Five years ago, my husband and my friend, Jadah McCoy, set up a surprise party for my 50th birthday. They were able to corral all my writer buds and friends to come to Fleet Street pub for food, drinks and so much fun.
It was the best birthday party I could’ve hoped for.
And then, there is this year.
Birthday in a Quarantine.
Actually, it’s been really good.
Way back in January, in the Before Time, I had a weird itch to do something special for my birthday this year. I put in for an entire week of vacation.
I dunno. Maybe I’m psychic.
So, I have this entire week to Do Me.
And that’s what I’m going to do.
Well, I’ll be Doing Me* while alongside doing biology homework, writing projects and other Adult Responsibilities crap but…still.
You get the idea.
2020 has been a year of Big Thinks. So, I’m going to do a tarot spread, have a lovely Think and figure out what I want to do with the next 20 or so years in this Flesh Castle.
Man, the Universe can really kick you in the ass, can’t It?
Many moons ago, when I was a much younger Nik, I was having a very bad day.
My life was not going in any direction.
I had just graduated high school, gotten a job which paid $4.20 an hour, lived with my parents (which I did until I got married), had no social life outside the fantasy worlds inside my head, and was absolutely miserable.
I remember it was a Saturday*. I didn’t have any plans other than sitting around in my favorite chair and thinking about how I’d had already lost the race before I’d even gotten my sneakers laced up.
To be honest, I was contemplating suicide. Not my first time. Actually, back then, it was more of a past time.
There was a knock at my door.
It was a friend from high school. Nancy Phillips. She was a red headed firecracker. She was going to college and getting her life rolling. I hadn’t seen her in months.
“Hey, so I had the weirdest thing just happen. So, I was at this bookstore and this wooden plaque fell at my feet,” she said, handing me a bag. “I knew it was meant for you. I gotta go. Bye!”
And she was gone. I went back to my chair and opened the bag. It was a wooden plaque with a sailboat on the ocean at sunset. It had a quote from my favorite book at the time, Illusions, The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach.
It read: YOUR ONLY OBLIGATION IN ANY LIFETIME IS TO BE TRUE TO YOURSELF.**
The little gift really perked me up.
Now, Fast-Forward to NOW.
I’ve been having a lot of Big Thinks lately. I’m on the verge of my 55th year on this planet and, frankly, I think I’m due for some Big Thinks.
I’ve been reconsidering a lot of things. Trimming away some dead branches and finding new tribes.
But the biggest thing that’s been haunting me is whether or not to continue with this crazy dream of being a Writer.
You have to stop and think about whether or not this is really worth it? Why am I doing this? Why am I spending so much time and energy on fluffs of wordy farts?
I’ve got maybe 20 more years in this meatsack.
Do I want to spend it making up shit?
Do I want to leave behind boxes and boxes of manuscripts, notes, newspaper clippings, books, books and MORE books for whatever poor bastard is left to clean out whatever hovel I finally crawl into to die?
Maybe I should let go, leave behind childish things and do something more adult. More responsible. More useful. Because, face it, if I were to roll up to a car accident, the only thing I’d know to do is tap the poor bugger on the shoulder and say, “So, wanna hear this cool idea I have for a screenplay?”
So, should I give in? Give up. Just realize that I don’t have what it takes to make it as a writer. Maybe I did, a long time ago, but I’m old now. I don’t have the strength, the stamina or the goddamn connections,*** to make any of those dreams that Young Nik had so long ago.
It’s a question that has been haunting me because, goddammit, I don’t know what else to do other than make up shit! It’s what I am. It’s encoded in my DNA.
Anyway, much like that Long Ago Nik, I’ve been sitting around, brooding. Maybe not quite so dramatically to include suicide but, I haven’t exactly been a lot of fun to be around.
And then I got a *DING* on my phone.
It’s a message from Nancy.
Like I said at the beginning of this.
The Universe can really kick you in the ass, can’t it?
*Nancy, if you ever read this, I hope I’m not misremembering this story. And if I am, well, so be it. This is my life, my blog, and I prefer to remember it as such.
**I wish, dear readers, I could show you a picture of this plaque. I still have it. It used to hang next to my desk but, since the move, I have no idea where it is. I spent 30 minutes in the hot box that is my attic, going through boxes, and found nothing. Well, not nothing. I found some cool stuff that I forgot I had and plan on hanging because, ain’t that just the way?
***And, Fortuna Help Me, I don’t have it in me to kiss anyone’s ass enough to make connections.
I was surprised since it’s a Sunday and I had specifically cleared this day to spend with my family since it’s Father’s Day.
