Declined: A (Self)Love Story

 

I was getting a jump on cooking dinner when I got a notification that I had a new email. Normally, I would glance at my lock screen to see who it was from and make a mental note to check it later. But this ended up being different. It wasn’t just one of those crap spam emails that flood my inbox (No, Directv, I’m not coming back! Leave me alone!). It was from a literary magazine I had recently submitted to. I had found their call for submissions via the Discovery tab on Submittable. It was a call for a piece of poetry that contained certain words. It seemed like a fun little challenge, so I crafted up a piece and sent it their way.

When I was able to pull the pan off the burner, I opened my Gmail app. This was what I was greeted with (the name of the publication has been removed):

Dear Angela,

Thank you for your submission to XXXXXX Magazine. After careful consideration, we have decided not to select “Before?” for publication. There are many possible reasons for why a particular piece isn’t selected, and I regret that I am unable, given time constraints, to offer further explanation as to which of those reasons applied to your work. I will say that you’re in good company; as always, there were many authors and many pieces that I would have liked to include.

Now if you know me, you’re probably thinking I’m crushed. And there was a time, not even that long ago when you’d be right. Were I the Angela of a handful of years ago, I’d be sitting here in a pit of despair. My self-confidence, shakey like a young deer on ice, would have been completely annihilated. I would probably be ugly crying and thinking that the voice in my head, which sounds like a really weird combination of two women, was correct. I really couldn’t get anything right. I was a sham who would never know what I was doing.

But that’s not happening. What is happening is surprising.

 

I’m okay.

Actually, I’m more than okay.

I’m good.

I feel proud of the piece and, more importantly,

I’m proud of myself.

So what changed?

Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t feel the cut that this declination would have once made.  Don’t be mistaken, it’s not a misplaced apathy type of feeling. It’s not the depression I’ve grown like a bonsai tree my entire life filling my head with nihilistic whispers. I just legitimately don’t feel this is a failure.

This year, I’ve come into my own when it comes to my writing. I’ve tried new things, forced myself on shaky limbs, and learned to work within my own voice. I’ve also forced myself to become dedicated. I’ve developed a discipline to keep the hot or cold switch in my head in the right position. For years, I’ve wanted to do this. I’ve wanted to create words and ideas that I could share with people. And now I finally am.

This rejection is a good thing. And I’m not trying to blow smoke up my own ass here. I really, truly think it is. I’m showing myself I’m able to face the chance that I might not be everyone’s cup of tea and accept it. I’m flexing the muscle of my psyche that’s matured into an IDGAF self-content woman. So what if the piece wasn’t what the magazine was looking for? It was what I wrote. It was what I created. And even if it fucking sucks, in the moment of its creation, it was exactly what it was supposed to be.

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Not all wins are trophies, championships, or acceptance letters. Some victories, and often the best ones, are the ones that ignite inside of you. There the ones that people can only see when they catch the glint of determination and self-appreciation in your eyes. They are the ones you will never have a newspaper clip out of, but will always remember.

 

 

And those are the ones current me strives for.

 

 

 

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PS: In case you’re wondering about the piece itself, I’ve included it below. The designated words to use are still in bold so you can see what I was working with.

 

Before?

Not lamp, but light
The kind of brightness that prys eyes apart
The nightstand is long since emptied
Pictures gone, now filled with medicine bottles and phone chargers
Was this what life was like
Before?

Her electrical current is no longer current
The coil has thus been shuffled
But damned if she doesn’t still make
The hair on the back of my neck stand at attention
That’s the only attention being served these days

The TV never stops, but I don’t know what’s on
It’s just lights without sound
I thought I had turned it off
But it’s talking heads keep the remote hidden
So I can’t check for sure

I know that pain is a real thing
But feelings elude me
How much longer must I endure?
Eight weeks dead might just as well be eighty
Is this what life was like
Before?

 

A Smudging Primer

Gather round friends. It’s time to talk some Conjure.

Here’s my quick rundown on Smudging.

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It’s said that the average adult washes their hands about 8 times a day. The same average adult showers between 3 and 7 times a week. Obviously, being clean is important. But what about the spiritual part of us?  

Think of all the times you’ve ended a call or walked out of a room and were left feeling gross. Or how after an argument or altercation full of heavy emotion, you can feel the negativity around you like a cloud of second-hand smoke. For those times when negative emotions overwhelm and stain, there’s smudging.

