I meant to bring a notebook with me on this trip, the little black one with red edges that I wrote in a lot several years ago. I’ve always found myself to be self-conscious when writing journals, and typing is even worse but for whatever reason when I came across that little notebook sometime last year and re-read it I was struck by how genuine it felt. I think I honestly tried to capture the very thoughts that were in my mind. And the thoughts that have been swimming around in my mind lately need to be captured too, hence my wanting that little notebook on this trip. But at the last minute I couldn’t find it, it’s gotten misplaced in this move to Oakland, so I’m typing instead. Another 3 hours on this flight to Paris.
I was thinking earlier today – I was looking out the window of the airplane as it landed in Chicago – and there was a roof of a house, one of a thousand houses I could see from the plane, but this roof had blue patches on it. I don’t know a thing about roofs, but it was clear to me that that was a roof that’s getting repaired right now. And there I was looking at this roof of this house that I will never again see in my life (or if I do I will have no idea that it is a house I have seen from the sky) – people live in it who I do not know, and I will never know (or at least I will never know them in connection with this particular moment). And yet I know something about them – I know that they live in a house in Chicago and that their roof is currently being repaired. I could see it from the sky, from my one seat out of hundreds of seats in this Boeing 767, row 21, seat A. And maybe one of the people living in that house, if she was home, or he, heard the airplane flying above and didn’t give it a second thought, just the background noise of their day. That flimsy connection, half-way fabricated, yet somehow binds us together it seems. Us: this fictitious but perhaps real person, and if not a person in that house then a person on the ground, any person who heard the plane and either noticed it or didn’t. I – not even I but the existence of myself in this specific moment – was background noise to people’s day. Is that all we are, as humans, background noise to each other? Or are there others like me, who look down look up and wonder, who is in that house? Who is in that plane? We invent each other, even as we also all exist. The world I live in, when I realize how much of it I construct myself, in my mind, becomes suddenly so utterly illusory. There are as many fabrications of this world as there are people in it… and how do they clash with each other? Where do they match up? What happens when they match, is that when we meet each other?
I wonder what a story about someone’s life would sound like if it were told from the perspective of complete strangers’ fleeting impressions. The people in this house in Chicago: I can offer a piece – they are repairing their roof. It’s like this: do you ever wonder how many tourists’ photos you are in the background of? How many photographs you’re floating around in, whose albums you are memorialized in? What if you got all those photos together, what story would it tell about your life? Sometimes I wonder whether that’s all we are, whether that’s more real. Can it be that I am more real to myself, when I’m just one person, than I am to the hundreds of thousands of people I have encountered in my life, however transiently and unknowingly was the encounter? There are hundreds of thousands of witnesses to my life, I start to think they know me better, cumulatively, than I know myself.
I’m moving my fingers typing right now, fidgeting in my seat to try to get more comfortable. The man in the seat next to me, a middle-aged French man, is sleeping. This is part of his life, my witnessing him asleep, feeling slightly embarrassed about having to wake him up to go pee. I can see him sleep, and I know him, in this way, better than he knows himself.
Time to Destination: 02:48. Distance to Destination: 2390 km.
In these words, these pages (digital, real), only truth. That is my oath to myself. I think for the moment I have become too self-conscious to continue with my stream of consciousness. Instead I will write about another thing that I have been thinking of lately.
Just a minute though. I just looked out the window of the plane, creeping towards dawn in Europe. (It’s a short night tonight, playing catch-up with the sun!) I can see the sliver of white light above the horizon ahead of the plane. It’s 6:45am in Paris, and our plane is now southwest of Iceland over the middle of the Atlantic… not that I know the time zones, but that makes it the middle of the night, 3:45 maybe? We’re skipping ahead through time, in the next hour we will be moving into the sunrise and leaving the night behind, both an hour closer to Paris and while it will be 4:45 in the spot we’re at now, it will be more like 5:45 in the spot we’ll be then (as it will be 7:45 in Paris). I will hazard a guess that in the next hour, we will see sunrise… And right now, at this moment (now 5 minutes later than it was when I started typing this paragraph), I can still barely make out the Big Dipper right out my window. Five minutes ago it was brighter, if I hadn’t noticed it then I wouldn’t be able to see it now, because as we fly forward the stars fade away into the light. The night sky looks like it’s peeling back, I have the image of a sticker being pulled off, like the night sky is being pulled off the earth and underneath it is the day, and the more the sticker is peeled back the more the day underneath is revealed. It’s a wedge in the sky, to my left out the window is night, to the right the widening sliver of light and night is peeling back . . .
