A New Beginning

So much has happened.

It was a year that both raced and plodded, with highs I hadn’t felt in ages and lows I hope to never feel again. I don’t suppose the generalities defy custom; I made new friends, lost track of old ones, and watched a dear one leave the world too soon. My heart expanded to welcome a new niece and tightened to finally evict an old love. In some ways, ghosts were finally released. Realizations dawned. Struggles tested. Worries became realities. Romances bloomed and withered. Academia endured. Challenges forced refinement of character, and frustrations—sometimes unrelenting—revealed new understandings. Things I thought I knew either shifted or turned out to have been different all along. Tears came more easily. Life’s mess and complication insisted on winning the day.

For a woman so keen on protection, it was a year of exposure and rawness, of ache at the slightest touch and ecstasy at unexpected provocation. It was a coming out, a time of permissions, of letting feelings surface and learning lessons that I hope will lead to greater grace.

I missed writing. I missed connecting at the soul with people whose faces I had never seen but whose hearts I felt I knew well. But occupation and obligation rarely relented, and when they did, I found my musings so muddled, so tangled, so exhausted or so banal that words were either insufficient or grandiloquent, that to reach for them would have seemed an injustice to their spirit. I wanted to write, but I wanted to rest my mind more.

This post is not a new year’s resolution; I don’t believe in those for their own sake. It is not a clarion herald. It is not a promise to anyone—not even myself. It is simply an acknowledgment of sorts, head bowed, thoughts clouded, that I have been away for a long time, and that I have ached to connect again. The shape things take from here is uncertain. There are ideas, but there is no plan. There are only my fingers on the keyboard and my thoughts on the screen, taking shape in letters after a year full of blurry lines.

Hello again.

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This Is Not Yet 40

“Are we old enough for this?!” the Ohio 5 tends to ask each other. We’ve kind of morphed out of “We’re too young for this,” because we’re pretty much not too young for a whole lot anymore. But the nuanced former question comes up with somewhat surprising frequency.

It’s not really because of our own respective, and relatively minor (though increasingly surgical), maladies. Two are married with children, two are aging, single gays (oh, they would just hate me for saying that), and then there’s me. Our lives, in general, while happy, are fairly banal.

I have had occasion to think about a lot of things in the last week or two. A lot of very heavy things. Thinking about heavy things makes me feel old and tired. It’s lovely to avoid that. Being an old soul who has recently found a sort of invigoration of forgotten youth, I have been able to shut out some heavy thinking. I needed to develop that ability.

But if you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you have come to know that I can be both incredibly shallow and really pretty deep, sometimes at the same time, and I can’t have one without the other. I would like to believe this is true of most, if not all, of us. If not, I imagine this must be maddening to try to understand from a not-me perspective.

And so it is with the stuff I’ve thought about for the last couple of weeks, alternating between a cavalier thought, a smart-ass comment, and a stare-at-the-wall-for-an-hour bout of What Does It All Mean? There’s the shootdown of MH17 over Ukraine. The actual warring there. The warring in Israel and Gaza and who is the more murderous party (I have my thoughts, and turn them over, regularly). The chaos in Libya. Ebola in Liberia. Endless instability and insurgent takeover in Iraq after more than a decade of American blood and treasure to save it from itself.

There is the House GOP deciding to sue the president for delaying something they’ve been screaming about being against, anyway. The refugee/immigration struggle and its heartbreaking human toll.  The disappointment, even for a lot of his supporters, that is President Obama. The general nightmare that is Congress, which nobody likes anyway, but now likes even less. There is what I see in the streets of my city every day: generational poverty, lack of education, joblessness, ill health, homelessness, lack of opportunity, lack of respect for self and others. I think about that a lot. Every morning on the way to work, and every night on the way home.

I thought about this stuff when I was younger, but usually from the perspective of an impassioned academic or idealistic observer. Now I think about it with a sense of connection I didn’t have before.

My cousin, already a single mother of a ten-year-old, is pregnant. Her father—my uncle—died of leukemia 14 years ago. She just finished putting herself through school for her BSN and got a job as a geriatric nurse. She moved out of my aunt’s house. She’s pregnant by a… well, I won’t call him what we call him in today’s vernacular; I’ll just say he’s a casual partner, who already has two other children. In this twisted world and her struggle of a life, sex in a car that she swears did not result in his satisfaction has somehow resulted in her conception of fraternal triplets.

I understand biology as much as the next person, but what. The. ACTUAL. FUCK.

I wonder sometimes, as a relatively spiritual person, how God or the universe or whatever you want to call it can be so overwhelmingly mysterious on a good day and just really messed up on a bad one as to govern a world in which so many people despair of their inability to have a child while people who could not possibly want one less can wind up conceiving three at once and announce their intention to keep all three. (Unspoken risks remaining unspoken.)

You might realize already that the news of her pregnancy led me right back to the generational poverty/lack of education/lack of opportunity/lack of respect for self and others thing.

