On Long-Awaited Life Updates, Determinedly

Oh man, life is indeed a roller coaster.

I’ll do the briefest of brief updates, just because I can’t go back and catch up on everything.

– The last spring snowstorm we had in Colorado cracked two of my tree branches in our backyard. I was heartbroken. I loved that tree because of its crooked branches. The boys spent an entire afternoon taking down the tree branches, which had narrowly missed power lines. My backyard is a bit more naked, but I’m grateful that I still have part of my tree. 

We keep joking that we’re going to make a treehouse out of a boat and put it in the tree. As we walk around our neighborhood, I get exited every time I see a boat, no matter how ridiculous it might be to image it in our tree. Boyfriend remarked sarcastically to my mom the other day that having a boat in the tree is a great idea because it’s clearly so structurally sound.

– My recovery from the torn EHL tendon has been slow. I have regained about 50% of the movement. I am now a full 8 weeks post surgery. I am working on keeping my foot protected but also trying to get it to do some movement on its own. I was finally cleared to leave the boot two weeks ago! I have some nasty looking scars, and I’m not convinced I’ll ever have full movement back, but I’m alive. And I can sort of wiggle my toe.

– I lost my job two weeks ago. Long story short – bad business practices and disagreements about my working conditions (they wanted me full-time back in the stores due to nearly a dozen people quitting; I cannot be on my feet full-time, nor do I want to be). I filed for unemployment, which they told me they would not contest. Heartbroken again. I had been finally really starting to enjoy myself but also to utilize my strengths as a leader and as someone who wanted what was best for all of the stores.

— Boyfriend and I are thinking about moving to Mississippi. It’d be more of a study-abroad deal for me, since it’s going to be such a huge culture shock. He’d be pursing a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics or similar and I’d be after a Master’s in Public Policy and Administration.

I feel that Mississippi is a state in dire need of help on a very real and large scale, and that my involvement there would be a fantastic kick-start to a rewarding career in public policy of all kinds. (Non-profit administration also stems from this degree, and over the years, I’ve come to realize that it’s something I’d love to do.)
The reason that the Public Policy and Administration program intrigues me is because it is the only Master’s degree that really encompasses my loves of government, social issues, writing, and law, while furthering my drive to make a lasting difference in our world.
I’m hoping that this degree will help me sharpen my leadership and communication skills, but also allow me to participate fully in the community in the most effective way.
— I lost my car keys. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I lost my car keys. Like, gone. MIA. Nowhere to be found. I am so frustrated. We went to Costco the other day, and I came home and opened the door and we haven’t seen them since. I have torn my car and house apart to no avail. I am waiting. If they don’t turn up by Monday, I must have my car towed to a dealership so they can make me a new key.
— Acorn is definitely part shepherd. He plays basketball. It’s the most adorable thing I’ve seen in a long time. He comes with us to a school by our house, or a park close by, and runs around while we (usually the boys, only sometimes me) play basketball. He’ll play defense and try to get the ball from you, he’ll bark while he’s waiting for the rebound, and he’ll jump up to get it. Once he gets it, he’ll shepherd it around the court until he gets bored with it. He’s just like Air Bud, sort of!

On the Puppy, Anxiously

There’s something wrong with Acorn.

We knew it the moment we met him. He’s all floppy black puppy, but he’s got sad brown eyes. He sat there on the floor of the house in Mississippi, shaking fearfully, timid but so sweet. We fed him, we bathed him, and he was ours. I knew it instantly. Boyfriend was hesitant, we wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong with him before we took him in. And there wasn’t, mostly.

But there’s something wrong with Acorn. It isn’t physical. Whatever happened to him in the four and a half months before he joined our family left deep scars. We knew it when we met him, that he’d been mistreated. It’s in the way he cowers from an outstretched hand, the way he’s terrified of doors and floors, the way he used to curl himself up into a ball around other dogs. He’s anxious. Boyfriend likes to joke that he takes after his mother (me) in that way.

He’s come a long way in the two months we’ve had him. He’s more confident around other dogs now, he loves to play with them. He’s better with people. He stills shies away from a hand that’s put forth too quickly, but he loves to be loved. He climbs into bed with me at night and sleeps with his head on my legs. He sits on the bathroom mat behind me when I brush my teeth. (He blends in, since the mat is black, so I’ve nearly tripped over him a few times.)

He’s been ours since we fed him. That first night, he lay by the foot of our bed, and he’s been with us every night since. He’s loyal – when I’m outside in the front yard, I don’t have to worry about leashing him since I know he won’t go far. When we’re hiking, boyfriend usually takes the lead, and when Acorn can’t see me anymore, he’ll double back until he sees that I’m behind them, and that I’m okay. Then he’ll run back up to boyfriend.

