A Jungle-Haired, Mountain Conquering, Non-Beggar

I had two major motives with moving back West: I needed to be enveloped in the vastness of the mountains and Mother Nature, as nothing soothes me better than those two things—mmm, other than the sea, but that counts as Mother Nature—and I needed to focus on my writing.

I strongly felt when I left Wyoming the first time that I had unfinished business. Mostly with the cowboys and the ranchers, but also with myself. Coming back, I did want to focus on some sincere hobnobbing with the aforementioned folk, but also on not having a job that wore me right down so as not to write when I got home.

I happily joked with my best friend that a job cashiering/bagging at a grocery store would offer me the perfect amount of mindlessness to then go home and work on my novel and my Wild West research. So imagine my surprise and dismay when I applied to King Soopers, (an affiliate of Kroger) only to have them email me back the next day saying this:

“After reviewing your submission and application, we have decided to pursue other applicants who more closely match the needs of this position.”

To borrow terminology I like from the Brits: color me gobsmacked. I wanted to be outraged, and admittedly I was for a bit, wondering how on earth I wasn’t qualified to ring up people’s pears and toilet paper? But after some brief thought, I decided cashiering at King Soopers sounded loathsome. What kind of name is King Soopers anyway?

My favorite responses to my indignation over being rejected by King Sooper were from a gal I had only just met last night who I naturally felt compelled to tell the story to. She said, “they don’t deserve you!” mirroring my own outrage.

And then from my sister, who said: “They probably only hire teens. What a bunch of pervs.” 

And then I was over it.

Immediately following this blow, however, I saw a comment on one of my blog posts from a stranger asking me: Do you beg, like the healthy people I see in New Orleans who display jokes on their cardboard signs? Kind of funny. Kind of annoying. Kind of desperate. Are you desperate? I again was gobsmacked. Do I beg? Where had this stranger gotten the notion that I beg for anything?! I have never in my life stood anywhere with a sign asking for so much as a nickel. Okay, actually, once I held a sign at Coney Island offering free hugs—read that story here—because I was sad, but if that’s begging well then I am not sorry!

I tried not to be rattled by the King Soopers rejection and a stranger coming to the conclusion that because I sometimes hint at being a starving artist that I have resorted to begging.

And so what I did do was make a gratitude list to cheer myself and I found that while King Sooper may find me an unworthy candidate for their conglomerate and a stranger may think I am a nitwit, I had a lot going for me in this exact moment.

Like this:

– I have a really exceptional mountain view out of my bedroom window.

– My hair has been looking particularly jungle-esque and dare I say full. Errr, full-ish. Okay, I am pretending it looks full.

– My dear friend Diana has been giving me forehead kisses, which if you know anything, are basically the greatest thing in the world.

– I started working out again and am deliciously sore.

– I lost one pound. Who knows if I can attribute it to the working out or the anxiousness that paralyzes my ability to eat. But either way I will take it.

– The gracious men at the Hyundai dealership not only fixed my car but were ever so nice to me in the process. And it was a long process; after one day spent sitting in the Hyundai customer lounge, they still hadn’t determined the problem and asked to keep my car overnight. Of course I was okay with this. But I was beautifully surprised when they arranged a ride home for me when I couldn’t get ahold of my friend. Now that’s what I call service.

– I had a job interview today. Granted it could have gone better. Maybe I got overly cocky in the fact that job interviews no longer intimidate me and so karma was dealing me a blow. I got there an hour and a half early (because I am neurotic to a fault) however, getting there that early was slightly stupid, because I then saw the interviewer interviewing someone else before me, and that admittedly threw me off my game a bit and my cheeks insisted on flaming up because really, why not? And so I did the whole interview looking like I’d recently exited a sauna. Also I started sweating rather profusely. I am not kidding, I could feel it running down my arm. Super charming. But still. I had a job interview. So. Progress.

– Did I mention how happy and grateful I am that my baby brat car is fixed?

– I had two alcoholic beverages last night and felt sensational while playing euchre and baking grandmama’s secret chocolate chip cookie recipe: the new gal I had met asked for the secret ingredient. I told her I couldn’t tell her, unless I married her. She said she’d buy me a ring tomorrow. But admittedly the smallish intoxication made me want to text my ex. I did not, though. I went and gave my phone to my friend and said, “I am contemplating doing bad things. Take this away from me.” She replied with, “You did the right thing.” Then asked me if I wanted her phone to peruse Facebook. I declined but noted what a good friend she is, and happily went to bed, pleased with my self-control and dizzy wine fizz.

