RSS

Author Archives: Derelict Deb

About Derelict Deb

I am a derelict debutante. I own it. This blog is a part of a larger project, but mainly it's about life. My life, which in general, is lived at the shallow end of the estrogen pool.

Squids & Writers

I have been struggling with my writing lately. It’s not a big secret. Or even a particularly shameful one. Everyone has moments when they feel like they are floundering, even when it’s in an ocean of their own design.

mr incredible typing

‘Tis the writer’s curse, they say, to be haunted by words that seem always just out of grasp, phantasmagorias that linger and tease and move through the air with both graceful fluidity and sharp punctuated movements, like squids.

Squids and writers have a lot in common, actually.

For example, squids have three hearts.

And I think writers do too.

They must, because the very pursuit of their craft means they are constantly being stabbed in the heart, or in the general vicinity of the heart, at least. Two of these three hearts exist merely to take the abuse of the world, because people are assholes. Assholes who are dismissive and cruel about artists in general.

As an artist, my life is open to the opinions of the world in the way that, say, a plumber’s, is not. If a plumber screws up their job, something leaks. Or explodes. Or something that was meant to flow away from your home, flows the opposite direction, resulting in fecal matter streaming over your designer floor tiles. There is nothing subjective or up for interpretation about turd water floating into the hallway. Shit flushes or it doesn’t.

Artists also do their jobs; a writer creates a short story or a screenplay; a sculptor fashions an art piece from clay and steel and plastic components; a poet authors a sonnet. But for these folx, people will line up to loudly have their say about how horrible they think their work is. Because art is subjective. One man’s jar of distasteful piss is another man’s critical commentary on the hypocrisies of the Catholic church.

Critics will tell you that you are not good enough. They (and often your own inner demons) will tell you that will never be good enough. They will look at you with those judgmental eyes that say that you are doomed to follow a passion that will only break your heart over and over again. You will sink into debt, despair, and probably addictions. They worry (usually aloud) that you’ll never find love, when you are worried that you will never find peace.

They don’t know that they are breaking your heart.

And they don’t know that writers and squids have hearts to spare.

And so the writer smiles, knowing that while one heart is breaking, another is healing. And the third one is pumping enough oxygen and energy into me to fuel my fantasies of bathing in the blood of my enemies. Sometimes this bathtub is full of ink in my waking reveries, but usually it is filled with blood.

Anyway, writers and squids.

They both often look effortless to the outside world. Like we are both just lazing away our days, drifting on the tides. But trust me, our lives are stressful. And every now and then, when you poke or threaten us, we will spray you violently with ink.

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 2, 2018 in BLOG DEPOSITS

 

 Not Throwing Away My Shot

If you are a Hamilton fan (and let’s face it, who isn’t) then you instantly recognize this lyric. Hubby and I saw this amazing production a few days ago in the Victoria Palace Theatre in London, where the acoustics were tremendous, the cast was superb, and the whisky was reasonable, which was nice since the legroom was not.

crowdedTheatre

This post is not about Hamilton, per se, but I will say that the production lives up to all the hype – and then some.

It’s about the fact that I bought the tickets 16 months in advance.

16 MONTHS IN ADVANCE.

This is a record-breaking event in my life. Not only because I have lived my life according to my “Cadaver Metric” (patent pending) by which I measure my current overall health by considering what kind of cadaver I would make, but also because I live with the assumption that someone will have to make that decision sooner rather than later.

skeleton_thinking

In short, I don’t commit to anything more than a year out because I assume I won’t be alive then.

Relax. I don’t actually think I am dying. I think we are ALL dying, simply at different rates. The PTSD and anxiety that accompanies the survival of a terrifying illness means that I find it impossible to imagine my life 12 months out from wherever I am right now. So purchasing FECKIN THEATRE TICKETS more than a year in advance raised quite a few eyebrows indeed.

Have I conquered my fears? (Nope.)

