Overwhelm, Frosting Tub, and an Invisible Thread

I am drinking coffee with hazelnut creamer in it. I don’t even like hazelnut. That’s why I bought it. I bought it so that my partner would drink it and I wouldn’t. But, here I am drinking it. My life is out of balance.

What the hell are you talking about? Are you, dear reader, asking me?

I’ve got to make this quick. I’m supposed to be reading for a short paper for my graduate class that is, of course, due by midnight tonight. But, I have to do something for me or my mind will be muddled. I will resent having to write the paper at all. I will whine and bitch and throw my hands up in the air. I don’t have time to really write, so I must write something. Even if it’s crap. Even if it doesn’t make sense.

The drinking of the hazelnut coffee, seemingly against my will and good judgment, seems to be some sort of bat signal in the chaos of my life. I have been diligently, for six weeks, eating a 1200 calorie diet, weighing carrots and chicken breast, swapping out cauliflower rice for the real deal, switching from 2% to skim. That sort of thing. I’ve lost around 20 pounds. That’s great. But today. (Yes, I’ve been told that everything after the word “but” is bull shit.) But today, I ate half a brie, turkey, and raspberry-mustard sandwich on thick white bread, jalapeno potato chips, homemade tortilla chips with guacamole, at least a pound of chicken, French onion dip, another handful of chips, birthday cake, fresh squeezed rosemary lemonade. I scooped some frosting out of the container and ate that too. And, now, the hazelnut creamer.

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A Life Wasted?

I have made many a party faux-pas in my life. I’ve spilled drinks. I’ve started fights. I’ve made crass comments. But, I don’t party anymore. I’m sober three years this month. And, somehow, I feel like this qualifies me as someone who doesn’t do or say ridiculous things.

Pshaw!

I turned 40 last weekend. 40! It doesn’t really bother me. I’ve been told that 40 is the new 30. Shit, I’ve been told it’s the new 21! I’ve been told that the 40s rock the casbah. That you start to really know what you want and what you don’t want and you don’t giving a flying frog what people think of you.

Sounds good to me!

But, there is still this nagging closer-to-death thing. And, when I start to think about getting closer to death, I start thinking about all of the things that I wanted to do in my life when I actually was 21 and it was just opening up.

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Under Pressure

After graduating from college, I worked two jobs—at a music store during the day and at a restaurant during the evening. I was an English Major and had no career plans whatsoever. I was saving cash in a tin with a picture of an old Rolls Royce and Rte. 66 on the lid, trying to fund a solo trek to California. Of course, the money never stayed long in the tin as I also had to fund my bad habits. So, there I was. No plans. No money. No sense of responsibility. I didn’t really stand a chance, but at least I was having fun.

I wish I could say that I was a starving artist, but my party plans always took precedence over my art. So, I worked and worked and put a little cash in the tin and pulled a little cash out of the tin and stayed up all night and then did it all over again. I remember believing that I was handling the long hours and little sleep like a real champ. I was pushing CDs at the mall, delivering steaming hot plates of lasagna at the restaurant, and dancing and laughing and making everyone around me generally happy. Or, so I thought.

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Busting out of my Bubble: A Reflection on Sharing Love

Love begins by taking care of the closest ones– the ones at home. ~ Mother Teresa

This morning I watched a video of a British comedian of Pakistani descent (Guz Khan) talking about the recent attack in Manchester and about terrorism in general. I was sitting on my front porch, in my robe, drinking coffee and looking at images of dead or traumatized children. I wept– from my seat of privilege, just having been swept up in irritation at drinking Maxwell House because we ran out of the good stuff. I wept. Too early in the morning for this shit! Too early in the morning?!? What calloused, pretentious, self-absorbed, white American bull shit!

Before getting on social media and pressing the play button on Khan’s video, I did pray. I started off my prayer with sentiments of gratitude and asked God, my own conception of God, to guide my thinking and my actions to make me of service to Him? Her? It? and my fellow human beings. In imagining how I might be of service today, I thought of my friends, my immediate family, and my partner– many of whom are struggling with loss and transition– but I did not, in any way, imagine being of service in a greater sense, in a global sense, in a way that was not all tied up in my intimate circle of life.

I often close my eyes to what is going on around the world. I am not much of a political activist– tough to be when I get the majority of my news briefs from FaceBook. I am only somewhat embarrassed to admit this lack of seeking out real news coverage. I can make excuses for my choice toward ignorance. The news depresses me. It is all sensationalized and biased. There is nothing I can do.  But, perhaps, I should be embarrassed. The reality is that I am completely in the dark, that I am turning a blind eye, that I am all wrapped up in my little life. If I am honest, it is because the state of the world exhausts me and I am self-centered and I am lazy.

