Monday, November 24, 2014

Cos Cé·lè·bre

cause célèbre - noun  - a controversial issue that attracts a great deal of public attention

"Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches," Hanibal Buress shouted in an on-line video. "I've done this bit on stage and people think I'm making it up.... when you leave here, Google 'Bill Cosby rape.' That sh** has more results than 'Hannibal Buress.”

I was scrolling through my Facebook page when this video hit me square in the face.  It was an accusation that I had heard before - 10 years ago during a lawsuit that had been settled out of court but the vehemence that this young man had towards Bill Cosby struck me.  Bill Cosby – Heathcliff Huxtable – America’s Dad in the 1980’s being accused of a horrible crime.  It caught my attention and it sickened me.  I prayed it wasn’t true and then in short order new women started to come forward one after another:  same and different details – a wide range of locations – hotel rooms, green rooms of The Tonight Show, her apartment, his bungalow – pills that immobilized the victims and made them unable to fight back or Cosby intimidated them by telling them he would ruin them if they ever told anyone.   
Still, I tried to keep it out of my mind because it was just too awful to grasp and I didn’t want to believe it.  Then in 2014 a gunman opened fire at the Strozier Library at FSU – my alma mater and images of my old college came flooding back.  In the same news thread – more troubling news about Cosby.  I tried to make sense of it and then in the hour commute to work it all hit me – Florida State – 1986 – a night when I got drunk and a male friend tried to help me by taking me home.  But instead he raped me.
The DJs on the car radio talked about Cosby on their celebrity buzz segments – additional accusations – again similar circumstances – he overpowered them and they were not able to defend themselves.  They felt guilty and powerless after it happened - wondering if it was their fault because they said something that gave the wrong impression, drank too much or were drugged.  They did not report it because they felt like no one would believe them or they didn’t want people delving into the past to make them out to be a slut so they went on pretending that nothing happened for years that eventually turned into decades.
I knew what it felt like - like a part of you was yanked away violently.  Your sense of personal security gone because you trusted the wrong person.  That’s how I felt when my “friend” Greg offered to help me.  
My terrible night started as a way to celebrate graduation for the people at the seafood restaurant  who had completed their degrees.   My favorite drink at the time was a madras – which was vodka with cranberry and orange juice.  Bill the bartender suggested doing Rumple Minze shots which I had never tried - but it was a celebration so why not?   Some of the shots were Rumple Minze and some were tequila - he just never said which.  After about three or four shots and a couple of madras’ I was very drunk and in no condition to drive home so when one of the cooks named Greg offered to drive me home – I accepted.   But we stopped at his place first.  I felt sick and threw up in his bathroom.  He offered to help me freshen up in his shower and then proceeded to assault me in the shower then in his living room where I proceeded to throw up again on his carpet (obviously a vomiting woman was not going to stop him).   Finally, I managed to get my clothes back on and he dropped me back at my apartment.  At that point, he asked if I was alright.  I told him I could go in by myself and he left.  I took another shower and cried.  I went to bed and cried.  I tried to eat breakfast and cried.  
I pulled it together later in the day and asked my sister to help drop me off at work so I could get my car.  The people who worked at the restaurant  thought nothing of it because I was pretty drunk the last time they saw me and of course my car was still there because I had gotten a ride home.   A few days later, Greg and I were working on the same shift and he asked me if I was okay because I seemed a little freaked out that night.  I mumbled I was fine.   I never reported it to police because who would believe me?  It was a classic he said/she said situation and I was drunk and so many of the details were hazy. 
Greg was also black so the whole date rape thing took on a whole new level that I was not ready to deal with.  If this went public, I did not want to be the cause célèbre for a bunch of North Florida bigots who were looking for any reason to stir up racial tension.  I could not bare the thought of innocent people getting hurt because of a racist vendetta.

