain well aware of the fact that most of us would crash our cars before hurting that squirrel hurling himself onto the highway. And yet I demand answers. This is one of the reasons I say ‘WTF!’ to myself twenty times a day! When are we going to catch onto the idea that when we see ourselves as unworthy humans, it is not a play option to physically, emotionally, spiritually or sexually violate another? At what point in my lifetime are we going to stop failing ourselves? When are we going to get together as a collective and do whatever it takes to nurture, grow and create a sustainable world that promotes the FACT that there is NOTHING that removes us from our worthiness of love and belonging. NOTHING and NO ONE- not even my stepbrother.

Sure, there was an incredibly long time I would have rather stabbed his eyes out and there is no doubt justice was never served. But then again, who am I to actually be angry at? Can it really just be him? For myself, the answer is the Dragons of Shame. I am not bad and neither was he. The people in my life who did nothing were responsible, but who gave them a sword of vulnerability to be the Dragon Slayer? How far back in the generations do I go seeking a courageous people? It is so risky to show up in our lives and even more risky to turn up the volume on vulnerability. I can only imagine what it would have been like for my brother to have had the freedom to say that he was ashamed of his existence. Perhaps he would have not made me feel ashamed of mine.

So just for today, I stared at his picture. I stared without judgement of myself or him. And for the first time, I realized there was a time he was somebody’s baby. Maybe he earned being a shell of a human for all he did, but since our stories will never be separated, perhaps he can finally live in peace in my story.

I will never forget. But I forgive you brother. I forgive my people for passing up the swords of vulnerability lodged in the stones of life. As Maya Angelou said in her most dignified God like voice, “We do what we know until we know better”. I know better and I will do better. I will not be silent and no matter how heavy the words of vulnerability, I will practice taking the risk as often as I am able.

I AM ENOUGH. Broken but Whole–glued back together with the sticky, messy words of vulnerability. And this is MY Story- I get to decide how this will end. I do not have to live inside generations of shame before me. And guess what? Neither do you.

LIVE.OUT.LOUD.

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In The Land of Boudin with a dash of Fleurty Girl

There is a part of the world that does not go unnoticed and its unique flavor is a gift. I have had the honor of being in intimate relationship with the Cajuns for the past 16 years. You may know them to serve their rice and politics dirty, but I know another side.

In September of 1997, my now spouse brought me home to Cajun land for the first time. I had no idea my presence was a first for him. I met his parents and grandmother with delight and the next day was suppose to meet his other grandmother at her house. With growing anxiety, we show up and initially, Ma-Ma and a few people are there…….But, before I could swallow and calm my nerves, there stood to be what I now know as EVERYONE. Aunts, uncles, cousins piled into the little brick house in Scott, Louisiana to get a peek at the fair, red head from California. It was like the seventh wonder had shown up at Ma-Ma’s house! Many called her “Honey” and she spoke quietly from her recliner with an old, slightly rusty stand up cigar stand next to her. They laughed and joked….. and played a game of twenty questions with me. Despite my fears, all was done in the spirit of love and a desire to show the warmth and grace that cajuns possess.
Over the years, there are many things I have learned from the Cajun people that we can all take a lesson from. Now, it is not fair to romanticize anyone and I do not want you to believe that I am naïve enough to think that I really mean Candy Land, not Cajun land. I see hurt and struggle, the tussle of broken family relationships and the SAME dysfunction as any where else. There are just a few life lessons that we could adopt if they are missing in our lives. If you ever slip away from these important truths, take a trip to the land of boudin and you will be called back to the joy that the Cajun people embody.

What you have is not what you are.
I often run when I am home in our small town of Carencro and it is not uncommon for a slightly worn down trailer with tarps on it to reside next door to the circa 1930’s home. Neither seem to be angry about the other, it is just where life went. The oddest sight seems to be me jogging past them as they wave good morning to me. I always imagine that these neighbors are there for one another. In all, I have never met a more generous group of people. There appears to be a quiet understanding that we have to make it together in this world. A Cajun persons worth does not lie in the fancy car or clothes, it lies in family.

Cajuns Silent Middle Name: FUN
As an adult recovering from the lost ability to play, if you need to remember how to spend time having fun, come and spend some time with the Cajuns. I have seen 80 year old people get up a cut a rug to the accordion at PreJean’s on a Friday night. Hell, the accordion player is likely twice my age! You can come any time of the year and there is a festival and possibly a parade going on. My spouse told me how many days they got off for Mardi Gras every year, just to go to parades! No matter what, there is always bingo and dominos. My mother in law sometimes plays three games of Bo-Ray a week with her friends!

Food MUST be SuperbImageve
What other culture do you know that has the following: gumbo, jambalaya, beignets, couche-couche, etouffee, rice dressing, crawfish pie, alligator on a stick, and everything starts with a roux!

