By Debra Lynne Katz (www.debrakatz.com)
Recently, I was thinking about what the 10 worst days of my life have been so far and the 10 best days. I decided to do this as an exercise and see if I can easily come up with them with out editing them first.
I don’t tend to think about my worst days very much, but last month I had to attend an arbitration hearing in Minnesota as I was suing my publisher of my 3 books after years of not being paid correctly or on time and getting no where with trying to work things out.
The hearing started out OK. I was representing myself after reading books like, “Contract Law for Dummies”. The arbitrator let me deliver my 150 slide presentation and 300 pages of exhibits first. But it just felt so awful sitting there having to tell the company’s owners, “You lied, you didn’t do as promised, you’ve made me have to come all this way and do all this work just to say mean things about you”. And then of course to sit there while their team of attorney’s tried to make it look like I was the only author who has ever complained about anything in their 100 year history of existence, felt pretty bad. So this at the top of my list of bad days, even though, as it turns out, I won. Not only monies owed to me, but punitive damages and my rights back.
WORST DAYS OF MY LIFE (so far and hopefully ever)
1. One of the worst, and saddest days of my life was the day I parted ways with my son’s father at the airport in Warsaw, Poland. I was 6 months pregnant, on my way home due to complications and not knowing when the government would grant him a visa and when I’d see him again. We had traveled there from the Philippines, where I had met Manuel. We were all set to go on a multi city tour to do healing work that had been planned for months by our sponsors. I was crying so hard I couldn’t see. As it turned out, it took 3 years for him to get here, and by then, our relationship had crumbled.
2. An equally bad day was 3 weeks prior to the above day, when I found out I was bleeding, was rushed to the hospital in Poland, and told through translators that I’d lose my son if I didn’t abandon my travel plans/tour and just lay down for weeks. The good part of this however, was that this forced me to make a decision and a commitment I’ve never wavered from. I knew then that nothing was or would ever be as important as making sure he was born, and healthy. I needed to know this since he was not planned and initially I had been upset to hear the news. He is now 15 and the best thing that ever happened to me in my life.
3. The above mentioned arbitration hearing against my publisher is up there on the list of bad days.
4. When I was about 23 years old, I applied for a job to work for the American Red Cross Overseas to help support the military. They hired me to go work in Iraqi at the start of the war, but first I had to complete an intensive training in San Antonio, Texas. I loved the training and all my co-trainees. We had a great time drinking Margaritas, eating Mexican food and even dancing at Honky Tonks, and the most handsome men I have EVER seen, officers from the U.S. Army were there to train us. The finest specimens of man hood ever. EVER. But I digress….
The day before we were to fly out for even more intensive training (like how to use a gas mask), I was told I had to be evaluated by a psychologist because of one of my answers on a psychological test. The question had something to do with, “Have you ever seen something that others said wasn’t there before?”. I figured they meant ghosts and said yes! Also I had done LSD a couple of times and was pretty sure no one else had seen what I had seen while on that trip. The psychologist was an older Jewish man. He asked me why a nice young Jewish girl like myself was thinking about going to a war zone the Middle East. I could tell he didn’t want me to go.
I got back to our hotel, had a wonderful dinner with the gang, was ready to go to sleep when the phone rang and it was my supervisor saying they weren’t sending me. They were flying me back home. Everyone else in my training group was going, even a kid that spoke entirely in analogies and was two years younger than me and studying to be a priest. The worst thing was they absolutely refused to tell me why. I know they may have saved my life, but the feeling of having missed an opportunity of a lifetime lingered for years. It’s those what if’s in life that haunt you, whether you are in your 20’s or 90’s I’m sure. Thank God I don’t have too many of those.
5. The day I was 18 and ran away from my father and step mother’s house in Florida was pretty awful. This was the first time I had visited them from Chicago without my sister or brother. We’d had some ongoing issues for years that didn’t make much sense. They were bugging me so much (just treating me like I was a baby). I decided I couldn’t take it any more and spent my last $40 on a taxi to the airport, where I discovered they wouldn’t let me change my ticket. I called my mom and she paid for a hotel room and then the next day my dad arranged to fly me home. Glad to say we now have a good relationship, 27 years later.