Time to Destination: 02:34. Distance to Destination: 2166 km.
I have suddenly been struck with the physical realness of the world. I’m looking back and forth between the visual map on the screen on the seatback in front of me, showing the little picture of the plane in the middle of the ocean, and then zooming back to show the entire map of the world and my little spot on it, and then looking out the window, back and forth, cementing the image of this particular horizon that I have with that spot on the screen in front of me. And I’m realizing that somewhere, far off to my front and right, is the continent of Africa. That Africa actually exists, it is a real thing that exists in space that is relative to the space I occupy. It isn’t just real space in other people’s lives, it is real in my life, and there it sits, an immense, huge, unfathomable chunk of land, off there to my right in front of me. I don’t blame my mind for only realizing this now, because how on earth (ha ha) are we supposed to be able to hold that in our minds, all the time? We have such capacity for thought, but our imaginations are better at creating fantasies out of nothingness than they are at grasping the fucking insane and awe-some realness of this actual existence we inhabit.
Things I want to do in Paris:
Wander around the Marais and the Place des Vosges
Read in a park or at a café
Find someone to show me around
Buy a razor, get a manicure and pedicure
Buy cheese and nice things to eat
Buy something lovely for Noelle – a print?
Go to lesbian cabaret? Or a burlesque show
Take photos uninhibitedly
I can no longer see the Big Dipper at all. The sticker has peeled back more and now the sliver of day is no longer just silver and white but is red and orange. The night behind me no longer looks as deep. It’s like sunrise on fast-forward. Real time travel! But think – even when we walk around, we are chasing the day or the night, or straddling the line between them perfectly, every day is a back and forth a chaotic jumble of finding our spot in time, but we can never be content with staying still and letting the ground carry us because we always move around of our own accord paying little attention to the out-of-control spinning right under our feet!
I’ve been beating myself up lately because it feels like really, the only thing on my mind that compels me to write is fucking rape, and then I get like, “who wants to read about that? who comes here to read my navel-gazing about how fucked up I am and how I can’t stop obsessing about a stupid event that happened ten fucking years ago? and why do I need to dwell on it anyway can’t I fucking move on with my life?” and the truth is my life has moved on, and it also hasn’t. And the same people who were interested in reading about my relationship and my random thoughts about queer politics might or might not be interested in reading me process my trauma, but that’s not my problem. And processing this rape isn’t really only just processing this rape but it’s about processing how everything in my life before and at the time was already brittle and it’s about trying to piece those things together so that I can figure out how to want, fully, to be alive.
I saw this the other day and was like, yes. This is my anthem.
The past two weeks I’ve been on the east coast and have spent a bunch of time with friends of mine from college. These friends were the very first people in the world who knew about my rape other than my rapist and the nurse at Planned Parenthood a few weeks later who, when I went for STD testing, knew immediately what the situation was just by looking at me, even though the whole reason I waited a few weeks was to avoid just that likelihood. But otherwise my friends in college were the very first people I ever told and it has been so strange now, at the ten-year mark, to revisit my relationship to it then. In ways I can’t believe how much I was able to separate myself from myself, how much I clung to this “this fucked up thing happened but it is in the past and anyway now I’m stronger for it” fucked-up survivor narrative which is now the whole reason why I have so many problems with the word “survivor.” Cuz in retrospect it doesn’t really feel like I survived it feels like I was just getting by however I could, and in college, my m.o. was like, I just gotta have a normal life, have real friendships that are meaningful to me and I can’t fuck them up by dumping some insane fucking trauma on them. I was also scared, I think, because I didn’t know what would happen to ME if I actually started really talking. When I was in Boston last week I spoke about it a bit with my best friend from college who is actually the first person I ever told about it and she said that yeah, it had been clear to her at the time that I hadn’t really known how to talk about it, how to be both a person who was still reeling from this nightmare AND a person who could be normal and thrive. And I of course remember still having intense flashbacks during those years, especially the first two years of college, and just not being able to move for hours, days, but not being able to even think about telling anyone why.
I guess I had a lot of internalized shame and to be honest I guess I still do. Otherwise I wouldn’t be feeling disgusted with myself for continuing to use this blog as a platform to write about this stuff. And if anyone else who has ever experienced any kind of sexual trauma or violence were to say to me that they felt shame around talking about their experiences I would SO VEHEMENTLY reject that without skipping a fucking beat, and so I’m trying to have that same graciousness with myself. And it makes me wonder how in another five years, ten years, how I will look back on myself now and think, “how did I do it? how did I survive?” the way I’m looking back now at college. I try to remember when and how it started getting easier and I can’t even force my mind to go back there without feeling like I’m going to throw up so I don’t know how to figure it out.
