After my swim in the Pacific off Santa Monica, I had the absolute pleasure of having brunch with a cherished friend. A friend I met via YouTube. A friend I will call Mr. Jumpshot.
No, it’s not Justin Bieber.
I had stumbled upon a hilarious show that dovetailed with some writing I was doing at the time. Mr. Jumpshot wrote and starred in it. I sent him an email telling him how he made me laugh so hard I went silent. Yes, the silent laugh. It’s the best feeling in the world. He was gracious enough to thank me. Then we became friends on FB. I learned a little more about him there.
He’s made every single one of you laugh. I would bet my last dollar on it. He’s written lines that are so simple, so pointed, so basic, yet utterly profound. Even when it’s the same three words repeated. And nothing more. His take on the human psyche is raw, primal, and dead on. And freaking hilarious. You may not know him, but you love him.
I was just a chick from back east and had no warm intro, no reason for him to extend himself. I imagine when he received my email something clicked. Even if he wasn’t conscious of it. On my next trip to LA we met for coffee.
A coffee that lasted for two hours, and a conversation that covered topics from around the Universe – the Pope, traffic tickets, Jennifer Aniston, canyons, Brooklyn, love, humor, the afterlife (or lack thereof) and the madcap nature of the human brain. We launched into it from the first tongue-burning sip of our Starbucks coffee. (As an aside, I think they coat their coffee beans in sugar or heroin. Something’s going on there…) We clicked and remained in touch.
It’s been a few years since I’ve seen him. Might as well have been a few hours. We took a stroll along the canals in Venice, his old neighborhood when he first moved to LA. (In typical Cleo fashion I didn’t draw the Venice, CA – Venice, Italy correlation until we had finished brunch and were walking to his car.)
That’s where the funny couple lived, and that’s where the old guy lived, and that’s where the person lived who we all looked down upon, because every neighborhood needs one of those.
And that’s where I lived.
We paused in front of a two story, cute as a button home whose ceilings could not possibly have contained Mr. Jumpshot. Thankfully, it had an upper deck so he had one place he could stretch his neck up straight. It was sweet to see this larger-than-life man gaze at his first LA home with such fondness. Such appreciation for that time in his life when nothing was a guarantee. Making it was not a done deal. Making it was, perhaps, a pipe dream.
As I gazed up at the deck a small green speck caught my eye. It was two feet above me, dangling in midair. About an hour later, or so it seemed after my 46 year old eyes finally focused in on it, I could tell it was an inch worm. A better moniker for this one would be a ¼ inch worm. If that.
Look at that! I pointed up at it.
Mr. Jumpshot looked off in the distance.
Not there, I pointed. Here! I still pointed in the same direction. He still looked off in the distance, but now a little to the left.
No. Right here. In front of us. I stood on the tips of my toes and pointed right at the tiny little head of that ¼ inch worm.
Mr. Jumpshot looked through the ¼ inch worm at the tree, ten feet away.
I could just reach him. I stretched my index finger up and poked his tiny little belly. He sat on the end of my nail for a few seconds before he slid down it like a four year old on a playground slide and disappeared. Thankfully, Mr. Jumpshot saw him. If he hadn’t, our time together might have had a premature ending, with him vowing to never meet people through YouTube again.
We laughed. Well, he shrugged and smiled at me. That smile that says, You really got that much out of that? I laughed.
We crossed over the canal to make our way back to a restaurant that caught our eye. Along the way I smelled the roses that spilled over fences containing the postage stamp sized backyards. Some had elaborate fountains, others little play structures for little ones. A tiny cottage on one patch and a modern masterpiece, its walls of glass retracted, laying bare the life led within, on another. All backing to a wide canal dotted with canoes and kayaks. With the ocean a few blocks away.
In a city where unique housing options are a dime a dozen, albeit a pricey dime, the canals of Venice are truly special.
While stepping aside to let a group pass us on the path, I came rather close to Mr. Jumpshot and looked up. Way up. Dangling off his chin was a tiny green dot. I laughed right at his face, pointing. He had no idea what to make of me. I gently plucked the silk and brought the ¼ inch worm over to the leaf of a rose bush, said goodbye and thought only of food from that point on. I had been up for 5 hours, swam 1.7 miles, all on a Cliff Builder’s Bar. (Love them.) I needed real food.
Over fritatta and granola, we caught up on each others lives. There was a lot to cover. After I wrapped up the story of HGM, we paused to breathe and soak it in. I looked over at him, my head propped on my right hand.
Have you figured out relationships yet?
He shook his head and leaned in.
When I was working with (insert two utterly brilliant creative minds here), we would sit around the table and try to – he gestured with his hands as if he was either fluffing a pillow or pretending to be The Godfather – …It never worked. We just moved on.
Meaning, they tried to get inside relationships, understand them, get clever with them and create great dialogue but they could never really get inside them to start the whole process rolling. You can’t write great dialogue if you don’t understand what it is you are writing about.