Smudging is done by burning certain herbs, typically sage, cedar, or sweetgrass, bundled together into smudge sticks. The herbs can also be used in loose leaf form. (Hell, once I used powdered sage). Then the resulting smoke is used to cleanse a person, place, thing, or even animal of negative or stagnant energies. It is also a way promote healing, to honor, and as an act of purification.

Personally, I love sage. For my entire life, I’ve been drawn to the herb. Honestly, I am not a plant person. I’m pretty sure sunflowers turn away from me when they see me. But something about sage has always felt right to me. I haven’t tried to grow my own yet though. I think I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever tried to grow. But very soon, I am going to get a few sage plants to cultivate in the dilapidated herb garden in my yard.

Smudge kits typically contain a smudge stick, a feather, a shell, and like the one I got recently some matches. Each part of the kit is correspondent with an element. The shell for Water, the dried herbs for Earth, the matches for Fire, and the smoke from the herb for Air.
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As with any ritual or practice, the intent is important. Smudging should be done with positive, determined heart and mind. You should hold sacredness and respect while you are smudging, There are prayers or chants you can recite while taking part, but as with everything, you don’t have to. The importance is that you do what feels correct.

The act of smudging can be both an every day and a ceremonial practice. It can be a periodic “Spring Cleaning” for the spirit or it can be a prescribed solution to a problem. Also, it doesn’t have to be just for you. Any item that you use frequently can and should be smudged. Crystals, tools (magick and secular alike), even your cell phone and computer could benefit from the act. If it’s in use and important to you, a quick smudge can’t hurt.

The same is exceptionally true for your home. Smudging your house can eradicate the lingering energies that you want gone. There’s even scientific thought that the art of smudging has antibacterial effects. And as someone who has a house full of what feels like constantly snotty-nosed children, I will take all the antibacterial effects I can get. 

While I am no expert and hold no degree or title of rank, I know this:

Smudging works. It makes me feel better, mind and body. It makes my house feel better and safer. I’d say my results were purely anecdotal, but for thousands of years, it’s been proven.

 

 

Conjure and Coffee Recommends: Podcasts

This is the first post in what I hope will become a frequent series where I throw out some recommendations for things I love. I tend to get a little excited about things I’m into. Think Redbull infused fangirl meeting Nathan Fillion at a convention excited. So I wanted to share some of that excitement with you and recommend some things you might enjoy. I’ll break down each item presented and explain what it is and why I love it. I’ll provide links when available. (When aren’t links available? Everything has a link to somewhere.)

With all that said, let’s get to it. Today’s Conjure and Coffee Recommends will be all about PODCASTS!

I spend a good deal of the day doing menial tasks. Having something to spark my brain while doing typical mind-numbing things a whole lot easier. One of the podcasts listed below is made by a group of artists whose tagline is “Television for your ears” and that’s exactly what it’s like. Instead of dreading doing roughly 15 tons of laundry and 300 sinks full of dirty dishes, I look forward to plugging my ears in and tuning out. Well, as tuned out as one can be with kiddos running around.

Here are eight of my absolute favorites:

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Levar Burton Reads– If you know him, and you do, you love him. From Roots to Star Trek: The Next Generation, to Reading Rainbow, Levar Burton has been an icon since before some of us were born. Reading Rainbow was such a pivotal part of my childhood. That’s why when I found out about his podcast, I was overjoyed. Levar Burton Reads is a whole lot like Reading Rainbow, but the stories are way more mature. Started in 2017, the series features Levar reading handpicked short fiction stories from outstanding authors.While they are not all the same, they are all very, very good. There are 22 episodes that are between 40 and 55 minutes long. My personal favorites include “Kin” by Bruce McAllister (Episode 1), “Chivalry” by Neil Gaiman (Episode 7), “The Paper Menagerie” By Ken Liu (Episode 11), and “Furry Night” by Joan Aiken (Episode 18).

