I have written twelve novels. This is the space where I share my stories with the world. There is so much to say in this life, and so little time...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sparkle On


Yesterday, someone told me there are no “good” or “bad” circumstances. According to my friend, things are simply neutral. We choose to deal with them in a number of ways, and our response defines each incident as either positive or negative.

I would argue that bad things do happen. Everyone I know has suffered through a painful breakup, or period of depression, or perhaps financial instability.

Sometimes life is freaking hard.

Yet our response is crucial. My friend was spot-on with that assertion.

So far, 2014 has been an interesting year. My time in Orlando is dwindling. In a few months, everything will change. I can’t say where I will be or, for that matter, who will be beside me. That's a little intimidating. Even for a self-proclaimed adventure junkie.

But what good will it do to worry? All I have is right now. Here. In this exact moment.

Which is actually true for all of us, if you really think about it.

This summer can go one of two ways. I can work like crazy and deliberately minimize my time in Florida. Or I can enjoy these balmy months in The Sunshine State. It can be as good or bad as I choose.

Well, that seems like an easy choice.

Here’s to us. To the optimists, the ones who see obstacles as opportunities.

Summer of 2014 is an explosive time for many of us...but let’s think of it as a firework. Or a shooting star. Or one of those sparklers you hold on the Fourth of July.

Sparkle on, my friends. Shine bright.

 
Love,
 
Lisa

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Coming Home

Yeah, I know your home's far away
And it's hard to leave the life you've made
But I promise you more
Then what you've seen
And what you've had before...


-Dirty South, "Until the End"










Dear (scared) Lisa,


Remember that first red-eye flight? You thought you'd die.


Guess what? You survived.


In fact, you landed in San Francisco with energy to spare! Everyone was tired, so you ventured into the city alone. For the very first time. With shaky hands, a racing heart, and a smile big enough to convince strangers you actually knew what you were doing.


You trekked all over town and immediately fell in love with the entire Bay Area, remember? It was this intense, magnetic pull.


Yep, you were just a young thing back then. Twenty-six years old, with a head full of dreams and a heart that had never been broken.


Shhh...I hear those murmurs that escape your tired lips. I'm older now, you argue. Less agile. Less bold. More jaded.


Don't write yourself off like that.


You've done many brave things, things you never gave yourself credit for. Things that had overwhelmingly positive results.


Trinidad, AmeriCorps, Berlin. Quitting that lucrative job because you realized there was more to life than a paycheck and a nice car. Sending your novels to publishers despite the fact that you had been rejected before. Choosing to love even though you knew you might get burned.


You're a fierce one, my dear. A force to be reckoned with.


Now you're at a crossroads, hmm? Very soon, things will change drastically at work. You have a choice to make.


You can buy into the lie that California is unaffordable, overwhelming and downright impractical. You can take comfort in the familiar, instead of branching out.


Or you can carve a new path...one that is entirely your own.


You know what to do. You've known it all along, girlfriend.




Love,
(Brave-ish) Lisa



Saturday, March 29, 2014

Loved You More





It’s November of 2011.

I’m sitting on the steps in front of Union Square, San Francisco’s thriving city center. Lights flash all around me. People hurry past, eager to enjoy Sunday night before it fades into the monotony of Monday morning.

My life statistics are currently bleak: I have three friends in this brand-new town, four hundred dollars in my bank account, a questionable apartment in the East Bay, and absolutely no idea that my buddy Alvin will be dead in a week.

But I’m oblivious to these facts. I’m too busy enjoying the moment. The sun is setting and the air is crisp. A sweet scent lingers around me.  Local musicians stand on street corners and strum their guitars, banjos, ukeleles.

The world feels whole.

From my perch in front of Union Square, I spot the 38 Bus. Within minutes, it will stop and Alvin will get off. Of course, Alvin’s disembarking will take a longer than usual. Due to his wheelchair.

The bus stops just before Powell Street, in front of a big painted heart. This is my favorite of all the heart statues scattered throughout San Francisco. It shows the Golden Gate Bridge, set against a hazy blue sky. The painting captures the intrigue of this West Coast city which became my home one week ago.

I approach the bus.

“They let me ride for half-price,” Alvin declares as he descends the special platform. “Because I’m disabled. Score!”

He’s laughing, which is typical.