Yet, moments like this morning– even though I had seen those images before, had heard that rhetoric– when I am absolutely struck with the reality that real tragedy is happening all around me, I vow to do better. I will watch the news. I will read. I will study up. I will stop residing in the shallow pools of my mind, burst through the bubble I live in, and I will do something to help someone somewhere somehow.

But how?

Really? But how? There are all sorts of ways how. The ways how are not kept in some locked box in which one needs the secret code. “But how?” isn’t truly the question to be asking. The more appropriate question is: “But, will I?”

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Find the Good and Praise It: Notes from my Writing Space

I moved into an old, 1940s-ish, new-to-me house in early February and it is early April and two days ago I finally (almost) finished setting up my writing space. I must admit that this is the first time I have felt completely at home since the move. The clock is ticking, the ink is flowing, the tea is lukewarm at best. It is a work night and it is getting late. My mind just keeps buzzing and I feel all sorts of content and alive. Yes, I am finally home.

My writing room is, perhaps, the most beautiful room in the house. It is a many windowed sunroom with a ficus tree and a desk and a daybed and cheap, groovy curtains. There is my grandmother’s folkartish cat clock with the loud steady tick, the desk lamp with the square shade, the green antique-looking wooden chair, a hardwood floor, and a french-style door that can close the space off from the rest of the house when I really need to get serious.

I have never had a room solely dedicated to my creative work. I used to dream about having a tree house or a cabin or a glorified hut in a backyard in which I could escape to dabble in short story and poetry and memoir. Until I finished unpacking this room and began to furiously scribble and type, I didn’t even realize that a dream has come true for me. I have a space that I can call my own that far surpasses any expectations or fantasies to which I previously succumbed.

I could cry.

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A False Sense of Mojo and the Bicycle Ballet

Mojo: noun: a magic charm, talisman, or spell; magic power

This morning, I watched part of a video of a man doing impressive stunts on a bicycle. He crawled very Spider-man-like along a wall while still walking his bike beside him, he stood on the handles, he landed amazing jumps. He did all this while the bike never lost forward momentum. It reminded me of myself as a child. Not because I could do any of those things. I am not, in any way, an athlete. Not at all. It reminded me, though, of my afternoons spent wheeling down the bike paths performing bicycle ballet.

My brand of bicycle ballet, if there is any brand of bicycle ballet, consists of me gliding slowly along the tarmac, standing on the pedals, and then extending one leg out very gracefully and pointing my toe until I had to start pedaling again. I would repeat this motion over and over pretending I was in some sort of recital, listening to the music in my head. I believed at the time that passersby noted my grace and agility, that they could see my swanlike beauty, that perhaps they were impressed. I was, though shy and gangly and, as I said, not an athlete, some sort of bicycle beauty star. You should’ve seen me on ice skates!

Of course, extending one leg while on a bicycle is no impressive feat. Neither is skating in a small circle on the ice rink. Neither, probably, are any of the little show girl “stunts” I thought I was doing as a child. But, give me a break folks, I just wanted to be beautiful! I wanted to be noticed.

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The Christmas Chief on Writing and Momdom and Mortality and Magic

I was talking to a friend the other day about my writing. I had taken a writing class that was a bit of a drag, but affirmed for me that I both have stories to tell and raw, perhaps somewhat polished, talent. I didn’t need to shell out $300+ (some gifted to me by supportive friends) to be told those seeming truths. However, the class reiterated for me that I need to be writing. I need to be telling my stories. I need to continue to put one literary foot in front of the other. It is my greatest desire to use my gifts in some larger capacity.

When I expressed the frustration I felt about struggling to find the time to write, my friend suggested that perhaps I could hold off a bit, perhaps I could wait until my son was older, out of the house even. My first thought, and I erred on side of tact and didn’t vocalize it, was “Yeah, if I don’t die first.”

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96 Ways

“We are so limited. You have to use the same word for loving Rosaleen as you do for loving Coke with peanuts. Isn’t it a shame we don’t have many more ways to say it?” ~ Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

I was a linguistics minor in college. Had I discovered my passion for formal language study earlier in my college career, I would have been a double major. Yet, I spent most of my time and effort on partying rather than studying and, though I graduated with a 3.6 GPA, I did not in any way apply myself nor did I leave the university with any semblance of a life plan. I wanted to write and that was it.

And, even my writing was scattered and undisciplined. I almost did not graduate because I nearly failed to turn in a portfolio for an advanced poetry workshop. I remember my professor emailing me after seeing me quite intoxicated the night before: “Party Girl, If you want to graduate, I need your portfolio today.” I was, fortunately, generally liked by my creative writing professors and this one was a kind enough to allow me to drop off a packet of forced villanelles and shoddy sonnets to his private home. Perhaps, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have graduated at all. At some point, I would have to face the consequences for my inappropriate and, even then, addictive behavior.

