Saturday, March 4, 2017

February: The Anti-Love Lettter

Dear February,

To hell with you.

No, seriously, bugger off. You were a lousy, weird month, and I am not sorry to see the back of you. What you lacked in length, you more than made up for in sheer, ridiculous douchebaggery. Pretty much the best part of the month were the last few hours, in which I hung out with friends and played games and drank all the drinks and stewed in a ginormous vat of rage. The fact that we were under tornado watches and warnings that last evening served only as a metaphor for the chaos you brought down on us.

The Bad

First, my grandmother. February, you took my bright, beautiful, brave Mawga from us, and you broke our hearts. Forget that she was 95 and ready to go; this is on you and I'll never forgive you for that and screw any logic that says otherwise.

Now let's talk about the weather. I mentioned your let's talk about the seventy degree weather you saw fit to bless us with over the course of several days. It was damned surreal to be stumbling around in a fog of grief, with a thousand-yard stare, and being dimly aware of the crowds of people walking around in shorts and brilliant smiles, enjoying the unexpected reprieve. Whatever happened to weather to match my mood? And while we're at it...what happened to WINTER?

In what is hopefully the last part of the saga of my Never-Ending Headcold/Sinus Infection/Bronchitis/Costochondritis from hell, I took yet another course of antibiotics. This jacked me up but good. Totally suppressed my appetite, made me sick to my stomach, got my heart racing. So I spent 10 days of you feeling hangry, anxious, and vaguely wondering if I was experiencing the world's longest heart attack.

The most ominous thing happened right at the end of the month:

Rest in peace, Beatrice. You were a beautiful glass and you followed me all the way from California and you served me well, and gave me a lot of wine that got me through some bad nights. I'm sorry you died at the bottom of a sink in Indiana. You deserved a better death than that.

Now, the Good. Because, yes, there was some good. 

February, you were a month of friends. There were movie nights and Mexican food and jaunts up to Indy and all sorts of secrets shared and inside jokes created. Making female friends has been difficult for me--absurdly, I seem to have bonded with more dudes this last year--but I'm finally building up some bonds with ladies. My friend Diana has been an especially rock-solid source of support and laughter...even if she is terrified of cats.

After my Mawga passed away, some of my friends risked spending a Sunday afternoon with me, and we went out to Gaden Kachoe Shing, the Buddhist monastery here in our town, and made cookies for the Lunar New Year, and gazed at the extravagant beauty in the temple, and then we went out for a walk on the grounds and I cried at random times. And then we sat down by a lake and gazed out at the stunning afternoon (Okay, fine, the weather was kind of nice and I won't totally hold it against you, February) and made plans for the coming months, and I would occasionally speak of my grandparents and look out at the trees and land and water that were probably very similar to what they saw growing up a couple of hours north of where I live now.

Basically, I have spent almost an entire year trying to embed myself in the community, build support networks, make friends. And in this wretched February, I learned who my friends are: people that I allow myself to feel vulnerable with. People to whom I know I can reach out when I am in a sad and rotten place. I am a lucky, lucky woman, and if all I ever have in my life are friends, I know that it's been a life well lived. 

One other excellent thing happened this month...on Valentine's Day, no less: 

The divorce is final. It's done. It's over. And given the lengthy, rambling nature of this odyssey, and the rewards that have come from it, this deserves its own day in the blog sun. But I had to rejoice here, just a tiny bit. 

Coincidentally (or not), this leads us into...

What the Hell is This Even? Let me Poke it With a Stick and Ponder It: 

Moving along to matters of the heart. Or the hoo-hoo. Or whatever. I have a few friends that are actively trying to pursue this whole dating thing. Generally, I find it more than a little bit horrifying.  I watch them tie themselves in knots over it, and I try to counsel them with probably shitty advice, and shudder at the thought of it all. One of the biggest reasons why I avoided dating since I left Scoots Magoo was because I didn't know what I wanted, and didn't want anyone to be the collateral damage in my fight against myself. But during February, I somehow got it in my head to...experiment? Stick a toe in the water? See what I'd been missing out on? So I did. I stuck a toe in the water. And I actually learned a few things...