In early May, I went to a queer dance party in Oakland and left early by myself because I was feeling tired and drained, and I was followed by two assholes who were bantering with each other about my ass as a piece of fucking meat and I turned around and yelled at them to fuck off, yelled as loud as I could and was so angry. And rather than leave me alone they shoved me against a building and one of them went through my shit and stole all my cash and the other one went through my dress and stole my body. He couldn’t get a full erection (evidently my fault because I was a “fucking pervert dyke”) so he decided his hand was good enough. The whole thing lasted all of about five minutes and I am insanely proud of myself for staying in my body and not abandoning it. I stayed put with all my might. And I consciously decided at some point to just cry, thinking that maybe if I let it all out and just let my emotions be what they were, maybe it would stop them. So I did, I cried and crumpled to the ground and begged them to stop. And the one going through my shit was like, “this isn’t fun anymore, let’s go” and they left. And I felt broken and shaken and flattened and disgusted and terrified and humiliated, but I was like, whoa, I’m still here. I’m all here. And I called about eight different people to try and connect with someone, to stand up to my inner voice that wants me to isolate, cuz I was like, I am not going to do this again, I am not going to go through this alone. And I am so proud of that.
And then last week I was with my dad in my hometown and we were driving back to his apartment but there was some sort of race or parade or something through my town so he had to take a weird route and he drove right down that street and passed right by the spot where my rapist watched me run by him from his car ten years ago. And my clueless father took us right down that street and I have very intentionally avoided that spot for ten whole years. I haven’t been to that spot since it happened. And it’s funny because I was just thinking recently about how maybe I would want to pay that spot a visit sometime, maybe by myself or maybe with someone close to me, but maybe just by myself and sit there and rock. I thought maybe it would be good to confront that and see it as a regular spot on a regular street in a regular town. But the very second I knew where the car was going, I started throwing up and I had to frantically open the car door and lean out and puke on the street while my baffled father tried to figure out what to do. I couldn’t even talk to him I couldn’t even think, I just had this total panic meltdown and every tiny millimeter of my body needed to get the fuck away. And it was raining and we got back to my dad’s place and I couldn’t go inside, I needed air so I walked to the playground at my old elementary school and sat on the bench in the rain and stared at the playground that I used to play on before, and I tried to connect to a time before everything, when I would just play, on that very playground, with the same (child) body I have now.
I’m struggling. It’s like time is fucking around with me and has decided that it doesn’t need to move in a linear fashion, it doesn’t need to make things easier for me, it doesn’t need to be predictable and it will just do whatever it wants so-help-it-god. And I’m left trying to pick up the pieces and make sense of it all. Sometimes though it feels like even picking up the pieces is too much work, let alone the making sense of it.
One of my very favorite bloggers, and someone who in the meantime I feel really close to, wrote recently about a particular memory of her own trauma, a very specific memory that always flattens her and leaves her shattered. And someone commented, and said to her, have you ever asked that memory what it wants? Asked it why it keeps coming back? Cuz maybe if you can figure that out, you can give it what it wants and it will eventually stop coming back.
The simplicity of that stunned me. What does it want, this part of me that keeps poking and prodding and sticking, and what do they want, these images and memories and body-memories that keep revisiting? I know I need to figure that out. The thing is, the only way I’ve really known how to deal with it has been to push it away and say “no, you are not allowed.” I’m so terrified of giving it space and letting it in, I’m so terrified of what it will do it me and by syllogism, what it will do to everyone in my life.
In the meantime, I’m on the plane to Berlin right now. By the time I post this I will be there already but I’m writing this on the plane. And for the next three weeks I’m hoping that whatever part of my brain it is that is rising up and needing attention will just quiet down so that I can get some rest, get some space, and maybe then try to start figuring this out when I get back.
Also, sorry for saying fuck so much lately. It just sorta happens.
