On New Orleans, Belatedly

I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans. My little brother – rather, younger brother, as my little brother towers over me at 6’4″ – is getting married, and I am now a bridesmaid (although I tried to explain I really didn’t need to be one), so I was invited along to the bachelorette party in New Orleans.

Now, I do love my brother’s fiancée quite a bit, but the thought of me, a Colorado woman whose very low maintenance beauty routine generally consists of “when’s the last time I wore makeup and where is it?”, traveling to a beautiful city with beautiful Dallas women who know how to curl their hair intimidated me immensely. However, I own a super sexy black dress, and I’m Katie Fucking Barry (sorry Mom, it’s a figure of speech), so I figured “I got this,” grabbed my makeup bag, stuffed it in a backpack with my laptop, and headed down there.

I spent the time waiting for the flight seated at a bar, chatting to an oil and gas intern who had recently relocated to NOLA and had been in Colorado for a conference. He was fresh out of college and seemed to enjoy his chosen industry, although did not express love for living in New Orleans. I spent the flight seated next to a very loud contractor who thanked every flight attendant for coming to work that day, as if they had any choice, and who proceeded to advise me on upcoming home remodel work. He was attending his sister’s book launch in New Orleans, and clearly had not been on many airplanes. I prayed he’d stop talking at some point, because he was so loud, but he was so enthusiastic and kind that I just let him continue, whispering back responses. We talked about books, and his pet bird, and wood floors. He promised he’d read American Gods.

I really do have the strangest but most wonderful conversations with people.

I arrived too late and exhausted (I had spoken at a conference for court reporters on cannabis and employment law, complete with a super amazing Jeopardy PowerPoint I made before flying to New Orleans) to meet up with the lady crew, so I curled up in a twin bed (note to self: never again) and fell asleep, after realizing that I’d left all of my jewelry and my toothbrush in Denver.

Shit.

I woke up in a strange house in a strange neighborhood, and immediately set off to procure dental hygiene products. Our Airbnb was in an interesting neighborhood. I’ve lived in Chicago, and in interesting parts of Cape Town, so I’m really not bothered by much. I strode into the nearest store, which was an oddly compiled bodega carrying everything from canned beans to beer to purses to free condoms to one tube of toothpaste.

Joy secured, I returned to my temporary home. The women were surprised I’d walked in the neighborhood alone. I  reminded them that daylight is a beautiful thing. This Airbnb, a remodeled shotgun house with a cute red front door, was full of weird gnat-like flies. Obviously, I wasn’t sure about the local insect game, so I withheld judgement until I realized that this is absolutely not normal. However, I made my peace with the flies after the first two hours of continuous aggravation. The showers were odd. It was a nice reminder to me that I should absolutely pay someone to do my tile work for me. They had done a decent job remodeling the place, complete with bright turquoise accent walls and exposed brick and newer appliances, but man, were they inept at tile work.

And I have to imagine that neither am I. So as my bathroom remodels get underway (ha, eventually?), I will have to remind myself that my DIY mindset does not extend to actual DIY practice. And I will have to bring in skilled assistance or risk being mocked mentally by anyone who ever uses my bathrooms.

We got ready to go to fancy brunch. However, immediately after brunch, we were headed to an alligator tour. (I have so many thoughts about this tour – we paid $105 each for this adventure, and I found similar ones on Groupon for $16….so I complained, but only mildly.) I donned overalls that my brother’s fiancée had brought for me. They looked great on her, but I was just swimming in them. At least they were comfortable! (I’m generally too long for one piece things, which is annoying. I guess they don’t make clothes with the long torso-ed in mind, and it ends up touching you in places you’d rather not.)

We made it down to brunch, two of us wearing overalls, one wearing obscenely short shorts, one wearing a vest made out of Bud Light boxes and held together with leopard print duct tape, and a fanny pack with a naked male belly button on it (as though it were an outcropping of exposed stomach), and attempted to enter the restaurant. The man guarding the door, I mean, the host, dressed in a suit and bowtie, looked us up and down and said, “None of this is going to work,” while he waved his pointed index finger back and forth, up and down.

