Monday, September 28, 2015

The Years Things Might Not Get Better for Me

The post before last, I informed you all (read: maybe like three people, total) of my lofty goals for my thirty-first years. The list, which you can easily go back and see, included goals of varying kinds: personal, professional (though none specifically related to my current job, except for keeping my desk cleaner), health and fitness-related, and a few interpersonal/familial/world-at-large kinds of things, for good measure.

There's a lot I can say to update you all (read: a handful of semi-interested Facebook friends) as to how it's been going. Some things I've made considerable progress on:

  • Of the 3,000 pieces of liter I vowed to pick up, I have currently finished 1,357. (Cigarette butts count as 1/2 or a 1/3, depending on how many times I have to bend down for them)
  • I did a very thorough cleaning of my car, and since then, though it has gotten dirty again with a quickness that I think anyone would have to agree was impressive, I've kept up with some basic cleaning to the extent that it hasn't gotten nearly as bad, therefore, I think, earning the title of "cleaner-ish" so far.
  • In taking the first step of improving my credit score, which was getting my credit score, I realized that somewhere in the last ten years, I had already mostly accomplished what I set out to do this year: I now once again have good credit! I have thusly decided that, while there is room for improvement, I will be shooting to improve it by something close to 35 points, as opposed to 75.
  • I have been running quite a bit in my training for a 5k, and I can now definitively say that I can run quite a bit farther now without stopping than I ever have been before. Or...could before I got this cold. It's been maybe a week. I feel like I shouldn't be too hard on myself. I got a cold.

There are also things I haven't even started yet:

  • "Switch to capsule wardrobe." Ugh. I guess I sort of started this. It didn't go well. You're supposed to do it seasonally and summer was half over already. The goal is to start in October with my "fall capsule." Wish my luck. My closet is a wreck. I'm half-expecting to find some Korean aircraft in there.
  • "Learn Six Dance Songs Well." Oh boy. Yeah. On top of all my extra writing, running, cleaning and litter-picking-up-ing, I definitely have time to get my groove back. Thanks, July Linda. I'm sure I'll really enjoy your funky, spunky playfulness come April, when I've gotten through enough of these REAL goals to even start thinking about this. (Okay, this is judgmental. I get what you're trying to do here. It's about fitness and developing skill with a fun-loving, self-confident twist. But like...seriously. Maybe when it's too cold outside to run.)
  • "Read Le Petit Prince in French" - Well. I got the book out of my parent's basement. Seriously, it's on the coffee table right in front of me., I haven't been working on French. Which was clearly the point of this goal, to be a quantifiable measure of my having improved my french skills. Le soon.

Obviously, that brief overview didn't hit on all, or even most, of my goals. There is a lot more to say, but, damn, how these entries do get long. So let's see if I can get around to some of the bigger points.

In the first entry about my goals, I mentioned the two things that I hoped would prove to be the catalysts of the enhanced state of wellness that made these goals possible: tonsil reduction and Accelerated Response Therapy. I have now, to a certain extent, experienced both. Let' a bit more about that.

-I flew down to Dallas about ten days ago to have my tonsils reduced via laser. The actual procedure was only slightly more unpleasant than I had imagined, but I'm not sure yet how I feel about the results. There may yet be some residual swelling, and the aforementioned cold isn't helping things any, but I just have this sense that the doctor didn't reduce my tonsils as much as he said that he likely could. The marketing for the procedure led me to expect something along the lines of a 70% reduction; when I arrived in the office, the doctor told me he suspected he could do 50%. Seeing the results, my best guess is that it was closer to 30%.

What does that mean? I don't yet know. I believe that my sleep quality has been slightly better, though it's very hard to quantify and one never knows what sorts of placebo effect may be in play. As for the other effects I was hoping for-- a better quality singing voice, less sniffling and nasal congestion, and more energy through increased airflow-- they've been a bit hard to quantify so far, due to the initial swelling, and now the cold. I'll keep you updated as to how this turns out.

-I've been to several sessions of ART. I believe that there was some benefit when it came to addressing the trauma I remembered-- IE, the birth-- but when we started to attempt to address some other, less immediate traumas from my life, the benefit petered out. I took a break from therapy and will be going back early next week, to give it another try.

I would have expected that addressing the trauma from the birth would have been enough of a benefit to make a real difference in my life, but in the months since I had that session, many things have only gotten worse for me. I don't believe I still have a strong, traumatic reaction to memories directly related to the birth, but it does seem that discomfort when it comes to sexual issues is back and stronger than ever. I won't choose now to go into the details, but I will say that things are very nearly as bad now as they were at the height of my vaginismus, and this leads me to wonder if I somehow, in my therapeutic process, opened up something and then left it there, out and vulnerable. 

If I can accomplish nothing else when I go back to therapy, I hope that I can go back in stick in the oven that which has been left half-baked. Or, you know. Insert some better way of saying that here.

In my last blog post, as opposed to my second-to-last, I mentioned how I don't feel like anyone in my core group of friends has made significant gains in their lives in the last ten years. Not wanting that to just be "out there," I ended up having a conversation of that nature with Emily.

Emily was quite incredulous about my assessment. She said that I must not see things the way she does if I believe she has made no progress, and she went on to enumerate the many ways in which her life has vastly improved over the past decade or so.

The points she made were very good. She is in a better place professionally, in a more stable, loving relationship, and she's done a great deal of work in therapy that has helped her to address many of the problems that, once upon a time, defined her. On a very objective level, she is better off than she was.

She also made the point that it's possible my negative view of her life has been effected by her hesitation to share good things with me. She says that she feels she can't, much of the time, and I believe the implication was that it's based on my own depression, and occasional resulting bitterness.

This hurt, of course. Emily is, as I mentioned in my last post, my closest friend at this point; still, I keep her far more sheltered from the storms of my depression than I think she'll ever really know, mostly because I suspect-- based on her past behaviors-- that there's only so much misery she'll put up with before she will simply tire of me. I am as honest as I can be with her about what's going on in my life, but...I guess I don't feel like that's very honest, overall. I don't lie to her, certainly. But I don't feel like she has much use for me, the way I usually feel, and so I keep much of that hidden.