  • I know my worth way more now than I did even a few years ago. Guess what? I'm an attractive, fiercely smart, honest, funny, loyal, professionally successful kind of gal. And yet...
  • I am so very oblivious to if or when a person is interested in me. 
  • The longer I go without affection, the easier it gets. That, and the fact that I am not plagued by the biological compulsion to procreate, means that I have the luxury of not feeling the need to "find someone" now now now. 
  • Here's the thing about Friends with Benefits: If you don't behave like a friend, you don't get the benefits. 
  • There are two kinds of guys that I am afraid of: guys that think they are cute (they were so, so mean to me for most of my childhood and adolescence) and guys that I might like. (If I like them, they have the ability to hurt me.) So I react to my fear by preemptively turning into a defensive bitch. That's something I should probably work on if I ever seriously decide to start dating again.
  • I do not want or like anxiety in my life, and "dating" (I use those quotes because I'm honestly not sure if anyone ever actually dates anymore)/sex/feels gives me BAD anxiety. 
  • The longer I am single, the more possessive I am of my life, my physical space, and my emotional resources. I like the life I have, and I am not at all convinced that dating would integrate well into it. Which means...
  • I still don't know what the hell I want. 

It makes me so very grateful that I spent most of my first year back not dealing with this dating insanity nonsense shit stuff. It's just, when I don't have words for what it is, you know it's something altogether...something.

So that's it. February, you really packed a wallop. It wasn't nice knowing you. You weren't the worst month of my life, but you sure as shit gave it your best shot. You didn't kill me. You put me through a little bit of hell in a few ways, and I guess maybe that's the final good thing: when I go through hell, I survive every goddamn time.

No Love,
The Indy Grrl

Monday, February 27, 2017

Indiana Homecoming: A List of Loves

The plane touched down, and I awoke from my light snooze, and tried to focus on the February landscape and ignore the wretched little children thumping around in the row to the back of me. Behind me was Florida, my past, the remnants of my family. Before me...well, what, really? The rest of my life, I suppose. Spring approaching, then summer, and fall, and so on, until I run out of seasons and time. But that's some heavy shit to have on the brain when stumbling off an airplane, so I'll try to keep the existential angst to a minimum.

For years, when hanging out in airports, waiting to catch my flights "home" to California, I would sit at the bar and order double-vodka drinks and text people and try to list in my head all the reasons why I should be happy and grateful about going back to California. "I have a fantastic job with supportive colleagues; I have kitties who adore me, a husband who gets me and gives me my space..." One could say I was counting my blessings, but really, let's be honest: I was simply slapping lipstick on a pig.

Yet, oddly...the habit has stuck. And while I am pleased as punch to be coming home to Indiana, and don't have to talk myself into being happy to be back home, it's kind of a thing now, to list all the things that make me happy about coming home. So, here goes:

  • Hands down, the happiest of the happy-making things that I love about it here right now: the weather. Oh my god. It changes all the frickin time. Before, in That Place, the only reason it was necessary to check the weather was to see how hot it was going to get. Nothing else really changed. God, the monotony was awful. But's never a dull moment. The morning I flew home this last time, the clouds were hanging low in the sky, and while it wasn't nearly cold enough, at least it looked like February. 

(Another February, but it works)

  • This town is filled, completely FILLED, with young people. Sure, god bless 'em, they are a bunch of clueless twits for the most part, but they keep Bloomington fresh, interesting, throbbing with youth and stupidity. And they make me so very, very, very glad not to be in my 20s anymore. 
  • My work. Before I took this job, my musical tastes ranged from "Def Leppard is da bomb" to "Enya is the epitome of enlightened elegance". But I can talk to my sisters and their partners about music and musicians and emerging artists and while I wouldn't say my tastes are particularly refined, but at least I know a thing or two about a thing or two, and have discovered some fantastic music. 
  • More about my work: for the last few years at my old job, I felt I had stagnated. I also felt that my professional ambitions had been...not actively thwarted, but certainly stunted through a lack of encouragement. However, now, in a new environment, with a different kind of supervisor, I find myself growing a tiny bit bolder, more willing to take risks without having to ask permission (and then finding out that the risks weren't really all that risky), more likely to be given extra responsibilities that actively boost my leadership experience.
  • My home: For the past almost year, my cats and I have been hanging out, renting a room from a long-time friend. It's worked out pretty well, particularly as this friend is usually on the road. But the time has come for me to finally establish a homestead of my own, and so, in a couple of days, I'll be getting the keys to my very own apartment, which will be shared with B, who is rolling into town early next week. It's a probably unremarkable apartment, but it's right around the corner from where I live, and has a lovely view from the balcony, and enough space to fill with  an odd assembly of furniture inherited from my grandmother, and the collective books and stuffed animals and makeup odds and ends of the two oddities who will shortly take up residence there.
  • The seasons. Really, this goes hand-in-hand with the weather. Both change, although the weather is slightly less reliable. Nonetheless, I am not sure there is anything more comforting to my weary, heartsore self than to look at at the bare trees, and remind myself that in less than a couple of months, there will be verdant life springing forth, and the landscape will change and revive from its months of hibernation and austerity. Time passes. Healing happens. Life and death ebb and flow, each in their turn. And if it happens to the land, it will happen to me. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Deep in the Ages