I told my boyfriend at the time who initially didn’t believe me - then did and of course wanted to kill the guy.  When we broke up a year later, it took time for me to trust being with someone again.  Oddly enough I was grateful that it happened when I was drunk because I never got that drunk again and knowing that as long as I was sober I could defend myself.   I realize now that false sense of security was very native. 
So the Cosby scandal hit home.  It made me mad – it made me feel disillusioned because of course those women would trust him.   He’s Bill freaking Cosby!  How could the guy who created Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids do that?  Many people in their mid to late 30’s claim that Cliff Huxtable was like their second father.  I remember waiting tables on Thursday nights and when the crowd died around 7:30 p.m.  you knew it was because families wanted to get home in time to watch The Cosby Show. 
Still, that lawsuit from 2006 got some traction but it did not seem to do him in then?  Why?  That lawsuit was settled out of court  by Andrea Constand, 32, a former Temple University employee who claimed Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her in his Philadelphia-area mansion in 2004.  Constand even had 10 other women who claimed similar experiences with Cosby.  Constand has been silent based on her settlement, but the other women who were named as Jane Doe's in her lawsuit are finally feeling that there is strength in numbers and are telling their stories and are finally being believed.
I think our society really has changed," says Tamra Wade, a data analyst who now mentors young assault victims who herself was attacked by a college professor in a class room a decade ago. "Ten years ago, it was much harder for a victim to get an audience listening to her. Now there's less of a stigma, and that gives people more confidence to come forward."
Let’s hope so because here’s a sad reality - one in four women in this country will be a victim of sexual abuse in their lifetime.   According to the  U.S. Department of Justice, just 40% of the women that have experienced a sexual assault will report it.  From there, approximately 5% of the time, a man who rapes ends up in prison - so 95% of the time he does not.   Why go through all the pain of reliving what happened and having the other side try to make it out as something you wanted if the chances of your attacker going to jail are very slim?  It's a truth that victims of this sort of crime understand all too well.   
Of course the denials from the Cosby camp keep coming because it’s defense lawyers and that’s what they do - protect the rich and discredit those that might be a threat.  According to Cosby’s attorney Martin Singer: "The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity," he said. “These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous, and it is completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years."
Okay Mr. Singer, do you want to know why we stay quiet for one year, two years, five years, 10 years and decades at a time?  Because it’s people like you that try to make us feel like we are the lesser - that we consented - that we wanted this.  You’ll never know what it’s like to keep quiet because you were afraid of being judged - labeled a slut or a whore because of what happened.  Men can be sexually active and they are studs- women are considered whores if they have sex with more than one person - it’s just that simple.   I reiterate that one in four women in this country will experience some type of sexual assault in their life time.  I sure as hell hope you don’t have four daughters because the law of averages is not on their side.  What would you say if your daughter told you she was raped in college a few years ago.  Would you tell her she was illogical for doing nothing - would you ask her if there was any chance that she consented?  Would you hope to God that the attacker was lawyered up so his ass is protected?  No, you would probably want to punch the shit of out of the asshole that did that to your daughter.  Worse you would look at her differently.  That’s a big reason why I could not say anything while my father was still alive because I didn’t want him to see me as a victim and I knew it would hurt him down to his core - so you protect the people you love by not saying anything.  I pray you and your family never feel that pain.
Now however, there is a public conversation about believing the women in the
Cosby case in a way they wouldn’t have 10 years ago.  While the legal team has accused the media towards bias in the publishing the accusers allegations, a comprehensive article in the Washington Post claimed that “the allegations are strung together by perceptible patterns that appear and reappear with remarkable consistency: mostly young, white women without family nearby; drugs offered as palliatives; resistance and pursuit; accusers worrying that no one would believe them; lifelong trauma.  There is also a pattern of intense response by Cosby’s team of attorneys and publicists, who have used the media and the courts to attack the credibility of his accusers." 
One of the things that helped me heal is the words of another celebrity - Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story.  When Katherine Hepburn’s character gets drunk - Jimmy Stewart takes her up to her room and does nothing.  When she asks why he didn’t take advantage of her, he replies - “You were extremely attractive, and as for distant and forbidding, on the contrary. But you also were a little the worse - or the better - for wine, and there are rules about that.”  With that one line from a 1940 movie, Jimmy Stewart explained that men should know the rules and that he chose to follow them.  It’s called giving consent and if a woman is not in any condition to give consent, it’s rape - plain and simple.  It made me feel better and in time I was able to forgive my attacker and move on. 
When Robin Williams died, there was an intense interest in his work and one scene they were playing constantly was the one from Good Will Hunting in which William’s psychiatrist tries to break through to the Matt Damon character who was abused by repeatedly telling him “It’s not your fault.”  Damon’s character tries to shake it off and agrees but after repeatedly being told by Williams, “It’s not your fault,” he breaks down and finally accepts it.  That’s a mantra I think all people who have been abused need to hear - “It’s not your fault, it’s not your fault, IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT!!” Intellectually you know it, but until you can say “It was not my fault.  I did nothing to deserve this! IT WAS NOT MY FAULT!!” and really mean it you will have a very hard time forgiving yourself for not saying anything.  

