Friday, October 31, 2014

Parties, Judgment, and Death.

Today is Halloween. I've never been a big fan.

As a kid, I think it was because things related to death made me very uncomfortable. I had stronger reactions to death than most children, I think. I postulate that this is because when my grandfather died-- I was very young at the time, perhaps 6 or 8-- my father, who was with him at the time, called my mother to tell her, and I picked up on the extension and heard the conversation-- my father panicked and speaking barely incoherently into the phone.

I remember, when my father's mother died, several years later, my parents both came into my sister's room where she and I were playing and calmly sat us down and explained what had happened. I remember asking, through a few tears, if their was cribbage in heaven, because my Grandmother loved to play it. I remember them laughing and saying, "If there wasn't before, there is now."

If the first time had been more like the second, I probably wouldn't have spent several years of my life utterly terrified of death and all things related: gravestones, caskets, and all manner of halloween decorations. But it was not that way.

As an adult, the reason I never grew to like Halloween is that it seemed like it was the one night a year where all of my friends-- even the usually extremely socially anxious ones-- had parties to go to, and I (we, really, since it was always me and Zack) did not. We tried one year to go to a college party that friend invited us to, but it became clear to us very quickly that we had never developed the correct set of social skills to make it enjoyable.

There were a few teenage years where it was mildly appealing-- going trick or treating with friends who were too young to party and too well-behaved to make trouble. But my attempt to relive that when Zack and I were first together was met with a lot of judgement and scorn from the people whose doors we knocked on. It really soured me for the whole thing.

I also really dislike giving out candy. I don't mind watching it, seeing the trick or treaters, but being as low energy as I am, the constant up-and-down, the interruptions...I find it all very frustrating and tiring.

So taking Ezra out-- albeit, only to like 6 houses-- was a nice change of pace this year. There are few things that have been as good about being a parent as they are advertised, but the relief of any sense that I should find an event or party to go to on Halloween was nice, as was having a convenient excuse to be out trick or treating. Some people in my hometown really go all out, with the spooky lawn decorations. Now that I'm old enough to appreciate it without finding it-- well, not scary, but unsettling, shall I say-- it's really quite a scene to behold.

I guess nothing deep tonight, except, you know, the grandfather's death making me a nervous child thing. Oh well.

Day 18. Happy Halloween.

On with it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Wife, Happy Life

Have you ever heard the saying, "Happy Wife, Happy Life."? It's this idea that some men-- generally older-- will relate that a man's happiness, being a simple thing, largely hinges on his wife's happiness, which is much more complicated. What they will tell you is that the sooner you learn to just say "Yes, Dear", the better your marriage, and overall, your life, will be.

While I don't think Zack actively subscribed to this theory, much of the time, he essentially lived it. Zack was a very unselfish person, due to low self-esteem. He didn't seem to believe that he deserved anything, and so he spent very little time wanting for anything. Because of this, he largely let me have what I wanted, whether it was the decision as to what restaurant we were going to eat at, or how things would be arranged in the kitchen, or something I wanted to buy.

Zack and I had a lot of problems-- a lot, a lot. But I do sort of think it was this principle that was a big part of why our marriage lasted as long as it did.

Many men-- and women-- find the "Happy Wife, Happy Life" concept to be downright insulting. That a man who learns to defer will always feel resentful and controlled.

I'm not saying it works for everyone. I'm not even saying it works for anyone, all of the time. But what I'll say is this: I'm reasonably sure that it's what I want, in the long run.

Dan does not subscribe to this philosophy. He has a very strong distaste for authority and craves an egalitarianism in our relationship that, I don't know. It's not up my ally. I suspect-- more than suspect, really-- that he thinks it's morally wrong that I don't want to be on exactly equal footing.

What I would say to him-- or to anyone who found this whole concept to be offensive-- is that it's fairly well accepted that some people lend themselves more to a follower role in life, and some people lend themselves more to a leader role. As someone who generally thinks of themselves as a leader-- and I understand that most people do, even though the natural state would be that there would have to be more followers-- I find it fairly frustrating to be in a relationship with another leader.

