Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Time and Energy

I don't know if I've hit on this yet or not, but I'm finding that, for the first time in my life, I truly do not have time for the things that I want to accomplish.

I've certainly used the excuse of not having time for things in the past, but, as a general rule, it almost always actually meant that I didn't the energy. I had time up the wazoo, but if I was too overburdened with other stressors-- and, hint, I always was-- I didn't have the energy to do anything productive with that time.

I'm still a very low-energy person in general. That hasn't changed. I still need a great deal of downtime to just...attempt, in futility, to summon the strength the face the world at large.

But it's not clear to me that, at this point, it would matter if I didn't. In the past month or so, I have, quite ambitiously, added the following daily goals to my routine: exercising, writing, mediation. I also have this clear sense that, if I'm going to live without Zack, I need to be in more regular contact with him, albeit from 3,000 miles away. I care about the job I have now far more than jobs I've cared about in the past, in terms of making it into a career, so this tends to somehow monopolize a lot more of my time than I'd guess, given that it really is just a forty-hour thing: theoretically no more, theoretically no less.

And then there's, you know, a baby.

I don't know. Maybe it is still an energy thing. If I didn't need any down time at all, there would be enough time in the day to work, exercise, write, meditate, and spend at least an hour of quality time with him-- whatever that is. Of course, other things would continue to get totally cut out: cooking, cleaning, upkeep of the very old, very needy dog. I'm sure I wouldn't magically have time to make my relationship somehow work.

But I can't actually pretend that I have no need of down time at all. And I certainly can't continue to sacrifice sleep.

It literally pains me to leave this post in awkward state where it feels like it didn't accomplish anything, but I am so. Goddamn. Tired.

I keep staying up just a little bit later than I mean to to get these posts in. Then my sleep cycle is screwed, I spend the next day tired, and what gets sacrificed is everything else. I did manage to mediate earlier today-- as well grocery shopping, and I got in some actual social time with a real life human being that I don't live with for the first time in months-- but my exercise routines have really started to suffer. Three out of the past four days have been lacking a truly meaningful amount of exercise, and the day I did manage, it was a really long walk, which...it counts, I guess, but I have trouble giving myself props when I don't break a sweat.

So for tonight, I'm going to have to put this on the chopping block: obviously not totally, not officially. But tonight, I'm going to have to settle for an average post that any old person could have written. No moving emotion, no epiphany, perhaps not even a callback to the beginning of the post. At this point in my life, I truly do not have the time.

Day...8, I think. On with it.

Best Interests

I really wanted to be attempting to sleep no later than 11:30. It seems like I'm always just 15-25 minutes away from my goal. Like, that actual increment, for things related to time, and that metaphorical increment, for life things.

Or something. I don't know. I'm being pretentious.

Let's make this a quick one. A brief observation.

I just made another attempt at bathtub-hair-untangling mediation. It didn't feel as successful this time, probably because of my awareness of time passing as I tried to get to my bed-by-right-NOW goal. The very non-figurative ticking of the bathroom clock did not help that matter, I assure you.

I think, back when I wrote more regularly and was less concerned with mediation as formal practice, what I substituted for actual mediation were these meandering thoughts that I would have when I was alone, which would become the outlines for blog posts I wrote later. Sometimes, it would be like free association, a journey of wherever my mind chose to go, at least until I honed in on something I found interesting. Other times, it would be a careful editing process. I'd stumble upon some phrasing I thought was perfect, than carefully add to that, starting over and over obsessively, to be sure I didn't lose the initial inspiration.

One way or another, when I took a bath, I would usually come out with this very clear sense in my mind of what I was going to write about.

It doesn't really work that way anymore, possibly because I'm out of practice as a writer, possibly because I'm trying to take the somewhat meditative practice that worked for me in the past, and stick into a mold that more closely resembles what everyone else thinks meditation should be. I don't know what I believe in all that-- was I getting enough benefit out of letting my mind instinctively figure out what it needed, or was I missing out on something key? Perhaps the enhanced ability to focus that's supposed to come out of the sustained practice of formal mediation.

It bothers me that I have to use the words "meditation" and "meditative" so many times.

Either way, I came out of the tub today with just the vaguest hint of the point I want to make in my "very brief" post tonight. And that is this:

On my lunch break, today, I was listening to an episode of This American Life where they described a condition called "Delusional Disorder." Delusional Disorder is like many mental impairments, such as schizophrenia, in that the victim tends to believe, deeply, in things that are not true. Unlike schizophrenia, however, there is a insidious problem with Delusional Disorder: the delusions are generally fairly plausible.

We're not talking about people who believe that the government planted slow-hatching alien eggs in their anus or that Oprah Winfrey is being controlled by a talking dog, people who are clearly crazy. We're talking about people who very vehemently believe that their wife is cheating on them, or that they are related to a celebrity, or that they invented the world's first egg dying kit.

While these kinds of delusions may seem easier to live with, they're often incredibly destructive to the victims' lives, and the lives of everyone else around them. The show focused on this woman whose marriage ended because, after five years, when under a great deal of stress from work, her husband became completely and utterly convinced that she was cheating on him to nymphomaniac degrees.

Eventually, after it became suitably problematic in their life, and she spent many long hours googling what might be wrong with him, she read about the diagnosis which was later confirmed by a therapist. But that didn't get them very far as a couple, it turns out.

The trouble is that Delusional Disorder is very hard to treat. As the story said, antipsychotic medications are helpful with schizophrenia because they help prevent hallucinations, but the lies that a person with Delusional Disorder are convinced is true are from a very different place. There hasn't been much success in the therapeutic practice of convincing them that their delusions are wrong, either.

Instead, the story explained, what's considered to be the best practice is to get the patient to admit that, even though he or she fully believes in his delusion, it's not in his or her best interest to act on that. Okay, sure: Chuck Norris is really your father. But since he has a restraining order against you, for whatever reason that may be, it's probably best if you stop trying to reconnect with him.