Probably what hurt more was the idea that she doesn't feel like she can share the good things in her life with me. Emily is the type of person who is honest-- often unpleasantly so-- about her feelings, and doesn't rank "niceness" very high on her list of desirable qualities. As such, she can be quite blunt about things, and I have, in turn, felt fairly comfortable being blunt with her about when I have, on occasion, resented her life. Most of this has everything do with her having money (access to her partner's money) and not having the burden of a child. That being said, I do think I've gone out of my way, for more than a decade now, to be incredibly supportive of everything in Emily's life. I have cheered on her relationship (though perhaps not as loudly as I often as I have acted as a sounding board when she needed to rail against its flaws), and even celebrated her previous relationship in appropriate moments, as much as I understood it to be a mistake. I have given gifts to celebrate academic tests and college acceptances. I have tried to take an interest in every job prospect, followed up on every interview, asked about every trip. I make a due diligence effort to keep straight the tertiary characters, whether they're co-workers or her girlfriend's friends or the husbands of her old high school friends.

I guess this was bothering me more than I thought.

The truth is, when her life is so glaringly better than mine in so many ways, it hurts. I resent that I can't be the one traveling all over the world, having extravagant birthday celebrations paid for by other people, and living in a vibrant city with all the time in the world to make the best of it's vibrance. I can't deny that.

But the biggest reason these things hurt is that it the distance between us-- both in the physical world and in the circumstantial realities-- leaves me lacking the best friend that I need right now. The hometown girl, always just a few minutes away, who can come over, even just for a few minutes, and sit with me and talk while the baby plays. Someone to run errands with. Someone I can go see when Dan's at his parents. Someone who could babysit for a few hours when I'm at my wit's end.

Someone who will actually be there if I start to slip, the way I feel like I might start to slip. And I would't have to minimize my depression for her, because I wouldn't be afraid she'd get bored. And I wouldn't have to minimize my depression for her, because, if she existed, things wouldn't be so bad.

Emily is my best friend, my family, and she means the world to me. And she's been there with me in as many ways as she can. But, the life she lives now, it's not just far away, geographically. It's also circumstantially in a completely different universe, and maybe not a parallel one, at that.

The thing is, she's not wrong when she says she feels like she can't share "the good things" with me, I guess. But I think it's because she feels like she is leaving me behind. In truth, the reason that all of this is so sad is that, for my own good, I may need to leave her behind.

I mean, not really, not totally. I just...I need someone in my life who can be more to me than what she is now. Not emotionally more-- but someone who is just more physically there. I need a real best friend.

So, jumping back 10.5 paragraphs or so: Emily made her points that she is, objectively, better off than  she was ten years ago. And as I sorted through all the various emotional reactions I had to everything she said, I found that I was still...not unconvinced, but unsettled. I told her, all of these things are very positive, but I guess I still don't get the sense that her life has improved, as measured by the fact that, overall, I don't believe her ratio of positive feelings to negative feels has changed.

She said that she supposed I was right about that, but that that's not what's important.

The thing about that is, well, it's what I've always known, right? The whole hedonc treadmill thing. People's happiness levels really don't shift that much over the course of their lives, no matter how much their circumstances change. I've more or less always known it, and psychological studies have more or less proven it. And here is Emily, with her life so much better in so many ways than it was ten years ago, living it.

So that leads me to wonder, what's the point of all of these goals? Do any of them have any shot at all at really affecting my level of happiness? And if not, what purpose do they serve?

Is life satisfaction different than happiness? I suspect that Emily believes it is. She's more satisfied with her life now than she was ten years ago, even though she's not really any happier. As someone who doesn't value "happiness" significantly more than she does "niceness," that seems, to her, to be a perfectly okay way to be.

But what about me, am I okay with that? Am I okay with the fact that I could accomplish all of the goals I set forth for myself this year-- every single one of them-- and I'd still be unlikely to be any happier than I am?

I guess that I suspect that the point of goals, if that's the case, is so that, when you're depressed, when your feelings are either too heavy or too absent to steer you out of bed every morning, your logical mind kicks in, and in that moment, you can count the things you did, and have some shallow, hedonic pride. You can, without actually experiencing any joy, count your accomplishments one by one and come to the conclusion that you are a worthwhile person who has done the things that they said they were going to, and you can believe in yourself that you will do more. Joylessly, in that moment, but hopefully you can feel a little something about it, from time to time.

Is that enough for me? No, I suspect it's not. But there's a difference between Emily and I, when it comes to these things: she is making it. I am not.

Herein lies the reason that the goals I have are so based on these two, fundamental changes, both of which relate directly to the overall health of my brain. I do not believe a change of job makes someone significantly happier in the course of their every day lives. Nor a change of relationship, nor a change of access to money and trips and travel, nor most circumstantial realities at all. I do not believe that these things make a significant difference, and both science and anecdote appear to back me up.

But I suppose I do believe that a healthy brain could make the difference. That, were my brain more rested, healed, and less addled, that it could change the very chemical foundation that my happiness is built upon.

It's not the goals that are going to change my life, and it never was. Go back and read for yourself, that's not what I said back then, and it's not what I meant. It was the things I was going to do to treat my brain that were going to make way for these goals to happen.

The goals were aspirational. The goals were a blueprint for the kind of person I want to be. But the healthier brain-- via better sleep and some resolution to the trauma-- that was going to lay the footprint.

So, okay. I've been writing a lot, and for a long time. And I guess this post is mostly just for me, because it's meandering in the extreme, and I doubt you could really follow my train of thought. But, okay. I know what I'm shooting for.

Will this be the year that things get better for me, or just another year when they don't, not really?

