Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Rocket Man

I was either 35 or 32. I should know exactly, but I don’t. I know I was the youngest in our Leadership class (Class 21). It was opening retreat on the obstacle course. There was a wooden pole – about 25-400 feet high; the exact height has left me, but it was about that tall. The objective was to climb the pole, get on top, jump off and ring the bell before safely returning to the ground. 

I looked it up and down and wasn’t sure I could do it. “I’m going to let the astronaut go first and see how it’s done.” Up he went. Steady and confident. Up. Jump. Ding. I followed suit.

Over the next 10 months, the astronaut and I spent time together in class. Our circles were different. I sat in the back of the bus. He was up front, poised, honorable. We were bus buddies once and I relished in having his attention. As our program came to a close, we had the performers at a piano bar play Elton John’s Rocket Man for him. He was our astronaut. 

Graduation sent the astronaut and me on different paths. We never reconnected. 

Fast forward seven years or ten. I don't know.  I should.

When the phone rang, I was sure it was a misdial. The treasured friend on the other line asked, “Have you heard?” I hadn’t. I Googled. The mugshot staring back at me was unrecognizable. The article called him by his formal name, not the name we knew him by. But the bio was the man we knew. The tragedy that killed two young girls was the last thing any of us expected.

I hung up the phone and cried. I went to tennis and cried. I called my mom and cried. I came home and more tragic news was delivered – a suicide of my brother’s acquaintance. We hugged and cried. I asked Alexa to play Rocket Man and cried. I stare at this computer screen and cry.

I don’t know what the astronaut did with his life these last few years. I don’t know why my brother’s friend-of-a-friend ended his path. I’m not trying to put up false pretenses that I had a role valuable enough in either of these lives that could change history.
What I’m hoping to do is reach someone who is venturing to a place where terrible things happen.

The ask for help is the most humiliating thing you can do. Trust me. I’ve done it. I was laying on the kitchen floor one Thanksgiving – a shell of myself – crying, wrought with anxiety and prepared with a plan. But I called for help. The shame of that call, of getting to that place, humiliates me – even all these years later. But I made it. And as a result, I made it. I am making it. Every day I thank God I made that call. The amazing journey my life has taken was worth that call.

If anything good can come from these situations, I hope that people ask, answer, step in, step up, and overstep. Please love yourself. Love yourself. You are enough. Do not live your life with demons at the wheel. You deserve better. 
Step in.
Love each other.
Make the call. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

You Aren’t in Alabama Anymore, Honey Child

Two years ago I pulled out of Huntsville and headed to Seattle for a life I never imagined I’d have – it was to be filled with love and a family of my own.  That “never imagined life” turned into a hot shit mess – and I got out of there as quickly as I could.  Since then I have grown leaps and bounds from a big fish in a little, southern pond to a very little fish in a huge frickin’ ocean. 
Favorite picture of Seattle
Becoming a big city girl has been a hoot – some days I’m running through crosswalks with a set of blue prints in my hand other days I’m running from catcallers blessing my own pea-picking heart.  Everything is faster, dirtier and smellier.   
To say I’ve learned a lot – or that I’ve changed – is an understatement.  I am floored at how much I’ve adapted to this new lifestyle .  I commute downtown on a heavy rail train (think Amtrak), carry a backpack – that’s loaded with a day’s supplies including gym clothes, food, an umbrella, beverages, underwear, toiletries, an iPad, an iPad Mini, an iPhone, a Samsung Galaxy 4, and all the charging cords – that has become such a part of my being I feel naked when running up three flights of stairs without it.  I put in eight hours, go workout, go home, clean out the backpack, refill the backpack, feed the dogs and veg out until it’s time for bed (about an hour).  Leaving the chaos on the big city on a Friday afternoon feels like escaping the rat race.  Weekends are spent working out, enjoying mini-adventures to the coast or mountains, grocery shopping, filling the backpack, and resting.  Revisiting the city over the weekend feels like cheating on suburbia. 
So, what I have a learned in my time here?  A ton.  Let’s go. 
My first Seahawks game!
A three-floor elevator ride is enough time to adjust your panties if you’re suffering from crack attack.  You spend a lot of time in elevators in the big city. If you have to adjust your crack attack issue while at your desk – and your desk faces a lived-in apartment building – turn to face the window, bend forward and adjust.  Works like a charm. 
At first your accent is cute. Then it isn’t. You’ll find that it fades at the same time people take you seriously.
Everyone is for the same team, so come on! In the South, you’re either for a team or you’re against it – and thus you’re for or against people. Here, everyone loves the Seahawks, the Sounders, the Mariners and the Sonics.  Everyone wears the same colors on Fridays. It is contagious.  Since I work next to the stadiums, I feel a special longing for the teams when I see them on TV – and then, when I see my office building on TV, oh, it’s just magical.  It’s like seeing your best friend on TV.
Hold on to those who make you laugh and love!
In the South, you are someone. You are someone’s daughter, niece, granddaughter, neighbor, friend. Here you’re just another jackass trying to get a seat on the 6:37 a.m. train. You’ve got to fight for your parking spot, your spot in line, and the seat on the train. Sure, it’s only a 23-minute ride, but who wants to stand?  Because let me tell you the cold hard truth:  no one gives up their seat for you (you piece of shit). Manners and chivalry are a rarity. When I asked a younger, male colleague about this, he responded, “Why should I stand, I’ve worked a full day too.” Say what? Where did your momma raise you? 
Star Wars night at the Mariners - you bet!

When you meet people who make you feel loved and laugh, hold on to them with all you’ve got. Life in the big city is hard, finding your people is difficult – because there’s so many damn people. I think of the people I’ve met – and I can’t imagine my life without them. I wish all my people from all my places could come together and meet. They’d love each other, just as I love them.
Every day presents you with amazing opportunities, take them! I remember growing up in Seattle and how I thought those people who ran along the waterfront were the coolest.  Now I run the waterfront. The Friday before a big Seahawks’ game, I visit the stadium and say a prayer.  I ride the light rail train and go shopping at Nordstrom at lunch.  Speaking of lunch, there’s anything you could want: food trucks, Asian fusion, Greek, seafood – oh the seafood on the seashore! You can take water taxi to the other seashore. The ocean is this way, the mountains are that way.  Possibilities are endless.
Meeting Mike Rowe -
opportunity seized!
Bag people – we are all bag people. As previously mentioned, bags are a necessity.  The place where bag snobbery is most apparent is at the tennis courts.  I proudly carry my custom made bag (thank you Carla!).  Here, middle aged women carry Wilson tennis bags – you know, the kind the Williams sisters carry.  When you see a Wilson bag with three rackets inside, you know the shit just got real.  They take tennis so serious that they bring post-match snacks.  They are not the kind of people who’d start up a Lime-a-rita League. 
Dick's should cater my funeral - so people can
say they got ... well you know ... at my funeral.
Just as living in Alabama for 17 years was something I did, being big city is something I’ll do and leave.  Shoot me now if I don’t get out in less than a decade.  But I love it – it’s perfect for now.  I’ll continue to adjust, continue to take on the adventures and wait for the day all my people can be in one place – and pray to God that’s not my funeral!  But, if it is, I know you’ll have a great time.