And yes, the reporter telling the story acknowledged how utterly unsatisfying that is, for all involved.

There was something about this idea that resonated with me, but I didn't get what until now. The thing is...I think, to an extent, I have Delusional Disorder. It honestly struck me, while I was listening, that I probably did, in some way, in some facet of my life, but I couldn't figure out what that facet may be. But now it seems pretty clear.

The post last night was about not having enough conviction to make my relationship with Dan work, and part of that is based on the leftover conviction that I have that Zack and I are meant to be. That idea was what I based my whole adult life on until recently, after all. The goal of keeping my marriage together was the driving force of my life, and it was inspired, on some, totally irrational level, by my faith in it's pure righteousness. It was tautological: He and I were going to make it because he and I were going to make it.

I built a whole life off of the questionable truth-- I can't even bring myself to call it a "delusion"-- that he and I were meant to be. It was my guiding tenant. And then, one day, it was gone.

Okay, there's a lot to be written, and I'm sure a lot I have written, about what that does to a person. But, for the sake of getting to bed before midnight, let's just fast forward to now.

Most of me may be a fairly reasonable person. But part of me is still completely stuck on what turns out to have been more delusional that I'd like to admit: that Zack and I were fated, somehow.  I know that, on some level, I still believe that. A very large part of me that I do not keep secret believes the Zack and I will get back together some day down the line, whether it be five or fifty years from now-- and fifty seems a lot more likely, to be frank.

But then, there is the rest of me, that has to continue living, as a normal, rational person. A normal, rational person who currently has a totally different life, with completely separate person, who is also the father of my child.

And I, most of the time, act as my own therapist in all of this. Except, I don't even try the things that have failed for sufferers of Delusional Disorder, not any more. I really have no interest, at this point, in the vain exercise of convincing my star-crossed lover self that I am wrong.

Instead, I ground myself in this life by merely convincing myself, one day at a time, that it's not in my best interest to act on my delusion.

And yes. I can tell you right now, it's an utterly unsatisfying way to live, for all involved.

Hopefully I'll get a chance to expand on all of these themes at a later date. For now, it's 11:59....oh shit. Midnight.

It's Day Seven. On with it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Ghost of Convictions Past

One of the last posts I wrote before I stopped writing for a while was on the theme of conviction. It was all about the fact that my marriage had fallen apart because I lacked the conviction necessary to make it work. For years, I had it: a steadfast belief that Zack and I were somehow right together, and that I would do anything in my power to make it work. When I lost that, once and for all, it was all just a matter of time.

I don't have it in my right now to go back and actually read the post. Perhaps I will when I'm done writing this, but if I were to do it now, I think it might destroy me. Particularly, something I wrote towards the end. A confession, of sorts, to readers who were not aware of Dan yet, and the fact that he was an integral part of my loss of conviction with regards to my marriage. I said something to the effect that I no longer had a deep belief that I could make a happy life with Zack, but that I did believe-- deeply-- that I could make one with Dan.

I hope that I'm wrong. I hope that I wasn't naive enough to put that in writing, for the world to see. For me to look back on, and just...laugh through the tears.

Dan and I knew what we were doing was stupid. Both of us knew-- and discussed, time and time again, that it wasn't the way to do things. That you shouldn't end a marriage to be with someone new, that you shouldn't start a new relationship on the heels of a significant breakup. They should be separate events. We knew that. We said it.

We said it over and over again so many time that we decided that it should be the title of our little musical duo's first EP: Separate Events. That part may still come true.

But what happened, quite obviously, is that we forged ahead, anyway. We spoke to how dumb it was to let one be the cause of the other, and we did it all the same. And now we're in a relationship that is deeply polluted by feelings of anger and regret over the way my marriage ended.

Except that we're just barely in a relationship at all, in so many ways. We live together, have combined finances, and raise our son together. But we don't sleep together -- in the literal sense or the more suggestive one-- we barely touch or kiss, and most of our more substantive conversations are about how unlikely it is we'll make it, and how unhappy each of us our.

It's not that we've given up; we haven't. But, for me, at least, 75% of the reason we're still together is that there really just isn't anything better out there for me. I hate Maine, and only live here because of Dan, and because I've always wanted to buy my parents house. (I get that hating Maine should take away from that. Truly, I do. More on that irony in some future post. Or I believe, in some past one.) None of my friends live in Maine, and the most important person in the world to me, aside from Ezra, I guess, lives 3,000 miles away, right where I left him.

If Dan and I broke up, I would be bound to Maine through the joint custody arrangement. I would have lost him, the only person who lives here that I have a significant bond to (with the exception of Jeff, who lives an hour away and, I believe, intends to leave this state eventually). So I'd be even more alone here than I already am. My parents are planning on selling their house in a two years or so, but without Dan's income to combine with mine, I would not be able to afford it. So I would lose-- heartbreakingly-- the only thing I ever actually wanted here, and the relationship that brought me back here. The person I consider my family would still be 3,000 miles away, but I would have to stay here, with no one aside from my son to make it somehow worth it. And I'd be a part-time, single parent. Which...I like being a parent, to an extent. But I don't like being alone with my son for any length of time. It's very stressful.

Dan and I love each other. We don't work, but we love each other. And I guess, despite the fighting and the completely separate ideals and the totally disparate world views...it's better than the picture I just painted. Alone, trapped, burdened and homeless.

I don't seem to have a way to wrap this up. To put a neat little bow on it. (I'm talking about the post here, not my life, though I could understand the confusion.) It's just been a shitty night, as they often are.

I don't feel like this post accomplished anything. None of this is anything I haven't said before. It hurts to say the same thing over and over again and never get to a point of realization-- which I guess was my mistake, the begin with. Naming an EP after a concept isn't really the same as letting the truth of it set in.

