Last song: true story from my stripper days (and a poem that was born)

It was roughly two o’clock in the morning and I was high on cocaine. I had just arrived home after working a double shift at the club. After twelve hours in my six-inch stilettos, I was a zombie on stage as the last song played. My feet throbbing and longing for a hot bath, I was in a trance with each flash of the stage lights. All I could think about was the cab ride home, a hot bath and my bed.

The cab arrived shortly after I shelled out my tips to the crew (bartenders, servers, door guy, bouncers) and I was on my way home.

Before long I was in a tub of steaming water and bubbles; I couldn’t help but shrug at the irony that was my life. Just a handful of years earlier I used to sit too close to the television watching my favorite dance program, Solid Gold, dreaming of strutting my stuff as one of their performers.

After drying off and tucking myself in to bed, the cocaine had run its course and my high was leveling. I grabbed a pen and notepad from my nightstand and began to write.

Last Song 

The music engulfs her
Her eyes begin to close
The beat goes boom bada boom
No one really knows

As she stands there, beside herself
Inside that fishbowl of smoke
She is just a ballerina
Trying not to choke

Her eyes gaze into the crowd
Beyond the blinking lights
Her body goes through the motions
It’s just another night

She’s just a ballerina
Tip-toeing through the show
An angel with a broken wing
Trying to make it through the snow

She dreams of the quiet ride home
The moment she slips into bed
Visions of Sugar Plum fairies
Still very much alive in her head

She’s just a ballerina
Trying to survive
With a blanket of hunger surrounding her
It’s a wonder she’s still alive

~ ~ ~

In reading this poem after so many years I still connect to the young woman who wrote it. I understand feeling amused by the irony that after dreaming of becoming a professional dancer on television shows like Solid Gold, I wound up working as a stripper.

I wasn’t so much sad as I was numb. There was a void in place of where my passion wanted to be, and I felt stuck. I was living in emotional cinder blocks, my choices being the cement.

I had yet to learn so many things about myself. If I could speak to my younger self, the gal who wrote this poem – I would tell her that changing the course of our life starts with deciding we are worth it.

And we are.

 

Christine Macdonald

Lost, Found, London

 

 

I recently opened a box mailed to me from my mother back home in Hawaii that was sitting in her garage since the late 80’s. I was more than a little nervous thinking about what was inside but I had an idea; memories I wanted gone but wasn’t ready to abandon completely.

Once I finally made the decision to leave the Waikiki stripping life after nine years, moving off the island wasn’t just part of my plan – it was my only plan. I was an exhausted shell of a woman with dark circles under her eyes, over-processed burgundy hair and serious baggage – stuff that no twenty-something ever thinks of as real problems at the time.

My predicaments included snorting excessive amounts cocaine, washing down handfuls of Molly (ecstasy) with vodka and a 300 calorie-a-day meal plan (on purpose). I was oblivious to the cloud of despair circling me like Pig-Pen’s shadow in Charlie Brown.

And those were the good days.

I hadn’t given this cardboard crate of history much thought as the years passed. Then Mom called. She was planning a garage sale and my stomach turned a bit, remembering what was stashed behind the lawnmower and potting soil. Upon her discovering my stash, she gave me two choices: toss the box or have it mailed to California, where I was trying to build some sort of a normal life.

“Just promise me you won’t open it.” I asked as she confirmed my zip code over the phone. Mom is aware of my past, but her reading my old journals was nothing she ever needed to do (journals are hand-written notes before blogs were blogs, and the internet was just the inside of a basketball hoop).

After a few days, the box arrived. I ignored its existence for a week until curiosity unraveled my fear.

Upon each new discovery, I vacillated between shock and amazement that I dared to live such a life, and gratitude wrapped with joy in that I survived.

A little advice: If you have personal items from years ago tucked away somewhere, dust them off and buckle up. The memories are incendiary – in the best of every way.

One of my favorite artifacts was a poem I wrote while traveling through Europe. Nineteen and elated to be so far from home, I marinated in the moment while scribbling on a piece of notepaper from Horniman At Hays.

How amazing, to unfold corners of my mind after all these years:

Never think
Before paper meets ink
Just let it go
Don’t have to know
Begin
at the beginning
and all will come out beautifully

Christine Macdonald – 1987

~ ~ ~

Sometimes the answers live inside the person we were long ago – we just need to accept who we are now to fully appreciate who we were then.

