On Starting Over, Determinedly

Life has a funny way of giving you exactly what you need, even when it’s the last thing you want.

I haven’t been writing for a long time. I’m committed to changing that. It feels rusty, long-unused, unflexed. I sit here, staring at the blankness, and have no idea where to begin. But that isn’t going to stop me any longer. I’m going to word vomit things and then we’ll hope that the rust falls away as the posts fly from my fingers and I get my groove back.

So much of the next few months will be me getting my groove back.

I’ve had quite a month. Exactly a month ago today, my life started to careen off the track it was on, and now I’m finding myself exactly where I need to be, albeit mostly reluctantly.  Now ex-boyfriend and I went to Costa Rica in early July on a highly-anticipated adventure. Everything was magical, until it wasn’t. Cue a few weeks of uncertainty and panic, then cue the fights and the fallout and all of the upset in between. Then came the back and forth, the negotiations, the ideas of how to fix it proffered exuberantly and hopefully.

Questions arose about whether it was too broken to be saved.  It was.

Ultimately, we each did a lot of digging and still came up short. I’m frustrated. I imagine he is too. We both wanted it to be, and in the way that it was, it wasn’t going to be feasible. Too much clouded any forward progress. I hate it when things fall apart.

Could I have predicted any of this? Absolutely not. I had our life planned. I was finally feeling that things were settling into place, that I had found what I was looking for. Of course, that was not to be. There are moments of regret, for me, that will eat away at me if I let them. There are moments of clarity. There are moments of compassion, of understanding, of confusion. Looking back, I see everything, still a blur. I see the best parts, and I see the inklings that led to the rest of it. I see my truth and his truth and know that the middle is a mush of the actuality of the experience.

I imagine in the coming days and weeks, I’ll feel the swell of any number of emotions. I know that waves of hurt will lap at me, pulling my heart into sadness. I know that I will have moments of despair, feelings of unworthiness, anger, hope, and general panic. I know that I will be lonely. I know that I will feel relief. I know that I will feel all of it, in turn.

The routine of our life together is no longer. It is in that realization that I am the most uncertain. “What are we going to do for dinner?” has been replaced by grocery shopping for one. Weekends seem endless, extensive, empty. Plans of adventures are left discarded. The best parts are left as something for me to look back on sadly, knowing that none of that will ever be again. The inside jokes, the happy routines, the adventures. The memories sit heavy with finality, still tinged with echoes of the pain of lost possibility.

I remember when it first happened, staring out my front door and thinking, I am not ready to do this alone. It was the emptiest despair I’ve felt in a long time.

That’s where my work begins.

I had this idea that we were going to be an unstoppable force, an enduring team. I still want to find that. I still want to be with someone who wants to work together for a bigger purpose, to support each other in turn even when it seems unmanageable.

I won’t be seeking that for quite some time. I’ve got me stuff to do. I’ve got to learn how to manage it all alone, to succeed without losing myself. I’ve got to break the bad habits that hinder my growth. I’ve got to dig deep and examine so much. There really isn’t any time like the present. It’s like that annoying adage about how you have to do something you’ve never done before. I’ve got to continue the work I started a long time ago.

In a stark moment of honesty, during one of our discussions as we desperately tried to find common ground to stand on, I told him that I have been wanting to make my house my home, and that I’ve spent far too much time living other people’s lives. I had wanted us to work together to make a life.

My friend told me that I remind her of Julia Roberts in “Runaway Bride,” because she was always eating her eggs other people’s ways and that she didn’t know how she liked her eggs. I know how I like my eggs – over-medium with lots of pepper in the yolk – but point taken.

It’s time to figure out how to eat eggs.

 

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On #MeToo, Belatedly

TW: Sexual Assault, the usual

Note: I first drafted the majority of this post in October of 2017, but didn’t post it, because like so many, I hate that my art is now my outpouring and that most of my posts are centered on this very thing. But today, revisiting this post, I re-read it and wanted to add to it. So I’m going to post it, because sometimes it’s better to have put it forth into the world. I’ve been meaning to start writing again, in that, I need to push past this block that still weighs heavy on my mind and affects my ability to put forth the content that I’d like to put forth, rather than rumination on this subject.

October 2017:

I first saw “Me too,” posted on the Facebook wall of a friend, who then suggested that a better data point would be “Who hasn’t?” I knew without explanation that she was referring to sexual assault/harassment, and later, upon reading an expanded post, I was in no way surprised.

Having breakfast with my friend/mentor, we talked about what it’s like to be “out” about that sort of thing. I’m out about it, because I couldn’t not be. I don’t always want to be. Sometimes I wish I weren’t. Jesus, it’s the only thing I seem to manage to write about these days. I’d give a lot to give that up.

I think I’ve been anxious since Election Night. That sounds like a weak, victim-y statement, but bear with me, because that’s just a description of a state of being. There’s been a lot to be anxious about, both in and out of my control, and also in this vast world that we live in.  Our leaders are insane and hungry, profit-driven and determined not to assist or better anyone who isn’t useful to them. The stunning lack of empathy in our government today is indicative of far greater social plagues….but, I digress (I see you, Mom):

I cried myself to sleep before the final tally that night, before the concession, before the triumphant Trumpian speech from the Hilton in Midtown. I had a lot on my mind that night. There were so many reasons to cry.

Funny, how so many things that I hate have happened at that Hilton. A sliver of me hopes that parts of my dark energy will haunt the 6th floor of that hotel forever, as a warning, maybe, or even a mere testament to trauma. That’s unfair for the guests, I gather, and so the rest of me, save that sad sliver, wishes that all the strings holding my spirit there have been severed, not merely for the future occupants of that room but also for the salvation of my own soul.

Last year, coming up on the four year anniversary of “the bad thing,” I found myself in New York City for the Women’s March. I felt the nervous energy of return and was possessed with the determination to confront the space of the Midtown Hilton and reclaim it, as though it were an abandoned fence I might turn into fancy, rustic wall art. (April 2018 note: I have no idea what I mean with my abandoned fence metaphor attempt.) As it happens, that’s not exactly how it happened.

But something did happen. Unremarkably quiet but ultimately profound. I went, intent on drinking a Tanqueray and tonic (the drink I was drinking) in the very seat that marks the last memories of who I was, before. It was Sunday night, and after finally gathering the courage, I wandered in, and was denied entry because the bar was closed. Ah, Sunday. Of course.