My dear friend Will’s father died yesterday. He’d been in the hospital for six weeks with diabetes-related heart and kidney problems. Thursday morning, he arrested. They did CPR and intubated him, and Will jumped on a plane from Seattle. He arrived in Ohio just after midnight. His father died 14 hours later, as hospital staff were transferring him from a bed to a gurney to take him to inpatient hospice and take him off life support. Will had gone to carry some things to his mother’s car. Will’s father is the third parent in the Ohio 5 group to die. None have been older than 65. Two had diabetes-related heart problems.

My friend Kyle’s father was just diagnosed with a rare duodenal cancer. He is 51.

Amanda learned she has a stress fracture in her femur from the tumor and her weight. She has to find out whether she needs surgery to stabilize the bone, and whether that will derail her weekly chemo treating stage IV metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. She is 43.

My former coworker, Cedric, also died yesterday. Out of nowhere. He owned a gym, which is where his wife found him right after he collapsed, surrounded by personal trainers using the portable defibrillator. She’d had a funny feeling and doubled back on her way to work. He was 45.

Also, Facebook crashed yesterday. For like an hour. It was awful. I could not post pithy status updates about Facebook being down because Facebook was down.

Some of our brighter citizens called 911 about it.

Did not make that up.

I don’t really know where all of this is going. I started writing this post last night and then, bleary-eyed and exhausted from so much of life’s thinking, went to bed and left it to marinate. Today I find myself with even less direction. The initial plan to get as many of us to Ohio from our far-flung reaches for the funeral, with the understanding that Joey couldn’t be there that day, but would see the family a few days later on a trip he’d coincidentally already planned, has morphed into a plan to converge 36 hours later because Will would prefer that we could all be there at once. (This, for the record, never ends well.) We have joked more than once during funeral plans (we’ve had one every year since 2009) that it’s our version of “The Big Chill.”

That movie is 31 years old.

So I guess we are old enough.

Inspirational Videos Make Me Sad

I’ve mentioned it before: my friend Joey telling me once, “I think you feel things more deeply than most people do.” I remember feeling doomed when he said it, because I’d always thought everyone else was just like me and I, for some reason, just couldn’t handle Normal and had to compensate accordingly. But no. Joey says I’m not Normal. Joey says I’m Different.

I realized it kind of explained a lot. It explained depression in my teenaged years (not the typical teen angster, I—writer of poetry, listener to Pink Floyd in the early ’90s, singer of classical music—everything was just slightly to the wrong side of typical). It explained anxiety in my adult years. It explained my tendency to shut down emotion so I can function without feeling like I’m at the bottom of a dark hole by myself, or at the highest point in the world, but knowing I’m soon going to be in that hole. (This is different from depression. This is existentialism. One is a medical condition, the other a philosophy. Admittedly, they’re probably linked. And I’m actually kind of a rational existentialist, which is, in itself, contradictory. Sigh.)

Which, really, explains the choice of my first career, one in which you can only thrive if you’re jaded and cynical, because letting humanity enter in will basically ruin your faith in it or make you cry all damn day, every day, for various reasons you can’t always pinpoint.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I’d like to believe it made me Exceptional, like Woolf or Van Gogh. But though I do buy the flowers myself, my writing isn’t required for tens of thousands of students. I still have both my ears and would probably never lop one of them off of my own volition, and I can’t paint for shit. I’m worse than Bush 43. Way, way worse.

I actually think he’s pretty good.

I don’t understand why people will stop their day to watch something they know is going to make them cry. I don’t want to cry. I think I overdosed on it when I was younger. So I skip over those videos that are supposed to inspire you, because I prefer Sweet Brown memes. Sweet Brown memes do not bring my day to a screeching halt, never to be restarted, because I can’t get out of my own head.

Apparently, for the people who watch the tearjerker videos, it’s just for a minute, and it actually kind of makes them feel good, and then they go about their day. But for me, it creates this whole thread of thinking, and suddenly the really beautiful Thai Life Insurance commercial that will totally get you if you have even a shred of a soul becomes an entire internal debate about how much of my money I should give away and why I can’t keep a potted plant alive (obviously it has to do with my selfish inability to remember need when none can be voiced).

Really.

And then my whole day has gone to hell and I’m sad.

Also I fall in love with the guy in the commercial. Who is probably an actor in California only pretending to be the nicest guy in Thailand, but still. And then I think about why I can’t find a guy like that. Or why he would definitely, definitely dump me, even though he seemed really interested all along. Or why I probably wouldn’t like him if he stuck around, because I’m a heartless bitch.  Or something.

When really, the problem is that I’m not heartless at all. The problem is that if I let myself watch three-minute inspirational commercials for Thai Life Insurance too many times, I’ll just want to go to bed.

Existentialist bed. Not depression bed.