He’s like any other puppy, eating us out of house and home, chewing on everything he can get his paws on. He’s stubborn – he won’t come in until he’s done playing, and yesterday, leaving the dog park, we had to put him back into the car because he didn’t want to leave.

The car was where we first realized he had deeper fears. The first few days, he wouldn’t jump in or out of the car. When you’d try to take him out, he’d plant his feet as though you removing him was going to be the worst thing. Same for getting in. And doors. And places he’s never been before. And bridges.

He’s hesitant, nervous, afraid. He won’t go in the side door of the house. One day, boyfriend had the back gate open and he got out. Boyfriend found him, a few minutes later, waiting patiently at the front door to be let in.

He’s sweet. He’s loving. He’s learning how to be a dog. But he’s still scared. The other day, boyfriend was lamenting that we ended up with such a wimpy dog, a coward, and that these aren’t ever things he’ll outgrow. Abused dogs, he said, are like that forever. There’s no changing them.  (Boyfriend loves him, don’t get me wrong. He just gets frustrated at the seemingly unending line of nervous anxieties we find and the seemingly illogical explanations for them.)

I disagree. I mean, I don’t think Acorn’s ever going to the most aggressive, alpha male out there, but I do think that we can love a lot of the fear out of him. He used to freak out about the linoleum in our kitchen (I mean, who wouldn’t?). He’d scamper across it like it was burning lava. He wouldn’t eat if his bowl was on it, and if he did, he’d run back to the safety of the living room as soon as he could. But now, if I’m in the kitchen, he’ll sit patiently behind me or lay down on the floor in front of the refrigerator. He’s getting there.

Instead of getting upset with him, I’ve been as patient as possible. At first, I set the bowl just inches onto the linoleum, where he could eat with all paws on the wood floor. And then, I inched it in, so that eventually, he was standing with all fours on the floor, happily chowing down.

He used to be unable to go outside without one of us. Now, I let him out and let him play outside until he signals that he’s ready to come in. He knows we’re coming back for him, that being outside isn’t being abandoned. Sometimes, after I’ve had enough of outside play, he’ll refuse to come in, carrying his rope toy and looking longingly at me. I’ll leave him outside until he comes to stand by the door, his signal that he’s done. He knows I’ll be there to let him in.

Right now, he’s curled on the couch next to me, asleep. Even his dreams are calmer now. He used to yelp and squirm when he slept, nervous little yips. Now, he sleeps more soundly. When he falls asleep, he’s out. He’ll try to fight sleep, his eyes getting lower and lower until finally, they close and he melts into his sleeping position. It’s so sweet. After big hikes, he’s usually asleep before we even leave the parking lot.

He’s got the most adorable face. He’s already learned the word “walk” and when you say it, his ears perk up and he stares at you expectantly. He’s all giant paws and he’s still mastering walking gracefully.

We’re working on reassuring him that he’s safe, that we love him, that when he does something wrong he’ll be punished, but it will be reasonable and consistent. We’re finding out how to adapt to his nervous habits, and how to change the ones that are changeable. We’re exposing him to other dogs, so he’ll have buddies to play with and learn from. We’re letting him be loved by everyone who wants to love him — strangers always comment on what a sweet, adorable dog he is.

I can’t help but think about how whoever it was that hurt him and then left him. I can’t help but think about what a miserable person they must be. I can’t help but be sad for all of the animals that don’t have loving homes. But I look at my two furry sons, both rescued, and I can’t help but feel like the most blessed person on this planet.

Carlos, my FIV+ Chicago street cat, missing a fang and half an ear, who was returned to the shelter by a family. Acorn, my anxious black lab puppy, abandoned in Mississippi. They are my favorites. Carlos is fierce and too aggressive for his own good, but he loves his wet food and to be pet right under his chin, and will hop up onto the bathtub ledge to say hi while you’re taking a bath. He loves to curl up in the crook of your elbow and fall asleep with you. Acorn is sweet and playful, full of energy, who shakes with excitement when you come through the door. He loves ice cream treats and his rope toys, tearing up anything with a squeaker as soon as he can. These guys are part of my family. These guys deserve all of the love. I sometimes wonder if it was just meant to be.

He was such an unexpected blessing. It’s like my brother said, “He’s such a precious little pup.” And he is. He’s our precious little (50 pounds and counting) pup. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

On Pushing, Newly

I usually choose a word to live by each year. That word becomes a sort of meditation for me throughout the year, the goal being to incorporate that word’s meaning into my life so much so that it becomes a part of me. That rumination has served me well.

