Naked Guise

You will not find poetry here
Here, no poet resides.

But perhaps you’ll find some magic,
(Which cannot be defined.)

Summoned by a gypsy soul
Hiding behind a naked guise.

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Have to say, this is really f*cking good.

I think we have a tendency to blame the demise of our society on social media. I get it, the constant stream of everyone’s “all things good” can make us feel like we’re failing miserably at the whole life thing.

But, there are some legitimate positives- getting to see snippets of our friends and families’ all over the world, for example. It can also be a gateway to connect with people and opportunities we wouldn’t otherwise have access to, ones that can change our lives for the better.

Here is one such connection:

Voyage Denver Magazine is featuring a series, The Trailblazers: Rewriting the Narrative, “…to highlight and celebrate female role models, encourage more equal and just representation in the media, and help foster a more tight-knit community locally helping women find mentors, business partners, friends and more.”

Long/short, they saw this photo I posted on Instagram and wanted to share it on their site.  They followed up with an invitation to do an interview for the series.

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Photo by Jenna Sparks

My first reaction: Ummm, are you sure about that? But I knew the focus was on empowering women, and god knows, I have a substantial amount of knowledge on what NOT to do. And, I have acquired a fair amount of insight along the way.

So even if just one woman is inspired to rise up and “…take the world by the lapels,” (to quote Maya, the ultimate role model) then I did what I set out to do.

So thank you, Voyage Denver, for inviting me to share my hard-earned lessons-learned.

And I have to say,  I read it and thought, damn girl, that’s really fucking good. ;o)

http://voyagedenver.com/interview/life-work-brooke-breazeale/

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Lucky #13, turtles & a timely perspective

Soooo, I’m moving again.

I can’t help but think there was a colossal mix-up during my incarnation, and I was actually supposed to be a turtle.

 

Why? Because this will be move #13 in 3 years and move #4 in the past nine months, which includes a 5-month stretch living out of a suitcase…in 3 different countries.

I fear I might have cursed myself with the whole gypsy association. If this is the case, I would like to clarify: what I meant was “a free-spirited, love to travel, always up for adventure” gypsy…not the perpetually displaced kind.

If it sounds like I’m complaining, well, I am. Because let’s be honest, moving is f*cking terrible. One of my favorite bloggers, mydangblog, summed it up perfectly:

Moving is bullsh*t. Everyone knows that. In fact, I can’t understand why people don’t just live in the same place until they die because moving is so horrible.

And just to make sure these moves were sufficiently terrible, I did most of them with virtually no help- one, on the hottest day of the year, another, in the pouring rain, and the most recent, minutes before the worst blizzard this year ensued.

One move, in particular, I believe #7, stands out as one of the more challenging. To add insult to injury (literally), I had conveniently torn a tendon in my ankle two weeks before. So, I hired Karl to help…Karl, with a “K”.

Karl was a friend of some random guy I met at a coffee shop. I was so grateful, I never asked if “said friend” was a guy or girl, which proved to be a good thing.

I’m the first one to declare that our gender is just as capable as men at performing most physically arduous tasks. But realistically, the average woman isn’t primed for hauling heavy furniture and boxes upstairs. And since women aren’t frequently recruited to help friends move, they aren’t necessarily good at it. And I’m here to tell you, there is an art to moving.

All to say, I was admittedly disappointed when *they showed up…and a bit worried. My concerns proved to be valid. In addition to having to haul the heaviest boxes myself and explain how to maneuver furniture around corners, there was an additional element that proved to complicate things further.

In an attempt to make the task at hand more bearable and boost morale, I tried to lighten things up a bit- crack a joke here and there, throw out the occasional affirmation, for example, “We’ve got this, girl.”

But I was getting the vibe that my cheerleading wasn’t working. This was confirmed about 30 minutes in when they turned around, mildly annoyed, and said something to the effect of…

Helper: Could you please stop calling me that?

Me: Wait, what? Oh god, what did I say?

Helper: I’m actually transitioning and no longer identify as a girl, so if you wouldn’t mind…”

Me: Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t…I mean, I couldn’t…I was just…

Awkward pause.

“Right, got it.”

I darted downstairs and slid into the bathroom. Seriously Brooke, could you have made that any more awkward? Just call her by her name…or do I say his name? Oh shit, I forgot what her name is. I mean his! Oh my god, I seriously can’t…

Within an hour, they announced they needed to go. I panicked. We had barely made a dent, and my ankle was twice its normal size at that point. I caved and called “E”.