This is the tenth time I've tried to sit down and write something. Each time I try, it devolves into this constant wallowing in self-absorbed ruminations of my grief, and the anxiety and depression that caught a whiff and decided to pay a little visit. But I really, really want to try to get away from that and just take a moment to say why I grieve.

My grandmother, my Mawga, passed away last week.

It really wasn't unexpected--she's been in a decline for years, although her mental skills were strong almost until the end. But she lingered and failed and rallied so many times, my sisters and I simply weren't sure when (or even if)  the end would come. My grandmother was, as Middle Sister put it,
"a bookie's nightmare." Or, as Eldest Sister said last year, possibly a vampire robot.

But last Wednesday, her oxygen tank went quiet, and her heart finally stopped beating, and the woman who raised me left this world. Her gossip magazines are now piled up, no longer read. The lipsticks we bought her just before Christmas (she loved to look pretty) no longer used. The junk food she gobbled down--the Cheetoes, the Fritoes, the chips--no longer eaten. Even just looking over those words, it occurs to me--my Mawga lived life and enjoyed it until so very close to the end. In the last few years of her life especially, she was surrounded by people who loved her, and who were a reflection of the love she gave out.

She raised me--my earliest memories are of her. All through my childhood, I was her shadow. Until I was an adolescent, I had no friends but her. My mother, for reasons that I didn't question then and don't really understand now, sent me to live with Mawga and Boppa when I was 10, and these grandparents, who should have been enjoying their retirement, instead took me in. I was their youngest granddaughter, a strangeling, awkward thing, and they simply accepted me, loved me, gave me a home.

Boppa passed away during my annus horribilis in 2015, and Mawga soldiered on for almost another two years. In all honesty, that woman was as tough as fucking nails.

Mawga was a remarkable woman, not just for having lived almost 100 years. She was the only daughter in a household filled with boys, in a family that desperately tried to keep body and soul together in Depression-Era Indiana. She got pregnant before she was married, but she and my grandfather did marry, in 1942, and she outlived all of her children. She hated Christmas and all of its attendant work and expectations and disappointments, but that didn't stop her from working hard to give us a magical holiday each year. She was prone to streaks of melancholy and negativity, and that left its mark on me. As Eldest has pointed out, depression doesn't exist in a vaccuum--and apples don't fall far from the tree, or tears don't fall far from the eye, or something. All of the women in my family have a melancholic streak as wide as our hips, and I think our Mawga was Ground Zero for that sorrow. She loved to have a Beefeater Gin and Tonic, and quite often more than one. We watched Golden Girls together every Saturday night when I was younger, and when I was older, we enjoyed many an episode of South Park in each other's company. Every time she would bring me some treat--some new poster paints or drawing paper, or a library book that she thought would appeal to me--she would present it with an impish, generous smile of anticipatory pleasure.  She took such a keen interest in people, both celebrities on TV and common folk that she met every day. She was nosy and curious, and never seemed to be particularly scandalized by the various questionable life decisions and highly unsuitable men my sisters and I would hitch our wagons to over our young adult years. She never seemed to pass judgement on us for our dumbass mistakes, and while I'm sure I haven't mastered this, I do try.

It seemed like, as much as she liked folks, she was perfectly content on her own, reading through a huge stack of books, munching on the junk food she loved, and sometimes gazing out the window and thinking hundreds of thoughts that she probably never shared, and now never will.

"You are deep in the ages, now, deep in the ages
You whom the world could not break, nor the years tame."
-Sara Teasdale

Currently (Late February 2017 Edition)

About life and death, of course, and the endless numbered days that march on between the beginning and the end. During the day, I am at the grandparents' house, cleaning out closets and organizing shit. At night, I am at Eldest's house, drinking wine and texting my friends and trying to sort through decades' worth of cards, letters, photos, and the like. At one point, I came across a journal that I had gotten for Mawga back in Christmas of 1994, and she had actually written in it. At the end of the first page, she reflected, "I still have so much of God's work to do-I have wasted too many years."