It’s really no wonder so many somewhat existential artists killed themselves or died some sort of sad, pathetic, poetic death. (Suicide and sad, pathetic, poetic death really are the pinnacles of existentialism, no?) Not me, though. I’m only an average existentialist. I’ll probably die falling down the steps with a basket of laundry in my arms after contemplating the pointlessness of laundry, my final thought being one of irritation at polyester, my face obscured by a small pile of panties when someone finds me days later. Someone who holds them up and says, “I never would have thought she’d wear leopard-print thongs.” Because they didn’t know the real me.

Or someone who holds them up and says, “I knew it. Damn!” Because he always thought I “oozed sex.”

(Somebody told me that once.)

Or my mother, who would find time in her overwhelming grief to be disappointed in my undergarment choices.

(They are not white. They do not cover everything. They’re probably not even really clean, because they can’t be washed in original formula Clorox. My house probably isn’t really clean, either. Clearly I’ve been sent to hell for wearing hoochie pants.)

Sigh.

And so this is why I don’t watch most of the inspiringly heartbreaking ads people post on Facebook. This is why I shut out sad realities in favor of unintentionally funny news soundbites that make frightening situations seem hilarious.

Because I cannot afford to fall in love with that guy from the Thai Life Insurance commercial, who will never love me back, and whose rejection will leave me despondent enough to listen to listen to “The Wall” again.

P.S. Check out this list of artists who have committed suicide. Some of the descriptions are kind of funny. This list was obviously complied by a cynic.

P.P.S. Seriously, though, watch that Thai Life Insurance commercial. 

P.P.P.S. Or this.

21 To Life

When I turned 21, I had already embarked on my dream career. My 21st birthday was spent with coworkers and a couple of my roommates. I’d been at work for a year, carrying a full course load in college in Ohio while my family lived in South Jersey. I saw them about three times a year, because between college and my job, I didn’t get a lot of time off, and because I had a sister in college and another in high school and a third in grade school, so there wasn’t a ton of money for airfare.

I didn’t have a boyfriend. I can’t remember whether I dated anybody at 21—I didn’t date much at all before I graduated—but I do remember the mess I was kind of in with a married guy I worked with. It wasn’t a relationship, not an affair, though how do you define an affair? Does it have to have a physical element, or does a one-sided series of “I love yous,” a dozen gorgeous, unwanted roses at work on Valentine’s Day with an unsigned card quoting a country song, a fear of never hearing anyone else say what he’d been the only one to ever say, and a threat of suicide without you qualify? At 21, I wasn’t sure, but I felt certain that, when I dug my rosary out of a drawer in search of comfort and found it broken, I was in some very serious trouble. He was messed up and I was a little messed up in the most conventional way possible, and he loved me and I needed to hear the things he said so I could feel a little less messed up.

Twenty-one was a lot of work for me.

Twenty-one was a lot of country music.

Yet I thought I would get married and have kids in the way that every girl thinks she’ll get married and have kids, like it’s just a course of nature, a foregone conclusion, that stuff that always happens because it’s assumed to be guaranteed from the moment one enters the world.

I’m a few years shy of doubling 21, and almost everything has changed. That dream career for which I had sacrificed so much so willingly for so long turned into a bittersweet kind of misery for which I wasn’t willing to give up any more. It almost ended on someone else’s terms at 31 and again at 32, and then I left it willingly and very happily at 36 and three days. But for all I lost in those years, I gained a great deal, too. It made me different in a lot of good ways. Smarter. More able. More agile. I can’t imagine what else I could have done. I don’t have a dream career now—in a lot of ways, the one I left is still the dream, and it’s how I learned that when a dream goes bad, it’s not necessarily replaced by a new one dreamed with equal passion. But I have a life. I have the freedom to make new, exciting plans, and look forward to whatever happens next.

The college-owned apartment with three roommates morphed into a small rental place of my own, and then another in another state, back east, still not with family but much less far away. Then another, and then a house I bought myself. The guilt I used to feel about not living in the same place as my family is still there, but the excuse I thought I would need—that my job kept me away—no longer seems required, because I have chosen my second hometown for myself, and I no longer care who’s offended by that. I see my family every month now instead of three times a year. I live in a tremendously diverse neighborhood in a tremendously diverse city, instead of in the very, very white Midwest. I make less money, yet I am richer than I was a year ago.

My state does not get blamed for elections, nor credited for them.

The man who swore he literally wouldn’t live without me has been out of my life for 13 years, but as far as I know, he’s still alive. Divorced, but alive. I’m still a little messed up, and who isn’t, but I’m past the particular problems that put me in that situation and I have never allowed it to happen again, and I never will. My rosary, which I fixed, remains intact…even if what I believe has changed a little. There has been love since, and for all its twists, it has hurt me more, but hurt others less.

I have come to fairly loathe country music.