Am I growing as a person? (I doubt it.)

hamilton.JPG

Simply, I love the theatre. When I was younger, I even had dreams of being on the stage, but was told by a director that I was a girl who “should not be in the spotlight.” (Yes. They actually said that. In front of the whole cast. Then made me sing my solo mic’d from backstage.)

really bitch giphy

It was a little traumatizing. But with equal parts stubbornness and stupidity, I continued to audition for everything anyway (one time I was dismissed mid-audition without reading because the directors were so sick of me).

I continued to sing (in my church choir, in my car), stage managed in community theatre, directed/produced plays in college, even did some (very briefly!) stand up in Los Angeles. Karaoke moment? Sure. Intense poetry readings? Yup. Musical drag numbers, Hell Yes. But after high school I never again auditioned for theatre.

shelley BW

Shelley Berman, a veteran comedian and performer – you probably remember him as Larry David’s dad on Curb Your Enthusiasm – and an amazing human being, was the one who encouraged me to do stand-up. I had never been so frightened in my entire life. It was an open-mic type affair in a place in Burbank, California and I am still amazed that I did not wet myself on stage, but Shelley helped set it up and I would never let him down. Shelley also gave me great advice. Humorous, whimsical, practical, actionable advice. So instead of pointing out the exact spot where I didn’t belong, he helped me craft the humor in occupying it anyway. He was lovingly brutal.

We had countless conversations about life and love and family. He loved my imitations of my grandfathers the most, even asking my permission to borrow a joke about the chauvinist one who (according to me) “lost a part of his soul the day the WNBA was formed” and the other, who advised me not to bother with ancestral research because “I’m sure you know enough assholes already, dear.”

strong line of lunatics

Shelley was never convinced that I belonged in academia, and had mixed feelings about me having a Mid-Life Crisis that involved me pursuing more of it. But he also knew that it was time. Time to write my truths and shoot them out into the Universe. Time that I finally took my shot.

Hamilton was a personal milestone for me in a weird and wonderful way, a commitment met from 16 months out. Go me. Although, I will tell you what I told Shelley 20 years ago (and Cubby, and Aram – who were not nearly as amused) – that being a writer suits me, because I consider it a sport like bowling – one must really want to wear those shoes, which is probably why one is encouraged to drink while doing it.

drinkandwrite

Here’s to small successes.

#keepwriting #keeplaughing #teamshrop

writewell_editoften

 
1 Comment

Posted by on February 12, 2018 in BLOG DEPOSITS

 

The Fire Swamp Certainly Does Keep You on Your Toes

My dad (Mackula) was a huge movie buff. He loved watching them, talking about them, going to see them, and reciting pieces of his favorites, inserting quotations into everyday life. He had wide and eclectic tastes, for example: The Ten Commandments, Fletch, Planet of the Apes, Platoon, Stripes, Amadeus, Pulp Fiction, The Pink Panther, Die Hard, Beetlejuice and The Princess Bride. Arguably, this last one topped the list. (1)

film reels and popcorn
As I write, it is January 2018 and I am thinking of him and his movie loving self on this anniversary, that this time ten years ago, I was living in what Mackula referred to as the Fire Swamp.

Following a massive heart attack (the last in a series) and stroke, doctors gave Mackula 6 months to live. Hubby and I left Texas and moved into Grandpa Val’s river rock cottage in the Smoky Mountains to be closer to him. Those last sentences are both incredibly sad and dangerously misleading, in that it sounds as if we are big-hearted loving people who were living in pastoral bliss as we offered support and succor to a dying parent. Yeah, not so much. Er, sort of.

Mackula called our house the Fire Swamp because the dilapidated dump actively tried to kill us (think electrical fires and ROUSs) while we worked to flip it into the 21st century.

In 2005, we discovered that the old well had not been capped correctly and that drinking the contaminated water had caused me to develop a blinding kidney infection. The only voice mail on my phone when I was released from the hospital was from Mackula saying, “The Fire Swamp Certainly Does Keep You on Your Toes!”