So much has changed since the last time I wrote earlier this year, but what hasn’t changed is that things are equally intense, confusing, shifting, painful, growthful. ML and I broke up in April and it has been freeing and devastating both at the same time. What was clear to me was that I was forgetting about me, about myself, about how to take care of myself and how to make decisions for myself, and I felt, inside, like I was failing her all the time because I also loved someone else and because I knew that that hurt her and I knew that she didn’t really want to have that kind of relationship even though she went back and forth on whether she would be willing to try or not. I blamed myself for falling in love with J even as it also felt unstoppable. ML never blamed me, she was so kind and still insists that it went both ways, that we both failed each other in different ways, and although there were things that she did or ways that she was in our relationship that made it hard to feel like I was growing, it is still hard for me not to feel like the failure was mostly mine, that I could have and should have done things differently. And while it’s not totally clear yet that we are done for good, this break that we are on has been excruciating and hollowing, and has also been good for me because it is pointing out in glaring neon flashing signals the places where I need to figure shit out and the places where I was unhealthily leaning on her for my well-being. For example: I don’t take care of myself for my own sake. I forget to cook and eat, I let my to do list grow and grow without checking things off of it, I isolate and stay in bed and do nothing. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted about depression here but I think that what happened was that in that relationship I eventually forgot to keep cultivating my own ways of coping with my mind and now that it’s just me again I’m like, oh, right, this, I need to deal with this.
I think it’s also been a difficult time mentally because of the ten-year mark of my rape and that I haven’t ever had any kind of therapy for that is becoming increasingly difficult to justify to myself any longer. I need to start doing that work. I need to be able to face the world on my own without falling apart just from mild exposure and I need to be my own care-taker. During high school I was just getting by. Early in college I was figuring out how to have friends again after having isolated myself during high school, and I was studiously repressing any complicated shit out of fear of, what, being too much maybe? And then I had my first major relationship and then pretty soon after that got together with ML and in both of those relationships I think I lost myself in some small way, or I oriented myself more towards the other person and derived my sense of self from them, or I prioritized the health of the relationship over my own health and didn’t quite grasp the connection between the two. And that’s just not working, that’s not healthy and I don’t want to continue that way. I need to ground myself in my own body, feel my own emotions from within, and care about making healthy choices for my own sake and not someone else’s. And I think that what comes up most for me in realizing this is that, all along I think I’ve internalized this sense of not being entitled to take care of myself kindly and lovingly. I feel faintly embarrassed as I type that, uncomfortable with that acknowledgement, and it sounds absolutely idiotic. But I think there’s truth in it, that I measure my value according to how useful I can be to someone else, how loved I can be by someone else. And I reject that! And I need to be careful with myself, moving forward, and make sure that whatever relationships I have, I am in touch with my own desires, capacities, priorities, goals. And the messiness of the past six months of my life (personally, medically, financially, logistically) shows that when things get complicated I’m not super in touch.
I left my job in May and have been taking time off (until the beginning of August) to do various travels. I went to Cincinnati in May for a week for a conference, and then I went to Texas for two and a half weeks to do political organizing work/research at an army base. Now I am heading to New York and Boston for two weeks and then Berlin with several friends until the end of July. I’m hoping to clear my head, spend a lot of time with friends and equally important time by myself, and come back to the bay area in August ready to move forward, whether it’s going back to my old job or finding a new one altogether. I’ve been semi-seriously considering nannying; I’ve been watching a few children this year and I just love them, I love them so much. On the other hand, the benefits of an office job are appealing too. Or something else altogether…
I got a pink triangle stick and poke from a few friends a few days before Pride (which was this past weekend). I don’t have any other tattoos. It’s right under my left collarbone, just above my heart, and under the triangle now is a yellow-purple bruise the size of a sand dollar. Who bruises from getting a stick and poke tattoo?!
What else do I want to say? I feel like I have SO much to talk about and I don’t even know how to start.
I know it’s been awfully quiet around here and I’m so grateful to have this space to report back to when I can, when it feels okay. Thank you for being around.
Today was the first day of my summer practicum — at a grassroots coalition of women prisoners. This summer so far (oh my god, I can’t believe it’s already almost halfway over) I’ve been devouring everything I can on prisons, the PIC, the military/police/penal state, race gender and prisons, the War on Drugs… The more books I read and documentaries I watch and conversations I have the more overwhelmed I feel and also eager and urgent about the problem of our prisons (particularly in California) and the havoc they wreak on those inside and on those of us outside. I feel stuck about how to write about those things on this blog but I do want update here more often than once a month, which is what I’ve been doing… I’m thinking maybe I’ll try to do once a day, just whatever’s on my mind.
