Friday, July 10, 2015

Of Danger Mice and Men

I was never in a sorority back in college. For several reasons, really. The combination of my aversion to paying for friends, my going to a very small liberal arts college, and having known way too many frat boys made a sorority very unlikely for me.

And, here I am, days away from turning 43, and I have found myself in a sorority. As it turns out, we have chapters across the United States.

Some might try to describe our growing roster as a support group. And we do support each other, whenever we are needed. With the severity of the damage inflicted upon us, we certainly need the support.

So--while our core purpose, our charter, or raison d'etre is to indeed offer each other support--I prefer to call us a sorority.

Because we are sisters. We are Earthquake survivors.

Pulling yourself from the rubble crashing down on you can feel like a Sisyphean task. But we--as a group of amazing, intelligent women--are developing our course on Earthquake survival. And, with every addition to our ranks, we are perfecting and sharing the syllabus.

Let me share with you all one of the best Earthquake survival tips that I have learned.

There will be days--I still have days--where it will feel like I will never be happy again. Sometimes, it is mired in nihilistic struggles of existential angst. Or in other worlds... Why does terrible shit keep happening to me? I'm a good person. I am a fundamentally righteous person who does not intentionally inflict harm to the people I care about. Why do I always run headlong into people... OK, let's be real for a moment here... Why do I always run headlong into men who are intent on doing me harm?

There will be days that you will wonder if you will ever find happiness. Find Joy. And here is the secret to feeling happy after the Earthquake:

Schedule some Joy. Put some Joy on your calendar, then circle that Joy in red and draw little hearts and stars and diamonds around it.

Joy, it seems, has much in common with Lucky Charms.

I've scheduled my next Joy. In March, I will be going to a women's writing workshop in Cork. I am headed to Ireland for 20 days of castles and cliffs and writing and stones. I will visit Guinness, and Waterford, and Claddagh, and pub after pub after pub. I will visit art museums and maritime museums, then spend five intense days working on the novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo. After that, I will hop on trains and buses to see the Trinity Library and St. Patrick's Cathedral. And speaking of St. Paddy, I will be spending March 17th in Dublin.

Such, such Joy.

I do have to attach one small warning to the Schedule Joy plan. If you plan to include someone else in the Joy, you have to be able to Know--capital K Know--that the person you choose as someone to share the Joy will not be taking a big shit all over it.

The person with whom I am sharing this next Joy with is one of my favorite people in the world. She is one of the handful of people to whom I would give both of my kidneys if she needed them. She will make my next Joy an amazing, shit-free journey. She will be by my side as I am working though the most difficult parts of my book. My book--a memoir disguised as a novel--has not seen much attention in the last little while. It's difficult subject matter. But like a splinter, I need to let it fester out of my system.

I need to finish the book because--if for no other reason--it probably should be added to our syllabus.

And I need to read it myself from time to time. Just to remember.

A little while ago, I was talking to my Earthquake sister Melanie about the men in my life and their escalating degree of injury they cause me. I posed the question: How do these men keep finding me? Melanie had an interesting insight. She postulated that once you have been the victim of one bad man, you are more likely to encounter more bad men. It's like getting a concussion. Once you get one, you are susceptible to more concussions. And they build and compound on each other. They just get worse and worse.

After all this time, my Earthquake concussion is still making me feel injured and vulnerable. I need my sorority sisters for support, for camaraderie, for a sanity check. The Earthquake sisters lean on each other. We serve as one another's Jiminy Cricket, sitting on each other's shoulders and giving gentle reminders that "something about this dude doesn't feel right."

There is only one issue that remains. What should we call ourselves, this growing sorority? Maybe we should call ourselves I Eta Pi, and we can plan retreats every March 14th. Well, except this next one. I'll be in Cork.

Welcome to all of our many, many sisters out there in the world. We are here for you when you are ready. We are your support. We are your safe place. We are ordering jackets.

They will have a silver linings.


  1. Where did you find the George Orwell quote? It's so perfect!

    I'm free March 14, 2017. Let's reserve a large cabin for the retreat. Who knows how many new sisters we'll have by then!

    1. I'm putting that on my calendar with hearts and stars and diamonds!!!

  2. I had the news reports of the Nashville and Salt Lake earthquake damage firmly etched in my mind. Somehow, I convinced myself that my own city had a protective bubble of sorts around it. That my city was somehow immune to that sort of natural disaster. Don't we always believe that it can't happen to us?

    The rebuilding has begun. For the rest of my life I will have a soft voice whispering in my ear. "Something's not right here. This feels wrong. This feels dangerous." Weather reports are frequently wrong. But that little voice inside you? It rarely is. Listen to that voice and be grateful for the silver linings.

    It is such fun when it is over.