I'm not at all sure if my relationship with Dan would have been appealing at all if we hadn't first met in this very clear leader-follower dynamic: I was literally his boss at his first job. That only accounted for the first six months of our friendship, but for a long time, things sort of adhered to that. He was younger than me, and often asking for my advice about things. He admired me writing and, often, my knowledge. When things first started to get romantic between us, he very much stayed in this follower role that, I think, was a big part of why things worked. I feel very confident in the leader role, and I felt very happy asking for what I wanted, or walking away when I wanted to.

I think it's Dan's perception that I'm the one whose done all the changing in our relationship, which is why we haven't been able to maintain the happiness we felt when we were first together. For the most part, that's probably true: I have changed more than he has. Or at least, I have shifted from one side of my personality to another more than he has.

But a lot of that has been in response to his more or less sudden demands to be treated as an equal partner. I get it-- it's one thing to have a fling where you play a subordinate. It's another thing to live like that forever.

Never the less, his "leader" side is coming out. And anyone will tell you, two leaders is a recipe for disaster.

I work now in marketing at a Retirement Community. There's this man there who has this girlfriend that lives there-- I don't know how long ago they met or how long they've been dating. Their apartments were down the hall from one another. They live in assisted living, so neither of them is a completely independent person, physically.

I've spoken, a few times, to the girlfriend, but he is a very quiet man. Basically the only words I've ever heard come out of his mouth are asking about her, saying he's waiting for her, telling me where she is. I don't honestly think he's completely all there anymore, but it's like what's left of his mind focused on her as his only concern.

He's very smiley. He's quiet and smiley and he follows her around quietly and smiles because he's with her. Tries to buy her lunch even thought the staff is supposed to make sure they keep their money very separate.

Since Dan and I started getting back, I came to this place, emotionally, where I couldn't really stand the idea of love. People in love are frustrating to me. Movies about it are a waste of time. Love songs are just lies.

This man and this's the only relationship I've seen in a long time that has made me think, "That's what I want."

She had a stroke last week. She's had several, so at first it seemed she would be coming back from the hospice facility she'd been moved to. Now, it's clear she isn't. The rumor circulating today is that she may have already died.

The only thing I really know about this man is how much he loves her. That might be the only thing left to know about him, unless you'd known him from earlier in his life. And now, she is gone.

I haven't worked at this place very long-- three and a half months now-- but there have been a half dozen deaths. This is the first one to hit me really hard. This is the first one leaving something behind, this way.

Something understated. Something special. Something I wanted to have one day.

Day 17. On with it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Like an Albatross

Last month, for Emily's birthday, I wrote her a song. She says she liked it, that it rivaled her girlfriend's gift to her (which was a very expensive long weekend in New York). Just now, I was thinking about it, and I wondered if she'd written an entry about it in her old LiveJournal that I always forget to check.

Turns out, about a year ago, she posted in her LiveJournal about how she's now posting in a wordpress: I think it was about six posts ago now that I pointed out how I feel inferior to wordpress users, but I'll say this: Emily has jumped around to, like...four different blogging/journal sites since high school? I've written a few others here and there, for different purposes, but I've stayed loyal to this site. I like that.

I like to think that me and this blog have a relationship the way I have relationships with so many of my friends: maybe those relationships don't always get tended to, but they've lasted, nevertheless. Through the good, the bad, the sometimes years of neglect. They're still strong and meaningful today.

It's a sticky wicket, though, to figure out if that's really true.

In some cases, it's demonstrably not. People who my communication has fallen totally off with, to the point that I've even deleted them from my Facebook wall, or vice-versa. (It's so weird how this totally modern invention, this website that I barely even visit anymore, has become, somehow, the bottom line of whether the bonds of friendship are still at all intact.) 

But then there are people like Jeremey and Elorza, both of whom with I have 15+ years of friendship, and both of whom I feel like there's been an understanding, in the past, that that's not really going anywhere, even if we don't talk for months.