A couple of years ago, I chose “gratitude” and found that to be a very fulfilling challenge for the year. I worked on being better about thank-you notes, appreciating everything I have – friendships, family, relationships, and so on, and on loving the tiny moments that often go overlooked in the chaos of every day life.

Last year, my word was most likely not “survival” at the outset, but unconsciously, that’s what it became. I have heard so many people talk about how 2013 was not a year they’d like to repeat, and I have to agree. 2013 was the worst year of my life. I can say that with absolute certainty. I have never been so close to the edge of despair as I was for much of the year. I have never felt the depths of darkness licking up closer to my heart. I have never wanted so badly not to be alive.

And yet, the light could not be extinguished. “This too shall pass” did come to pass, and time began to wrap me in its healing, consistent progression and I did survive. It sounds melodramatic, but I’m not joking or stretching the truth. I hated to admit it to myself at the time, but looking back, I’m surprised at how low the lowest points were. There were more tears shed in 2013 than I imagined possible, more desperate, hopeless nights than I believed possible, and too many days where getting out of bed was almost more than I could bear.

There is no stopping the light, though. I remember the day when I woke up and said to myself, I will not let this beat me, and I didn’t. I still think about it sometimes. It catches me off-guard at moments when I least expect it. It stops my heart for just a beat, and then I start to breathe again, remembering that I am whole. I am safe. I am away. Distance. Time. Progress. All of those march forward. And so I go, too.

I am not where I thought I’d be.

I think that’s how much of life goes, though. The unexpected has a way of stripping everything unnecessary and bringing to focus the important things, the things you lose sight of so easily. In losing everything, I almost lost myself, but I also found more than I expected.

2014 is a new year. I’m not one to make resolutions, really. But this year, I’m determined to do so much more than survive. My word this year is “push” – yeah, like that. I’m going to do more and be more – getting back on the track that I was on before the unfortunate derailment. I think that was the most frustrating thing, losing the progress that I’d worked so hard to make for myself.

I’m going to push myself – I want to figure out what I want to do with my life, or at least the next few years. I want to think about grad school, about a job that will be fulfilling but also financially worthwhile. I want to work harder to be better – the working out at the gym business, the eating healthy, the organization. All of those areas are areas in which I’m already quite fantastic, but could stand to improve. (If you know me, you’re laughing now because I am anything but fantastic at organization and eating healthy. My therapist often expresses concern that my diet consists mostly of chili cheese dogs and uh, chili cheese dogs.)

I’m going to figure out a better plan. I want to grow professionally (oh dear god, more than anything I want that), personally, and as a human being – I want to spread more kindness into this world. I want to strengthen my relationships, with boyfriend, with my friends, with my family. I want to make more time to play. I want to push myself to calm the fuck down already and learn how to relax. I want to work harder and play harder.

2013 is dead and gone. It will always be a part of my life story, but 2014 offers the chance for a fresh start and a new perspective. I’m thrilled. It’s not a new beginning, but it’s something better: it’s the chance to continue living the life that I’ve always wanted. This year, I don’t have to let the uncontrollable guide me. This year, I am in control. This year is going to be a fantastic year, I can feel it.

On First World Problems, Admittedly

The iPhone was my constant companion for two years. Emphasis on constant. I slept with the damn thing. At some point earlier this summer, it took a fall and the cracking of the screen that signaled the inevitable demise of the phone began. 

The first crack was no problem. I dropped it in my driveway, but a piece of tape fixed everything. I was at work one morning when it dropped off a ledge and landed on hard tile. I saw the glass shards fly out from around it and in my heart, I knew that it was over. To my surprise, it wasn’t over. I picked it up (very carefully, of course, as my track record with broken glass and bodily injury isn’t all that good), and to my surprise, it worked. This wasn’t just a piece of tape fix; it was several pieces of tape, several times a week. But it worked! The front facing camera worked, even though there was no glass around it. 

At some point last week, the little button at the bottom shifted to the side. Strangely enough, that still worked, but I noticed that it was starting to disregard my commands from time to time. And so, with hesitation, I headed over to the Verizon store to get a new phone. 

I’d been researching, so I wasn’t heading in blind. (Never head into a phone store blind. That’s how they get you.) I knew I wanted a new iPhone. But I’d been thinking about the Samsung Galaxy S4. Thinking with no certainty. Just considering. 