Me: Um, so I hate to ask you to do this, but I’m kinda desperate. This girl, I mean, this friend of an acquaintance, was helping me, but she, shit, I mean, this person has an appointment that she. Oh my god, I seriously can’t…

E: (Laughing) Uh, you okay?

Me: Tears.

E. Oh, alright. I’ll be over in a bit.

I grabbed my checkbook.

Me: So what is your name again? I mean, I know what your name is, but how do you spell it, exactly?

Helper: Karl Adams, Karl with a K. But for now, just make it out to Carly Adams, Carly, with a C.

Me: Right, got it.

* This is not intended to disrespect anyone in transition AT ALL. After the fact, I did some research and the consensus seems to be that “they” is best when you are writing if you aren’t sure. In retrospect, I should have just asked, which upon further inquiry, seems to be what most everyone prefers. All to say, I’m so very sorry, Karl, wherever you are!

In contrast, my next move, or maybe it was the move after, had serious potential for a better outcome. I happened to meet a kind, extremely fit, very attractive Australian who offered to help- a seemingly fortuitous encounter that turned into a love story of sorts, just minus the happy ending.

So I opted to go solo my last move. A sore back and a few bruises seemed better than offending the shit out of someone or a broken heart.

I made it a little easier on myself this time, leaving all things too cumbersome in the ally for some stable homeowner or renter to enjoy. I have replaced them with versions I can manage by myself if necessary. And yes, this includes a desk and a dresser. (You can’t even wrap your head around what I’ve managed to haul up and down three flights of stairs.)

Moving usually makes the list as one of life’s most stressful events. Divorce is usually high up there too (check), death of a loved one (partial check, with a terrible twist), financial upheaval (check). Imprisonment is high on the list too, but to date, I have managed to avoid any run-ins with the law, for the most part, anyway.

But, I shall refrain from complaining further. I do still have my limbs, after all, and a roof over my head…most of the time. I mean “I have a roof over my head most of the time.” My limbs are hopefully here for the long haul…because I kinda need them to haul shit around, it seems.

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I try to keep reminding myself of this because I know it to be true; I’ve been on both sides.

When I was packing for the Congo, one of the essentials I was told to bring was a watch. Electricity was going to be a luxury, so if I couldn’t charge my phone, I wouldn’t know what time it was.

Why would one need to know what time it is in a remote village in the Congo? Well, there were chimps to be fed and an imposed curfew we were supposed to abide by for safety purposes. I admittedly regularly missed the latter, but I truly didn’t know what time it was…because I had misplaced my watch the first week I was there.

I wasn’t too upset about it. I’d only ever used it to time my track workouts, and I had my travel alarm, so the chimps wouldn’t go hungry.

So a month or so later, I was running with Rafael, one of the staff I had become friends with, and I noticed he was wearing my watch. I don’t think for a second that he stole it. I think I took it off when I was washing the chimps’ veggies and left it on the counter. That meant it was up for grabs, plain and simple.

As we were running, I realized the watch no longer worked. It was just a dirty, pastel green band with a blank screen. But Rafael was now one of the only people in the village who had a watch. It didn’t matter if it worked or not; he had a watch.

He did not, however, have running water or electricity in his home. And his home was what most would consider a shack, probably just one open room with dirt floors and a tin roof.

My point is, for most of us in the developed world, Rafael’s life seems tragic. But he was always smiling with a kind disposition and fun sense of humor. He had a job, which was extremely rare in the village. He had food to eat, albeit mostly beans and cassava. He had friends and a healthy family, all of his limbs, and a roof over his head. Most of these were a luxury there.

I know, a seemingly random tangent, but I think of these things when shit seems like it can’t get any worse. A) I make it a point to never say that because I’ve learned it definitely can, and B) I can focus on the shit that’s wrong or the shit that’s not. Unfortunately, the prior wins out more than I’d like.

So, here’s to lucky number #13 and the hope that a kind soul will swoop in and help a girl out. I promise I will commit your name to memory and keep the cheerleading to a minimum.

And if you are in fact, a kind, fit, attractive male, that’s great. Just no broken hearts, please. Cause, although I can’t give you the exact length of time (I misplaced my watch, you see), I know a good chunk of it has been wasted trying to move on…which I think we’ve established, I’d rather stop doing.

Besides, I’m simply not wired to be a turtle. I’m too impatient and tend to operate in 5th gear most of the time. And even if this is someone else’s paradise, it’s not mine, so I’d like to get things moving (or even just help moving), and time is of the essence.