Ironically, this new interest in Bill Cosby’s sexual misconduct seems to be to have been sparked more by Hannibal Buress’ remarks and not the accusations of the 10 women ten years ago.  It took one man calling out the other to shake all of us out of that Cosby complacency to start to see the real issue.  The reality is that we live in a male dominated society and we need men to use their male privilege to call out sexual predators.   We need to define rape in sex education classes for pre-teen boys and make it very clear where the line of demarcation is between consent and assault.  Girls need to be told how to protect themselves and that there is safety in numbers.  Boys need to see girls as equals and to respect them enough to put the bro-code on the line if they think a girl is being abused at the hands of another guy.   One example of this an ex-NBC male staffer Frank Scotti who told the New York Daily News that he sent money orders for thousands of dollars to numerous women on Cosby's behalf and was there when Cosby invited models to his dressing room. "He would tell me to keep the women in there, don't let anybody in, and it was very obvious what was going on," said Scotti who is now 90.  He eventually quit working for Cosby because of the situation.  
Only time will tell if Mr. Cosby will see any legal ramifications for these accusations.  But the court of public opinion seems to be turning.  On the November 22nd episode of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, anchor Michael Che commented, “I don't know Bill Cosby, but Cliff Huxtable practically raised me. I love that dude. And the only thing he ever tried to sneak when people were asleep was a hoagie. So while I’ll never forgive Bill Cosby, hopefully someday I can forgive Dr. Huxtable.”  
If you are a victim of a sexual assault, I can tell you that time will help heal and you will find someone who will love you and who you will trust.  It will take time to feel comfortable having sex again.  But I can tell you 28 years out from my attack that I don’t think about it very much because I’m lucky that I have a husband who makes me feel safe and I know I’m loved.  But for better or worse, it's a part of me now and I have to see that it's helped make me who I am today.  I have two daughters and I will do everything I can to protect them but if the unthinkable does happen - I will believe them, love them and make sure they don't feel ashamed.  For victims of sexual assault, sometimes forgiving yourself and your attacker is the greatest gift of all.  I hope we can all find the strength to do it.  I know I have. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Little House in Miami

“The house is closed.  Your keys are now mementos,” was the text that I received from my brother Steve after the family home had sold last week.   I stood there in my office and let out a small gasp.   I knew the closing was supposed to be that Friday or Monday in Miami depending the last minute details from the buyers.   Still, the idea of never going into the house which we had owned since 1958 seemed at bit surreal.   My arrival at the house on 90th court did not happen until 1963, so my sister Kathy and brothers Bill and Steve had some extra time to make it their own before they had to deal with a new baby.  Sharon was born in 1964 which then made the family complete. 

I had not been home since my father died in 2002 when I went down for the funeral.  Being in the house and not seeing him sit in his recliner also seemed to be surreal although ironically that’s where he passed away.   Max and I had moved to Georgia in 1998 and had been down periodically, but Mom and Dad came up so often it didn’t seem necessary to go down there to see them.   A few years ago when Mom could not live alone anymore she moved up to Tallahassee so the house had been vacant since then.  My mother still had to pay the taxes and run the AC so that her South Florida home would not be overrun with mold which the moist tropical weather can do in just a few weeks.  

The words of the text were still stinging.  Fighting back tears was a losing battle so I quickly ducked into the bathroom so none of my co-workers could see me.  The house I grew up in was no longer ours - I could never go home again.  I had to work late that night so I didn’t get home until after 10:00 p.m.  I told Max the house was sold and he could see it affected me.   He hugged me and said it was a very good house.  I told him I wanted the new family to laugh and love as much as we did. 

The next morning I cuddled with my husband, put my head on his chest and started to cry.  A large chapter of my life was now most definitely closed and could never be reopened-and now it belonged to someone else.  So much had happened in the Cody house.  I knew how rare it was that one family could own a house that was not a farm or an estate in England for over 56 years - in the South Florida suburbs that is just unheard of.  