You needed a girl at that table. But not me. I don’t get them either.
(I read a quote from Meryl Streep shortly after returning home from LA. It’s appropriate here: “Women have their antennae up more. It is all self-preservation, they want the relationship to work. Women make a religion of relationships. They study how to make them work, while men do not, as a generalization.”)
Shortly thereafter I hugged his lower rib cage and we parted ways. I’ve thought of our encounter a few times since then. But it wasn’t until tonight that I thought about the ¼ inch worm. I smiled when I pictured his tiny, dangling body and the fact that he rode Mr. Jumpshot for a good 150 yards, from in front of his old house to directly opposite his old house on the other side of the canal. Not an easy feat. He must have been swaying like a tire swing, what with the long stride of someone who’s 6’6″ or north of that. I decided to look up the animal, or in this case, insect totem card for caterpillar. Technically, inch worms are caterpillars.
Yes, I had to google that.
This is what I found:
The infant stage prior to transformation, teaches patience that all things will come to fruition in nature’s time and not before, perfect timing and time of growth and harvesting, preparation period. Notice how you are moving like the caterpillar; inching along, resting, rapidly moving, pausing now and then. Caterpillar qualities will show one should move for the moment. His lessons of movement and preparedness is for the greater good of the transformation that will be arriving. Are you ready?
For Act Two? Yes. I’m ready.
I’m ready to get this divorce over with. I’m ready to make my own decisions and not have to answer to The Genius on anything outside of our duties as parents.
I’m ready to celebrate fall with the boys. Pick apples, carve pumpkins, dress in outfits from the Gold Rush period – we’re masquerading as residents of Bodie for Halloween.
I’m ready to know if Mr. Delicious is more than just a seasonal treat. I’m ready to know if Mr. Triathlete was only in my life for the bay swim or if we’ll train for something else together soon. I’m ready to know if Mr. Jackpot will be brave and make bold and confident choices as he faces a major life transition that may have him leaving the country.
I’m ready to know if I have what it takes to create a novel that is memorable. Enjoyable. I’m ready to know if I can support myself as a writer. And provide for my children regardless of the outcome of my divorce. I’m grateful that I know it’s not a pipe dream, but it’s still no slam dunk.
Yea. I’m ready. Ready to move like the inch worm; by gut, with bursts of speed when needed, but overall with a focus on steady progress.
All this readiness has me feeling not so patient. And instead of feeling like an infant, I feel like the clock is ticking too fast.
Welcome to Act Two, kittens. Big questions with big outcomes will slowly be answered over the next three months. I predict they will be the most transformative days yet.
My divorce was exactly akin to unexpectedly falling down. The kind of fall where you make a ‘splat’ sound, get the wind knocked out of you and lay there stunned and helpless. Some of us get right up after a fall like that and just carry on. I lay there for a good- long- while.
Trying to catch my breath-even to remember to breathe again. I flopped about trying to right myself. I cried enough tears on that filthy floor to sink the Ark. I drank enough to make Frank Sinatra shake his head, I ate enough to make the floor a little more comfortable LOL.
I did everything wrong and very few things right for a very long time. My pain was so intense I thought it might actually do me in at one point.
I only struggled to my knees after everyone despaired of me ever moving off that floor. I pulled myself into a standing position only by sheer force of will.
When I took that first step forward, I didn’t know if I would limp or stride. I was moving, Getting away from that fall.
My girlfriend bounced up from her divorce like one of those tiny rubber bouncy balls. Fling!… and she was in a better job, better neighbourhood, better man, better everything, like it had all been waiting a little further along her life’s road , utterly amazing.
There was no bounce back in me. Getting away from ‘the fall’ was a stumbling affair at best. I stumbled along until one day I realised I hadn’t thought about HIM or HER or THEM at all in a good long while. That revelation was my BOUNCE!!!! Toward me and away from THEM.
It has been a couple of years now. Here I stand. I stride around all I want! My own life, my own flat, my own car. Setting a good example for my kid, that I am capable, and strong and he can rely on me.
The EX is his dad, BUT not my ANYTHING. That took a long time to embrace and be grateful about! Boundaries, and a polite but firm resolve handles the rest. OH and a kick-ass child support and parenting agreement, brokered by an even better kick-ass lawyer who was all about me and the kid! Super grateful to her as well.
Hugs to you from the other side of the world! You are a fantastic writer, an inspiration to so many and this will be the making of you! You are bouncing just like my girlfriend! Fling and off you go;)
My best wishes for you Cleo
Your words made me cry. The pain and heartache from divorce, regardless of the catalyst, cuts so deep. It’s disheartening to come to understand that people can hurt each other in such deeply painful ways. It truly can leave you building walls to never let it happen again. But being brave means that we chose to remain open, willing to be vulnerable. I struggle with this often.
Like you, I want to live life. I don’t want to let The Genius take another day away from me. I owe it to myself to forge ahead. Even on days like today when it seems too daunting a task.
