Your support is greatly appreciated!
My Grandmother. Ma-Maw. How can I write anything that does justice to her and what she meant to me? She was the kindest, most gentle person I’ve ever known. She was endlessly unselfish; always putting the needs of those she loved ahead of her own. She loved her family fiercely. She loved me. And in loving me, she loved me the way our family is supposed to — unconditionally. She loved everything about me, and I was able to rest in the arms of that love. Her home was my retreat and safety zone – I could always go there and exhale. Be myself.
I remember watching her pull old cast iron skillet – every farmhouse has an old cast iron skillet that the women cooked everything in. She would pull out that big black pan along with a jar of bacon grease (yes, a jar of bacon grease!) and say to my grandfather, “Daddy, you want milk gravy tonight?” I loved how she always called PaPaw “Daddy”.
Ma-Maw was the first person to see me. I mean really see ME. She let me wear her high heels. She let me play my music and never looked scandalized or disapproving. She took me to get my first library card. She taught me what it meant to Toss Glitter. She heard my voice and taught me that I mattered. Ma-Maw made me feel alive.
She was an original. Like glitter itself, her love still shines on me. She wanted me to be myself and rejoice in it. And every day that I’m happy, I can see her smiling at me.
He who seeks beauty will find it…
Sunny one so true… They love you…
Please don’t confront me with my failures. I’m well aware of them.
Personal failure is horrible. But hurting someone who loves you is worse. It’s hard to blot out memories of a time when I felt I’d let everyone down simply by being who I am.
By making choices. By being Authentic. By living life – my life. The one that was my own and true to myself.
And with that came the failure of trying to live up to the expectations of others. Remember, this was way back in the Stone Age, before the Internet. It was hard enough then. Now, we can find ourselves completely at the mercy of some stranger’s opinion or judgment. It’s hard to not censor yourself – to be authentic and celebrate your own life. And when you receive negativity, it can be hard to separate yourself and not do exactly the same thing. You might see words or photo that mirror your own situation, and you just react. You might be the one doing the hurting. With the click of a keypad – Judgment Day.
We all have that internal keyboard, that voice of Judgment Day inside us. We turn it on ourselves as well as on others.
But there is always forgiveness. There are parts of my experience that will always haunt me. Things I’m not proud of. Never intentionally meaning to hurt anyone. Through the grace of one special girl, her family, and God I was able to forgive myself. I was able to let go – even if it’s just a little bit – of my own sense of failure. I think we can’t really understand forgiveness until we ourselves forgive and are forgiven. When we finally experience that, the almost physical sensation of release can be overpowering. Being fully forgiven is being set free. And because of that extraordinary act of forgiveness, I was able to get through my own Judgment Days.
Our words matter. Though I might mess up over and over, I try not to judge others. Especially those whose life and problems I know nothing about. Instead, I try to remember what it’s like to want to hide, and hope and pray that whatever is happening in someone’s life, they are able to get through it. To forgive and be forgiven, as I was. I hope that they can find love and support and courage. I hope they too can pass through their Judgment Day.
Winter had set in. The handful of warm days that sprinkle themselves through the end of fall had stopped weeks before. Indiana turned bleak. And with the winter came a freezing sense of failure and isolation. After nearly a year on the job I had a pretty good handle on how things were done at the Holiday Inn. I knew the schedules, the protocols, the basic rhythm of the place. I even knew where the night deposit was stashed. One night I decided that the best way to escape the tortuous guilt of leading a double life was to leave the both of them behind. Without making any of my intentions known, I resolved to steal the night deposit and run away. There’d be nothing to it. The safe that held the money was always kept unlocked in an office that was also kept unlocked.
I didn’t know what to run toward. I only knew that I needed to get away from my predicaments as fast as I could. The bounty in the night deposit bag would be more than enough to get me on a bus or a plane and start a new life that did not require pretending to be someone I was not.
On my D-day, I had decided that I didn’t really need all of the money to make a fresh start, so I’d taken about a thousand dollars and had left the rest. With only a share of the night deposit cash in hand, I walked out of the Holiday Inn through the front lobby, climbed into the Gremlin, and started driving. I felt fragile and volatile, like a bomb that could go off if mishandled. It’s not fair to say I sped away from the parking lot since the Gremlin was not capable of speeding. I lumbered away, slowly watching the Holiday Inn marquee grow smaller through the rearview mirror. As it disappeared, I was overcome by those feelings of isolation and shame. I didn’t make it far before pulling the car to the side of the road. I killed the engine and sat crying, a complete meltdown. I was betraying everyone and everything around me. Ultimately, I couldn’t go through with any of it. As I sat on the side of the road with one hand on the steering wheel and the other gripping the stolen cash, I sobbed about still being trapped even as I held the means to free myself. A spontaneous escape ended with a spontaneous return. I threw the money into the field next to the road, trying to escape my most recent adopted persona, a thief. I’d never stolen anything before. I was halfway believable as a straight man, but playing the part of a criminal was too much.