So yes. King Soopers thinks I am not a good fit. And one reader thinks I am a beggar. But I think I am a jungle-haired, mountain conquering, non-begging lil lass, who may be sometimes red-faced and sweaty, but has this thing called sisu. That’s a Finnish term for having guts and grit. And according to one Ted Talker, people with grit are the people who make it. So ha ha! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, K. Sooper. Cue a song about making it.

 

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A Prosperous Mouth

In case you were wondering I haven’t completely lost my marbles and I am not trapped in Fargo. I didn’t even have to dole out bj’s to pay my way out of Fargo. I kid! I would never resort to doling out bj’s. It wouldn’t come to that. I have too nice of friends. At least 7 of which offered to take care of my car issue. So all is well.

Well-ish, I should say. But well enough. The men in Fargo sort of fixed my car and it got me into Wyoming and then the exact same issue started happening again. My check engine light came on and my car started to lurch and bog. I still had four hours to go so naturally I wanted to just pull over on the side of the road, put my car into neutral on a cliff bank and watch her ease down into a canyon in a blaze of fire over my aggravation.

Alas I didn’t resort to that.

This is why:

I hadn’t gotten very far on the day I left Fargo, maybe five hours. I was almost to Montana. But the sun slipped down and with it went my somewhat uplifted spirits over being on the road and Westbound. I suddenly felt all sorts of glum all over again. I turned around, because I had recently passed some motels and I decided there was no use in hoarding the last of my money. It would be gone shortly enough anyway and what did I care?

I found a red motel called the Cowboy Inn and I checked in.

I peeled off my clothes and socks that I had been wearing for two days because my car was an explosion of disarray and I was too lazy to find clean garments. I showered and curled into bed without brushing my riotous mop of curls.

I woke up to hair that looked exactly like Gene Wilder’s. But if he were taking a bath and dropped a hairdryer in it. I crawled back into bed because though I thought a night of unencumbered rest at the Cowboy Inn would cure me of my blues it had not.

I lay there feeling frozen in fear over the state of my life and again asking myself—as I had done many a time before—why I did such whimsical things like buy one way tickets to places, or crash on people’s air mattresses in their living rooms, or sleep in strangers homes, or sell all my earthly possessions, or pack up my car to drive West with nothing to support myself other than one fancy red sequined Jessica Rabbit dress, no job and no real ideas other than that my soul seemed certain on this one particular place. Much like it had felt certain on lots of other things before.

Because I listen to my soul more often than I listen to my brain. And I won’t say this gets me into trouble, because my troubles are never really troubles. They are more so cheeky calamities. At least that’s how I view them once I am outside of them.

But at that moment in Belfield, North Dakota, I wasn’t so much in the cheeky calamity realm. I felt troubled. Deeply troubled. And so I told my mom I was not going to leave this cozy, seventies motel room, with cowboy cartoons in the bathroom and mugs with mules on them.

“Nah,” I said. “I am just going to stay here, and I am going to buy some whiskey and lay in the fetal position drinking it amongst the cowboy tapestries, until the motel people drag me out.”

My mom, nonplussed with my mood and my melodramatic declarations suggested I get a nice omelette and get going.

So practical for a woman who birthed ten children who all have these sort of whimsies and theatrical flairs. Well maybe except Nick. Nick probably would never threaten to drink whiskey in Belfield. Nick’s perfect though and isn’t prone to flights of fancy.

I did like the thought of an omelette, however and the simplicity of the advice struck me. All I had to do was one thing and that thing obviously wasn’t figuring my life out. That was too large a task and impossible to do with some sixty-nine dollars left in my checking  account while I sat dallying in a cowboy motel in the middle of nowhere.

I could, however get out of bed. Which I did. I still didn’t brush my hair. I took two pictures with thumbs-up of the large curled tufts and sent them to my best friend. Because this is something I like to do. Send her morning pictures of my wild bed hair.

This made me feel small-ish-ly better. Then I made coffee. I took two sips and it was revolting. I set the mule mug down and got dressed, abandoning the caffeine. And I got going. I didn’t get an omelette because I feared it might be a little ‘spensive. So instead I ate up the sunset. And then I played nothing but Ted Talks and sermons on my radio while I cried and nodded along with Joel Osteen’s peppy declarations: like stop having a poor mouth and have a prosperous mouth. I didn’t care if people say he’s a feel good preacher. I wanted to feel good.