A few years shy of doubling 21, I am single and childless, and I like it that way, even if I’m not entirely comfortable with the way everyone else sees those words, and even if I feel bad about who it disappoints. I still want to get married, but it doesn’t have to be soon. I know that, if I find the man I want to spend my life with, he may want what I don’t. I know it may be the deciding factor in whether he spends his life with me. I may one day wake up suddenly feeling every loss of what I don’t have, but I know myself well enough to know that having it now would probably not be good for anyone. And I know that, when I’ve tripled 21, I may see that I would have been better than I think, and change my mind too late. But I have to live with what I know now. I’ve been told that my spine can’t do the job anyway, and even if it did, I couldn’t pick my children up once they got past 25 pounds. Some decisions are made by something other than the mind or the heart. Right now, I’m glad they all seem to agree.

Right now, my only true regret was the connection to a man whose feelings for me helped bring down his marriage. My role in that is one I had to struggle mightily to forgive, even though his marriage likely would have ended without him ever having met me. That part of what my life has been is not the only hard part, but right now,  it is the only part I would change. It is the only thing that doesn’t pass the test of time, the only thing for which the lessons were not worth their cost.

I don’t look back at 21 and see my biggest concerns, dreams, fears and realities of the time as trite or simple or quaint. I respect who I was then. I like her. There are a few things I would tell her now, but she wouldn’t have listened to me, and I wouldn’t listen now to what I’ll want to tell myself in 21 years. She had to learn it her way, and I have to learn it mine. I saw some very difficult things when I was 21, and I’ve seen more since. I know more now, but I don’t mock who I was then. She never would have thought she would be this happy being me. She’d be pleasantly surprised. But she got me here. She’s every bit a part of why I’m me as anything else. Maybe more.

We’re friends, she and I. Soul mates. I am at once her mother and her daughter, the one who protects her and the one who has come after her.

And I will always have her.

That will never change.

This post was prompted by FiftyFourandAHalf’s post, When YOU Were 21. She welcomes everyone’s stories.

I’m not dead. I just had a tetanus shot.

So I keep forgetting to write things.

It’s not because I don’t have anything to write about. It’s just that I get all caught up in other things and forget to write a blog post.

Does this happen to you guys?

Alright, so I’m writing this with my left arm hanging semi-limply at my side because grad school made it hurt. Apparently you can work on a college campus all fine and dandy, but if you want to set foot in a classroom (for more than seven class periods), you have to go to the health center to prove that which you’ve known since 1978 (I’m immune to measles, mumps and rubella – but since my pediatrician has been dead for lo, these many years because he was 102 when I was four and I’m now 36, and since he didn’t sign my immunization record, I have to have blood drawn to make sure) and also to  get the “Adult TDaP,” which was previously known as the DPT and which I also had plenty of when I was little. T, as you might guess, stands for tetanus and also Time To Lose the Use of Your Arm Because OW.

My second tetanus shot in eight freaking months. I’d rather have actual tetanus.

At least this time I remembered I had to have it in my left arm. I can’t sleep on my left side thanks to my jacked up cervical spine, and back in February, when I tried to hack my finger off with a steak knife, I let them give me the tetanus shot in my right arm, like a dumbass. After I got it again yesterday, a lot of things got kind of hurty, like my very bottom rear right side rib, my eyeballs, my neck, my head and something in my chestal region.

Some of that might have been a hangover from a pretty epic weekend. But mostly I think it was the shot.

In case some of you are wondering: I’ve had to draw a line with The Colombian. You might recall that, a month ago, he tried to beso me and then we had a conversation about how he “technically” still had a girlfriend and that probably wasn’t a good thing for her or me. Yesterday he invited himself over for Monday Night Football again, and as he was getting ready to leave, I asked him about the situation.

“Suuuuu…” he started.

“No,” I said. “Do you have a girlfriend or not?”

“We haffen’ talked aboud it,” he said. “We jes don’t see each ahther mush now. I habben’ seen her in…” (he thinks) “…nine dayce.”

“So you still have a girlfriend. You haven’t broken up.”

“Well…”

“So why are you here?” I asked gently, with a smile.

“Because I want to be here,” he smiled a bit shamefully.

 

“Javier,” I said with a sweet smile to belie my Bullshit Meter’s reading. “You can’t ask me to hang out one-on-one if you haven’t ended it with her.”

“Okay,” he said, standing up, seeming embarrassed.

“it’s not fair,” I smiled up at him, head tilted, hair tumbling over my shoulder. “Right?”

“Okay,” he said.

“I don’t know what to do with it,” I said as he hugged me goodbye.

“Okay.”

Okay.

Trying to apply lessons learned. It sucks. But I know I’m right. I’m totally right. No me gusta, but fish or cut bait, amigo.

 

 

Why Did I Do That? No, Really – Why?

The internet is an asshole and my fingers are ungrateful little twerps.

And because of their cruel, cruel partnership, I now know what time Jack and Gwyneth will stand before God and some other beings to swear their lives to each other tomorrow.

Also I know what day he gave her her ring and how.

Stupid internet and its finding of things.

By the way, I just now realized how bad it was to pair up my fingers and the asshole reference in the first sentence. I trust you know that’s not what I meant. But now you’re thinking about it.