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Something To Wrestle w/ Bruce Prichard– As I’ve written about in this post  I am a long time pro wrestling fan. Bruce Prichard, who I despised in my youth as the red-faced televangelists Brother Love, has been a part of the wrestling business for a very long time. He was instrumental in so much the wrestling of my youth.  He is also an incredible storyteller (Just don’t ask him to talk money). Guided by host Conrad Thompson, Bruce discusses his tenure in the WWF/WWE in an engaging and hilarious way. Be forewarned, if you have a stick up your ass and no sense of humor, this is not the podcast for you. There are tons of in-jokes and more sexual innuendos than you can shake a salad steel cage at. The first episode dropped in the summer of 2016 and since then Conrad and Bruce have blessed us with 92 episodes. Episodes run long! One of the longest, Episode 79 on Goldust, is a little over 5 hours. But I promise, not a second is wasted….motherfucker.

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What Happened When– I can’t mention Conrad and Bruce without telling you about Conrad and Tony and What Happened When! Like the Something to Wrestle With podcast, this foul-mouthed expletive-laden slice of wrestling nostalgia is too good not to listen to. Focusing on the great and not so great years of the NWA, WCW, and Jim Crockett Promotions, one of my all-time favorite commentators Tony Schiavone is once again back in the crazy world of wrestling. Initially in a similar vein as the Bruce Prichard podcast, the show has morphed into a buddy comedy Watch Along. It’s like a dirty-minded Nitro Party for your ears. The saddest thing about this pod is that the end is in sight. Tony agreed to the gig primarily to help pay for his daughter’s wedding which is set to happen at the end of this month. But no worries! As of this writing, there are 61 episodes with a handful left. Most episodes are about 3 hours long. Being a watch along, the ideal setting would be to listen to the podcast while watching the PPV the episode focuses on, but it’s not necessary. I listen while doing daily chores. If you’d like to catch up the tape machines were in fact rolling! The archives of the show are on youtube so you can listen to any episode at any time.

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Tanis– Are there any true mysteries left or has the internet provided solutions for all of them? That’s the question that entices Nic Silver to the deep, dark world of Tanis. What is Tanis? Well, you’re going to have to listen to find out. From the Public Radio Alliance (which was once part of Pacific Northwest Stories who is responsible for The Black Tapes Podcast mentioned below) Tanis is the audio equivalent of jumping into the deep end of the pool blindfolded. History, myth, and storytelling blend so well that you will be googling to see if what you heard was the truth or part of a wonderfully crafted story. Like their tagline, which I love so much, they really are like television for your ears. The universe that is created by the storytelling and character development is incredibly immersive while being oddly relatable. The first episode “Seeking Tanis, Runner Available” was released in 2015. Since then the Tanis team has gone on a very, very wild ride. Episodes run between 35 and 50 minutes are just the perfect length to leave you wanting more. Also, this month a new series from PRA starts called The Last Movie. Nic and MK from Tanis take on a new but equally frightening subject. I am pretty excited to check it out.

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The Black Tapes– The Black Tapes Podcast was my introduction to the world of podcasts.  If you are familiar with the ultra-popular Serial you will feel right at home with TBT. Equal parts history, demonology, and math, The Black Tapes is a world onto itself. The show follows Alex Regan as she slips into the murky world that surrounds the perplexing Dr Richard Strand and his mysterious collection of black videotapes. You know, like VHS tapes? Remember those? Well, don’t worry if you don’t have a VCR, Alex, Nic (yep, Nic from Tanis) and Dr Strand will guide you. There are twists and turns everywhere with this. The characters are so well done that you’ll feel like you know these people on an intimate level after just a few episodes. I can not stress how much I loved this series. With the declaration of my love known, I have to tell you the ending of this series was probably the worst wrap to a storyline ever. It was exceptionally disappointing. NOTE: While checking in on the voice actor for Alex Regan from the show, I noticed a retweet of a type of announcement from The Black Tapes twitter. Remember when I explained what a “work” and what a “mark” was in my wrestling post? Well, guys, I got worked. We all got worked. It was never over. I’ll just be over here fangirling until my arms break. Don’t mind me.

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S-Town– Sometimes the most interesting and complexing people live in out of the way nowhere “shit towns”. That’s the case with Brian Reed’s investigative series set in the small town of Woodstock, Alabama. Almost immediately the series became less about the town and more about the enigmatic man who contacted the producers of This American Life to have them investigate a murder. Unlike Tanis and The Black Tapes, this series is real. There are only seven episodes which run between 40 and 62 minutes in length. This is a hard listen. There are topics discussed and language used that may be offensive to some if not most people. However, it is a fascinating look at the dark side of everyday life. And the price that comes with being the odd man out in a conservative town.