Mackula was in many ways my best friend, and I like to think that in his last months, I was his too. We talked on the phone literally every day that I didn’t see him personally, and sometimes, even then. (There were days when I hugged him goodbye and left my parents’ house in the morning, was back in the mountains by lunch time, and after dinner, we would talk for over an hour on the phone.)

dad_calling

Working 60 hour weeks at two jobs, missing Texas and our friends, I often felt isolated and frustrated and Mackula would patiently listen and give thoughtful advice. I didn’t always take his advice, of course. “Fuck those Humperdinks!” while funny enough, is not exactly sage advice, even when it’s coming from a mostly dead man.

When researchers from Duke University interviewed him for a series of scholarly papers about those who live with congestive heart disease, he would complain that they didn’t laugh at his mostly dead man jokes. He kept me updated about his pot garden (tomato plants) and Evie (my grandmother) getting busted stealing all the TP on her floor in the nursing home. He would regale me with his latest escapades, like the day IRS agents scared the shit out of Hurricane by ringing the doorbell at 7:00am on a Thursday. (2) Or how he wanted me to arrange matching bright red sparkly pedicures before his next hospital stay so he could shock the nurses on the unit. Or he would email me a document to proofread – a letter he wanted to send his friend who owned a funeral home, requesting a lay-a-way plan in lieu of his refusal to die in a timely manner.

“If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.”

But we talked about dark things too, with a shared macabre humor that most everyone else found off-putting or offensive. We talked about illness, and pain, and death; we talked about the funniest parts of dying. He shared things with me that he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) share with Hurricane, his wife of 40 years. In this sharing – his fears, his regrets, his memories, his beliefs – as with everything, he made me feel special.

mackula BW

He’s been gone now for ten years. The week after his funeral, Heath Ledger died. Mackula did not live to see the insanity of the housing market crashes, or gas prices reaching over $4.00 a gallon. Had he not gone first, he would have mourned the death of George Carlin. And that’s just through the summer of 2008.

As I sit in a posh Victorian flat in Scotland, writing on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I think about how much has changed – and how much has not –  in the last 10 years, living without my friend, my dad. I still struggle to manage the (new, improved) stresses of life, and smile knowing that my Fire Swamp has taken on new forms, new challenges and trials, but it still keeps me on my toes. There will never be a life without a Fire Swamp. We just have to navigate it the best we can. When I feel overwrought or like I am running (out of time) or being chased (by deadlines) or misdirected (by eejits) I stop and breathe and listen for Mackula’s voice in my ears. The goofy chuckle that would precede the words that concluded every phone call. For the 2 years, 9 months, and 17 days after medical science said he would die any day, just before hanging up he would say:

“Rest. Heal. Sleep. I shall most likely kill you in the morning.”

And I would respond (as I still do): “Love you too dad.”

 

“Have fun storming the castle!”

(1) If you are not a fan of (or have ever seen *gasp*) the movie The Princess Bride, then this post might be a bit confusing to you.

(2) They were looking for my eejit first husband, who – among other things – decided he couldn’t be arsed to pay his taxes. Hurricane recovered from her initial shock to feed the agents pancakes. Along with every name and number in her address book she thought might help them.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 28, 2018 in BLOG DEPOSITS

 

Words About Self Care

Words About Self Care.

Most of us will agree that self-care is important. As a PGR (postgraduate research student) I hear the term tons, though in so many different contexts, it’s easy to see that there are many variations of how it is defined. According to my Facebook recommendations, self-care for me involves citrus bath salts and Groupons for golf specials in Barcelona. Um, Okay. (1)

Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. And, if you are like me, and manage long-term conditions and/or the fallout of them, self-care is about understanding those and how to live with them.