Jeremey, right now, I feel pretty confident about. He will still occasionally text me, apropos of nothing on my end, with some incredulous rant about a Buffy the Vampire scene. Or he'll stick a song lyric on my wall. I told him that I was pregnant about 6 or 7 months in and invited him to come meet the baby, and he did, a few days after Ezra was born. All in all, I think it's solid. I'm sure whichever one of us dies first, the other will manage to be at their funeral. To make some kind of snarky eulogy.

Elorza, I don't feel so clear on. The last time we exchanged any back and forth at all was the day Ezra was born, I think. I texted asking if I had the right number, and he emphatically texted back that I did-- even without my identifying myself or specifying that I was looking for him-- and that he had seen pictures of the baby on Facebook and..."congratubabylations!!!!" was the exact word.

Oh, and apparently he wished me a happy mother's day. So THAT was the last time we talked.

Two days ago was his birthday. I knew it was his birthday because, you know, we've known each other for 15 years. I didn't have to wait for Facebook to remind me-- except I wasn't completely, 100% sure. So I puttered around for a while without texting him. Then later, I noticed on Facebook that he was thanking everyone for the birthday wishes. Somehow, that took the wind out of my sails.

I find the Facebook birthday thing kind of frustrating. By and large, I know my friend's birthdays. I don't need the reminder. But since I HAVE the reminder, I have no way of really being distinct from the pack of people who respond to every single birthday that comes up on their newsfeed with some generic wishes.

This year, I took my birthday off of Facebook about a month before it hit. To, you know. Give the real friends a fighting chance. I don't really have a lot of use for birthday wishes from someone I was in a play with in 9th grade, anyway.

The moral of the story, as meandering as it is, is that I don't really know where Elorza and I are. I know I still love him. I trust that, in some capacity, he feels the same way. But I don't know anything about his life anymore, and he knows very little about mine.

I think part of it is that he became a friend of both me and Zack, in a way that no one else really was. Elorza was like Zack in so many ways...they shared self-destructive habits and thought processes. I remember, once, when I was talking to him about the upcoming divorce, I said to him, "He's so much like you. You wouldn't want me married to you for the rest of my life, would you?"

He, of course, said "no." In this instance, I took at as a complement.

I feel guilty about this, but I probably shouldn't beat myself up. If I remember correctly, in the last few years, I've written him a few e-mails that went unanswered, despite him always indicating that he'd do his best. I remember asking him what was going on in his life, and getting little to no reply in return.

I feel like, suddenly, I'm very worried for him. I think, in my mind, lately, I've made him into a healthier, happier person than he ever really was. I think he's doing fine but...he IS just like Zack. And Zack is doing fine, I guess, most of the time.

I don't know. I should try again with Andrew. I should try harder with Jeremey. I should reconnect with dozens of people with whom I had long work relationships and budding school-based friendships. I should know where Emily is blogging in any given year. I should tell some of these people I'm writing this blog again-- that's really who it's for, in a way: the Elorzas and the Jeremeys. People who I really want to have know what's going on in my life, even if we can't talk as often as we used to so I can tell them.

Back in the day, I think both of them read almost every entry. Today, I really doubt that would be the case.

Emily had a reference to her "BFF" on an entry in her blog. I honestly don't know if that's me. I can't, for the life of me, think of who else it would be, but it's honestly just too embarrassing to ask.

I suppose that Emily is my best friend now, but it's been sort of a revolving cast. Obviously, the Jeremeys and the Elorzas don't really qualify now. But what about Jeff, who I still see fairly often (if not recently, due to a back injury of his and, you know, a baby of mine.) What about Zack, who is probably the most important person in the world to me, and can't be technically classified as anything but a friend anymore?

Emily, Zack, and Jeff...they're not BFFs. They're family. Plain and simple. And I guess Jeremey and Elorza are too, just...more cousins that you see once a year, rather than brothers or sisters.

Ugh. It's midnight. I don't know what my point is, but I've been writing too long. 

If you're out there, Jeremeys and Elorzas and Emilys and Jeffs...I love you. Obviously. Wherever you are or whatever your doing, I'll be at your funeral if you're not at mine.

I mean, unless I actually die first but you're, like, out of town or not a respirator or something. I don't know. This isn't the delicate ending I was hoping it would be. I'm feeling a little bit albatross-y, here.