I stood across the street, staring intently through the darkened window at the bar, at “my” seat. Still for a few minutes, I let whatever feelings I was feeling settle into the pit of my stomach where the darkness lives, and I took a deep breath, blinked, and went home. It was quiet, unfussy, emotional and momentous. I didn’t even cry

That night will never leave me. I’ll never be the same. There’s a sadness somewhere inside me that has yet to subside, and that may never slip away, but the city doesn’t hold me any more. I hated the city so much, for so long. It wasn’t the city’s fault. This last trip to New York, I took it back. I cut the strings, rode the trains, wandered, and was not bound by the past. I felt the promise of the city, the hum of constant motion, and I was truly present.

That week, with all of the news about Harvey Weinstein and the trending “me too” on social media, I felt it rising up again, like bile of the mind. The thoughts crept back, in flashes, memories of tears and anguish, snapshots of that long struggle. It’s not something I think about every day any more; it hasn’t made me cry in quite a while. I get frustrated sometimes, when I think of the hold I let it have over me, and feel weak for not being quicker about it or better about letting it go.

Hearing women say the same thing, over and over, is heart-wrenching. I know that there’s a lot of gray area here, intangible factors at play, misdirected rage at all men when it should only be centered on some, but at the end of the day, it is something that’s far more impactful than you imagine.

April 2018:

The other day, I was through old papers from the glove compartment of my old car. They had been grabbed hastily after the car accident and shoved into a bag, along with nearly a decade of proof of insurance paperwork and maintenance records. I was examining them before throwing them away, and smiled to find the single warning I’ve ever received from a police officer, bringing me back to an optimistic road trip to Chicago when I was still in college. But then, my heart sank a little.

I found a neatly folded piece of paper, thicker than usual, not quite cardstock, and I opened it. Synaptec Software letterhead; my warning; dated 02/04/2013. I read it. I read it again. I stared at the yellowed paper in my hands. It read: I was unreachable for an extended period of time. I missed meetings. I should take steps to ensure that I am ready and able to attend all scheduled work meetings. I remember that meeting. I remember my old boss, Gretchen, asking me if I might have been drugged. Me repeating over and over that something must have happened, because nothing made sense. Them telling me that they were leaving that part out to “protect” me. Five years on, I tore that paper into shreds and threw it away. Like those outdated insurance documents, it’s useless to me now. There’s nothing to be done – it exists as proof of something that has long since faded into the oblivion for everyone but me.

Since the #metoo movement, I’ve often wondered what would have happened if my sexual assault would have happened now, whether it would have been handled differently; whether someone would have listened; or whether the salesman would have received anything other than the verbiage including “no matter how noble your intentions” in his write up, issued 6 months after the incident, and only at the urging of outside legal counsel. Optics and defensibility, thin as those may have been.

But I am constantly reminded that not everyone understands.

I was talking to one of my dearest family members the other night, and we were talking about life, as we do, and I told her that when I finally told my family about the assault, months later, one of my aunts said to me, “Well, what have you learned?” and my own brother’s response was, “Jesus, Katie, you can’t just accuse people of that.”

My family member texted me the next day, and told me that she hadn’t been able to get it out of her head, and that she understands what it’s like to go against the norm in a traditional family. She said, no matter what, we are here for you and we love you and we have your back. That text meant the world to me. Those small, seemingly insignificant moments of support are everything.

So many people lack a fundamental understanding of the emotional damage wrought, and lack the ability to respond in a supportive way. My own boyfriend, on the five-year anniversary of the incident, didn’t understand, and went off on a rant about how anniversaries are just arbitrary and that the emotions that come with them are therefore arbitrary as well, due the arbitrary nature of the Gregorian calendar. I was furious. My rage was not just at him, though. It burns tight, coiled inside me, and erupts out in furious tears at the most inconvenient times, so much less so now, though.

Arbitrary as anniversaries may be to some, they are full of weight for others. He recognized that his attempt at reasoning me out of my furious but ultimately futile funk was wildly incorrect, and apologized, and I was understanding of that, because for him, there’s nothing he can do to help save me from my own memories, and his off-base attempts to outmaneuver my feelings were rooted in some sort of attempt at empathy, a way to ease my troubled mind. Many conversations ensued, and I’d like to think that they were productive and informative. I have his support and his understanding, and that’s amazing.

And yet, in the midst of all of it, is the frustration that comes when people so wrongly want to align themselves with this in a way that ultimately undermines the experiences of those who have actually lived the experience. That’s my current frustration, and not one I can even begin to address in this post. We focus so much on trauma, and its effects on the mind and body, and while everyone has lived through their own particularly traumatic moments, each is insular to its owner. Your trauma is not mine. I cannot live it with you. I can try to sit with you and hold space for your trauma, but I will never be enmeshed in your memories. I think that realization has extended my ability to empathize. Sometimes, people don’t need to “learn” anything. Sometimes they just need someone to understand.

 

On the Dog Door, Determinedly

The lawyer I work for is out of town, so he asked me to watch his dog this weekend. I am in love with his dog, a giant Rottweiler named Tank who imagines he’s a lapdog. He’s not.

I went over there to feed the dog on Saturday morning, and I couldn’t find the key anywhere. I looked in all the logical places and finally called the lawyer. His girlfriend told me that he forgot to leave me a key. I asked what the best way to break in might be. She directed me to the dog door.

I groaned inwardly. Dog doors are notoriously tight places. I’m not as tiny as I used to be (although still confident that I can fit through a dog door), so I went around the back to prepare for my journey through the door. Tank saw me coming and rushed through the dog door into the backyard, his whole body shaking with canine excitement. We exchanged greetings, and once he’d settled down, I tried to get him to go through first. He refused, ever the gentleman.

I shoved my keys and phone through the door, within arm’s reach just in case something went awry, and then let me arms and shoulders go through. About the time that my hips were approaching the dog door, Tank decided that he, too, needed to be in the house immediately. He nudged me, but given that my hips were in the middle of the dog door, he couldn’t get through.

As soon as my hips cleared the frame, however, he rushed in. For a few seconds, it was Tank and I tangled in the dog door. He made it through, of course, I wasn’t so lucky. I scraped my shin against the bottom of the door frame, cursing his dog body for being so large and him for being unaware of that fact. But as soon as I got through and saw his sweet puppy face, all annoyance melted away.