Self-care is not to be confused with shopping therapy and self-indulgence, although for many this is a fine (invisible?) line. It’s tough, what with all the Treat Yo’ Self images for “self-care” that focus on green drinks in mason jars, gluten-free, fat-free, carb-free, non-caffeinated, protein-powdered, non-dairy foods (?) and skinny bitches doing impossible yoga positions on the oceanside dock of a resort in the tropics that cost more (per night) than I paid (total) for my first car.

Self Care in my 40s has taken many (mostly) positive forms. For instance, I take vitamins now instead of illicit drugs. That’s a start, right? I practice yoga. I take walks outdoors most every day. It’s not like we haven’t heard for years to eat better, be more active, and get more sleep. Why are these simple things so damn hard?

To combat the hours I sit on my ass at this laptop, I exercise. I engage in unsightly squats and terrifying sit-ups. I’ve even been known to jump on the rowing machine at the gym. (It doesn’t like this, BTW.) But my favorite form of self-care involves (of course) bespoke shoes. Fins, that is. That’s right, bitches. I swim.

I forego aquatic Mp3 kit and groovy swimming apps. My rotating arms calm my racing mind. In the chlorine, I listen to my breathing, I focus on my pacing, and I listen to my inner voices that the outside world often drowns out. In the water, I can hear the voice in my center when it says to me:

You can do this.

You are capable.

You are strong.

You are on the right path.

Oftentimes things that are heavy on my heart become weightless in the pool. A problem with my research that I can’t work through becomes fuzzy and floats away, and for an hour or so I think of other things. Or I think of nothing at all. My muscles, my memory, my form, my strokes are all that glide me through the chlorine. I’m not going to tell you that afterwards, all the solutions to my scholarly struggles melt away in the sauna, then congeal with clarity when I return to the laptop. But it has been known to happen. Clarity in the chlorine.

  1. Mental strength building (it’s not just me, it’s science!)
    Regular exercise reduces inflammation and insulin resistance in the brain, which fosters new brain cell growth, which is why it is often employed in ADHD therapies. Swimming allows you to burn off excess energy, which helps “train your brain” to concentrate on one thing for a longer time.
  2. It’s better than running.
    Q:What other cardiovascular activity works as many muscles at once more than swimming? Running, cycling, cart-wheels?
    A: NONE
    Not everyone’s joints (and backs and tits) are built for running. When you compare swimming to running, you can burn more calories swimming laps in the pool than you can running for an hour. Also, regular swimming can delay the effects of aging by reducing blood pressure, increasing muscle mass, improving oxygen and blood flow to the brain, and increasing cardiovascular health.

Also, you runners out there? Will you PLEASE stop trying to recruit? If you want to run a 5K, have at it. But can you go three consecutive days without mentioning it? #ShutTFup #challenge Thanks.  Oh yeah. And constantly-posting Cross-fitters? You’re welcome to get in on that too.

3. It will make you healthy.
Regular swimming can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and stroke. It can also boost your mood and help you lose/maintain weight. Swimming is a resistance exercise, similar to weight-lifting, but without the possible negative impacts of weights, because swimming places almost no stress on your joints and bones.

https://media.giphy.com/media/MAH8t9CnCmuYM/giphy.gif

So am I saying go find yourself some chlorine? No. I don’t know YOU. You might not have access to chlorine. You might not even know how to swim.(2) I happen to be a full-time student on campus with a pool and a butt-cheap gym membership. Last time I tried to get back into the water, even though I was working full time, I couldn’t afford the pool dues. So when I graduate, I will reassess. That’s how it works.

You have to actually put some thought into what works FOR YOU rather than going with what you used to do, or by buying into the pre-package glossy images of “Self Care”. Sincere (meaning effective) self-care must be tailored for the individual. All individuals, not just graduate students. Finding a healthy balance in your life takes work. If you can’t find it because you haven’t been thinking about it and working towards it, then I submit you may just be a lazy bastard. Which is OK too, so long as you own it and don’t whine in my direction.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 17, 2018 in BLOG DEPOSITS

 

Resolutions, Shmesolutions.

Resolutions, Shmesolutions.

