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What I’ve learned from John McCain.

AP Photo: John McCain pre-politics flying fighter planes over Vietnam.

As we head into the holiday weekend, I wanted to write a bit on John McCain. I will admit, if you asked me even a year ago my thoughts on Senator McCain, I would have rolled my eyes.

I probably don’t have to say it, but I’m a die-hard liberal. I don’t agree with McCain’s politics, and even members of his family make me cringe. But in the last week, I’ve heard, read, and watched several things that have made me think differently about the late senator.

And my short conclusion is: he’s a fucking badass.

Let me explain. Yes, I knew McCain was a prisoner of war before he entered service as a senator. But even just learning more about that experience makes me wonder just how he even survived in time in prison!

I witnessed the back-and-forth between McCain and Trump, and naturally, I was disgusted, and curious as to how someone could hear such awful things about themselves and not fire back with every word in the book.

But McCain is getting the last word – even in death.

On Tuesday, I watched the HBO documentary, “John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls”.

If you haven’t watched it – you must! It beautifully discusses his life through interviews with him, his family, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and former Presidents Barak Obama and George W. Bush, among many others.

You can see firsthand his life on the campaign trail – both as he ran to be the republican nominee against Bush in 2000, and as the nominee running against Obama in 2008. Both are very telling of his character.

It’s funny… the 2008 campaign was the first one that I really was into – it wasn’t my first time voting, but it was my first time watching all of the debates and news coverage surrounding it.

At the time, I was dating a fratastic republican, and we constantly got into (mild) arguments over the campaign – he loved McCain and Governor Sarah Palin. I was, obviously, not a fan.

But after knowing what I know now about McCain, he probably would have made a great President. The timing just wasn’t right.

Photo from The Hollywood Reporter

When the McCain family announced that John would no longer be receiving treatment for his brain cancer, I was sad. But I also know that quality of life is important, and I felt a bit of happiness for him that he was able to live a full year from his diagnosis, and he used that time to not only stand up for the people of Arizona, but to also focus on the end of his life, and say his goodbyes to the ones he loved most.

As many of you know, my dad was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer late last year. It wasn’t the same kind McCain had, but he also had surgery to remove a mass behind his eye.

I was with my dad the day after his surgery, and although he was recovering well – I fully admire McCain and his ability to fly to D.C. and cast his vote against Trump’s healthcare plan just a day after his surgery.

I am fully in awe of anyone that gets to die on their own terms. From what I’ve learned of McCain, he lived on his own terms, too. And that is something I admire with my entire heart. He wasn’t afraid to go against the grain, as long as he felt it was right. He was honest, even during a time when many politicians are not.

Sadly, McCain passed away just a few days after he stopped treatment, and shortly after, his family released his final letter to America.

I’ve had experiences, adventures, friendships, enough for 10 satisfying lives, and I am so thankful.

– John McCain

The letter took a slight jab at Trump, encouraging the American people to forge on, even though we aren’t getting what we deserve right now (there is a similar jab in the documentary).

A few days ago, I saw this headline: “McCain’s Choice of Russian Dissent as Pallbearer is Final Dig at Putin, Trump.”

Wow! Even in death, this guy is sticking it to Trump, and keeping it classy.

And then yesterday, I saw this: “Sarah Palin isn’t Invited to John McCain’s Memorial Services” – I’m speechless.

I didn’t know this, but the article says that earlier this year, McCain said that choosing Palin as his running mate was one of the mistakes he made.

Since Wednesday, I have been watching McCain’s services, and although they are sad to see, I have great respect for everything he’s done for our country, and I’m inspired by the full life that he lived.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve added several of McCain’s books to my reading list. If you’re interested, here are all of them:

With that, I’ve learned so much about McCain this week – better late than never, right? – but I’m confident that his legacy will live on and continue to inspire others.

“In the end, it matters less that you can fight. What you fight for is the real test.”

– John McCain

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Summer Meltdown… to realness.

Pulled out the chambray jumpsuit.

Last night was yet another showcase for my Dance Austin Studio family. This was the Summer Meltdown, Take 2, which was a music video series. It was, of course, different from other showcases Dance Austin has hosted in the past – it was a four-week series followed by a video shoot, instead of a live performance.

The kicker was that no one (except maybe the choreographers) had seen the videos before last night’s premier – I think all of us dancers were a little anxious to see how all of our hard work turned out.

Naturally, all of the videos were awesome! Each of them had a funny twist, and it was cool to see the different personalities come out in each video.

I know that after each dance showcase I perform in, I write up all the feels from the day in what’s become my traditional showcase wrap-up. But, there wasn’t quite that same batch of feelings after last night.

Yes, it was really weird to show up at The North Door and not have to race to the “backstage” area and get ready for tech rehearsal, or find a spot with decent lighting to put on all of my show makeup. Instead, it was a little more leisurely, and there was a black carpet with a step and repeat #fancy

But I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have enough emotions swirling around in my mind not to write some sort of something about the state of my life lately.

The truth is that, as I’ve alluded to some in recent weeks, I am struggling pretty hard in the mental health department. I’m chalking it up to grief, and although I’m still not entirely ready to put all of my chips on the table, I’ll offer up what I can thus far.