Gazing out of the second floor window of my own house, I thought about when I was a little girl.  I would look out my bedroom window during the Christmas season and I felt especially safe seeing the holiday lights.  I guess as a kid, I reasoned that nothing bad could happen as long as my window was framed in multiple colors of red, green, blue and orange.  When I put the Christmas lights up at our house, I make a special effort to have lights frame our bedroom window so I can look outside and feel that all is right with the world.  Our ranch house did not have a fire place (we lived in Miami, which is not a place known for cold weather hence the lack of a hearth) - so my parents would tell us that they would stay up and let Santa in.  

On Christmas morning, the Cody kids would descend on the presents that were in five different piles that all had the same number of presents.   We got to open two before church and then the rest after services and going out to breakfast.   Since Miami never really got cold in the winter, we’d run around in Miami Dolphin Jerseys with shorts and go to our friend’s houses to see what sort of  holiday haul they got.   Yeah, back then, you could just walk down the street and hang with your friends - there was no cell phones, Facebooking or Tweeting.   You could also smell the different holiday feasts being cooked as you walked on the sidewalk from house to house.  

Our backyard had a swing set that my sister Sharon and I would play on since we were close in age - just 16 months apart.   Unlike Georgia, the terrain in Miami is pretty flat so our backyard was fenced in but connected to four other houses in the back and to the side.  You could cut between the yards to go directly across to Southwest Sr. High which was literally a stone’s throw from my house.  If the jalousie windows were open, you could hear the marching band practicing for football season.   The backyard also kept a little plastic kiddie pool which Sharon and I splashed in as little three and four year old girlie bears.  It was an idyllic little house on a little lot in a simple middle class neighborhood - it was home.  

It was the place I learned to walk, talk and  have my hair done by my big sister Kathy.  It was the place where we did Easter egg hunts year after year even after we had grown up and gotten our own homes and apartments nearby.  It was a place where you could walk for hours on Halloween and come back with a pillow case full of candy.  It was the place where my family discussed around the dinner table what was going on the Vietnam War and my sister’s need to demonstrate against it, the assassinations of the Kennedys, why Nixon was a crook, the first gay rights demonstrations with Anita Bryant, the Dolphin’s perfect season, etc.  It was a place where you could eat politically incorrect food like a sausage noodle casserole, ham & corn pudding and bacon and swiss cheese quiche (which my dad and brothers devoured easily because they didn’t care whether people thought they were real men).  It was the place were I got my two front baby teeth knocked out riding a bike in the street and where I hit my head on the water heater and sliced my forehead open both of which resulted in panicked runs to South Miami Hospital (luckily, my being a genuinely clumsy kid did not warrant a visit from DFACS).  It was where Max and my dad bonded over cooking and our refrigerator made chirping sounds like a bird - that went on for years which Max found charming. 

As I look out my own living room window writing this, the leaves are beginning to change  because it’s autumn - something I never got to experience in Miami.  We’ve lived in this house for 10 years and it’s bigger than that petite house in Miami.  Each of my kids has their own rooms and the bathrooms are a pretty good size.  It’s two stories which is not something you saw a lot of in Miami in the late 1950’s to 1970’s.  We get snow here from time to time and are not any better prepared then the folks in South Florida were when it snowed in 1977 as Snowmaggeon this year so painfully pointed out.   I’m not sure we’ll live here for 56 years, but I hope that my kids have the sort of happy memories I had in that little house that managed to shelter two parents and five kids who could not have been more different.  Maybe the proximity in that house helped us learn the fine art of having to get along.  The beauty of having a big family in a little space is that it’s always noisy and sulking quietly in your room is impossible because once one sibling pisses you off something else happens and you form a temporary alliance for pay back.  

As I texted back to my brother Steve - he reminded me that I still have the
memories and I reminded him I still had the canisters of home movies in which I transfer every year for the family to look at for the holidays.  Maybe this year I can find footage that is strictly about the house - that little house that held a family together through for almost six decades of Easter Egg hunts, Halloweens, Christmas mornings, Thanksgivings, five weddings, 14 grandkids and a funeral.  Maybe my brothers and sisters will remember how close we were physically and emotionally - even though we live in different states.   And maybe my kids and I will watch TV together in the master bedroom because watching TV in your parents room while sitting on their bed is the best thing ever and we’ll have bacon and swiss cheese quiche for brunch.  Yeah, Max was right - it was a very good house. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Long Goodbye

I came home from work on August 11th to find my husband looking shocked.  He was slowly taking out dishes from the dishwasher and said, “You know Robin Williams,” he started.  “Yes,” I said smiling wondering what the punchline was going to be.  I didn’t expect the next sentence.  “He died and the early reports are that he killed himself.”  “Wait - how? Why?” I asked as millions of people around the world did when they heard the news.   Those of us who do comedy improv, looked on him as our Pavarotti - the man with perfect pitch and timing.  