Happy New Year, bitches. (my Devoted Dozen!)

A new year marks the moment when many people put loads of energy into changes and fresh starts. These are both good things – changes and fresh starts – and often necessary components of living a good life.

And let’s face it. Many of you fucked it up in 2017. You need a kick in the ass and a chance at a fresh start.

No_resolutions_calvin_perfect the way I am

But as important as a boot in the butt is, so are reflection and gratitude, which (if you are doing them right) involve the same level of honesty.

Reflection involves looking back on what has been and measuring the value of it on what will be. The blessings, the sorrows and everything in between – they will all come again in the next 365 days of living. It is possible to be a product of your past and not a prisoner to it.

20131230-S-NewYearsResolutions-01

Gratitude also involves dipping a ladle into the stock of your life. Recognizing the role that others play in the positive things in it, giving credit where it is due, and forgiving yourself (and others) for mistakes that were made. Giving thanks also entails remembering that only stones tossed and tumbled become polished gems.

Resolutions Shmesolutions. My plan for 2018 is to keep living my life.

We tend to categorize our living paradigms through lenses of positive and negative. Being a dreamer is often mistaken for optimism, just as being realistic can get you labeled as a pessimist.

half_full_half_empty

I don’t like those labels, certainly because they are reductionist, but also because I have found humans, as a general rule, to be much more complex. The glass is not half empty. The glass is not half full. It’s neither and it’s both and you’re missing the point. The glass of life comes with free refills.

newyearseve_vintage11

And in my house, tonight, it is being filled with prosecco and joy.

In 2018, my goals will be realistic, my efforts genuine, my laughter easy.

midful_stones

I am going to be playful and mindful and happy.

Playful in my outlook towards life and love, mindful in my views of others and their experiences of the world, and happy in my skin, my space, my mind, my heart.

I can’t promise to be a better, kinder, gentler person. I’m not a good liar.
I won’t dedicate myself to new lifestyle regimes around health or fitness.
I’m too lazy. I love my body. And I love whisky.

I DO promise to show up in this space and continue to share life’s little treasures with healthy doses of humor and foul language.
Because I’m fucking charming that way.

broke my resolution
Happy New Year, bitches.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 31, 2017 in BLOG DEPOSITS

 

A Box of Baubles

Merry Merry to my Devoted Dozen!
…and all other brave souls who dare enter here! [Insert piratey laugh here]

Christmas in Scotland is such fun. The decorations are lovely, the pubs and menus are bursting, there are parties, prosecco, and jumpers, Santa Runs (for those who are fit or insane) and mulled wine everywhere you look.  And, just like in the US, the stores play Christmas tunes that seep into your skull like syrup on spaghetti.

My personal holiday traditions are few but important, including the annual Haters Guide to Williams Sonoma Catalog, where my soul mate Drew takes the piss out of the pretension and nonsense for sale there:

 


Drew says: Go peddle your Christmas in cup back in Arkansas or whatever. Vibrant mix, my ass.
real hillbilly Christmas in a cup is just a roasted squirrel, a packet of raw grits, and a copy of the Duck Dynasty Christmas album
(which really exists and is literally titled Duck The Halls) all whizzed up in a blender.”

Everyone has a holiday tradition or five, and I’ve written about them before (scroll the archives for more if you’re bored). Hurricane, particularly, lived at Orange Level (the Homeland Security “high risk”) for at least a week until every inch of our home had been smothered with holiday cheer. Or garland.

The one tradition that I love the MOST is having the tree. It doesn’t have to be real or grand, but I love having a tree because we decorate ours with stories. (I bet you do too.) Speaking of stories, let me start at the beginning.
I began writing this post last year on a plane to Vienna.

Yes, I am aware of how that makes me sound and I don’t care. Part of this Mid-Life Crisis Package Deal was that while we lived in Scotland, we would 1) see as much of Scotland as we could and 2) travel in Europe as much as we could.

