I am switching the domain to this blog from judithgarvinbickel to akamitzi.com.
And then come back in a few days and read why.
Peace and love.
For the four people who read my site, make note:
I am switching the domain to this blog from judithgarvinbickel to akamitzi.com.
And then come back in a few days and read why.
Peace and love.
I left a good job at a very worthwhile nonprofit run by two dynamic female Co-EDs whom I respect.
The reasons at the time I gave my notice were true enough. I wanted diverse responsibilities. I wanted the flexibility to travel to see my sons and be with my husband when he's on hiatus.I wanted more direct interaction with the guests. On and on. Yet, these reasons didn't stand the test, because my Co-ED was completely willing to work with me.
So why did I choose to leave?
I couldn't answer this truly until a few things happened. First, I needed to be home, not working. Not having a job is a very uncomfortable place for me. I have been working since I'm 10 and haven't stopped since. I have always worked because even though my grandparents never denied me anything, I always lived with the sense that I had to make my own money and my own way and had to be completely independent less I be dependent on someone or, worse, wind up on the street. There was no safety net and I knew it. So even though my financial situation is such that I will never be on the street, it doesn't matter. The emotional foundation is there.
The second thing I had to face is my need to fix what is broken. This need, like my need to work nonstop, is a product of my childhood, of my helplessness in not being able to fix all the hurt that was around me growing up, including my own. I realized that because the organization I just left is so well run and the atmosphere is overall really healthy and the women in charge are so competent, there was no opportunity for me to swoop in and save the world. They had it covered.
These emotional scars are so deep-seated that even before leaving my most recent job, I reached out to a former employer. Yes, I reached out because their mission speaks to my soul. But as important I reached out because working with them would have meant there'd be no gaps in my working. And because they are so broken, there would have been plenty of opportunity for me to fix. Sadly, it didn't matter that I left that situation for all the right reasons. My childhood scars were such that it was better to feel needed and work nonstop even if it meant I'd return to a horribly toxic environment.
Lucky for me, I never heard back from them. I never heard back and, as a result, have never been more grateful to my higher power. Not hearing back not only reinforced why I left in the first place, it planted me square in the middle of being home alone with my discomfort which has brought me to the discoveries that I am sharing with you today.
I will work again. I will work again because I want to work. I will work because I enjoy using my mind and interacting with people. I will work because I have skills and abilities and experience that are an asset. I will work in a capacity where I can affect as much positive change as possible for as many people as possible. I will do this - not to heal old wounds for myself or for people who have moved on - but to soothe current ones for those in need. I will not work with toxic people in a toxic environment - even if the mission is worthy, I will cherish those people and organizations that create and foster joy and goodness.
When will I work again? I don't know and not knowing makes me uncomfortable and uneasy and brings up ghosts that I didn't know were even there.
Until I work again I will live with these ghosts and my higher power and myself and together we will walk down the path to where I am meant to be to share my skills and experience and, most importantly, my love.
When you descend the stairs to the Metro, you are signing a contract, invisible yet binding.
Your eyes, windows to the world, must be instantly battened down and shuttered. Do not show emotion or react - not to the woman carrying a limp baby and sign asking for food nor to the man, barely out of his teens, skeletal, strung out.
Swipe your pass and shed your true self at the turnstile. No sorrows or struggles. No joy. Especially no joy, no smile, not laughter, unless you are high and, if you are high, your contract is unique and ironclad. Follow the lead of your homeless brethren and shrink within yourself. Hide your stink, your filthy clothes.
Find your mark behind the yellow line. You are a play actor who must exist in caricature form only - the businesswoman, the junkie, the hipster.
Enter the train and get out your props. Your phone, your book. Tolerate the noise and the smell and the taste of despair as if all your senses are lost.
Whatever you do, do not break character.
Ascend the stairs only to sadly discover that the contract remains, its language more ambiguous yet equally irrevocable.
Execute the terms until you become your part. Method act until you are faceless and empty of all humanity.
Do it. Day after day after day, all the while awaiting the contract's end.
Today is my mother's birthday.
There are no balloons or cake. No gifts or decorations.
My mother is dead and has been for almost six years.
But today is still my mother's birthday.
I see the date on my computer - October 22 - and I feel a rise to my throat and I swallow down hard.
I will cry, but not yet.