I listened to Tony Robbins and Rob Bell. I listened to Lewis Howes (still don’t know who he is, but he mentioned something about being an athlete and talked a lot about greatness in a very manly voice) and David Steindl-Rast—a Benedictine monk—and Mike Rowe. And a whole bunch more.

So by the time my car decided it wasn’t actually fixed, I had the wherewithal not to drive it off a cliff—and also to call the place in Fargo and say, hey you did not fix my car, I want my sister’s money back!—and to simply take Joel Osteen’s sage advice of trusting that God was working behind the curtain of my life and I really had no need to worry. So I told that to myself for the next four hours while my car lurched and bogged and refused to accelerate properly until I got safely to my destination.

And though driving into Wyoming was akin to the happiness I felt with a really proper orgasm or a hot donut dipped in a decadent French roast, I naturally still had all new freakouts a day later upon evaluating that I still needed more money in my account than I had (very little) and that a job was in order and all that other noise. Adulthood can be a real racket, I’ll tell ya that.

I feverishly repeated Mr. Osteen’s advice while applying for jobs and having God on speed dial. I had worked myself into a bit of a lather when my sister Kirst called and said she was having much the same day as I was. It was her first day alone at her new job, and she was filled with nerves and she broke a glass and then wanted to slit her throat with the glass.

And this is what did it. Perked me right the hell up. Knowing that I was one-hundred percent not alone in my melodrama and that life can be just as uncertain and unforgiving for someone whose thighs don’t touch and always has a man falling about her feet, because Kirstie is as striking as a Wyoming sunset.

We went back and forth telling each other the things we wanted to do in order to deal with our hunger for art and our desperation at making it happen despite having to hold down customer service jobs. Kirst said she contemplated cutting off all her hair. I told her I was on a whiskey fixation and wanted to spend my last twenty dollars on a bottle. Kirst said she had a shot of whiskey when she got home and ordered a pizza. I bought a bag of peanut butter cups and ate one after another while debating if I could live out of my car in the mountains.

And then we felt better. And agreed it would be hard. It’s always hard when you want it real bad. But Tony Robbins said, how bad do you want it? Where is your hunger? And so Kirst and I agreed we had to get real hungry for our art because we wanted it real bad. We had to hunker down in the bowels, while not cutting off all our hair or developing a drinking dependency.

We understood each other and we understood the hunger. And that for the moment cured me of my need to understand everything and instead understand that God was behind the curtain and I couldn’t have a better hand orchestrating the rhythm of my wildly fanciful life. And there’s no amount of whiskey that’ll give you that kind of comfort.

If You’ve Got Worries

I worry constantly. If worrying were a payable endeavor, I would give Bill Gates a run for his money. I don’t enjoy this little facet of my persona. In fact I worry about the long term effects on my health. So then I try and combat the worry with yoga, deep breathing, regular chats with God, and good-vibe mantras, like chill the fuck out, you’ve got this. I recently saw that one on a greeting card which I promptly sent to my best friend who enjoys the F word as much as I do.

Currently I am an almost 29 year old who lives with her parents and babysits for a living. Okay to be fair, I also teach the children writing while I’m there and I freelance for a magazine, but still. I work three days a week and TurboTax has definitely classified me as poor. Okay, fine, they didn’t say it outright, but they ever-so-helpfully hinted at certain tax breaks I can receive for being below the poverty line. I appreciate that TurboTax. Way to have my back.

At any rate, my artsy soul is constantly conflicted with a deep desire to be true to my art and not have my soul ripped out by The Man and then uh, being an actual adult who pays her bills and has health insurance and can afford her penchant for almond butter and fancy coffee but has to have her soul ripped out by The Man, because that’s the way to afford almond butter and bills. It is very disconcerting all this warring back and forth, between soul and The Man.

As any starving (though I never starve, I could never allow that. Not because of prolonging my life reasons, though that’s of course important, but because I genuinely am mad crazy over food) artist would tell you, being a slave to your art is not for the easily discouraged.

Right now, however I am at an impasse. I just regretfully watched a Ted Talk video on why your 30’s are not the new 20’s (I never believed that anyway) but the video made me very uncomfortable. Why haven’t I figured my shit out yet? What is wrong with me? The speaker gives all these examples of 20-somethings making their big life decisions. Getting careers and finding love and paving the way for their 30’s. And I don’t have any of that figured out.