We also decided to travel a little less in exchange for traveling a little better. At our age, hostels, for instance, were OUT. Again, aware of how this sounds, let me be clear in expressing how many fucks I don’t give. In my mid 40’s I have no desire to sleep in a frozen dormitory with a dozen strangers and walk down a corridor to pee, only to have to queue up there waiting for the dude in front of me to finish flushing his system of what I can only assume is the absinthe-coated roadkill he must have eaten for dinner. (Seriously, what have you consumed that makes poo smell like burnt hair?)

I experienced this in my 20’s – and it was hysterical fun – but I am not that tolerant anymore. And Hubby is much too snobby not to have an en suite bathroom. So when we found a 5 day Christmas package in Vienna, we jumped on it. *(1)

It was splendid from start to finish. The flight was made interesting by sharing our row with Ed Snowden’s cousin, who takes wealthy clients on BMW (cars and bikes) tours across Europe. He was bringing a carry on full of Stornoway sausages and Christmas puddings to a dinner party in Germany with friends. We liked him immensely. Heinekens in the Amsterdam airport staved off hangriness and before we knew it, we’d arrived. Our hotel was lovely. We dumped out luggage and walked right back out and headed for the nearest Christmas market – a smallish affair in a square with perhaps a dozen stalls and a small stage on which local musicians were playing carols:

Mulled wine and a skewer of chocolate covered strawberries later and all was well in my world. There was snow on the ground, flurries in the air, and we had five magical days to explore one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

But this post is about Christmas ornaments. Baubles, as they call them here in Scotland.

It’s one of the few things we purchase during our travels, because they are practical (price and size) and we enjoy looking for ones that tell our story in that place and time. We’ve even been known to buy bookmarks or key chains and turn them into baubles later. And while we actually traveled during Christmas last year (2), we look for baubles every time we holiday. Anywhere. Magical moments happen the year round, and not every holiday has a bauble stall:


This is an actual bauble stall (one of dozens) at the City Hall Christmas Markets in Vienna. It overwhelmed me. So we walked 6 stalls down to bratwurst and more mulled wine and all was well again in my world.

We keep these stories in a box, wrapped gingerly in tissue paper, tucked safely in special storage. We don’t like tchotchkes (3) or figurines, things that require dusting and could be, quite frankly, smashed by an excited dog bumping a table in the living room. My (delusional) grandparents used to get me dolls from the countries they visited, but since I didn’t play with dolls, and they had no cultural or cool stories to accompany them, they lived in a secretary, encased in glass, and I often had vivid dreams about them coming to life and exacting revenge on my grandparents for their ignorance and vanity. Woah to the person today who gives me a snow globe; my lack of filter will surely make them cry.

To me, baubles – Christmas ornaments – should hold stories of lived experience. They slumber away the summers only to reappear in long winter days to make you remember and smile.  Baubles are a box of stories.

The first bauble to go on our tree every year is a glass octopus. No other ornaments can go on before the octopus – delicate and only about 2 inches high, it is hung carefully near lights so that its limbs will sparkle and shine. The octopus is a story of two lovers who ran away from the world for three days, to a motel in the Outer Banks, to escape the stress, the accusations, the ignorance, the exhaustion of daily life. The pair walked the beaches, hand in hand, and decided on a future that, while unsteady and unsure, would undeniably include one another. The octopus was purchased in a wee shop by the shore amidst three days of spicy Bloody Marys in solo cups and walks in the sand full of wisdom and freedom. The octopus is a story of love defining itself in its own terms.

It is the first story we unravel every year, because it’s the most important, but there are many others. With every bauble, there is a time, a place, a face, a memory, a joy. There is a fish from Montana, a gift from a father to a daughter, the brass gates of the Texas State Capitol, bought second hand in the Luckenbach post office, a trip taken for a father from his son. A seahorse, a nutcracker, a loggerhead turtle, snowflakes and martini glasses, a stiletto and Darth Vader. All stories. All experiences. All life.