First, I want to - let me correct that, need to - swim through this pain that I am feeling. I must bathe in the mixture of guilt and sorrow and sadness and loss.
I force myself to imagine what my sweet gentle mother's birthdays must have been like when she was locked away at Rockland Psych. I hear the screaming down the halls and human smells and violence fill my nose and I see her little body, not even five feet, on an iron bed collapsed into itself.
There were no balloons or cake. No gifts or decorations.
I need to feel what my grandparents must have felt on their daughter's birthday, their baby's day, year after year as she descended deeper into her schizophrenia. The pain that hits me is too real, too present. I shove it back to the past, a coward.
Instead I let self loathing wash over me for not knowing my mother's favorite flavor cake or asking her what her birthdays were like when she was a child, still free. For not flying out from California. For thinking sending sneakers and t-shirts via Amazon were the same as being there.
I swallow again.
Today is my mother's birthday. Today will always be my mother's birthday. And today I will look for her, as I have done every day for the past five years and eight months, in the skies and on the ground. I will call out to her, silently and aloud. And I will pray to God, as I always do, that she will answer.
Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.
My plants speak to me, softly yet urgently.
"Judy," they whisper as I walk by.
"Yes," I say.
But they do not seek my words. My words are useless to them, to their survival, to their happiness. So I say nothing more.
Instead I feel their need. Their thirst. Their drowning. From sunlight. From water.
From neglect and from decay.
I stand silent with them and they completely fill me with their desire until I feel their thirst, their drowning, their neglect, their decay.
Where do they end and I begin?
I caress their leaves - for just a moment - before mercilessly tearing away at any sign of death. I fill them with water or empty their vessels, dry.
I turn them toward the light or shield them from its burning.
I leave them, their rotted leaves staining my hands.
"Judy," they whisper as I walk by.
do not avert
my wounds, fester,
peel them away!
with indelicate hands
smothered marrow, dying
swim in my blood
and excise me
from this facade
We don't know how Daisy ended up at the city shelter.
But there she was, four years ago, leaning against her cage, staring, silent.
Her age was a guess as she was found on the street, a stray, maybe a runaway or maybe discarded. She was young, younger than the age on her card, as it turns out, and certainly younger than the shelter volunteer would admit.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. Never tell a shelter volunteer what you are looking for in a pet. In their desperate eagerness to get the animal adopted out, they will try to convince you that the old, white Chihuahua snarling at you is in fact the young, sweet black Labrador you've been dreaming about.
I made it clear the minute I walked into the shelter that I wanted a full-grown, medium-sized dog. No puppies and certainly no large dogs. Hershey - our first family pet ever - had just died two weeks earlier and in his long, protracted dying I would have to lift his 65-pound shaky frame into my car to take him to the vet and every day I would have to clean up the mess left by his failing body in much the same way you would a gigantic sad puppy. I made a solemn promise to myself that nothing would ever make me go through that again.
"Yup, she's full grown."
Anyone with an ounce of puppy experience would have seen Daisy's sparkling sharp teeth and big floppy head disproportionate to her adorable little 38-pound body and would have replied "Nope, puppy."
But Hershey was our only experience with a dog and he came with rotted teeth and a previously fractured femur that left his back leg forever dragging behind him. We just didn't know from puppies.
We didn't know from puppies and that's why, for the past four years and almost forty pound later, Daisy is out of her cage and in our home.
Her teeth aren't as white anymore and her body, stout like a barrel, is now in proportion to her head. She's only five, a verifiable five, but you can see her slowing down. She doesn't get up -- or into the car -- like she used to. There are no battered bones, just back hips beginning to betray her.
There are days while sitting on her bed next to the couch, she will lean her thick body against mine and stare, silent.
On these days I allow my hand to rest on her soft solid head while I stare back silently for just a moment.
"Don't worry, girl, there are some promises that are made to be broken."
a Robin Hood,
hiding in mirrors
reflections of youth
old, Merry Men laugh
my visage, invisible
forgive me, brother,
for I have sinned
no blood on my hands
ain't no giving
When I was 15, I had a job in a supermarket working in the back office. Even then it was unclear to me exactly what my responsibilities were, but it had something to do with gruff delivery men in thick gloves handing me inventory labels on white glossy sheets, and me putting these labels, one by one, into a large, light-colored ledger.