It's yet to be seen, so let's get on with it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

We've Got to Hold On to What We've Got

Reading old blog posts has the dual effect A) of making me nostalgic for a period of my life when I had the time, drive, and emotional energy to regularly express my feelings in a way that was actively reaching out to the people around me, and B) making me realize how discouragingly similar my problems now are to my problems of yesteryear. It seems that nothing is changing, except for my youthful willingness to fight for change.

Or, I guess, that's not true. I am fighting for change: the last post about my goals for my thirty-first year is a testament to that. I'm just not fighting in the same ways that I used to.

But I regret that. I regret that writing, and reaching out to people, and this blog aren't a bigger part of my plan. They aren't NOT a part of my plan, as you may recall: Writing twenty-five blog posts is one of the goals, as is writing fifteen letters to people from my life. It's all about getting back in touch with language, and expression, and letting the people I care about know something about where I am in the world now.

But, come on. Though twenty-five posts in one year's time will be far more than most previous years (with the exception of the last, being that I made a goal one month out of posting every day), it would have been nothing to me for the first eight or so years of this blog's existence.

I envy that girl. She was so driven, so raw, and she somehow really saw the benefit of writing every single day about whatever self-interested garbage came through her head. It's this youthfully indulgent attitude, the kind we look down on as adults. But there was, I don't know, just something about her, about the process.

I can't say that writing every day actually made me happier: read the posts, and you'll see that that's not true. I suffered from the same breed of misery then as I do today, though my more practiced voice made my self-pitying rhetoric more bearable and, somehow, even charismatic. I was not happier, and, with the exception of having hours more to write every day and years more left to live, my circumstances were not better. There are some shockingly horrible feelings spelled out on those pages, some events that left very real scars on my psyche.

But I made it through.

That, I think, it was I envy about her: I know she's going to make it. I can't say the same about me.

Clicking randomly through the archives, I land on this post: aftermath of a conversation that a suicidal former me had with a sympathetic former friend.

I typed that sentence that way for the meter of it, but I find it uncomfortable. It's mostly true: Elorza and I rarely speak anymore. We're friends in the way that many of me and my old confidantes are: Facebook friends. It's such a concise way to explain what I mean, but I cringe just thinking about it as a definition.

In my heart of hearts, I believe that Elorza and I would still be there for each other, that the heyday of our friendship was so strong and so long-lasting that it's reached a kind of immortality. I used to say that there were some friends that I was so close to that our friendship could go into a kind of hibernation, with us not talking for months on end, but that it could wake up just as easily, and things would be as strong as they were.

But in my mind of minds, I understand that this isn't really the case anymore. This hibernation has lasted too long, and too many things have changed. Do I believe that he would be there for me if my circumstances got so that I really needed him, even after all these years? Yes. But I also know that I'd have to spend days, or hours, or weeks explaining everything that had happened to me before he could offer meaningful help.

I would say that it's this way with a lot of people, but...there weren't a lot of people who meant as much to me as Elorza. There weren't a lot of friendships that were that embedded in so many of the days that made up so much of my life.

Five, it seems like there were. Go back to the beginning of this blog, and you'll find five. The Fab Five.

(Or, uhm, don't actually go back. Having recently read the first entry which mentioned The Fab Five in any detail, I realize that it was smug teen-aged crap obsessed with honesty at the expense of everything else. The point of the post was to "make examples" of my best friends by pulling no punches in pointing out their flaws to the thousands hundreds dozens of readers that would come. I appreciate, in a distant, academic way that that post truly set the tone for the years of honest writing that would help me to navigate the rocky shores of my late teens and early adulthood. Still, it's cringe-worthy in it's naive self-satisfaction, and none of the five deserved my laying them out like that without their input or consent.)

The Fab Five consisted of Elorza, Emily, Andrew L., Jeremey, and Jeff.

Taking stock of my relationships with all of them over the years, it''s really not as bad as it could be. These must have been quality friendships, as the survival rate of some kind of relationship is uncharacteristically high for me.

And they were. Of the Five, the only one that really doesn't belong on the "best friends of all time" list is Andrew, who-- not to belittle the importance of our relationship-- more or less made the cut because he was my boyfriend at the time. Even so, in the past year or so, I've been making some attempts to re-establish a friendship with him, and though I can't say that it yet surpasses the "Facebook" prefix, we've had some pleasant conversations. He is, above all, a character, and while I can see where the endless show amusing pretense that he uses in lieu of deeper emotional connection could-- and, in fact, did once-- get old, I do still enjoy him.

My relationship with Jeremey is not unlike my relationship with Elorza, with the notable difference that, geographically, it's easier to occasionally actually see him. His mother, whom he visits on holidays, lives mere minutes from where I live now, and so we've made a point of getting together a couple of times a year. He attended my recent wedding reception and was really a very big highlight for me in an otherwise stressful and overwhelming event: in fact, he sensed my stress and offered this genuine, adult concern that made me feel better, in that moment and, ultimately, about our friendship.

In fact, it was partially his maturity and concern that day that lead me to the surprising realization that, of all the people who have been in my life for anywhere near as long as Jeremey has, he is the only one who seems to have grown in a meaningful and indisputably positive way. Everyone else, it seems, has done some variation on stagnating or going backwards, or improving their lives in certain ways while regressing in others. But Jeremey...he seems to have just...grown up.

Emily is now my closest friend, a possible tie with Zack, who I had not yet met at the time of the writing. Still, having been married to Zack for so long and still, in some capacity, thinking of him as more or less the love of my life (As opposed to the stronger, stabler partnership I experience with my current husband), I have trouble thinking of him as a "friend." So, that leaves Emily.

I don't think that it's a coincidence that the sole female of the bunch is the one who has proven best able to navigate the complications of the kinds of relationships I tend to foster. All of my close friendships have some degree of both familial and romantic feelings, either at some point or as an ongoing theme. For many, this has proven far too confusing to deal with. Emily, on the other hand, seems to understand that complexity in love does not tarnish it's value. One must put up boundaries and try to live by them, but these boundaries shift, and change, and crossing them does not make for a disaster that's any more bad than it is good.