They were out of iPhones. So I panicked. I bought the S4. (They gave me $80 towards my purchase for trading in my old, busted phone, so I was pleased.) We set everything up, and confident that I’d crossed all the t’s and dotted the i’s, I left. Turns out there was one little tiny insignificant thing they’d neglected to tell me: when you switch from Apple to Android, if you don’t turn off your iMessage, you can’t get any text messages from iPhone users (unless they have a specific setting set, which they might not).

Tiny. It’s not like I do a ton of texting. Or that most of my friends have iPhones. Except that I do. 

I didn’t realize this until I sent a group text to my gym buddies on Sunday night. “Gym tomorrow? Thinking 10:30.” I said. No one responded. Half an hour later, just to be an ass, I said, “No takers?” And again, no one responded. Staring at my sad double text, I started to worry. What if they’re mad at me? I thought. What if they’ve decided that I can’t work out with them? You can imagine how this continued on for quite some time. 

The next day, one of them came into work, all excited and happy. “We’re going to have the best night!” he said. I looked him with my saddest face. “Are you mad at me?” I asked. He was understandably confused. 

“What are you talking about?” he asked.

“You never texted me back about the gym,” I said. 

“We all did! Where were you? I was there at ten!” 

He showed me his phone. After my first text, one of my friends had responded in the affirmative, and then nearly immediately after, I’d sent my “no takers?” text. Then they’d all made gym plans, thinking that I was an ass for ignoring them. Another of the group text participants asked me if I was mad at her the next time she saw me. “You’ve been ignoring me all week!” she said. 

As we discovered that it was my phone that wasn’t getting the texts, I called Verizon. They knew immediately. “It’s iMessage. Do you still have your phone?” No, I gave it to you. “Oh….” Oh? Apparently, it’s a known issue, and yet the salesperson neglected to inform me that by the simple, twenty-second act of turning off iMessage would save me heartache and hurt feelings (however briefly). The tech logged into my Apple account from a test phone to disable iMessage, but it didn’t work. 

Instead, I can no longer get texts from iPhones that aren’t set to send messages as SMS when iMessage isn’t available. My only options are to a) wait 30 days, at which point iMessage will apparently stop functioning or b) delete my Apple account, which is tied to a number of purchases and other things. Fantastic. 

So if you’ve been texting me and I haven’t been responding, it’s not because I’m an ass. It’s because technology is an ass, and the Apple and Verizon people are colluding to make the transfer from Apple to Android products as painful as possible.

(I realize that this is a seriously insignificant issue in the scope of things. But 20 seconds could have saved me 2 hours on the phone with tech support — my least favorite thing on this planet — and a ton of frustration.) 

On Silence, Quietly

I slipped away from my blog this summer, which is something I’ve never done before.

I started blogging when I was fifteen or sixteen – back then it was a different, now nearly defunct platform – after my father made the egregious parental error of photocopying my handwritten journal and hauling me in to the pediatrician to discuss the contents, which consisted of nothing but typical fifteen-year old drivel.

I have been keeping journals since I was five. I still have all of them, in a box. I drag them with me every time I move, and I will continue dragging them with me as long as I live. Writing is my way of reflecting, relieving stress, processing events and emotions. Writing is my absolute favorite thing in the world.

This summer, I lost the will to write. I’ve misplaced it before, but I’ve never truly lost it. This summer I nearly lost the will to live, and with it went my words. To be overwhelmed by the horrible pendulum of emotion, swinging from the furthest reaches of numbness to the limits of rage and anguish, is a peculiar and horrifying state of existence.

I have been searching for the answers. I have questioned everything I believe in. I have wondered if resilience is possible, and I have shed enough tears to fill seven salty bathtubs.

I woke up one day, and shortly thereafter, during one of my now frequent random onset crying spells, I decided I was done. Done with all of it. I had to force myself to be light that day. I had to force the smiles, the cheeriness, the radiating of joy. I forced the fuck out of it. That day, I made almost $20 in tips.

That day was the start of the end. I’m not out yet, but instead of free-falling, I’m starting to kick. “Your dreams are not what you thought they’d be,” she said. (One of my all-time favorite quotes, coming from the much-criticized Girls on HBO.) And they’re not. They’re nothing like I thought they’d be.

The silence has been horrible. I wonder, will I have anything to say? Will I still make sense? I still wonder that. But I’m done with the hiding. I’m done caring what anyone thinks about anything, whether it’s what I do for a living, where I’m working, why I’m not happy all the time, or why I have made the decisions I made.

I’ve spent the silence thinking. Thoughts are absolutely terrifying. They are heavy, overwhelming, upsetting. I’ve thought more about the world and the people living in it than I ever thought I would. I’ve thought about the future and the past. I’ve been trying to think about the present, and to actively be present for it. I’ve been embracing the routines I’ve created. I’ve been floating from day-to-day, trying to embrace the weightlessness that is now.