I haven’t bounced like your friend. It doesn’t feel that way, at least. I have days when I bounce and days when I’m too busy feeling anxious and lost to bounce. That said, I’m going to embody your words and Fling Away!
Thank you for being here and for taking the time to comment, L. I appreciate your kind words, especially on a day like today! You rock.
Wow Leah. Wow. I’m so sorry for your pain. I too fell completely apart. I couldn’t function for months even with the love and support of others. So I get the not bouncing thing. Like you, I’m healing on my own time table. We’re all different. I’m being gentle with myself, I’m finding my joy again. It all gets better with time and hard work.
A friend recently told me “you took what was passing through you as damage and turned it into grace and strength and self-knowledge” (I saved it it meant so much to be). Something truly ugly was the catalyst, but if you use it as a growth opportunity you can turn it into something beautiful. It will be your most prized possession. True strength.
I’m ready, Cleo. Ready for your next act. I think it’s going to be even more amazing than your first, which to me almost seems impossible.
I’ve been trying to listen to nature and let it guide me, but can you tell us where you find your totems? I can’t find them online anywhere and yesterday was full of grasshoppers for me. I am dying to know what that means!
Thanks again Cleo for everything you do for all of us kittens out here reading.
Here’s a link for insects:http://www.starstuffs.com/animal_totems/dictionary_of_insects.html And here’s how I work with animals. First, I notice they’re around. Then I reflect on my experience with, for instance, the seal and see what resonates for me. Then I look them up online. (I really need to replace my cards and book – lost them somewhere along the way.) I use this string for that: ‘seal’ animal totem meaning. There are many sites that interpret the meaning of animals in our lives. I follow my intuition on what link to click on and how to apply what I read to my life.
C, I’m going with your prediction on Act Two! I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but I’m READY! And the butterflies are back, but this time they’re not so light and fluttery. Truth be told, I’m a tad intimidated by all that is to come. I want Mr. Jackpot to be brave, but that’s also a wish I must have for myself.
Thank you for your support and kind words.
How lovely that your outlook is so positive and full of wondrous anticipation. Makes me smile. Your post reminds me of those moments that I love — the Blue-Marble-is-your-oyster-moments. I can feel your excitement brimming! Congratulations, Cleo. You have traveled oh so far in the past year, and I am grateful that you choose to share your journey with all of us.
Thank you for your kind words. Your comment reminds me to embrace this morsel of wisdom: Thoughts become things. Thoughts become things. Thoughts become things. I don’t want to be the reason why my ‘things’ aren’t beautiful. We are our own creators, no?
I’m grateful you’re here to hold me hand. Me thinks I’ll need some of that lovin’ over the next several weeks! So happy you are here…
Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character.
And whatch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
What we think, we become.
Perfection. Thank you. It’s going on my wall. So grateful you are here, D.
yay for act 2! I can hardly wait to see what happens. I bet its going to be good!
Act Two is when I’m supposed to have my s…tuff together, right?
Where did I put all that s…tuff?
L, it is going to be good. I’m going to make certain of it. Thank you for being here.
As always, beautifully written and leaves me tingly all over. I had a thought for act II. You should drop His Giant Mistake and make the focus you. Here’s my suggestion: Her Great Metamorphosis. You’ve gone through so much in the time that you started this blog and your writings show that you are constantly changing and growing. You are delightful and such an inspiration. Thank you, thank you for all that you are doing here!
Oh, my gosh, you are so sweet. Thank you. It is my absolute pleasure to spend time with such amazing people, M. You make this world a richer place, a super fun marble to dance upon.
I love the word metamorphosis. Kafka. Gregor. Two people faced with challenges taking two different paths, both changing dramatically. With vastly different results. I’m really glad you caused me to revisit one of my favorite stories. It’s time to read it again.
I believe someday, in some way, the title will change. And it will be a day to celebrate, M. Like all out Martha Stewart-it celebrate.
Or maybe a really great tequila bar…
Hi Cleo — saw this and it made me think of you. You’re a ninja fo sho! Hopefully you’ll get a chuckle
I cannot stop laughing. Yes. That is exactly how I wish to be addressed. Oh, please let South Park do a Ginga episode! That would rock.
Cleo, you wrote yesterday that you were feeling lost. Feeling anxious, needing some good, kind feedback. You’ve been a tower of strength for us, but do you need something from us? Is there something we can say, something you need to ask in order to find your strength again?
You beautiful girl! So, so kind of you. Yes, a swift kick in the tuchus, and the elimination of doubt from my being. While you’re at it, can you give me just a little hint about what my life will look like in a year? Or is it that very desire that has me feeling wobbly? Working through that on the post at this very moment. In the present. Where I know I need to be.
Thank you, P. You rock.
Mandy Lee says
Our arrangement is Every other weekend and holiday rotation.. my ex hasn’t used his extended visits in the 5 years we have been seperated..