What’s on my mind right now, other than women in prison? Well, I’ve got a 12-week-old kitten named Gilda batting at and chewing on my hair right now, which I read on the internetz means that she loves me; evidently she’s grooming me. She is a menace, a devil and an angel all at once. She is happy and loved, and also keeps us up half the night. We don’t have the heart to lock her out of the bedroom from the beginning of the night, but it inevitably means that we are up at some point in the night to her batting at our ankles and pawing at our faces and squirming in our bed, at which point we grumble and try to ignore it until we’re fully awake and finally get up and throw her out of the room. (Not literally.) Still, I am in love with her and when ML and I drove down the coast on Sunday to wander the salt marshes and go to the beach, we both missed her! A cat! I’ve never understood the pet bonds that people develop because I’ve never had a pet before, but I get it now. She’s a member of our family.
However, I promise I won’t bore you daily with tales of her mischief. Maybe weekly though :)
One of the more established interns at the prison coalition is queer, and I feel like I have a “be her” crush on her. Have you ever had that problem, where you can’t decide whether the gal you think is really hot is someone you want to “be” or someone you want to “do”? It took me a bit when I was younger to sort that out, and sometimes I think there’s still some gray area. Well, Ari is a “be her” crush, I’m pretty sure. Not that I know for sure that she identifies as femme, maybe she does maybe she doesn’t, but she is obviously queer, and not butch or masculine and I studied her trying to figure out what the cues were for me that she’s queer because it was so obvious to me. Other than my gaydar, I think it was a combination of a subtle energy and some visual cues: the slightly asymmetrical haircut with a tiny shaved part on the front of one side and bleached wingtips on one side; several small tattoos; skinny jeans with muscle tank + a few dangly necklaces… It’s interesting though, because despite the “be her” crush I think that I won’t really ever read that way. I’m too girly-feminine. I don’t mean pink and bows and hello kitty, I mean just a more conventionally feminine presentation. I don’t have tattoos and despite the fact that I know I mentioned here a while back that I was thinking of getting one, I’ve pretty much established now that I’m not. I feel torn between wanting to adopt a marker of something that is pretty ubiquitous among “my people” now (by which I mean my queer demographic, not all LBTQ folks in general) and wanting to also not just follow along in that regard. So until I feel more secure in my own queer presentation and don’t feel as concerned with whether I’m mark-able as queer, I think I will hold off. For me, being visibly mark-able isn’t really a good enough reason on its own to get a tattoo. In addition to not having tattoos, though, I tend to think that I otherwise lack some of the subtle identifiers that even I don’t quite know how to place. What is it that marks people? I know I’ve talked about this before; it still occupies me!
My hair is continuing to grow; I now have a platinum streak on a dark cherry angled bob. I’m continuing to try to get to the bottom of what I, personally, am drawn to in terms of style. Pin-up, yes, absolutely; I’d like to incorporate that into my daily get-up more. I know I feel happier and more together when I do, when I take the time to dress myself with care. It’s a matter of time, I guess. But I should do that.
What are the things you do, on an average, casual day, to articulate (visually) your gender? Whether femme or other?
I’ve been away for the past week and a half. I’m finally back (sort of), and I am so ready for my life to resume as normal.
Last Sunday, I went to Gold Country with my family. It was beautiful. We were in a cabin about 20 miles away from Jackson, a quaint old gold rush town in the foothills of the Sierras. The weather was perfect — temperatures in the 80s, no humidity, not a cloud in the sky. There was a family of deer that lived about 50 feet from our cabin, and they would casually look up from munching leaves when we came near and then disinterestedly return to their meal. There was a swimming hole in a creek about ten minutes away, and we spent an afternoon there alternately baking in the sun on the rocks by the creek and jumping in the bitingly cold water from rocks 30 feet high. One day, we went for a hike at Devil’s Lake — it was about 4 miles to the lake, and we didn’t see a single other person that day. The trail took us up up up into the mountains and the cool lake was very welcome when we finally reached it. It’s amazing how much land there is that’s isolated — I forget that, living in the city. We took turns cooking there, so the first night was my night and I got to cook for someone other than just ML. I kept thinking that I was making too much food, but apparently 6 people can eat a lot more than 2 people can! I roasted fingerling potatoes with fresh rosemary, made a green bean and cherry tomato salad with spring onion and a light balsamic vinaigrette, and chicken marinated in lemon and garlic with a spring onion, garlic, ginger, and lemon sauce to spoon on top. Fresh fruit for dessert. I love California and its agricultural bounty! I got to read a lot too, being disconnected from the internet and my phone. Four days without being able to check my email once! I hope there will always be places on the earth that signals and cables can’t access.
And then the very same day I came back from the mountains, ML and I flew to Vermont for her sister’s wedding.