Sure I know I want to be a writer as much as I want my next sip of expensive coffee followed by a bite of chocolate, but making it as a writer who also has a 401K and can eat for good measure… that’s the big times.

My best friend just turned 30 and while I heartily enjoyed picking out a card mocking her last days of youth and leaving her messages reminding her that she’s old, it was all in good fun and truthfully I envy her. She pointed out to me that a whole bunch of her major life decisions were made in her 20’s and how great that was (the speaker in the Ted Talk points this out as well). She went to school, settled on a career, got a job in that career field, found her husband, bought a house, brought home a dog. By society’s standards and turning 30 standards, she’s fucking killin’ it.

And there’s me who has one year and a handful of months left in my 20’s to make some semblance of it count and all I can do is worry. Here in no particular order are all my worries right now:

Why don’t magazines want to hire me? Is it because I’m sort of chubby? Wait, they can’t profile like that. Don’t be absurd. But maybe… Or worse is it because I’m untalented? No. Take that one back. I’d rather be sort of chubby and know it, rather than believe myself to lack any real talent.
Am I unlovable? Also, is it the sort of chubby thing?
Seriously when will I be gainfully employed by someone who doesn’t make me memorize the new french fry menu, or isn’t paying me under the table? (We’ll talk about that next year TurboTax).
Why can’t I finish my blasted book already?
Will I even write a bestseller? Of course I will. Don’t be an idiot.
Am I an idiot? Could be… the other day I was mildly unclear on the rules of communism and had to look it up on Wikipedia.
Why do other almost 29 year olds have pensions, houses, dogs and love lives, or have already invented a new billion dollar website? Where is my motivation? Where is my drive? Where is my love life?
It’d probably be easier if I was a singer. Then I could just go on the The Voice and…
Wait how would life be any easier if I was a struggling singer instead of a struggling writer? I don’t know, but it might be. At least they have open mic nights.
Maybe I should start reading my writing aloud on street corners. Could I be discovered in that way?
Why hasn’t anyone discovered me yet?
Seriously have I been negligent in the love department? Was I supposed to set my intentions and look for my mate? But I always hear it happens when you’re not looking. Should I be looking or not looking? Coy or aggressive? Coy is better right? Always be coy. Except I am not coy. I am super obvious and out there. Dammit! Why didn’t God make me coy?! All the coy girls are the ones finding their life partner. Instead I am failing at my 20’s.
Do I eat too much peanut butter? It has protein, but it’s also fatty.
Where do people find cowboys? I mean, more appropriately, where are women finding cowboys who are interested in marrying them? Why haven’t I landed a cowboy and how come life is so unfair? I have so much cellulite and no cowboy. I mean shouldn’t there be a cellulite cowboy trade-off? It only seems right. I did my time with the cellulite now I should be rewarded with a man who rides horses and then rides… the rails you pervert. Gosh, any good cowboy obviously has to take the train sometimes for business.

Ughhhh. There are so many more worries. I am worried I’ve forgotten some of the best ones. Sometimes I find myself utterly at peace and content and I suddenly start, like when you’re falling asleep and think you’re falling out of bed. I think, what were you just worrying about ten minutes ago… I can’t recall, so I backtrack, oh thank God, there you are worry, finances, you were worrying about finances. Oh that one’s a doozy, we could be here all day with this one. Alright, let’s get started.

Honestly writing this post in some ways has inflamed my anxiety to the point where I am having fantasies of dancing Xanax, but in others I realize how truly absurd most of my worries are. Also the fiery optimist in me is seriously chagrined by all this worrisome talk. Hence why this post got written. She was not having any of it and every time worrisome me mused to the universe at large that maybe it’s impossible for someone to love me, really love me as in also want to take off my clothes at some point and acknowledge my cellulite while still maintaining that love, she battled back with ferocity saying, of course it’s possible you ninny! You are fully worthy of love, and not just love but great love, cellulite and all! And any cowboy worth his beard and boots would be lucky to have you. Also you’ll get a job and sell your book.

She’s nice, the fiery optimist. I ought to talk to her more often and maybe have her stronghold the worrier and lock her up in a closet under a staircase, Harry Potter style. Yeah, that’ll shut her up. Anyway I have a homemade almond peanut butter cup with my name on it. And nothing says drowning my worries like chocolate and almond butter, so I’m going to get to that. Besides. I am only an almost 29 year old. I have one full year and some odd months to get my 20’s right. I am not worried… Ish.