It's sad that she would think so...but I also think we all feel like that. I know that, on a bad day, that's how I feel about much of the last decade. Which cannot be altered, of course--the only thing that can be altered is how I think about it, so that one day I won't see them as wasted years.

Before flying to Florida to be with the sisters, I was muddling through my last days of work. This meant making a lot of lists and trying to stick to them, occasionally sitting very still with a thousand-yard-stare, and listening to a lot of music that, quite predictably, would make me cry. At some point, I acquired a lick of sense, and decided to turn to Amazon Prime for some musical variety. Which is how I came across The Dropkick Murphys. I'd heard some of their music before, of course, but much like with books, sometimes, you just have to be in a certain frame of mind to get it. Which is why, right now, I am taking every opportunity I can to assault my eardrums with this rollicking, life-affirming, brutal, joyously rude Celtic punk band.

When shit hits the fan, and change is upon me, I'm usually not up for reading new stuff. Who knows how the story will end? I don't need that uncertainty. That's why I'm (re)reading The Secret Garden right now. If you've not had the opportunity to read this classic, you're a deprived and possibly depraved person. Books don't have to be complex, weighty tomes to celebrate the healing joys of nature and friendship.

Oh god, nothing much at present. For about a week before Mawga passed away, I was on a godawful antibiotic that suppressed my appetite, made me nauseous, and got my heart up past 100 beats per minute. I'm off the meds, thank god, but it's still hard to choke down food. I'm more okay with this than I should be--at this point in my life, I'm pretty happy and confident in how I look, other than my weight, so if this little anxiety/depression diet kicks off the necessary weight loss, I'm fine with it.

Before everything went to hell last week, Friend John had introduced me to House, one of the many, many TV shows I've missed out on. It's entertaining and distracting, although I fear I'm going to become a hypochondriac and self-diagnose every twitch and ache as some obscure illness. Except for lupus, of course.

It's difficult to do from down here in the Deep South, but I am trying to prepare for a late January, I signed a lease on an apartment that I can literally see from where I live now. Thank god, Bethany is moving up in early March, so I'll have family close by to heckle me and help me keep me busy. And in the meantime, there are utilities to set up and things to coordinate. And when I get home, there will be boxes to pack and haul and stores to visit, and strapping male friends to chivvy into moving my furniture.

Basically, at the moment, there's a great deal of "hurry up and wait." I'm in a much better place than I was last week, and I am becoming eager to return home to Indiana, to the waiting spring, to the community of friends I've built up, to the work I do, to the life I've made for myself. More than anything, I can leave Florida with a feeling of happy anticipation, rather than the grim resignation that I used to feel when I had to return to California. I am going to leave Florida, and return home to Indiana, the land of my grandparents, and take a tiny measure of comfort in that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

There are many, many things that I disliked about my California exile. One of the more ironic things (given my line of work) that plagued my time there was the fact that I was never able to get a good book club going. What makes a good book club? Good books, good wine, good snacks...and good people who, you know, actually read the book. I eventually got fed up with the women who turned up and said sheepishly, "I didn't get a chance to read the book this month..."

A couple of months back, when I was working the Reference Desk, I helped a woman find a book. She mentioned that it was for her book club.

"Oooh, where's your book club?"

An impish smile tugged at her lips. "It's just me and my friends." She paused, lowered her voice. "We call it Read The Book Or Get The Fuck Out."

I've found my people.

Last Wednesday, on a weirdly stormy evening, I went to C3, a pretentious neighborhood (not my neighborhood) bar for the first book group meeting of the year. Other than the woman who originally told me about their group, I hadn't met any of the other members. Yet within a few minutes of meeting these women, I plunged into a fantastic conversation about books. Is there anything better than talking about books? 

Eventually, we got around to talking a little about the books--The Glass Castle and Echo--one of which we each had to read. Here's the funniest part about the whole evening--we probably spent 5, 10 minutes, tops, talking about those specific books. And then we went back to talking about other books. But hey, we all read the books we were supposed to. None of us had to get the fuck out. 

The evening was a long one, filled with lots of conversation. I talked--I'm good at that--but I also spent a lot of time listening and observing these women. We ranged in age, from 34 to 44. All of these lovely ladies sported sparkling diamond rings on their wedding ring finger. Most of them spoke of children. All of them spoke pretty lovingly about their husbands, their shared lives and interests. 