This blog is supposed to be about me working through things, but this post just feels like banging my head against a wall. It's all things I've said and felt and thought before, and it doesn't get me anywhere. I guess because saying that you're trapped out loud doesn't magically release you: I feel trapped because I am. I feel trapped because there's nothing I can do.

Oh, conviction! That's why I feel bad about this post...because I never wandered my way back to the point in the beginning.

I wrote in that post, however long ago, that the thing a relationship really needs to stay afloat is the absolute conviction of it's participants. Resolute commitment to each other. This, I do not have.

If I could just make up my mind, once and for all, to be where I am, to be with who I'm with, to make a family out of this lose grouping of people...well, it would help. It's not clear to me how much. Dan and I are so different, I don't know how well we'd ever be able to get past that. If someone could just show me a pie chart of how many of our troubles are really about us, and how many are about circumstances, and how many are about the fact that I'm not totally in this...I mean, if the numbers lined up right, I could be convinced to change my mind, I guess.

But it's hard, the second time around. It's hard to not look at his faults and think, "Am I going to be able to stand that in ten years? Or is it just going to be something that I'm bitter with my friends about over drinks?" Still, even that I could overlook.

In reality, it's just hard to love anyone that way again. I don't know how much of it is fear of the vulnerability of real belief, having had it once and lost it, and how much of it is just the fact that, really, so much of me is still in love with Zack.

It seems that conviction, once lost, still has a unique staying power: maybe my trouble isn't so much the lack of conviction for my life now, but ridding myself of the bitter traces of the old stuff. The ghost of convictions past will haunt you, wherever you go.

I'm tired, and don't know how much of this made sense, but the Dickens reference feels pithy enough to end on. So there we have it. Day 6.

On with it.

(Edit: If you didn't follow the link to the original conviction post, I would highly suggest doing it. I just went back and read it now. Not only is it, in my opinion, one of the most poignant pieces of writing I've done to date, but in the end, it is oddly prophetic. It ties in to this a lot more cleanly than I expected it to. That is all.)

Sex and Priorities.

I am....not really drunk anymore. Not quite yet hungover. That weird time in between. That terrible anticipation of what is to come and regret for what has passed.

Since the birth of my son, which was more than somewhat traumatic for me, to say the least, I can't really have any amount of physical intimacy without first getting pretty drunk. As such, I have almost no physical intimacy.

I don't, strictly speaking, just mean sex. It's gotten so, most of the time, I don't want to be touched, or, often, even looked at. I'm sure a lot of this has as much to do with my complete lack of sex drive-- brought on at least equally by the birth control implant I had inserted in my arm as it is by the trauma. I find that very ironic. Bitterly ironic, but ironic just the same.

The moral of the story is: I rarely want sex, and when I do want it, I pretty much have to be drunk to have it. And, as often as not, when I manage to arrange things in my life to the point where I am able to get drunk, circumstances still don't lead to sex.

Dan, my current fiancé-of-sorts-person, is much better with this than Zack, my former husband-person. (Today, in the, from the time I woke up to the time I'm going to bed since, would have been our 11th wedding anniversary. October 18th. I realized that very late in the day, having spent the whole day thinking it was the 17th.) Dan is fairly self-sufficient when it comes to satisfaction, and, even when he's feeling "needy", he doesn't equate my lack of interest with rejection or any kind of personal deficiency.

Not so, I think, for Zack. For Zack, rejection was very emotional. That really fucked up our sex life. But then, it clearly wouldn't have been super healthy, anyway. As I, clearly, do not have super healthy feelings about sex.

The thing is, Dan IS better at dealing with my lack of sexual interest than Zack, but I'm not really any better than I was at dealing with the guilt and shame of not providing enough. It's this very real, ever-present artifact of my marriage to Zack, and to a lesser extent perhaps, my Catholic upbringing.

When my sex drive is healthy and working as usual-- typically in the presence of a third party-- I tend to see it as this reprieve from an otherwise bland life. I recall, in one instance, comparing it to that thing in Pleasantville where all that was black and white suddenly became color. (Less creative, perhaps, when I stop to think that Pleasantville was making that exact same comparison. But whatever. An apt metaphor is an apt metaphor, wherever it comes from.)

When my sex drive is as it has been lately, I spend a lot of time thinking that I would be much happier without sex. Not in a sexless relationship: in a world where sex didn't exist. A world without viagra, and billboards in Time Square where 80 foot strangers seduce you with their cold, dead eyes in attempt to get you to buy chewing gum. A world without condoms, birth control, or uncomfortable clothes meant only to entice other people to have sex. A world where, when my best friend is having a good day, I can be happy for her without having to endure a conversation about how she and her girlfriend has sex BEFORE dinner instead of after, and how they're might be lingerie later.

That stuff, needless to say, is totally abhorrent to me right now.

I still find people attractive, in a...visual way. It's weird how that part doesn't go anywhere. I can see a guy-- I did tonight, in fact-- and be very drawn to looking at him, wanting to talk to him, wanting him to want me. But the part where I actually want sex never seems to kick in.

This is all to say...I'm drunk. But not really, anymore. I got drunk in order to have sex, and that didn't happen. If anyone read this, I might care that they knew. Or Dan might. He discovered, tonight, that I'd been updating this. I didn't try particularly hard to hide it. But I suppose that'll effect how I right from now on.

It's a lot of calories to accomplish fucking NOTHING, and I don't look forward to tomorrow morning, either. I also having mediated yet today, and, although I managed to persevere last night, tonight is really not looking good.

I mean it. Don't root for me. My head is spinning like crazy and all I want to do is close my eyes. I read somewhere how achieving a state of flow-- where you're so invested in what you're doing that time flies by without you really noticing that well-- is just as good as mediating or some shit like that.

And, would you look at that! I've written more than a page again! So somewhere in there, I must have achieved "flow" and lost track, right? It's gonna have to be close enough, for tonight.