I had no idea what to expect from the wedding. I knew that it was the first time anyone in her family aside from her parents and sister were seeing her in the knowledge that she was gay. I knew that I would probably be under a bit of scrutiny because of that, though not nearly as much scrutiny as she would be under. I knew that there would be people there who would potentially be uncomfortable with us. I knew that I have ambivalent feelings about marriage, and that the last wedding I went to (of one of my best friends from childhood) felt contrived and, for me, uncomfortable. I knew that ML’s sister (who is younger than she is by a few years) is a darling, but is also pretty foreign to me. She’s 24 years old and has a career, a husband, a dog, a perfect apartment… It’s a life that sort of baffles me. So straightforward. So straight. I was a bit apprehensive about the wedding, to be frank.
But it was absolutely beautiful. A few minor bumps (throwing up after brunch the first morning because I’d been on a red-eye and hadn’t slept and the food was too much for my delicate system!, one of ML’s family’s close friends not being able to look me in the eye through an entire evening the night before the rehearsal dinner, having my feelings hurt – unintentionally – by ML’s mom the morning of the wedding, etc.), but otherwise — it was kind of indescribable. The couple obviously love each other a lot, and everyone was full of love and glowing with joy. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true. No one, aside from the one family friend, was remotely weird to me, and in fact people seemed to make an effort to be nice. The wedding was at a gorgeous lakeside location and the ceremony was simple and personal. Unlike the last wedding, this one wasn’t remotely contrived.
I did feel a bit uncomfortable. It was a bit melancholy, actually, just knowing that our wedding would be different. Of course most of the ways it would be different would be intentional, and thus would be better for us. But other ways are just side effects of queerness — the love and joy from all the guests at this wedding wouldn’t be as effortless at our (hypothetical) wedding. Of course, we wouldn’t have to invite people who would have a hard time feeling effortless about it, but then we’d be missing half of the people in our lives who we love. How do you get around that? How do you have a wedding that has everyone you love and also know that everyone there is unadulteratedly loving you and supporting you and excited and happy for you… In my family, at least, I know that that’s not quite possible. Almost, but not quite.
But. This wedding also made me want one. ML’s sister and her now-husband have been together now as long as ML and I have. (Yep, they got engaged after about 4 months of dating!) It was hard to be at that wedding and not think “this could be us getting married.” Not that we would’ve had the same wedding, but you know what I mean. I know that we love each other as much as the bride and groom love each other. I know that we have an awesome relationship. And there was something (ick alert) kind of transcendent and magical about watching the two of them make vows to each other in front of everyone they love. It felt so authentic and real and significant. I want that. And being there, it was hard not to want it now. It sorta made me feel like, if they’re doing it now, why shouldn’t we?
The truth is, I do feel ready to marry her in a way. I feel certain about her. I don’t think it’s possible to be certain about anyone forever. I think that contemplating the notion of “forever” in general — with regard to relationships or not — is dizzying. You can’t know about the future, in any regard, and that’s why trying to be certain about something in the future feels so scary. But I’m certain now. And day by day I’m more and more certain. Not certain that she’s my forever-girl, but that she’s my girl. Am I making any sense? But then the thing is, there’s no rush to get married. It’s important to me, someday, and it was a fun party and I love the idea of everyone getting together to help us celebrate each other, but that can be anytime and hopefully it will only happen once in my life so why get it over with? Anticipation is always almost as fun as the thing you’re anticipating, anyway. Plus, I have some things I have to do. Grad school starts on Friday. And before then is my birthday — tomorrow :)
Her: I like that you wear the pants in our relationship!
Her: …I mean, I like that I wear the pants, and you wear the skirts. But I like that you wear the pants!
Her: Yeah! I like it when you boss me around!
So far this weekend, I have: made strawberry shortcake, supported a friend through a break-up, bought a new sofa, found a small shelf for the bathroom, cooked mirza ghassemi (the eggplants at the market last week were too beautiful to resist), and dozed in the sun while reading.
Tomorrow, we get up bright and early to drive four hours south, to Cambria, where we’ll soak up the sun (assuming it shows itself, which weather reports insist it will), relax, take our minds off of anything regular-life related. We’ll be back late Monday night. I hope you all enjoy your long weekend! I’ll see you on Tuesday.
There are always going to be bad days, of course, and it just so happened that Tuesday was one of them. After a busy week, an even busier weekend, and then a late evening on Monday with friends over for dinner, I think the cards were stacked against me.
