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Emotional Roulette

The warm light piercing my eyes through the window above my bed is a familiar reminder. If I were anyone else, and it was any other day, my dog would already be outside on her wooden porch bench wrapped in her sheepskin blanket, waiting. The sound of my wheels on loose gravel just outside the gate, her cue to greet me; her little tail dancing under cotton candy clouds flirting with the southern California sky. But this is me. Its day six. I’ve yet to get out of bed, let alone make it to the office.

Pulling from the core of my lungs, I struggle to level the guilt within the walls of panic. The audacity of wanting to sleep forever when you could very well drop dead from a brain aneurysm – then realizing you don’t want to cash out this way – is nothing if not funny. Funny, ironic not funny ha-ha. Well, it’ll be hilarious – one day. Tragedy plus time. Isn’t that the comedy rule?

I wonder if normal people – people who don’t fantasize about not waking up – feel about us freaks. Fucking mental illness. Such bullshit.

Instead of hanging with the elements of the January day and kicking back on her bench, my baby Stella (a new three-legged Chihuahua mix I rescued from the pound) lies with me in love. Snuggled together next to the television remote, we’re sheltered from the late morning nuisance above by flannel sheets I quickly pull across our faces.

“How did I get so lucky? I promise I’ll take you for a walk tomorrow.” I whisper, fighting back tears of guilt.

Stella and I shift under the covers as I channel surf and mentally prepare for going back to my normal life soon. Then a buzz from under my pillow. A disturbing text.

A dear friend’s father is thousands of miles away in the Intensive Care Unit and doesn’t have much time left. My mind breaks from its prison of solitude. All I can think about is being there for my friend.

“Come over. I’m begging you.” I text in haste.

No reply.

“Where are you?”

Silence.

My heart was racing. I started to sweat. Where did he go? What can I do for him? What’s happening?

After finally hearing from him, his company wasn’t meant to be and I leveled back into myself.

Time passes and I’m left to marinate in the microscopic residue of familiar emotional patterns. A make-shift quilt of codependency.

Not that I would ever shun helping a loved one – especially someone who lives so close to my heart. But where was that strong woman – the would-be hero of his day, when I needed her the most? Why does she coil under the weight of self-doubt when it comes to her own safety?

For some of us, the hardest thing to do is to walk away from the emotional roulette table. We continually sabotage our safety – treating our own hearts with such carelessness. There’s nothing more intoxicating than a spinning wheel of chaos. So we keep playing. And what we think is shitty luck is really the odds of defeat laughing in our shadow. Of course we always lose. We’re too busy trying to make everyone else happy – never gambling on the one person who should matter most.

When it comes to taking care of ourselves, instead of wishing ‘the odds’ would throw us a bone, maybe it’s time to do what so many of many of us need to: find the strength – put us first – change the game.

 

Christine Macdonald
Ask

Fantasy vs. Reality: Where do you live?

I live in two worlds. Most of the time when I’m not working, I marinate in fantasy. Denial and self-sabotage rule the roost, but the excitement and chaos serve as a fair trade.

Fantasy Land is fun. Until it isn’t. But the pain of realty is short lived because I find a way to slip back in to the land of make believe as quickly as possible.

FIR

Reality? BO-RING. Why anyone would want to spend their time being responsible and accountable is a mystery to me.

Welcome to the textbook addict hard wiring in my brain. I’m convinced that having a “normal” life with a “normal” man (one who isn’t a fellow addict, narcissist – and has their shit together) would be the beginning of the end of happiness.

And don’t get me started on sex. I keep hearing that falling in love with a nice guy won’t equate to a vanilla sex life, but it’s so hard to imagine swinging from the chandeliers with a man who pays his bills on time and actually digs monogamy.

The problem with fantasy living is – shocker – it’s not real. Those of us who spend most of our time living in denial and chaos know this all too well when we get the shit kicked out of us from reality.

RDThe person we love reveals themself to be anyone but the person we pretended (or tried to change) them to be. The calories we pretend don’t exist find their way to our waistline. Money we pretend to have transforms into credit card bills we can’t believe can reach that high.

The golden rule for the fantasy-loving part of my brain is simple: If I have to ask, the answer is no.

Can I afford it? Will this serve my health goal? Is he going to be different from the others? If I keep living in my fantasy – No. No. And Hell-to-the no.

Here’s the thing about “no.” It’s actually a “yes” to something else. Something better.