Day 16. On with it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Things I Don't Have Time to Know...

I'm thinking about things I don't know. The Google Doodle today seems to be honoring the work of one Dr. Salk, and I know that this is something that somewhere in the recesses of my brain I used to know, at least vaguely.

The obvious answer is to click it and find out, spend some time learning more. But I don't have time. Not if I want to get my daily dose of writing in, in addition to everything else I did today. Namely: work, care for the baby, care for the dog, continue on a project to clean the smelly carpet, shop for a carpet-cleaning spray and some other basic grocery things while I was there, and finish fixing this problem in a video I made for work that I just couldn't do at work because of our crappy video software.

That video...I don't want to get into it, but it basically killed me. Tomorrow is the presentation it's needed for, so, whatever happens...I am done tomorrow. I lived through it. Suck on that, video-scum!

I'm not making a lot of sense. I'm a bit punch-drunk. It's been a busy day.

I'm watching through The Gilmore Girls again now that it's on Netflix (I even managed to get in part of an episode today, while I was waiting for Dan to come home with Pizza), and I continue to be hounded by the feeling that if I looked up every lightning fast reference they made, I could become quite erudite in a matter of months. Literary references, historical figures, pop culture gems-- the episodes are jam-packed. I would be nigh unstoppable.

I feel similarly about crossword puzzles. When I was getting into a little habit with crossword puzzles (back when I had an android phone and therefore access to Shortyz, an irreplaceably excellent app if you're into crosswords), I attempted to make a point out of reading the wikipedia page of at least one clue that I did not have the answer to every time. Of course, I was unemployed at the time, and not yet a mother. So I had time to entertain such noble dalliances.

It didn't make a ton of difference, though, I suppose. I doubt very much I remember anything I learned from those entries. Read once, and without context, they just didn't have an anchor in my mind.

That's the problem with looking up Salk or various Gilmore Girls references: I might have time to read a sentence or two, or a paragraph if I'm lucky. But I don't have time to learn the context that would allow me to understand the importance or give it any meaning for me. The other day, I attempted to trace on of Michel's insults to Kirk by looking up...I don't know. Friederich Something? I figured, from the context, that he was probably a somewhat notable Nazi.

Turns out...he was! Maybe something to do with scientific experiments? Brazil? I don't know. The point is, I didn't learn any more from the exercise than what I pretty much guessed from the context.

It's frustrating to me that I can't go back and look up who Friederich-something was and re-read at least a bit of his wikipedia page so he might become more to me than just an anonymous Nazi. It's frustrating that I only play dumb crosswords now so that I don't feel guilty about the world of knowledge that I don't have. It's frustrating that I don't have time to find out who Salk was, and why there is a kid in his Google Doodle holding up a sign expressing some sort of appreciation.

But the reality is that it's 11:21 PM, and I keep promising myself that I'm going to get to bed before 11. I keep promising myself that I'm going to get to work by 8:30. I keep promising myself that today is the day that I'll get enough sleep, wake up on time, have everything laid out. Go to work, be productive, come home. Be a good mother. Meditate. Exercise. Write.

And yes, I could cut out the Gilmore Girls and the dumb crosswords in favor of learning who Salk was. But THEY don't judge me.

I acknowledge that I'm totally losing it.

Remember yesterday when I said that I do most things for the "satisfaction" of relieving the guilt of not doing them? Well, then, fine.

Jonas Salk discovered the Polio vaccine, apparently. Dude, I totally did know that. Isn't he's the one who refused to patent it because he believed a discovery that important should not be used to get rich off of?

Come to think of it, I think I totally learned that from a crossword puzzle. Bonzai!

Now let me go to bed, already, you oppressive, imaginary force.

Day 15. On with it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

I Can't Get No...

I am disinterested in today's prompt, which seems more a prompt for a sci-fi/horror short story than it does a blog post. So I guess that's not my inspiration today.

