Monday, February 9, 2015

Clown Down

"There is nothing special about dying. We all do it. It's how we live that counts."

Caught in a Hope Floats moment, what I told my Tinder date after delivering the crib note version of my cancer crusade and witnessing his pathetic, clown down face.


The End

I am dating again. Which means that my on again, off again, marriage has reached it's final chapter.

It took me a long time to get to this point but in the end, I made the choice to let it go and it is a relief. I no longer feel hurt, disappointed, or angry. I don't blame anyone, especially not myself. We are now at the beginning of a civil separation which I am certain will lead to a happy divorce.

And because I am impatient, I leaped back into the dating pool. Date number one made me cry. Date number two got a black eye.

Intrigued?

From the get go Radish (not his real name) was cocky, overbearing, and dismissive - ego based qualities that I typically loath, but in my raw, newly single state, found appealing.

Physically, he is mildly attractive with a big bear stance, HUGE paws, and warm eyes.

In his mind he is successful, strong, sexy... a player and a great catch.

In my mind, he is highly amusing, uncouth, and ambitious.

I was surprised when he asked me to dinner because of our significant age difference (he is 10 years my junior). When I questioned him about it he said, with a broken Central European accent,"This not problem for me. This problem for you?"

Typically, my choice of men would be one that is totally smitten by me. A man that I could control and manipulate. This cantankerous, cocky man, would be a challenge.


We had numerous arguments (via text) and two breakups in the days leading up to our date.

The first came when he sent me a scandalous selfie taken in a public locker-room and the second when I engaged my PI side and searched public court documents to determine if his wife was aware of his pending divorce (she is).

Determined to let him lead, when he chose a sushi restaurant that I had dined at the night before with my daughter, I said nothing.

Uber escorted, I arrived fashionably late and visibly nervous in new, black stretch straight-legged jeans, an elegant cashmere sweater, and kick-ass Tory Burch boots. Not knowing what his idea of dress-to-impress might be, and half expecting a sea of gold chains across an over-exposed, bushy chest,  I was pleasantly surprised by his classic, conservative attire.

He immediately took charge, ordering a boat load of sushi (an actual three foot long boat full of food) and I passively drank what he ordered (a blood orange margarita).

Avoiding the squid and focused on the tuna, I ate not out of hunger but to steady my nerves and tequila infused sea legs.

On the advice of my daughter, I avoided conversations involving my three failed marriages or my three rounds of cancer and instead let him expose his underbelly.

And so he talked and I listened. But mostly we laughed. We laughed about the simplicities of everyday life. We laughed about ourselves and the comical situations we had wiggled our way into. We laughed until we were the only patrons in the restaurant and the staff grew impatient. We laughed until he leaned over our corner table for four, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "We can be lovers but there can be no love. You are too old."

This is when the laughter stopped. This is when I broke into tears. Not just a few, well-timed teardrops, but I openly sobbed. Because my white cloth table napkin was not absorbent, it took me two trips to the ladies room to compose myself enough to leave the restaurant.

Our effort to salvage the evening with "dance" failed when JHouse, the local "disco," was empty. Instead he drove erratically to the harsh, repetitive beat of Polish house music while I rambled on, and on, and on, about my cancer.

By the time he dropped off me at my front door, we agreed never to see each other again.

This is why people take a self-imposed, time-out between relationships. This is why women give up on men all together. This is painful.

Because you can't keep a good clown down, I got home and immediate reactivated my Tinder account. Determined to find a man who did not think I was "too old," I skimmed through countless profiles while my eyes were still swollen from tears.

Silly Shannon...

After tweaking my five, put-your-best-face-forward photo's, I was convinced that this Shannon was not "too old" for anyone between the ages of 46 to 60.






Like fishing in a well-stocked trout pond, my late night Tinder trolling sparked several bites. The first was Johnny Manicotti (not his real name), a fit, stable (by his own definition), 52 year old, newly divorced bachelor currently residing in North Carolina but visiting family less than a mile away.

PERFECT - no strings and no time for tears.

His best-face-forward picture was of a trim, well-toned, topless man, lounging on a sun-drenched beach chair, so I suggested our first date be a walk at the beach.

After juggling the complexities of our desperately single schedules, we agreed to meet the next day at 10:00 am.

I armed myself with a double layer of down, sensible, waterproof boots, shades to conceal my still swollen eyes, faux fur hat, gloves, and my 95 pound Bernese Mountain dog.

He, avoiding the advice of his mother, arrived underdressed in pearl white sneakers, a light-weight wool baseball jacket, bare head and hands.

I offered him my hat, a desperate attempt to avoid the glare of his newly dyed (scalp still stained), pitch black, deeply receding clown hair, but he declined my offer.

So, with the wind at our faces, we set out for an uncomfortable stroll on the beach.

Winter weekends at the beach are all about the dog. Dogs off leash. Dogs of all sizes. So if you say, "you like dogs," you'd better mean it.

After a quick recount of my failed marriages and my cancer crusade, we coincidentally bumped into Boris (not his real name) - my faithful, freakishly tall friend.

"Look, there are the other two dogs from my Tinder photo, and LOOK, there is my friend Boris!" I jubilantly announced.

Johnny, who is no fool, was cordial but not amused.

It became apparent that Johnny's idea of "likes dogs" was from a distance, when he found himself surrounded by a menagerie of furry's that included a cluster of Bernese Mountain dogs who insisted on sitting on his feet and burrowing themselves between his legs (typical Berner behavior), and he was visibly shaken.

And then, as if the date wasn't awkward enough, corralled in a cluster of canines who, like a school of sharks, sensed his fear, Johnny tripped on a ripple of wet sand and fell forward.

