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All You Need Is

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It’s rare that I have nights like this. It’s one of the reasons I love driving for both Uber and Lyft. Some nights used to involve much sitting in a parking lot, but I ain’t ‘bout that life, thanks.

Tonight though, I’ve been driving around for almost 3 hours, and not a single ride. After over an hour, I finally get a ping from Uber, 10 miles away as the crow flies. Usually, a ping that far away means two things: there are no cars in the area and it’s typically a short trip.

Which is ok, short trips happen; but at this point, Uber is taking more than 40% of what a customer pays on short trips. I have a floor in terms of hourly earnings, and I’m in the negative to the tune of $20 already. Earning what… $0.25 cents a loaded mile ($1.25 on average when I started, then $1, now $0.75 per our contract) is not the direction I was hoping to head in, and I have limited hours before the end of the pay period to resuscitate both my paycheck, and my evening.

I log out for 5 minutes and log back in again. Pinged to the exact.same.location. Again. Still no surge. Odd. Sorry, Uber, can’t risk it. Before I can even get my finger to the screen, I’m getting pinged there again. Oy, seriously? Time to reboot for the third time tonight my (t)rusty iPhone (Release Date is almost here! Release Date is almost here! goes the mantra in my head) and give Lyft a try. I’m done with Uber tonight.

The area I’m getting pinged to is a local concert venue with notoriously bad traffic. If I’m getting pinged down there, almost 20 minutes away, the traffic is going to be bad. Even if I’m in the area it means an hour in and out; risking a ticket, or an angry cop waving me on while I try and figure out where in this teeming sea of humanity my specific passenger is. Heart rate rising with every hand on my door handle, and sinking with every wrong name. I drive around for another hour, checking my silent screen periodically.  It’s been this way for a while with Lyft. Summer hasn’t been particularly kind to any of us. I’m told by local bartenders on their way home for the evening they’ve had the same problem. It’s feast or famine.

Hello? Are you there Lyft? It’s me…

My Screen finally goes pink. A (blissfully close) address. Yes! It’s a relatively uncomplicated pickup. We exchange the usual formalities and pleasantries. Hey, are you…? Sure am, how’s your night been? I normally offer a breezy “busy, just the way I like it!” but tonight breezy is beyond me. Lord it’s slow. “You’re my first pickup tonight. Most likely you will be my one and only passenger tonight”, I grin. He offers “Well I tip well, and in cash!”. I crack back, “not even worried about it, let’s just get you home, I know you’ve had a long day. And I’m ready to get home and write”.

“Oh really? Like self publishing a book”? “No, I’ve written various blogs over the years, but writer’s block is the bane of my existence”. “Oh, Berkley did a study, try mushrooms! Great for stimulating creativity”. What follows is a discussion of our various (very limited in my case) experiences with mind altering experiences. Mushrooms… with my Mom of all people. He, with his boyfriend. It’s a funny thing to bond over, but when in Denver…

I pull up to his apartment and I’m almost sorry to see him go. Best part of my night, maybe best ride of the week. I wish him well, and a good night’s rest. He does tip well. In cash. Almost 300%. I’m nearly in tears driving home, grinning from ear to ear, but it’s not the money. Passengers are the reason I love what I do.

Who The Eff Is This?

I’ve been both a “paid” and hobby blogger before. It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve written, and much longer than that since I’ve written on a regular basis. Other than being a lousy grammarian, which tends to make me feel like a bit of a fraud as a writer, writers block has always been the bane of my existence. I think the thing that holds me back is I struggle with a massive case of “who cares what you have to say?”.

I guess I think it takes a level of hubris for me (not anyone else, everyone else is amazing, me, I’m just ordinary, says my negative Nelly brain) to write a blog. I mean I tell myself this is therapeutic, and that’s true. I have passengers that have haunted me, friends who I find to be so remarkable they need lauding, and life experiences/dots unconnected that I sure wish someone would have explored in a more approachable way before. The therapeutic aspect is why my gut wouldn’t shut up, I could not get some stories out of my head until I wrote them down (pro-tip, some are still there, but at least they’re a bit less noisy).

But if all you want is catharsis, there are millions of blank journals just waiting to have their pages filled in every store that sells books.

You only start a blog if you want people to read what you have to say, and that’s where I start to squirm.

I have many loved ones who have supported me in my years of what can only be called folksy storytelling. Some people seem to relate to what I write, some people seem to appreciate the way I string words together. And all of that is nice, I can’t lie. But the only way I can justify writing this is my life is at some interesting junctures, all at the same time. I’m writing from a perspective that is realistically more than half of my life expectancy. And I guess I’m hoping to Hansel and Gretel a trail of crumbs for others to follow. That’s what my favorite storytellers tend to do, they lure me in with entertainment and then one-two gut punch me with lessons.

So I hope you’ll indulge my hubris and maybe find something meaningful here. I’ve always understood struggles to be opportunities to serve others. Nothing would please me more than for my blunders and foibles to light the way for someone a little less clumsy.