I’ve concluded that everything has an equally relevant opposite. That working for our society’s version of success is no more important than working for happiness. That rude, terrible people can be balanced out by the graceful, hopeful ones. That for all the light in this world, there is much that can never be light. (This, of course, is where super villains find their beginnings – the loss of hope turns to hardened hatred, the bitterness seeps into the deepest recesses of their hearts, and suddenly, they are no longer capable of seeing the light through the dark.)

I’ve spent the past few months removed from most things. I can’t afford to go out anymore – not to eat, not to dance, not to play. Austerity measures have kicked in. I forgot how good I can be on a ridiculously lean budget. I’ve been putting the pieces of my life back together. I joined a gym. I exercise until I don’t feel quite so angry, so sad, so helpless. I’ve gained eight very necessary pounds. I’ve been getting regular sleep.

The boy makes me feel safe. I have a solid, positive relationship with my bosses. I am well-liked, and more importantly, well-respected where I work. I am freelancing for a small publication. I am actively searching for a full-time job that doesn’t involve anything to do with ice cream. I am still a fantastic cat mother. I recently assisted with the coordination of my stepsister’s wedding, and I did better than anyone (even myself) could have anticipated.

I am not what I do. I am more than hourly soft serve. I am going to be okay. I am not going to be silent any more. Even if this year is lost to “emotional pain” tags and miserable posts, I am not going to stop. Because this, much like every journal I’ve ever owned, belongs to me, and no one can take that away (unless of corse I don’t pay my domain registration, or I’m hacked, or…).

The silence was necessary, but it’s over.

On “Smooth Transitions,” Anything But Smoothly

They say that after a traumatic experience, you begin to describe yourself and your life as being “before” and “after.” I finally understand that. 

The me that existed before January 29 was a very different person than the one that exists now. Of course, I’m still me. There are some things that will never change. There are some things the can never change. And there are the things that will never be the same. 

I shut down after I was sexually assaulted. I lost myself. I wandered around for two months, trying as hard as I could to pretend it wasn’t real, to pretend that I was fine. But in the end, I lost. It bubbled up and boiled over, in an instant, and I was caught unaware. I lost a lot when it happened – I lost my first love (my naiveté); I lost much of the ground I’d gained – my self-confidence, my self-esteem, my belief in myself as human being; I lost my  ability to feel happiness. When I let it bubble over, I lost my composure, the one thing I’d worked so hard to keep. 

Strength isn’t something that you can actively seek. It exists inside of you, and it exists in the bonds that you’ve formed with the people who you care about. When you lose your inner strength, you have to rely on the strength of the love you’ve cultivated. Thank god I’d cultivated some strong friendships. I cried on, and relied on, the people who I love the most. They saved me. 

One silly piece of advice I got, the silly piece of advice that has propelled me through the darkest nights and loneliest hours, was that you have to live for your pets. That’s dumb, and I realize that. But honestly, thinking about Carlos was the one thing that pulled me through some nasty spells of despair. Who would feed him wet food if I wasn’t here? Who would he sleep next to? Who would feel that pitter-patter in their heart when they saw him? Only me. There could be no one else. 

When I gave my three weeks notice at work, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. After that day, I didn’t think about New York all the time. My waking moments were no longer consumed with rumination about it: the not knowing, the bitterness, the rage, the sadness, the hopelessness. Instead, I felt nothing. Sometimes feeling nothing is better than feeling everything, all the time. It’s exhausting. 

I was cautioned that this is a roller coaster. I was told that there would be moments of elation, of pure ecstatic joy, of rage, of sadness, of pain, of heartbreak, of grief. 

I forget that sometimes. I am blindsided, still, by the emotions. They overtake me when I least expect it, when I think I am safe. But you’re never safe, not from something that haunts you. That’s the horror story here — you can’t run. I know, because I thought about it. I thought about packing a single bag (I know, I know, a single bag for a new start? In actuality, it would be more like four bags, and the cat. Of course the cat gets to come. He’s the strange salvation) and running. Driving forever, until I ran out of money and ended up anywhere. But you can’t run, because it follows you. And you can’t run out of money, because without money, you are nothing. 

And now, I stand ruined. I doubt I’ll be receiving references based on the two and half years of my life I gave to the company. Instead, I imagine it will be a curt discussion of my failures. And that’s funny, because even though I didn’t manage to come through in the end, I gave them my all when I was breaking down, the seven hours that day spent crying in April to finish a proposal that “he” was responsible for ended in a lucrative contract. And to me, that hurts almost more than all of it. I did that. I packaged it. I prepared it. I shipped it. And he gets the commission. He gets to go home to his wife and children with a huge paycheck, and I have nothing but the job I held in high school, a last resort, a refuge from the constant reminder that I am vulnerable and weak.

