Who’s Biking Her Porker-Sized Butt Off?

Chick and dog donning the type of orange you can see from outer space.

Me. “Mace.”

I’m down 50 big ones.

In 4 months.

At 52.

How’d I do it?

I quit indulging in the Drinkeepoo and family-sized bag of Chex Mix every night, traded my flat bars in for drops, and got my porker-sized butt out on the road.

The catalyst?

Self-discovery stumbled upon through free-writing.

Huh?

Free-writing.

Two paragraphs to be exact.

Long-ass sentences that explained why and what I’d been running from all these years—the bouts of drinking, the trying on the wrong different people, places and things, the “girls don’t come along askin’ for ranchin’ chores.”

The unreconciled grief.

The “inflicted void.”

When I was on the edge of 20.

Edge of 20?

19. (Not 17, like Stevie Nicks.)

The discovery?

It was so powerful I sought a path to recovery.

I ride that path on my Trek Alexa.

A 47-mile bike ride down the Cape a couple of weeks ago helped shed those few pounds to achieve the big 5-0 milestone. Calcium was leaching from my muscles making my quads scream. The popping a squat to dispense fierce diarrhea and relieve the cramping in my lower gut didn’t derail me either.

Just made me dirty.

Hell, yeah. 52 and riding strong.

I got no strength, but I got endurance.

I got no core, but I got guts.

And I’ve dropped from an all-consuming 3X and comfortably sitting in a size 16 (know it sounds big, but think in relative terms). My inner thighs no longer bunch together and become one when I roll over in bed.

Does it feel great?

It rocks.

Has my presence of mind returned?

Not the kind I need to secure my smaller porker-sized ass in the technological workplace amid the Millennials. It’s troubling. What’s left of my mind is fleeting. And it’s not entirely due to alcohol consumption ’cause my high school girlfriend’s Cyndy and Kathleen’s minds are like sieves too.

And they ain’t boozers.

Nothing stays in my mind for long and there’s not alot of computing going on, just anxiety. Cycling helps. Yoga helps. My former writing coach did yoga. I wrote about the paradox (her doing yoga and my doing drinking to acquire the same effect) in the essay called My Dear Friend the Dirty, which the editors of Elephant Journal scooped up and devoured nearly 3 years ago.

My coach has since left me to pursue work with ‘better’ writers, those who are book-publishable-friendly and can afford her soaring hourly rates.

(And tolerate her sense of self-importance.)

I kept drinking the Dirties.

She used to say before reading one of my manuscripts:

“I’m eager to read me some Lisa Mae DeMasi.”

That translates to, this is going to make me laugh in parts but it has no depth or meaning.

I write when I can; back on the subject of my time spent in Cody. When I fell in love with toiling in the elements and fighting the boys to do the chores they hated. A 3-month period when Heartbreak was displaced by the cows and horses and mountains.

Saying goodbye to a foal in Cody at the Grin-N-Barrett Ranch, September ’95. My knee got torn up by a hit-and-run driver in Cody Central just days prior, necessitating my left leg remain immobilized. I’m styling a full leg immobilizer here before grease, dirt and tomato sauce made it visible. Wonder where my crutches were.

I wish I had gobs more time to write.

I chant every morning for a grant to fall from the sky and into my lap. Especially now since I can finally give meaning to my work. You know, having discovered the discovery, and feeling like a person again without all that “blind heartache weight.”

****************

The impact of loss scars the heart and you go on living your life ’cause you’re young and have to conform and can’t fall apart and you don’t realize those wounds are still there, throbbing raw, the fibers of tissue meshing over that open gap of mess. You don’t realize you mask that pain with the alcohol thirty fucking years later, that there’s a reason why you drink until the TV and the stand it rests on becomes unhinged.

You write and write and write. For seven years, straight, you do nothing but write and you’re told your writing has no depth or meaning. You keep writing because you’re still madly and blindly driven to it despite having lost all your assets and pockets are filled with nothing but dust and lint. You’re there writing, looking up the definition of a word online, fact checking, and you read, alcoholism is a well-documented pathological reaction to unresolved grief and glance down at the billionth line you just put in black and white and Jesus, the whole goddamn story comes clear.

****************

Adanna, a journal for women, about women, printed in its October editionWhy I Love Bike Commuting in Boston.

I no longer get to play chicken with city buses living in the Metrowest.

Damn, I miss it.

