Monday, March 19, 2018

My Second Indianaversary

Two years.

2 years.

Two. 2. Two. 2.

Two years ago, I moved home.

How has it been two years? The more I repeat those words, the less sense they make, and the less profundity they have. They are just words that don't at all encompass the fact that somehow, so much time has passed since I made that journey away across deserts and prairies and through fields and forests, from California to Indiana. So much of my life is completely different.

The magic and wonder that came with, "Oh my god, I really did make it back home" have worn off, of course. Just like with a new relationship, there's no way that bliss could sustain itself. Not when things like perpetual 'flu, an incredibly fucked-up election, an unstable living situation with an unpleasant person, and just all the quotidian things that come with living life, are all crowding in. So yes, in that sense, the euphoria has worn off. But my happiness, my contentment, my sense of rightness, those have not faded in these two years, only grown ever more lush, like a never-ending Indiana June.

Lots of people say, "You can't outrun our problems. Run away, move to a new place, you'll still be you.You won't be any happier. New city, same you."

Well...yes, and no.

I did move to a new place, start a new life. And I was still me. I still had some of my problems; I was still the same person that created and/or attracted and/or permitted those problems. But I was still--and am still--happier. Because, as it turns out, there were some problems that I could leave behind. My biggest problems were where I was living (it felt completely alien and wrong for me); my marriage (it was an absolute failure); and my job (I had outgrown it.) So, I moved to a place that I loved, that felt right; I ended my marriage; and I took a new job, at a different organization, doing something very different. I was the same person, but I liked my life so much more. Even during last year, which was simply a nightmare year, I still liked my life.

2 years in, and I am still me. Still liking my life, and still aware of my flaws, my choices, my habits, my thought processes, my insecurities, which are still a part of me, and still have the potential to bring me unhappiness. All I can do, every day, is try embrace this new chance at life that I've been given, to try to fall more in love with my lovely, backward state, to simultaneously improve my faults and yet accept that "All we can be is who we are...failures and all."

I'm still me. I'm home. And I'm happy.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2018, So Far...

2018! Hello, how are you? Nice to meet you. Are you anything like 2017? What's that? You say you bear no resemblance to that foul number?!? Well, that's just swell. I reckon we will get along just fine.

(I can dream, can't I?) 

Last weekend, I remarked to a friend that 2017 was just a plain damned bad year for us. There was death--both from old age and suicide. There was illness. People got hit by cars. There were more disappointments than can be counted, both professional and personal. There were stressful life situations, and shitty people. In fact, 2017 sucked so bad that it wasn't content to suck only in 2017--it started sucking in 2016, with the election!

People talk about how they have a theme, or a word, to define their year. Well, for me, the word for me in 2017 was endure.

For months, I was ready for the end of 2017. I know, I know. We can start over again every morning, and we don't have to wait for a new year. But there is something beautiful and pristine about January 1st. It's like a mini life-reset button. And so, when the end of 2017 rolled around, my friends and I paused in our game of Cards Against Humanity, raised our glasses of shitty champagne, said "Suck a nut!" to 2017, and metaphorically ran straight into the welcoming arms of the new year. 

There's a lot that I'm looking forward to in this new year. Perhaps the most pleasing thing is that, in less than a month, I'll be moving into my own place. This is the culmination of the various upheavals and uncertainties I've been encountering in my life over the last four years--the divorce, the various moves, the living situations that I should have gotten out of my system when I was a college-aged nitwit, not a woman nearing middle age. My existence has felt so unsettled, so unpredictable, for so long, and I'm beyond ready to just dig in some roots, settle in, and live. Not extravagantly, or dangerously, or promiscuously. Just live my life, quietly and usefully, with my work and my hobbies and my modest pursuits, entertaining my friends, exploring my state, trying to mentally and emotionally recover much. There has been so much that I haven't been able to know or count on, for so long. And perhaps that won't change. But I'd just like to take a year or two to be in my own home, experiencing my own life on my own terms, before having to strategize about what comes next. I've been worried about What Comes Next for so long, that I haven't been able to focus on What's Happening Now as much as I would like.