I was in shock and I hoped that this was some sad prank like the fake internet hoaxes for Eddie Murphy and Bill Cosby.  I figured if I waited a couple of hours, the internet would figure out it was all a big cluster fuck and the man who made me laugh thousands of times would be fine.  But once I went to the computer, truth was all too real.   Legitimate news sources were reporting on his suicide.  Suicide - I knew he had a problem with depression but Jesus, suicide?  I was numb.   I mean I’m a very emotional person, but I could barely cry.   I posted my shock on Facebook as many people did and even posted his best moments on Whose Line Is It Anyway? a show that does improv games.   I cried a little more but not the soul wrenching sobs that should have come.   This guy was a comedy legend - what happened?  

As the days went by, and the details emerged it got more heartbreaking - he had financial set backs, his sitcom The Crazy Ones was cancelled - he was deeply depressed.   The depression was the one that was getting me.  I’ve suffered from depression off and on since high school and when people would talk about how selfish he was for killing himself it was obvious they just don’t understand depression.   Some people self medicate with drugs and alcohol.  For me, it was obsessing on my weight, purging, crying and never feeling good enough no matter how pretty and thin people thought I was.  I tried to explain on Facebook that depression is like a cancer of the mind.  You would not say, “But she has such beautiful breasts, they had everything how could they get cancer?!”  It’s the same thing with depression, you can have wealth, success and be considered the funniest person on the planet but once that tumor takes hold of your psyche, it can over power you if it goes undiagnosed and untreated no matter how big a movie star you are.  

I remember in college having crying jags so bad, I was not sure if I would ever stop crying.  It was pretty bad after Danielle was born which really sucked because I had this beautiful baby but just felt like I was letting everyone down.  That’s what depression does, it pulls you into a vortex of self doubt, zaps your energy and you close off from people.  Worse is when people take the “just get over it” attitude because once you go down that slippery slope, it’s hard to pull yourself back up.  You would not tell a person with cancer to just snap out of it, don’t ask a depressed person to do the same thing.  But still the commentators on FOX, Rush Limbaugh (who also self medicated and has experienced depression) commented on how cowardly it all was.  Fucking A - these people had no idea and just because you are laughing on the outside doesn’t mean you’re not hurting on the inside.  

But you learn to cover up and for some people, humor is a great defense mechanism.  It keeps people at arms length if you can keep them laughing they won’t get too close - just keep them distracted by good humor and they will think everything is fine.  When the life of the party actually stops trying to crack you up and is serious, it’s a good sign - it means that they trust you enough to let the walls down and they want you to come in.   So I understood in my own way what is was like to be a funny person and still be someone who could walk off stage after making a packed house laugh and feel unworthy. 

A few days after his death, I was feeling a little better but then word came out that he was also suffering from Parkinson’s which had been recently diagnosed.   That hit me hard because my mother has Parkinson’s and I know first hand how that disease can take a healthy person and make them lose the ability to walk and do things for themselves.   It clicked as to why he might have done this - maybe he wanted to go out while he could still do things for himself.  My mother ate right and exercised and she got it - what was to keep me from getting it too - even if they have not be able to establish a link through heredity?  Shit, is that my future?  Would I want to be a burden to my family?  I sat on the computer that Saturday, tears rolling from my eyes because while I hate what he did maybe that was a saner reason than just depression.   

I needed to shake this funk and the kids really wanted to see a Robin Williams movie.  That night, we watched Mrs. Doubtfire and decided to recreate the cake in the face 
“Heellooo!” scene.  Each one of us - the kids and Max and I got to have a ton of whipped cream on our faces with all the giddy silliness of toddlers.   You can see the video see by clicking here.   After it was edited and posted - I have to say I felt much better because I was remembering him for the comic genius he was not the person who had killed himself. 