6. Another really bad day for me was the day I left behind an angry boyfriend in Terrytown, New York. I hadn’t thought it was a good idea to move to New York with him but he had just been hired as a professor at a University there, and threatened to shoot himself if I left him. He had even showed me the gun. We had a horrible fight at a laundry mat next to a Pizza place filled with handsome young Italian men who were laughing at us. We scream at each other all the way back home to our tiny overpriced apartment that stank like liver and onions. We didn’t have a car and had to carry our laundry baskets down the street. The whites were flying everywhere and instead of giving him the assurances he wanted to hear, I resorted back to my habit of being stupidly honest and told him I could never, ever imagine being married to him. I found the phone number of a guy I had met a month ago at the state fair (which kind of started our whole spat) who had offered me a job working home shows around New Orleans and Tennessee. He said he was a devout, Born-Again Christian. After two days together, I found out he had a girlfriend. He flirted with or slept with just about every girl we met for the entire month we worked together. He was selling this carpet cleaner, which worked great in his demonstration in our booth, but nowhere else. I left him when I discovered that when he’d run out of product, he’d go to the grocery store, buy boxes of the cheapest laundry detergent, and fill up his fancy jars with that. That all really sucked. I did then go visit my Dad on my way home, and this time everything was fine.
7. The day I almost died at my sister’s dorm in Hong Kong was a BAD DAY. We had met there when she was going to college in Hong Kong, when we were in our early 20’s. Then we traveled around South East Asia for a few weeks, backpacking around the Philippines and Indonesia on a shoe string budget. I had started to feel sick the last day of our trip in Jakarta. I still remember the greasy french fry that sent me into the bathroom for hours. After weeks of nothing but rice (My palate isn’t as adventurous as the rest of me), I couldn’t wait to eat that potato.
My twin sister decided she was going to return to Manila to hang out with this owner of this rose plantation that had rescued us when we couldn’t find a hotel on a Saturday night in the middle of the Red light district, whom she had started up an affair with (He’s now a Senator there). So I went back to spend a bit more time on my own in Hong Kong. It was Christmas break and there was not a single person but myself that I could find in the entire dormitory. I won’t be too graphic but lets just say I was so sick I was literally crawling from her room to the bathroom all day long. Crawling is not used as a metaphor here. I was so weak after a day, I couldn’t stand up. I knew I was in trouble so I picked up the phone to call 911. That’s when I realized they don’t have 911 in Hong Kong, and even worse, the operator only spoke Chinese. This was in the days before cell phones and internet and obviously brains. I crawled back to bed, pulled the covers over me as I was freezing even though it was about 90 degrees out, and started to pray. That’s when I heard the words, “You are dehydrated”. I knew I was dying.
I still have a few days before the designated person would be showing up to take me to the airport. I looked around, no water left any where. I was too weak to make it down the stairs, much less across campus to any store. Then I realized there was a large container of hot tea that was always plugged in. I crawled over to the tea and drank as much as I could. I apologized to all the Asians of the world whom previously I made fun of for drinking too much tea. I somehow lasted until my sister’s friend came as previously arranged to drive me to the airport. It turned out, I had an acquired a parasite that took months to get rid of. That was a bad several months.
8. The day my supervisor sexually harassed me when I was interning for the American Red Cross at the Great Lakes Navel Base, in Illinois, was a bad day. I was only about 19. (This was prior to #3). My mother worked as their marketing manager at their main offices in Chicago and had gotten me the $5.00 an hour job. She sat on the ethics board with the guy who would become my supervisor, Larry.
Larry was a counselor, and had always been nice to me, but sometimes he would say things that made me cringe. I’d just ignore it. I loved all the older women who worked with me in this small social services unit. On the very last day of my 3 internship (I was going off to college), I was in his office getting my review, sitting across from him. He was filling out the review form, when he commented on my nail polish. He then looked up at me with his needy little eyes behind wire rimmed glasses and tuffs of black hair sprouting from his bald head, and said something like, “I wonder if your nails match your underwear? I’d like to find out”. Something like that! I was mortified, and ran out, barely able to breathe. I went into one of the other ladies offices and cried. He tried to come in there but she wouldn’t let him. Finally, I made it home and told my mom. I was afraid of what she would do. She did it. He was fired the next day and escorted off the base by military personnel with all his things. I was really scared for a long time he’d come after me because he used to always talk about his gun collection. So I had some bad days after that too.
9. When I was yet again in my early 20’s, I went to this night club with my friend’s somewhere in San Francisco. Once a month they had something called,”BONDAGE NIGHT”. Since this is NOT something I’m into and just seemed funny and like something different to do, I agreed to go along. Actually, on second thought, I think it was me encouraging everyone else to go along. Sounds more like me.
My friends and I had a hilarious time shopping for costumes all day. A friend lent me his, “Lederhosen”, these silly German leather shorts I wouldn’t be caught dead in now, but they didn’t look to bad back then.