This. This is what happens when you shift your priorities of one night. I may have the lowest sex drive of anyone on earth who isn't married to Bill O'Reilly, but I decide one night that I want to get laid an all my fucking goals go by the wayside in vain pursuit of that.

Now, apply that same effect to the rest of the normal, fully-functioning people on the planet, and it becomes clear why our whole society is in such a state of utter shit.

Day, whatever the hell it is. What, 5? I think 5. On with it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Two things I do not want to do:

1. Write this entire freaking post on my phone with my thumbs, and
2. Get up and find my laptop.

But unless I want to break my streak, I gotta do one or the other, so number one it is.

I have not mediated so far today. I've decided for purposes of this blog and other daily goals, "today" means the period between when I got up in this morning and when I go fall asleep at night, regardless of whether or not it's past midnight. More practical this way. Also more practical to assume anyone who actually reads this (Read: No one) will either not notice or not care about the actual date stamps. But, what can I say? I'm a bit neurotic about some things.

I want to keep the streak of meditating at least a little every day alive. I wonder if watching some episode of Gilmore Girls I've seen a dozen times while my mind goes completely blank counts. Somehow, I doubt it.

I read this article (that I meant to link to at the time and will attempt to make a point to in the future) about how the world's happiest man-- that is, the man who was shown to have the highest chemical capacity for happiness-- attributed his boundless joy to meditation. A French monk, he spent much of his life as, if I recall correctly, a business man, and was supremely dissatisfied with his life. When he became a monk and devoted much of his day to the practice of meditation, that all changed for him. Now he's being studied by, I guess, a university or something, who are mapping the actual physical changes in his brain that meditation has evidently caused.

The thing that struck me about the article is that the researchers stated that they see such changes in long-term meditators who practice for hours a day, but similar changes begin to happen after just one month of meditating for twenty minutes a day.

Boy, that link would make it sound way less like I'm talking out of my ass. But whatever, I'm too lazy to link on a smartphone, and you, dear reader, are totally in my imagination, anyway.

The point, before I give up on this frustrating digital experience, is that it's maybe within reach.  I'm not to twenty minutes a day yet, but if I could maybe build up to that in the next month, I could be just two months away. Maybe not from being the world's happiest man...but maybe, just maybe, my life's happiest Linda.

I don't know. I guess we'll have to wait and see. First step: figure out how to get a few minutes in before I go to sleep.

Did you get the joke about it being a "digital experience, " though? See, because thumbs are, you know. Digits.

Day 4. On with it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I'm very tired, and I don't have much to say tonight. Thank goodness for that "one printed page or less" rule that I have a vague chance of actually following this time.

I didn't exercise tonight. I've been trying to do it every night since I got on a scale about a month ago for the first time and a long time and found myself twenty pounds heavier than I expected to be, which was already twenty pounds heavier than what I wanted to be. So I switched into emergency mode.

I've been doing a pretty good job sticking with it-- some days are less intense than others, but I haven't skipped a lot-- but my body is a lot older than it used to be. I've been living with a persistent, low-level soreness nearly constantly since then, and today, I finally decided to give my poor knees a break.

This accomplished mostly guilt and an increase of pain-- I've stopped producing endorphins long enough to feel how sore I really am, I guess. And the guilt...I guess I can't stick with a program like this unless I really beat myself up about how negligent I've been in the past. So taking a break for even a night brings out a lot of anxiety that I'll slip, as well as whatever reaction to the beating up I've been repressing. I don't know. It's weird.

I have a son now.  There's no good way to introduce him here, I guess: in this place that's predated his existence by over a decade. In this ritual that, despite long breaks, bore me from what was very nearly my own infancy.

There's...a lot to get into about him, Ezra. Or rather, about my reaction to him. The pregnancy, the emotion, the regrets, the birth...how they all affected me, how they all have shaped the way I see parenting. None of it is really about him at all, honestly: he's a smiley, happy, perfect child. He takes after his Dad in the happiness department, as far as anyone can tell, ten months in. And for anyone who missed the last, I don't know, 5-10 posts: his Dad is not Zack, my former husband.

There's a lot to get into, about motherhood, and me-hood, and the point at which they meet. But it's a longer post for another night. Or, rather, many other posts, many more years, if I can keep this silly facade up.

What I'll say about it, for now, is that I was watching this episode of Mad Men tonight-- I'd watched seasons 1-4 before, but I started over with Dan and we're somewhere in season 6 now-- and there's this scene where Don delivers a monologue about parenthood. How underwhelming it can be. How you find yourself faking it; pretending to love them as much as you are told you're supposed to love them. Pretending to feel all the things that you think you're supposed to feel.

I can't find it on Youtube, but if you have Netflix, it's Season 6, Episode 4. Near the end: 41 minutes and 30 seconds in.

"I only ever wanted to be the man who loves children. But from the moment they're born, that baby comes out and you act proud and excited. Hand out cigars. But you don't feel anything, especially if you had a difficult childhood. You want to love them, but you...don't. And the fact that you're faking that feeling makes you wonder if your own father had the same problem. Then one day they get older, and you see them do something, and you feel that feeling that you were pretending to have. And it feels like your heart is going to explode."
 The words itself don't do it justice: Mad Men is clearly one of the most well-written, well-directed and well-acted pieces of television ever created. John Hamm is flawless here: he says this all with such captivating, vulnerable honesty. He explores this feeling that we just don't talk enough about in our culture: the shame that so many people feel that they don't love their children enough. That, for many, the story of how much having a child will change your perspective and your priorities and your life is just a fairy tale, like so many things before it.

I love my son. I'm not saying I don't. He's a joy, he's a happy little baby who makes everyone smile. The way he moves, and the noises he makes.

But I don't love him more than I've ever loved anything, at least not yet. And I don't think I could ever love him enough to have it be the...all-important, all-consuming purpose that we're supposed to find, as people. The thing that's worth more than dying for; the thing I'm supposed to live for. I'm sure I'll come to love him more than I do now, but I don't believe he could ever really be that.