This Girl Is On Fire

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Tonight I’m celebrating the birthday of a new friend. I adore her. Everyone adores her. That really isn’t the story.

Every so often you run into those people who make you realize that whatever you’re prideful about, you really aren’t all that. You know that commercial with Rod Stewart and Rachel Hunter where she’s building a house and doing all this other amazing stuff?

That’s her. She’s equal parts Pink and Mary and MacGuyver. I always thought I was a good wife and mother but I am not even in the same universe as her.

And she does it all with a smile on her face, a hug for every soul who needs one, making friends and having fun and breathing life into every moment.

I really don’t have words to express how phenomenal she is, or how grateful I am to have her in my life.

Happy Birthday love. And thank you for helping my battered soul find a smile and a whole lot of peace.

 

The Roses In The Windowbox

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I remember walking into my Grandmother’s living room. He was sitting in Grandpa’s chair. I don’t remember seeing him cry before or since, but he cried for a long time that day. He played Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding again and again, tears silently streaming down his face. I remember trying to console him, feeling scared and powerless and overwhelmed by the loss of my Grandfather and any force that could impact my Father this way.

For my entire adult life I’ve had a copy of that album.

In the final stages of creating this blog I’ve found my heart so burdened. I’m picking off lots of barely healed scabs and opening lots of raw wounds. I’ve shed more than my share of tears. I have been playing this song so often lately. It’s funny that whenever my heart is heavy I need to hear it. It’s equal parts catharsis and visceral memory.

It’s interesting how those distant memories can so strongly impact our future, our ways of coping, and our perspectives.

I know I don’t say it enough, but some of the best parts of me I learned from you.

I love you Dad.

 

And I Your Willing Victim

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I know in my gut this won’t end well, but I’m still reeling. My 20 year marriage ended three short weeks ago after years of fighting to patch it together. I’m tired of doing the right thing, I’m tired of putting everyone else first, and most of all, I’m tired of trying to pretend to be someone I’m not.

I.don’t.care. For once I’m going to just let things be what they are. For once I am not going to stress about every bad thing I see 100 miles down the road. For once I am just going to take the risk, trust the fact that I have good instincts, and I’ve learned to swim. The water here may be deep, turbulent, murky… but I’m a survivor and I don’t see danger. Risk… but not danger.

“Just start swimming, stop taking everything so seriously. That has never gotten you anywhere.”

Eventually I pry myself away, pleading family responsibilities. He tells me he needs a hug, and walks me to my car.

“I’m going to need those digits”

He texts me before we even leave the parking lot, but I don’t check my phone, I have reality to get back to, the reality nothing is ever going to touch, the reality I will protect with everything, from everything: My boys.

The next 24 hours is a whirlwind. Endless texting, and our first real date (of sorts). He knows what buttons to push.

“I want you to be the one who proves me wrong.”

“I need you. More than you know.”

“I’m not here to harm you in any way.”

“Can’t wait to see you, btw.”

And later… “I’m home, beautiful.”

24 hours. One short day away from that spilled tea, that first hug. That near instant transformation from distant to smitten. Me, the one who holds everyone at arm’s length.

He had my number alright. Me and my wounded baby birds… I will stop and help every wounded animal I see. Four legged, or two, it doesn’t matter. I can’t stand to watch suffering, pain, loneliness… I will see, I will care, I will love and nurture and heal wherever I can.

What he never knew is I also had his number. He never saw the walls until he hit them. He only saw what he thought what lay behind them.

Story of my life.

Godess On A Mountaintop

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She walks into the room of singles and the world tilts. Not like that (exactly). But she has that… bearing about her, and you know immediately she is different. And over the night that hunch is proven correct. She’s educated and successful and accomplished and talented and knowledgable and fierce. Ever so fierce. And beautiful. Breathtakingly, jaw-droppingly, with a mane of curly hair that makes me want to weep with envy.

Some women might find the admiration awkward, but she doesn’t, we spar and play over it, and it’s a blast. She’s not vain about my fondness for her, she’s just badass enough to accept it for what it is.

She is seemingly effortlessly what so many women wish to be, what I will never be, but can appreciate freely. How can you not appreciate art? Beauty?

Life is dark enough. I don’t want to nitpick someone’s imperfections, I’d rather revel in the perfection of who they truly are.

I Get By With A Little Help

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The first time I realized what was happening I was floored. A perfect stranger walks someone out to my car and gets them safely seated and buckled into my car. They tell me this is their good friend so and so, please make sure they get home safely. Which I of course agree to do.

We live in a world where we hear of people who take advantage of inebriated people in the most heinous and/or violent ways. Who drug others to take advantage of them.

Every week I have multiple people gently ensconced in my car by someone who simply wants to know they get home safely and aren’t harmed. And they are willing to pay to make that happen.

It’s beautiful and humbling.