I would have left it at that until I saw the Twitter posts from Rob Schneider claiming that the Parkinson’s medicine is what killed Robin Williams. That really fucking pissed me off because again my mother suffers from Parkinson’s and if he was in the early stages then he was probably not taking a ton of medication but then I don’t know that and frankly either does Rob Schneider.   To use the reasoning that he had lived with depression for 20 years without offing himself and then blame the dangers of Parkinson’s medication is stupid and fucking irresponsible.  My conjecture (because I don’t know for sure and won’t make an declarative statement) is that his wife was probably keeping a close look at his medications and would alert a doctor to to any severe side effects or complications beyond the depression he had already been experiencing.  If you use that argument then why isn’t Michael J. Fox a victim of suicide as well?  He was diagnosed in 1991 so by using that logic, he would have been gone by his own hand long ago and yet here he is raising money and doing the best he can with what he has.   

I think in the end, we’ll never really know what happened and that’s the sad part.  It leaves us mourning harder then if it had been a random act of fate like a car accident.  I don’t know if Robin will be our generation’s Marilyn Monroe - it’s still too fresh to figure out and there will always be someone who will try to give you the definitive answer as to why - but unfortunately there is none.   In a more spiritual sense, I’d like to think that maybe the manner of his death encouraged people to call suicide hotlines which kept them from taking the same sad path.   There will be no way to know the number of people his final act might have saved.  

I was running with my earphones and Never Had a Friend Like Me came on from my Pandora feed.  I went from a run to a walk and started to cry.   My prayer is that I’ll be able to hear his voice and not feel loss but a genuine joy that this comic genius brought to the world.  Now when I look at a plate of whipped cream - I giggle.  Laughing with him and not crying because of him is what he would have wanted.    

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Fresh Coat of Paint

"You can fail at what you DON’T want... so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love."  - Jim Carrey

Long weekends seem to scream for ambitious home improvement projects.  Weeks before those three day weekends stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot run cheery commercials telling you that you can get it all done in just a few hours and then you are on your way to enjoy your weekend.   From time to time, I fall into that trap and this past 4th of July, I overly enthusiastically needed to fulfill the promise of not only redoing my oldest daughter’s room who had just turned 18 and my 13 year old daughter’s room.   It was just a paint job so how long could it take?  I could probably knock out both within a day.  Of course I forgot the first rule of home improvement - estimate the time it will take to finish the project and then double or triple it. However, in the process of cursing your own ambition you also need to keep in mind that makeovers can also give you a new perspective.  

Amber’s room was the one in the most need of updating.  Her room was the first one that I had painted
before we even moved into this house 10 years ago.  We had just closed the day before and I wanted to give the kids rooms a facelift.  The original colors in the house were floor to ceiling Army beige.  So before we moved in I had my girls pick out their paint - light pink for Amber and eggshell for Danielle.   We also picked out Amber’s flowered valance, the matching border and matching flowered stickers to put around the room so it would look like random wallpaper.  It was everything an eight year old girl who was into Disney Princesses could ask for but now it was no longer a room that an 18 year old girl wanted to hang-out in.  

That I understood, but that room had been frozen in time - a snapshot of our lives 10 years ago when I was still working in the international healthcare industry and I hadn’t had the shit kicked out of me job wise so many times.  
I remembered painting her room the first time at the height of that Georgia summer in 2004 - sweltering under the noon day heat since we had not turned on the power and there was no AC - just stagnant air and a faint breeze every now and then from an open window.  I had on my painting leggings and my white t-shirt which was drenched and clinging to my arms, torso and back.  The smell of latex and stale perspiration wafted in the air with each roller full of paint that was slathered on the walls erasing the dull beige and replacing it with something more kid friendly.  After about an hour, Amber’s room was done and I went over to Danielle’s room and made it a clean crisp white.  Since we were moving in the next day, it was easy to get around and paint both rooms without furniture.  By the time I was finished, I was covered in sweat with pink and white paint specs clinging to me - my hair was sopping wet (I’ve never been one of those women who glowed when it’s hot - I can perspire to the point that sweat balls roll off my nose and into neat little puddles).  I prayed as I left that none of the new neighbors wanted to meet me because I was literally a hot mess. 

So here I was, 10 years later with my daughter who is a legal adult, moving things around her room that had not really been changed since we moved in.   We carefully took the posters off her wall, took off the flowered border, peeled off the adhesive daisies and made the walls look empty.  Empty walls to fill with new ideas and adventures. 