I don't know if that makes sense, as the more I write, the more oddly, unintentionally poetic I get. But Emily and I are good, and we have been for a long time, with little interruption.

Still, a friendship such as this one can survive an interruption. Mine and Emily's did, a few years back. And one hopes that mine and Jeff's will survive the one we're currently experiencing.

Things are not good between us now. I don't know to what extent "things" between us still are, at all.

I won't go into it now: another day, perhaps. All I can say is, I still love him. That much won't change.

I'm fighting for change, and I'm fighting for things to stay the same. If that girl, who wrote all that came before this can make it, so can I.

To borrow a habit from her, I'll end the post on a corny song quote:

"You live for the fight when that's all that you've got."
-Bon Jovi, Livin' on a Prayer

On with it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Year Things Get Better For Me

It's nearly midnight on a work night, so I don't have time to write the post that this deserves, but one thing I have to learn to do to be a better adult is to just do things. Whether or not these things can be done to the ridiculous standards of my aspirational (but, as of yet, in no way actual) self, just do them, so that some version of the thing you wanted exists, instead of a just a big pile of nothing that slowly rots away until not even a hint of what you originally intended exists.

Or something. I'm not at my most eloquent tonight. But moving past that is sort of the theme of that last paragraph, whether you can tell that or not. And look, I did.

Things have been very hard for me for a while now. There are a lot of reasons for that. More than the two big ones I'm about to highlight now, and, in fact, more big ones just than just those two. But those two are kinda the point of this paragraph, so let's get there. 1) The birth of my son, 19 months ago, was super traumatic for me, in a way that has given me legit PTSD symptoms since then. (To be clear, I had been diagnosed with PTSD from earlier issues even before that, but I found out, the hard way, in the past year and a half the difference between a sort of latent, distant trauma that haunts you occasionally and at the least opportune time, and the kind that makes your whole life the least opportune time.  Number 2) My whole life, as many of you have known, I have been very, very tired.

I have a chance, I think, to finally address both of these. For the trauma, I am experimenting with a new therapy, Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART), which is promisingly like EMDR, and is practiced by a therapist very geographically near to me. I'll get into the details at a later date, but if it is what it's cracked up to be, it's possible that I am already well on my way to recovery from this issue, and, maybe, from issues that have haunted me in the past.

For the tiredness, I have stumbled upon a hypothesis: I am in no way medically or scientifically sure, but I have reason to suspect that I may suffer from obstructive sleep apnea as a result of my shockingly large tonsils. Even if this is not the case, there is a very large possibility that the resulting restricted air flow is a big part of my rather consistent torpor. (Googled it: I used that word correctly! Awesome!) In support of my feelings of wanting to resolve this, Dan has agreed to allow me to use a large portion of the money we received as gift for our recent wedding (Yay, us!) to have my tonsils reduced in a relatively painless laser procedure called a Laser Tonsil Ablation.

It is my feeling that IF both of these two treatments have even half of the effect that I hope that they do, I will be, very suddenly, in possession of a great deal of energy, both emotional and physical. To have a well-rested and relatively relaxed brain for the first time in my's something to think about.

This could be the year things get better for me.

I have a strong desire not to waste this potential energy: not to let the years of dreams and aspirations that I have always pushed off until things were better turn to the proverbial pile of nothing, rotting away. As such, I have made a list of very specific goals for the next year of my life: convenient timing, as my birthday was a mere three days ago. Maybe I'll accomplish all of before I turn 32. Maybe they will be forgotten in two months time. For better or worse, herein lies, at least, the hint of what I intend, today. In no particular order:

Train for and run 5k with Dan
Be able to do one chin-up
Learn 6 Dance songs Well
Record 5 Original Songs
Finish Editing Zack's First Book
First Draft of Screenplay
2 College Courses
Keep Car Cleaner-ish
Keep Office Cleaner-ish
Switch to capsule wardrobe
Therapy for trauma
Learn to play 5 songs on the uke
Reduce tonsils
Put 500 in IRA
Improve credit score 75 points
Complete 3 large art projects
Pick up 3000 pieces of litter
Maintain nails/eyebrows/teeth/skin
Write/mail letters to 15 people from my life
25 blog posts
Put together Ezra's baby book
6 books (at least 3 non-audiobooks)
Read Le Petit Prince in French
Get Ezra caught up with speech
Be able to touch my toes

This list was written on my phone yesterday, though I added that last one just now, as it's absence on the list was an oversight.

I hope to have the time to explain my choices a bit better in the future, in some of the upcoming twenty-five (make that twenty-four) blog posts. For now, let me just state that I intend to share my journey here, and hopefully on Imgur, the goal of the latter being that it has the same feeling as a weight loss post, but with a more holistic (and less judgmental of fat people) vibe.

Today, I worked on the following:

-I had a very productive therapy session.
-I went for a walk and picked up forty-five pieces of litter, then cleaned a decent amount of trash out of my car (by no means enough to consider it clean) before coming inside.
-I used my Clairisonic and moisturized, then followed up with frownies on my forehead wrinkles (this is skincare-related)
-I did a few quick arm exercises before bed, some "girl-style" push-ups (soon enough, I will be back to the respectable ones) just so the day wouldn't be a total fitness loss.
-I wrote this blog post. Almost. It'll be done in a sec.

So...more to come. If you intend to join me on this journey, I thank you for being more interested than I have really warranted with this post. If you're checking back on this many months in the future to see how far I've come...well, good for me, I guess that means I'm still at it.

On with it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bare Branches and Stray Cats

A few doors down from our house, there is a building. It houses an elementary school, but it looks like no elementary school I've ever seen: certainly not the modern, unimposing, kid-friendly architecture you see nowadays. I believe it used to be a high school, back when high schools were something more institutional than they are today, and it shows: it's got a old, classic academic edifice with pillars in the front. It's set back on it's lawn with a path leading up to it, lined with lamps and mature trees which, nowadays, are bare. It was beautiful in the summer, with the leafy green canopy, and the autumn colors were especially fitting, with that changing-season back-to-school charm straight out of a college brochure. But there's something just right about the wispy, naked fingers, barely obfuscating your view of the place, and the snow on the ground. Something about the coldness that suits it.

I'm sure it's older than most of the homes that surround it, but even as the defining characteristic of the neighborhood, it's somehow so garishly out-of-place I can never help but stare at it. For me, it's beauty inspires only sad nostalgia of a life I didn't have. I think it reminds me of walking around the campuses of liberal arts colleges and feeling this sense of being where I belonged, but only as a fleeting visitor.

I was smart and artistic and I cared about learning; I would have done a thousand times better in college than I did in High School. Instead, with undiagnosed ADHD and terrible grades, I was rejected from the few colleges I thought to apply to, and I lived the first part of my adult life in the confusion that comes from being separated from your peers when they all go one way and you go another. I got a job, got married, and lived a humble life trying to convince myself that I'd done what was right for me. I don't remember if I did a good job at that or a poor one: it probably went back and forth. But when I walked around the campus at Bowdoin or took a day trip to Cambridge, I knew the truth.

It's not clear if my early marriage suffered from the longing of the life I should have had, as it was suffering from too many things to keep track of. Still, eventually, I somehow learned to commit to marriage, to define myself as a part of a couple, and to think of that as my life's most important goal. This dedication served me well, right up until the divorce. After that, having my sense of self wrapped up in my marriage was...less convenient. 

There's something about this, the way I'm writing this, that really isn't working for me: it's hard, it's not coming out naturally, and it's not satisfying. Earlier tonight, I went out for a walk, as it was a very bearable 32 degrees: I like to make the point to people who use the term "freezing" to describe the winters in Maine that when the temperature is actually at freezing, that's a really pleasant change.

I started out with a practice called "mindful walking," part of my attempt to make meditation a regular routine once again. The idea is, as you might guess, to be present and in the moment, noticing sights, sound, smells, and the feeling of your feet on the pavement, one step after another, and giving your attention to the here and now. I did alright for a while, but found myself fighting off the narrator in my head that so often begins a post like this long before I ever reach a keyboard. It's something I've always done, since I was a very small child-- write in my head when I'm alone.

In the past few years, it's not clear to me how long, that has somehow happened less and less for me, less automatically, less often. I guess it's not clear to me why: is it because I have so little alone time now? Is my mind too crammed with anxious to-do lists to wander into essays and stories and monologues from imaginary films that have only the sparsest plot supporting them? Or has my head been narrating to me just as much all along, but I forgot to listen?

Regardless, as it always has, walking alone at night sparked it right up. Richly worded allusions to Counting Crows lyrics, and deeply complex metaphors about a cat that I stopped to pet, and how it symbolized the many ex-loves of my life with whom my relationship was ruined because I couldn't let my time with them be simply what it was. Full paragraphs about the building, and the trees, and the life I could have had, and what it is to always living a life you feel is not your own: to always feel as out of place in your own life as that damned building is on my street.

And then finally, as I walked back to my house, the realization that while I might always feel unfamiliar in my life, either as a wife that should have instead have been a student, or a mother to the wrong man's child, there is a way to find my way back to the one thing that does feel like me, at my very essence, to my very core: the voice of melancholy narrator, carefully crafting the story of my signature sadness.

I think, perhaps, it will always be there, it has always been there. I think, perhaps, it is really just for me-- the writing is in my head, is working it's way through me, even if I never make it as far as this.  The feeling of my fingers on my keyboard are about communing with the voice, and posting these words for all to see are my plea for the world to love her, because she is me, because she is all I really am. But the voice, the words, the stories and symbols and stray cats...that's the part I really need, whether it comes out on paper or not. That's the part of me that is a writer in a way that no college could have ever made me one.

I hope that it's enough.

On with it. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Rub(ble)

In the office, editing a spreadsheet, I'm listening to a podcast to make the days tolerable, as I have most days since my favorite coworker left. It's an old This American Life, as I've listened to all the recent ones: this one, from 1996. An episode called "Get Over it." It's about people getting over things, break-ups and deaths so far in the episode. Ira said something in the beginning about how you can't will it to happen, you can't know when it's going to happen. He related it to a passage in the bible about how the date of Jesus' return will not be known until it happens.

Then, there's this really sad story by George Saunders, about a man trying to get over his wife's death, doing so by throwing himself into the caretaking of an old widow. I won't get too much into it-- you should listen to it if you find yourself with the time-- but it's a somewhat sci-fi/futuristic story (except evidently written in and set in 1992, so think "alternative reality" futuristic rather than actual futuristic), so the method that he eventually uses to get over his wife's death and help provide for the old woman is a little...Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind.

There's so many directions I want to go in reaction to this piece, all interelated, all could be part of the same "This American Life" episode: they all have the same theme. But, like in "This American Life", they are all different stories.

My first reaction, the one that inspiried me to write this, was to the little clip of song they played after the story. My ears perked as I realized I knew the song, but not well: something I'd heard many times, but in a relatively short period of my life. As I tried to place it, the irony dawned on me: the song was from a mix tape given to me by someone that I cared very much for at the time, who I forced myself to get over by not letting myself think of him or what we had.

The idea of forcing myself to get over someone-- of not just openly and vulnerably letting myself feel whatever I feel-- is generally so foreign to me that the whole process of doing it was not entirely unlike a real-life version of this story: I had a life to save, or a way of life: not just mine, not just mine and Zack's, but his, and his family's. I had the greater good to consider. So I, in the only time in my life I ever mustered the will to do this, forced myself just to not think about him or acknowledge any lingering feelings.

It worked to the extent that I don't even know how accurate what I'm typing is. I know that I was much more strict about the process than I'd ever been before or since, but I don't know if that's truly what I can attribute the success to. I look back now, and, I know full well that I had deep feelings for him, but it's not clear to me the exacts of how or why. It seems to foreign to me now. Would I have been able to shut him out had I not already been fairly far into the process of getting over him? Or was it the process of shutting him out that makes me feel like I was over him, I must have been, I don't even know how strong my feelings were in the first place?

The reality of this, like the memories of the man in the story, is now lost to the ether.

There was a point I wanted to make about how Dan and I used to argue over how good a movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" was. I think, in the end, I made the point that there were far too many parallels to mine and Zack's relationship for me to find the movie anything but disturbing and sad. I forget my exact points...maybe I'll find and post the piece of conversation, sometime. I think it was mostly online.

I tried to write a post last night that somewhat related to all of this, but then, Dan came into the room. He was making a good-faith effort to check in with me before bed time, something I've asked him to do in order to help me to feel like we're really a couple, and not just a pair of co-parents who live together. I wasn't really in a good place to appreciate his effort though-- I'd been in a bad mood all day, and it felt, often, like he was oblivious to that.

The conversation we had, as is so often the pattern, started out benign, but quickly became a tour of all the different ways we fail each other as a couple: he often feels unappreciated, which is hard to combat, because, I often don't appreciate him. I often feel like he's disappointed in me, which is hard for him to combat because, in his words, "I think you try, I think you do the best you can. But I don't think that'll ever be enough to meet my standards."

So, there's the rub: I don't appreciate him, he's disappointed in me.

At least, it's part of the rub. I don't know how much of the rub it is. I don't even know if it's most of the rub, or the biggest piece of the rub. And I've said "rub" one too many times.

I'll end with what I managed to write last night before he came in and interrupted:

"I find neuroscience fascinating, and it's a fascinating time for it. They're doing all these image studies now-- using an FMRI to track the way a brain will actually physically change in response to events in a person's life. Actual, scientific evidence of the way a traumatized person's brain will respond to therapy, showing how parts that are overactive gradually become calmed overtime. Visual evidence to show that meditation strengthens pathways that allow one to access serenity. And whatever the third thing in my list would be if I were more well-versed on the topic. (I tried to look something up figuring, hey, a rhetorically satisfying list should have three examples. But then I got really bored, really fast. Evidently, I don't actually find neuroscience THAT fascinating.)

So, any neuroscientists out there, here's my suggestion for an experiment. Prove or disprove the following hypothesis: the brain changes after great heartbreak, making it actually, physically impossible to love the next person as much as you loved the first. Prove or disprove the idea that you'll never again feel anything like your first love."

So. A whole different piece of the rub. On with it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Day Thirty

The last day of my thirty day writing challenge. I'm not going to miss it. Still, if I manage at least a paragraph here, and hit "publish", I'll have seen it through. A few of the entries were even not terrible.

I remember somewhere in there, I said that I'd feel some kind of satisfaction when I finished. Something about it not being super gratifying, but still, some since of satisfaction that I saw it through.

Actually, I think I just implied that satisfaction, in this case, would not really be satisfaction at all, but the avoidance of whatever negative feeling I would have if I didn't do what I said I would. Yeah, that seems about right.

It's a pretty empty feeling.

Writing isn't going to ever be what it was to me, all of my life, if I do it like this. If I try to fit it into some tiny chunk of time I have before I go to bed, knowing full well that every extra word adds to my growing sleep debt. If I have to keep myself level because I don't have the time an energy to get upset. If I have to avoid really getting into anything, really having any chance to process anything, because of that.

Dan and I got into something the other day-- I was pretty sure it was yesterday but now I'm thinking maybe the day before-- and sometime in the processing between that fight and the next (it must have been the day before, because I remember writing yesterday that we weren't actually fighting), I explained to him that I need for him to try to read my signals a little better, so that we can avoid me crossing a line of emotion after which I become useless for a while, after which all I can do is try to process that emotion.

That can be a very time-consuming thing. I suppose it feels like my posts are going to be subpar so long as I'm trying to avoid getting into this long, winding diatribe where I figure out some kernel of truth inside of my emotions. I'm not the type of person who can just open something up and then close it off again: once it's out there, it's staying out there. Until I've gotten something out of it.

Dan and I are fighting again. You may have been able to tell from my cheery tone. I suspect he thinks we're fighting because he disagreed with me. I suspect he thinks I'm mad that he disagreed, and that  he's mad that I didn't react well to that.

It's true, I didn't react well. It was one of those disagreements where the other person's position is so shocking and offensive to you, but only because they're you're partner. It's not that you couldn't respect the opinion coming out of a stranger or a friend or whatever. It's that, you can't see how you managed to find yourself in a relationship with someone who feels that way.

And yeah, I don't like that feeling. But I'm not MAD at him for it. That's not what I'm fighting about.

I'm fighting because, as I could tell that the conversation was getting me upset, I started to try to give him clues that it was, to prompt him to remember the conversation we had-- just two short days ago-- where I asked him to be aware if I'm getting agitated and pull back. I even said to him that I needed him to tread lightly.

I don't know if he tried. I suspect he would argue that he did. I don't know if I'd believe him if he said that.

Our fight the other day ruined the whole night, and then, last night was also bad, though not in a fighting way. So it was in this really desperate feeling that I couldn't possibly take it a third night in a row that I lost it and just interrupted him before the conversation could continue to upset me.

I wasn't tactful, I was just trying to get out of it before it escalated and farther. But then he snapped at me for disrespecting him or something like that. I don't know. Either way, he was demanding something out of me I couldn't give-- an apology or something like that. I can't do that when I'm not sorry, and I really, really wasn't. I don't think I am now.

There was something else I asked him to do, the night before last, something else he ignored tonight: I am sensitive. I do get upset. I am emotional where he is unemotional. I get triggered easily, very possibly a side-effect of the PTSD we both know I am suffering from, and when that happens, it can be hard to control my emotions, and his lack of ability to see that happening makes everything worse. So I asked him, the other night, to try, in the future, to cut me some slack when it happens. Let some things slide. Not take everything to heart.

The night I asked, he seemed to think it was a perfectly reasonable request. This evening, it seemed like he seemed to ignore it.

I walked away because there was nothing else to do. He wasn't going to get me to say "I'm sorry" because I genuinely wasn't, and I wasn't willing to let another night get lost in another fight.

Now we don't seem to be talking. A lot of times, I just think it's better that way.

Things were going...slightly better for a while. I don't know if it's that I was mediating for a while there, or if it had something to do with the fact that things were going really well with my job and I was happier than I had been, at least in that regard. Maybe it's something hormonal, maybe it's that I haven't been sleeping. Or maybe, just maybe, the difference him. It's not like he's going to be the one to volunteer that this could be something to do with his moods and state of mind, so I guess I'm going to have to.

He's down the hall and I can hear him typing on his computer, and it's going to make it impossible to sleep. When I fight with my partner, I can't really deal with the tension their presence brings me; I need to be as far away as physically possible. I can't live with someone I fight with this much.

We've tried fighting less. It's not clear that that's working. I don't know when the next phase happens.

Day 30. It's not pretty, but there it is.

Alright, people. I'll see you the next time I have something of interest to say. Hopefully in a few days or so.

On with it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Day 29

Today is the penultimate day of my 30-day blogging challenge. "Penultimate" is one of those big vocabulary words that Dan likes to throw around whenever possible, which is a trait I find super annoying. It seems to be a family trait: I remember his brother once used the word "disaggregated" in some sort of casual, non-scientific, non-data-set conversation. A conversation where "separated" would have made a lot more sense, if I remember correctly.

His brother is a graduate of Yale Law. Really smart, really successful person. Clearly knows a lot of big words. But I think theres a little more to be said for knowing when not to use them.

Opening this entry with an attack on Dan's curious and pretentious vocabulary choices, however, is a misleading choice on my part, especially where yesterday's entry somehow meandered into rant territory about an argument we'd had. Dan and I are not arguing tonight. Tonight, I am suffering from a general malaise.

Or rather, I am suffering from a malaise most closely associated with some changes at work that I don't feel at liberty to write about freely in any context that might be tracked back to me, pseudonym or not. I don't think anyone's looking, but it wouldn't be particularly hard to figure out who I really am from this, or to find this if you were looking for things about who I really am. If that makes sense. Regardless, my work life has changed, very suddenly, and has become significantly less enjoyable and fulfilling for me.

I can live with this, except that enjoying my work life was a really important distraction from the fact that I don't really enjoy my home life.

I don't do well on any day where I don't get a good chunk of time sitting in front of the TV while eating: most nights it's dinner. Tonight, dinner got rushed and was sub-par and we ended up watching a particularly disappointed episode of the daily show: two of three, well, thirds of it were really disappointing, so, assuming the first, Jon-Stewart-covers-headlines-directly-to-the-audience part was fine, I probably got all of seven minutes of my rejuvenative food-TV ritual in, and it was heavily interrupted by both the baby and the dog. So maybe that's the real source of my dourness.

I suspect, as I so often do, a hybrid of things.

To salvage what's left of the very little time before I really should be asleep, I'll probably curl up with my phone and search the internet for some way to feel more interactive with Serial, the new spinoff podcast from This American Life. Are you listening to it, imaginary reader? It's so good, so addictive.

I don't want to waste my time explaining it. Just google it. Or better yet, just download the first 7 episodes, which are currently available. You have to listen to them in order, it's an ongoing story. I'm too tired to give you a hyperlink, maybe I'll edit in later.

Day 29. The penultimate day. If you were to disaggregate this body of work, you'd get 29 separate posts so far.

On with it.

Alchemy and Pretention

Having gotten a terribly piddling amount of sleep last night, I intended to go to bed nice and early tonight.

Then Dan and I got into an argument about something that wasn't really an argument, but activated all of my argument-nerves or whatever, and then spent an hour processing and discussing that, which then, inevitably, moved into another argument. And now, at midnight, here I am, with a post still to write.

Sleep. The first casualty of an unhappy relationship.

Part of me wants to go off in this direction: talking about how strange it is that Dan and I are this bad even when we're not that bad at all, and you, figuring out what the hell I mean by that. Talking about the point I was making about how he writes off a lot of my behaviors as abnormal when they're really just female, and then talking about how he gets frustrated by my use of "stereotypes" and "generalizations." Talking about how I honestly can't stand people who play the "stereotypes" and "generalizations" card: there are legitimate differences between (most) men and (most) women. These differences evolved from having very separate biological functions and everything that goes along with that.

By and large, the men in my life understand this and accept it as fact. There are many women in my life that don't. (I'm sure I'm misrepresenting them here. So, blah blah blah, sociology, socialization, insert their whole argument here. It's not an invalid argument. But it's my blog, and I'm the one who has to get to sleep, so I don't want to spend twenty minutes here playing devil's advocate in full, fair representation of a whole group of feminists who will never read this.)

My point, I guess, the point I was trying to get around to NOT making, is this: women and men are biologically different, for very important reasons. That biology is incredibly powerful. In this, and in all things, it frustrates me when people put on airs and think that we have somehow transcended our biology. We have not. We are animals. We are the sum of our animal parts, and we our driven by our chemicals and hormones and the instincts they create. Don't be pretentious: we are just mammals that wear fancy clothes and walk upright.

I am a feminist in so much as I don't think there is any moral righteousness in acting one way because you were born that way. But I do think that some things are fundamentally more feminine, and some things are fundamentally more masculine. Large emotional range? That's a pretty feminine trait, in my mind.

This is all totally separate from the only thing I actually meant to come on here to write, which was this interesting point I made about economics. Dan and I were in an argument-- or actually, in a post-argument discussion-- about money. He was making the point (roughly, and this wasn't the whole thing) that money is math, and that math has a right and wrong answer.

I made the counter point that money isn't math: money is economics. And then I made the point that I've tried to make to many people, many times, since I stumbled upon an understanding of it, somewhere during the first hundred episodes of NPR's Planet Money Podcast: Economics isn't solely  about money. Economics isn't solely about math.

Economics it about worth, it's about value. It's about what one will trade on one side to gain on the other side. I remember once that my uncle was saying that he would be willing to buy a hybrid if his company would give him an economic incentive for doing so. I told him that he already had plenty of economic incentive, beyond the financial, if he cares about the other benefits of driving a hybrid: namely cleaner air and water and earth and blah blah blah. (And yes, for the rare reader who might quibble here, I get that the environmental benefits of a hybrid are highly controversial when considering the production of the battery, etc.. Not my point here: stay on task, imaginary, haughty environmentalist reader!)

My point to my uncle was that economic benefit is not the same as financial benefit, because any and all positive effects of driving a hybrid might help to equal out the equation where he decides to spend more on buying one. Little to know, I was barking up the wrong tree-hugger: my uncle, it seems, votes Republican, and all the stunning environmental polices that go along with it.

But back to what I said earlier. I was explaining to him that money is not math, money is economics. It's not about numbers as much as it is about obtaining balance. It's about equivalent exchange.

Economics isn't math. Economics is alchemy.

I'm sure any future economists who wander into this post equally likely to nod in thoughtful agreement or vomit. But any Full Metal fans who stop by will probably be so excited they squirt their juice boxes all over their Pokemon cards, so I got that going for me. (Someone remind me to make a mash-up illustration of John Maynard Keynes with an automail arm. That level of obscurity would gain me some serious points with like, one Econ major in a suburb of Cincinatti.)

Either way, as I said it, it occurred to me it sounded a little profound. So I thought I'd write a post about it.

I, too, wear fancy clothes and walk upright. So sue me.

Day 28. On with it.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Old Team

Tomorrow, I am meeting with my ex-coworker from my current job. I'm excited to see her, as she was the one person I managed to get very close to in my first three months of the job, and it would be good to make a go at being friends in earnest. But I fear what happens all too often: that the longer separated professionally, the less we will have to talk about. Ex-work relationships tend to happen that way.

I still hold a very dear place in my heart for everyone I worked at Borders with: it was, by far, my longest-lasting job, and I worked their from before the store opened till after the store closed. We had our fair share of scary-crazy types, and I had one too many run-ins with them. But overall, I felt that we forged a kind of family. Somehow, all of these years later, I still feel like that.

I wondered, the other day, what would happen if someone miraculously re-opened the store and everyone who worked their before worked their again-- like the way Nathan Fillion describes how quickly all of the actors from Firefly would go back if someone bought the rights to the show and rebooted it. Would I take the job back?

The short answer is that I couldn't possibly afford to, in the way I worked their before, and I suspect most of my co-workers on the same page. I like to think most of us are making at least a little more than we were then, though I know that's not necessarily the case for the salaried management. When I was a supervisor there, I believe I was making $10.45 an hour. When I quit management to go back to school and worked as a Bookseller, I think it got knocked down about a dollar-fifty. It's really sad to think of how many of my coworkers were making way less than that fairly miserable amount.

I make a living wage now-- nothing spectacular, but enough that I could support myself, modestly, if Dan and I were no longer together. (There's this whole rant about how frustrating it would be for me that Dan, who makes about the same amount that I do, would have it so much easier because he has no debts or bills thanks to parental intervention, but it's neither here nor there.) It probably won't be long before I begin to itch for more, but it's a decent living, or what passes for one nowadays.

If the fantasy Borders team got back together, I would definitely be on-board as a part-timer, though. At least one day a week, even if I did have to commute all the way back to Brunswick. It would honestly be so good for my social life just to be there again, with that group of people.

I had every intention of staying in contact with the old crew, and I guess I've maybe done better than most. I've gone out of my way to drop in on people like Holly and Jasmine, and stayed, albeit sparsely, in contact with Andrea and Bill on Facebook. Jim and I manage to get together for an hour or so every couple of months.

But, even still, we talk almost exclusively about the old days. How much we miss people. How great it would be to go back.  If we're still getting together a few times a year in ten years, will we still be talking about this one job we once had?

In my perfect world, Jim, Andrea and I would form a team to meet at a bar in Topsham or something for a weekly Trivia night. We'd invite everyone who worked at the old place and they'd show up whenever they could, fleshing out our team with a Tara one week and a Bill the next. A few good friends, a couple of drinks, and the weird amalgam of knowledge that one gains in working at a book store for years.

We'd be unstoppable.

Day 27. On with it.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Day 26

Apparently, November is NaBloPoMo, which stands for "National Blog Posting Month" or some such nonsense. The idea is that people who are participating are supposed to write a blog post every day in November.

Well, that's bad timing.

My final day of my thirty days of posting is slated to be over on the twelfth. Under different circumstances, I'd be tempted to keep going until the end of November in order to participate, but, honestly, this has been a truly frustrating journey. Yesterday's post is a prime example of what happens when you make yourself write when you have nothing to say and no desire to, which is fine if it's merely for the writerly practice of writing a little every day. But if I were going to buy into that "great writers write every day" garbage, I wouldn't do it publicly. I don't want people who wander onto this website to think I'm some insipid moron. Yesterday's post, and many others I've produced like it, are the blogging equivalent to instagramming pictures of your breakfast. And, I mean if your breakfast were really mundane.

And for the record, I don't think great writers (or anything else) necessarily do anything. I think different people achieve greatness different ways. And most people don't at all, I suspect.

As I write this, I am sick in bed and very much want to attempt sleep. I had just cozied myself and was shutting off the light when I realized that there was a considerable chance that my attempt at sleep would lead to actual sleep, given that I've spent the last 18 hours refraining from eating anything that might bother my stomach and running back and forth the bathroom, and then my streak would be ruined. So I forced my shaky, achy, hot-and-cold self to pick up the laptop.

The reality is, for me, forcing myself to do anything every day is doomed to eventual failure. I guess the question I need to ask myself is whether that's okay, something I can just accept about myself, or if it's a shortcoming stemming from my lack of self-discipline, that I should attempt to overcome for the good of, well, everything.

A question for another day, I suppose, when the threat of throwing up on my keyboard isn't quite so clear.

Day 26. On with it.