Having just turned 46 recently and exhausted with dusting myself off from fallout I’ve essentially created on my own – I’ve decided to make a change. I’m choosing to say yes to the flip side of chaos. Yes to a healthy body, relationship and bank account. Yes to having break-the-furniture sex with a good guy who digs monogamy, pays his bills on time, inspires me, makes me laugh and laughs with me at myself.

I’m going to spend more time in realty and see what she has to offer. There’s nothing I love more than a challenge; and when I’m proven wrong? Bring it.

Christine Macdonald
CandM

And, Scene: Crimes and Misdemeanors

“In reality, we rationalize, we deny, or we couldn’t go on living.” ~ Crimes and Misdemeanors

Introspec

 

The first time I saw Crimes and Misdemeanors twenty-five years ago, I was in many ways still a kid. Barely 21, thinking I had all of life’s answers, I was working full-time as a nude stripper in Waikiki.  My proudest accomplishments involved hoards of cash accumulated on my garter and snorting mountains of cocaine behind the plush velvet ropes in various VIP rooms throughout the city.

This is your typical Woody Allen film, full of dry humor wrapped in cynicism, dipped in self-deprecation. A fan since Annie Hall, I knew sinking my teeth into this existential drama would not disappoint. It doesn’t hurt that the cast is a list of my faves, ranging from Martin Landau and Angelica Huston to Jerry Orbach and Alan Alda.

This is a movie that lifts the veil of ethics and morality. We examine the lives of two very different men, Judah Rosenthal and Cliff Stern – which can easily resemble the devil and angel on our shoulder. Their lives intersect one another as they take different approaches to solve serious problems that they initially brought on themselves. Their choices are based on what’s right and wrong, good and bad, and how each of them has rationale behind their decision.

As someone who has always danced on the razor-thin line of both morality and ethics – I could more than relate.  I asked myself the obvious question when lost in the language of Allen’s script.

What would I have done?

Even now all these years later, I find myself referencing this movie when attempting to pick up the pieces of collateral damage from yet another one of my brilliant fuck-ups.

My brain is a trip. I can’t remember what clothes I wore yesterday, but sitting in regret and reflection during my sunset drive home on the Pacific Coast Highway, I remembered every word – and recited out loud – the final monologue of this movie:

“We are all faced throughout our lives with agonizing decisions. Moral choices. Some are on a grand scale. Most of these choices are on lesser points. But! We define ourselves by the choices we have made.

We are in fact the sum total of our choices. Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, human happiness does not seem to have been included, in the design of creation.

It is only we, with our capacity to love, that give meaning to the indifferent universe.

And yet, most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying, and even to find joy from simple things like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more.” ~  Crimes and Misdemeanors

The final scene:

 

“We define ourselves by the choices we have made.” So true, it hurts.

Whether or not I finally get my shit together remains to be seen. But at least I’ve got old movies to keep me company as I continue to try.

 

 

 

 

Christine Macdonald
Shame

I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me

“Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”
Brené Brown

PPToxic relationships. Is it the chaos we miss, when we finally muster the strength to let them go? Maybe it’s the company that keeps us hanging on. Any company is better than no company at all, right?

My brain says NO, while my tattered heart continues to hang on; the blood from my fingers tasting of denial and persistence.

No matter how high the rush, when involved with a toxic partner, the lows always follow. Orgasms aren’t supposed to be succeeded by tears. Trust in our partners  isn’t something we wish upon like mythical stars floating above the darkness.  It should be a mutual, well-earned feeling shared equally – like the sun kissing the trees in springtime, nurturing them back to life.

My addictions have spiraled me down the rabbit hole of need, desperation and shame more times than I care to admit. And yet no matter how far I claw my way out of the darkness, with each new relationship, I dive head-first cloaked in a thick film of “this time will be different.”

Head: Zero. Heart: I don’t believe we’re in single digits anymore, Toto.

I’ve been repeating the same dysfunctional love-pattern of “I Hate you, don’t leave me” ever since slow-dancing to Earth Wind and Fire’s Reasons with my childhood crush, Mike Ruben. Even then, among the crepe paper and smelly gym lockers lining the walls, I believed true love was percolating. The reality that Mike felt his way through all the girls in the class that night eluded my desperate heart.

Damaged people always find one another; two wrongs making a right, misery loving company, that sort of thing. How we navigate our way out of the chaos without craving it boils down to self-worth.

Unless we dig deep within our stories – and re-wire our thoughts about what we deserve, the revolving door of toxic love will continue to poison our hearts.

We’re not bad people, us toxic folk. Everybody has a story. We just need to work through ours without the beautiful, chaotic and alluring distractions of land-mind relationships.

I’m really gonna miss those.

Christine Macdonald