I am a newly converted health fanatic. And like all new converts, I can be a little overzealous and obsessive. Having felt so unhealthy and miserable for so very long does tend to pour gasoline on the paranoia fire that burns in my skull telling me that if I’m not careful, I will wake up one morning and suddenly be twenty pounds on the wrong side of a healthy BMI and feeling like an old woman again.
In my latest quest to encourage my body to be as healthy as possible, I took advantage of the new 3D body scanner at my gym. It spat out a bunch of numbers that would seem to indicate that I am a very healthy person for a 35-year-old woman. Which means I’m really healthy for a 43-year-old woman. Yay me.
Except for one thing: my posture.
The fact that my right shoulder is higher than my left wasn’t a surprise. I have scoliosis. So, I’m always going to have that oh-so-trendy-for-1987 slacker lean, no matter how hard I try not to (eat your heart out, John Hughes). But then came the bad news. My head is almost 4” out of alignment, which means I’m looking down when I should be looking out. Staring at what’s immediately in front of me, instead of looking up that beautiful, expansive horizon.
And that, my friends, is exactly what I’ve been doing for so long, I’m too embarrassed to say it out loud.
When your back is it to the wall, and things are catching fire all around you, what do people tell you to do?
Keep your head down and just keep moving forward. Because sometimes that horizon isn’t bright and beautiful and full of possibilities. Sometimes there’s a big fucking hurricane filled with sharknados heading your way, and you know it’s coming, and everything on the road in front of you is telling you to stop, reassess, and try another path, but you doggedly, stubbornly stick to your guns, because goddamnit, that’s the path you’ve chosen.
I’ve never been a superstitious person. I don’t believe in signs. I don’t believe in charms. I’ve broken mirrors and think black cats are the cutest of felines. But I do believe in G-d. And I do believe that if you pay attention, sometimes, if you’re really heading into the shit, Adonai will shout at you to stop what you’re doing and maybe reassess for a minute. The problem is that most of us - myself included - don’t listen until it’s too late.
There’s an old joke that goes something like this:
Once a very religious man was in his home, watching the news and the weatherman said, “Everyone in the city needs to evacuate. There’s a storm coming, and it is going to bring a flood.”
The man looked at his dog and said, “Don't worry. G-d will provide for us.”
As the water began to rise around his home, his neighbor pulled up to the man's front door in a boat.
“Get your dog and get in!” the neighbor shouted. “I’ll take you to safety.”
The man just smiled and said, “Don’t worry. G-d will provide for us.”
The water rose higher until the man had to climb onto his roof to escape it. Soon a helicopter came along, hovering overhead. A soldier shouted into the megaphone, “Climb the ladder. We’ll take you to safety.”
But the man waved him off and yelled back, “Don’t worry about me. G-d will provide.”
The water soon overtopped the roof, and the man’s loyal dog was swept away by the current, but somehow managed to make it safely to higher ground. The dog howled at the man to take the same chance, but the man just laughed to himself as the water rose up to his neck. “Silly old dog. G-d will provide for me.”
And so, the man drowned.
When he got to heaven, he was pissed. And he stormed through the gates and shouted at G-d, “I believed in you. I had faith. And you let me drown!”
G-d replied, “I sent you a weather report, a boat, a helicopter, and a loyal dog to guide you to safety. You just didn’t listen.”
Sometimes keeping your head down and believing that the path you’re on will somehow lead to a good destination, despite all evidence to the contrary, is just fucking stupid.
And so it’s been in my own life. Without getting into too much detail, trust me when I tell you that G-d sent me a lightning strike, a mild civil war, and a blood curse to try and stop me from the path that I insisted was the only one for me.
When lightning struck, I told myself I was being superstitious. It didn’t mean a thing. I was happy, wasn’t I?
The tempest in a teacup of a civil war? I just need to be more convincing. I needed to win. And I did win that fight to lasting damage of everyone involved. Yay me.
The blood curse? I’m not going to lie, that one about did me in. That one brought me to my knees, but I told myself, these things happen and not to read too much into it.
Hindsight’s 20-20, but there you go. That’s what you get for keeping your head down and looking directly in front of you instead of at what’s looming on the horizon.
So, after actively not paying attention to the VERY BIG SIGNS that I can now see were VERY CLEARLY POSTED along my path towards self-destruction, now my head is up, and my eyes are wide fucking open.
Now that I’m cognizant of my poor posture and have been straightening my shoulders and my neck, I have to admit, it makes me uncomfortable. I feel so visible, so tall, so powerful, so very alert.
And while being visible, tall, powerful, and alert are all marvelous things, they mean that I am out there in the world and it makes it difficult to hide from it. And it makes me wonder if somehow my subconscious wasn’t trying to tell me all of this four years ago when I created Ben Bordelon.
Ben. Six-foot-five, gorgeous, striking, big, beautiful Ben Bordelon. Why did I make him so fucking tall?
Between you and me, I used to think I knew exactly why. The thought process went a little something like this: you see, once I knew this man…
[Before any of you rush off to buy plane tickets to New Orleans to try to find out if Ben Bordelon is a real, live, actual man… Stop. He’s not.]
…. but once I knew this man. And while he was very tall, the way he carried himself made him larger than life. He was always the biggest thing in the room on and off the stage. And it was a remarkable thing to behold. I used to call him the Collector of Sighs, because that’s what followed him wherever he went. A collection of sighs from women who wanted to be his girlfriend, men who wanted to be him, and me, who just sighed in appreciative wonderment that such a person actually existed.
It was that presence, that towering, magnetic charisma that I wanted Ben to have.
But now I think it was more than that. Bad things have happened to Ben, but he has a center. A core that is so solid, it holds him upright, vigilant for opportunities and dangers alike.
I think I wrote him to remind myself to stand up. To smile more. To love myself more. To carry the weight of what was happening to me with a little more aplomb and self-worth.
Why? Because of this…
In That Old Devil Sin, Ben says this to Q:
“Baby, everyone’s broken somehow. It’s how you carry it that matters… I smile because I like my business to be private. No one tries to figure you out when they think you’re walking in the sunlight.”
Just between you and me, that last bit is something my friend, the Collector of Sighs, once told me. I wasn’t handling a bad day very well, and that’s what he told me. And now that I’m neck deep in the flood waters of this Sharknado Hurricane I’ve strolled into, that’s what I remind myself to do every day.
Stand up. Head high. Smile. Be kind. And look for that flashing neon sign that’s got to be around here somewhere, pointing me to a better path