Everything was going ok at first. Weird but ok. Was like a scene straight out of “50 Shades of Gray”, but with a very crowded red room of pain. We found ourselves in this smokey room where people were getting tied up and flogged with this feather looking thing while onlookers cheered and waited their turn. While I was trying to not look like I was looking, my friends all disappeared. I panicked and then noticed, this tall, gangly women next to me wearing a tight mini skirt and a pink boa.
When I’m nervous I start talking so I complimented her on her boa, which was pretty, and asked her if this was her first time here. She spun around and I realized she was a guy. That was OK, not a problem. I kept up the conversation for a few minutes hoping my friends would show up soon. “I think you’d better know straight out” he said, “I’m not into women”. And then he left me there too! After a few more agonizing alone moments my friends finally showed up with some shots of Jaegermeister, which I obviously needed. We were gearing up to leave when the music swelled, strobe lights went crazy, and all these girls rushed to get in line.
Feeling pretty tankered by now, I wandered over to the line to see what was up. I somehow got jostled into the line, and male hands thrusted more shots at me. Wow! I thought, people are really generous here. A girl trying to push her boobs back into a much too tiny, studded bra informed me there was a costume contest where you could win a lot of money, like $50. While I didn’t think I had the best outfit, I’ve always loved a costume contest! So in my inebriated state it sounded like a good idea. From where I was I couldn’t see what was happening on the stage but everyone was cheering and pushing, shoulder to shoulder.
Finally it was almost my turn, someone pushed me past the huge speaker that had blocked my view till now and I found myself at the top of the stairs, in the wing of the stage. There was a girl under the spot light, dancing around like a stripper! And I was up next! Oh my God, I can’t dance! I swirled around looking for an escape but was blocked by a wall of sweaty, perfumed flesh pressing forward. The big boob little bra girl assured me not to worry, I didn’t have to. All I had to do was just stand up there and look pretttttyyyyyyyy…….someone hit me in the back and I went flying forward onto the stage.
For the first time, I realized how big the club was. It was huge, two stories at least, now swelling with hundreds of people wrapped in leather and chains and all focused on me on the stage! I froze, not knowing what to do. OK, I thought, you’ve got to dance, like move your feet a little for Christ’s sake! I tried to lift them, but they wouldn’t budge. I’ve always been too stiff and self-conscious to dance even in my own house, and I’m a total klutz. The cheers were now subsiding and the smiles on the faces I could make out were melting into either sneers or looks of concern. I heard at least one boo, I know I did. That was enough.
I turned and ran back stage, behind the curtain, headed for the back door. That’s when things got even worse. There was no door! I was simply stuck behind the red curtain, and everyone could see my feet under it as I ran back and forth like a caged rat. People were now laughing. Finally I got to one end of the stage,crying, and some nice bouncer guy lifted me up and carried me past the thongs of people. My friends met me at the door.
To top off what was already the very worse night ever, I discovered that my friends who were driving me home, one whom was my best friend, and the other a guy I had a crush on for quite a while, were planning on going out afterwards together after they dumped me off at my apartment. That’s probably why they had left me all alone in the red room of pain. They were now a couple.
10. Final worst day: The day after number 9 when I had the worst hang over ever, but could still remember EVERYTHING.
BEST DAYS EVER!
Wow, this is going to be a lot harder than the above because there are so many. So I’ll just put the ones that come to mind.
1. Soon after coming to California, I moved to Malibu Lake. It’s a quaint, hidden, hillside community circling a lake, just outside of Agoura hills. I lived up high on a hill completely smothered in green trees and pink bougainvilleas. This was before I met Danny, so I was a single mom with Manny, who was only 4-year-old or so. Our living space was just one tiny room with a bathroom. Our inside walls were stone and wood which would prove to be beyond cold in the winter, but on summer days warm lilac breezes would flow in to greet me from the window that provided the loveliest of views. One day as I marveled at the sight of the nature all around me, I felt peaceful and such a sense of joyful relief that I had managed to get us this affordable, safe place. I remember just sitting there on the mattress on the floor that was my bed. I had planted these flowers in the boxes on the patio and they had almost grown a foot overnight it seemed. I felt so happy and content, even though I was now totally broke after paying my first month’s rent and hadn’t found a job yet. I knew there wasn’t anywhere else I would rather be, and that everything would be OK. I was right.
2. I have the best night of my life, every night when I go to sleep and Danny snuggles up to me and puts his arm around me, and I lay there feeling warm and thinking about how fortunate I am to have him and my son and the rest of my family and friends and be doing the work I love.