What is that? Speaking to these women, I felt like I was catching a glimpse of some sort of weird, parallel universe. Like I was this close to being one of these women, but for some quirk, some twist of timing and fate, I missed the boat that was sailing towards Normal Life Isle.

Do I miss that sort of life? Sometimes I do. That night, I did.

I read to hear stories about other people, to gain insights, to re-learn empathy, to travel outside my own head, to ponder different possibilities. And that night last week--and many nights in the future, I hope--I didn't need the books to ponder different possibilities. Those lovely ladies gave me a glimpse into another world. I'm not sure I want that world, but I'm not turning away from it just yet, either. And I'm definitely not going to get the fuck out. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Feeling the Feels too Much

Outside my bedroom window, the wind is gusting fiercely, rumbling through eaves and whistling through cracks. It's January in Indiana--which means that four days ago, it was literally 0 degrees with snow on the ground, whereas right at this moment, it's 63 degrees with a tiny chance of tornadoes. (I'm kidding about the tornado part.) (But not really.)

"Welcome to Indiana! If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes."

I've heard variations of this statement a dozen times, about a dozen different cities (but not Palm Springs, of course.) And it's true for all of those places, but it's really true of here in Indiana. I like the mercurial nature of the weather here; it's an accurate reflection of the mercurial nature of life.

And of my mood, these days.

Today at work, we had the opportunity to attend a seminar for professional development credits. The nature of the subject matter was "Compassion Fatigue." Sitting there in the darkened room, listening to the presenter, surrounded by my colleagues (most of who work the public service desks much more than I do) I felt like a bit of a fraud. One of the unexpected delights of my job is that it's so peaceful--on a usual day, I work with about half a dozen folks, and interact with perhaps another half dozen or so for some reason. But other than that, I keep myself to myself, sitting at my desk, ordering materials, reading reviews and news, and doing various other collection development duties. I work with the public about five hours a month. It wasn't until I had been doing this collection development gig for a couple of months that I realized how much less stress I have now, not having to be "on" for the public, not having to be constantly sensitive to scores of different peoples' moods, needs, and often troubled minds.

I don't work on the front lines, and so I don't necessarily have the pleasure of triaging folks who might be in crisis. I don't experience the fulfillment, anymore, that can come from knowing you've connected a person with some piece of information, or some resource, that might change their life. Oddly, I am just fine with this--I took to this new job quite nicely. And given my own crowded thoughts, my own moodiness, my own worries and frets and neuroses, perhaps that is just as well--perhaps all of the compassion I have needs to go to me.

At least these days.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Now that the holidays have passed, now that the hope and excitement of the new year have slipped away and we've all returned to work and school and our humdrum duties, how is 2017 progressing for us all?

Here's what I know: when you don't make a lot of goals and promises and resolutions to yourself, you don't really end up being too disappointed. So that's a thing. I've not been more disappointed in myself than I usually am. And in fact, I've so far kept to two of the promises I made to myself--I'm holding firm to "Dryuary", wherein I eliminate alcohol from my diet to see if it makes a difference to my health (it hasn't), and I'm faithfully using my Estee Lauder Anti-Aging Kit to see if it reverses the effects of aging. (It doesn't). It DOES, however, give me pimples.

This is the dark of winter, that long, lonely stretch of time that lapses between the joyful excesses of Yuletide and the hopeful, almost obscene fecundity of spring. This is when we retreat indoors and hide from the cold that stings and bites at our digits and extremities; when we look up, hopefully, at the sky, only to see more lowering clouds. I don't mind this time year, myself. I rather like the painful cold that drives us indoors, where all can be cozy. And all is cozy, really, at the moment. I don't have the company of a partner to assure me that I am safe, and cared for, and loved. But I do have a roof over my head, and a blanket draped over my lap, and a cat nearby (and another one lurking), and a pile of books, and music I can listen to, and candles I can burn.

What better thing to do during the dark of winter, than to shut ourselves away into our homes? With that as my guiding thought, I am happy to comply with this expectation. I'm restless, and starting to think about my future, and the expectations that I want to create for myself, but for this dark time, I hide. I think. I imagine. I ponder. I wait for freedom, for an idea of what comes next. And I await the spring, and perhaps a rebirth, while loving this cold winter, and my period of rest.

 You don't need the companionship of someone else nearby to be cozy. You can be safe, and warm, and entertained by music and cats and books, and surrounded by candles and hot drinks, while outside all is cold and dark, without the presence of a partner.