What Happened in Vegas

VegasLast weekend I was in Las Vegas for the finale of the ultimate Fighter MMA competition. Some friends and I were seated ringside watching our guy go to work in the cage. Yeah, we roll like that. The event center at the glitzy hotel was crawling with fight fans and supporters wearing team shirts and hats, snapping pictures, and buying souvenirs. I had planned to rock my worn out combat boots, jeans and a t-shirt with my tiny purse slung across my chest so I could jump out of my seat, pump my fist, and chase down big-name fighters with my camera phone. (I’m kidding, I’m so not the crazed paparazzo type.)

But against my better judgment, I listened to my girls and wore a tank top, tight Capri jeans, and patent-leather Candies-style heels! As we walked through the crowds and down the arena stairs to our seats, I swear I could have passed for a hooker. I kept checking around to see if other women were dressed so inappropriately, but couldn’t find any. I knew there would be ring girls in skimpy boy shorts and bra tops, but in the actual crowd it was hard to catch sight of stilettos and open toes. There had to be some chicks around the other side of the cage wearing paper thin tops barely covering melon boobs, short skirts and 4-inch clear heels that would make me look a bit more wholesome. Anyway, the excitement for the fight won over and the men sitting behind us bought us margaritas, so I soon forgot about my outfit.

I cheered, lost my voice, got amazing shots of our guy and chatted with people I had only ever seen on television. But the Sin City experience I expected was not the one I ended up having. We all know Vegas to be a place where it’s okay to lose your inhibitions and indulge in behavior that can never be repeated outside the city limits. We’re talking about drinking, smoking, slipping into the wrong restroom at a bass thumping club, breaking into a pawn shop and stealing a vintage 12-string Takamine guitar and using it to sing “Hotel California” at a Karaoke bar, showing up to breakfast with a lightning bolt tattoo on your arm and a live iguana in your purse. Stuff like that. We were right in the thick of things with access to fabulous people doing fabulous things. But this Vegas experience was less about the messy crash, than about the healing you need after it.

I was in a room with three other women, and let me tell you, having grown up as an only child, it was a trial. You know how it is when chicks get together and have to share close quarters. One was inevitably on her cycle, another one brought enough clothes to last for a month instead of three days, the third was old enough to be the mother of the other three, and everyone took way too long to get ready for anything.

But besides fussing with clothes and bathroom time during a whirlwind trip to Las Vegas, girls talk. We spontaneously reveal stories of past tragedies, current dilemmas and fears for grown children who we’d still like to shield from harm. Do we instinctively gravitate to sharing our distress when we find a receptive ear as a way to soothe it? Do we really think that talking about the numbness on the side of our face and the trembling in our left hand will reassure us that it won’t get worse? Do we truly believe that replaying the details of our daughter’s visit to the emergency room, and to the neurologist, and to the therapist will help us bear the weight of our fear for her? Do we desperately hope to convince ourselves that we are a comfort to our grown son in his public disappointment by going over and over how sad he must be, even though he hasn’t said a word about it? The sunshine and the perfect floral arrangements and the lemongrass scented toiletries and the glittering pool and the playful cacophony of casino games all fall away around us as we tell and tell and tell. We stand in a circle and let spill all the things that we can’t afford to talk about in the routine of our regular days. We put on our bathing suits and confess to each other quickly, almost breathless, before our minds catch up to what our hearts are doing and make us stop. We’re suspended in an orchestrated paradise in the middle of the desert and the dust swallows our words without judgment. Is it making you feel better to talk about this right now? Yes. 

There’s such a thing as speaking good into existence. Writing down our hopes and dreams to make them more real and push them into coming true. The same can work with hurt, can’t it? You share it, so it becomes less heavy. So you can let it go. Or try to anyway. Sometimes it doesn’t come out through your mouth. It might come through your fists in a fight, through dancing hard until you’re sweaty and sore, through your Twitter or Instagram posts, or even through your butt (don’t ask).

We stood at the window of our room in the morning and looked out at the Spring Mountains and the vast emptiness around them. We stood at that same window at night and beyond the glitter of hotels, bars, and the strip 52 floors below us, the emptiness was black. We were each at a precipice, looking at ourselves, listening to ourselves, feeling ourselves a little bit differently. The truth of what we shared would stay in Vegas, along with the bikini floating in the pool.