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This time it was the apple, but I’ll keep trying.

I received a request for something a bit more substantial than “just a quote,” and another for something more, “I don’t know, about butterflies or what you did in Australia. Something happy.”

Right, okay. Butterflies. Happy…

So I sat down, opened up a new document, and took a bite of my apple…

Mushy apples, wet peanut butter, cigarette smoke.
Caged animals, plastic straws, tree stumps.
Distended bellies, oppressed souls, false hope.

Hiccups, parking tickets, splintered wood.
Sirens, screeching brakes, raised fists.
Apathy, the sound of pain, someday I should…

You deserve the best, cold feet, flights home.
Broken promises, resignation, empty words.
Rainy days, sleeping alone…waking up alone.

Starting over one more time, one more time.

I’ll try again next week…or maybe the next.

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Okay, here is my offering to make up for the absence of butterflies. The thing that always feeds my soul, even after the mushiest of apples.

One stop at a time.

So, here I am, back in Denver, one of the last places I thought I’d end up. But I honestly didn’t know where else to go.

It’s not a bad place to be, Denver. I just never felt like it fit me. But nowhere seems to fit. Paris maybe, but that’s not really an option right now.

A dear friend offered me a room in a condo she rents out until I get my feet under me. It’s cozy and I have a warm bed to sleep in, so it’s a start.

But it is a bit further removed than I’d anticipated, which wouldn’t be an issue if I had a car. Let’s just say Denver isn’t famous for its public transportation.

I actually don’t know anyone who has taken the bus by choice…and now I know why. I avoided it as long as I could, but my neighborhood has little to offer – one coffee shop a mile away in one direction and a handful of bars and stores a mile in the opposite direction. I don’t mind the walk so much, but the destinations don’t feel worth the schlep, especially when it’s freezing outside.

The bus I have to take is ‘the 0’. Fitting, since that’s pretty much where I’m starting from. I’ve tried to put a more positive spin on it, but all I came up with is it will be a hard one to forget. (Or an easy zero to remember for that ‘positive spin’).

My first experience was…interesting. A trip that used to take me 15 minutes to drive took over an hour. But it wasn’t terrible.

The way back, however, was a bit of an adventure.

The 0 was delayed by half an hour, so I hopped on the first bus headed south. This seemed like a logical choice until I realized the route ended way before my stop, which meant a transfer at “the station.”

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We pulled off the main road to what was basically a huge, empty lot. It was darker than it should have been, which made it feel like we were in the middle of nowhere.

The bus drove off, leaving me with three other men, each sitting on a separate bench.

I’m not the paranoid type, probably to a fault. And yes, I have put myself in some questionable situations. But I’m not reckless either, and I know when I need to stay vigilant. I didn’t feel like this was one of those situations. However, my phone had conveniently stopped working, and I had no idea when the next bus was coming. So, not exactly ideal.

I paced back and forth, trying to stay warm. I caught the three men looking my way a few times, but they seemed harmless. And I’m sure they were curious why I was there. I don’t think I qualified as a typical passenger on this particular route.

The youngest of the three finally approached me. He wasn’t threatening at all,  more concerned. He asked if I knew which bus to catch. I assured him I did.

I had no idea.

After what felt like hours, a bus finally pulled up. I didn’t care which direction it was going, as long as it was going.

My next trip after hours proved to be…I guess “animated” would be the best word to describe it.

It wasn’t that late, but the bus was almost empty. Two younger girls sat huddled in the seats lining the wall, facing toward the aisle. A very talkative, somewhat obnoxious man sat across from them. He was trying to interact with them, but they kept their heads down, doing their best to ignore him. I couldn’t help but feel protective, so I casually moved over to the seat closest to them.

We came to a stop. The driver got up to lower the ramp for a man in a wheelchair. The obnoxious man hopped up and lifted the bench to make room for him, which made me feel bad for thinking he was obnoxious. We started to pull away, then jerked to a halt when a woman began slamming her fists on the door.

The driver knew her and they began chatting as the woman made her way down the aisle. She sat in the seat directly behind me and continued to yell up to the driver. “So, did you hear that so-and-so from the center just got thrown in jail for murdering his wife?”

This abruptly transitioned into her announcing to everyone, “You know what happened to me last night? Four policemen jumped me and tried to take me to jail.” She rolled up her sleeves and came over to show me her hands. “See the marks from the handcuffs?”

The man in the wheelchair and the ‘not as obnoxious’ guy teamed up, laughing at her, saying she was crazy.