Alvin’s two years younger than me. He hasn’t traveled much, yet he has this worldliness…the kind that doesn’t come from sipping wine in Italy or hiking through waterfalls in Trinidad. The kind that has a lot more to do with enduring pain, then choosing to push forward anyway.

We make our way to a cafĂ© and order bubble tea. I hold Alvin’s cup while he drinks through a straw.

He tells me he wants to apply for a job at Costco.

“I could be a greeter,” he says. “It’ll get me out of the house and into the real world again. It’ll give me a chance to do something.”

“You’d be great,” I say, and I mean it.

Then I tell him a story about the time I knocked over a display case at Costco. Alvin chuckles at my stupid anecdote. We talk a little more, sip our drinks, and watch the dusky sky fill with stars.

That was 2011.

This is 2014.

March has been a rocky month for me. April can’t come quickly enough...seriously.

I lost someone I cared about this week.

Also, my niece was born Wednesday night. This is both exciting and terrifying. I don’t have much experience with children. I want so badly to love her, hold her, help her grow into a beautiful woman. But there are times when I don’t feel like a beautiful woman, so what advice could I possible give this impressionable little girl?

Last night, I heard the old clichĂ©: “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

My initial thought was, Yeah, right.

Loss is not fun. Loneliness is not desirable. Nobody looks forward to waking up in tears, or feeling as though their chest is collapsing because it’s filled with so much ache.

Alvin died in his mid-twenties. It doesn't make a lot of sense. I opened my heart, then he was gone. This is one example, but my resume is filled with similar stories. My life is an all-you-can-eat buffet of unfulfilled desires and endings with no closure.

My tendency is to love too much and too hard.

I loved, and in 2011 I lost.

This week I also lost. Big time.

There’s a possibility that I'll lose again, with my newest (and tiniest) relative.  I don’t know how to be a decent aunt. I’m afraid I will screw things up. There’s a good chance I already have.

But that won’t stop me from loving. In the end, there’s always someone who cared the most, right? Someone who can take a step back, once the dust has settled, and honestly say, “I loved you more.”

I’m willing to be the one.

 

Love,
Lisa

 


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Light, God & Beauty


People say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. I do it anyway.

If a book has a weird title, neon colors or a cartoon zombie/monster/alien on the cover, I'm probably going to purchase it. Fact: I almost bought a book printed in German (which I don't speak) because the cover artwork was so mesmerizing.

Anyway, I recently purchased "Through Painted Deserts" at Goodwill because:
1) I loved the title
2) the cover photo was very vintage
3) it cost a dollar.

The book's subtitle is "Light, God and Beauty on the Open Road." As soon as my eyes scanned those words, I was hooked. It felt like a perfect description of my job as a flight attendant...except that I cruise clouds rather than highways. Which seemed like a minor detail.

I didn't read the book immediately.

At first, I was content to simply hold the novel in my hands, admiring its black-and-white photo and riveting title. 253 pages of raw emotion awaited me, I knew. But the mystery, the waiting period was so alluring.

Today, a passenger approached me in the galley. Tears streamed down her face and her lip quivered as she explained the series of tragic events she'd endured recently.

I sat down with her and listened while she poured out her heart. I'm a "stewardess," sure...but I'm also a human being, and when someone comes to me in a state of despair, I can't help empathizing with that person. Whether she's a stranger or an old friend.

Her sniffles eventually slowed, then ceased altogether.

The girl curled up against a window. Soon she was fast asleep, exhausted from the emotional purging she'd just done.

I returned to my jumpseat in the back of the plane, and "Through Painted Deserts" stared up at me from my duffel bag.

Today was just another day on another airplane bound for a big, Southern city. But there was surely "light, God, and beauty" here on this open road.

The colors of my life are vibrant and, at times, completely overwhelming. Often the panorama is so surreal that I can't find the proper words to describe it. But I will keep trying anyway.

I will keep listening to strangers' stories and admiring their offbeat cover artwork, because it's all part of a bigger tapestry that involves love, empathy and a deep appreciation for this multi-faceted world of ours.

Whatever it is that you're doing today, I promise you're marching through a dazzling "painted desert." I also promise there is light, God and beauty along the way. Just keep your eyes open. You'll see what I'm talking about.

Love,
Lisa

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Don't Forget to be Awesome



To the little boy writing poetry in seat 17C:

I’m sorry your brothers made fun of you.