The need to refresh was not lost on me, not just because my oldest daughter was now 18 years old.  I was now reconsidering a job change or more accurately - a career change.  Did I want continue to work in non-profits or did I want to strike out on my own and be my own boss?  The week of Amber’s big birthday, I had edited down our web series Death By South, made it into a sit-com and submitted it to the New York Television Festival hoping for the best.  But after that more questions started to emerge - did I want to develop a career in which I could do improv for business and also use improv to work with at-risk kids and police officers? 

Would I once again retreat into the relative safety of another non-profit job with benefits in which I would attempt once more to save the world only to have the world slap me in the face after it was saved over and over again?  I contemplated that as I put the paint onto the walls over the two and a half days it took to actually finish their rooms (note to me - expecting to do both places in one day was definitely overreaching).  

I thought about the past decade - going from my forties to the beginning of my fifties.   The improv group had been started in 2005 and had seen many incarnations although interestingly enough it’s been the one professional constant in my life.  I had been doing international healthcare for about two years when we moved in and an additional three years after that, then local healthcare for almost four years and finally working with adults with developmental disabilities.  Amber had gone from being in elementary school, to middle school to high school.  My mother had gone from being active to needing to be in assisted living with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.   My older sister’s 30 year marriage had ended, she battled colon cancer and had gotten remarried to a really great guy.   We have also lost and gained two cats in these 10 years - my kids learning hard lessons about love and heartbreak the way only the loss of a beloved pet can teach you.  So much had happened since these walls were first painted. 

Now, I was standing in this same room - this time filled with furniture that I needed to paint around.  I was in a different place in my life - not getting ready to start a new job in a new house but struggling professionally.  My baby girl will be graduating from high school this time next year and her adult life is stretching before her - independence closer then it was 10 years ago.  
So as each wall was finished and the touch-ups applied, I wondered about striking out on my own as well.  I’ve spent so much time making money for other people - writing grants to fund programs, making videos to promote charities, doing special events with the gala ladies from hell who could definitely give any nemesis that the Avengers encountered a run for Tony Stark’s money.  Not having to deal with bosses who would throw you under the bus to save their own asses would be nice.  

I might be working for myself but at least I’d have some sort of control.  Not that being on my own would be a piece of cake- I would have to collect money owned for services rendered.  I’d have to keep track of what I would owe tax wise as an independent contractor.  I would need to market myself and be out there selling constantly.  I would need to find my own health insurance but I would have a bit more control over my schedule.  I also had connections thanks to all my years raising money so folks might be willing to take a course from someone who had won awards doing special events or a course on how to speak confidently to a group of people since I’ve won awards doing improv as well.  But how irresponsible would I be to turn down a sure thing - a JOB with all the benefits to support my family?  The security that my paycheck would be the same thing every week so that we could budget - rather than feast or famine. 

The biggest difference in me at 51 versus me at 41 is that I’m older, hopefully wiser and well shit - just tired of saving the world instead of myself for a change.  Maybe I’ve been handed this opportunity to breakout and give it a shot for six months or a year and if it doesn’t workout then hell yeah, I’ll go back to sacrificing myself once again to make the world a better place but at least I will have given it a shot. 

Sounds like I’m pretty sure that’s what I’ll do right?  Not so fast, I have two job interviews - both with decent pay and benefits beaconing me to put my superhero cape on one more time to fly in and save (fill in the blank) again for old time’s sake.  I’m really torn - I mean to the point of tears because like most superheroes - what if the riskier path is the one fight I don’t come back from? What I lead the people who trust me down a roadway of ruin?  What if I’m not as strong as I think I am?  My theoretical self is a total bad ass able to handle anything - even a Hulk with PMS but disappointing people I love because I wanted to start my own business - that would be my Kryptonite. 

So there you have it - my moral dilemma unfolding and I just don’t have the luxury of distance or time to say - “Hey I was scared shitless but it all worked out - so follow your dreams, kids!”  Maybe it doesn’t have to be all or nothing - maybe a part-time job to start until the business gets going - that I could live with.  

Maybe it’s just one wall at a time - with random brush strokes that merge into one solid color and the imperfections which can be fixed later with a little touch-up paint.  Those random pieces of furniture that somehow come together and make the room look like there was a grand master plan all along that you can step back from and say “Well hell, yeah, I meant to do that!”  Maybe - but just like any good home improvement project - it’s not going to happen as quickly as you thought.