I am sore. I exercised yesterday, but not today, not officially: today, I spent the bulk of my after-work energy de-stinking a room in my house where my dog has taken to peeing if we're not around. Our landlord is coming in for an inspection in a few days, so it's pretty critical that it not smell, but more than that, today, I simply could not get used to the smell. There's that whole febreeze (I think) commercial series about how people who go "nose blind", which is clever advertising. Normally it takes me a few minutes to overcome whatever smell is happening in the house-- with an old, fat dog who cannot clean himself properly after going to the bathroom, and a baby, complete with diapers, there are plenty of them. But today, I couldn't get over it.

Dan would say that the sizable amount of moving, bending and lifting I did in the room to clean both rug and the floor underneath it (necessitating that I move nearly everything out of the room first) would count as exercise, and the ache in my joints tells me he's not entirely wrong. My retort to him would be that I don't get any real satisfaction out of exercise unless I break a considerable sweat.

When I say satisfaction, I don't mean the rush of endorphins that cause you to feel great and powerful after a workout-- a "runner's high" or whatever the elliptical equivalent of that is. I rarely feel more than just the faintest effects of endorphins. Really, what I mean by satisfied longer feeling this persistent guilt that I didn't work out.

This is a running theme in my life; that, lacking any meaningful satisfaction, I instead assign the word "satisfaction" to something that is probably more closely related to "relief." Just...getting rid of whatever negative thing was associated with not doing something.

When I post something here that ends up being unexpectedly well-written or enlightening or both, I feel the actual satisfaction that I get, at this point in my life, only from accomplishing something creative. When I post this in a few minutes, I'll feel the other kind of satisfaction; the, "alright, now I can go to sleep" satisfaction. In other words, very nearly nothing.

However, the point of this post, as so many before it, is to continue my streak. At the end of the thirty days, if I've managed to post every day, it's very possible I'll feel that real satisfaction, that I set a goal and stuck to it. And, you know, that some of it was passably good.

So it's exercise enough to keep my writing muscles sore. Which, actually, I'm not sure why that's a good thing? Maybe the better word, though it doesn't fit the callback, is "limber." Or maybe my mind is getting old, much the way of my poor knees.

Day 14. On with it.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

True Colors

Today's writing prompt:

Local Color

Imagine we lived in a world that’s all of a sudden devoid of color, but where you’re given the option to have just one object keep its original hue. Which object (and which color) would that be?

What a strange question.

As far as I'm concerned, there are two ways to go here: either something personal from my life, that I've had for a long time and that has always been very important to me, or, alternatively, something of great public importance, like a work of art.

Sitting here, trying to think of something I've owned since childhood, I realize that there just aren't that many things. The blanket that my childhood dog died on is what I consider to be my most important material possession, but it's a fairly bland color scheme-- red, with a sort of plaid black and yellow. I could live without it being full color, and, in fairness, I don't know quite where it is.

There was a pillow when I was young that was, to me, a security blanket. It was called "Pilly", and the pillow case on it (which is what made it so special, though I'm told it went through many iterations as it got worn out) was a brilliant, satiny pink. The material, I'm told, was made from old curtains of my grandmother's, though even as I type that, I feel compelled to check my facts, as it's impossible to imagine curtains being that pink and shiny. I don't know where it-- "she", the way I thought of her then-- now, though she's gone in and out of my life a few times since childhood. Every now and then someone would find her in the attic and she would become part of my daily life again, for a while, though in a much more passive way. My mother put her under the Christmas tree, once: one of her classic re-gifts to take advantage of our nostalgia in order to a put a few extra packages under the tree in lean years.

I don't know how many more times in my life I'll think too hard about Pilly-- if I never see her again, I won't miss her particularly, I guess, though perhaps it would be a good idea to dig her up again and give her to Ezra, my son, for Christmas.

Either way, if I ever saw her again, and she were not that same, shining pink, I think it would be far too much to handle.

The option, of course, is to be magnanimous. I suppose great many people would choose a great work of art as their one object-- especially if they lived in the cities where those works of art are stored, as any photographs of them would not be in color any longer. But if I were the one person, or one of only a few, who were given this option, I would probably go with something famous and beloved. My personal favorite painting is Jack Vettriano's "The Singing Butler", but it's so modern and...I don't know, broadly appealing to the point of being almost commercial, I would't feel right.