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Dear Franklin Jones– What would it be like if you grew up in a cult? Jonathan Hirsh goes on that journey in Dear Franklin Jones. His parents were followers of Franklin Jones (also known as Adi da and a whole slew of other names) before and after Hirsh was born. To the host’s family as well as thousands of others, Jones was a spiritual leader and guru.To the outside world, Jones or Adi da or whatever was a cult leader. This exploration of who Franklin Jones was and the effects he left on his group is the focus of this series. There are four episodes available now, and I believe seven in total. Each episode runs about 25-30 minutes long.

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The Unresolved Podcast– Spearheaded by Micheal Whelan, The Unresolved Podcast focuses on stories that don’t have an end. Mostly they are unsolved true crime stories but he’s been known to throw in a few paranormal/supernatural topics too. Each episode goes in-depth on a person, place, or event and gives the listeners the ins and outs of what makes the story unforgettable. The research is beyond thorough and even well-known cases will seem brand new. Some of the episodes are so in depth that they span multiple episodes. The three episode span of The Millbrook Twins was outstanding. The follow up the Chase Messer story should be award-winning. Each story is presented in an honorable way that respects not only those who have unfortunately lost their lives but the families they leave behind. There are 53 episodes that run between 30-60 mins long.

 

So if you see me and my earbuds are in, I’m probably listening to one of these podcasts. I’m not one for waiting around and binge listening, so I try to listen to them as soon as they release a new episode. In the time between, there are a few other pods that I listen to that I didn’t feature here. Some are gigantic successes (I’m looking at you Lore) while some are just a few episodes in and still gaining ground  (Dear Disgraceland. I ❤ you). No matter what your favorite genre or vice is, there’s a podcast for it. Happy listening!

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My Thoughts On Saint Patrick’s Days

I’m writing this on the evening of St. Patrick’s Day 2018. Instead of going out and taking part in the merriment, I’m at home writing in my pjs. The kids are in bed, a crime show is playing at a low volume and I’m trying to decide if I should have a post-dinner snack. For me, it’s just another night while the husband is at work. But outside my boring world, this is a day of celebration.  

Today online has been swamped with countless talk of parties and shamrocks, “Kiss Me I’m Irish” declarations and green beer. I have absolutely nothing against people revelling in a holiday. With the shape of things in the country right now, I can totally get behind a day of hearty fun. If our hands are busy lifting beer glasses they are won’t have time to attack each other. So by all means, drink, eat, and be merry!!

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My gripe and the gripe of so many of my fellow Pagan brothers and sisters is that the snakes St. Patrick ran out of Ireland weren’t the kind that slithers. They were actually Pagans. In a quote attributed to him, his views of the Irish people were explained:

Never before did they know of God except to serve idols and unclean things. But now, they have become the people of the Lord, and are called children of God. The sons and daughters of the leaders of the Irish are seen to be monks and virgins of Christ!” source

St. Patrick is said to have created over 300 churches in the Emerald Isle. More importantly than just the physical buildings, it’s alleged that he baptised over 100,000 Irish people. Through his teachings, the native polytheism of Ireland was all but wiped out. If worries of appropriation were a thing in the fifth century they would have been cast at St. Patrick. He understood that incorporating well-known ideas and beliefs into his teachings was the fastest way to get the locals assimilated. He took their beliefs in their “unclean things” and sold them back dripping with Christian tint.

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This was, and still is, the standard modus operandi for the Church. First, find a heathen population and pillage their beliefs. Then, change just enough so they can’t prove you copied them before you finally shove them down their throats. Rinse and repeat until you’ve pushed the populous belief so far underground that it gets referred to as “The Old Ways”.

And that’s exactly what Saint Patrick did. But being credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland may or may not be completely historically accurate. Sent to Ireland around 431 by Pope Celestine, Palladius was the first bishop of Ireland. As with many characters in historical lore, at this point, Palladius and Patrick have probably been conflated to become one person. Either way, I personally don’t see the brainwashing of a people something worth celebrating.

But, and this is a very important but, what the holiday is now is not its intended purpose. The festivities we have become accustomed to here are more celebration than reverence. It’s an important celebration of the incredible spirit of the Irish. From Ireland to America, the Irish people always faced hardship with determination. That is something that is worthy of celebrating and drinking to. In a weird sort of way, it’s kind of poetic. St. Patrick used a country’s religion as a stepping stool to expanding his religion. We now use his day to as a stepping stool to expand our exaltation. That’s reason enough to have a drink.