One side note, I have on occasion had passengers leave important belongings behind in my car. Uber, in one of their finer moments, has created a feature that allows you to gift someone else a ride. Whenever possible, this is the wisest action to take. If the actual passenger leaves something behind we have no trail to reunite them with their belongings if they don’t use their account. One time a wallet was left behind, and it was only my memory of a distant city and the knowledge that the address on the license was correct that allowed it to get returned to its owner.

That said, keep on, beauties. I see you. I appreciate you. I wish you many blessings.

All Is Fair In Love

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As they approached the car, I saw the closed off body language. Both wore guarded and wounded expressions. My heart clenched for a moment. They were both polite as they got in; silence settled over the car like a heavy veil almost immediately. They were a beautiful couple, both dressed to the nines, clearly successful, see and be seen types in an up and coming neighborhood. The wife was fierce and proud and seemed like someone who had no problem speaking her mind, the kind of woman I most admire. And her husband was handsome, and polished, they were just beautiful.

“How could you behave like that?”

Nothing but stony silence.

Me, being the mother hen that I am, waited a few minutes for them both to calm from the rush of adrenaline; started chattering about the kind of nonsense I normally eschew but which is a useful refuge when emotions are running high. The husband did all the talking. Ok, I’ve got him off the ledge, time for a more direct approach.

“Young lady, I have to tell you how beautiful you look this evening. You’re absolutely stunning; and that dress is on point.”

I hear a soft gasp, a squeaked “thank you” and gentle sobbing.

Not what I was aiming for, but I think she needed to hear it. And it was the only thing I could come up with on what was only a very short trip.

A minute or two later I hear a shrill, “Don’t touch me!”.

I feel you, dear one; I feel you. It’s hard to feel love or compassion or accept an olive branch when the person you’ve given your heart to has humiliated you in front of a perfect stranger. But I could tell he truly meant it. I think he knew he could have handled himself better.

The trouble with relationships is we humans fear pain and abandonment, so anything that looks like either of those sends our heads spinning.

How cruel is life, that the things that first attract us to someone often become the things we find most triggering. The bonds that once drew us close often wedge us apart.

I’m sure the fact that she is fierce is why he loves her, why he won her heart. No other man had that strength, that courage. And I’m sure the fact that he is an impeccable gentleman made her feel safe, like she could let down her guard for once. But now, her independence looks to him like disrespect, and his nurturing feels oppressive.

I did something I never do, something I probably shouldn’t have done. I logged out of Uber, parked the car and got out. I asked her first, because she was on my side of the car.

“Is it ok if I give you a hug?”

She nods, and I hold her and she cries again. I never wanted to let go. In some way, it’s like holding my past self. But I remember this pain. I remember being young and in love and thinking that’s all it took.

This couple had so much going for them, and I truly felt they were well matched. The reality of this moment was painful to watch, and I know all too well how much worse it was to experience. I walked around and said “you too” and gave him a quick hug. I looked at them both and said, “You’re going to be ok, you’ll find a way through the hard times”.

I have no idea if it is true, I just want it to be, and I want to leave them with some hope to cling to.

What I really wanted to do is log out for the rest of the night and play therapist, to reframe these wounds for them, to help them remember what it was like when they first fell in love, why they loved each other, why they each won the other’s heart, and why nobody else ever came close. I wanted to help them see that the  thing that hurt the most was the very thing that could help them have a marriage others dream of.

Instead I did the only thing we rideshare drivers can do and watched them walk away.

I think of them often. I pray more for them than I do for nearly anyone. If there is a God, if there is justice, someone will help them see the truth of life, and love. Before it’s too late.

Love like that is rare, and we don’t get second chances at it.

Generals Odd?

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We Run This…

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They are the most badass group of women I have ever met. They define fierce. They take no BS and brook no nonsense. They live life on their terms, unflinching, no apologies offered. Why shouldn’t they? They don’t need to apologize for their existence. They have worked hard and know they have every right to be, to belong, to thrive and flourish.

It’s a bit of a fluke that we all came to be part of the same social circle. Strong women can often feel a bit adrift, not used to seeing themselves reflected in others, at least not often. We live on the road less traveled, by definition, we aren’t used to seeing other travelers.

But we, as much as our life circumstances, are a product of traveling that road. Dance to the beat of your own drummer, grab life by the horns and live it, no moss gathering under our feet. This may have something to do with why we all find ourselves at this stage of our life, single again. Changing relationships, changing friendships, changing homes, communities, lives. It can be a steep learning curve, and there is a blessed refuge in communing with others walking down that same confounding road.

I’m awestruck by the sheer numbers of us, by our strength and our fearlessness in the face of many kinds of adversity. I’m gobsmacked at how many educated, intelligent and successful women we count among our numbers. It’s an improbable statistic but so very real.

I call us the alpha females. Eventually it’s simply the alphas.

It’s truly a term of endearment, and more fitting than I can express.

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