I've never particularly liked Monet, but if I had to pick one famous painting, I guess I'd go with one of the large water lilies, with the canvasses that take up the whole wall. Again, they've never been particularly to my taste, but they mean so much to so many. And I honestly can't think of a single painting that would be less effective in grayscale.

Personally, I far prefer the Mona Lisa, all beguiling and understated on her small canvas in The Louvre. But, as is the way of a great woman, I think she'd be capable of holding her own, despite the change. Women have been getting by with less for generations, and she's been watching the whole time.

I wrote a song about Monet-- or inspired by his art, at least-- the other night. Dan and I had just gotten into a fight and I came upstairs to give him space, as I am learning to do.

The gist of the fight is that he is constantly making it clear to me, in one way or another, that, although he loves me, he'd love me better if I were happier. We first got together under such different circumstances-- I was a happier person, maybe. More productive, perhaps.

Probably neither, really. But when we were first falling for each other, none of that was his problem. He only saw the version of me that I became when I was with him, far away from my everyday life.

That angle of that person, who lived under those circumstances and felt, albeit intermittently, those things...that's who I fell in love with.

Dan and I have our problems, and I know that a lot of them start with me. But I can't help but believe that a lot of them come from this sense I have that I'm a constant disappointment to him. That I can't live up to what he thought of me back then. That he doesn't...really love me.

"To you, I'll always be a Monet:
So beautiful from far away.
But when you close in to undress,
I'm just a great big mess."

The rest of it is suitably high-minded and unrelatable to anyone with a below-average knowledge of art history, but I hope to get a piano part written within a few weeks, and get it recorded. Dan has mixed feelings about helping me with a song that's basic theme is that he doesn't love me for who I am ("But our love has a tainted core/I'm just a painted board.").

Still, he will do it. He will help me. He is my partner in song-writing, and, somehow, in everything else in life. Whatever kind of painting I am, whether I'm a messy impressionist piece or the Mona Lisa herself, he's the stalwart patron of mon petit musée. For now, he is living with my true colors, whether he wants to or not.

Maybe we can speed up this whole black-and-white thing, and give he and I a fighting chance.

Day 13. On with it.

Super Chicken

Today's Prompt:

Masks Off: We’re less than a week away from Halloween! If you had to design a costume that channeled your true, innermost self, what would that costume look like? Would you dare to wear it?

I know the clever answer here is some kind of metaphor:

"My mask would be a chicken because inside I'm so deeply afraid."
"My mask would be a mouse because I feel so small and insignificant."
"My mask would be Donald Draper because I'm such a Mad Man."

The reality is, when I imagine my true inner self, I only picture it with my face. Maybe it's because I like my face-- most of the time, and as opposed to the way I feel about the rest of the features of my body. Maybe it's because I'm unimaginative.

I think it's because I live my life as a truly open person, when it comes to the people I care about. I don't hide much, I don't hold back anything, and when I'm manipulative or deceitful, I know I'm being manipulative or deceitful, I chock up to it: sometimes while still maintaining the affect of the manipulation.

I lie pretty freely to people I don't care about, or people with whom the terms of my relationship is dictated by societal rules, in some way: family, in-laws, bosses. But I don't lie to the people I care about, whom I've chosen; not about anything significant. And in as much as I treat my imaginary audience here as if they were, collectively, an entity I care about, I don't lie here, either.

I might recite the lies that I tell myself, but you can't fault me for that, if I buy them. I don't know any better than you do.

When I'm with the people I love, I demand of myself absolute, vulnerable truth. The guiding tenet behind this policy is that I assume that any love based on a lie would falter if the truth were told: people who love me based on an act do not love me at all, and their affection becomes useless to me.

I need the love of the people in my life too dearly to risk fearing that it's based on false claims. So I tell the truth; sometimes, exhaustively. Often, to neither my benefit, nor theirs.

It's both brave-- to be completely, unfalteringly yourself despite all costs-- and cowardly-- to be so very afraid of losing love.

So I guess I'll take a superhero chicken mask? The bravest poultry of them all.

Ugh. I so didn't want to dignify that prompt with a real answer. Day 12. On with it.