Every day now, I'm supposed to write less than a page, and I'm compelled, despite all competing circumstances, to write more than that. That compulsion, that purpose...I don't even believe he could ever really be this.

They're supposed to be separate things anyway, I guess. If I were a man instead of a woman, it would be much more socially acceptable that my passion in life may not be my child. Draper went six seasons without ever really acknowledging it, and everyone loves him despite the way he acts it out: the characters, his children, the audience. Everyone.

Maybe one day, though, I'll feel as though my heart is going to explode. One can only hope.

That day is not today. This is day 3.

On with it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I have legs. I don't have ebola. I'm alive.

Gratefulness doesn't come easily to me.

I read this article that said that people who are beginning to meditate should take two minutes at the end of each session to think about how they're grateful for the mediation itself. I guess it reinforces the habit, makes you more aware of the purpose of what you're doing, and therefore more likely to continue. I suppose you're supposed to say "I'm grateful for this serenity, and all the things it will do for me, for my perspectice, and for the people in my life. I'm grateful for the silence, and my ability to quiet my mind. I am greatful for the chance to reconnect with the universe."

Or some horse shit like that.

I understand the theory behind mediation, and I understand the theory behind gratefulness. Modern literature of the Happiness Psychology Movement-- capitalized for no real reason, this is not an official name at all, just what I'm calling the last decade's trend towards researching the science of happiness- says over and over again that both are pillars of a truly happy life. You have to mediate to calm your mind. You have to be grateful for what you have, because it's very hard to be a pathetic, self-pitying egotist when you're busy filling your heart with gratitude for everything; for life itself.

Except that I AM a pathetic, self-pitying egotist. Much less abashedly so than I should be. And it's hard to have a heart full of gratitude for life itself when I'm more or less fo the mindset that life itself kind of sucks.

And there you have it. It's a chicken and egg thing. If I'm not happy, how can I be grateful? If I can't be grateful, how am I supposed to get to happy?

Except that this mindset totally misses the point. The idea is to practice gratefulness as a means to get to happy. Force yourself to acknowledge the things you are grateful for, to force out those immature, self-defeating feelings. You're better than that! You're humble, and at one with existence itself!


As many as my fellow east-coast cynics would agree with me, this feels like super unnnatural new-age shit. Great, I'm alive. I have legs-- I can walk. I don't have ebola. Yet.

The problem is that, logically, I've never really been on board with this "Be glad you have it as good as you do" rhetoric. Yes, there is food on my plate. Yes, there are people starving elsewhere. Dying painfully. Wrongully accused. Yes, it's good that I'm not any of them.

But part of me has always believed-- and is, to an extent, vindicated by research-- that one's level of happiness is more or less independent of these other circumstances. Just check the internet. Look up all the stories about the brave, happy young women who ultimately died of some terrible disease. Read their friends testimonials that they "never let the sickness get the best of them" and how they were "bright and sunny even to their dying day." (Keep in mind, I'm not quoting anyone here. I'm quoting everyone. If I have to read this exact thing one more time...)

Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful I don't have cancer (If I don't. A Cynic like me is never sure.) And I think if I did get cancer, I'd be miserable.

But I'm not certain I'd be more miserable than I am on a day-to-day basis. I think it would just feel like I'd been training really hard for some kind of fucked-up marathon all of my life, and now it was the day of the big race.

So, preparedness? I guess that's something to be grateful for?

There's this scene in "When Harry Met Sally" where Harry claims that, being a fundamentally less happy person than Sally (though I'm not sure he really proves to be, as the movie progresses), he'll be more prepared than she will when things go really wrong. I think he means on a global level: some unavoidable doomsday.

Personally, I think that's really shitty justification for letting yourself be an unhappy person. Who the hell cares how you'll feel in the moments before the apocalypse? Live your life.

But I think there are strengths that come from being someone who is unhappy: I spend a lot of time trying to convince Dan -- my almost compulsively happy fiancé (of sorts)-- of this idea; that being someone who is often unhappy is not necessarily inferior to being someone who is happy nearly all of the time.

I don't think he buys it, and this adds to my unhappiness, and the general struggle of our relationship. But it's true, isn't it? Being someone with a much fuller range of emotions allows me to empathize more deeply with the people around me. Suffering alongside another person is the surest way, in my opinion, to cement a really deep bond. That's why I've been blessed (oh! Gratitude!) with so many deep, meaningful relationships in my life. Friendships which I would not sacrifice for anything in the world. Love for others that has outlasted any semblance of a real relationship-- and yes, I get that that can easily be seen as a weakness.

But I am grateful that I still love the people who probably do not love me anymore. I am grateful that the love that I have known has proven to be unconditional. If somewhat creepy.

And I am very grateful that blogger has long since implemented an autosave system that saved this for me when I accidentally close it out just now, switching tabs to google to try to find something to help me remember the word "unconditional." The thing about writing again is that it REALLY brings out that THING that happens when I can't think of a word. Ugh.

So. Gratefulness doesn't come easy to me. But apparently I can find my way to it if I write long enough-- even if it is slightly more than a printed page.

Day 2, then. (Oh, I'm counting last night as Day 1, even though I posted after midnight. Fuck off, they're my rules.)

On with it.


My life is very different. Of course it is. It's been more than a year since I've written anything, probably more than five since I've slowed down writing considerably. The last few posts were me in the midst of a great change.

Great meaning "big." No value judgment for now. (Is that the right judgment? Do I want the one with the "E"?)

I don't have time to tell you all the ways my life has changed. It's late. I must sleep. There is a job, a new one, that requires I wake up early.

What I will say is that things are not very good right now, and, I think, in order to get better, I need to get back to my roots a little. Writing-- specifically, most of the time-- got me through most of the toughest parts of my life. It helped me to look deeper into myself. Process my pain. Acknowledge my strengths. It helped to give me something concrete that I cared about and was proud of. There are so many pages of this thing, so many words that I wrote, so many sentences I crafted.