For the last few days I’ve been strangely calm about the impending occasion. It’s other-worldly – something I know exists but doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’ve been all, “Jack gets married in three days. Huh.”

“Jack gets married in two days. Huh.”

“Jack gets married tomorrow. Huh.”

Admittedly, the last two days, these thoughts were accompanied by the fleeting idea that maybe she’d said potato and he’d said potahto and they’d called the whole thing off. But really, how would that help? Other than making me feel better at the reassurance that he still doesn’t think he can hack a substantive long-term relationship, and the sick and completely misplaced schadenfreude of him jilting her (I should want her to jilt him), what difference would it have made? Wouldn’t it have just prolonged some strange sort of agony?  Yes, right? I can’t help but think that my odd disconnection to the reality of impending vows is related in some way to the sense that 

Shit. I completely forgot what that thought was going to be.

But I do kind of feel like it’s a point of no return. Like once tomorrow draws to a close, he will be married, and that will somehow delete from my being all care or concern I might have about him. Like somehow after all the anguish of the last year and particularly the last few months, and somehow after all the feelings of the decade before that, it will all cease to matter in any relevant way and will float away from my smushed soul as though it never actually weighed anything at all.

Which won’t happen. Would be nice, though.

I tried not to go looking for trouble. I haven’t trolled for information since a few days after I found out about their engagement. As soon as i knew the date of the wedding, I got busy figuring out how to stay busy that day. I’ve generally stayed busy all year because of him, since long before they got engaged. (It started with putting an offer in on my house.) I debated going away for this weekend, but wasn’t confident. I wound up inviting a dozen people to my house for dinner tomorrow instead, which means I will be busy all day cleaning and cooking. But I’d been doing relatively well and avoiding all temptation to seek out anything more than I knew. Tonight, though, it was nagging at me. Tonight I messaged Angie on Facebook:

Stop me from doing something psychologically destructive. The internet is on. Jack gets married tomorrow. I have homework. Which requires the internet. Also Jandsome Javi exists. I HAVE SERIOUS PROBLEMS AND I NEED SERIOUS PEOPLE TO SOLVE THEM.

Unless, of course, your children and/or husband require your attention. Or you’re not interested in my first world dramas of pain and the world-wide web.

That lasted 90 seconds. No, wait – 30. Then Google happened – one single search of just his name – and now I know, after the briefest, fleetingest of looks, where they’re getting married and what time. And I glimpsed really quickly the reception venue which, in the 0.5 second vision I had of it, appeared to be the most tackily opulant place I could imagine and so. not. his. thing. In much the same way that marriage is not his thing.

I think he’s been anally probed by aliens and had his entire inner self replaced. It’s kind of fascinating.

And then I had to say this to Angie:

Too slow. Now I know more stuff. And have chest pains. Oh, why, internet, why? Why, fingers of betrayal?

And now I’m fantasizing about showing up and kind of ruining it silently, but only to him – somehow standing in a doorway at the reception and catching his eye, freaking him out a little bit, raising one eyebrow, shaking my head, turning around and leaving. And making him think about it for the rest of his life.

I would never even drive by the place, actually. But if I could just strike in his heart some dissonant chord that mixed fear with something that felt like missing me…

Oh hey, I just figured out how psychosis starts!

It has also just occurred to me that I need to find something to keep me busy Sunday, because the hangover from wedding day distraction could really be a bitch. Oh, I’ve failed to adequately gird my soul-loins! I’ve been so good and so careful and now this!

Not at all coincidentally, I’m sure, I’ve seen Javier twice in the last week. Not dates, you understand; I have this interesting way of mentioning his girlfriend exactly once each time I see him. Casual-like. But we were at the neighborhood gathering place for drinks last Friday night, and then he was here last night to watch football for a little while. Not just the two of us – my neighbor had knocked on my door an hour before kickoff and invited herself over to watch the game. He invited me out for a drink after she did that, so I told him I had the neighbor here but he could join if he wanted.

Still, we’re getting to know each other more. It’s a problem. He’s smart. And humble. And considerate. That accent… and then once in a great while he gets really impassioned about something and ay yi yi. And then after we do a chaste friend-hug goodbye, he texts me to thank me for my company and sometimes gets a little nervous if I don’t answer right away. I tell myself it’s not cute or charming, that he has a girlfriend and shouldn’t do this. He doesn’t deny her when I mention her. But he never talks about her, either.

And he’s coming to dinner tomorrow. I made a point of telling him his girlfriend is welcome, too. He’s not sure whether she’s coming. I’m not sure he invited her.

I’d like to think that this is a temporary salve, that I’ve let myself slip just a liiiittle bit to help me get through the specific and anticipated hard days, and then I can pull back when I don’t have that anticipation and struggle. But in the back or sometimes middle of my mind is the accusatory question: Why do you find unmarried but unavailable men interesting?

Maybe what I think is the pain is actually the salve, and I haven’t identified the pain yet.