My work was also published in an Anthology last month, nestled inside other essays and poems by 50-something kick-ass women writers who are still enjoying sex with others and themselves. I flew out to attend and read at the launch in Santa Barbara, but never made it due to the fires.

Pick up a copy on Amazon and read it in the bathtub.

With rose pedals. And bubbly.

Unmasked: Women Write about Sex and Intimacy After 50

Time to go to spin class to burn away the remaining excess weight.

Where’s my low-calorie Gatorade.

Write to me at lisa dot demasi at gmail.

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Why We Write

Ah, the catalyst, revealed.

The impact of loss scars the heart and you go on living your life ’cause you’re young and have to conform and can’t fall apart and you don’t realize those wounds are still there, throbbing raw, the fibers of tissue meshing over that open gap of mess. You don’t realize you mask that pain with the alcohol thirty fucking years later, that there’s a reason why you drink until the TV and the stand it rests on becomes unhinged.

You write and write and write. For seven years, straight, you do nothing but write and you’re told your writing has no depth or meaning. You keep writing because you’re still madly and blindly driven to it despite having lost all your assets and pockets are filled with nothing but dust and lint. You’re there writing, looking up the definition of a word online, fact checking, and you read, alcoholism is a well-documented pathological reaction to unresolved grief and glance down at the billionth line you just put in black and white and Jesus, the whole goddamn story comes clear.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This free-writing not only set me free but got picked up by 1888 Center: “Why We Write” in Orange, California.

Lisa’s work has been featured in the anthologies, Unmasked, Women Write About Sex & Intimacy After Fifty (10/17, print) and The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal (11/17, print). Her essays have been published in lit journals 1888 Center: Why We Write (9/17), Adanna (10/17, print), The Crux (10/17), Fiction Southeast, Gravel, Foliate Oak, East Bay Review, and Shark Reef; and in several media outlets. Lisa considers Massachusetts her home, but has lived in Connecticut, Vermont, New York State and two other planets called Wyoming and Arizona. She earned a B.A. from Regis College and an MBA from Babson College, and holds a Master certificate in Reiki. She loves cycling, hiking with her dog Sabrina, and can’t imagine spending a day without her husband Dennis.

‘Orphan’ Essay “Snowflake” to Appear in First Issue of Crux Magazine, 9/17

It’s snowing in August!

The sister-editors in Oakland, CA are starting their own magazine, The Crux, and desire to pay their contributors [bless you, Katie and Jennifer]. This is my second time getting paid for work—the first time I earned $0.015 AUD per word at 994 words.

Never did the math.

Didn’t give up writing either.

The essay depicts the story of my girlfriend leaving me behind at Heathrow for a guy she met on the flight from Boston. It does not have a happy ending.

For me or her.

We arrive at Heathrow with less than thirty minutes to departure. Nebraska throws money at the cabbie and engages a porter to manage the baggage in an act of efficiency that surprises me. I stand there, holding my gym bag to my belly, a pacifier of sorts, pleading silently at Lexi. Eye contact, Lex, make eye contact with me. She doesn’t. Nebraska takes hold of her arm and whisks her through the retracting doors and into the terminal. I watch them, a good-looking couple, scurry and break through the pockets of people — Michael Cole and Peggy Lipton of the Mod Squad. The porter trots after them. I follow in their wake.

 

A boarding call for the flight penetrates the PA system. Nebraska and Lexi stand before a pre-ticketed counter. They’re changing her flights. She is reaching into her purse, the two of them conversing to one another and an agent, then she starts back to where I’m standing in the midst of the foot traffic, being bumped and fumbled about in a state of befuddlement. Once before me, everything around her blurs into gray, chaos goes underwater. I gaze into her face wide-eyed,  imploring, Lexi, let’s go back to the inn. “His name is Lane,” she says.

 

“Lane?”

 

“You keep calling him Nebraska.” Her expression is dead serious. “His name is Lane.”

 

She just said Lane two times. Her processor is defunct.

 

“Lexi–”

 

“Here’s some cash.” She stuffs a wad of green into my hand.

 

“Lane has invited us to a small family wedding in the Botanic Garden in Meise.”

 

I already know this. She points to a ticketing counter with a queue that zigzags around four times.

 

“Lexi, you don’t even know ‘Lame’ and have no business attending the wedding. Where’s your head? What about our plans?”