So in about a week from now – when the den of the holidays is over- when all the peppermint bark is gone and you feel like you might stab someone if they offer you another slice of ham- and you are packing away your baubles for another year’s rest, resist the maudlin that comes with too much Merlot or mulled wine.

Remember that you’re not clearing away happiness, you are storing these lovely narratives to give you joy next winter, when they reappear and remind you of people, of places, of experiences, of a life being lived.

Have a story about a favorite ornament or bauble?  SHARE in the comments!!

 

(1) When the entire 5-day package- hotel + flight – costs the same as 1 ticket to the US? Hells Yeah we jumped on it.

(2) Hearing every bell in Vienna ring at midnight to usher in Christmas Day might be one of my favorite holiday memories ever.

(3) Yiddish word for cheap touristy souvenir crap most likely made in China.

 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from http://www.derelictdeb.com

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 22, 2017 in BLOG DEPOSITS

 

Dorothy can kiss my ass. (Hey bitches, I’m back!)

Dorothy can kiss my ass.

First of all, have you missed me? Of course you have. My devoted dozen. The 12 people who read my blog no matter how lazy I am about posting/sharing it. For any other stragglers, let me say (by way of a non-apology) that I have been busy trying to get this damn PhD and finish my first novel DOBERMANS & DRAG QUEENS SAVED MY LIFE, the first (G-d and publishers willing) in a series of derelict debutante memoirs. Plus, Hubby and I have been blowing through our savings, drinking whisky, island hopping (that’s Hebrides, you fools) and traveling to points on the map new-to-us. (Bookmark: Vienna, Berlin, Prague). I have neglected my wee blog, but put your big girl panties on bitches, because I am back.

And, against all that is holy in my LGBTQ life, I am about to talk some trash about Dorothy.

Last week, my husband and I watched the Wizard of Oz for the first time in – quite frankly – many years. And I was struck by the end where Glinda asks Dorothy what she has learned. Since it’s been a while, I had forgotten about this Midwestern mid century PSA moment. For those of you who can’t recite the film, Dorothy replies:

“Well, I — I think that it — that it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em — and it’s that – if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.  Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!  Is that right?”

I have never wanted to smack a gingham-clad farm girl in my life, but I found myself shouting a stream of wickedness (1) at the TV, including some very unladylike comments about Judy and her sequined shoes. In short, Fuck that bitch.

 Read the whole screenplay, last revised March 15, 1939 here: (https://sfy.ru/?script=wizard_of_oz_1939)

Setting aside scholarly dissections of Baum’s grand metaphors of Oz as the New Deal Era America and the yellow brick road as the silver standard, Dorothy’s answer about happiness really “hit home” for me in an entirely different (stabby) way. I wholeheartedly think that living abroad, at least for a while, is an amazing experience that everyone should try if the opportunity presents itself. Its positives almost always outweigh the negatives.

It’s not hard to google “expat” and find a plethora of websites and blogs that will discuss how amazing life abroad can be for those who are adventurous. As an expat living abroad and doing a PhD, thinking of the concept of home and homesickness (often most piercing to ex-pats during the holiday season) I will argue (loudly) that Dorothy’s sentiments of isolationism and “never leaving your backyard” are wildly oversimplified and (I think) dangerous, not to mention what I believe is so perilous about US & UK politics these days.

Have no fear. This blog will NOT become political.
While I am no supporter of Hair Trump, I can’t be arsed to waste energy in my blog on him either.

When Hubby and I first moved abroad, we were too excited to focus on being sad or homesick. We posted 500+ pictures on social media highlighting that Glaswegians really are the friendliest lot on Earth, whisky is varied and amazing, Scotland’s beaches are extraordinary, haggis is, in fact, delicious, Scots love weird and wordplay street signs, and assuring friends that the drunk riding the conveyor belt in the Iceland checkout line is not me. We posted pics of food for the first time in our lives. We were incredibly (annoyingly) excited for this new chapter of our lives.