We spent a very companionable weekend together, and I’m wishing we were getting a Rottweiler instead of whatever it is that my roommate has his heart set on.

On Mulch, Quite Miserably

Apparently, when you buy a house, you’re supposed to do a whole bunch of adult things to maintain said house, including, but most certainly not limited to: furnace filter changing; gutter cleaning; garbage disposal replacement; regular sewer pipe scraping; and landscaping.

Alas, landscaping has escaped me for the better part of half of a decade (whoa, has it really been that long?), and now I’m faced with the fight against the slight gentrification of my neighborhood, meaning that I have to step up my lawn game to avoid being the most Englewood-looking house on the block. “Englewood” is herein defined as a term of locale, endearment, and subtle commentary on the fact that most Englewoods are exactly as you imagine them to be: charming; possessing the issues of small suburban governments; and well, Englewood-y.

I have come to adore this place, and yet, I do recognize that it as a whole is a fantastic embodiment of the word “quirky.” I’m right at home. Literally. But also figuratively.

For reference, and for those of you who imagine I sound like an elitist asshat, when we bought our house, the people who lived in the house next door had a treadmill or a refrigerator or some giant appliance just chilling on their front porch, and as such, I felt as though we were in some way insulated from any judgement passed by the locals about the state of the exterior aesthetic of our abode.

It’s not like that anymore. There’s currently (and has been for some time), a clear distinction between our property and the property of our next door neighbor. Granted, he has a sprinkler system and apparently expendable free time, while he clearly chooses to spend on his lawn. As a result, it’s green and glorious, everything you might imagine that a suburban lawn should be. Mine is exactly the opposite, dead and dry, and full of weeds that I can’t fight no matter how hard I try.

The house on the other side of us is currently inhabited by renting college bros, with their cases of Keystone Light and annoying friends who can’t seem to figure out how to park correctly. Before they moved in, the man living there did a complete overhaul of his backyard and turned it into a magical space for entertaining. There’s now a fire pit, adorable lights, and a new stone patio area. It looked amazing. Even the young couple who overpaid for their flipped house two doors down have done yard things that have made their house look adorable.

For this reason (and many others), even slight gentrification blows.

My friends had a house in what used to be considered a rougher area of Denver (I have a lot of thoughts about what constitutes a “rough” area, but that’s for another day), which has since been horribly gentrified. After the hipsters moved in, with their horizontal fence boards and their remodeled kitchens, the neighborhood changed. Last year, my friends were issued a ticket from the city because the weeds on their front lawn were over the city’s stated legal height requirements. No matter that the lawn was mostly dirt (and overgrown sad pumpkin vines from an attempt to grow crops), and had been for as long as anyone could remember, the city (acting on instruction from whichever new-build neighbor called in the complaint) felt compelled to issue that ticket. So we spent the better part of a day pulling the weeds and cleaning up the fifteen feet of side-of-the-sidewalk space so people with too much money and time on their hands could walk past without being offended by the existence of the space. (I should have taken pictures. It seriously wasn’t that bad at all. And I guess that should have fallen to the landlord to address if he was so concerned about it anyway.)

I know, it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s the same overreach as the new-build neighbors who called in to the city to try to remove the street light that illuminated the housing across the street. They were bothered that it shone into their windows. Their request was denied. But seriously? You buy a million dollar house in a gentrified neighborhood and then presume to impose upon the existing implements of illumination? (….I understand I have no real argument here, I just like “existing implements of illumination.”) But it’s annoying. I’m all for getting to know your neighbors, but I do think that at some point, let everyone maintain their own island in the middle of the world.

Anyway, my neighborhood isn’t quite like that – yet. A few years ago, the neighbor across the alley from me told me that if I cut my bush in the backyard back, it would allow her to see into my backyard better so she could keep an eye on me, just in case something bad happened. While I have some belief that she may have meant well, I took it as a veiled threat (I’ve been to the South; I know what “Bless your heart” means), and promptly fertilized that bush as much as humanly possible so that it could form a sort of forest-like fence and protect any of my weirdness from cross alley voyeurism.

However, in the interests of maintaining the appearance of adulthood, I am now taking an interest in the landscaping. As it turns out, this is ridiculously complicated. One of my married friends has what I always call a “Pinterest” backyard because of its well-manicured nature and absolute perfection, and now I realize how many actual man hours went into that damn thing. I will now always bring him beer because I suddenly understand how horrible it is to maintain the semblance of gracious hosting that comes with said Pinterest backyard.

So….in the interest of disclosure, I am mostly a moron when it comes to things of adulthood and the nature of home care, and was completely unprepared for the maintenance of said home. I have learned, however slowly, to mow a lawn and care for my two beautiful rose bushes, which bloom in hues of pink and purple.

Last year, I attempted to edge properly, keeping the lawn and concrete at an amicable distance. I did not achieve this, but in the interest of the attempt, I am satisfied.

I now realize that lawn mowing alone is not enough. I have, to date, ripped up multiple odd bushes and annoying overgrowth, and last summer attempted to plant bushes and plants to replace them. Those plants died. I am concerned that I have inherited (or in this case of adoption, osmosis-ed) my mother’s inability to care for live plants. But alas, this year, I have begun again, with the vigor of a new homeowner, and the determination of someone faced with the prospect of utter failure but blessed with the refusal to quit. I have planted a new rose bush, a blackberry bush, three strawberry plants. I am now in the process of doing the mulch.

This whole post began with a thought about mulch. Where in the manual of man (human, whatever) does it tell you that you’re supposed to mulch annually? I guess this is a thing, but how was I supposed to know?

They should give you a booklet of things you ought to know, or better yet, bring back Home Economics so that we might have a leg up once we’re set loose into the world. Mulch should be included in that booklet, or covered for at least a day in Home Ec. Mulching is miserable, but necessary. (Honestly, that’s all it really has to say.)

As I’ve dug through the indignity that is the dirt at my house, I’ve learned that it’s quite tightly packed, full of clay, and not at all like the happy, soft dirt you see in gardening commercials. I jump on the shovel, the shovel goes in a couple of inches if I’m lucky, I put my weight into prying said shovel up and out of the ground, and manage to move a rock-sized clod of dirt, and then repeat. I’m going to be very strong.