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But make sure its a really good Irish beer, not that dyed green crap.

7 Ways to Kick Anxiety’s Ass

*The following is not and should not be used in place of medical advice. If you need help, please see your doctor or a mental health professional.These are just personal habits I’ve had success with.*

Back in the early 00s, I was a wide-eyed, overworked, scared to death college freshman. In my very Mickey Mouse Intro to College class, we had this group activity. It was one of those icebreaker games that’s only freshmen and people at seminars do. The gist was, we had to pick an adjective that started with the same letter our name that described us. Alliteration being a memory helper and all, I suppose. I instantly knew mine. It was a name that I had been carrying with me since I was just a wee little girl.

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I’ve never known a time when I haven’t been anxious. As a kid, I cried. I cried a lot. I’m not sure if it was the early signs of anxiety, depression, or the effects of my mother, but childhood was full of teary eyes and snotty noses. I remember once during an elementary school orientation my mother telling the teacher that I was “tender-hearted”. It was a descriptor that stuck with me long past my public school days. All these decades later, that tender-heartedness has turned into full-fledged anxiety.

Anxiety is still a big part of my life. It’s a monster I battle each day. Below are 7 things I do to try to take its power away.


Breathe

It sounds simple enough, right? Well, it’s not. Breathing is one of the hardest things to do in the midst of an anxiety attack. Shallow breaths come easy and fast and can cement you in the fight or flight mode. I tend to hold my breath when I’m struggling. I don’t even have to explain why this a foolish thing to do. One thing I’ve found that really, really helps is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. It’s a great way to reset your brain and center yourself. And it’s pretty easy.

  1. Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds.
  2. Hold that breath for 7 seconds.
  3. Exhale for 8 seconds.
  4. Repeat as necessary

It’s really a fantastic exercise to regulate your breathing and bring your mind back from the brink. If the 4-7-8 technique isn’t your style, taking deep slow breaths will also help. The fast shallow breaths that are common during an anxiety episode do more harm than good. Breath deep, from the bottom of your diaphragm. Those long deep breaths are the good ones that will help you center yourself and calm down.


Ask For Help

The only thing harder than remembering to breathe correctly often is to ask for help. It’s painful and frightening to open yourself to others. But we are not islands. We need each other. Find yourself a tag team partner. Someone who will support you and work with you as you navigate the bullshit that is anxiety. 

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Whether it’s holding your hand, making you lunch, or just reading the words you need to type, having a circle of people you can turn to is so very important. Ask them for help. Let them help you share the load.

 


Go Outside

Sometimes what you need during an attack is not just a change of space but a change of mind. Going outside can do both. It doesn’t matter if you live in a city or are in the middle of the country, going outdoors is a great way to help bring yourself back. Sunlight, fresh air, and the sounds of nature foster a sense of serenity. Being able to have space and absorb them is a great way to become unflustered.


Create Something

 

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Some of the best art comes from the darkest places. If you are able to harness some of the power of anxiety and use it for good you might be amazed at what you’ll create. It doesn’t have to be great, just make something!  Write some words, doodle some drawings, take some pictures, bake a cake, build a birdhouse! Just put yourself in motion and use your powers for good, not the self-harming evil they can be used for.


Drink Water

The first thing I ask whenever one of my kiddos comes to me with a complaint is “Do you need some water?” Staying hydrated is important. It’s also something that gets overlooked quite often.  As someone who drinks more coffee than I should, sometimes just taking a moment to drink a glass of cold water changes my mindset. Water, dirt, fire, and salt. They are all three things that connect us to the planet. They are all things we need. In the middle of our chaos, I firmly believe these things can ground us.


Find a Positive Distraction

We live in a time where podcast, audio books, and most tv shows we love are streaming on demand. We don’t have to wait to for a certain time on a certain day to lose ourselves in a mindless distraction. It’s available anytime we need it. And when you’re fighting anxiety, you need it whenever the episode happens. Finding something positive that you can quiet your mind and enjoy in the middle of a rough time is wonderful to keep you grounded. Some of my favorite things to listen to are podcast. One of my very favorite podcast is Levar Burton Readse19bd1d38fca74faca9d281a1bf9d29e9da713a57c9e60345030bab6b3a852b51bc68db007ff7d3abf61cf1f941cd4e47d48020374917551204f040abc975062 Its Levar Burton and his wonderful voice reading amazing stories. It’s incredibly calming and interesting. Being able to focus a speeding mind on something as enjoyable as Levar’s voice is great calming technique.