Still, despite the fact that I often borrowed pencils from other students in my classes and got by on my talent for writing papers on books that I never read, the study of linguistics opened my mind to the power of language and its impact on culture. I was amazed to discover, for instance, that not all languages included words that signified gender. I had a professor who was writing the first formal dictionary for a Quechua language spoken by an indigenous people in the Andes Mountains of Peru. In this particular dialect, there is no “she” or “he.” There is only “human,” “animal,” or “God.” In studying this language, I was struck by the equality inherent in this lack of gender qualification. I started to examine my own use of language ever more closely, noting that the English language, as a construct, emphasized male dominance and power. Uh, whoa!

I am currently reminded of my linguistic epiphanies, not because of feminism and patriarchy, but because I was struggling today to express in words the overwhelming gratitude I have for the love in my life.

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To Hell with that Slapping on Rouge Business

I just wanna be okay, be okay, be okay. I just wanna be okay today… Ingrid Michaelson

So, my last few posts have been a little dismal, a little desperate, a little depressing even. I felt very awkward putting them out into the digital universe when who knows who might read them. Of course, and this is the case when you open up to others, I was met by messages and texts and phone calls from people who know me personally. I appreciate the check-ins, the compassion, and I suppose the advice, yet the outpouring of concern also left me feeling embarrassed and possibly a little ashamed. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so honest after all. Still, the truth is that lately, at times, I have been in a somewhat of a dark place. Don’t we all have to travel over that painful speedbump from time to time?

Yet, it is valued in our society to put your best foot forward. To present a pretty face to the world.

This idea that we should slap on some rouge and fake it til we make it seems both like sound advice and unsettling bull shit. Yes, we shouldn’t wallow in our own emotional filth for too long. Getting out of bed and brushing our teeth and facing the world is important. Of course it is. Still, must we always keep our darkness buried deep inside us only to fester and gangrene?

I am, in pondering this question, reminded of a night 15 years ago around this time of year. I was down and out and in the thick of it. I was drinking and feeling hopeless and self-harming and I didn’t think I’d make it through the night. I was so beat up and desperate that I called a suicide hotline. I don’t remember the voice on the other end of the line. I have no idea what words of wisdom she or he imparted. Yet, I am still here. I am still alive. I must have more to give.

But, the fact that one night I thought I might actually kill myself and reached out for help is not my story. My story is this: I had a job interview the following morning. The interview was early, and I had been up late. I got myself out of bed, brushed my teeth, slapped on some mascara (I don’t actually wear rouge), put on a skirt and blouse, and walked out to my car to face the daylight. With cuts running all up and down my thighs and a sense that I no longer belonged on this earth, I went to the interview, put on a smile, answered questions with a straight back and a load of confidence, and landed a job.

Some people may question if I was, then, actually depressed. “You reached out so you weren’t really serious,” they might say. “People who are truly depressed don’t get out of bed,” they might add. I was, at least in my mind, deadly serious and truly depressed. Yet, this was my modus operandi: to be tiptoeing on the ledge and pretending that everything was just hunky dory.

I imagine that I operated this way out of the necessity to self-preserve. Like I said, we can’t wallow in our emotional filth for too long. That’s some really frightening territory. But, it is additionally frightening to admit that we are going crazy. Even if for a short time. There is the stigma, sure, but there is also the fear that if we admit we are going crazy that solidifies that we actually are going crazy and no one wants to go crazy. At least that is the way that it is for me.

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You’re Gonna Have to Face It…

Your lights are on, but you’re not home/Your mind is not your own/Your heart sweats, your body shakes/Another kiss is what is takes… from Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love”

Exactly two years ago to the day I wrote: But then there is this whole scary business of a partnership, of monogamy, or being swallowed up whole and losing myself. Why, when I think of commitment, do I suddenly think of being eaten alive and forfeiting my identity? I would say that obviously has something to do with my history, of course. And, because of the fact that I have seen—in my own life and in the lives of others—love go all sorts of awry. I’ve seen the flames of love start out so colorful, so beautiful, only to turn into a destructive wild fire. Ugh. How tremendously frightening!

Now, here I am, almost at the two year mark of my sobriety and at the year mark in a healthy romantic partnership. I have profoundly changed and my life has profoundly changed and I am filled with gratitude. I have been uber-joyful even in the face of the little “lessons” that the Universe has been sending me about boundary setting and relationships in general. Yet, lately, I have hit a wall. I have felt a little lost. Just last week I stated to my partner: “I don’t know. I feel like I am losing myself. I don’t know what I am asking for. I don’t know what I need.”

This truth that I am in a metaphorical hall of mirrors and that I don’t know which exit door will lead me back to my true self has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with my partner. This wall that I am banging my head against is, perhaps, one of those distorted mirrors—the ones that make you look taller or fatter or completely discombobulated—and I have wondered repeatedly if I even have the capacity to be a good partner. “This can’t be who I really am,” I cry! “If it isn’t, then who am I?!? If it is, then God help me!”

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