So, banned because of the way that we were, we went next door (same freaking restaurant) and sidled up to the bar, where I ate delicious gumbo. (Rabbit, duck? Something gamey that I’m not usually keen on. But still enjoyed. Would eat again.)

Then, the alligator tour commenced. I’m a naturally curious person, and I love adventure, generally. I enjoy nature and I enjoy water, so this was bound to be a good time. We climbed into a giant SUV with a couple, and were carted off into the swamplands surrounding the city.

I am in love with trees. I have been in love with trees since spending most of my childhood in and around the apple tree in our backyard, and the trees in the South do not disappoint. (See also my obsession with tulip trees in Kansas City. Not trying to say that’s the South. Adding additional context for tree love.) They are both formidable yet graceful. They loom large above you, and I imagine I could happily build a cabin and live beneath one forever.

I had never been on an airboat before. These things are awesome. They glide over floating foliage, loudly, and gather speed. I held my arm out, as one should, feeling the wind on my exposed skin. I loved it.

We navigated through a larger water channel before turning into a smaller passage, and eventually arrived to float among some plants. The guide brought out marshmallows, hooked them onto a pole, and then we met our first alligator, who floated up next to the boat, eager for food.

A smaller alligator joined that one, and the two of them chased pieces of raw chicken and marshmallows while I peppered the guide with questions about the alligator market (which is not what it once was, despite their utility as a food source), alligator lifestyles and territorial habits, and their lifespan. Turns out, they’ll eat anything, they grow to about 17 feet, live for up to 70 years, and grow very slowly. They’re very territorial, and are left to fend for themselves immediately after birth. You used to be able to get about $5,000 for a decent sized gator – but now the going rate is roughly $500 for the same gator. Hunters are given tags based on the land that they own, and it’s a good thing for population control. Alligator skin isn’t as popular as it once was for outerwear, and as such, the industry has suffered. I do believe I ate a gator nugget in Florida once.

I also learned a lot about water and land ownership rights. Turns out, in Louisiana, you can own water as though it were land, where in other places, you cannot. (You generally buy land with bodies of water on it, but you do not have claim to said water other than by the deeding of water rights, which are generally shared amongst those whose land butts up again or includes that body of water.) I need to do some more research, and learn how to more effectively communicate my understanding of water rights, but from what I gather, there are different applications of water rights depending on the potential for usage of a given waterway, and your water rights extend roughly 6 inches below the surface of the water. (Again, this is not legal advice, and should in no way be construed as such. I was drinking alcoholic beverages and asking questions that I don’t know the guide was qualified to answer.)

I enjoyed the afternoon immensely, and it culminated in me holding a baby alligator! He was very squirmy, and clearly not in the mood to be manhandled by humans. But he was sweet, and I imagined he’d feel right at home in my bathtub with Carl for a brother. They could hunt mice and squirrels in my backyard, and I would build him a pond for summer relaxation.

We left the alligator tour and went and ate the best fried chicken I have ever eaten in my entire life. I love fried chicken. I would eat it all the time. And man, the sides. Sweet potatoes, collard greens, mac and cheese, beans, rice. Heaven. This is what my heaven buffet includes.

We went home, napped (very necessary), and then became beautiful for our evening adventures. It included Hurricanes at some famous bar, then somewhere else, then a club. By this point, I was ready to go home, but they refused to let me go alone and thus, I danced wearily for several hours, while holding onto a railing, until we could leave.

The next morning brought beignets and I was able to pick up a new set of tarot cards. My friend Madeline had gifted me some in high school, and I’ve since lost them. While I am in no way blessed with the ability to remember anything about the tarot, I do enjoy possession of said cards, and was happy to procure them. The voodoo shop was lovely, cluttered, and full of things I could have spent hours looking at.

We wandered until it was time to check into my hotel, and we all hauled ourselves and our stuff there to wait until it was time to go to the airport. As soon as they left, I  immediately put on the bathrobe (because in theory, bathrobes are amazing but who actually bothers to use them in real life?), and then sprawled out across the bed.

I ordered room service. Obvious mistake, but the exhaustion deadened my bones and my fear of committing some GrubHub faux pas in a hotel lobby loomed larger than it should have, so with that, an over-priced Caesar salad and turkey club were whisked to my room. I opened the door in my bathrobe, hoping that wasn’t too weird. But I would imagine they’ve seen worse?

The next morning, I had formulated somewhat of a plan, and took the streetcar to a cemetery. I am obsessed with graveyards. I find them to be beautiful places of quiet reflection, the immensity of life somehow compacted into tiny markers of who once was. I’ve often stared at gravestones, caught in my own head, thinking hard about what it is to live a full life and then be reduced to a few lines of text for future consideration. In New Orleans, due to the sea level situation, you can’t really be buried underground, as your grave would just come back up, rejected by the earth. So instead, you are buried above ground. This cemetery housed graves going back to the late 18th century, I believe, and I wandered and wondered until the heat of the day and the weight of laptop digging into my back signaled that it was time to depart.

I perused a local bookstore for about an hour. I could read forever. I have lost my gift of immediately knowing a book is worth reading by looking at it, overwhelmed by the offerings of language and stories. I selected two, finally, one, a memoir by a well-known blogger known as The Bloggess, because she’s magical and hilarious and I would happily support her by purchasing her book, and the other, because the story felt compelling. I also had one more book in my backpack, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, a man whose writing I adore. So now, with three times the books I had with me when I started this three-day adventure, I sat wearily and made a new plan.

I had a few hours. I was exhausted. I was sweaty. The air was thick. Since I’d just spent $30 on books, I didn’t want to Lyft anywhere and I wasn’t sure what else I needed to see; although I had a couple museums in mind, I did not have the time. So instead, I decided to take the city bus to the airport, figuring I could just curl up at a bar somewhere with a book. So that’s exactly what I did.

I am not the most adept at public transportation, nor am I the least, so I figured that even with my several hour window, I’d manage to arrive in time. One streetcar ride, to the end of the line (I got to ride past the Loyola New Orleans campus, so that was cool), two buses, and a half mile walk in between seemed not that daunting. I made friends with a woman at one of the bus stops. We talked for half an hour about everything from high cholesterol to Chicago and weather and fried chicken. She said the locals don’t love the fried chicken place I’d fallen in love with as much as they used to, and I agreed that once something gets too popular, its quality generally decreases. However, I swore I’d come back to sample more chicken offerings, and we laughed about the quality of fried chicken in Denver. When she left the bus, she waved at me and shouted for me to have a blessed day. I loved her.

I arrived at the airport, having lost more fluids to sweat than I ever have in my entire life, exhausted and content. I found a quiet bar, curled up, and brought out my book. After the couple next to me left, a large man sat down, and immediately began talking crazy. I gave him some insight into adoption, after he told me a completely rambling story about a niece that had been given up for adoption who had reached out to the family, but the family was not getting along and so they refused to give him her information, and this and that and everything. So, I directed him to where he might find additional resources for tracking her down and I assured him that knowing is important, and that meeting her might provide some important closure for his sister, her birth mother.

With no ability to create any sort of insightful conclusion, I conclude. Alas, that was New Orleans. I’ll go back; it was beautiful.

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On Kavanaugh, Rapily

Oh, surprise, surprise, rape blog again.

 

I hate this.

I hate what is going on right now as far as the current Supreme Court nominee, Kavanaugh. It’s a fucking hard Kava-no from me.

I haven’t eaten in two days. I have ordered food, looked at food, and taken two bites of food.

Politics is real. What action and inaction politicians are taking has a very real affect. It affects all of us. Especially some of us. Especially in certain situations. This is one of them. I hate the word “triggered” – but here’s the deal – it’s real. It’s a real thing. And it happens when you least expect it, and usually welcome it the least. Now is one of those times.

When I was 12, my father had taken us – and I do mean that – and we were in Eagle, Colorado, staying with some people we’d met at City Market. We were on our way to the movies that night, and I was sitting in the front seat of a car with bench seating. I was in the middle, because I was small. During the drive, the man, a stranger, put his large hand on my small thigh, and left it there. I froze. I stayed frozen. I finally moved to pick up his hand and remove it from my thigh, placing it on his own. That night, I stayed awake, with my back to the wall of the hard bed I was sleeping in, waiting for him to come. He didn’t come. I told no one. Later, when my dad wanted to go back to visit this family, I fought and cried and begged and fought. I got in trouble. I told no one the real reason I didn’t want to go.  I told no one until I was in therapy after college. I told my therapist. Then I told my mom.

When I was 18, I was drugged, along with my pregnant roommate, at a party. I felt the feelings of thoughts escaping my mind, and stared out of a window. I got her home, somehow, safely, and fed her milk while she was throwing up. My muscles didn’t work, and I barely made it to my bed. Bu I somehow managed to save us that night.

When I was 24, I went on three dates with a pilot. I told him, on our first date, that I didn’t want to have sex. We kissed, and everything progressed, and I protested, but when it happened, I froze. I didn’t say no. I remember laying there, in the midst of it, knowing it was a no but not knowing how to get out of it. I stayed silent and it was over.

When I was 24, I was drugged and assaulted my a co-worker. If you have ever read this blog you are familiar with that story. I woke up 12 hours later, naked and damp, on the sixth floor of the Hilton in Midtown, New York City. He was waiting, as I was throwing up in a bathroom, and when he spoke to me he asked me what I remembered. I said nothing. He said, “We just had some fun.” I will never forget the Bud Light bottle on the TV stand. I will never forget that shower, or the rest of the day, or the rest of the rest of my life. That day, I told no one. I later told my bosses. Three months later, I had an emotional breakdown. It wasn’t until way after that that I told my mom. I tell my mom everything. She knew. But she didn’t know exactly what. It was that. The weekend I got home from New York, I cried for 8 hours straight. I sliced my thighs with a  wine opener so I could feel something and stop crying. No one knows that. My brother came to my door that Saturday while I was completely immobilized by tears, oblivious to what was going on, because no one knew, and told me he wasn’t sure what was going on, but that he loved me.

When I was 27, I was drugged at a party. My then-boyfriend came back after being gone for a bit to find both myself and his male cousin not okay. He spent the night taking care of me. It was almost Easter.

When I was 29, my then-boyfriend dismissed my explanation of someone touching my breasts inappropriately at an acro yoga event, saying that because we’d had prior history, I had welcomed it. I hadn’t. I hadn’t welcomed the prior history, either, but I’d frozen then as well. It had been preceded by unwelcome fingers finding me in a hot tub. I had moved, immediately, to another place. I did not say anything.

There is more. There is always more. There’s me at 19 being thrown to the floor of an acquaintance’s apartment; there’s me in Chicago being groped at a bar, shuffling against the wall to prevent it from continuing; there’s more; there’s more; there’s more.

This circus we’re currently undergoing in the political sphere is ridiculous. Not for a single reason. For a hundred reasons. I can’t explain to you the terror and discomfort I feel at night, in the morning, always. I can’t tell you what it’s like to relive my assault over and over again as I read the news. I can’t explain the tears I cried on Election Night 2016. I can’t explain the hatred, the rage, the shame.

My Facebook feed today – and not just today – is full of friends detailing their assaults publicly. This is both beautiful and horrific. Coming clean, coming out, explaining is so freeing, but also so exposing. And of them, most went unreported. There’s a sick statistic out there that says that something like 6% of rapists go to jail.

I don’t doubt that, and I honestly doubt that it’s not a lower percentage.

I can’t report mine. I was naïve at the time, and wasn’t aware that I had options. Honestly, I was more worried about my job than anything else. I didn’t know that I could have sued the company. The statute of limitations has since passed. It’s two years. An ex boyfriend, who was a lovely and supportive human being, looked into it for me. I won’t call New York State and explain to them what happened to me in 2013. Because I can’t and won’t be able to meet the burden of proof and I can’t and won’t handle the emotional damage it would wreak upon me.

I dated older men. I am kinky. I had drunk alcohol that night. Therefore, I must have been complicit. I must have wanted it. I must have invited him in.

I can’t prove otherwise. I don’t have blood tests to show you that I was drugged. I don’t have semen samples to show you that I had sex. I don’t have shit. It is me against the world on this one, and it always will be.

I don’t know what happened to my body in New York in January of 2013. I never will. But something happened, and everything changed. My life will never be the same. I’m lucky, because I wasn’t there for it, consciously. People far stronger than I have weathered the storm that comes from sex they’re there for. It wasn’t until I read an article in April of 2013 about the Steubenville rape case where an economist theorized that rape while you’re unconscious does no lasting psychological damage that all the hell came loose inside of me. I cried for two days; I didn’t sleep; I didn’t eat; I tore at my skin until I bled. It was then that the assault landed in a very real way. It was then that I called my therapist, and he came home from skiing to hear me, and it came out of me for the first time.

My life will never be the same. I have grown and overcome and learned and accepted. And I will never be the person I was before that night. I survived an unemployment hearing in which I was ripped to shreds by my former employer. I spoke bravely and certainly and calmly. And I felt relief. Someone finally heard me. Someone finally asked questions. It was horrible. I won.

To this day, I wonder what will happen if I ever run into any of those people who were complicit in covering up my sexual assault. My boss told me that the HR report was “inconclusive” and that if I told anyone at the company, and my assailant sued the company, it would be on me. He said that to me. I crumpled against the wall after he left my office. That was June of 2013.

I quit.

I went to work at a Dairy Queen and my life has never been the same. My career never recovered. My sense of self esteem that I had worked so carefully to build has never recovered. I have been treading water ever since, staying barely afloat and alive. I do work. I live. I date. I am. But I am not. And I never will be. I am alone. I live on an island of discomfort and fear. I live on an island of uncertainty. I have lost my confidence, my glow, my radiance. I am a shell of the person I was supposed to be. I am darkness and sadness and hurt. I am functional. I am outwardly happy. I am outwardly supportive and focused and attentive. I am none of those things. Not anymore.

I wanted to die.

My friend Gina asked me who would take care of my cat if I were to die, and that’s what saved it. I think of that, often. Carl is still alive. So am I. But what will save me when Carl is gone and the darkness resurfaces, as it does? I can’t die because I’d be letting down my mother. I can’t die because I matter to children. I can’t die because my room isn’t clean and I don’t want to bother anyone.

These are real thoughts.

If you watch these Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and don’t imagine yourself in Christine’s shoes, you’re wrong. Think. Think hard. Think of your whole life and think of everything that has happened to you. If you’re one of the lucky ones who has somehow managed to escape the touching and the groping and the sexual objectification and the assault and the rape and the disbelief and the cover ups and the fucking torture that is the cross-examination, you’re lucky. And you damned well better believe that it could happen to you. Because it will or it might. You can take every precaution and prepare every safeguard and you’re still at risk.

Life is hell. Sexual assault and rape and everything else associated with it is hell. For white men to stand up and deny this is disgusting. I am disgusted with our country, our president, our leadership. I am sick to my stomach tonight.

NO.

 

 

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.

 

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.”