I’ve experienced loss several times in my life. I lost family members when I was a kid, and when I was in high school, it felt like I went to way too many funerals – those of my peers. It was surreal, and I started to form very small bits of dealing with grief and even just the taste of how short life can be.

In college, though, I suffered a loss that I still cannot talk about without tearing up. He was also my peer, the first person I met when I went to college orientation, we were each other’s dates to Greek functions… I felt a closeness to him unlike any other.

And he was killed while crossing the street.

A good friend told me the news as I was driving, and I pulled off the road to compose myself. I called my dad, and he talked me through it.

Several years later, I had natal reading where a professional looked over the stars during the time of my birth and during the years of my life.

“How does death fit in to your life?” she asked me.

I explained to her that I’d suffered several losses; one particularly difficult. We talked about the photo I have of him and I – framed on my desk at home with a candle beside it. She told me he was my soul mate, and it was likely that we’d met in a previous life, and that he was protecting me from the other side. I could keep his energy alive by lighting the candle and honoring his memory.

But little did I know that even a loss as tough as that one seems like a drop in the bucket compared to losing my dad.

I’ve talked enough on this blog about the relationship my dad and I had to get me in a shit-ton of trouble with most of my family. And even though my dad isn’t around to reprimand me or control the ship, I’ve kept quiet on the home front.

There’s something unsettling about all of it.

As horrible as it sounds, I felt some sort of relief in that my every day, physical life wouldn’t change after my dad died. After all, I hadn’t talked to him in years. We didn’t exchange texts, or cards, nothing.

But it’s been almost six months since his death, and I can tell you that I don’t even remember what it’s like to go a single day without crying; or thinking about it; or feeling guilty.

There have been times I’ve wondered why he had to be the one to go instead of someone else – and then I feel horrible because I know that no one deserves to go through what he did.

So many people have said to me, “Your dad must have been so proud of you.”

And while that’s an incredibly nice thing to say, I don’t know how true it is. My dad was TOUGH. He was quick to tell me all of the things I did wrong, and I can’t recall him ever saying he was proud of me.

At the beginning of this month, I felt so alone, so in the dark about how I was really supposed to get back to how things were – even just inside myself. I feel like I can’t pull myself out of this funk. I realized that my normal cures for bad days weren’t working.

Because this isn’t just a bad day. This isn’t a breakup. This isn’t a fight with a friend.

This is grappling with a major loss. It’s contemplating the meaning of life. Religion. Family.

It’s the realization that hindsight is a cruel bitch.

On the other side of this darkness, though, I’m also experiencing incredible success in my career. Not necessarily in my day job, but in my work as a blogger, editor, and digital strategist. I’ve had work literally fall into my lap almost every single day. I lived in Louisiana for 12 years and barely felt like I’d made a name for myself; been in Texas for less than three and I feel like so many people have reached out for my writing expertise, and I cannot explain how much that means to me. The fruits of my recent labor are allowing me to do things I’ve never thought I could do.

Part of me wonders if my dad is helping me from the other side – but then I feel guilty for even thinking that way. It’s a confusing place to be.

I decided to seek help from a professional (which is a chore in itself). So, I got a referral, and my mom helped me find a few options… and now it’s up to me to make the appointment. I’ve done therapy a few times before (for years), but this time, I’m considering medication.

But with medication comes all sorts of questions and worries. What will it be like? Will it change my personality? Will it make me less creative?

I’m still thinking on it.

In the meantime, I decided to focus on what I was putting into my body and how I was treating it. So, I stopped drinking entirely and am focusing on a plant-based diet. The no-drinking thing is a little more of a chore than I anticipated – I’ve been drinking lots of organic lemonade after realizing that non-alcoholic wine was not really a thing I’m going to do (ha!).

I’m doing more yoga (even if it makes me cry) and trying to get better sleep at night. And I’m still dancing.

Which brings me back to last night’s video premier. Our video shoot was 3.5 hours – beginning at 6:30 am, outside, in the Texas summer sun. And the resulting video was less than three minutes.

It was clever, and looked great, and it was funny to watch. But I couldn’t help but notice that we sure did put allllll of that time into just a few minutes – a highlight reel.

I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. But it’s a lot like life – you spend your whole life living it, no matter how long or short of a time you’ve got – and perhaps it takes you the entirety to realize one thing, or do that ONE thing.

And it all boils down to that highlight reel.

The same could be said for relationships or weddings or vacations. It’s those few moments that stand out.

Last night, one of my fellow dancers said, “You’ve been doing some road-tripping, right?”

I nodded, and explained to her that ever since my dad died, I am going for it, and I’m doing it without much of a second thought. I’m going to the places I’ve never been, eating new foods, facing my fears, and I’m doing it whether anyone is coming along or not.

I’ve already got two more trips planned this year, and I’m eyeing another one.

I don’t know what you dream of when your mind starts to wander, whether it’s dancing on a stage or being in a music video; maybe it’s seeing a Broadway play or getting published in a magazine.

Whatever it is – DO THAT.

At the end of our time here, you’re going to want certain things in that reel, and the time to accomplish them is now.

If I’ve learned anything about myself in the past six months, it’s that we are often our own blockade. So toss the fears aside. Just go for it.

To my dance family, thank you for providing such a supportive environment for me to even think these things. Some days, I struggle to show up to class. Other days, it’s all I want to do. But you’re there, and I hope I can return that favor to you whenever you need it.

END SCENE.