So on top of this mulch business, you have to buy dirt. You have to manage the disposal of your own low-quality dirt such that it’s all neatly bagged with the leaves and ancient mulch and out for trash day. And then you have to haul yourself over to Home Depot to pay money for more dirt.

This is quite the racket they’ve got going on.

I’ll keep you posted, but the plan now is to fertilize and reseed the lawn, which has great swathes of dead space now, burnt to a crisp in the late summer sun, aided not at all by the infrequent waterings and my general disdain for housework. After that, I’ll clear out the overgrowth and keep what groundcover seems most stubborn, and then hope to keep the tiny plants in the front alive. If I can manage that, I’ll clear out the old garden area, clear out the planters in the front area, plant some wildflowers or other climate appropriate low water, high irritation tolerating plants, and then watch my work blossom into something beautiful. Or wither. Whichever.

Baby steps.

On Life, Currently

I’m currently at a rec center while my seven year old cousin does dance lessons, and since the WI-FI isn’t going to let me play video games, I might as well post blog updates while I wait. (I’ve been back on a DOTA kick lately – I’m not even a little bit ashamed to admit that I’ve been sucked back in and I’m loving it. Today I even branched out and played a new character — which is a big deal since I usually only play the same 2 in rotation — and found myself not only wildly successful, but feeling oddly confident, too. It was a win-win. And we won.)

Whoa, it’s been a while since I posted. As far as things go, a lot has happened. And then also at the same time, very little has happened. But I think that’s how life generally works. It’s all and nothing, all at once. The pendulum somehow seems to swing in both directions, simultaneously.

First of all, there’s a ridiculous story about my MacBook Pro getting stolen, “recovered” by a man named Gator, and then returned to me . My dad, being terrified that I was about to get murdered, cautioned me about meeting Gator at the location of the dumpster – his fear? That Gator and his Gator-aides would rob me further (despite the fact that the robbery was surprisingly thorough for a grab and dash – smash and grab – jimmy for junk – whatever) and then kill me. Oh the dad jokes. Hilarious. Not so much when you’re on your way to right across the street from the Casa Bonita to meet some cops and Gator.

The world is a frustrating place. I have many thoughts on this, the first being, when you break into a 1996 Toyota Camry, what exactly do you expect to get? Also, people who steal are the worst. I’m okay with a significant number of other crimes, up to and including justifiable homicide, but theft is straight bullshit any way you look at it. It’s never been something I’ve engaged in or something I would condone or understand, and now that it’s happened to me multiple times in my life, I’m even more incensed.

Here’s my facebook status from the event: Today, I met a man named Gator in a parking lot off Colfax. He told me he found my computer in a dumpster, and then gave it back to me, swearing he hadn’t seen my giant black bag or my quilt and admitting to playing around on my computer for two days before calling me. He also said he’d seen my other stuff (laundry basket, etc) in the dumpster, which he took me to but had conveniently been emptied this morning. Despite being certain he had something to do with the theft and mildly disappointed that he wasn’t wearing my glittery tights, I am still absolutely kicking myself for not shouting, “Later, Gator!” as I drove away.

So of course I did what any reasonable human being would do when confronted with the super suspicious circumstances of getting their old-ass laptop returned to them by a seemingly good Samaritan even though that person admitted to having used said laptop for the better part of several days, I turned around and bought a new laptop. My old one was primarily being utilized as a Netflix-consumption vehicle, and on its last tiny laptop legs. So until I get it cleaned and de-bugged and thoroughly returned to normal (read: me not being terrified to open it after watching way too much Black Mirror using said Netflix machine), it is collecting dust on a shelf in my living room. And I’m okay with that.

I went to the store and bought a new one. I got a good deal: it’s got an SSD, solid amounts of memory and power, and the graphics card that might finally allow me to also play video games while on the go. (Because this is 2017, and I just realized that I haven’t purchased anything new and nice and “big ticket” since 2009. And the thing was on sale. I feel good.) It’s now very locked down – fingerprint, PIN, and/or password. It’s intense. No one named Gator is getting anywhere near this baby.

Second in the big news department: I have a new job. Sort of. I’m still booked to nanny through the summer, which will be cool because the summer gig will be full time and I should be having moderately excellent adventures while hanging out with wonderful kiddos.

But now I will also have part-time professional work on the side, which is fantastic. I’ve been terrified that taking over a year “off” to pursue different sorts of work would affect my career potential in a seriously negative way (not that I regret any of it for a single second). The fear I won’t be able to transition back into the professional world after having worn yoga pants and playing with kids for a year is now allayed. Although….if you’ve ever had children, or been a caretaker of children, you know that professional jobs are a cakewalk compared to trying to wrangle children all day every day.

I’m ridiculously excited about this opportunity and I think it’s going to be wonderful. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to grow in this position and that I’ll really be an asset to the firm. Fingers are crossed that this turns into some really beautiful things.

Read all about it (and me) here.

So yep. That’s what’s up. Also, I might be trying to live alone soon. My roommate and I have reached an impasse of living together -and I believe that either she’ll be moving out or I will be moving in with a friend while she finishes out her lease. Regardless, I’m excited/nervous/thrilled to be attempting to do my house on my own. Living with people is hard, and I think that for the next phase of my life, I’d like to embrace the solitude of self-reliance. Also, this year I’ve got landscaping plans and a huge list of around-the-house projects that I’d like to get a jump on. I’m going to create the very best nest and make it very much my own.

 

 

 

On the Fall of Language, Morosely

I found this in my drafts….I’m posting this from four years ago without cross-referencing the links and without adding anything. Fingers crossed that the links still work….

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/opinion/sunday/the-decline-and-fall-of-the-english-major.html

shrinking words http://phys.org/news/2012-03-words-dying-added-languages-digital.html

I’ve always loved books. My friend Katie has too. Today, we were discussing how frustrating it is that books are no longer the same sources of refuge and information that they once were. She blames e-readers. I blame capitalism.

On Everything, Moderately un-Terribly

My best friend and I used have to a running joke – it was during our initial (and ironic) over-embrace of hashtags that #everythingisterrible was born, but it stuck, and we loved it. (I still love it. It makes everything so much less terrible.)

I recently got an email from an old friend, Thanksgiving always makes me think of him and sometimes my blog depresses him. He hopes I’m well.