 I’m sorry your mom warned you to “stop that, it’s embarrassing.”

Adults aren’t supposed to say this, but it’s cool because I’m not actually an adult (I just look like one; I’m about 15 years old, on the inside): sometimes grown-ups invent stupid rules because they’re blinded by their own insecurities.

Yep. That’s a mouthful. But let me break it down.

Grown-ups don’t know everything.

So when your mother says that you’re doing something wrong or drawing negative attention to yourself, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.

Of course, there are times when she might be right. Now and then, your heart might lead you down a dangerous path. Foolish decisions can be so appealing; occasionally it’s tempting to do something that you know is going to hurt others.

But there are also times when your heart is going to speak so loudly and so eloquently that even you will be surprised.

Look, I’m just here to serve pretzels and make sure everyone arrives in Raleigh safely.

Nobody asked for my advice. In fact, nobody even batted an eye when I walked past (except for the guy in the exit row, but he’s been reading Maxim the whole flight and hasn’t turned the page once. He’s stuck on one particular “article,” if you know what I mean…).

So feel free to dismiss my dime-store psychology.

But, if you choose to hear the words I’m whispering into the universe, please remember this: you are allowed to express yourself in ways that others might not understand.

Poetry is not “girly.”

It’s not embarrassing, or pointless, or weird.

It doesn’t mean that you’re gay (although if you are, that’s perfectly fine).

It doesn’t mean you’re anything less than awesome.

In fact, I am inspired by your hand-written poem. I write poems too, although mine are often scribbled on paper towels and napkins. Yours looks so neat, inside that green notebook. You’ve got impressive handwriting, my friend.

Keep being you.

Keep doing your thing; you’re good at it.

And if people can’t handle your awesome quirks, it’s their loss.

 
Love,
Lisa
(a.k.a. the flight attendant wearing the huge zombie pin)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

One Addict to Another



If you are a world-famous rockstar with millions of dollars to burn and a toxic love for heroin, then you can easily relate to the story I’m about to tell.   

Otherwise, you might be shocked. At first.

I’ve been reading “The Heroin Diaries,” which chronicles Nikki Sixx’s (the lead singer and bassist for Motley Crue) journey into the dark, twisted world of narcotics. He compares heroin to a mistress who captured his attention and then demanded everything from him. Music, friends, hygiene and sanity fell by the wayside.  Nikki’s life morphed into a quest for more drugs, stronger drugs. The high always wore off. His thirst for pleasure and fulfillment could never be quenched.

In the mid-80’s, Nikki’s heart stopped after a show in London. He died in a filthy alley. Alone and half-naked.

But he was revived.

You’d think this would set him straight, right? Give him a new appreciation for life…and maybe convince him to return to rehab?

Nope.

About a year later, Nikki died again. And was revived once more. The fact that Nikki died twice isn’t even the most baffling part; I’m more surprised that he lived to tell the tale. And that he managed to get sober, after committing so many years of his life to what is arguably the most addicting substance on earth.

“The Heroin Diaries” is, without a doubt, the toughest book I’ve ever read.

On several occasions, I had to pause and take a ten-minute break. Because it was too intense, too terrifying. Heroin caused acute paranoia for Nikki, so he often hid in his closet. He believed men in combat boots were hovering outside his front door, waiting to slice him to pieces. He also believed that his friends were spies, and his life would end prematurely. He was certain that it was his destiny to die young.

Every chapter describes an instance where Nikki lashed out at people. Usually, those people were simply trying to help him.

Every chapter also includes references to Nikki’s childhood. His main reason for using was to “numb the pain” from his past, but the drugs actually forced all those memories to resurface. Nikki’s greatest escape proved to be the most constricting force in his life. He sought freedom but wound up in chains.

Isn’t it funny how that works?

You don’t have to be an iconic singer to know that life’s biggest aches can’t be remedied by a bottle, pipe or syringe. You don’t have to be a famous rockstar to realize the things which promise relief often end up doing more harm than good.

A good friend of mine struggles with heroin addiction.

I’ve had my share of unhealthy vices, sure. My past includes plenty of shameful moments, moments I don't like to discuss. I’ve misused and abused many things, including (but certainly not limited to): my body, my mind, others’ bodies and others’ minds.  I’m a human being and therefore subject to certain disgusting habits/rituals.