I checked my phone and on my calendar it read:
That took me a second to digest and then I remembered why I left that memo to myself.
Six months ago, my horoscope said that this year would be full of changes and that I should check back in on this date and ask myself, “Are you still in the same place?”
January Nik was feeling a bit down in the dumps and decided to put the Astrological Guides to the test and marked it down on her calendar to ask herself that very question.
“Are you still in the same place?”
Whoa, doggie. Let me count the ways.
Since January, we have skirted WWIII, a global pandemic has shut down most everything, Australia caught on fire, Trump is still Trump, protests and riots over systemic racism and brutality inherent in the system, and we’re still waiting for the Murder Hornets to invade.
But, let’s focus on me.
Let’s check in physically. I am currently 10 lbs lighter and an inch or so tighter thanks to Pilates. The blood work from my last physical was the best it’s been in years. My IBS has been pretty stable since working AWS (more on that later). Menopause is still doing its thing but that’s inevitable. I’ve been trying new recipes and eating healthier so that is also a big bonus plus.
Psychologically. Ugh. Well, that’s a bit of a roller coaster. Some days I am feeling pretty good, full of hope for the future because I am basically a romantic optimist. And then other days I go online, check the news and social media, and wish the Four Horsemen would just ride through and finish this farce once and for all.
On the Creative Front, I go from a manic burst of writing and dreaming up New Exciting Projects!!! to a sluggish, what is the point?, editing and reformatting old projects. But I don’t stop because….Reasons.
OH! and I’ve also been accepted into a Bachelor’s degree program at University of Virginia. (First I have to do this stupid Bio101 online course because my math classes didn’t transfer but that’s a cinch.) I’m excited! I’m having my first advisor meeting on Zoom this Monday. I’m aiming for a Bachelor’s degree with a focus on Writing and Psychology. What I’d like to do is be able to take this training and use the power of Story to help people with mental illness or social problems. It’s a lofty, romantic and probably impossible goal but, what the fuck, I’m just killing time otherwise.
Regarding the Day Job, oh hell! I could never have imagined in a million years I would be where I am right now. It is SO SWEET. I wake up, roll out of bed, slap on some day old jeans and a t shirt, grab a cup of coffee, go downstairs to my home office, log onto my work PC and COMMUTE IS DONE! And, best of all , I have found that I am a viable and needed part of the office team. I never felt that back in the Before Covid Times. I used to worry that everything at work would go to AWS (alternate work space) and I’d be booted because, I felt, that I couldn’t do my job online. My days consisted of processing paper contracts and going upstairs 2-3x a day to “check the box” and see if there anything there for my department.
And the Covid 19 Pandemic hit and we were forced to change with the times. Departments scanned and emailed their contracts to me and I would route them to the appropriate signers. Weirdly, this caused my department to become more communicative with each other. Before this, my bosses really didn’t know what I did because, if I were doing my job correctly, they never saw the problems because I checked and fixed them before it ever landed on their desks.
So, this is a Freaking A Plus for me.
And I love staying home. I can do my day job, keep my housework under control AND even work in my stories. AND NEVER WEAR A BRA!!
On the family front, we’re doing fine. Frankly, the quarantine hasn’t really affected us socially. It’s one of the upsides of being hermits. We’ve got our online worlds, books, movies and Netflix. Fuck, this is paradise!
So, I’m feeling pretty good.
And then I remember what is happening outside my gilded, secured walls.
And I feel a mixture of fear, anxiety and, quite frankly, embarrassment that I’m in a better place now than 6 months ago.
But maybe even all of that chaos and change is for the best.
Birth is a messy thing, painful and not very polite.
I hope we can say that, in six months, we are in a better place.
I called my sister, Melinda. “Hey, I need to warn you. I did a thing.”
“AWGAWD,” she cried out. “What the hell did you do.”
First, a little backstory.
Many years ago, after putting it off, I enrolled in a college. It was a community college, Saddleback, I think it was called. It didn’t really matter because shortly after my registration went through, my mother died and that keboshed that.
A few years went by and I tried again. Enrolled, was accepted, registered.
And then I got pregnant.
Enrolled again. My father died.
Enrolled again. Another pregnancy.
So, in case you’re not keeping up, if I try to go back to college, a price has to be paid. Either a birth or a death.
However, after years of depression and just tired of waiting, in 2000, I put my foot down and announced to the Heavens and to the Hells, I was going to college and getting a degree and NOTHING was going to stop me. I registered and waited for the inevitable.
It never came.
So….crashing back to NOW.
I did a thing.