3. I remember some Christmas mornings (Sorry fellow Jewish people, Hanukah is cool getting a present each day, but….) waking up to find the entire floor from wall to wall completely covered in pink packages filled with Barbies and Barbie doll clothes and art projects and lemony perfumes and heads that you could comb the hair on and Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys books and Scooby Doo lunch boxes and everything I could ever want. This was mostly thanks to my parents and my grandparents, Rose and Phil Goldfine, although of course at the time we attributed it to Santa.
4. When I think of my best day I come up with countless days of just hanging out with my son and marveling at how cute and wonderful he is.
5. Every day I finished writing one of my books was a great day. Looking forward to another one of those soon…..hopefully!
6. I’ve had so many great days just hanging out with my friends. I don’t get out much these days as we live way out in the desert in the middle of no where, so I so much cherish time spent with my friends in person.
7. The day I first kissed a guy was pretty darn special. What I remember more than anything was the experience of what it feels like to move so physically close to another human being as to bring your lips together. Like I could feel him before his lips actually touched mine. It seemed weird and yet miraculous at the same time. Actually tasting another human being. One of the wonders of the world.
8. The moment I bought my Siberian Husky at the pet store. I had gone to the mall just to get a hair cut when the doggies in the window sucked us in. Artemis was just about 6 weeks old, pure white with blue eyes and the cutest thing I had ever seen. The store clerk put her in my arms and I was a honer. I asked how much money she was and they said, $900. I had never paid for anything that expensive in my life, much less a dog! I had always looked down on buying pets in a store as there are so many in shelters needing help. I decided I’d buy her if I had the money, sure I didn’t have it. I checked my bank account on my phone anyway. I had $925! I said “I’ll take her”, My son, who was around 12 at the time got very nervous. “Shouldn’t you ask Danny first?” he asked. I said “Yes I should but I’m not going to because he will say ‘no’. I’m such a good role model, aren’t I?
An hour later, when I showed her to Danny, he didn’t say a word. In fact, he hardly spoke for about a week (which he knows is worse than yelling). When he finally did, he quietly pointed out I had just made a decision that would affect our lives for possibly over a decade.
So why was that the best day? Well the good news is that now he calls her his dog, they go everywhere together and she thinks he is a dog because he crawls around on the floor with her, they wrestle, skateboard and snowboard together, and are pretty much inseparable. Which is great for me because as it turns out, I like to pet her and hug her but I’m not really into all the training and everything that he is.
9. The day we found out our offer was accepted on our house, and that we also had enough cash to buy it outright for only $43,000 was a good day. It’s 1800 square feet on 2.5 acres out in the desert. We never had the slightest idea how we’d be able to own our own house, given our credit isn’t very good with my high students loans. But then we realized life is cheap in the middle of no where. We don’t have the most beautiful house at the moment (he’s been singlehandedly renovating it for the past 3 years) but it’s ours and we have everything we need, including our freedom, which is seems to be a rare commodity these days.
10. This is going to surprise some people and maybe seem wrong to some, but on September 11, 2001, when I lived in Sedona, Arizona, worlds away from New York, I had recently started film school. I didn’t own a TV. I was scheduled to direct a little film that day for the first time ever. Me, a director! Living the dream. I had actors and my classmates as my crew all set to come to my tiny trailer nestled in the middle of Oak Creek Canyon, at the Rainbow Trout Trailer Farm.
That morning as I was examining the borrowed camera equipment, I got a frantic call from my sister who was crying and saying something about buildings falling in New York, but that my brother and his wife who lived and worked there were OK. Then, my lead actress called to say she was too upset to come to the shoot. I really didn’t understand what was happening across the country, but I knew one thing: It was a lovely day in Sedona and the way to ensure that the terrorists hadn’t or wouldn’t win, was to not allow them make all of us in America miserable. So I proceeded with the shoot. I didn’t have my lead actress, but I had an actor named Tom.
I decided some extreme measures were needed in light of the unfolding tragedy, and declared we were going to now turn the film into a comedy. We dressed Tom, a very large manly man with a New York accent, up in the missing actress’ outfit and every single accessory I could find. Tom had a highly emotional scene, lamenting about the break up of her, I mean his, boyfriend. We edited in a Back Street Boys song (“Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely”) as he sobbed. We laughed the whole day. My sister felt this was disrespectful when I told her about it, but I felt like at least those of us, having a wonderful, creative time in my little trailer, beat the terrorists that day.
And that’s my list. This exercise has helped me chuckle at even my most recent bad day that I never thought I’d recover from. It’s helped me realize how blessed I am, diarrhea, nasty bosses, rejection, red room of pain, and all.
What are your best and worst days? Please share!