And yes, most of them are totally self-involved mush. But they're pretty well-written, at least half of the time. And, more importantly, they're mine.

So I think, the goal, for now, for the next thirty days, is to write a little each day. I was originally going to say "100 words at least, and no more than 200." I don't know how long this is so far, but I think anyone who knows this blog is here, well, they know me better than that.

So, I don't know? Not more than a standard, American, 8.5x11 piece of paper worth of type? If it were in 10 point font with 1.15 spacing? (I do a lot of graphic design now, line spacing is big with me.)

I'm not going to hold myself to it, I don't think. If I hit a vein, and I need to write, I write. Maybe it'll give me a chance to reconnect with so many of the people I've lost. People who knew me better when they could start right here. Maybe those people are gone forever.

What I wanted to write about tonight, in my "100 words", was how, in an attempt to reverse what I've decided must be very high cortisol levels (having read this article), I have made the conscious decision to try to meditate. (It would sort of defeat the purpose of mediation to make an unconscious decision to do it.)

The idea gives me a lot of anxiety, being, you know, someone prone to anxiety. Which is the whole thing the mediation is trying to reverse. My life-- which is different-- is very busy now. Busy in addition to the fact that I've always been a very low-energy person (I want that phrase to be a hyperlink to some post I wrote in the past that proves my point, but, while I'm sure there are many, I do not have time to go hunt for one. Perhaps another day.)

Okay, blah blah blah, fast forward to the part where, having struggled with how to implement my plan to start mediation, I found myself in the tub tonight, trying to untie the knot of hair that tends to form at the nape of my neck when I don't have the time (/energy) to tend to it well enough. (My hurrying myself is rather messing with the poetic rhythm that I hoped this post would take on, but it's late, and I'm very near to the end of the hypothetical page, and I wasted all that time establishing ground rules. So. The point of the story. End parenthetical.) I decided that, as I don't feel like I have the time or the focus to mediate, and I rarely feel like I have the time or the focus to un-knot my hair, I decided to combine the two practices.

I focused on my fingers as they slid wet strands free of the knot, the sound of the bathroom fan, the sensation of the water. My mind repeatedly wandered to everything-- mostly thoughts about the future of my mediative habits, whether I would adapt it to exercise, perhaps knitting, writing-- but I did as I've been told you're supposed to do: I simply brought my focus back to the sounds, smells, and sensations of the moment without judging myself.

I don't think it would have worked so well for me, had it not been such perfect symbolism: there I was, slowly untangling the mess of my life, one strand at a time. If I'm going to do this, after all, I have to do this the only way that comes naturally to me: as a shameless purveyor of self-serving metaphors. Writers, I think they call us.

Would this all fit on a single typed page? Sigh. Day one of thirty. On with it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Two Drifters, Off To See The World.

I'm in the process of building a pseudo-apartment in my parent's basement: a bedroom, living room area and "kitchenette" with microwave and mini-fridge. My own space, to be free of rent and parental regulation, to be as sovereign an entity as I can wish to be, under the circumstances.
In other words, a spot to play house while remaining wholly dependent on the upstairs bathroom.
As yet, only the bedroom area is done. After it's completion, we took a break: myself and Dan, who is my partner in the project inasmuch as he hopes to move in sometime in the next year and live here with me while we save all the money we can to eventually buy full-time rights to the bathroom. Now, the break is over, and it's time to clear the space where the living room will be. This is no small undertaking.

Before I can work on dismantling The Great Wall of Chattel, however, I have to clear the opposite corner, to where all of this clutter is moving until such time as my mother patiently sorts through it and decides what can go to charity, what to yard sales, what to the dump. Or until Armageddon. Whichever happens first.
Currently, the opposite corner is filled with my laundry, and mementos leftover from my brief stay there when I first moved back from San Diego. As such, there are a lot of reminders of Zack in that area: things he left behind when he came home for his birthday and stayed with me, because no one in his family knew we were breaking up. Wedding photos that I found upstairs and brought down to spend hours looking at, and crying. As I go through bins that hold a random assortment of things that, at the time, needed to be quickly picked up and stored out-of-the-way, a cleaning technique that is thoroughly Zack's, I find a sample of cologne that he and I got from Banana Republic during a time period where we were endeavoring to have him put more effort into his appearance and, well, smell, I guess. In a moment of sentimentality, I am compelled to take off the cap and to smear a few drops into the pulse points of my wrist. I wait to for it to dry and inhale it deeply, to see if the smell reminds me of him. Predictably, it doesn't.
This is depressing, because earlier in the evening, I discovered that I had accidentally put a shirt into the laundry pile that was never intended to be cleaned. Now pristine and hanging up, Zack's Beal's Lobster Pier shirt had recently arrived back in Maine after a three month stay in California, where he had it to wear for me so that it would smell like him when he returned it. This shirt keeps criss-crossing the continent so that it can either be with me, to remind me of him, or with him, to regain some of the scent that gives it it's powers of recollection. Back when I was sleeping on the other side of the cellar, I wore it a lot of nights.
Nowadays, it doesn't really feel appropriate to do that. In fact, the most depressing parts of my mother having washed it this time are equally that I won't see him again for an unclear amount of time to trade off the shirt, nor that it would be reasonable to keep doing so. In the last few nights, I've missed my husband, to the extent that, had I thought about it, I might have been compelled to wear the shirt. But in so many ways, he ceases to be my husband, now. In so many ways, someone else is filling that role. So when do I give up entirely on the shirt smelling like him?
There's a quandary here about divorce, about what it's supposed to be, and what it's not supposed to be, and why. I went a long time fearing that people would judge our relationship and our marriage, but one of the biggest challenges of this year has been people judging our divorce.
I had two friends who were married to each other. After spying on his internet habits and discovering multiple instances of infidelity, she simply left the divorce papers out on the table for him to find one morning after she'd left for work. She informed the world by changing her facebook status before he even found out about it, and he was surprised when I offered him my condolences. I had another pair of friends in which the wife grew to despise the husband so much that she secretly planned to leave well in advance of doing so, and was merely waiting for the tax return to come in so that she could take it, and, I think, buy a car. When the check came in, she left him while he was at work. He came home from work and had no idea what had happened. She would neither answer his calls nor speak to him in any capacity for months after that. I currently have two friends-- who have never met each other-- who both feel that their marriages are over, but neither of their spouses have been informed that they are just waiting to leave until the moment is right.
I'm still in contact with Zack nearly every day of my life. We text, we talk on the phone, we skype, we play video games together. At current, we're still sharing a bank account until I'm financially on my feet. We won't start the divorce papers until I have health insurance. Two days ago, I wrote his resume for him. Yesterday, I spent two hours editing one of his stories, a project that will probably take me months, just on this one.
I still love him. He still loves me. We acknowledge that there were times in the marriage, and things we do now, that hurt each other. But we don't talk shit about each other. We've been family for years; we remain family, still.
Somehow, we are the weird ones.