Settling into a semblance of a routine has been tricky. Am I unemployed? If I’m unemployed, then I ought to treat my days as if I were employed, because being unemployed sounds irresponsible and unproductive. If I’m unemployed, I ought to schedule my days full of Things To Do and be disciplined about getting it done. Or … am I on vacation? If I’m on vacation, then I ought to relax as much as I want, do whatever I want, and do so unapologetically. I’m sure what I’m looking for is a happy medium of the two (I am unemployed, sure, but I’m also on fucking vacation!), and just haven’t managed to land there yet. Until Tuesday, I’d been treating my days as if I were unemployed — sitting down every morning with my planner and my master to-do list to figure out what I needed to do that day and when I would do it. And then I was rushing around all day trying to get it all done, and would wind up feeling anxious in the evening – because I still wasn’t getting everything done.
What the hell was on my to do list? Um, let’s see. Trips to various grocery stores to stock up on pantry items. Locksmith. Bike shop. Dentist. Post office. Dry cleaner. Back to the dry cleaner. Consignment store to sell leftover clothes from yard sale. Statistics. Call Grandma. Send Dad birthday card. Talk to grad school re financial aid. Also, I’m still working irregularly for my former employer doing German translation stuff for a few of their cases, and last week, that ended up being about 20 hours (this week, about 10). OH, and have I mentioned UNPACKING AND ORGANIZING? Right, except that last thing has totally taken the shaft in the face of all these bloody errands.
So, anyway. Tuesday. I was supposed to go to a counselor support meeting for the rape crisis center I work for, except I was so overwhelmed and hadn’t even finished the main thing on my to-do list that day — ORGANIZE THE FUCKING CLOSETS — that I threw up my hands in despair and didn’t go to the meeting. Instead, I made summer squash soup because otherwise the squash was going to go bad. And then I talked to ML at work and she said “let’s just relax tonight! let’s just cuddle and watch The Wire and have sex!” And I was all YES. PLEASE. Except that when she got home I was still cooking, and I still hadn’t organized the fucking closets, and I started taking my general anxiety out on her. I felt like I was doing so much, so much that I wasn’t even able to do it all, and so I still felt like I wasn’t doing enough. And I started blaming her for not telling me that I was doing enough. And so I was irritable and mopey all evening instead of cuddly and relaxy. I felt like I needed some kind of assurance that I was doing okay, that I didn’t need to do anymore, but I didn’t know how to ask her to give me that assurance and so instead my overwhelmed brain decided that the only way to get that assurance was to keep doing more so that she’d tell me to stop. So… I kept doing more. I puttered around in the kitchen while she was doing dishes, and she told me to stop. But I didn’t believe her. So I kept puttering. And then after I puttered I went and started throwing stuff around in the closets. Getting more and more overwhelmed and frustrated the whole time. And in general, the more frustrated I get, the less able I am to articulate why I’m frustrated, so this was all just a baaaaad baaaaaad downward spiral.
Suffice it to say, the cuddling was unsatisfactory, the sex was non-existent, and we only watched 15 minutes of The Wire before going to bed. I probably broke out in tears three or four times over the course of the evening. ML is so good at making me laugh and cheering me up, so her efforts did temporarily break me out of my funk, but I was already at a point where I didn’t really know what was wrong and didn’t know how to snap out of it. So I went to sleep feeling dejected and disconnected.
I woke up on Wednesday feeling similarly. I watched ML get ready to leave for work, already feeling bereft and still feeling sad and disconnected from the day before. I still felt like I needed assurance that I was doing okay. I didn’t know how to shake it.
So, ML left, I breakfasted, and then I finally decided that that would be the day. The day to scrap the planner and the to-do list and just do what my heart felt like doing, because I needed to kill this anxiety.
And so? I organized the closets. I emptied all our clothes our of our dresser and our two closets and the basked of clean laundry and a big bin of clothes that hadn’t been put away yet, and I spent all day heaping and folding and hanging and shuffling around and finally, by early afternoon, the closets were organized. And you know what? That did it. My funk was killed. That’s all it took. Organizing the fucking closets. ML called me when she was leaving work and all she had to hear was my bright “hiiiii!” before she knew that I was all better. “What happened to YOU?” she asked. “Did you clean the closets or something?”
And now I think I’m going to scrap the planner and the master to-do list and instead just start each morning with a cup of tea and the question, “what do I most feel like doing today?” After all, this period of unemployed vacation is temporary. I really ought to just take full advantage of it for what it is.
Spring seems to have FINALLY reached San Francisco. Rain in June is not why I moved here. If I wanted rain in June, I’d be living in Portland. This past weekend, though, was unapologetically gorgeous. So gorgeous, in fact, that I got quite a nasty sunburn on Saturday (and I put on sunscreen! I swear!). Weekends like this are good reminders that doing things spontaneously and doing things slightly out of my comfort zone are two of the best ways of feeling whole.