I’ve enrolled in a Fall program to get a Bachelor’s. It’s all online at University of Virginia. It’s a degree in Writing, so, yes, a useless degree BUT it won’t really matter.
I’m not doing it to be useful.
I’m doing it for me.
It’s going to be expensive, time consuming and who knows if I’ll even finish it but, fuck, I’m going to try.
And, now we wait to see if the Powers that Be demand that price to be paid.
To whoever dies or pops out a womb gnome……Mea Culpa.
I’m having an antsy day. Nothing really amuses me or keeps my attention for long. I was perusing through Youtube and found a parody video of the Phantom of the Opera tune, Music of the Night, but done with a Quarantine twist.
It was amusing enough but what caught my eye was a video listed below it. Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman doing their version of Music of the Night, O.G. Phantom of the Opera circa 1988.
A little backstory:
Back in 1990, I was 25, living in California, no kids, husband was off in Desert Storm, and I had a shitload of time on my hands. A friend wanted to go see Phantom of the Opera in Los Angeles. I was like, “Whatever.” I really didn’t care about it one way or another.
And then, I saw it.
I’m a fairly obsessive sort of person. I measure points of my life by what thing I was obsessed with at what time. 11 years old, I was mostly in cryptozoology majoring in Bigfoot. Around 13, I was big into Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars. Rounding into my teenage years, I was into Dracula. WAY TOO into Dracula. At one time, I could actually write out his family tree. Yeah.
And there were my Jesus Freak years….
There were a handful of other obsessions that came and went but, at the time, I was Obsession Free and feeling pretty good about myself.
Until Phantom of the Opera.
Gurrrrl, I went down a huge rabbit hole. I spiraled deep. And this was before the Internet so luckily I only had the local library and my the swamp of my own head canon to drown in. I played my CD* constantly, staring off into the dark as I created my own fantasy world, writing what would now be called Fanfic of the Phantom’s adventures Post Christine.
In these fantasies I replaced her (the bitch) as his love interest but it was never requited because….wow. Damn. What the hell Past Nik? Can’t even score in your own head canon?
It’s embarrassing but, fuck it. I own it. That is who I was. A lonely, 25 year old, fantasy driven kid dreaming of some ill fated love affair with a disfigured, definitely homicidal, possibly rapist, tragic Anti-Hero.
Hey, who hasn’t done that?
Crash back into Present Day Nik as I watched the MTVesque video of Crawford /Brightman performing Music of the Night.
A song, I also want to emphasize, that would grab Past Nik by her panties, twist them around my middle parts and pull me into ecstasy.
I’m not even joking.
During the high point (or low point depending on your POV) of my Phantom crush, there was concert in Irvine featuring the best of Andrew Lloyd Webber featuring, MY MAN, Michael Crawford. I scrabbled up my meager pennies and got a seat that was SO FAR AWAY from the stage, he appeared like a Pink Singing Blob on the stage. It didn’t matter. When I heard his voice, I felt myself become transcended. Listening to him sing Music of the Night, I felt like I was being pulled off my seat.
Yeah, it’s humiliating but I promise you there is a point I am slowly working my way towards.
SO, crash back (AGAIN) to Present Day Nik, watching the video, blah, blah.
And I felt nothing.
No. That’s not true.
I did feel something.
I feel annoyed.
Like, seriously….what the hell am I watching? He’s a manipulative maniac pretending to be an angel sent by her dead father. She’s a naive, social climbing, theatre kid wannabe.
The candles, the gothic atmosphere, the cape, the boat, the flowing gown.
Was this my ideal of Romantic Love? Who was that person? Why did my 25 year old dumbass self find THAT attractive?
Kidnap me from my bedroom, gaslight me, murder coworkers, attempt to crush me with a chandelier, terrorize my friends, garrote my boyfriend, stalk, kidnap me (AGAIN) and sabotage my career?
I’m too far away from 25 year old Nik. I’m so far removed from her that I can’t even begin to understand what the ever loving fuck she found romantic in such a character.
Present day me, 54 year old menopausal me, she doesn’t have the time, patience or the fucking energy to put up with that kind of shit.
I don’t want Romance.
I don’t need hormonal gas lighting.
What 54 year old Nik wants is someone who has her back, can loan her $20 when she’s short on cash, will rub my gnarly, dry, scaly old lady feet, watch Rick and Morty and keep my goddamn glass of wine full.
You can take your gondoliers and sewers underneath the opera house & shove it.
*CDs for the Younglings out there are round, silver discs we used to listen to music. Now, they are used mainly to hang on sticks and scare away crows.