“You’re not being fired, but you’re free to leave,” they told me, when the HR investigation came back “inconclusive.” Of course there was no proof. When it happened, I was so worried about my job (the irony here stings) that I didn’t go to the hospital. Instead, I sat there and wondered how I’d afford a plane ticket home. “You’re not the first woman who didn’t know she had options,” said one of my doctors, when I’d spilled the story to her in a fit of word vomit that I couldn’t contain. 

My boss told me several times throughout the course of the investigation that at worst, it would be a smooth transition, where I would stay there until I found a new job. I choked on those words. Smooth transition, my ass. This is not a smooth transition. This is the part where I live on fucking chili cheese dogs because they’re free. This is the part where I fuck up and don’t finish the last of my semi-contract work. This is the part where I finally break, where my body gives out and my spirit follows. 

This is the part where I realize that there is a cost far greater than you ever imagine. The traumatic experience was not just the assault itself, it was everything that followed. I know I have to go forward, but where do I go from here?

I’m working full time at my high school job. I’ve just started applying for new jobs. I’m paralyzed by the fear that my references will be held over me, my actual work lost in the downward spiral that was the end. 

Here’s to the existential crisis I hoped I’d never find myself in. Here’s to digging myself out of that deep, dark hole. Here’s to the future, in the hopes that there is something left of it. Here’s to the hope that somewhere there is a light that will lead me out of this desolate place. Here’s hoping…..

On Looking Forward, Hesitantly

Time is elusive, something you long for more of, but something you can never quite grab onto, or even really control.  The future seems endless, like today will somehow stretch on forever and next week will never come. Before you know it, all of those tomorrows are yesterdays, and all the things you swore you’d do are yet left undone.

I mowed the front lawn the other day, something that remains an overwhelming task for me. What may be drudgery for some fills the core of my bones with a ringing sense of accomplishment, of certainty, of satisfaction. I even did the strange little hilly part that leads to our neighbor’s driveway. (He’s new – I don’t think he knows it’s his job yet. I guess I could leave it untended and let him figure it out, but I’m concerned that he might not due to the scraggly overgrowth that tends to be comprise my lawn at any given point in time.)

I tackled a few other household chores, but I still have a long list of things that must be handled, dealt with, checked off. They’re not showstoppers, but I will feel more settled once I’ve said good riddance to the mental checklist. (I do know that there is no real end to the lists. I know that as soon as one thing passes out of the conscious concern, another will pop up to take its place.)

I’ve been working, still. Trading one sixty hour week for another. I imagined I would have time to seek the calm I’ve been craving, but alas, that was not to be the case. All I can see is today, this week, the schedules dictated by the Sunday release of the Dairy Queen schedule, all plans left in flux until the message arrives bearing a picture of the week’s schedule. It’s an interesting way to view the world. Months, seemingly endless, are suddenly broken down into seven-day segments, both more manageable and repetitive, unchangingly inflexible without meaning to be.

I’ve been spending time with an old boyfriend, the ever-present romantic antagonist of my mid-twenties. We’ve fallen back into our routine. There are errands (my favorite!), dinners (his attempts to woo me with his culinary prowess delight me), and the quiet hours, where he’s decided that I must learn how to play video games.

After days of wondering why he’d try to teach me – a task far more daunting than he had anticipated – I have finally realized that he’d like to get to the point where we can play together as teammates. I find the notion oddly romantic. And you should know by now how much I hate to lose, therefore this challenge is one I’m not taking lightly.

Seriously though, video games terrify me. I’ve never been one to play them (we weren’t allowed to have them in our house until we were nearly teenagers, and by then my attention drifted elsewhere). I’ve no knowledge of the mastery of strategy, but far more difficult than that is finding my damn character on the screen. And so my character dies. Repeatedly. “I didn’t even see where I was!” I exclaim, before surrendering to laughter at how pathetic I must look. The boys can’t believe it.

Even worse than the finding my character is moving the screen so I can see where my character is in relation to the battles. I’ve been instructed to work on smooth movement instead of just tapping the arrow keys sadly. I’ve been sent home with a tiny Game Boy for homework.

He’s a patient teacher, mostly. I think he’s excited that I’m showing interest in joining him, rather than just watching him play. I think I’m too stubborn to back down. I am determined, but amazed at how difficult this is.