But heroin has never been one of them, thank God.

No, literally…THANK GOD.

As I watched my friend fight his heroin addiction, I remember thinking: this is the hell I’ve read about, heard about, and imagined. This is misery, personified.

In fact, the reason I initially picked up “The Heroin Diaries” was to gain a better understanding of what my friend went through.

And here’s my general conclusion: none of us is “above” addiction. Nikki Sixx had a more *glamorous* life than the average person, but his struggle is no different from ours. Furthermore, his desire to banish deep-seated pain seems pretty standard.

We hate our sordid pasts. We are drawn to quick fixes and promises for a brighter future…or, at least, a brighter “right now.” We are constantly searching for utopia and a sense of importance/value/belonging. Even when that search leads us to destructive places, we linger there. We make ourselves at home. We hope that things will get better…someday.

Nikki’s former lover, an artist called “Vanity,” sobered up and found God. Nikki took a little longer to get clean, but eventually he did. Which is nothing short of a miracle.

The book reminded me how fragile we all are. Abandonment in childhood can lead us to habits so destructive they nearly kill us. Our biggest dream becomes our biggest enemy, but often we are so committed to it that taking a step back seems impossible. We just want to be loved, appreciated, respected. But we make fools of ourselves in an attempt to attain that admiration. We try to destroy the bad parts of our lives, but end up destroying the good parts too.

Grace is not to be taken lightly.

Hurt, loss, pain…it’s all real. But so are second chances.

And forgiveness.

And redemption.

Nikki Sixx was 29 years old when he wrote “The Heroin Diaries.” My age.

Though our lives are very different, there are some striking similarities. You want control, Nikki. You want the beauty but not the pain. You want love and admiration and to stay young without actually confronting your youth.

I hear ya. Trust me, I know what that’s like.

You chose to self-destruct because it was easier than actually facing your demons.

Been there. Done that. We’re on the same page, my friend.

But then something amazing happened. You found the strength to turn away from those dirty syringes. You admitted you needed help. You sought it, wholeheartedly. And shared your harrowing tale with millions of strangers.

Nikki, you turned it around. Your private hell is now public, which took a LOT of guts.

2014 is my year of being brave. Yours began the moment you decided to share your excruciating, nauseating, surprisingly relatable story with the world. There is no shame. Only acceptance and, more importantly, hope.

Love,
Lisa

Saturday, February 1, 2014

LOVE FREELY


Life is meant to be this way-
One city to another
In the span of half a day
Twelve hundred miles to cover.

To the tune of morning rain
The passengers start boarding.
Island laughter fills the plane,
Illuminates the morning…

“To Montego Bay!” we cry-
“Island life awaits you!”
We pick up speed, then start to fly
With grayish clouds to soar through.

A yawn, a stretch, then time to work
I shimmy toward the last row
Inquiries escape the lips
Of strangers in the shadows

“Do you do always work this route?”
A woman blinks up at me.
“Does it wear ever wear you down?”
Her counterpart asks lightly.

I smile, shrug, and wave my hand
“It’s nothing but adventure.
I had a dream, I took a chance-
And, in the end, found treasure.”

The woman reaches for my arm
Her eyes are wide with wonder.
She tells me she’s afraid to fly
Afraid of diving under…

Afraid of living to the max
And staring straight at danger.
Afraid to look ahead or back
Or in the eyes of strangers.

I point out, that cannot be right:
She’s heading someplace foreign-
She booked a flight and held on tight
Then waved goodbye to boring.

She broke the barriers of fear,
And apathy, and panic.
She had the guts to make it here
Above the blue Atlantic.

She had the guts to talk to me
Which seems a bit courageous.
She’d shown a lot more bravery
Than I had seen in ages...

She seems to be so shocked by this,
Like I’ve made quite a statement.
And soon the plane begins to dip
Toward the island pavement.

Passengers get up to leave
Their smiles tell a story:
Vacation at their fingertips,
Freedom, beauty, glory.

That woman is the last to go.
Her actions then surprise me-
With tears about to overflow
She hugs me pretty tightly.

“I don’t know you,” she explains,
“But you have really changed me.
You had nothing here to gain,
Yet you loved me freely.”

I cannot find words to say,
Which doesn’t happen often…
I smile and watch her walk away-
Gone, but not forgotten.