JODY STEEHLER ANSWERS
I met Jody in high school and she was everything to me. Everything I pretended to be; she really was. And a poet. She is everything I wish I was but lack the character to be. And, I admit, I have looked at her life over the years and been so jealous of it. I sent her the interview and in the interim Anthony Bourdain died and she sent me a very different interview than I expected. And I am so thankful. In the raw, here it is.
I am writing to you from a hotel in Phoenix this afternoon, it is hot.
Just as I see you are in Missouri from what I understand.
Anthony Bourdain is dead. He is dead. Let that sink in for a minute.
My best friend, Aaron Stewart, told me gently this morning.
"Damn...Bourdain. Can't believe it."
Aaron's not much for words, but we both agreed on asking, where did
everything go off the rails. I offered for us to consider that none
of this is new. None of this circumstantial pain we carry is new, or
old, or a lie, or a truth. None of the challenges are any different
from 100 years ago. What is new is the communal reaction and access
to it. Death. Suicide. Addiction. Depression. I know that 60 years
ago, my hillbilly grandmother would never have breathed a word about
her wife beating, alcoholic husband, but that bled onto my biological
mother- and it bled onto her daughter, me. But the shift in the
trajectory of my life and Noah's life is that I started having access
to rights and wrongs, truths and lies. The only story I know of my
great grandmother in West Virginia is she miscarried in her garden one
day and buried it because she was afraid to get in trouble for
bleeding on her one good dress.
And that is where we are now, how do we process the truths and lies.
AS: Where are you from?
JS: I was born in San Diego, lived in New Mexico, Baltimore, Ohio (twice)
Arlington, Texas, Winnemucca, Nevada, Reno, Nevada, Los Angeles,
California (twice) Seattle, Washington, Columbus, Ohio (twice), San
Francisco, California, Tucson, AZ.
AS: Where do you live?
JS: Tucson, AZ. I detest it, but a custody order sets my pardon of this
state June, 2025, not that I'm counting or anything.
AS: What do you consider home?
JS: My heart is sentimentally in Los Angeles, but my home, my true home, is Ohio.
AS: Life story in half a page, GO!
JS: I could tell you the whole single mom, fled domestic violence twice, earned my university degree, work directly with homeless single parent households directly, etc. In fact , that was the line you were going to get, but Anthony Bourdain is dead. And I can't. So here-
I could tell you how it felt to be 6 years old and have your biological mother hang a trashbag on your bedroom doorknob and say that if your Barbie Dream House was not clean including the Barbie shoes perfectly lined up, it would be thrown out while you were at school. I could tell you what it feels like when your biological father doesn't listen when you tell him his visiting friend wants your fourth fifth grade self to strip down to your panties for a massage and that you don't do it because you've watched enough tv to know that was bullshit. I could tell you what the last thing I ate before I was told my friend was killed- hot dog from Weinierschnitzel, with bright yellow mustard and a chocolate, mocha iced blended drink. No whip cream. I ate the same thing after the funeral. It didn't taste the same. For that same funeral, the biological mother gave my 17 year old self two $20's to go buy a funeral dress by myself. The lady in the TJ Maxx dressing room was nice. I could tell you what it is like to be drunk in Ireland and England, have fabulous lovers in San Francisco. I could tell you the sexiest I've felt was with the lover I had- the first one to see my c- section scar- and how lovely he was to me. I could tell you about missing the one phone call in San Francisco that could have
changed everything for me. I could tell you how I fell in love with my baby, truly in love, when he was 9 months old and he whispered in my ear. I could tell you what it feels like to have your wedding ruined. And then there is the depression. But no one ever checks on the strong ones, right? The resilient ones? The funny ones?
AS: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
JS: My son stayed in the same elementary school from Kindergarten through 5th grade graduation. For fucks sake, read the statistics of single parents. That's Olympic gold medal shit.
AS: What is your biggest failure? And what(if anything) did you learn from it?
JS: I didn't cut and run from my entire biological family sooner. I would be in much better shape physically, mentally, and emotionally.
AS: Describe your perfect day:
JS: Driving on the 5 and 405 freeways in Los Angeles on a rainy early spring Wednesday, mid morning, eventually winding my way through Los Feliz.
AS: How did you get where you are?
JS: I honestly do not know.
AS: What are you most proud of?
JS: At 35, I can tell someone if I do not like them or not. I say no. A lot. And to fuck off. I don't feel bad about it.
AS: What is one of your fears?
JS: If I stop for one moment, a single breath, I will become the monster that was my lazy biological mother. It wasn't enough for me that I put myself through the University of Arizona Honors College and graduated with top honors and earned my BA in English. I've excelled in every job path I've had. Made my own money since I was 17, have a brilliant son, and yet, here's that damn pattern again with depression, no one really checks in on you if you're okay on the outside.