***

By the way, today is Miracle Treat Day at Dairy Queen. $1.50 of your Blizzard purchase goes to the Children’s Miracle Network that supports children’s hospitals across the country. Your donation goes directly to the children’s hospital closest to you. It’s a gloomy day in Denver, so I hope that doesn’t hurt our sales. (I’ll be at my location from 4 until close, so come say hi if you’re craving a Blizzard.)

Yesterday, my first customer asked me if I was full-time or part-time. I gave him a brief overview of my current situation, full-time ice cream queen, part-time legal software marketer, and he was supportive, appreciative, and fantastic. He told me that my cheerfulness was exactly what he’d needed.

But of course, bright things can only linger for so long in this world. A bit later, a man came in and told us that the reason that we work at Dairy Queen is because we voted for Obama. Offended (as I usually am by people who assume I’m unintelligent), I continued the conversation very stiffly and politely. He told me that I had no knowledge of how government works (to which I bit my tongue in order to stem the tide rising inside me), and then proceeded to patronize me. At one point, he told Evan that Dairy Queen is a good job, because he “has a woman” — me — and that my desire to have a career is what’s killing our future as a Christian nation. (Ah, yes. To which I responded that the reason I long for a career is because I fear that the alternative is relegation to domestic tasks for which I am clearly unsuited.)

He concluded with a thought about how the end of marriage and religion were going to be the downfall of our nation. Finally, I’d had enough. I countered, “What I think you’re neglecting, sir, is this question: is it possible to be a good, moral person without religion?” I gave him a brief overview of my belief that it is not religion that drives people to be good, and that community will continue to exist by nature of the human species rather than by the driving force of religion alone. Therefore, I concluded, religion and the end of marriage are not what will doom our society, but rather, our lack of cooperation. He didn’t have a response. I didn’t imagine that he would. He left us a tip and thanked us before he left.

Never a dull moment, I assure you.

On Big News, Relievedly

The words were gone again, the constant bubbling up of ideas temporarily ceased. I started typing draft after draft, but each one was pushed aside in disgust as I stared at the pathetic words on the screen.

Tomorrow, I kept whispering. I’ll try again tomorrow. Before I knew it, many tomorrows had turned into weeks. My apologies for the extended absence.

I have spent the past few weeks dreaming the most vividly intense dreams I’ve ever dreamt. The images are surreal, telling signs of the subconscious dwelling deep within, stirring, demanding attention. The questions seem as though they will remain unanswered for some time, if they are ever answered at all.

There is only muddled clarity, which I imagine is the worst kind, other than total obfuscation. However, it is with the utmost certainty that I can say that I am about to start on a new path, one that I hope will take me swiftly away from the things I wish to leave behind. It may not be clear, but it is (“is” as a state of being and existence) because it must be.

I handed in my three weeks’ notice today. I told them that my last day will be July 31st.

I have not yet found another job. I will continue to work at my other part-time jobs while applying for new jobs in the marketing field, and I will hopefully be able to cover my expenses without draining too much of my precious, carefully hoarded savings. (Seriously, I’m like Gollum when it comes to my savings. You can re-read that sentence and hiss “precious” if you like. I just did.)

I am terrified, of course. This is my first time really embracing the job hunt. I hope to be able to find something that pays me enough that I will only have to work one job. I hope to do more writing. I hope for many things, but mostly I hope for new opportunities. I’m excited to expand my skill sets and to embrace the challenges that come with new employment.

I know that this is not the usual order of things, but I believe this is the best choice. Which is why I made it.

On AAA, Shamingly

I heard a commercial for AAA on the radio the other day. The voice of a woman details all of the times that AAA has been there for her while her husband was too busy watching sports to come to her aid. This commercial offended me.

I know, I know, we’re too sensitive and jumpy and can get offended about anything. But you’d think that in a culture such a this, too sensitive and jumpy and easily offended, the team of advertisers tasked with the creation of such a commercial would be wary of their content and mindful of public opinion.

Apparently not.

Ostensibly, someone sat down a team of ad people and said, Sell AAA memberships to women. Remember, they’re helpless and scared, so we need to remind them that AAA is everything their man is not: responsible, reliable, prepared.

So the ad people probably said, Fish in a barrel! This one’s easy – let’s be quick about it so we can have an early lunch.

And then they created this sad excuse for a sales pitch.

Now, I must explain a few things. First, I love AAA. I have been a huge fan of AAA since the very first time I locked my keys in a running car at 16 (you’ll note that I said “very first time.” Yes, with my first car, the Green Bean, it happened often since the doors locked automatically 3 seconds after you started the car, which is just enough time to say, “I forgot _____!” and get out of the car). They were there for me in Chicago, when my roommate left my headlights on and drained my battery.