.

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“If you don’t get lost, there’s a chance you may never be found.” ~Author Unknown
 

 *Originally posted March 2008; edited 4/4/18.

Christine Macdonald

Who are you? (No, really)

“We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

The road to self discovery is long no matter what age. And no matter what anyone tells you, it’s seldom easy. Landmines of self-sabotage in the face of normalcy tend to go off just as we start to believe we are finally at a place of having our shit together. Something always trips us; and it’s usually us.

But the harder we fall the more we grow. And as our love affair with ourself evolves, caring about others’ perception of us falls by the wayside into the abyss of It’s None Of My Business. Whether someone tells you to your face, texts or emails you a colorful yarn of who [they think] you are, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that does is what we think of us.

It’s an excellent mantra: What other people think of me is none of my business. But what do we think about who we are? Do we know  – really?

Part of being younger is feeling out theories and testing the waters in our own life rafts. We choose partners who are wrong for us – falling in love with love, swearing that it’s the real deal. We don’t listen to the universe with her many obvious warning signs. We instead project our fears on to others, instead of focusing on why we make the choices we do. It’s all a tightrope of very personal whys; a delicate balance that leads us to knowing our true self with each tumble and rise.

Whenever I’m tested from outside distractions on my road to self awareness and love, I’m always reminded of the final scene in HBO’s Six Feet Under.

Has it really been over a decade – twelve years to be exact – since we said goodbye to our favorite dysfunctional family? Long before Michael C. Hall mastered the art of vigilante murder as Dexter and Peter Krause’s Adam Braverman taught us how to be better fathers in Parenthood, creator and producer Alan Ball kept us enthralled with the Fisher family.

With so much on-line video streaming at the ready these days, my painting a picture of Six Feet Under for those who’ve not experienced the ride wouldn’t serve Alan’s vision as well as buckling in for yourself would. Just know that the same mastermind who delivered American Beauty and True Blood does not disappoint with this unique dramedy about life and death, love and longing and deep insight born from sorrow and struggle. Its flavors are unique with a side of dark humor wrapped with cynicism and sprinkled with hope – just when you thought life was doomed to fail. To some, Six  was an acquired taste while others wanted to lick the spoon as the ending credits ran every week – pondering and personalizing life lessons and deep meaning behind the minutia of every day life.

As a woman in her mid-thirties when the series wrapped, I found myself captivated by the final scene more than any other in the show’s five-year run. The youngest sibling Claire, artist and dreamer, drives to her new life away from California to uncharted waters in The Big Apple. I’m always instantly connected to my younger self and how hard it was to leave my old Rock Star Life behind in my twenties whenever I revisit the this scene. Without saying a word, actress (who plays Claire) Lauren Ambrose nails it; that feeling of being lost and excited, afraid but eager.

Sometimes no words are needed.

Whether you’ve seen Six or not, the message is universal. Anything that inspires us to dig deep into learning about who we are is a gift.  Even those long emails and texts from people claiming to know us is a gift. No matter how wrong they are, they help us realize how far we’ve come and remind us that everyone has their own road and some of us may have farther to go before arriving at their own place of self certainty.

Once we learn how to stay in our own lane and balance personal longing with fear, a new kind of growth happens. No longer are we so focused on others’ stories and how they affect our own. There’s a certain freedom in lifting the veil of worry about what others think. Evolving means making it more about us; who we are, what we want, and how we can serve our happiness.

And when we get to a place of comfort and healing something magical happens. We live from our raw truth, and this energy is echoed into those around us. True happiness attracts the same. Just as toxic people can bring you down, surrounding yourself with like-minded people who are in a place of self awareness and honest insight does wonders for our own path to fulfillment.

It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen the final scene in Six Feet Under, it never fails. The combination of Claire’s face saying nothing and everything, my personal connection with starting a new life after stripping, and hearing Sia’s hauntingly poetic tune, Breathe Me makes me lose my shit. Not that this is a bad thing. There’s no better way to find yourself than in the throes of remembering how far you’ve come.

 

Final Scene in HBO’s Six Feet Under:

Christine Macdonald