A funny change of roles that I was the one breaking down on the side of the road instead of the Gremlin. I sat in the parked car, my familiar station to contemplate all of my disparate selves. This time, I didn’t pray. My revelation was that my prayers were not being answered. After disposing of the evidence, or more correctly, tossing it a few yards from the shoulder of the highway I’d pulled onto, I stifled my crying enough to re-start the car, pull a U-turn, and drive home.
I returned to work the next day as if nothing had happened. Like me, the hotel was in a state of disarray. Construction crews had several sections of the hotel torn apart to make improvements. An additional elevator was being installed where a new wing was to join the conference area. It was a line of demarcation separating the end of the familiar with the start of something new. The general shape of the renovation had come together so one could begin to see the new superstructure taking form, but it was still rough. Looking out through the untouched portions of the hotel, the walls of raw concrete overflowed with rebar jutting from the top. Below, mounds of dirt sat where staging areas would eventually be leveled and turned into tiled floors. The new elevator going in was, at this point, just a shaft rising out of the construction pit like a turret at the corner of a castle. Each time I walked past the construction site I would take stock of the progress from the previous day.
Management was buzzing with gossip about the missing money in the days following my aborted escape attempt. There was speculation about scheming construction workers and of course some talk of an inside job, since the former location of the stash would not have been especially obvious to guests or passers by. To my knowledge, I was never a suspect. Who could have thought that the timid assistant maintenance man would be to blame? After all, I was a part of the Holiday Inn family. Who would steal from their own family? Surely not the hopelessly bungling young man who’d befriended so much of the staff. All the while I nervously waited for the truth to catch up to me. I was now in hiding both at home and at work.
I had run out of sanctuaries. Trapped by false life, I could not be myself anywhere. A fugitive, too weak-willed to follow through with a simple theft, I had to maintain another façade at work. Knowing the damage I was doing to those closest to me combined with a lifelong discomfort in my own skin created an incapacitating self-loathing. I decided that the only way out was to erase myself, so that the pain I was causing and the pain I was feeling would both finally stop.
The plan to kill myself was hatched, in part, as a responsibility to my loved ones. I was comforted thinking though I would burn for my sins, I could still spare those I loved. Ending it all really did seem like a good out. All I had to do was plan the finer points.
Indiana winters are a mixed bag. Like life. I was about to play havoc with my life and the lives of those whom I loved, and who loved me. I would fail at escaping consequences the easy way, by killing myself, but I would still need to somehow come clean to find a bit of the peace that I had hoped death would deliver. Secrets needed to come out, and I needed to live my life honestly. And I needed to do it without leaving a trail of disaster behind me.
When Jeff and I left Florida for New York City, we wondered how it would affect our beloved dog Alex. Would she adjust? Would we? The little things you take for granted, like grass. When she finally was able to use the sidewalk after four long days, we jumped for joy, praising, high-fiving & crying. Trailing behind Alex was a remarkable experience. She owned her surroundings. Cameras were snapping wherever we walked. And of course, in New York, no walk is ordinary, and Alex was no ordinary dog. She fit right in – an instant New Yorker. She gathered fans everywhere we went — from the homeless in the parks to every celebrity imaginable. Her admirers included Tom Cruise, Madonna,Ice T, Katie Couric, Brooke Shields, Richie Sambora, Demi Moore, and Glenn Close, just to name-drop a few. I should have kept a journal. Hillary Swank stopped shooting her movie & came running across the street when she spotted Alex. Karl Lagerfeld shooting his latest Fendi campaign, sipping diet coke from a baccarat crystal glass gasped “How beautiful!” when Alex planted herself next to his famous tripod camera. Ben Stiller did his infamous ‘Zoolander’ strut for her. Alex, however, was unruffled by the attention and just gave them that soulful stare of hers. But her ultimate glamour walk was the year she opened the Isaac Mizrahi ‘Poodles & Cake’ show during fashion week. Jeff and I stood backstage in tears, watching her walk the runway. I couldn’t believe we had ever worried, or doubted Alex’s ability to thrive in NYC. Just as it was perfect for Jeff and me, city life suited Alex, the most beautiful girl in the world. And New York was more beautiful with her in it.