Back in April, when we had decided on a trial separation for the myriad reasons that led us there, we were taking a walk in Ocean Beach, one of my favorite areas of San Diego. We were walking through the little shops there, looking at knick knacks, and discussing the upcoming separation. I told him, "If we do get a divorce, I'd like to get matching tattoos."
"Why?" He asked.
"Because, I want to tell the world, I don't regret it. Everyone is going to think we were just young, we made a mistake. It wasn't a mistake and I wouldn't take it back for anything. I love you, and I'm glad I married you, no matter what."
"I'm glad I married you, too." He told me. So it was decided. 
It wasn't decided instantly what the tattoos would be, though. We toyed with matching symbols, each other's names, some kind of illustration. "Maybe something from our song," I thought. Our song, the one we danced to on our wedding day and sang to each other countless times since then, is Moon River.
"That's a good idea," He told me. "But what?"
I thought about it for a moment, and then started to cry. "What is it?" He asked me.
"I figured it out." I told him. "One of us gets 'Two drifters...', and the other gets '...off to see the world."
Then he started to cry, too. So it was decided.

I haven't quite gotten around to designing the tattoos yet, but, as I've said, it'll be a while before we officially divorce, so I have time.
The thing is, I don't know how to do any of this. How to be divorced. I didn't know how to leave behind the one person I loved more than anyone in the whole world, the one person I spent my whole adult life trying to give to, trying to build a life with, and sometimes I still don't know how I did it. I don't know when it's not okay anymore to ask him to wear the shirt again for me, so it'll smell like him. I don't know if distance is best for both of us, for a while, or if we need to be there for each other now. I don't know.
But I know I want to wear it on my skin, like a badge of honor, like a scar from a beautiful battle that maybe I lost in the end. I don't want to be ashamed of the fact that I loved him so deeply and for so long, and I'm not.
When I was still living in San Diego, I told a friend of mine what Zack and I had decided about the tattoos. He was not a fan of the art in general, and tried to advise me against it. "You shouldn't do that, you know. That tattoo will last forever."
"That's okay." I told him. "The marriage was supposed to."

On with it.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A Tale of Two Bears

So I was in Target, tonight. If you want to know the truth, I was there buying supplies for, well, my period. I tell you that because it's kind of relevant, if I want to make this all fit in together in a nice, neat way: I'm on my period, and it's more intense than usual, because USUALLY I am on birth control, and I am not know, nor have I been for the last several months.

I have not been on birth control for the last several months because, well, because I want to have a baby. That does not mean I am planning on getting pregnant now. What it means is that my body keeps insisting on it, and that makes it way harder than you'd think to take a pill that will prevent it. You wouldn't expect that to be the truth, but if you think about it, if you're going to get up, find a pill, take it out of the package, and then swallow it...well, all of those things require your body. Your body has to be in on it. If your body doesn't agree, then it's not getting done without some serious help.
So a few months ago, when this was in super high gear, my body was just out-and-out refusing to take a pill. Then there was a bit of a pregnancy scare, so I decided not to take the pill till that was over, which of course, was my last period. Then there were some logistical problems, so I decided to wait until after my next period to start again. And this is that. So...wish me luck that my body consents to start it up again, after this is done.
This is all to say: I was in Target.
I noticed this display that said if you bought three coke products, you get this free, stuffed polar bear. I like coke products, and my brother-in-law collects coke paraphernalia, and I had not finished my shopping for him yet. So I decided to buy the coke products and claim the polar bear.
This was difficult. I did not have a cart. I had only come in to buy supplies for my period. So now I'm holding a basket full of period supplies and trying to wrangle three coke products and a stuffed polar bear on top of that. Then, as I'm leaving, I walk by the pet supplies. I remember that I have to buy a present for the dog at the office where I freelance, because I plan on delivering my office Christmas presents soon. Then I realize, I should pick up a toy for my dog.
So now, I'm wrangling a basket full of supplies for my period, three coke products, a polar bear, and two dog toys.
I get home. It's late, I've been out all day. Everyone here-- my parents-- are already asleep. My dog is not.
When you come home with shopping bags, my dog wants to know what's for him. I start to give him his toy, and I realize it squeaks. I realize everyone is asleep. I give him a treat instead, but he still seems agitated, so I put him out.
Then I look at the polar bear. I like it a great deal: it's cuter than I thought it would be, and I feel slightly tempted to keep it. But I don't need it: as fate would have it, I already own a stuffed polar bear.
No, this isn't a thing. I'm not one of those adult women with a ton of stuffed toys. I just...I have this other polar bear. I got it at Kohl's one day with Zack, back in San Diego. I'd been having a bad day; it was going to be something of a bad night, too. I picked it up to comfort me, the polar bear, and I always associate it with that night.
So, this new polar bear? No room for it. I'm not starting some...stuffed polar bear collection.
I put away some other stuff. I bring the dog in. I get distracted, I go downstairs, I multitask. I'm preparing to put all my gifts for my sister and her husband in a package that's being sent down to them when I realize the polar bear is missing.
Long story short (too late), it turns out, the dog has taken it upon himself to claim the new polar bear as his own, having known that there was something in the bag intended for him that he never received. This shouldn't have surprised me. He did the same thing with the polar bear I brought home last year, at this time.
So I pick it up off the floor and assess the damage. Dog spit has matted the fur in a few places, but that can be cleaned off. The damn thing is still as cute as ever...but, no, the tail has been ripped quite obviously, and there's some kind of small, mysterious stain in the fur on it's butt. It's no longer in gift condition.
So now I have two stuffed polar bears.
The thing about the stain is, I don't know if the dog caused that. It's small, and subtle. The polar bear from last year had one, too. A pink spot above the eye. I noticed it, and thought at first to put the bear down. Then I thought "No one will buy this one if I don't, because it's stained." So I kept it-- I wanted it to have a good home, I wanted to keep it safe, and care for it. The cashier pointed out the stain and asked me if I'd like to exchange it, and I refused. 
I called that polar bear "Pink Eye."
I held clung to Pink Eye as we left the store. A year ago. I was upset, I had been all night, but I couldn't place why.
Clinging to this stuffed toy, a year ago, looking at it's adorable face, it hit me all at once as we left the store. I went over, and sat on a bench near the front of the store. Zack followed me. I was quiet for a minute.
Then, "I've decided I want to start trying to have a baby."