It was during the summer of that year, 1982, while I was busy peeling labels that the New York legislators were busy enacting a bottle-redemption law. All of a sudden, overnight (at least it seemed that way to the harried management at Waldbaum's Store #101) our supermarket was forced to act as a bottle-redemption center and, as a result, overnight, I was forced by the aforementioned, harried management to become the store's Bottle Girl.
As Bottle Girl, it was my job - in between the inexplicable label peeling - to receive "empties." For every "empty" a customer handed me, I handed them a nickel.
I could see them, the store's customers, before they could see me. I'd stand at the dutch door separating the back office from the main market, my box of nickels in a cardboard box, and I would know instantly who was going to veer left to shop and who was going to veer right with their empties.
For the most part it was not a wholly disagreeable job. I liked the people, helping them and chatting with them, and before long I had a series of "regulars". These regulars - usually older couples who found my high, bleached hair and enthusiasm for bottle-collecting endearing - would bring me just-because presents and souvenirs from their Caribbean vacations. "To the Bottle Girl" cards would read on top of carefully-wrapped Bruce Springsteen records and Abalone-shell bracelets.
Life as the Bottle Girl went on like this until one day, toward the end of one of my shifts, a man I had never seen before walked through the automated doors. I watched him, confused, unable to figure out which way he should go.
He stared ahead, then made his way to my door, his expression icy cold. One by one, he put his empties on my small counter, hitting it harder each time, staring ahead, a face of stone.
(Even as I smiled and kibbitzed with all my customers, somewhere in me I always knew how my job as Bottle Girl could be perceived: a lower-middle class teenager with a schizophrenic mother accepting people's dirty bottles. But none of my interactions had ever roused this bear of insecurity, not until this man walked in and woke it up ferociously.)
I smiled at the man, but got nothing in return. I tried saying "thank you" with each bottle he banged down, the glass vibrating from the pounding against the counter. No response. When he had no more bottles, he barked at me for his money, and something in me just broke.
"Why are you being so mean to me?" I asked, a mixture of fear and shame and sadness choking my words.
He shook his head, staring, never really looking at me. "I'm a police officer. I'm a police officer, and I shot someone today. I think I killed them. I came here... I just wanted to do something normal, to feel normal."
It wasn't me after all. It wasn't my schizophrenic mother or the fact that I lived in an apartment. It wasn't that I redeemed dirty bottles. I wasn't even there.
One by one I handed him his nickels, softly laying them in his hand. "I'm sorry," I said.
"I'm sorry," he said in reply, to me, to the man he shot, to the Universe, before walking out the automated doors, unsure which way to go.
Daisy is isolating herself in the boys' bathroom again.
She does this when she is scared or depressed or insulted. She is very sensitive - I guess it's the Rhodesian Ridgeback in her - so it's not uncommon to see her there as you walk by, back against the tub with her ears down, curled on top of the brown bath rug, staring out.
Her latest self-imposed sequestration is because we are dog sitting for our friend's King Charles Cavalier, Reggie, and her feelings are hurt. This time around she is not being oversensitive. She is 100% being left out of all the doggy play.
I think Daisy, in part, is the victim of size-ism. She is big and solid and at least a head taller and 40 pounds heavier than either Puppy or Reggie. She just can't help it; she looks intimidating. So even though it was Puppy who immediately gave Reggie an aggressive little snarl and a whole lot of humping to assert his dominance, it's Daisy that Reggie actively avoids.
Daisy tries to get in there, in the middle of the two dogs playing. She stands on the perimeter, giving little "hey, I'm here, too" barks. When that doesn't work, she circles them, carrying her red-white-and-blue Bomb Pop dog toy as an offering, but still she's ignored. Eventually, she gives up and walks away, dropping the Bomb Pop despondently in the process.
To Daisy's credit, she has also tried -- when Puppy is too tired from all the humping and snarling and playing -- to approach Reggie one-on-one. She will get into her "I'm ready to play" crouch stance and very gently nudge Reggie's head. Unfortunately, this move just sends the little guy running to me in fear, which, in turn, very unfortunately sends Daisy running back toward the boys' bathroom.
Because I can't bear to watch Daisy being excluded, I have actively tried to get Reggie and Puppy to notice her. I pet her over-enthusiastically and kiss her face and say things like "who's a good girl, Daisy is the good girl" until the two little dogs approach, curious.