I thought about it, and then realized that yes, it appears that my days of sassily commenting on anything and everything are gone, and much like a sophomore album, I’ve become overly aware of everything that I put into the world, so much so that I’ve lost my magic touch of willy-nilly commentary, and instead, settled for the pedantic prose that comprises the highs and lows of life, without even attempting to describe or relate via text the in-between.

Ah, the in-between.

It’s not even the pedantic parts that I’ve neglected lately; it’s the everything. I’ve not been writing. Not writing is not a good thing for me. Coincidentally, perhaps, my everything has been falling apart lately, shedding bits of legitimacy left and right, pixelated shards flying off at warp speed. (Imagine the scene where the Death Star blows up, first becoming pieces, then an all-engulfing ball of flame, exploding outward into the void….it’s like that.)

Instead of the calm that comes from the meditative movement of my fingers over computer keys, I’ve been anxiously assessing life at the speed of my mind, which is in perpetual overdrive, warp speed ad nauseam. Of course, add a pinch of stress and some emotional upset, and you’ve got a recipe for free falling disaster.

The world has turned upside down lately. It’s been dark and dreary, full of nightmares and fits of tears. It was an abrupt return to places I thought I would not again revisit, and yet, found that the oddly familiar comforts of flailing still fit quite well, like an old pair of jeans.

Feelings, those stupidly beautiful emotions that somehow manage to knit my perception of my experiences into the rich life that it is. When it’s beautiful, it’s the best, soaring and sweet, and when it’s dark, it’s the darkest, four am in the dead of winter, sharp and threatening.

At times, I’m overly empathic, ever so much to my detriment. I realized that there were a few specific energy-draining situations in my life, and since one of them is an every day sort of deal, it was a huge revelation for me. I immediately set to work reframing and noticed marked improvement within two days. Ah yes, captain of my own ship, dammit, and a tiny tyrant cannot shape my worldview, despite all efforts to the contrary.

It’s not all doom and gloom, I promise. It can’t be. Even the longest winters must come to an end. Life is like that, I suppose, pedantic in its own right, the natural swaying of states to be expected, and ultimately, hopefully, adapted to, little markers of growth and change, progression and progress.

Grieving is hard. Lots of grief lately. Change is something I hate, and I have a really hard time accepting that I can’t understand everything, or know everything, or fix everything. It’s a thing I’ll be working on until I die. Somethings must be left undone, unfinished, unmended, and that’s okay. (Yeah, I said it. It’s okay. But easier said than done, much like a most things.)

I lost my steel son, Simon, in a remarkably random accident. Mechanical failure took him from me 3000 miles before we would have celebrated our 100,000 mile anniversary, and even though I cried so hard while I was unscrewing his license plates in the back lot of my mechanic’s garage in 13 degree weather (much to the amusement of the staff), I am unscathed, well compensated, and in possession of something that very nearly resembles a vehicle. (Kidding, mostly.) The aptly named Millennium Falcon has nearly 250,000 miles on it, and even though its handling is exactly what I imagine flying its namesake must be like, it is the car in which I learned how to drive; it has carried me safely a million places; parallel parking it doesn’t suck that much; and it will do just fine, minus the fact that it has no/little heat. Layers. Layers. Layers.

I always joke that my guardian angel pin (the one that my mom got me when I was 16 that lives in my car) is the Usain Bolt of guardian angels, but honestly, the universe was looking out for me. In that flash of moment where the steel settled, connected now to concrete and I sat, still and uncertain, I realized that whatever reason I’m here hasn’t unreasoned itself yet, and I might still be needed somewhere to do a thing at some point. Which was a funny way to receive the message, but trust me, it was received loud and clear…I was three inches from hurtling headlong into the back of a giant pickup truck at nearly 40 miles per hour, and in the scratches on the road where my everything fell apart, you see a nearly perfect bell curve come around the truck and into the empty space where the bits (wheel, etc.) fell away and my car collided with just the cement of the high curb. Magic. Or my own magical reflexes, which based on my DOTA gameplay, I can tell you with certainty that it’s definitely not my reflexes, mostly. (Although I am a fantastically defensive/assertive/not tremendously aggressive driver. I’m quick and aware, like a deer.)

I’ve allowed myself to muddle along in the muck for long enough, feeling the bad things all over again in a new and different way (there may be a thousand ways to leave your lover, but did you know that there are at least that many ways to rehash/revisit all your life traumas? Because I didn’t, until recently), and finally, sick of that, I’m taking stock of lessons learned/relearned and I’m hitching up my big girl pants; I’m finally (dear god, finally couldn’t come soon enough) ready to head back into the light.

The funny thing is that these dark spells often signal the coming of something wonderful, opportunity and outreach. The first hints of forward progress came quietly, the beginning of the dawn. Joy is not so elusive; it’s just sometimes hard to see through all the bullshit.

For one thing, I have a very exciting new work announcement coming soon! I’m thrilled, ecstatic, overjoyed. It was such an organic opportunity, and it’s one that I’m hoping will be really fruitful and magical. It’s something I’m feeling incredibly confident about and something that I hope to be able to expand, nurture, and grow.

Also, as I’m so often reminded, I have the best village of people in my life. My village people are wonderful. They’re strange, of course, an odd assortment of randomly skilled human beings with kind hearts, good sense, and killer dance moves. But to be surrounded by love, and to be able to reach out for it when you need it feels really good. I didn’t cry alone this time. I was held and cared for; reasoned at (because everyone knows you can’t reason with me…I’m immune); catered to – did you know you can have people make you things/get you things/bring you tea in the bathtub? I did not. This is a new revelation. I will be taking advantage of this; understood; and mostly, most importantly, heard.

It’s odd, to fall down a little bit when you’re stronger than you were the last time shit went down. It’s odd because you have a new threshold for no more bullshit. My therapist always used to tell me that I have a really uncharacteristically unreasonably high tolerance for crazy, and also a level of optimism that someone with my past shouldn’t actually have, and that those things get me into trouble, because they can’t co-exist together without some really weird things happening. (True.)

But also, somewhere along the way, I picked up on that whole idea of self love (or at the very least became beautifully aware of my own sentience in relation to the rest of the world). I’ve realized that I really do have a breaking point. I also realized that I matter to myself a lot more than I thought. I don’t know how to explain that. But to be able to realize that you’re owning your actions, doing that whole acting with integrity and truth thing, and then accepting responsibility for your shit is a really empowering big deal. Realizing that you are okay and that you get to choose to find that light sometimes gives you that last boost of oomph that helps you climb out of that damn hole of darkness.

