I knew the drive would be harder than talking in front of two hundred people so I bought what I hoped would be a good distraction. Living with Monks; an audiobook by some guy named Jesse Itzler. I assumed he was a born rich white guy, committed to having peak experiences because I’m guilty of quickly sizing people up. It’s a bad habit that’s saved my life more than once. To challenge my blind spots I intentionally developed a counter habit of turning off my judgements and listening for the meta message, which has mostly come in handy at church.
So I listened and while I still can’t make heads or tails of him and his persistent need to push his body, mind and spirit to extreme limits (who eats that many bananas and runs till their extremities bleed? Why?) I did find myself compelled to take on one of his unofficial homework assignments: writing a Life Resume. It had nothing to to do with the traditional qualifications of self-promotion we might list to help secure employment. My take on a Life Resume is about defining experiences that’ve brought our lives substance, meaning or purpose. For instance, Jesse started a private jet company, wrote rap songs, lived with a Navy Seal and hiked big mountains. His wife invented Spanx and he really did live with monks for fourteen days. They were Catholics who bred German Shepards. Instead of finding enlightenment he mistakenly shaved his head, wrestled with the idea of meditation, obsessed about the number of steps he took each day, grew hungrier for truth and filled the void with stolen Cliff Bars. Anyway, I found his honesty endearing, goofy and unexpectedly…frustrating? Inspiring? Confusing? Bananas in a good way.
The Life Resume of Elizabeth Philbin Bouvier-Fitzgerald
- Born in Providence to an unwed mother during a blizzard in the projects. She worked at a Tupperware factory which I’m told came in handy during the first trimester of morning sickness. Her baby daddy was a would be 70’s rockstar who was off doing coke pretending his first child wasn’t really being born because that wasn’t part of his plan.
- The Burning Street: Witnessed a fatality, ate Spam and sewer mud and had food stolen out of my hands. For fun I gave art lessons on a wooden fence behind our unit. Charms Blow Pops from the Lil’ General at the top of the block was my favorite food stamped treat.
- Survived the Slut Babies; Schoolmates who hated me for not being them, knocked the wind out of my lungs. I woke up under a running car in the middle of the street. The janitor saved me. Neato for fallible humanity and merciless distress tolerance.
- Go Fish: The rock star settled down, planted a garden and threw me off a boat into Narragansett Bay to teach me to swim. Thank you for putting a hook and books in my hands. This harvest remains priceless.
- That Decade: Of being forbidden fruit to a gargoyle. He stalked us. I ‘graduated’ but didn’t get an actual degree. It’s just one of them things. Thanks decades of therapy and being trauma bonded to Christ. My mother fought so we could walk to church. Love and mercy are powerful.
- Venus: I was crowned a twelve year old Madonna in a satin green ball gown at a fancy hotel. They gave me a $500 ‘scholarship’ and offered up the cover of Seventeen. We said no but I kept the rhinestone crown and the plastic trophy. Not ironically, I also learned to puke.
- In Good Company: The Rhode Island State Ballet. After the drug raid at the mansion where the off duty cop took us to his parents basement for the night to wait out the worst, I fractured my ankle running on a horse trail so even though I’d gotten the part in Coppelia I never danced the tarantella. Instead I spent the summer in the bathroom attempting to prevent unwanted weight.
- The Vineyard: We-Hauled to an island to be poor among the rich people. Taking out their trash was profitable. Only one of them tried to buy me. Beyond that I learned about linen, pan seared sea scallops and every other kind of beauty which had previously been an elusive mystery. There was more so I set out to find a way in.
- Hitch: I thumbed up and out starting in 8th grade, asking strangers their life stories in between multiple shifts. The dairy farm, the leather store, cleaning those big houses and anything else they’d pay me to do; except that. Despite the value they assigned me (the Playboy photographer, for instance). I reclaimed my worth and decided I could be more than a centerfold.
- Fighting Squirrels: Instead of selling coffee on the beach with my girl crush, I went to a liberal arts school to major in everything a minor person might find fascinating: art, literature, feminism, veganism, peace-ism. Put the book in my hands and I’ll eat it. The Social Contract was a real bummer.
- The Great Hunger: With $300 and a handful of quarter rolls I went to Tralee and studied social starvation. I gave myself an A for astonishing journeys and the blisters you get when you wash three outfits for three weeks in a sink with one bar of free soap. Bonus points for sleeping solo in the rose garden.
- Harvard Squared: Kicking and screaming I went to Lesley for the dual masters, mastering a semblance of entrance into upper middle class despite a dead hedgehog and a drug addict baggage. There’s nothing God and The Golden Girls can’t get me through.
- Sandwiched Man: I married the guy who was already spoken for; stuffed between I beg your pardon, cream cheese freebase, holy mother and sneezes. No ragrets. Summed it up to a parallel decade of the decade and got out before I was too late.
- Summits: Mountains are good teachers, even the ones you hike backwards in early spring and mistake the thunk of a fellow hiker tromping up a steep incline with headphones on, for a bear coming to eat you. I did not get eaten. Osceola, after four attempts, succumbed to my stubborn will.
- Black Diamond: In the depths of a deep freeze, after the funeral director died in his favorite chair, I took the gondola and a disposable camera to the top of Loon. Entrusting my legs to the waxed blades of a pair of rentals, perched at the peak I photographed the lodge which had been both my transitional home and workplace then slid down the icy face to a fire pit below.
- Tropical Serendipity: With winter approaching yet again, after the blink of a White Mountain summer spent apart, the phone rang. A side door opened. All I had to do was buy a pair of black heels and agree to work at a county hospital psych unit…in Florida. Divorce and reunification with my life awaited.
- En-Gulfed: The sun ripped off every illusion. Between Disney themed nightmares and a deflated twin air mattress I faced everything I’d avoided. Shadows and light swallowed me whole and I chose surrender. Twelve steps, a coda sponsor, faith and boundaries to the rescue. The holy spirit and Gulf of Mexico baptized the past away.
- Trippin’: As in road trip to Nashville. My first ever car and fourteen solo hours times two. Yes I’d lost more than twenty pounds and the first twenty years but the road ahead was brighter.
- Go West: After the salsa lessons and sunsets I abandoned shore for the unknown, successfully interviewing in half a bathing suit to remake home in a brutal utopia. You cry. Doubt yourself and ask god why the fuck, after six months of manifesting mediations He plants you here in this hostile plot. To grow you, he says. I’m grown! Let me breathe, speak, live!
- Surfacing: Everyone leaves. The tides turn. You persevere in spite of a landslide of doubt, discovering you’re not the incompetent, useless, worthless fool they’d prefer you to believe. Sanctuary. You say it relentlessly. Five years, three car accidents, two lame dates and a walk in the park later, someone listens. Patience. World peace unfolds.
- Shine: Somewhere between a walk and a wake Resolution opens the door. Love and possibility enter. Take off your shoes; you’re about to have your socks knocked off.