Stay Present

Even harder than remembering to breathe and asking for help is remembering to stay in the moment. When your head is playing the highlight reel of every horrible thing you’ve ever done, its hard to remember to be in the here and now. The following is a grounding exercise I use daily to help me focus on what is and what is not:

5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see.

4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch.

3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear.

2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell.

1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste.

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No matter what methods we use, we must realize that we are stronger than anxiety. While this is a monster that lives in our world, we do not have to make our world about it. It is my hope that some of the tips effect you in a positive way. As with anything, find what works for you and do that.

To The Lady Who Called Me “Sug”,

Thank you. 

You probably don’t know about the issues I carry around with me. You probably have no idea that one of my biggest deficits is in the shape of a loving maternal figure. So you probably have no clue how much those pet names you called me during our short interaction meant.

How could you? You’re taking orders in a fast food place, working your ass off for a paycheck. You see hundreds of folks a day. For all I know, you might really fucking hate your job. But somehow, I don’t think you do. And dollars to donuts, everyone is “Sug” “Hon” or “Babydoll” to you.

I’d be willing to bet, some people get snippy over that. There are some assholes that feel that it’s a personal insult for a stranger to speak to them in a familiar sense. I’d also bet a lot of them are other women who get mad that you call their significant others a pet name out of hospitality. A lot of people don’t understand sweetness like that. They are all so busy tripping over their ego that they see your kindness as a threat. I know it isn’t.

Even though I don’t know you, I know you. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. Like sees like, and all that. I think people like us want to make others feel good. We want to give them a little bit of happiness to take with them on their way around this crazy world. Like a sugar cube in their pockets, there just in case they need it.

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More than seeing the hidden good in others, you see the good in yourself. And you act with that goodness spiralling around you like summertime fireflies. The world is short of people who hand out their happiness freely. People usually keep their happiness to themselves because they rarely see it in the world. But it’s not seen in the world because people are keeping it to themselves. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You break that with your smiles and downhome endearments.

That brief moment we interacted set the tone for the rest of my day. I was able to go home and happily hand out the breakfast to my pack of sometimes savage, mostly hilarious kiddos. You made my day better and that in turn made other’s day better. Your sweetness was the spark that set fire to a day of positivity.

You probably won’t read this. We might not cross paths again. While I am all about chilli cheese dogs for breakfast, my leggings only have so much stretch. But from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. Please no matter where you are, keep on being you.

You’re an absolute treasure, Sug.

 

 

“But You Know It’s Fake,Right?”

Childhood, Pro Wrestling, and Being a Mark

Back before “sports entertainment” was a thing, my dad ran an independent wrestling company. Think less Vince McMahon and more flea market Jim Cornette.

He’d book shows in high school gyms, bingo halls, auction barns, basically anywhere that had space for a 16x16ft ring.  Because of that, I spent the first five summers of my life stuffed between my parents in a late 70s Chevy Silverado. This was a time before mandatory child seats, seat belts, and common safety knowledge. We travelled the Carolinas, towing behind us a trailer full of wood and metal. The bed of the truck was full of mats and turnbuckles, 12 packs of Natural Lite and multicolour cable ropes.  At our feet were empty Salem cigarette boxes, beer cans, and a black belt with a big metal plate.

We’d arrive at an empty building around midday and my dad and his motley crew of weekend performers would go to work setting the ring up. I would sit on the bleachers, a few toys in hand and watch the men strain and swear and finally turn a pile of random junk into the fabled squared circle. I’d try to stick around and watch them do run-throughs of the matches but usually, I’d be swept off by my mother to come sit with her and the other women in the concessions area. More often than not, I’d sneak off to go hang out with my dad and the other menfolk, getting ready for that night’s show. It was there I was schooled in the secrets of the business.