But I digress…

In light of choosing to channel all this scattered, nervous energy into new and beautiful endeavors, I have decided that my word of 2017 will be “intention.” With that, my first intention is to breathe. Because dammit, I’m going to learn how to meditate. And if I intend about it now, then I’m bound by my own obligations to myself. It’s hopefully foolproof! I’m going to still myself. I’m going to hold onto singularity. I’m going to spend time in my sphere/cube of universe that I found last year while doing the intense heavy forgiveness meditating and I’m going to love it. I’m going to breathe about all the things, engulfed my own happiest place,which is an odd blend of sparkling darkness, warm watery places, and the distance between the sky and grass. Hopefully it’ll be all right. Or at least still.

 

 

On “Enough,” Certainly

“Enough” is a funny word.

The dictionary defines “enough” as: “as much or as many as required.”

Is there ever such a thing as “enough?” Are you ever really “enough” of …… anything?

I wasn’t “enough” for a recent boyfriend. We dated for six months. He was a decade older than me, and I imagined that he might be wiser. I had a key to his house. He made me space: dresser space, drawer space, closet space. I had the requisite shower space, too – a toothbrush, conditioner, razor, the hair dryer tucked into a closet spot. We made a little life together, however briefly.

But at the end of the day, no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t “enough.”

I wasn’t feminine “enough,” fancy “enough,” together “enough,” tan “enough.” I was too opinionated, too “resistant,” too loud. I was too gangly, too skin-picky, too anxious, too poor, too uncertain, too messy, too much.

And you know what? At the end of the day, I didn’t care.

But that’s stupid. Because I cared. For a while. Until I didn’t. Until I couldn’t any longer. Until the weight of the trying to lose myself became too unbearable.

For a long time, I wanted to be “enough.” I wanted to be tan, sweet, feminine, kind, and ultimately, “enough” for him. I wanted to be the wife he wanted, the future wife that he saw in me.

But I wasn’t ever “enough.” I never could have been. I was too much me, which was never “enough” of the “right” thing. It never worked and it wasn’t going to, and yet for a long time, I wanted so desperately to belong. I wanted to fit into his world, to be his person, to make his life the things that he wanted them to be. I wanted to fit into his ideal of what it was to be “enough;” I wanted to wake up in his arms and roll over and have him validate me, to tell me that I mattered to him, and that I was “enough.”

It didn’t start like that. I came into it enough.

There was so much of that. There were mornings where I felt “enough,” like the first time we showered together, and he washed my feet and held my legs ceremoniously, and I felt pure and clean and perfect. Worth washing, worth the soap.

And eventually, it became about him. It wasn’t me. It was his routine, his lifestyle that I was leading. I let go of who I was at the beginning, and I attempted to become the person that I thought he wanted me to be. I was still kind, of course, still accommodating and sweet, but I stopped being sassy and sharp, and started being him.

He made me oatmeal every day before I went to work. I pushed for more fruit in the oatmeal; eventually I learned how to make his oatmeal, except I made it in a way that made me happy. I thought in those moments that it was a compromise that would work. We had made communally acceptable oatmeal, and dammit, we were going to make it. Naivete, Katie, naivete. So stupid and pure, your soul. Dumb, deaf, and blind to the reality of the whole thing. Dumb, deaf, and blind with hope.

I would make the oatmeal, and take it to work with me, and I’d eat a part of it, sort of, and then throw the rest away. I hated the nuts. I worked for the fruit. I ate through the oatmeal for the fruit. And the rest, I’d dump into the trash can. I’d proudly take the empty container home at the end of the day, a sordid continuation of an empty charade.

I guess I should have known earlier. I didn’t. One night, we were all at Red Rocks with friends, and I was happily hopped up on things, and he was stone sober. We ran into friends. Months later, after it all fell apart, a friend told me that he had known it wasn’t going to work at that moment: me, loving everything, and him, sober, the two of us on different planets. The friend was right.

I don’t belong. I have never felt as though I belong in his world, the contradictory connected moments few and far between. I never have. I couldn’t have ever existed in his world, particularly not in that situation. I didn’t play by his rules; I didn’t subscribe to his beliefs; I didn’t play the world the way he does.

For him, I wasn’t enough.

But…I am enough.

Not “enough,” but enough. In my own right. On some other level. Unequivocally enough, somehow, somewhere. That’s the hope, right?

We spend the majority of our lives attempting to live by some unspoken set of rules. We attempt to find truth and meaning in our experiences, in our attempts, and in our ways of attributing all of that to society.

There is, in society, nothing and everything. It is such that the benefits are rooted in survival of the fittest, the most adept at acclimation. There is financial gain, to be certain, but that comes at the expense of our time – we mingle and -monger in the ways that benefit us the most, but at the end of the day, we have become indebted to a structure that is unsustainable. At some point, all that we have is ourselves, and I think that’s the most sobering reality of the whole endeavor.

If and when our business ventures fail, when we are no longer successful or fancy or en vogue, we lose the things that connected us to those people in the first place. And then what? The struggle for the sham that is societal validation stagnates. We are left with nothing but the ongoing attempts to verify and validate and recreate in order to remain relevant.

I don’t play by those rules.

And so I lose.

I lost that man. That was okay. The story I tell you here is not one of longing, or hope that someday we’ll find each other in the stars. Hah. It’s the stark opposite. I’m attempting to explain to you what it means to be “enough.” I knew it then, even through the convenient neglect of that glaring fact, and I’m attempting to explain how and why the broken parts of my soul saw the broken parts of his soul, and thought that finally, I had arrived at something that was “enough.” I was wrong.

Life has a funny way of giving you everything that you need, in a way that is the absolute worst. Sometimes it seems the best, but even then, you have to be cautious, because good is uncertain, unsustainable, and incredible. Incredible is a funny word, almost as funny as “enough,” but that’s another story.

You can never trust the incredible. You can (and should) feel it. Feel it fully, as the NLP tapes say. Feel that shit fully, and incredibly, and let it settle into you in a way that stirs you straight through to your curdled, clammy soul. But don’t you dare try to hold onto it, because with a flash, it’s all gone. Milk and clumpy flour through your fingertips, cold and wet and intangible.