Gah, that is going to suck.

 

 

 

 

Dear Brain: Stop Messing With My Head

I am really, really trying not to develop a crush on Javier.

Es no bueno idea. Es un muy bad idea.

Es happening. Un poquito. Or poco. One of those.

Aaaaand I’m out of Spanish.

The other night, in the neighborhood meeting place, we met up for a neighbors-who-hadn’t-seen-each-other-in-a-month drink (two glasses of wine for me, one for him – he paid when the check came, which I never expected) and wound up talking there, on the walk back to my house and in front of my house, for three and a half hours. Nothing crazy or really deep – though he did tell me what he’s struggling with at work on a meta, interpersonal level, and he did get treated to a version of the stalker story, for reasons I cannot recall, and then said he wants to hear the whole thing sometime, which he probably definitely does NOT, because men always say they want to hear a whole dramatic story and then remember after the fact that they don’t like drama and maybe they were just trying to be nice. Or pretend to be nice.

I digress.

There has been a bit of a situation in my psyche lately because of the impending nuptials of Puh-Puh-Puh and Blythe Danner’s fake daughter (I can’t even use actual not-actual names at this point). I blame this situation for the fact that I’m flailing a bit in my resolve not to develop a crush on Javier. Also I’m blaming his sexy accent.

Seriously, the other day I caught myself imagining an argument with him just to invent what he would sound like when he’s upset. Like Andy Garcia in “When A Man Loves A Woman.” (Which boasts one of the best of the gazillion covers of “Crazy Love” I’ve ever heard, performed by Brian Kennedy, not that anybody knows who that is.)

And the other night kind of felt like a pre-date. Which it absolutely, positively cannot have been.

Anyway.

It’s been kind of a random few days around here, if I’m honest. Miss Ella down the street has been all kinds of cray, which is really very sad and I can’t ignore it. One night I wound up in her kitchen with another neighbor because she claimed she smelled paint fumes, and I knew there would be no such thing, but we found a serious dearth of food, as well as a disconnected stove/oven because she baked an ice cube tray and its molten corpse remains in there while she insists with indignation that an elderly lady did it. Which is technically true.

The night that Javi and I met up, she was outside after midnight, asking us where her mother was and thinking she was out partying. This was Javi’s first dose of Miss Ella. He told me to let him know if I need help checking on her.

I’ve thought about taking her food nightly for dinner since she can’t heat anything up, but she also has no teeth. I took her some soft hot food the other night (for which Javier called me “so sweet!”). But the next night, when I tried to scope out whether she’d eaten it, the whole container was gone. I looked in the fridge and freezer and all the cabinets and drawers. There were a few new food items – some milk, a pound and a half of lunch meat still sealed days after purchase – but no rice and teeny-tiny chicken pieces and no container. So I’m guessing whoever came to check on her and bring her the lunch meat found the container still full of now-spoiled food because she never ate it. She was going to share it with her brother John, she told me. John, who some days is dead and other days is not.

It was when I heard her shuffling up and down the street calling out, “Mommy? Mom? Mommy?” at 5:00 Monday morning that I decided to contact the department of aging.

Well, that warranted a non-work-related conversation with Rick. I needed a direction to go in with the agency.

Yeah, it’s possible I slipped backward a little with him, too. Not far, just… not as cool and distant as I’ve historically been. It’s possible I was coy and coquettish.

Shit.

I’d been doing so well.

Meanwhile, this weekend is the final official whole-family weekend for the final official weekend of the summer at the beach. I haven’t talked to my mother since the last time, which was August 1. Not out of spite, just out of upset and discomfort, and I even told her that via a brief email in response to her message telling my sisters and me (and my dad, because apparently they don’t talk to each other despite living in the same house as retirees) that a family friend’s toddler has cancer. She said she’s over our fight, “it was a bad night, but we can move on from here.”

Yeah, um… no, we kind of can’t.

But tonight, when I got home later than usual from work, I headed down to the next block to feed the neighbors’ cats while they’re on vacation and found my little neighbor Montrose walking down the street with $1.25 in his hand. Today was his second day of second grade, and he was going to get toilet paper from the store because they were out at his house. We chatted while we walked to the store and back together. Then I went to feed the cats and water the flowers outside while the little ones from a house nearby shyly tried to help. And on my return, there was neighbor Sly, who is delightful if constantly drunk, sitting outside with his arm in a makeshift cast after a fall. We chatted for a  minute or two before I moved on to Miss Ella, who chatted to me about how she can’t wait to move because she doesn’t like the neighborhood anymore. And then I went home and gave an old toaster to a new resident of the neighborhood.

And resisted any attempt to make any kind of contact with Javier.

Serenade, motherfucker. Or: On the Occasion Of Your Wedding

I’m slowly congealing a fantasy about showing up at Jack’s wedding reception and blowing the doors off the place.