 

Her eyes well-up. I’ve never seen anyone look so much like they’re going to cry but the tear doesn’t swell over their lower eyelid. I tell her, “He’s short-tempered and an asshole.” Football players saunter by and I’m clobbered on both sides by equipment bags—balls and cleats. I elbow away the last of it. “What if he hurts you?”

 

Lane appears. The tear at last makes the leap over Lexi’s lower eyelid and tracks down her face. He takes her arm, pulls her away, as if we’re not in mid-conversation, as if we didn’t share profound intimacy the night before. Lexi knew my true intentions all along, and she created Nebraska, Brussels, and the trashy getup to sabotage my own manifestation.

 

The two of them dash toward the departing gate. “Lexi, don’t go.” I say it in sotto voce, it’s all I got.

 

I watch them until they become smaller and smaller and finally disappear. Lexi didn’t look back.

T-boned [Gravel Literary Magazine]

Outside the ER it’s a winter wonderland. Snow pelts the ground. Visibility is practically nil. Two men dressed in bright lime-colored gear, crisscross one another gathering snow in the plastic blades of their shovels. The sliding doors retract and close; the sensor dumb to their indiscreet footsteps. Sirens scream into the dense moisture-laden air; an ambulance appears in the circular drive. Its beacons intermittently strobe the exterior of the entryway. EMTs hop and pop from the circus of lights and noise, emissions choking out of the vehicle’s exhaust; open the rear doors wide to wheel out the wounded.

It’s the perfect sort of day for a boy and a girl to curl up with Grandma’s crocheted afghan, a movie, and bowl of hot soup, one of the EMT muses. Cop a feel when a parental unit isn’t paying any attention. Watch the snow coat the ground and evergreens with a fresh blanket of white. Stay out the elements, keep safe and sound. Like what Barry Burbank, WBZ’s weatherman, said this morning.

Keep safe. And sound.

I am not aware of the siren screams, nor the strobes and snow falling, the men shoveling and carting in damaged bodies. I don’t recall that I’m in the midst of college break, it’s right smack midway through the glorious eighties, I’m nearly twenty and leaving my teens behind. I don’t know my first love, the one I’m supposed to be curled up with and swatting his hands away from my breasts, is reluctantly chatting with his mother in the small ER waiting room designated for loved ones of the injured about which new car she’ll buy since the Jaws of Life just destroyed her other one.

I lay comatose in an adjacent room. My mind, the faculty of my consciousness and thoughts, remaining numb to stimuli. There’s no perception, no transmission; it’s void, dark, deadly quiet. My brain is busy sustaining that void, deploying an arsenal of chemicals to compensate for the split in time, suppressing the sensory receptors from the blunt trauma—my broken bones, the hit taken to my abdomen that’s pulverized tissue and organs, and punctured veins and arteries. My heart, the renegade, the betrayer, as always, is not listening to my brain—its pumping blood out at a spastic rate through the holes.

An external disturbance registers. A voice. It’s relentless, miraculously breaking through that mechanism of my brain’s fortification, bringing me into the present. Breathe, Lease, breathe, it commands. There is only one person that calls me Lease. My mother. The person who heard Burbank’s forecast and eyeballed the elements herself and tried to protect me so my brain wouldn’t have to. I am granted a fleeting window of awareness. But not through my eyes. My lids are heavy, steel traps. A depiction of involuntary desperateness is felt in my body. Each gasp caused by my choking, thrusts a knife’s blade deep into my gut. Choke. Stab. Choke. Stab.

“Airway’s bloody.”

Something foreign is tickling the back of my throat. I listen to my mother, it’s a precedent. I stop resisting. Succumb. A tube slips down my windpipe. I can breathe. The stabbing doesn’t abate, giving rise to the melodramatic statement, it only hurts when I breathe. And not breathe. My brain is wrestling, calling me back to unconsciousness; the pain galaxies beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before, flirts with my semi-consciousness, invites me to become fully awake. It’s a struggle. A shot of morphine provides no contest. My brain, working in concert with my mind, fires the artillery it has left. A barrage of fireworks ignites behind the closed lids of my eyes. I fall into that quiet dark place again.

Why Not Having Children Was My Perfect Path

We’re seated by the gate at Logan, held captive by the airline’s whim, watching a steady stream of half dressed, overdressed passengers walk, toddle and run by, but the place remains stale and lifeless somehow.

Until a little princess, right out of a storybook, walks into the seating area of our gate. She is unhurried, functions in her own dimension, immune to the chaos, the germfest, the push to get to point A to B.