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One of the secrets of wrestling is that there are these things called “works”. A “work” is when you get over on a crowd. It’s the act of getting people to suspend disbelief long enough to become emotionally invested in what you’re doing. It’s a grown-up version of playing pretend.  As an example; On April 27th, 1991 during the peak of a white-hot feud, Earthquake (Whose real name was John Tenta. He was billed as 6’7ft 486 lbs) crushed a bag that held Jake “The Snake” Roberts pet python Damien. Damien had been Roberts’ sidekick and was a character in his own right. When Earthquake “crushed” his bag, the crowd went wild. Those fans that lost their minds and completely bought into the story are known as “marks”. With Roberts tied up in the rings, he was unable to do anything but watch this huge mountain of a man crush his pet and only friend presumably to death. Roberts work is some of the best ever to grace the inside of a ring, and that night he was on point. His face full of despair, he yelled and screamed for Earthquake to stop, for it to all not be true. In reality, it wasn’t true. The snake was never in any danger and Jake Roberts didn’t watch his only friend die. The role of Damien that night was played by ground meat shoved inside a pair of pantyhose.

Too many times I was hauled away from the wrestlers and forced to sit still and be quiet in some boring corner, far away from the banging of bodies on the mat and counts of three. In those moments when dad and the crew overruled my mother, I was the official gopher for the night. I’d run the lengths of the gym, hauling beer, towels, cups of water to the guys in the back.  Before the main event, I would usually be out of sight, asleep in the truck far away from the crowd. Wrestling was a constant in my life, and I loved every bit of it.

Growing up in the Carolinas it was kind of hard not to be surrounded by the sport. The closest major city to my little backwoods hometown was not only the home of Jim Crockett Promotions (which would be sold to Ted Turner in the late 80s and become World Championship Wrestling) but also the home to one of the biggest names in wrestling, The Nature Boy Ric Flair.

Ric_Flair_in_Seoul,_South_Korea

Arrogant and flamboyant,  confident and animated, Ric Flair was, and still is, pro wrestling. From his expensive shoes to his bedazzled and feathered robes, he was the icon for the sport. His theatrics, his ability to tell a story not only with his passionate speaking/screaming but also his body set the bar for how a professional wrestler should perform. In my eyes, he and the men he faced in the ring were more than human. They were like the Greek gods. But with championship belts and American accents.

And that’s what the allure of pro wrestling is. It’s men who look like superheroes acting out comic book storylines live and in person. It’s bigger than life characters taking part in beautifully violent choreographed battles. Good guys versus bad guys, babyfaces versus heels, heroes versus villains, add some beautiful ladies and it’s the male equivalent of a daytime soap opera. But with way more punching than kissing.

Sadly, a real-world workplace injury brought our wrestling adventures to an end not long after I turned six. The ring was broken apart and not put back together. It’s corner post used in the fencing for our merger herd of cattle. The hefty Silverado replaced with a smaller truck. The walls of my dad workshop stopped getting promotional poster stapled to them. It was over.

But my love for professional wrestling continued on.

It wasn’t until middle school that my love for pro wrestling, or as the regional accent in my head says “rasslin'”, became socially acceptable. But still, it wasn’t something that many girls my age were into. Along with my ill-fitting boys pants and at home butcherblock haircuts, my excitement for wrestling set me further apart from my female peers. Nevertheless, I was enthralled. What I lacked in a social life, I made up for with being a wrestling fan. No matter how many times my interest was discouraged with “But you know it’s fake, right?” I continued on.

High school and college came after and with them, more adult responsibilities than I should have had to take on. The schedule I was keeping kept me away from the TV for most of the week. Still, when I could, I would sit down Monday and Thursday nights and watch wrestling with my dad. Like keeping up with the Atlanta Braves, wrestling was how we bonded. I’d watch the spectacle of The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and DX with glee. My dad, in typical grumpy old man fashion, would complain about how wrestling had “gone to hell” and was nothing more than “a bunch of hogwash”. With the space between us filling up with more and more things, it became our last avenue for connectedness.

But like all storylines, that too would end.

The day of my courthouse wedding, it was a disagreement centred on the name of his old promotion that kept my dad from coming to witness the event. Someone had decided to use something close enough to his promotion’s name and he felt slighted they hadn’t consulted with him first.  At least, that’s the story that hurts the least to believe. If I can believe he missed my wedding for something he gave numerous years of commitment to, it really doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

After all, I know what a work is. And I’m a big enough mark to believe it.

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