Once the newness wore off and a routine settled in, though, there were days when a sinking feeling also settled in my chest – the one that says. Holy Shit. What Have We Done? The research was daunting. The writing suddenly slow and painful. The Stress is real. The UK is fucking expensive. Brexit passed. Shit got more expensive. Opportunities shrank. We couldn’t find work. We missed our dogs. Deadlines moved. Timelines had to be altered.

Shit. Got. Real.Flexibility and Support. The same things that make a good bra worth $50 are the criteria for TRUE EXPAT SURVIVAL.

You must be flexible, know when to give and stretch. And when you are not strong (or have been stretched to your limits), know where to go for support. I moved to Glasgow with an on-board support system the way most people buy cars with SatNav. You’ve met him perhaps? Hubby. I would be way more derelict and zero debutante without him. (Those ratios fluctuate daily.) As a friend on FB pointed out last week, I am the Bonnie to his Clyde. But, you know, without the mass murdering.

Our first Christmas, we stayed in in our new home, Glasgow. Walked the city, took in some holiday concerts, cruised the Christmas festivals and holiday markets. (2) We’d only been here for a few months, but I spent £30 on the ingredients for a traditional holiday dessert made with US ingredients. $8 for bottle of frickin Karo syrup only for Hubby to admit that he doesn’t actual like pecan pie. I was so focused on giving him a “missing piece” of “back home” that it didn’t even occur to me that it was something he didn’t miss at all. He wanted a Cranachan Trifle and Sticky Toffee Pudding (3).

Instead of whimpering to any tinman or munchkin that would listen, Dorothy could have stopped to enjoy the wonders and delights of her adventure. But no. Instead she pursued with single purpose returning home to heal Auntie Em, who was neither broken or in need of Dorothy to return, quite frankly. The next Christmas, we walked around Vienna for the week, Mozart’s music, cathedral concerts, Eugene’s libraries, the Holy Roman crowns and Hapsburg crypts. We drank mulled wine and hot punch at the markets watching ice skaters in snow flurries, and heard the bells of the entire city ring at midnight, ushering in Christmas Day.

Fuck Dorothy and her idea that happiness (or your heart’s desire) can only be found in your backyard. That simply isn’t true. Certainly not for us. Happiness – and Home – can be found in so many places, in so many faces. You won’t know what glorious moments await you if you are too scared or too comfortable or too complacent to ever leave your own backyard.

I’m not blind to the fact that not everyone has the means or opportunity (or drive) to travel abroad, or live as an expat, for a matter of years much less a lifetime. And not all expat adventures go well. (Just ask a girlfriend of mine who had to flee an eastern country because of a stalker!) But I believe that great things don’t happen without risk.

I’m not suggesting I live a zen life without stress or sadness. Much of what I am currently engaged in with my research and writing involves intensity and hunger and pain in remembering those who saved my life when I could not save theirs. So I cry when I’m sad. I don’t feel guilty or weak or lonely. Not every Dorothy is brave enough to engage with the great wild world; I remind myself why we came here and the goals we decided were worth all the risks to pursue.

Oh I miss crawfish etouffee, Honey-baked ham, and Ranch dressing, but it doesn’t take a witch threatening to kill my dog for me to see that I have Great Happiness in my life (and “Home” that reaches well beyond the confines of my “backyard”. Happiness can be found in enjoying the life that’s right in front of you, right here, right now.

PS Hurricane is making landfall in about 5 days. So those of you in Glasgow may feel a disturbance in the Force. You have been warned. We’ll do a meet and greet at Oran Mor’s whisky bar Sunday 26 Nov. https://oran-mor.co.uk/

(1) Ha ha.  See what I did there?
(2) http://www.glasgowloveschristmas.com/whats-on/Pages/Glasgow-Christmas-Markets.aspx
(3) RECIPE HERE: https://www.yummly.co.uk/#recipe/Raspberry-Cranachan-Trifle-439088

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 18, 2017 in BLOG DEPOSITS