She jumped to her feet and screamed. “I am not crazy! They ran all their god damned tests on me that proved it. I am not fucking crazy!”

I pulled the cord, exhaling when I heard the words, “stop requested.” Cold and dark for a couple of miles seemed preferable to murder and abuse.

I decided to sync up my bus outings with the light of day for a spell…and never leave home without my headphones.

The next morning’s ride was a short one, no more than 15 minutes. Odds were good I could make it to my destination without incident.

I was just a few blocks away from the coffee shop when the man next to me requested a stop. He started making his way to the door but stumbled backward when the driver hit the brakes. Something fell out of his bag and I instinctively reached down to pick it up.

I did my best not to react as I handed him back his knife.

It wasn’t a menacing knife, necessarily, but it wasn’t a pocket knife either. I don’t believe this man had the slightest intention of using it on anyone. And given the direction he was coming from, I get why he had it…just in case.

I’ve never really felt like my life was in danger. Everyone, for the most part, is harmless. But I have realized I don’t exactly blend in, as I seem to be the one “the man who had a few too many” gravitates toward.

I also see the curious side glances when I sit down or the blatant scans from head to toe. Maybe I’m just paranoid, not because I think their looks are threats or advances. They feel more like judgments, as if to say, “who the hell are you?”

I usually ignore it, but sometimes I just want to look them in the eye and assure them…

I have no fucking idea. I lost her quite a ways back, and I can’t seem to find her.

That’s what I want to say. I want them to know that I don’t think for a second I am better than anyone else who takes a seat on Bus 0. We are all doing our best to navigate our circumstances.

But no, I don’t want to be here. I actually couldn’t be further away from where I want to be.

Yesterday, I missed my stop. But instead of getting off and working my way back, I just sat there, staring out the window. We headed downtown, making our way closer to where I used to live. We passed the place I used to take Biscuit to get his bath, then the place ‘E’ and I went the year I decided to like football, then the gym I used to drag him to, the place I took dance lessons, the coffee shop where I used to study during grad school…

This was my world, where I no longer belong. What used to be home, now feels like a warped cassette tape. The same song is playing, but it doesn’t make sense anymore-the words are garbled, the melody distorted. And there is no way to fix it.

I feel like I’ve been exiled, still able to roam freely, but imprisoned by boundaries I can no longer cross and memories that have been hallowed out by regret.

The bus stopped and everyone got off. It was the end of the line.

I was mad at myself for wasting the morning searching for a place I wasn’t going to find and ending up nowhere close to where I needed to be.

I finally found the bus I needed to get back and waited impatiently as everyone boarded. The driver closed the doors and headed out, then stopped abruptly to let someone else on.

I was annoyed, tired of waiting, of feeling isolated and lost in a place I used to call home.

I knew I was spiraling, so I forced myself to revisit my ‘gratitude list’.

I’m grateful for my friends, for my warm bed…that I have all of my limbs. 

But it wasn’t working. I wasn’t grateful. I was angry.

The woman slowly made her way up the stairs and stopped to greet the driver who seemed genuinely happy to see her.

He smiled, “How was your day?”

Without hesitating, she responded, “Well, no one I love died today, so I’d say, all and all, it was a good day.”

That sounded much better than “I have all my limbs”, so I added it to my list.

I’m grateful that no one I love died today.

The woman sat in the seat across from me. Her face was hard and soft at the same time, her demeanor firm but gentle. She seemed familiar. Did I know her?

She caught me staring at her and I tried to smile. She nodded her head slightly and made her way to the exit, disappearing into the crowd of people waiting to get on.

She had only said a few words, but her voice lingered, filling in the words taking shape in my head.

Hold on, love. You’ll get to where you want to go. But you won’t find it back there. You’ll have to take a different route. You’re headed in the right direction, though. Just keep moving forward…one stop at a time.

 

Falling, Down Under, Getting Back Up, (a bit further North) & Dodging Teeth.