Boris, reacting with the instinct of a prize fighter, extending both arms in an attempt to steady Johnny but instead, Boris's left hand connected with Johnny's right eye.

Later at Starbucks, it wasn't until his second trip to the mens room (nerves or enlarged prostate?) that he noticed his visible bruise.

Later that day I received a text from Johnny stating, "Mom thinks you abused me, LOL."

This time, I didn't bite. Besides, Mom was right.



xo, Monkey ME



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Kitten



I am not a happy holiday shopper. My list is short and if it's not available on Amazon Smile, it's not happening.

My husband and I exchange the same thing every year... socks. Socks are stress free. Socks are one size fits all and you can never have too many.

Last year I used the excuse that I was going through chemo and bought NOTHING. Last year was not a good Christmas.

Two years ago, on Christmas Eve, I willingly drove down Greenwich Avenue—a quarter mile grid of upscale shops in the center of town—with the intention of  buying ONE gift. It didn't matter what the gift was as long as the store was directly in front of an open parking space.

I was halfway down the avenue before I found a spot. It was in front of St. Mary's Parish. There, on the front lawn, beside a life-sized mangier, stood an elderly, elf-sized nun.

Convinced that this was a sign from above, I got out of my car and wished her a Merry Christmas.

"Want to see what I found?" she asked, "It's inside."

Refusing a nun on Christmas Eve seemed wrong, so into the rectory I went.

I was led to a dark corner of the kitchen, where a warped cardboard box housed a single kitten.

"Someone left three kittens on our doorstep," she told me.
"Where are the other two?" I asked.
"I can't remember," she confessed.

She lifted the unsuspecting kitten, squeezing him a bit too tightly, and handed him to me.

With two dogs and a cat at home, and condo rules that state only one pet per household, the last thing I needed was a kitten, but the odds of him surviving were grim if I left him behind.

I was halfway out the door, kitten cradled in my arms, when I remembered I was babysitting Mylo, my grandson's rambunctious rat terrier, who was anxiously waiting for me in the car.

Convinced the kitten was for his enjoyment, Mylo opened his mouth and lunged at the kitten the moment I opened the door.

The terrified kitten scurried out of my arms, up my chest, and onto my shoulder—imbedding his nails into the fur collar of my coat.

With my left arm on the wheel, my right hand on Mylo, and a kitten on my shoulder, I slowly worked my way down the avenue to my final stop before returning home—a seafood shop called The Lobster Bin.

My initial thought was to leave the kitten in the car and tie Mylo outside the store, but I couldn't get the kitten to release his grip so into the store we went.

The Lobster Bin was packed with frazzled shoppers. Immediately John, the owner, leaned over the counter and asked why I had a kitten on my shoulder. Everyone listened as told the story of the abandoned kitten.

"How much you want for him?" John asked.

"How about a donation to the church. You decide how much," I answered.

"Deal!" said John, "But I can't bring him home. My wife is allergic. He will have to live here."

"That's one lucky kitten," said a women to my left.

Overhearing this, John smiled wide and reached for his new kitten.

"Come to Papa, Lucky," said John.

The kitten, governed by his keen sense of smell, jumped off my shoulder and into John's arms.

My quest for a single gift turned out to be for me. I was given the gift of a story—the true story of how I flipped a kitten, in less than fifteen minutes, one magical Christmas Eve.


xo, Monkey Me



Saturday, October 25, 2014

Living



Four months of NOTHING from an otherwise outspoken monkey. Where have I been?

I am here.

I am guilty of enjoying a stoma free, cancer free life.

I am living it up in all the right places, most of it fueled by music and my love of the dance.

I am enjoying my choice of work. I am helpful instead of helpless. This is wonderful medicine.

I am relishing the relationships that cushioned me from the isolation of a merciless illness.

I am revamping the ones that cause me to question every aspect of myself.

And I am releasing the ones that no longer wish me well.

I continue to explore my souls true purpose and strive for a life lived beyond fear.

After a visit to the Omega Institute, where I basked in the healing energy of John of God, I discovered that I have not forgiven myself for my son's death. The guilt is there, buried beneath my bravado and unshakable resilience. Guilt festers and feeds my dis-ease.

It is always my fault, especially when it isn't. If you sit across the table from me and spill your drink, I will blame myself for off-balancing the table. This is my way of punishing myself.

I am learning how to forgive myself, how to find peace within myself. It is an ongoing process and for me, a difficult one.

I am learning how to love myself, celebrate the goodness that governs most of what I do (when I am good) and accept my shortcomings.

When I am high, I make plans. I expect wellness. I fix my gaze on radiant abundance and I rejoice in the magnificence of the moment.

When I am low, I go to the colorectal cancer boards and count the ones who have advanced to stage 4, or worse, are dead. I recap their decline and envision their suffering. I have yet to find someone who died without pain. I fear the pain.

I am quick to correct people when they declare that I have "beaten cancer" when in fact, the best that I can tell you is that my body shows "no evidence of disease."

I am one of the lucky ones. I have been granted the luxury of clear scans and "within normal range" tumor markers. I can now stop fighting and adjust to the permanent side effects of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

Instead of following my doctors directive of scans every three months, I opted to have scans every six months. It's been six months. Now I'm thinking I'll wait until November.

In celebration of Halloween, I am headed to New Orleans with my beautiful daughter and several wonderful friends. We will be joining other wonderful friends. There will be an abundance of merriment coupled with sassy silliness and tales so scandalous your heads will spin. Because this is what I do when I release the fear and focus on the joy. There is so much joy.



Burning Man 2014. 
Vamp Camp's staged (fully functional) bidet.
Again and again, the playa provides.


xo, MonkeyME


Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing
greenmonkeytales@live.com

Shannon E. Kennedy

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Photo by Joan Harrison