All you need to know about his response is that it was underwhelming. I carried around the disappointment with me for a few hours, talked about it with a friend, and then, eventually, we unpacked everything. I told him that I'd been having trouble taking my birth control lately-- remember, this is a year ago, not three months ago. I told him that I felt like it was the right time. That I'd done everything I'd hoped to do before we started trying to conceive. That I was worried about how long it might take, and thought we should start trying sooner than later. That we'd been together long enough. I told him, my body feels ready now.
And he unpacked his reasons for his underwhelming response: that he was worried about the future. The future of his job, which was as yet-- and is as yet-- undecided. The future of where we would be living. The future, well, of us.
Our relationship had always been rocky. He wanted it not to be, before we started trying. It was a valid concern. Really, it was. But we'd been together 8 years already, by then. I guess I felt like, if we weren't committed by now, would we ever be? How much longer would I have to wait?

There are a lot of reasons I left. A lot of them have been outlined or referred to in other posts. A lot of you who will bother reading this know a lot more. But the thing is, the timing here can't be ignored. Zack and I were having troubles, sure. But I'd dealt with a lot of troubles for a lot of years. Nothing that was happening when I left would have been enough for me to leave...but for the fundamental difference in the way I was starting to feel about my life.
I wanted a baby.
I want a baby now, and I can't have one. But the wait is a lot shorter with the man I'm with now than it would have been with Zack, if Zack and I were to wait until the future felt certain. If Zack and I were going to wait until we both felt positive we were going to stay together forever.
The bullshit irony of it is, if I'd had a baby with Zack, I never would have left him. I would have fought tooth and nail to keep our family together, no matter what, and so would he. I think about it a lot: how different my life would have been if he'd just said, "yes."
I might be pregnant right now, if he had. I might even be holding a child. I'd be halfway across the world, and I'd be with him, and I'd be holding our baby.

I mourned that baby. That baby that never lived. When I realized, that baby-- the one that was his, the one that was ours-- would never be conceived, would never be born, I mourned. I use to lay in bed sometimes and talk to him about our future, then I'd hold the warm, imaginary body with with two hands tucked under her armpits, thumbs on her chest, and I'd bounce her a few times, and them I'd hand her to him. He'd balk a little, but soon enough, with a little chiding from me, he'd put his hands in that position, and he'd bounce our child.
Our child that never was. I can't even hold my hands in that position anymore.
I mourn that baby.

So I brought the new bear downstairs, and I looked up at Pink Eye. Now I have two bears, and no baby. I wondered, when, exactly, all of this happened. I thought to myself, it must have been almost exactly a year ago. So I looked it up, I looked up the conversation I had with my friend-- with Dan-- the night that it happened, that I told Zack I wanted a baby, and I got a bear.
A year and a day. December fourth last year, December fifth this year. A year and a day ago, I bought a bear. I bought another bear tonight. But tonight, my life is the polar opposite of what it was.
I lived in San Diego in an apartment with my husband, and my life was all about him, and my life was all about keeping us together. And I wanted a baby.
Now I live in Maine, in my parent's basement, and I spend most of my nights alone, with my boyfriend away at college. And I'm trying to make mt life more about me, than about him; than about either of them. And I'm alone, and sad, a lot of the time. And I want a baby.

It's hard waiting. It's hard, waiting to have a job that I might not ever get, and the money I might not ever earn. It's hard waiting for the young man, who wants to give me what I want, to get older, while I get older. It's hard believing it's gonna come true, this time.
Maybe sometimes, he has a hard time understanding why I can't wait. Maybe he doesn't understand what the fear is to me: that the child I feel, so real inside me when he holds me from behind and places his hand low on my belly, that that child that is real and clear to me in my mind will slip away, as suddenly and completely as the other child that I loved slipped away. That she will vanish, our little girl, consumed by uncaring circumstance and leaving nary a trace behind her. That there will be nothing for me to cling to as grieve for her, nothing to give my pain substance and a sense of reality. That there will be nothing to remember, nothing that ever was, except my love for everything she was supposed to be, again. That I will be left, forever a mourner, and never a mother.
I can't even hold my hands in that position, anymore.

On with it.