Her presence casts a tiny spell on me. My book collapses into my lap. I’m drinking her sweetness in: a beautiful, clean-faced, bright-eyed little girl—a gene pool homerun.

What would my path have looked like with children in it?

Rarely do I question my decision to forgo becoming a vessel of reproduction. My goal in life was to become CEO of a wildly growing company, not wiping little beasties’ noses. I even left my husband when he wanted them. But as sometimes happens, this delightful girl seems to be showcasing my poor decision. She looks like what I imagine my little girl would have looked like had I not married my sandy-haired husband of 5’7” and 27-inch waistline, but Bob Redford.

Not to mention that I never did become the CEO of wildly growing company, and the jobs I have had have been sort of wildly unsatisfying.

I watch her, feeling that regret wash over me. She stands on sea legs between her mother’s thighs, crunching Cape Cod potato chips with less than perfect execution, savoring what makes it into her mouth. She babbles, a form of self-engagement, and randomly feeds “Kit-Tee,” a wide-eyed cat peering out from a crate on the floor.

Women of all ages watch her, heads cocked, wearing expressions of maternal yearning, remembrances, maybe regret, like my own.

I bet she still has that baby smell thing going on, you know, like puppies.

I surmise, too, that Zoe’s recently graduated from applesauce and whipped franks to adult food. And now, I think, and a disgruntled flatline my mother used to wear when I was in high school settles on my lips, her parents are giving her junk food, creating an unhealthy palate and a rhythmic type of oral indulgence.

I elbow Dennis. “If that sweetness were mine, I’d give her a hard cooked egg and fruit to eat, not crap food.”

He eyeballs Zoe for a nanosecond, nods and returns his gaze to his handheld.

I think of the other things I’d feed Zoe: Greek yogurt, kale crisps (much softer than potato chips), hummus, non-GMO whole grain crackers, organically grown vegetarian stuff.

And then, Zoe begins to choke.

When adults get something caught in their throat, we place a napkin to our mouth, cough, grumble it away. If that doesn’t work? We set into panic. We choke like hell to obtain clear passage. We don’t care how much attention we draw doing it. We want to live and we fight like hell to continue doing so.

Zoe, on the other hand, doesn’t understand death. Maternal instincts, ingrained in women’s DNA, alert three to their feet. Those not wearing headphones or enthralled with an electronic device, register a disturbance.

Zoe has one hand on her mother’s knee, stabilizing her squat before Kit-Tee’s crate. She brings herself upright and faces me. Her blue eyes have teared up, no sound comes from her windpipe. The fragments of crap food are lodged in her throat. She is the little girl I never had and wish was mine and she can’t breathe.

Someone, do something.

The book slides off my lap and crashes to the floor, and then Zoe’s mother scoops her up and lays her across her knees.

The little girl lies there flat as an ironing board.

Zoe?

Three deft pats on her back and Cape Cods chips in a variety of shapes project from Zoe’s mouth. Saliva slips over her lips. Oxygen returns to her lungs. She cries.

The maternal patrons lean in, ask if Zoe is okay. Her mother waves them off. “Yes, thank you,” she says.

My dream child is back on her feet; the waterworks have subsided. Her father strokes her cheeks dry. Her mood changes back to the state of pre-choking as if by a flick of a switch.

She’s perfect again.

She asks for another chip.

This makes a number of bystanders chuckle.

I listen, curious to learn if good ole mom is going to give her toddler just off Gerber Stage Four another chip.

“You can have some Goldfish,” she says.

Goldfish?!

In a Mickey Mouse sort of voice, I say onto the open pages, “How ‘bout some yogurt?”

Dennis elbows me, a prompt to behave.

Over the P.A., a flight attendant announces the initial stages of boarding.

We gather our things. I impart a secret smile to Zoe, which she catches. Means nothing to her.

When we’re settling into our seats, an emaciated gray-haired woman with a Tom Petty overbite slides in. Her thighs are the same width as my forearms, and Zoe appears in the aisle. She’s screaming like a banshee. Ear piercing stuff. I barely get a glimpse of her because she passes by so swiftly—her father carries her like a surfboard. This must be a common position for her—flat and rigid.

Zoe’s mother follows behind, toting a handbag crammed with baby survival equipment and the crate containing Kit-Tee. She wears an expression indicative of the relief she’s feeling that her husband has finally stepped up to the plate, but also of deep embarrassment about her imperfect daughter.