They were also there for me when I got a flat tire. That’s the experience most closely associated with this radio spot, and the experience most likely to get my blood boiling.

I was driving to Boulder one afternoon last summer to see my boyfriend at the time. I was just getting off highway 36 when I heard a sound like an angry rattlesnake. Sure enough, I had just gotten my first flat tire. I drove along in traffic until I could safely pull onto a side street. I parked. I got out and inspected the car. Sure enough, the rear left tire was flat. Gone. Donezo. (If you were to spell “donezo,” is that how you’d do it?)

So, being the resourceful independent woman I am, I opened my trunk, shoved a million things aside, and pulled out my jack and spare tire, prepared to change the damn thing myself. (I’d never changed a tire, but we covered how to do it in driver’s ed and I wasn’t overly concerned.)

I used the tool (the name escapes me, I was to say tire iron but that’s so incorrect) to remove the lug nuts. Except they wouldn’t loosen. I jacked the car up anyway, hoping I’d be able to loosen them then. I couldn’t. So I jumped on the tool. That didn’t work either. A guy on a bike stopped and offered to help. I was stubborn, but after realizing that my full body weight wasn’t going to do much, I accepted his help. He couldn’t loosen them either.

So I gave up, had my boyfriend come pick me up, and decided I’d deal with it in the morning. In the morning, my boyfriend, such a great guy that he was, left me at my car so that he could drive to Denver. I called AAA. And then I waited.

The AAA guy got there to change my tire and said, “Where’s your boyfriend?” I bristled. My internal voice was yelling, “What, just because I’m a woman I can’t change a tire?!” But my external facade was composed as I explained that I had been unable to loosen the lug nuts and had been forced to call AAA as a last resort.

Then he tried to loosen the lug nuts, cocky and masculine in his approach. He couldn’t. I saw his posture change. My internal self cheered, a smug smile on her face. He looked back at me and I just raised my eyebrow at him as if to say, “Where’s YOUR boyfriend?”

“Not as easy as you thought it’d be?” I asked, sweetly. He was sour. He loosened them eventually, put on the spare, and I drove to the Discount Tire where I got two new tires.

I was upset. AAA has always been wonderful. In Chicago, the dead battery happened on a Sunday. I was so grateful to the man who came to jump my car, and he was so gracious about the whole thing. I told him that I was terribly sorry that he had to come out on a Sunday and he was so kind and wonderful and funny.

But this Boulder man? Everything that frustrates me about people existed in him. Grumpy demeanor, sexist, superior, and so on.

That’s why hearing this AAA ad annoyed me so damn much. It’s not hard to say, “We’ll be there when you need us.” or “We’ll make you feel more comfortable when your teen starts to drive.” or “Everyone needs a backup plan.” I don’t know — I’m not the ad guy, but I feel as though they could have gotten their message across a million other ways instead of having the rely on the oh-so familiar tropes of the sports-obsessed, neglectful husband and the weak, incapable wife.

(I get that in my own rendition of the “I’m a powerless woman and I need you, AAA!” story, my own boyfriend fell into the same trope, but he wouldn’t have been able to fix the tire anyway, so it’s a moot point.)

Shame on you, AAA. You get what you pay for and I suggest you get a better ad agency. You’re a valuable service that I find so worth the money, but if you can’t sell yourselves, how are you supposed to sell your services?

On Uncertainty, Sadly

“Not to be forgotten, but still unforgiven.”

Sometimes there are no words. Sometimes the words you wish you could say are the very words you cannot say – sometimes the truth can’t save you, can’t ease your pain, can’t grant you freedom or success or even hope.

There is only that singular small glimmer of hope for a better future, for something greater. The world is full of injustice, unfairness, betrayal, anger, and I firmly believe that karma, in the end, will be the great equalizer. Everyone will get what is coming to them, whether it comes now or later. It will not come from me, but it will come, when it must, when it can, when the time is right.

It’s like Mike would say, stolen from Wedding Crashers, “Rule Number 72: no excuses, play like a champion.”

And so I will.

Professionalism in the face of obstacles that I never could have foreseen, grace in the face of turmoil, strength in the face of the unknown, courage in the face of opposition.

“Never let your fear decide your fate.”

There is only the solid belief in myself, in my potential, in my future. There is so much that’s left to do, too much to be undone. The things that were set in motion months ago have come to fruition (hah, that’s a horrible word) and it is time to let it go, to release it, and move on. Move forward.

“Whatever it is kid, don’t let it beat you.”

(And yes, I’m terribly embarrassed that I opened this post with a Linkin Park quote. Forgive me.)