Don’t Be a Religious Zealot
Most Cajuns would identify as Catholic, say it “Cat-Lick”, but they are not afraid to remember the fun rule. Drinking and dancing and praising God can all go hand in hand. It would not be odd to hear there is church on Sunday and learning how to do Reiki on Wednesday. Spiritual growth can come from many difference avenues. If you are Catholic, nothing is going to change those cultural roots, so try away, a Cajun knows you will still come home.

And home it has become for me…..For the love of tradition, family and most certainly food, there is nothing more unique than that of a Cajun. Love you big Big!!

And if you have never visited, here are a few things you may learn, a little on the lighter side

1. If You’ve ever wore shorts at Christmas time.
2. You pronounce Lafayette as “Laffy-ette” not “La-fy-ette”.
3. To “get down” from the car is not a dance move.
4. To be called a ‘Coon-Ass’ is not a derogatory term.
5. If you really mean something, you say the word twice: “We love you big Big!” (the first time just means very).
6. If you are giving directions and you need to go a long way in one direction: “You go straight-straight.”
7. Also, when giving directions you use words like “uptown”, “downtown”, “backatown”, “riverside”, “lakeside”, “north shore”, “west bank”,”down the bayou” or “across the river”.
8. You plan your wedding around LSU football, baseball….and hurricane season.
9. You greet people with “Ha’s ya momma’an’dem?” and hear back “Deyfine!”
10. Every so often, you have waterfront property.
11. When you refer to the geographical location “way up north”, you are referring to places like Shreveport, Little Rock or Memphis, “where it gets real cold!”
12. Your burial plot is six feet over rather than six feet under.
13. You’ve ever had Community Coffee, sometimes with chickory.
14. You can pronounce Tchoupitoulas but can’t spell it. (also, Thibodeaux, Opelousas, Pontchartrain, Ouachita, Atchafalaya,).
15. You don’t worry when you see ships riding higher in the river than the top of your house.
16. You judge a Po-boy by the number of napkins used. “Amen! You Got Datrite!”
17. The waitress at your local sandwich shop tells you a fried oyster Po-boy “dressed” is healthier than a Caesar salad.
18. You know the definition of “dressed”.
19. You can eat Popeye’s, Haydel’s and Zapp’s for lunch and wash it down with Barq’s and several Abitas, without losing it all on your stoop.
20. The smell of a crawfish boil turns you on more than a new coat .
21. When you go to buy a new winter coat, it is what most people refer to as windbreakers.
22. You “wrench” your hands in the sink with an onion bar to get the crawfish smell off.
23. You’re not afraid when someone wants to “ax you something”.
24. If your child is being misbehaving, “He is so Canaille!” (Say it: “Ku-nye”).
25. You don’t learn until high school that Mardi Gras is not a national holiday.
26. You don’t realize until high school what a “county” is.
27. You believe that purple, green and gold look good together (and will even eat things those colors).
28. To Call a Cat you say, “Here Menoo-Menoo.”
29. Your last name isn’t pronounced the way it’s spelled.
30. You know what a nutria rat is but you still pick it to represent your baseball team. “Geaux Zephyrs!”
31. To be embarrassed is to be “Haunt”.
32. You have spent a summer afternoon on the Lake Pontchartrain seawall catching blue crabs.
33. You describe a color as “K&B Purple”.
34. You like your rice and politics dirty.
35. When given the choice for Governor between a KKK leader and Edwin Edwards it’s a difficult decision.
36. You pronounce the largest city in the state as “Newawlins”.
37. You know those big roaches can fly, but you’re able to sleep at night anyway.
38. You assume everyone has mosquito swarms in their backyard.
39. You realize the rainforest is less humid than Louisiana.
40. You can list all the ingredients of a gumbo or a jambalaya.
41. You go ‘somewheres’, it may be ‘nowheres’ or you might be fine with ‘anywheres’.
42. When you’re in Baton Rouge you know the difference between the old bridge the new bridge.
43. If you ever had to wait for the bridge to “come down” so you can get home
44. If you don’t pull for the Saints, who else would?
45.You know that everyone has had the ‘freesons’ at one time or another.
46. You “make your groceries”, “save the dishes” and have an “icebox”.
47.You don’t clean the floor you, “Pass the Mop”.
48.You know when it’s appropriate to use “Tony Chachere’s”.
49. The four seasons in your year are: crawfish, shrimp, crab and KingCake.
50. If something hurts, like all the Cajuns with side splitting laughter right now, ”Oh-Yi-Yi!”

P.S. If you like my Cajun T-shirt, Check out http://www.Fleurtygirl.net
for all things Louisiana!