AS: What keeps you going every day?
JS: Please see previous answer.
AS: Last piece of art that spoke to you?
JS: "W-Fd" 2016 by Isabelle Harada. It was an installation piece made of 999 gold paper cranes. According to Japanese culture, folding 1,000 paper cranes grants the origami folder a wish. Traditionally, a woman folds 1,000 cranes during her engagement, and her father presents theses cranes to the groom on their wedding day. The cranes symbolize the work that a woman will put into a relationship- each crane takes about 10 minutes to fold and requires and even force applied to the paper.
I either seem to run out of paper on the 999th crane or I never finish the 1,000th one.
AS: Tell us an embarrassing story:
JS: I'm devastated that my uterus and pelvis are busted. Two surgeries, a shit load of steroid shots, coils. I have Pelvic Venous Congestion Syndrome. I am 35 and don't think I'll have any more babies. I am embarrassed that I feel broken inside. Some days I'm still pretty swollen and look pregnant. That's the cruel part.
AS: Pump up song?
JS: Currently, The Kills "Siberian Nights." Ultimate, Rolling Stones "Mixed Emotions."
AS: What advice would you give to someone who is lost?
JS: There is no answer. No handout, no hotline, no bible, no book. There is just no answer. Find comfort in that, because then nothing is wrong.
AS: Do you have a mantra or words to live by?
JS: You do not have to EVER "like" or "love" or "get along" with ANYONE for ANYONE or ANY REASON. I have no ties to my biological family because they're fucking assholes, my husband's family has never reached out to me about my high functioning depression- guess how isolating that can be.
AS: What gives you meaning?
JS: I am single handedly changing the trajectory and path of my son. He will have been raised without the influence of dangerous behaviors. He will know that you don't strangle a woman, control with finances, or emotionally torment someone. That's my role. It's god awful, and lonely, and a place, honestly, only one other person I've met knows.
AS: What do you struggle with?
JS: Letting people close to me. But the older I get, it's not bothering me as much. And you know what, I am not putting depression here because I do not struggle with"it." I have a great relationship with my primary care physician, take medication so I can sleep and turn "it" off, a personal trainer- Woody- he is German, a powerhouse, a biker, and I adore him, and a husband that cooks me amazing food. I don't deserve him. I struggle with him and his family not accepting me for who I am. I think that "it" is what more people struggle with, the lack of discussion, support, and empathy. But five years in with my husband, the discussions, it is getting better. His family, it is easier not to acknowledge.
I struggle with my current career choice. I work in poverty with single, homeless women with children. Every day, I see drugs, I see fear, I see DV victims, addicts, lies, filth, pain, and distress. I see women tell me they have no money, but their nails are done, their hair is done, they are daddy hunting sometimes, and their kids have their big toe sticking out of the hole on the top of their shoe. I can't handle that image of their little feet crammed in shoes that don't fit. You might ask, why would I pick that career with so many triggers? Because I wanted to make sure I would never fall to that level. And having someone else's weight distracts me from my own. But I don't recommend it. It's bad for a fresh marriage. I told you, I'm keeping it raw. Anthony Bourdain is dead.
AS: What is success to you?
JS: I've hit everything on my "check list" in order accomplished
Lived in Seattle, San Francisco
Went to Ireland and England
Had great lovers
Have a son
Earned my university degree
Have published writing
Have a husband
Have traveled where I've wanted to
........and here is where depression robs you blind-
I feel worthless every day.
AS: What are you working on that you’re geeked out about?
JS: I did 50 sit ups in training yesterday and I can semi-feel muscles in my pelvis again. I got out of my head long enough to do 50 sit ups. That was all me.
AS: Anything else?
JS: Andel. I appreciate you. And I appreciate everyone that has invited me into their family so I can say I have a healthy family. I have been able to hand select my family, my support system.
From Phylicia Mcleod: What are some self care activities that you do?
Taco Bell and Nyquil and episodes of Frasier. Don't shame me.
From Rachel Mason: What teacher changed your life...
Dr. Frank Pickard. After a close study of Tennessee Williams'
"Streetcar Named Desire," he said two words: Marry Up. And so I did.
From Heather Kinney Kurdziel: What job career would you have if you
could do anything?
A trauma surgeon or mama of five boys on a farm.
AS: What question would you add to this?
From Jody Steehler:
Ask your best friend: What is their favorite memory of you? What is
something you've done that shook them to their core? I have asked my
Aaron this, and haven't heard back. Maybe that's a good thing.