But, alas, it doesn't take long for Reggie and Puppy to move on, leaving me unable to make Daisy, beautiful, gentle Daisy, any less sad or hurt no matter how many times I continue to pet her or how many kisses I give her.
As a parent, I should be used to this.
I had to watch heartbroken, as Camden - who in his Baby-Huey toddlerhood was his own victim of size-ism - played alone on the periphery in play groups and preschool, because he didn't have the words to express himself.
I had to stand back and accept that no matter how I tried I couldn't comfort Jesse, - the baby brother wanting to be just like the bigger boys - as he cried frustrated and sad because he couldn't run as fast or climb as high or do anything as well as Camden and his friends.
Of course, years later, Camden talks plenty and has lots of friends, and Jesse runs fast, really fast, but I know - I very, very profoundly know - that it could have gone the other way. Camden may never have found his words, any words, and Jesse may have never been able to catch up, and as much as that would have twisted me around inside and out, I would have had to accept that I just couldn't fix it.
The good news is that Reggie has only been here for a day. Perhaps he will get used to Daisy's size. Perhaps he will get tired of Puppy and his humping and snarling and playing. Maybe he will notice Daisy when she lets out her little "hey, I'm here" barks and will play tug-of-war when she offers him the rubber Bomb Pop.
Or maybe he won't.
It doesn't rain where I live. I hate it. It feels like I am living on the moon, assuming the moon was a place where people from all around the solar system go to get stuck in their cars on their way to desperately trying to become famous.
I know this is going to sound like the skinny girl who complains about not being able to gain weight, but I am absolutely sick of the constant sunshine. It truly depresses me, to my core, in the same way constant rain depresses others.
The weather is just so annoyingly vapid. There are no moody, dark clouds or thunderous rumblings or even sunshowers. I'm willing to acquiesce on the sunshine if L.A. would just meet me halfway with a shower, but her wicked response to my request is an endless stream of smiling suns on the weather app.
As a result, everything is dry and destitute and devoid of color in a concrete, strip-mall type of way. To counter this, I surround myself with plants both inside and out, but the earth is so dusty that the plants outside seem to be dying even when they're not.
The plants inside are faring the same way I am - they're surviving as long as they don't leave the house. This may be an okay way for an African Violet to live, but it's not working out so well for me. There are days that I feel like I am dying, even when I'm not.
Maybe I am feeling this way because of the recent heat that is ridiculous even by Los Angeles standards. Perhaps it's because I am just tired of being in traffic, all the time, stuck staring at the colorless concrete that is this city.
More likely it's because the sand surrounding me feels like the sand inside an hourglass. It is going down and down rapidly, while I am caught inside looking out, seeing right in front of me that there is so much more to life, but not understanding how to break free before it's too late and I am buried alive.
I choose not to read about the shooter.
Instead, I am focusing on the victims. I am getting to know their favorite foods and how they celebrated their birthdays and where they worked.
I read their names and feel closer to them through what loved ones are sharing. I study their photos, and I see my sons. The same youth and sweetness and joy for living. And, I cry.
I cried when I woke up to the headline. I cry with every new update. I cry and cry some more thinking about the mother of Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, a mother who received one final text from a son locked in a bathroom with the gunman approaching, "Mommy I love you."
I cry most for everyone in the club that night, their youth and sweetness and joy irrevocably damaged, or worse, stolen, gone, gone forever.
I choose not to read about the shooter, but the headlines seep in, "assault weapons bought legally."
"England," I say to my husband, "or Australia." He shakes his head. He's seen and heard this before, after Sandy Hook, where my dear friend's daughter was locked in her kindergarten class, the carnage a few doors down.
With every mass shooting my husband watches my catatonic obsession with the victims unfold. "Japan," I implore, "you've always wanted to go to Japan." Each time he shakes his head. "No place is perfect."
I had a dream just a few nights ago, before a crazed gunman would take the lives of 49 young men and women, that I moved to London. In my dream, vivid and real, I walked through the neighborhood of brick and wood buildings, and it felt right, right to be there. I visited the flat where I was to live.
The current tenants, sitting on their bed ready to move out, said that I would like it, like it very much, except for the train that rumbles underneath them. As I listened, I weighed the pros and cons, thinking "no place is perfect." I woke up not knowing if I chose to stay or leave.
I'm just trying to figure it out, like everyone else.