When the end happened, as was inevitable, and could have been foretold by anyone and everyone (and was), I wasn’t upset, hurt, or devastated. I was free. Free from someone else’s version of what it meant to be “enough.” I was hopeful, happy, and free to resume rampant gluten consumption. Which I did.

I was alone, and I was okay, and I was enough.

It’s funny; last night I was at a thing with some people and I was talking with this incredible woman and we were commiserating about things, and I explained that situation, briefly, and she was shocked. She asked me if I knew another of his exes, whom I know well and love deeply, and she told me that they’ve had more than several conversations since the two of them (this man, and this ex whom I love) briefly dated about what it means to be “enough.” She said that he had scarred her in ways that I was also now regurgitating. I laughed, only because the sudden realization landed that in spite of being free and sweet and kind and resilient, whatever it was that happened did set loose some sort of internal stirring, a shaking unsettling of the self.

It was as though so much that had been done had been undone, unintentionally, but certainly. The questioning resurfaced, and those stupid long-buried thoughts still linger, like unwanted guests, long after the table has been cleared and the curtains let down to guard against the dark.

I knew before that I was “enough,” whatever that means, that my bright weird soul shines, even if it doesn’t always shine in socially sanctioned situations. I knew that I was okay, that my opinions mattered, that my sense of self worth was tenuous but tangible, and that I am, in some way, valuable. I must be.

I know that we all get those moments of choice, where we get to choose who and what we are, and I know that sometimes, most of the time, we let our emotions run everything in a less than desirable way. I know that because that’s what I am, that tangled emotionally-driven hot mess of a human. That’s what human is, the unbearable heavy weight of feeling. It’s all bullshit, but that’s the essence of our experience. We can’t be without that drive, we can’t ignore that inner guide, especially when it’s screaming about something or other.

Yesterday, the five year old that I nanny for asked me “anxiety” meant. We were on the way to pick up his siblings, and his little voice reached out from the back seat and asked that beautiful question. I told him it just meant being nervous and worried, on guard, sometimes for no reason at all, usually detrimentally so. They’ve traced a lot of that to childhood experiences, you know, that consistent stirring of panic, the result of years of uncertain situations with uncertain outcomes, the constant evaluation of any number of consequences arising from any given action, inaction, reaction.

Enough.

I’ve had enough of the uncertainty, enough of the panic, enough of the unsettling. I’ve had enough of being enough but not enough-enough.

This morning, I talked a mother through a divorce.

I hold so much for other people, and I love that it. I love being there for people. I love holding people. I love explaining election results to children in an understandable manner. I love holding my six year old before I leave because she loves me and one hug just isn’t enough. I love the demands that I come jump on the trampoline with the kids, because they don’t want to jump alone. I love answering the phone for my crazy ex-boyfriend when he has no one else to call.

It means that I matter, but I don’t do any of it to be needed. I do it because I know what it’s like to be alone, and uncertain, and to feel stupidly unloved. That feeling resonates, in a very real way. I am anxiety incarnate, the eventual expulsion of the nervous energy that was my upbringing.

I was forceful about it – I told a dude, in no uncertain terms, that I hadn’t been enough for my ex-boyfriend, and that if I wasn’t enough for him, that wasn’t my problem, it was his.

Dear god, that felt good, the silly verbal assertion that I was enough. It stuck. It felt warm and true.

Goddammit, I’m enough. I’m a lot; I’m aware that sometimes I’m too much, but at least I’m me and not someone else’s version of what they wanted me to be. I own my shit, I understand my panic, and I feel too much. There are certain things that just can’t be taken away, that don’t meld into the normal. Those things aren’t always pretty, but at least they’re real. Intangible but manageable.

Ha, maybe that’ll be the title of my memoir, “Intangible but Manageable.”

 

On Seeking, Truthfully

Lately, I’ve been all sorts of tangled-swirling inside – the kind of storm that’s slow-building yet electric. It’s a heavy late-summer thunderstorm: thick, dark rolling clouds and unending pulses of lightning, creeping with overshadowing intent.

Part of it is self-made – I’ve been procrastinating “real life” now for six months, and I’m ridiculously happy with that. I’ve been ignoring my household duties (my room looks like the aftermath of a fashion show, everything strewn everywhere, much to my dismay – but no one should be remotely shocked about that; it’s a constant battle), and I’ve been enjoying putting off the hell that is cubicle chasing. I love that.

I’ve been living without taking frequent stock of any given situation, mostly on a weekly “what is my schedule going to be now?” sort of basis. It’s been freeing, honestly, in a way that I can’t attempt to describe. While I’m clearly not killing it on a financial level, I’m static in an “I can pay the bills” sort of way, and I’m making about what I made at my last job with fewer hours worked and significantly less stress.

I’m still searching, and I’m not afraid to admit that. I know that I have written quite a bit about how I imagined my life would be (hah, younger Katie, you’re so naive), and how I had always thought that I would someday stumble upon the perfect career path. This summer taught me a lot about what a sad facade the ideal is, and in that, I’ve let go of a lot of assumptions/presumptions (same meaning, one’s sexier) about what it is that I want to be.

Instead, I’m settling into me, at long last, stilling the reckless pursuit of perfect and ruminating on the resoluteness that is my own true self. It’s silly how circular it seems to be, and yet, there’s nothing necessarily cyclical about it.

I was hit over the head with art recently, in a way that was a clear reminder that I cannot go without creating. I cannot not write – it calms my soul, heals me, and provides an outlet no amount of yoga ever could. I cannot not do weird things – I recently partook in a music video shoot where I bound a man and water boarded him. With milk. And so much flour. (He later told me I have a very calming presence, so that was comforting in a quiet but certain way.) It reminded me of that Friends episode with Ross and the leather pants – “They’ve made a paste!”

The past few weeks have been unsettling, in a way that’s not unfamiliar, but feels like those blurry parts of life when you’re caught up in the moment, completely encased in the now. I’ve let go of “what will be” and am attempting to embrace what is and is not, and in that, I’m feeling the sort of freedom that I’ve been chasing wholeheartedly since I was a college freshman on the brink of something better.