Metaphorical doors, since I imagine it will be outside. I don’t know why I imagine that, but I do. He’s not one for showiness, and it’s hard to find an indoor venue that doesn’t fairly smack of showiness, even in tasteful settings. I don’t know exactly what I would do, but I’m pretty sure it would involve a mic drop immediately followed by – in a graceful fit of vengeance I got from my gay-bor Steve the other night when he was telling an interminably long but hilarious story about how he was cock-blocked at every turn one summer by a particular Asian doctor – the single-motion swiping clear of every finger sandwich from the refreshments table on my way out.

It seems I’ve made it to the Passive-Aggressively Bitchy Stage of Loss/Grief.

Do you ever get pissed off at yourself for not being over something that happened, let’s say, four to 18 months ago? Yeah. Me too.

But how bad-ass would that be, for me to show up at wherever this bullshit joke is taking place (poor Gwyneth – no idea) and somehow pull off with class and grace and aplomb a giant Fuck You? “And although there’s pain in my chest, I still wish you the best with a fuck you…”

Cee-Lo Green is a damned poet.

I feel like I would need to channel Audrey Hepburn instead, though. But singing. I just Googled “song about a guy getting what he deserves” to figure out what I could sing at the tasteful reception that could end in a mic drop and the spectacular hoarding of crustless watercress-prosciutto-and-cucumber nibbles. And then I tried “song about guy who cheated getting divorced.” That brought up, I shit you not, 75 country songs. 

I hate country. And I can’t do a mic drop after “Friends In Low Places.” Also I’m now irrationally angry at Tracy Byrd for recording a song called “Revenge of a Middle Aged Woman.” Predictably, it ends with Tracy in the woman’s bed.

Someone send Cee-Lo over to Tracy Byrd’s house.

(Pause for image of miniature Tyrannosaurus Rex trying to throw punches at a doofus in a ten-gallon hat.)

(That’s funny ’cause Cee-Lo has weirdly short arms.)

Then I Googled “song about woman getting revenge,” and either there has never been such a thing or I’m starting to freak Google out, because the screen was blank.

Sara Bareilles has a song called “Sweet As Whole” that I find completely delightful and very singable and even kind of pretty, but it blames Gwyneth a little too much. Still, it would work with my voice.

Jack never heard me sing. In ten years he never once heard me. He had plenty of opportunities, always knew when and where I was doing it, but he never once showed up. Didn’t even ask, usually. One time he offered to pay for my voice lessons because I was stressed out about a vocal problem I was having and about being able to afford the lessons. He said it would mean a lot to him if I let him foot the bill. Which I, of course, refused to allow because no one else should have to spend $200 a month on a voice they never care to hear.

Huh. Not even once.

What do we think of Kelly Clarkson’s “Never Again”?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVYesEpMr84

Yeah. That’s the one.

4am Disasters, Real and Imagined

Either my psyche or my home decor is trying to kill me. Possibly both.

I tend to dream in the wee hours of the morning. Or sometimes mid-wee. I guess that makes sense, since I go to bed (now that I work normal-person hours) around 11pm. Often, therefore, I’m awakened in pre-dawn by some ridiculous dream.

This morning, I had two really bizarre imaginings. In the first one, I was at some sort of outdoor festival with two guys: Leo, who I barely know, and Bob, who I dated several years ago. While there, we ran into a man I sing with named Jim. I was holding Leo’s hand at the time, but wound up going home with Bob; Leo stood kind of befuddled and watched as we got into the car. Jim saw all of this and emailed me, telling me he thought some of my innocent flirting and smiling and misleading the guys was inappropriate (obviously!), and that I might have a kind of personality trait or disorder for which he wanted me to know about a support group.

Now, I think we all know that I can definitely use a group of some kind. By the way, my NEW insurance now claims they don’t list my shrinkapist as a provider even though they totally do, and I have a screen shot of that shit to prove it, and that’s only after the shrinakpist’s Office of Incompetents sent the bills for the two appointments I’ve had in the last month to my old insurance despite having taken my new information and copied my new card twice. 

For fuck’s. Sake. People.

I had fallen asleep crying over Jack (dammit), and I’m not the slightest bit interested in dating anyone right now, though Leo is a nice guy, so I have no idea where this dream and its included hand-holding (his hand was warm and not too soft and the perfect size and I am only talking about his hand, you guys, jeez) could possibly have come from. But even in the dream, I felt terrible about confusing Leo and Bob, and being seen and judged by Jim.

Because I need to feel that way while I’m sleeping.

After that came a dream in which I had bought a condo. I never actually saw it, I don’t think, except maybe in dream flashbacks when Dream Me was thinking about the condo… I’m telling you, this was some complicated mental shit happening while I was trying to catch some shut-eye. Anyway, I dreamed that I had bought a condo (apparently instead of my actual real-life house), loved it, lived there for a month… but then second-guessed myself, sold it and bought a house in a city an hour away. A big, old, creaky, drafty, beautiful house. And while I was standing in the kitchen shortly after moving in, all alone, I looked behind me down a hall and wondered if the house was haunted. I thought about how old it was. As my stomach started to tighten (yes, I felt that in my sleep), I realized how many questions I had never asked and things I had never considered. My God, the windows weren’t even energy-efficient. My bills were going to be astronomical.