See, the thing is, when you ask me what my vision of happiness looks like, my brain calls up a quiet morning in a sunlit kitchen, drinking tea, eating a warm scone and reading a book. Fast forward an hour and I’m baking bread or shelling peas while listening to NPR Morning Edition. Then in the afternoon maybe I’m having a picnic in the park with a few of my favorite people. These images make me feel calm and happy and balanced and excited. Which, admit it, makes me sound kind of boring, right? I’m such a homebody!
Obviously, if I only ever did the things that my image of happiness and “the perfect day” calls up, I would be boring. Really, really boring. And I would also be unhappy. Too much of a good thing is still too much and the thing isn’t so good anymore. And so this past weekend, which was pretty much the antithesis of calm and peaceful and domestic, and which lacked any sort of lingering over tea or reading or cooking, was entirely perfect. In such an unexpected way!
Saturday: yard sale with my neighbor (formerly: roommate). Got up early, hauled stuff to the corner, which has a lot of foot traffic coming from Dolores Park, and sat out all day negotiating prices with people for my stuff. As someone who is not a natural salesperson, this was harder than it probably sounds. I hate asking people for money for my stuff. My impulse is always, “oh just have it!” I made a mistake like this early in the morning, when I sold a pair of pearl earrings for $0.50 (yes, really, and I STILL am yelling at myself over that), and then decided I had to toughen up. I still think I undersold most of my stuff, but I’ll just accept that at least my goal of de-cluttering was met! And I did make $200.
Then on Saturday night, my friend was celebrating her birthday at New Wave City at the DNA Lounge. Cover is $12 after 10 but $7 before 10, so, yes, I went to a dance party before 10, knowing full-well that I’d be there until closing at 2. This took a lot of “get yourself off your ass” pep talk from myself because (a) I was dehydrated and sunburned from earlier so wasn’t sure I would survive 5 hours of dancing, and (b) I’m not a big partier anyway and it’s easy to convince myself that staying home or going to a wine bar or having late-night burritos are all better ideas than going dancing (see above), and (c) ML (my lady) was mixing with her band and wouldn’t be there until much later. BUT! I did not succumb to my lazy voice and I drank some water, threw on something danceable, and headed out to meet up with my friends. And you know what? Throw two drinks in me (gin gimlet and a greyhound) and I can dance all night.
Sunday: Woke up around 10:30 after having finally landed in bed around 4, slightly achy but (thanks to my impeccable foresight) not hungover, since I started drinking water instead of booze around midnight. We lazed sleepily for a few minutes until ML said: “Hey! Let’s go for a hike today!” My immediate reaction was “YES!” My secondary reaction was “wait! but! I wanted to have a lazy Sunday morning! eat brunch! go to the park and chill in the sun! do some organizing around the house! ahhhh!” My tertiary reaction, after some back-and-forth with my sensible side, was “SCREW IT! Let’s go!” So we booked a Zipcar, lathered up with sunscreen, and headed north across the Golden Gate Bridge. We ended up hiking up Mt. Tam from Stinson Beach, and though we didn’t make it all the way up (we’d gotten rather a late start, and I was feeling still dehydrated and sun-stroked from the day before), we did get some spectacular views on the way. We had dinner at a beach cafe before heading back to the city. Accomplished? Nothing on our to-do lists, but we DID manage to get some exercise, some sun, some fresh air, and above all some spontaneous fun. On our way back, we realized it felt like we’d been away for a lot longer than a day, and agreed that we need to do this more often. Who knew it doesn’t even need to be an overnight to feel like a getaway? I’d always thought you needed a night for the hot sex. Turns out, the hot sex can happen afterwards in your very own bedroom :)
Today, I’m sore, my shoulders are peeling, and I have a lot to do. We’re having friends over for dinner tonight and all of the unpacking and organizing stuff that didn’t happen yesterday needs to happen (or at least superficially happen) this afternoon. Also: post office, bank, dry-cleaner’s, locksmith. Oh, and, cooking! Right. But I don’t mind! I’m still high on an awesome weekend. Good to have that reminder that sometimes the most fun can be had doing things that don’t immediately come to mind when you ask yourself what you feel like doing.
PS: Right now, I’m on gchat with ML (who’s at work) and we’re talking about having sex to one of the arias from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde which, she says, is like an “operagasm.” … Don’t ask.
PPS: How was YOUR weekend?