I had happy hour tonight with a longtime friend who’s stood by me through everything, and whom I love dearly, and in that, we were discussing dating. I laughed, and described my current situation, much to her dismay. She laughed, though, as I told her that I think I’ve been trying to hard to find that ideal instead of my ideal, and she suggested that I’m just looking for my own Mickey Avalon. Yep. College all over again.

I told her that I have recently come to understand, innately, my own odd. I am a part of this earth, and yet I’m not. I’ve never felt like I am a part of a thing; I’ve always felt slightly at odds, somehow indifferent to and hyperaware of that “thing” that everyone else understands, and yet lately, I’m in a sort of place that demands exploration and understanding.

Who are we if not the sum of our experiences, the culmination of a hundred and twelve thousand adventures, a story to be told to our children, if we should be so lucky to make them?

I am a four on the Enneagram, so bear with me on that deep level of narcissistic internalization, but understand that for me, the beauty is the experience, the reflection, the resonance of adventure. My soul seeks to be understood, to be heard and valued and cherished, and without that, I don’t know what else to do. When the drums of the heart call, I can’t not answer them, because I am nothing if not the most romantically inclined human being on this planet. It’s insane. I hate it, and yet, I relish it, because with each and every interaction, I see the humanity that plagues us. I feel it, so ridiculously deeply, and it hurts and it’s horrible and it’s simultaneously the most beautiful gift I could have been given.

To love deeply, and to want to do that, is the hardest task we’ve been assigned. It’s easy to ignore it, to turn that blind eye to complacency, and yet, when those floodgates open, the call has sounded and I refuse to let it go unheeded. Hubris, mostly; solace, ultimately; and everything catastrophic that lies in the in between. It is perhaps the searching that hurts the most, the moments of naked truth that cut the deepest, and those fraught moments in the middle that matter the most.

I am still lost, read a t-shirt. I laughed, that’s dumb. But it’s not at all. It is everything, exactly, summed up into four words, one sweetly succinct phrase. It is my rallying cry at the moment, and I am leaping in with both feet, determined to drown in the process or rise to the challenge, drifting determinedly to the place we were told we could never have.

I want it. I will find it. And if I don’t, at least I’ll have one hundred and twelve thousand stories to tell about the greatest-ever undertaking that is my own adventure.

On the Self, and Love, Actually

Some of us are blessed with the ability to fall in love at an alarming rate; take me for example, I fall in love 60% of the time, every time (but really, just mostly every time). But over the course of my life,  I’ve come to learn that there’s something slightly more difficult about real love.

Fluff love – the stuff of rom coms, complete with the brief rise of butterflies – doesn’t count as real love, and even though we all chase that fleeting feeling, we’re chasing the wrong thing.

Being able to sustain something is where the real work begins, or rather, where the fluff love ends and the real love begins. Part of the problem is the whole actually finding the right thing thing, because the fluff of love is ubiquitous, if you want it, but it is truly rare to find a sustainable connection, the kind that burns warm and comfortable even after the glittering newness has faded. It requires a lot: finesse, dedication, truly aligned values and goals, but honestly (and my old therapist will be so happy that this landed), it’s all about acceptance.

At first, you’re okay with the exterior compatibility stuff – you both love fine wine, hooray!; you love fantasy football (or at least need a fantasy consultant at least once a week to sustain a moderate league ranking), oh joy!; you both attended private kindergartens in the Northwest, woohoo! – but at the end of that, you need the long term compatibility stuff – are we similar enough people to do actually do this life together?  To do this when things aren’t fuzzy and bubbly with champagne tingles, when you’ve realized that they’ve left the damn cabinets open again for the 8th time this week and you might want to murder them, or when they’re tired and grumpy and are trying to talk you into eating takeout for the third night in a row.

I can only hope that I’ve gotten better at discerning the good ones as time has gone on. Because good, honest connection is worth everything, and worth waiting for, cultivating, and nurturing. And after quite a few detours, I’m finally back to a place where I’m dating with intention, but this time, the intention is from within.

I recently attempted to explain to a friend – who was concerned that her new relationship didn’t mean as much to the her partner because he’s one of those “in love a lot” guys – that for those of us who fall in love over and over again with the agility, grace, and speed of an Olympic hurdler, the whole falling in love thing feels new every single time. It’s definitely not as thrilling as when you’re fourteen and exchanging love notes after math class, but it’s undeniably….much better, although scarier, and certainly still exciting enough to entice that sweetly radiant secret smile that you save for those blissful moments (think women eating chocolate in a chocolate commercial. That’s the smile).

I’m a lot more realistic than I was when I was younger. I’ve learned a lot, too. Some of the lessons were hard (character building, as my mom says) – for example, if he doesn’t make you a priority, you’re certainly not one now and you’re never going to be one. Other lessons were random, like rap music; how to make a mean Manhattan; how to to snowboard; and how to love Marilyn Manson.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, too. The whole inspiration for this post was an article I was reading where a woman was discussing female power, and in that, she hit on one of the things that I know I overlooked for far too long: stop trying to embody someone else’s ideal of who and what you should be. It’s not sustainable in the long term, and it’s certainly not doing you or anyone else any favors. It weakens the core of who you are, and the struggle of the attempt is exhausting. The push for authenticity is far more realistic, attainable, and satisfying.

What I came to realize was not so much that I had been trying to fit into what the man wanted (which is absolutely what was happening, too), but even more so that I had been trying to compose the idea of what I imagined that I wanted to become, or the idea of this woman that I would be, all while trying to meet continually changing expectations.

It wasn’t me at all, and the parts of everything that had been me had slipped so much over time that at the end of it when I came back into myself, it was like jumping into an ice cold lake. I abhorred certain aspects of the person that I was becoming, and yet, I felt compelled to continue, despite the lingering pull of my true self begging me not to give those parts up.

Sudden was the big whoosh of revitalization; the acclimation back into myself was swift and certain, and suddenly the world was bright again.

The takeaway, the big lesson worth learning, and learning well: Your own Nude Suit is the only suit that is suitable for the search for searing connection. Be yourself. I mean, be your best self, for sure, but be honest. There’s nothing better than honesty, openness, and a little bit of laughter, because who you are at your core doesn’t change.

The fleeting beginnings of fluff love are fun, but impermanent. But then again, I sometimes wonder if everything is impermanent – that’s a lesson that I’m attempting to learn, but the whole living-in-the-moment lesson is a post for another day.