Slowly, so many things dawned on me… I had screwed my credit and left a condo I had loved for a beautiful house I could never maintain on my own without even asking fundamental questions. I had acted impetuously and now I was stuck.

I went outside and found myself walking around the block as I thought about being an hour away from everyone I knew. Why had I done that? Why did I suddenly decide to leave a place that felt like home to be in a place that was disconnected? And – as I approached the side of my house on my walk – what was that noise? Was that noise coming from my house?

And then I woke up, chest aching with the classic sign of an anxiety attack. And immediately after I woke up, the 42″ x 36″ decoration above my headboard fell and nearly crushed my skull.

Or it didn’t fall on me at all but it was really close. And it’s not that heavy but it definitely, definitely would have hurt if it had hit me.

It was 4:48am. Thanks to the senseless anxiety attack, I was awake for another half-hour.

So that was restful.

No idea what any of this means, by the way. The house thing… I dunno, maybe it has something to do with the fact that I had the builder’s contractor here the day before, trying to figure out how to cool down the upstairs because there’s no bulkhead carrying ductwork to my bedroom… he suggested putting a vent in the roof to let some of the trapped heat escape. Is the dream telling me not to do that? Or just that I should chill out about tiny imperfections in my house because it could be worse?

Is an 8-10 degree difference in temperature between floors “tiny?”

Or is my nocturnal brain the same thing as the vent the guy said he’d put in my roof… just blowing off steam?

Can it do that without the anxiety attack in my sleep, maybe? Because those things have never made sense to me.

Or was all of this just a psychosomatic warning that my wall decor was about to come crashing down so I had better wake up and maybe the best way to wake me up was to make me dream this?

Probably not that.

Any guesses?

This Thing Which I Stole From the Internet

Because aside from #s 8, 11 and 12… YES.

 

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

1. When you need to take breaks and recharge after socializing for too long.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

I’m not antisocial, I swear! I just need to recharge my introvert juices!

2. When people mistake your thoughtful look for resting bitch face.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

You like to give thoughtful answers, but sometimes people assume you’re just silently judging them.

3. When your friend wants to invite more people over, and you don’t want to sound like a dick by saying no.

When your friend wants to invite more people over, and you don't want to sound like a dick by saying no.

You might even secretly like a little more company, even if it does give you anxiety.

4. When spending a heavenly weekend alone means that you’re missing out on time with friends.

When spending a heavenly weekend alone means that you're missing out on time with friends.

5. And the fear that by doing so, you’re slowly turning into a hermit…

And the fear that by doing so, you're slowly turning into a hermit...

6. Who will likely die alone.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

7. Having visitors stay with you is a nightmare, because it means you have to be on at ALL TIMES.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

8. When people stop inviting you places because you keep canceling plans.

When people stop inviting you places because you keep canceling plans.

9. Too many social obligations + no alone time = a total grump.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

10. When you’re asked to do a group project, and know that you’re going to hate every minute of it.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

11. When your ride at a party doesn’t want to leave early, and no one seems to understand your distress.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

12. When you hear this question, and your palms start to sweat with anxiety.

When you hear this question, and your palms start to sweat with anxiety.

Because the answer is “no,” but you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

13. When you hear, “Are you OK?” or “Why are you so quiet?” for the umpteenth time.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

Just because you prefer to listen or only speak up when there’s something important to say.

14. Trying to be extra outgoing when you flirt so your crush doesn’t think you hate them.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

Seriously, I just have resting bitch face, it’s not you!

15. That feeling of dread that washes over you when the phone rings and you’re not mentally prepared to chat.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

16. When you have to deal with that one friend who ALWAYS wants to hang out, and you ALWAYS have to say this:

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

17. When you have an awesome night out, but have to deal with feeling exhausted for days after the fact.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

18. When people pressure you to be more social, whether you like it or not.

When people pressure you to be more social, whether you like it or not.

19. When you’re really excited to go out, but those good feelings don’t last long enough.

When you're really excited to go out, but those good feelings don't last long enough.

20. When you’re trying to get something done at work, but you can’t, because everyone else is talking.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

21. When someone calls you out for daydreaming too much.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

22. When you carry a book to a public place so no one will bug you, but other people take that as a conversation starter.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

23. When people make you feel weird for wanting to do things by yourself.

When people make you feel weird for wanting to do things by yourself.

24. When someone interrupts your thoughts, and you get irrationally angry.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

25. When people can’t seem to grasp that being in small groups is where you excel the most.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

26. And when you need to be completely alone so you can recharge and get back to being awesome.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand

27. Because even though introverts are misunderstood constantly, you know this to be true:

Because even though introverts are misunderstood constantly, you know this to be true: