Saturday, December 29, 2012

Why happiness is a cat giving the stink eye

It's that time of year, when bloggers everywhere tally up the score from the last twelve months. Travelers list all the places they've traveled (I seethe and rage), readers list books they've read (I take mental note of recommendations), the rest contentedly check off all the goals they managed to reach in 2012. But not me! Nary a resolution will you find in these annals--I'm stubborn that way, "why set yourself up for failure?" being my personal philosophy. Also, what am I, an oracle? It turns out I'm much better at predicting the past. 

I've been feeling particularly dour lately regarding my state of affairs, maybe due to all the end-of-the-year reflection hoopla inside and outside of the blogosphere, much as I like to think myself immune to such things. Maybe it's the result of my introspective nature and the fact that I'm 32 and nowhere close to living the life I'd like to be, or maybe I'm just at the peak of a hormonal cycle, but either way, it's been even harder than usual to find a bright side, lately. And even harder to drum up any smidgen of enthusiasm for a bright! shiny! new! year! and all its myriad "possibilities."

Which is why it positively pains me to do this, but in looking back on the year, I have to admit that I did make a few incremental net gains in 2012. Certain small steps toward a happier, healthier me. For instance, it took me half of 2012 (and a portion of 2011), but I finally found a job that is at least 50% less bad than my previous one. Granted, I still go to work every morning wondering what the hell I'm doing with my life, BUT I can now do so in an environment that is approximately 50% less horrible than before. Yay?

Also, if I had made any resolutions last year, at the top of the list would probably have been something along the lines of, "Start going to yoga again. Then go, a lot. Don't stop going." And, I'm proud to report that since I introduced the Yoga (Almost) Every Day project back in July, I have done just that. For the last five months, and with only a few exceptions, I've been going to yoga an average of 3-5 times per week. I will NOT think about the fact that I have not made nearly as much progress in this time as I had hoped, that my noodle arms are still weak and noodly, that my tight hips might as well be made of steel for as flexible as they aren't. I will instead focus on the fact that I go because I enjoy it, it keeps me sane, and it livens up the occasional dinner party.

Speaking of sane, 2012 was the year that I finally dragged this mess to a therapist. It's been a couple months or so now, and do I hate it? Yes, I do. Do I think it's helping? Not particularly, no. Do I dread going with every fiber of my being? Yes. Wait, where was I going with this again? Oh, right. Something about conquering fears. I think. I'm not sure where my expectations of therapy came from, but it was almost certainly from tv. The real life version goes, hey, newsflash! Talking about bad stuff feels bad! I'm still working this one out, as you can see. Moving on...

On a brighter note, 2012 was also the year of dinner parties and becoming friends with some of my neighbors and their friends, and for them I'm so, so grateful. (And ha! Look at that, there IS a New Year's resolution at the end of that post. And I think I kept it, too!) 

And last but not least, longtime readers of the Diary will perhaps know that I have wanted a pet for a loooooong time. For so many years it seemed like one of those unattainable ideas, on par with, "Buy a house!" "Travel the world!" "Find your dream job!" "Just write a book!" Like a really nice idea in theory, but ultimately, given my circumstances, not something I could actually do quite yet. 

And then there was Ellie. 
"What are YOU looking at?"
And we all know how I feel about her. (Annoyed, mostly. But also very happy.)

What made you happy in 2012?  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Why I hate small talk

At lunch out with the office today, my coworker (in her fifties, divorced, with a college aged daughter) turned to me and asked what I was doing for Christmas. I told her I would be spending it with my family at my aunt and uncle's house. "Are you married?" she asked. I have worked in the office for six months now, and there are only nine of us there, but I suppose some things can get overlooked. 

"Nope!" I replied cheerfully.

"No kids?" she persisted.

"Nope!" I replied pleasantly.

A small cloud passed. A brief knitting together of eyebrows. "How old...?" she said, and then stopped herself. "No, that's alright," she murmured.

"Excuse me?"

"That's alright," she said. I nodded. We both reached for our ice water and turned away to join other conversations.

It's December, but it never feels like Christmas, anymore.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why there's more than one way to skin love a cat

Now that the Festivus season is upon us, I'd like to take this opportunity for an Airing of Grievances, specifically in regards to the worst roommate I have ever had. And I have had some doozies! Remember the guy whose parents would regularly swing by for six-week visits? Whose girlfriend seemed to be an aspiring opera singer (say it like a fortune cookie, now) in bed? Yup. This one? Worse.

My new roommate...where to start. My new roommate expects to be waited on hand and foot. I have to serve all her meals. And is she grateful? Well, I have never once heard a thank you. I wouldn't mind so much if she would just be respectful. But she's not, she's...well, she's a loud talker, for one. And she's always talking. She'll go into another room and just yell. For no reason! It's kind of psychotic, honestly. I have asked her nicely to knock it off but she acts like she can't even hear me. But I know she can! And...this is a delicate subject, but, well...when she goes to the bathroom the entire apartment smells. It's like...worse than you can possibly imagine. This happens at least twice a day. Plus, she has no boundaries. She insists on sleeping with me at night (I know, I know), and when I oblige, how does she repay me? With a 5 a.m. wakeup call every day. Serenity now!

Ok, you got me. I'm sure you figured out that I'm talking about Ellie the Cat. When I posted this video of her coming home, I had really, sincerely hoped that her meowing/yowling/crying would be limited to brief moments of displeasure, and not, like, running on a constant loop. I'll leave you to guess how that worked out. It's sort of like having a colicky baby in the house, only the baby never grows up. 

I had a bit of a venting session about it with a friend over gchat the other day:
Me: She is a bad bad kitty. I love her but she's awful.
Friend: Awwwww.
Me: She yells constantly. All the time. My neighbors probably hate me. 
Friend: She just wants to tell you what's on her mind.
Me: Sometimes it sounds like she's being murdered. Like someone's stabbing her with a knife. She's just awful. If I could send her back to where she came from...
Me: I wouldn't! I just love her so much! Damn her! And her adorable soft wittle head.
So that's about where we stand 'round these here parts. I resign myself to constant, futile cat-shushing and never getting a full night's sleep again, and in return I get the loveliest little lap lump.  

Don't be fooled by this innocent face.




I guess it's not so bad.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why I am sure you are interesting in many positions

One more installment of too-good-to-pass-up tidbits from the Great New Hire Search 2012. Because it tickles me. Click for parts one and two.
I am interesting in the [redacted] position.
 Are you?
I have a Bachelorette Degree in Architecture.
Do you?
II am interested in applying for the Engineering Assistant III position that was recently posted on craigslist.
Uh...that's nice. Good luck to you. That's not the position we posted.
I am confident that I can effectively, professionally, and decisively perform all task and requirements of this position, and most of all I don't need this job. I want it, which is the most critical attribute that I have. I sure you have worked with people that don’t have another choice and wish they weren’t in their position, and I’m sure you’ve worked with people that love their job, there’s quite a difference in performance and morale. You should hire me, you should hire me because I am the most intelligent, versatile, and well versed/exposed candidate you have for this position. You can hire the person that has more experience, the person that's use to the routine of the environment; but, you will be hiring a robot, a person that is perpetual and not at all creative. In hiring me you will be hiring a creative person, a person that is always thinking, open to new techniques, and a person that drives toward success. If you want to hire a robot that needs this job by all means do so, but if you want to invigorate your company with a shot of fresh air, with a bright thinker open to sharing and accepting techniques and correction, who wants to be there, there is no other choice.
Uh...I pick the robot?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Why your body is your business

Fun with Craigslist just doesn't end, folks. Think of this as an addendum to yesterday's post, wherein I put up snippets of particularly baffling responses to a job posting. This is the first sentence of one very hopeful man's cover letter:
Dear Human Resource Professional:

The Company is an outstanding corporation of considerate admiration to me due to the sustainable, renovation and master planning practices in the field.
I just read that three times and I still have no idea.

Then we have the guy with the redundant name. Let's say it's either Pete Peter, Rob Robert, or Dan Daniel. Not enough to disqualify someone in itself, but it does make me question his parents' choices and wonder if perhaps he might have a middle name he would prefer to go by. Pete Peter/Rob Robert/Dan Daniel says:
I know I’m perhaps a bit ‘over’ qualified but I’m willing to work for [way more than this position actually pays] considering our current economic situation.

I’m available to show you my body anytime of the week after 2:30pm to show you my work if you find my skillsets of interest.
Wait, "I'm available to show you my body?" Dude, it's...not that kind of job.

I think he means "body of work?" But honestly, I'm just not sure. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why must you make me mock you?

My boss had me write a Craigslist ad for a new hire and screen the responses and oh, what an unexpected pleasure this is turning out to be.
 

This one is killing me:
I am a Loyal employee who is Dependable and Responsible period. My Time is very Valuable to me, which is to say that I am usually Early, if not On Time. I Learn Quick in order to deal with the situation at hand as to Adapt to the environment I'm in, when taught well I do well. I take Pride in whatever it is that I do, and tend to perfect it to its highest degree whenever possible. I work to obtain my goals, because reaching them is how you Measure Success. What you need to know about me is simple, I Take Care of Business and Listening is the First Rule. I tend to Write well and keeping things Organized seems to come Naturally to me.
I call him The Natural.

Then there's this:
The last year I spent on active duty and the three following years working in an architect's office were spent full time developing design and construction documents.
So you...live in the future?

Then there's "this isn't my first choice but...":
I would like to start my career doing Landscape Design since I hold the MLA, but considering the economy and how most architecture was stalled out, I'd really like an opprotunity to [redacted] more!
Go figure that his "objective" is to:
secure employment in the Washington DC or Northern Virginia area and apply myself in a professional manner utilizing my education and skills to benefit the organization I work for.
Specific! And personal!

Let this be a lesson to you, job seekers! But now, I have a question. (Any HR managers in the house?) I have always written thoughtful and detailed cover letters, tailored to the position I was applying for, 3-5 paragraphs in a Word document and attached to the e-mail. I have a dozen or so applications here already, and of those who bothered with a cover letter at all, they are all just a brief few lines in the body of the e-mail. Have I been doing it wrong? Have I been burdening hiring managers with the inconvenience of having to click to open another document, and then read through a full page of text? Please advise. 

UPDATED TO ADD:
I received my first cover letter as an attachment! With great trepidation I opened it to read...
Dear Sir/Madam,

Enclosed is my resume for the “[redacted]” position.

I would like to thank you in advance for your time and consideration in reviewing my credentials.  I look forward to discussing with you any opportunities for possible employment.

Sincerely, 
[not a wordy person]

I just...I don't get it.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why I love Mates of State

If anyone was wondering if the Mates of State still gaze at each other adoringly when they play music, the answer is yes. And it was awesome.

They didn't play this song last night but I'm posting the video because it's adorable.
  

Such a fun show. Shout out goes to P for not bailing! Woooo! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why I'm not letting it go to my head

And now for something truly important. It's been a while since I've done a hair post, hasn't it? Presented in inane-text-conversations-with-my-sister format:

Me: I think I got a 70s shag haircut! Ack!


 My sis: Color too?!

 Me: Nope. Still the same as when you saw me two days ago.


Sis: Looks reddish.

 Me: Phone camera+bathroom lighting.

Me: Do you like it? 

Sis: I like the color.

Me: It's the same!!

Then, unrelated to hair, but related in the fact that it took place later that night, which you can tell because I'm wearing the same shirt (and not because I always wear the same shirt), this picture:


I was going to say, "presented without explanation," except, well... 

Explanations:

a. This is me wearing yoga pants and attempting headstand at a dinner party.
b. I had to change after I split my real pants attempting to demonstrate frog pose. (For your edification.) I don't remember how it came up, but it did, ok?
c. SINCE I was now wearing yoga pants there seemed to be NO REASON NOT TO attempt headstand, and again I don't remember how it came up, but it did, ok?
d. There are only two situations in which I will ever do headstand, and one is in a yoga studio with calm nerves, steady breath, and a centered mind, and the other is drunk and in someone's living room.
e. When I am calm, steady, and centered, I have never once fallen out of headstand, but drunk and in someone's living room, it is perhaps unsurprising that my first attempt ended with me crashing spectacularly down on my left shoulder and side. (I totally get the word "tipsy" now!)
f. FOR SOME REASON (and also posterity) I agreed to go for this second, more successful attempt (with the help of a spotter this time, because ouch).

Moral of the story: INVITE ME TO YOUR DINNER PARTIES. But you should probably move your furniture out of the way first. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why Enough is enough, except when it's Not Enough

Lately I've been struggling with the idea of how much is Enough. I read this blog post on poverty, which led me to this blog post on what being poor really means, which led me to a tangle of complicated emotions. Frustration at how easy it is to fall into the hole that is poverty, and how hard it is to climb out of it. Roiling, burning indignation at the stereotypes so often associated with the poorest of the poor (laziness, lack of motivation) when in most cases these stereotypes are not only untrue, but the exact opposite of true. And, finally, it has to be said, relief that I don't have to worry about where my next meal will come from, or whether to pay the phone bill or the electric bill this month. Upon reading these posts, I recognized and was grateful for the fact that in this sense, I truly do have Enough. I have enough money to buy food and gas. I have enough to buy fancy coffee in paper cups when I want to without feeling overly guilty about it. I have enough to pay rent every month on an apartment I live in alone in one of the most expensive rental markets in the country. I have enough to have a cat and even to pay for pet insurance for the cat so that if something terrible and expensive happens to her she won't have to die because I can't afford to save her. For me this last bit seemed like the (completely arbitrary and also ridiculous) tipping point of Enough-ness. E.g. You know you're not poor when...you can afford insurance for your cat. Yeah. 

However, no matter how grateful you may feel to have your basic day-to-day needs met, it's impossible to have a mental discussion with yourself on Enough-ness without also looking at the other side of it; the Not Enough. Not enough to travel or go on vacation, except maybe, if I scrimped and saved and wiped out my emergency savings fund. I could scrimp and save to build it back up again, but it might take me a few years. I have enough to pay my monthly student loan payment, but on the income-contingent plan the amount I am required to pay barely covers the interest, and not much else. At this rate I will quite literally never pay off my loan. At the current rate it would take me 38 years just to pay off the principal. Once you add interest in you can see how 38 years turns into quite possibly never, but I can't afford to pay any more than I am. Not enough to contribute to a retirement fund so that I can one day afford to retire, and in the event that I can't, no guarantee that anyone will actually employ a person of retirement age and few specialized skills when there are so many younger and cheaper alternatives. 

Basically, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of knowing that I have everything I need at the moment, while still being utterly terrified about the future. Knowing how quickly Enough can slip into Barely Enough or its cousin, Almost Enough, and how from there it's a rapid descent into the mire and muck known as Not Enough. The even scarier prospect of Not Enough becoming a relentless cycle of Never Enough. 

The mental gymnastics required of this dichotomy are, frankly, exhausting: I am fed, warm, and clothed. (I might not always be fed, warm, and clothed.) I have Enough. (I will never have Enough.) I am grateful. (I am terrified.) 

If anyone else wants to chime in, I am interested in knowing, in broad terms: Do you feel like you have Enough? Do you sleep at night?                    

Monday, November 12, 2012

Why it's time to play cat-ch up

To every mean commenter who ever gleefully wished me a long life of singledom in the company of the many cats I would surely acquire...

...thank you. We are quite happy.


She came with the name L.B., an abbreviation of a moniker she surely did not deserve, and so now I call her Ellie. 


This is the position in which you will commonly find her. She doesn't like to play, particularly, but she does enjoy flopping down wherever she may be, rolling, stretching, begging for a scratch, and proffering an inquisitive paw. 


She is a cuddler and an affectionate head-butter, with a purr like an engine idling. Her eyes are blue-blue and her yowl can rupture eardrums. She is a grande dame of five and a half years.   


She has a tiny little pointed head, a round, soft tummy, and a skinny little mousey tail. Her fur is very, very soft.


Here is a video I posted on Facebook of her coming home for the first time. Featuring: me having a ridiculous, one-sided, and also high-pitched conversation with a cat, and Ellie's trade-marked baby-like cry of displeasure. I love that the song playing on the radio in the background is called 'Home.' 

 

She would like everyone to know that her attitude has much improved since the awful car ride of terror.

She is not much of a bug-killer, as she nearly stepped on the slow-moving bug I attempted to point out to her as she obliviously butted her head against my gesturing hand in an effort to get petted. But she does cuddle up with me at night and sleep through until morning. I think I'll keep her.    

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why your positivity makes me feel meh

Sometimes my sister bugs the shit out of me. If you have a sister, you know this is true. I love her and all, but sometimes it's like, how are we related, again? 

Recently she sent me an e-mail with a link to this video, saying: i wish you would get into this stuff, power of positive thinking and all that... always makes me feel better, and it fits in with yoga n all :)   

 

Don't even...don't even watch that video, guys. I mean, do, but, like ten seconds is probably enough. I think you get the point here. 

I responded: Umm, sorry, all I can think of when I see that is this:

 

Do watch this video. It's only 8 seconds long.

Her response: to each their own lol!

Today she texted me, asking what I'm planning to wear (to the theatah) on Saturday. I said I didn't know, given that I currently hate all my clothes shoes scarves jewelry hair and face. Which, come on, is funny (and also happens to be true).

She replied: At least u have a positive attitude

And then it was like...
  
Yeah, like that.

Did I miss the memo where it says sisters are no longer allowed to complain to each other about having nothing to wear? Are we also not allowed to complain about men or how weird/annoying our parents are? The next time her dog pees on my bed and couch within a 12 hour time period do I have to compliment her on how effectively he was able to communicate his displeasure at being left alone for ten goddamn minutes? Sorry, I didn't know we were playing the glad game.



Oh, in other news, I got a cat. An awesome one. Pictures forthcoming, as soon as I take them.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Why I'm ready for my trained monkey now

I don't have much to say, anymore, and I don't want to write about work, but today my boss told me I'm "very good at filling in forms." He said it as a compliment, and I made a joke about it--I'll put it on my resume!--but then he insisted that it was indeed a skill that not everyone was capable of, example this guy... I took the form (already completed by this guy--shoddily, we can only assume) and prepared to copy the information over to a template of the exact same form but in a Word file, and with his words still echoing in my head I started thinking about what else I am good at at work. Printing checks and putting them in envelopes and mailing them. I am goddamn good at that, I thought. Then I thought, goddammit.

And this is not about the little girl with dreams of being a veterinarian/teacher/librarian and how strange she would have thought it had she known that the pinnacle of her professional achievements would consist of sealing envelopes, I swear to god it's not. It's more about how many people are working so far below their abilities; me and every other  person who could easily be replaced by a trained monkey at their place of employment; and it's not a judgement, but more just a reflection on what the world could be if everyone in it was doing everything they are capable of. But if everyone was doing everything they are capable of, then who would fill in the forms? Who would seal the envelopes? But you know, it's not that I mind doing those things. And if I was doing those things as a necessary part of my Very Important and Challenging Yet Rewarding Work, then I would be absolutely fine with that. It's not that I feel like it's beneath me, or anything. But when those things are all there is, then suddenly, it's like, shit, man... This is all there is.

I feel like I need to add a caveat here, stating that, as always, this post is not about you. I am not judging your job or aspirations. It can be great to have an easy and boring job; I know this. To get paid for doing it! It seems almost insane if you think about it too closely. I know it's a gift horse. And I'm staring right into its gaping maw. 

The thing is, I am not doing anything else of consequence with my life, at the moment. I am not doing this job and raising a family. Or doing this job and going out every night. Or doing this job and any other thing that might make it all worthwhile. So when I work myself into a hand-wringing panic wondering if this is all there is, the worst part is knowing that actually, it kind of is.

And look! I have managed to write yet another goddamned depressing post that makes people not want to look me directly in the eye. 

Here.


Call it even?  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Why curiosity killed the rat: a tale of a rat and its tail

Hey everyone. Long time no blog, eh? All has been pretty quiet, here. Although, not entirely quiet enough, as I received the following e-mail from my neighbor this morning. It's simultaneously the best and worst e-mail I have ever received, and so I had to share. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll throw up in your mouth a little bit. Here it is, in its entirety.

Hi [Property Manager],

This whole thing boils down to one simple comment, but I thought the story deserved to be told. As you know, last week, Rachel in apt. [XXX] opened the door to the south stairwell, and encountered a rat. A big rat. Both apparently frightened, Rachel dashed down the stairs and out the back exit and the rat scurried over her feet into the first floor hallway of the building. After reporting her experience to you via e-mail, [our neighbor] chimed in that she's heard scratching between the walls at night. Soon thereafter, E, our trusty exterminator, paid a visit to the building. Then, over the long holiday weekend, all went quiet. Until today. 

Herbie, my faithful mutt, woke me with a bark this morning, reacting to sound outside our condo. Still adjusting from unconscious to alert, my ears suggested the squeals came from the street and the thuds from the sidewalk. But then, as my mind worked to match the sounds to those familiar, I realized they weren’t garbage trucks or worn down brake pads. And their sources were coming from the hallway.

I began to fill with dread. [Our drug dealer neighbor] was back, he and his friends were fighting. [Our crazy ass psycho neighbor] was throwing newspapers in front of everyone's door and nailing pamphlets of condemnation to the wall. But, I thought, what would those things sound like? Doubtfully quite like this. 

While holding Herbie close, stroking his head to calm his nerves, my brain returned a hit for the audio: the banging of office equipment... and the sound of pain. Both were outside my unit's door. 

After what felt like an hour, but was surely a mere few minutes, the hall went quiet and I felt the coast was clear. Moving slowly from the bed, I went to the door and aligned my eye with the peephole. It was the usual view of a dark beige carpet and a light beige wall, but there was a dark form in the far left of the fisheye lens. My curiosity piqued, I decided to unobscure my sight and cracked open the door. And there it was, the top half of a paper shredder beneath a dead grey rat. 

Unpleasant. I shut the door. The excitement over, my active thoughts moved to preparing for work. But as I dressed, the annals of my mind continued to analyze the scene. Someone killed a rat, that much was clear. But, why the paper shredder? Maybe the rat-killer used it to bludgeon the rat - but why would the rat be on top of the shredder? Unable to answer the question, the dark regions of my brain moved on to other matters.  

Ready to leave the house, and finally over the rat, I took Herbie outside for a bathroom break before I left for work, the rat and the shredder were gone. Only a few shredded pieces of paper remained to indicate there was ever a shredder on the floor in front of my door. With that mental note, the already terminal remainder of my hope for an explanation died.

Returning from Herbie’s favored patch of grass, however, we ran into K, exiting her apartment with a broom. I was about to ask her if she knew anything about the morning's events, when she said, "I'm so sorry to have bothered you this morning." 

"So it was you?" I inquired.

She set the broom to the floor and placed her hands around it, preparing to sweep. She paused. "Yeah. I don't know what to call it, it wasn't a mouse, it was... it was..."

"A big ass rat?" 

Her eyes got big, "Yes!" she said with firm surprise, before her mouth stretched in a silent scream.

A beat passed and I asked what happened. This morning in her apartment, her friend told her he found something, and Kim wasn't going to like it. In another room, there was a rat. An angry rat. A stationary rat. Upon inspection, it turned out to be a rat whose tail had been partially chewed and stuck in the blades of Kim's paper shredder. The rat was pissed. 

A short series of events later, Kim's friend moved the top of the shredder, rat still attached, into the hallway. Then, he beat it mercilessly with a broom until it stopped screaming and lay motionless, tail still stuck in the machine. 

While I was out with Herbie, Kim disposed of the rat and its very expensive trap. Thus explains the mystery. 

tl;dr At least one rat has been found inside a unit in the building, I recommend E pay a visit to [XXX] to inspect for method of entry and take whatever measures necessary to end the reign of rat terror.

Many thanks,
J


So, that's what's new with me, Internet. What's new with you? 

Rat vs. Shredder
 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Why at least I don't have this girl's problems. I mean, what a basket case.

Today's post is brought to you by an anonymous guest blogger, aka Not Me. So if you know me in real life there's no need to eye me up and down and hesitantly ask, "How ARE you?" the next time you see me, because remember: Not Me.

I signed up for a Spanish course recently (says guest blogger Not Rachel), and when they called to tell me the course was cancelled due to lack of enrollment, my first thought was, It figures. Not that it isn't an utterly ordinary and mundane thing to happen, and not that similar tiny disappointments don't happen to other people all the time, but this particular thing happened to be the last thing I was holding onto about which I could convince myself that no matter what else happened and no matter how else I was feeling, I was at least still capable of trying. Even when it became clear that my powers of forward motion were ever more slowly grinding to a halt, I knew I had to continue to try to make things better, even if it was by doing something as ordinary and mundane as signing up for a Spanish class. And I held onto it like a life preserver. "How are you? What's new?" people would ask. "I am fine! I am going to learn Spanish!" I'd respond, as if the second part proved the first.

Some time before this I went to an interview in hopes of volunteering as a Big Sister, which is actually something I've done before, and I don't know what I expected but it quickly turned into an exercise in Things I'd Rather Not Talk About. "Tell me about your parents. Are you close? How often do you talk to them? Are you closer to one than the other? Tell me about your religious upbringing. How did your parents punish you as a child? How do you feel about your father? Your mother?" But I smiled pleasantly and gave boringly normal answers about the boring normalcy of my childhood and my adult relationship with my parents, because things are fine, fine, everything's fine. But even the easy questions were hard. She asked about my hobbies and I listed a few. "Ok, what else?" she asked. I thought a bit and mentioned a couple more. "Ok, but...besides those," she said, pen poised, eyebrow raised, and that was how I knew I didn't have enough hobbies, or that they somehow weren't good enough. "Tell me why you want to be a Big Sister," she asked, and I told her how it was something I had done before and enjoyed, and how it had been a good experience (positivity!) and that it was something I was eager to get back into. "Ok, but...why do you want to be a Big Sister?" she asked again, and taken aback, I haltingly said something about being at a point in my life where I finally had the time and resources to do it, and how there are so many kids who need a mentor or just an extra person in their life who cares... Then when she rephrased the question yet a third time I realized that even my reason for wanting to be a Big Sister wasn't good enough, and there was probably something I was supposed to say about Shaping Young Hearts and Minds and Being a Positive Role Model and A Thousand Points of Light, etc, but I guess I hadn't gotten the script. That was weeks ago and as far as I know she hasn't even called my references, so I can only imagine my application went into the circular file or maybe a drawer marked Only Call in Case of Emergency, Because Seriously, These People Suck.

And, before you ask, believe me, you can only hear the question, "So, have you ever thought about...talking to someone about all of this?" so many times before you do in fact start thinking about it, so yes, I have thought about it. And I am not sure if you realize this, but there are a whole lot of steps between "thinking about talking to someone" and "actually talking to someone," which maybe you don't know, but you have to first: a) have a job at which you have worked for more than 90 days, in order that you may b) get on company's health insurance plan, at which point you must c) somehow choose a primary care provider based on...something, maybe throwing darts at computer screen?, then d) schedule an appointment with primary care provider, and of course they can't take you until next month, at which point you will have to e) ask him or her for a referral to see a mental health professional, which you will ask oh so nonchalantly, as if it is almost an afterthought, and then f) referral in hand, schedule an appointment with said mental health professional, but only if g) they can accommodate your schedule and are located within a reasonable distance of your home or office and take your insurance and are accepting new patients. And maybe to some people this seems like a perfectly reasonable and manageable series of steps, and I agree that it is totally doable, it's just that when you're in the mucky muck, every step is really hard. Every step forward becomes progressively more exhausting, and it starts to feel more and more comfortable not to do anything at all. It doesn't mean I'm not doing it. It's the last thing I can do, and I will, but there are two things that terrify me. The first is that it won't help. What if it doesn't help? I ask myself, and then my mind shuts down, because I can't think of any way to answer that question, because beyond the question there is nothing. The second thing that terrifies me is more immediate, and it is the moment when I first walk in and sit down, and he or she asks me, "So, tell me why you're here." And I won't know what to say. "I don't know," I'll say, shrugging helplessly. "I just..." and I'll trail off. Or maybe I'll make it into a joke; "How much time do you have?" I'll say, and laugh to show that of course I know literally how much time we have. But we'll both know that it's a dumb joke, and then he or she will say "Hmm," and write something down on a notepad, and it will be something like "uses humor as defense mechanism; wouldn't mind so much if she was actually funny," or, "clearly not taking this seriously, what a waste of my time." 

And, hey guys, Rachel here again. Sorry to cut it off so abruptly, but that's all that today's guest blogger sent me. What can I say, I guess she's not good with the eloquent and hopeful conclusions, but we can't all be writers. She specifically requested that comments remain closed on this post, so that's what I'm going to do. In case anyone was wondering why I haven't been blogging lately, it's because things are just fine.                        

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why all the people I used to know are an illusion to me now

Once upon a time I had a friend, and his name was Pat. We went to college together. He had a girlfriend at another college somewhere, but that was fine with me, because we were just friends. He and his roommate kept their dorm room immaculate, leaned their sneakers against window screens, and plugged Glade Plug-ins into their walls. When they changed them, the smell was so strong it kept them up at night. They had a Nerf mini basketball hoop over their door, and I spent so much time there that I eventually perfected the no-look, over-the-shoulder, nothing-but-net shot. 

Pat and I would go to the on-campus "pub" together (a misnomer, since no alcohol was served) at 10:00 or 11:00 at night for "fourth meal." Sometimes I would also order the greasy chicken fingers, fries, and soda, but I never felt particularly great after I did this, so sometimes I wouldn't. Sometimes I would just go for the company. One time Pat filled his giant styrofoam cup with orange soda. "What are you doing?" I asked. "Don't you always drink Coke?" 

"Do you ever drink Coke?" he asked.

"Well, no..." I said, and trailed off. He was the kind of friend who would get the kind of soda I liked, because he knew I would end up absent-mindedly sipping down half of it while we talked. He was the kind of friend who may have been half in love with me but was full in love with his girlfriend at another school and it didn't matter because I just wanted to be friends, anyway.

We would talk for hours and bare our souls, and I don't even remember what we talked about, exactly. I know that he worried about failing classes, though he was smart, but not particularly scholastically motivated; he worried about the future, about being poor forever, about not ever making something of himself; he had problems with his girlfriend, sometimes, and we talked about that, too. I must have been worried about things, too, though I can't imagine what. I hadn't even had my first heartbreak yet, though I probably would have told you that I had. 

Our friendship trickled down deep and formed roots. He told me how important his sister was to him, and how she had helped raise him and taught him how to treat women. When I met her for the first time she bowed down before me in silly, mock reverence. "The almighty Rachel!" she exclaimed. "I've heard so much about you."

I went to France and he sent me letters, actual letters, even though he could have just e-mailed. At first he didn't write, because he thought his roommate, with whom I had had a brief, two week fling prior to leaving, should write first. After a week of making out and touching each other quietly and clumsily under the blankets, he, the roommate, had told me he loved me. He was drunk at the time, but when we woke up the next morning he asked if I remembered what he had said. "Yes," I said, and he nodded, and so I thought that meant that he loved me. Two weeks later, I called him from a payphone in France, tearfully telling him I loved him too, asking him to call me, to write me, that I missed him. He was strange on the phone, and that was the last time I ever heard from him. Once it became clear that his roommate was never going to write to me, Pat took over all letter-writing duties and began sending me regular missives filled with news and pictures and hand-drawn cartoons. He apologized for the initial lapse, saying that he had been bugging the roommate to write his letter so they could mail it in the same envelope. "He's an idiot," he concluded. "I'm sorry, Rach," and then he carefully avoided all further mention of him.

When I got back from France Pat didn't have a girlfriend, anymore. But that didn't matter to me because I just wanted to be friends, anyway. It turned out there were benefits to there not being a girlfriend in the picture, though. One was cuddling. It turns out he was an excellent cuddler. We were still friends, but now we were friends who cuddled. But as with every slippery slope, soon we were kissing, too. It turns out he was an excellent kisser. One thing led to the next thing which led to the last thing, and finally one night, we had sex. It was my first time, and it was painful and confusing and I didn't like it, but I had done it and I was glad. Somewhere along the line, my thinking had changed. Maybe I did want to be more than "just friends" after all. 

I was heartbroken when I found out that he was sleeping with other girls. No, he hadn't told me before, but he did when I asked him outright, so he hadn't lied, he said. "But I thought..." I said. "But I assumed..." I said. "But, but..." I said, but I never could finish the sentence. We had never talked about what we were doing. We were "just friends." He said he would stop everything with the other girls and just be with me if that's what I wanted; all I had to do was ask. But I was too proud; I wanted him to do it without me having to ask; I wanted him to want to do it; I wanted a grand gesture and a declaration of love and devotion and an apology. "You just have to ask," he said. 

"I can't," I said. 

And so we were "just friends" again, though we were still friends who cuddled, until it got too confusing and I got too angry, and then we were just friends who (mostly) didn't cuddle. One day he asked me what I was doing the night of his fraternity formal. "Nothing!" I responded gleefully, because I wanted to go and part of me still wanted to be his girlfriend (but didn't want to ask). 

"Do you have anything to wear?" he asked.

"I will have to buy something!" I responded, visions of formal wear dancing in my head.

The next I heard about it was from a mutual friend, who asked me hesitantly if I had heard who Pat was taking to the formal. He was taking the delicate, long-haired girl who I'd been giving the stink-eye to whenever I saw her hanging around his desk at his part-time job in the game room, which was increasingly often. When I asked him about it, he said, "Well I never actually invited you. I just asked what you were doing that night." I gaped at him. "And plus, she already has a dress and shoes, and you would have had to buy something..." 

"But, but..." I said, never managing to complete the sentence. 

"I just have to," he finally said, quietly, and that was how I knew they were dating. I didn't allow myself to be angry, because it was true, he had never technically invited me. Or rather, I didn't allow myself to show my anger. I spent so many years of my twenties not allowing myself to be angry when guys treated me poorly. I thought it was my fault for not asking the right questions.

I was glad that I had never asked him to only be with me. He probably would have found a loop-hole. 

Still, we remained friends against all odds, and I got a boyfriend and graduated from college and moved away and that made it easier. Then I broke up with the boyfriend even though this time I had asked the right questions; I asked all of them over and over again because that was what I thought I had to do, and he lied to me again and again and I believed him, because I thought that was what I had to do, too. I was devastated and broken and thought I would never be whole again, and Pat carried me out and through. I was in Boston and he was not, but still he spent hours and hours on the phone with me every day while I cried until eventually, one day I stopped crying. And the next year I did end up going with him to his fraternity formal, after all. He paid for my plane ticket and a hotel room and I bought a dress, and it was perfect, and I left it in Boston hanging on my closet door and I cried again. Then I bought a new dress and we went to the formal, and his roommate was there too and I wasn't even angry at him anymore, because this time I knew what real heartbreak was.

The last time I saw him he came to see me at my parents' house while I visited over the summer. I talked my parents' into letting him stay the night (It's late! It's such a long drive back!) but they wouldn't let us sleep in the same room together. I was angry at my parents and I snuck into his room, which used to be my sister's room, in the middle of the night, and fucked him quick and quiet, right across the hall from my parents' room. It was partly because I was mad at my parents but mostly because it was goodbye. We lived hundreds of miles apart, and I had just started dating someone else

I had hoped and actually really believed that this was the one I would never break up with, but when it all came apart three years later, as it had to, I knew a new kind of pain. Nearly paralyzed with grief I called Pat again as I had before, as I always had, and he was sympathetic and let me cry, but it was different this time. He was distant and vague, so I didn't call him again, and he didn't call me. Months later I e-mailed him about my upcoming visit home, saying I wanted to see him, meet his new girlfriend that he'd told me about, meet his dog that I had only seen in pictures. He said he didn't have time. That was it--he didn't have time. "We've been so busy lately," he said. So busy with weddings and house-warmings and engagement parties that he didn't even have time to see his friends. He didn't say it, but I heard the word "real." He didn't even have time to see his real friends, so you see, he couldn't possibly find time to see me. I sent a snippy response, felt bad about it, then sent an apology. He said it was fine, and not to worry about it. Then I felt worse and wished I hadn't sent the apology. We didn't talk again.

Two years later I heard from a mutual friend that Pat and the girlfriend I never met had gotten married. Four months ago I read in our alumni magazine that they had a baby, a little girl. And I don't know what I'm trying to say with all this, all these hundreds and hundreds of words that couldn't possibly mean anything to anyone else, but I guess what I wanted to say was that once upon a time I had a friend, and his name was Pat.   


 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why love and guest bloggers make the world go round

I'd like to take a break from our normally scheduled nothing around here (I know that I've been less than prolific lately) to introduce you to guest blogger Sarah. Sarah has a hip, cool, and airy blog--I guess what I would term a lifestyle blog with soul. Now, normally I am not one for these lifestyle blogs that are so popular lately--all fluff and no substance, if you ask me. But Sarah's is charming and fun and introspective. Sarah generously offered to share her perspective on where her life has taken her (married to a gorgeous man with a gorgeous child and another (undoubtedly gorgeous) baby on the way), and well, it's about goddamn time we had a story with a happy ending on ye olde blog, no? I find this post goes along really well with a reading of the love story she's posted on her blog, which gives all the fun, "aww"-inspiring details of how she and her husband met and fell in love, so make sure to check that one out, too.
I had this plan back when I was in college. I was just going to graduate, then I'd travel the world and get rich and famous. I was going to do it all on my own. I figured, somehow, that would show them ALL. While they were off planning marriages doomed to fail or having their hearts broken by the losers they chased, but still patronizing my singleness, well, I'd be living a dream, needing no one. (At least not until I was 30 at least.)

My plan was working quite well until that very last semester. I'd staved off the wannabe boyfriends and trekked the globe a time or two; and with graduation just a few months away, I was ready to blaze head-on and full-force into a fabulously free life, blissfully ignoring that I, like most young women, just really, really wanted to fall in love.

That's when I did.
 
And when I met him, it happened in an instant, fireworks surely shooting from my head the moment we first kissed and I began a rapid, headstrong fall right into "I'm so gone over this guy." And that was okay, because he was one of the good ones. In fact, he was "the one." Eight years later, I've married the man, bought a house with him, adopted a puppy with him, and had one baby (pregnant with the second). 

Sometimes I marvel at being here, where so many of my girlfriends are trying to be, and right where I thought I had no desire to be. How ironic that life so often deals us the opposite of our plan, and yet, how delicious! Because in the midst of all my adventure planning and in my blatant attempts to avoid needing someone, I almost missed out on what has been my life's biggest adventure--and more importantly, my life's biggest lesson. I do need someone, and that's okay. It's okay to settle down and relish it, to be a "me" to somebody else; I'm still me.

And then I think about how it all boiled down to that one instant. I thought about all the other times in life when I thought that moment was happening or when it would be that perfect setting for a similar instant or all those times I was impatiently anticipating it. It didn't happen in any of those instances; it happened when it happened and that was the surprise and the adventure of it. I wish all women could see it that way, whether they meet their true love at 16 or 40. It's all something we crave, but to recognize our own strength, to blaze our own trails, to continue planning and maturing and learning, then BAM. You have that first kiss you know is your last. To have that instant, to find the adventure in love, it makes it all worth it. There is magic in it, no matter where or when it happens, and it makes the wait, the anticipation, so beautiful and sensual and the best part of the journey.

Thank you, Sarah! Our lives are so different, but I love how we can find common ground through our blogs. Everyone, make sure to give Sarah lots of love in the comments and on her blog

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why there was a time when the world was a song

If I could, I would run away. I would go "out West," wherever that is, whatever that means. I would ride a Vespa across the country like that blogger did, and live in a log cabin with a coyote. I would spend the summer in Alaska; the winter in Key West. The next year I would do Maine/Costa Rica. Or Paris/South of France. What couldn't I do, where couldn't I go, with enough lifetimes to fill? 


I would road-trip across the U.S. via the northern route, and when I reached the end I would turn around and come back through the South. In my dream, I forget that I hate long car trips. In my dream I am indefatigable, and my body never becomes stiff and sore and cramped when confined to small spaces. In my dream I am endlessly pliable and relaxed, body and mind, never wondering "what's next?," only pondering what's now. 


I would hike the Pacific Crest Trail like that writer, or the Appalachian Trail like that other writer, and like thousands and thousands of people before me, never minding the idea's, by now, complete lack of originality, and never minding that my backpacking experience has mainly been limited to the distance between my house and the laundromat. In my dream I am strong and tough and capable and able to light a fire with only a pair of sticks through a combination of intuition and sheer determination. I am invincible. I am not afraid of bears and they are not afraid of me; when we meet we simply nod heads and go our separate ways. My heart beats faster, but only a little, and it's not because I'm scared but because it's not every day that you are able to speak without words to a bear. 


Or maybe I would travel through southeast Asia, that other stereotypical haunt of the seasoned backpacker. But why limit myself? As long as I'm there, why not do all of Asia? Throw in a smattering of Europe too and I'll be eating, praying, and loving all over the goddamn place. Nothing is original, anymore, and any idea I've had has already been had before. Books have been written and devoured and become best sellers, and even in my imagination mine are pale and flimsy in comparison. But what matters a book, a blog, when there's adventure and the open road and limitless time to dream? 


On the other hand, what matters goat farms and cheese-making, or solitary log cabins in the woods, or writers' cottages with views of the sea, or any number of lives you might like to try on if only you had unlimited lives in which to do it? Because the fact is, you have only one life (a whole one if you're lucky, perhaps less if you're not), and you have to do with it what you can, even if the one life you've landed on (out of all the myriad wonderful possibilities!), the one you've twisted and wrangled out of the ether, is the most mundane fucking one imaginable.

Because sometimes the great math problem that is life goes if x then not y, where x=freedom and world travel and communing with bears and y=comfort and community and health insurance and not dying impoverished and alone; or, to make this a more general example, where x=something you want and y=anything that is mutually exclusive of x, and suddenly you realize you are backed into a corner of your own making. On the one hand x, and on the other hand y, and you simultaneously must have and can't have both; like a spoiled child you quietly sulk in your corner. The only way out is ten ways, all at once, and bound by the laws of logic and physics and the space-time continuum, you are forced to remain in this, your own one body, here, in your own one life. It can get lonely here. And so sometimes, you dream.    

 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Why if I wrote a song it would be called "String Me Along Maybe"

This one goes out to all the married folk and long-term couples out there, who may be curious about what dating is like these days. Maybe you've heard stories from your single friends, and maybe you think, Oh come on, how hard can it be for two people to get together? You meet, you go out, and you either like each other or you don't. What's so complicated about that? Well, the answer to your rhetorical question, my friends, can be found in the following text messages, which for the sake of obfuscation are presented in multiple choice format.

Here is your context: Boy meets girl. Boy asks girl for her phone number. Girl says meh, why not? Now, knowing me (girl) as you do, which of the following do you think was the actual text message he (boy) then sent?

a) Hey Rachel, it was nice to meet you the other night. Would you like to get a drink after work sometime this week? How's Thursday?
b) Hey, I hope your week is going well. I'm busy tomorrow and gone this weekend, but do you want to get together some night next week?
c) Do you have a good recipe for gazpacho?

And then, a full two weeks later, what was his next move?

a) I really enjoyed talking to you when we went out, and I'd love to see you again. Are you free for dinner on Friday?
b) Hey Rachel, I'm really sorry for flaking last week. I leave for Brazil on Thursday but I would love to get together when I'm back.
c) What do you think of labradoodles?  

Just guess. Just guess. Remember to base your answer not on someone who attracts stable, normally functioning males, but on someone who attracts, well, the kinds of guys that I attract. Relatedly, what is wrong with people? 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why I'm not giving up on yoga

In an effort to counteract the numbing inertia of my current nothing-much-happening state of affairs, I've embarked upon the Yoga Every Day project. It didn't have a name until right now, and it could perhaps be more accurately called the Yoga Almost Every Day project, but whatever you want to call it, it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It started with a $10 for 10 days introductory deal and my desire to wring every last cent out of that bargain, like the good little penny pincher I am. But the more I think about it, the more it seems like a good idea to keep it going, even after the 10 days are up (and it becomes much, much more expensive, but let's not think about that quite yet). In my last post I was lamenting my lack of a Project, and while it not be as exciting as other projects past, Yoga Every Day could most certainly be a Project, with mind-body benefits to boot. 

The problem being, or one problem being, that I am a woman of very little patience. And after taking seven, count them, seven hot yoga classes, I was hoping to have at least a little something to show for it. A blissfully quiet mind. A serene yoga glow. Iron biceps and buns of steel. More energy. Even a certain indefinable something-or-other. Just one of the above would be great! The good news is the initial, crippling soreness has gone away. The bad news is the only real physical or mental difference I am seeing has been difficulty sleeping, and perhaps relatedly, increased fatigue. (I know, right? Thanks a lot, exercise.) Also, since I haven't been getting home until 8 p.m., my dinners now consist of whatever I can heat up in two and a half minutes or less, nutritional value be damned (see above, re: woman of very little patience, and also, extreme hunger). Not to mention that this latest venture is cutting into my valuable sitting-at-home time. I can't even watch Jeopardy anymore. (First person to say "DVR" gets clonked on the head with my enormous, non-flat screen television and rabbit ears antennae.) Now that I'm writing it down, this is all sounding...less than ideal. I think we have all determined that I would be perfectly happy being a couch-ridden lump. But I think I'll keep going with the Yoga Every Day, for now. At least until I can do a successful headstand, without using the wall. Or crow pose. Jumping back from crow pose. Or gulp...handstand. (I will never be able to do a handstand.) I would settle for a friggin' wheel. (Stupid toothpick arms/non-bendy back.) I just want to see progress of some kind. It will come, I know. And I can't wait to tell you about it.      

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why you can call me Sartre, and I can call you Al

For the last ten years, I have at any given moment been pursuing one or more of the following: a degree, a job, an apartment, a date. And not just simply pursuing, but chasing with single-minded determination. When I was on the chase, it didn't seem to wholly matter if I was unhappy with my life, because there was always hope for the next big thing: When I finish this degree, then my real life will start. When I get the apartment of my dreams, I will plant a window herb garden and wear vintage aprons and bake things, because that is the kind of person I want to be. When I get a new job I will at last feel personally and professionally fulfilled. And when I find someone to love me, none of the rest will matter, because secretly and although I will never admit it (whoops), that is the most important thing of all. 

So not only was there always hope for a better future, but each of these things in and of itself is a project with great powers of distraction. Grad school is all-possessing and all-consuming and leaves very little time to focus on much of anything else. Job hunting is a project that will eat up as much time as you allow it, with apartment hunting not far behind it. And dating, both online and off? Lord knows that's a project with powers of distraction. So what happens when suddenly, for the first time in your adult life, the projects and distractions grind to a halt and you're just simply...existing? When there is no next big thing, and nothing to work for or look forward to, when all there is is a long unspooling forever full of right now? And what happens when all of that happens and you still have no herb garden, and you are still professionally unfulfilled, and you are still wearing a groove right smack in the center of your couch because there is still no one to share it with? But, really, your apartment is fine, your job pays you money, and you are, for a multitude of reasons, so done with dating. Technically, everything is fine. Technically, you have no reason to complain. And technically, every perceived issue that you have falls readily under the umbrella of (though you loathe and despise the term) First World Problems. Relatedly, have you ever noticed how people love to tell you how many people are worse off than you? And though it may be true, that's really not ever the issue, is it? And anyway, if we're not supposed to compare our lives to those of people we perceive as better off than us, thus making ourselves miserable in the process, why are we supposed to feel chagrined by our relative comfort in comparison to the less fortunate? Can I ask you just one more rhetorical question? (Kidding.)

In short: I am projectless. I am bored. I have no reason to complain, and yet I do. What are you up to? How do you keep yourself from going crazy with the overwhelming existentialness of it all?