You miss 100% of the chances you don’t take.

There’s no good reason for this title, other than that I thought it over and over while walking circles around the Manayunk canal.

I went down to the canal for the Fall Equinox Fire event, not that I really knew what that meant. I signed up to get a “wish stick” that I thought was going to be placed in one of the fires on the canal. I woke up from a “20 minute nap” that turned into an hour at the time I was expected to be there for my stick, so I don’t actually know if I missed getting a log, or if the “intention stick” offered long after the fires had begun to burn was actually what I had agreed to receive.

When I arrived at 6:50 (instead of 6:30), there was a bird show of sorts, with an owl and a crow. Someone walked up to me and asked me about a drum circle, and fortunately for me someone nearby answered for me, as I had no idea. My fill-in information giver also noted that the fires would be lit in the next 10 minutes. So I went for a coffee and a walk, thinking I’d be no more than 10 minutes. Turns out the next access point to the canal was several blocks away and took longer than I expected to reach.

I started by walking the Towpath but really preferred to walk on the other side, by the railroad tracks. I doubled back and switched sides, because really, who cares? And if I got “in trouble,” I’d just switch back. So I walked the tracks, getting all nostalgic from high school because that’s what we did when we cut school to escape truancy. The fires had already been lit, it seems I missed that too, but I don’t think it was anything spectacular.

In any event, I did a few laps around the fire, stopped by the drummers and listened to them for as long as I could hear them as I disappeared down the canal and upon my return on the opposite bank. I overheard the drummer woman say everyone should take an “intention stick,” which was originally marketed as a “wish stick” because it’s a better sell. When I realized I was missing this too, I managed to talk myself into the idea of not needing an intention stick to have an intention, and focused my energy on what I might want to improve in my life. Reflecting back on the last few months, I decided that honesty was going to be my “intention.” I’ve spent the better part of my entire life being agreeable. I know I bitch about this a lot, but it’s true–my father forced my thoughts, beliefs, and opinions with fear. A few years back I realized that I was my own person and could have my own thoughts. I also thought that realization meant I was “cured.” Tonight I realized it just meant I had developed insight.

Being forced to think, say, do, believe, feel, etc. whatever someone else wants you to means one thing: you are lying. To yourself. Which means the wonderful, unique, extraordinary Cassandra was one big fat lie. I used to call myself “the chameleon,” because I was able to shift my personality to reflect that of my company. But what I was really doing was lying. Over and over. Day and night. Year after year. I’m still lying, in fairness, because this realization is also not a cure. I accept things I don’t agree with–which I’m not saying is wrong, because acceptance is the key to happiness, but I don’t speak my mind about those things I disagree with. I keep my opinions to myself and I get silently angry. Then I wonder why I’m so angry and why no one understands me. I never let them. I never open up to anyone. The last person I opened up to couldn’t understand me, likely for the same reasons my father never could. You can’t understand what you don’t know, and unless you’re willing to learn, you never will.

I’ve been so afraid of what others will think, I never give them anything genuine. Ironically, I pride myself on being genuine. Lies. Liar. The only word that feels like it really describes me anymore.

So I found myself back at the tent where the drummers had been staged and there–on a table under the tent–was a pile of “intention sticks.” Making the first honest statement to myself, I acknowledged that I *had* wanted one and I walked over to that table and grabbed one. Sure, it now seems like I have a dumb pointless stick on my windowsill, but it’s a constant reminder, which I think I need. Much like the adage about love, I will never be honest with others until I am finally honest with myself. That starts now.

So thanks, Manayunk Fall Equinox Fire party; you have changed a life without even knowing it.

As it is with anything, though, it remains a work in progress. Despite being dirty and hungry and really needing to get back home and get some work done, I was handed a “flyer” for a comedy show that was set to take place in an hour. While I did a lap down the bustlin’ streets of Manayunk, I found that the nail salons were still open. I stopped in for a pedi with the intention of checking out the comedy show afterward. When I got back to the ice cream shop/comedy club, I found the comedian and his friends outside trying to drum up an audience, which apparently was somewhat difficult. They kept me from going upstairs to the “club” section of the shop and I later realized was because I was one of the only people there for it. It was eventually called, but I managed to spend a solid 45 minutes talking with the comedian. I immediately compared him to Cory, because when you have a stand-up comedian friend, your brain has no choice but to compare every other friendly conversation with a comedian to your original frame of reference. No, he wasn’t Cory, but he wasn’t any better or worse, just different. Smart, I think. Descriptive and with a lot of imagery, which tends to make a good stand-up comedian. Observant, which is another great quality for stand-up success. He seemed honest, or just great at putting on a show. During our brief time together, he littered, he talked about cute little dogs blowing up to give those girls that rush up to animals on the street (i.e. me) PTSD (not in those words, but I’m paraphrasing here), and spent an inordinate amount of time describing his hatred for an old, suffering beagle that just won’t die (and is probably continuing to exist to make his life a living hell). Other than sarcastically saying that he was really racking up points, I stayed. I continued to listen. I learned all of these terrible things I didn’t agree with and I just…let him keep talking. I jokingly said I had to go. That little seemingly innocent statement was actually the honest part of my brain saying “what the fuck is wrong with you? Leave! You can. You have no obligations to this man or his comedy show!” And still compassionate Cassandra stayed. She told that part of her brain to shut up, because those things don’t make him a bad person. They’re relatable. This doesn’t mean you can’t be friends! And so, we’re Facebook friends now too. He may read this and say “wow, what a bitch,” and then do me the honor of ripping me apart on stage. So be it, I’m being kind of a cunt on the internet, so I guess that’s fair.

I realize I am going to lose friends should I continue to make these blog posts, especially the extra-honest ones. Maybe that’s not the most important thing in the world–having a lot of friends. Maybe it’s more about being your true self and finding those few people that accept that person. I’m just not 100% sure I’m ready for that change. And that…is the damn truth.

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