Emaciated Woman and I snap together our respective seatbelts. By the sounds of it, Zoe has been strapped into a seat four or so rows behind us. Amid the chaos of the 737’s boarding, she has stopped crying and is sweetly introducing Kit-Tee to neighbors.

And now again, I wish she were mine, mine, mine.

The cabin is packed. There’s tight clearance, cramming of luggage in overhead bins. Last minute phone calls are made. The air is stale. Actually there is no air. Tim is giving emergency landing instruction, his props old and yellowed. The teenager across the way is licking the remnants of a BK cheeseburger from his thumbs. Zoe’s voice pierces through all this clear as a bell. She has dismissed her affections for Kit-Tee and is dead set against keeping her seatbelt fastened.

“No, no, no, Mama!”

My dazzling opinion of this little girl, wanting to drown in the pools of her aquamarine eyes, having envisioned birthing her through my own womb and canal, flickers like a film noir played on an old projector. I don’t want it to. I want her to remain fresh, magical, novel, her presence filling me with regret about what I could have had.

The flight gets underway. The minutes slip into hours, it’s horrendous. Not because of turbulence, the crew, Emaciated Woman, or lack of turkey, sprouts and avocado sandwiches. It’s because Zoe’s steady stream of “no!” is now followed by parental correction with an edge and curmudgeon-type shushing. My iPod is packed away in cargo below; I have no way of tuning out the racket, which would have kept Zoe magical to me.  Instead, I watch the display that shows the plane’s elevation, speed, and the long ass Midwest state we’re hovering over. We’re practically standing still at 500 MPH.

Dennis types away on his laptop, the time flies by for him. I listen to little Zoe carry on; tearing apart her magicalness. She was so perfect before.

When descent at last begins from 40,000 feet, cabin air pressure intensifies. Zoe begins wailing with a set of lungs worthy of crossing the English Channel.

I know this: if I stayed married, I couldn’t have had all the daring affairs with executives my father’s age. I wouldn’t have experienced the freedom of telling off Gloria Steinem and discovering the rugged beauty of the West, proving myself and doing “boys’ chores” where my leg “got broke.”

So what’s the seduction of remorse, regret?

Even if we are self-actualized, accomplished people who have had good lives, why do we actually sort of like that deep longing for what we could have had? And that’s when I discover something really genius about not doing things.

It makes us heroes in our own minds. It buoys us up. We can’t do everything, there will always be paths we could have taken. And the brilliance of that is we get to imagine doing it all and being perfect at it. I know I know we’re supposed to stay in the moment, but most of us don’t because the moment can be as boring as a…well, a long plane ride.

So, thinking of all those unlived lives can be a way to boost self-confidence for one happy soaring moment.

Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty

If we’d written the novel, we would have written a bestseller. Not going to Hollywood to audition for all those bit parts and staying back east, we get to imagine our lives as movies stars. Not going to law school means we can tell ourselves we would have been kick-ass prosecutors, killing it in the courtroom. People tell us not to regret what could have been, but actually it’s sort of fun. Not becoming a mother is so much better than actually becoming a mother because I can imagine I would have had the perfect child. Never mind the choking, the quick-switch moods, the screaming like a banshee. I would have nourished my daughter perfectly, and she would have been absolutely flawless.

Zoe snaps me out of my reverie. She’s back to her ear-piercing scream. Somewhere around 15,000 feet the display shows the aircraft has overshot SFO. The plane’s nose is sticking into the Pacific.

I see around me that people are glimpsing in Zoe’s direction—even Emaciated Woman—and shrugging their shoulders in a way that suggests they wish they could envelope their ears with them.

Land is drawing ever closer out Emaciated Woman’s window, but we’re back on track, the pilot tells us the 737’s nose is destined for the runway. We drop elevation in big chunks until at last the wheels skid. Only minutes remain before we get off this tin bus and little Zoe will disappear from my life forever.

When she and her parents file out before us, I catch those beautiful aquamarines, her body is horizontal and at waist-height again. In my mind I make peace with her, thank her for giving me the chance to be a perfect mother to a perfect child.

She has returned to lightheartedness and answering the saint-of-a-lady behind her about what color Kit-Tee is.

“He’s pink and purple,” she says.

 

Not Having Children Was My Perfect Path was published in Huffpost and Fiftiness.