So I’m presently in Victoria, which, oddly enough, is where I was a month ago. Except that Victoria was in Australia. This one is a bit further North.
So, here I am, my second country in 2 months, and it’s Halloween, which used to be one of my favorites. I even threw a Halloween party for ‘E’ and I’s engagement once upon a time…but that was another life.
Anyway, it made me think about what I was doing last year at this time.
I was in Hawaii. That actually made me laugh out loud.
Yesterday, this very nice man started chatting me up at the coffee shop (Very friendly, these Canadians, which can prove challenging for an introvert).
He was very inquisitive, and I had nowhere to escape, so I obliged and answered his questions. The first? He wanted to know if I was from South Africa- the second time I’ve been asked this in the past two months, the first being in Australia.
I simply don’t get the South Africa one, but interestingly enough, when I’m in the U.S., people ask if I’m from Canada. (I say ‘abowt’ instead of ‘about’ for whatever reason).
This seems to be a theme. When I’m speaking Spanish in Latin America, they ask if I’m from Spain. When I’m in Spain, they ask if I’m from Latin America. When I was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, they asked if I learned French in France. And when I’m in France…I think they just try to understand me. (I haven’t quite conquered that language yet).
Anyway, this very nice man continued. He wanted to know where was I living (I avoided that one), where had I traveled, what line of work I was in, what work was I doing in Paris, and what in god’s name was I doing in the Congo.
He was fascinated, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was misleading him. That life is just so far removed from where I am now.

I know, “I won’t be here forever”, “I am more than my circumstances”, “the further you fall, the higher you rise”…I know.

Just somewhat comical. I go so fluidly between being flown across the world on seemingly exotic adventures…to sleeping on friends’ couches.

 

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My current sofa du’ jour, however, is quite comfortable…and I am in Canada with a very dear, very patient friend, so there’s that.
My dreams have been quite interesting here. Have you ever dreamed that you lost your teeth? This time it was my two front teeth. Which makes sense, because I did actually lose my two front teeth when I was little.
I already had a lisp so you can imagine. I couldn’t say my ‘r’s’ either. I basically sounded like a cross between Elmer Fudd and Sylvester the Cat. Cute when you are little. But I’m here to tell you, saying ‘Merry Christmas’ was quite the feat.
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One down…

There are various interpretations of what ‘losing teeth’ means in a dream:
1st scenario: It usually means some important relationship will be lost.
2nd scenario: You will take more responsibility and become more stable and mature.
3rd scenario: Tooth loss is likely to show that a difficult situation will soon be over.
4th scenario: There is really something wrong with your teeth.
Okay, well, the first one certainly applies.
The second, not so much. I’m kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum, but I’ll certainly take it.
The third scenario: Um, yes, please. I will gladly hand over a tooth or two if that one can play out.
And the last one, I’m not 100% sure, but they all seem to be intact.
So I’m going to go with the third scenario. Although I’d rather keep the teeth I offered up so as not to revisit the previously-mentioned ‘lisp era’…not so cute when you are trying to pull off scenario 2…or rebound from scenario 1.
But in keeping with the subject at hand- ‘teeth’ seems to be a theme here in Canada.
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About three days after I got here, I went to the gym to try to work off some angst from scenario 1 and the whole ‘sleeping on friends couches’ thing.
I was making solid progress sweating it out when I saw something flying toward me out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t even have time to flinch before I saw a set of teeth lying on the floor in front of me.
I’m not talking about the ‘these are a part of my Halloween costume’ teeth.

It was a full set of teeth.

I somehow refrained from reacting and promptly looked down, pretending to be studying my distance/speed stats intensely. I definitely never saw a heavy-set man walk directly in front of me, bend down, and pick up his teeth.

The poor guy must have been mortified. It did make me think, though, “well shit, things aren’t that bad. I mean, yes, my heart’s a little bruised, my circumstances aren’t exactly ideal, but at least I don’t have to worry about my teeth falling out. I get to wake up from my bad dream, shake it off, and then head to the bathroom and brush my teeth…versus, you know, having to fish them out of a glass or whatever you do when you have to put your teeth in.
So, that’s all I got. I’m still in Canada, still living out of my suitcase, still making people guess where I’m from, and still trying to figure out where I’m going.
The good news, however, is (according to the experts) “My difficult situation will soon be over.”

That’s something I can sink my teeth into…

 

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Songs from the Final Chapter: Ever After…

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A Gypsy’s Tale: Ever After

I keep seeing the posts coming in: wishes well for the year ahead or blessings counted for the one that passed…or heartbreaking accounts of why we so desperately want to place 2017 firmly in the past.

I tried to write one of these, all three versions. But nothing. It seems I’ve lost my words.  I’m not sure why. I wish I could get them back or out or whatever needs to happen. But they also seem to be stuck firmly in the past at the present moment.

So for now, I’ll steal more words from others who have fed my soul… and saved it at times.

But this one you’ll like. It’s for the future I have to look forward to and the gift of the present I have to get there.