So here's what's happening now: I am in my warm bed, with a cat sitting next to me, his purr loud and happy. There's a winter storm brewing outside, and as usual, a thousand thoughts brewing in my head. My bunion is aching and I'm getting sleepy and I'm feeling safer and happier than I've felt in a long time, and I am happy with this moment of my life--which is, really, the only moment I have. I'm making plans and preparations for many future happy moments, but for now, I'll take this moment of happy...and be excited for more moments of happy to come.   

Friday, November 24, 2017

How to Live (and Wear) a Feme Sole Thanksgiving

Now that our grandparents and mother are dead, Thanksgiving is a lot different. A lot quieter, and so, a little weirder. For literally decades, we would gather at my grandparents' overheated, tiny house, which was filled to bursting with family, partners, friends, and orphans. Our increasingly deaf grandparents would blare Judge Judy and sportsball and the Macy's Day Parade; my grandmother and mother would holler at Eldest to add more broth to the stuffing, soupiness be damned. But as the years marched on, and people divorced and moved away and died, our numbers dwindled. And now, for the first time in 31 years, we aren't having dinner at the grandparents' house. That house stands silent and mostly empty and thoroughly abandoned, patiently waiting for a realtor to march people through and choose to buy it so they can have their own decades of family dinners there. And those few who remain--my sisters and partners, all childless, and myself--now gather in my sister's kitchen to break bread, give thanks, and all the rest.

This is also my first Thanksgiving as an officially divorced woman--a feme sole. This is what my beloved Oxford English Dictionary has to say about this:

feme sole, n.
Origin: A borrowing from French. Etymon: French feme sole. Law French feme sole, femme sole unmarried woman (1302 or earlier in Anglo-Norman) < feme , femme feme n. + sole soleadj. Compare post-classical Latin femina sola (1396 in a British source, in legal context). 
An unmarried woman; (sometimes) spec. one who is divorced or widowed. Also in the English and other common law legal systems: a married woman whose legal status, esp. with regard to her right to own property or to carry on a business, is that of an unmarried woman.

In other words? Fuck yes. It's funny, I was so uncomfortable in my 20s about being single, unpartnered, unclaimed, yet I had to become all those things to become comfortable with not being those things. And so now I wear this title with pride and joy and relief; it was a hell of a long road to get here, both legally and emotionally, and now that I am here, I am pretty ready to dig in, put down roots, and look down at all you other chumps with some smugness. Just kidding. Kind of.

I'm having a damned good Thanksgiving, despite the lack of family, and because of my feme sole state. Here's how I do it:

I decide I'm going to look good--look damned good. Wash my hair dammit, and choose an outfit that gets me a lot of compliments even if I think secretly it makes me look pregnant. (I'm not, and thankfully never will be.) I wear it with my best smile.

 Tunic from Rue 21; leggings from Meijer's because omg I wear leggings now!

I put on as much makeup as I want. Here's my view on makeup--it conceals what doesn't need to be seen and enhances what should be seen. It helps make me be the most radiant me that I want to be.

Couples at family holiday dinners are happily inevitable. When I was younger and the single odd duck, I felt self-conscious, unpaired, unloved. I'm older now, and now it doesn't bother me one jot, and if you're single, I hope it won't bother you either. The (let's hope) happiness of the couples at family gatherings are not a reflection on us single folk; not an indication of some sort of fatal flaw, and we can make our own happiness and freedom without a partner by our sides. And as I learned through my own bitter experiences, having a partner at your side at a family dinner is no indication of a satisfied, secure existence. I smile and laugh and talk and joke with the couples, admire the camaraderie that they share, and then I carry on being me.

I adhere to family traditions. With my people, this consists of
Eldest Sister slaves away in the kitchen, as she has done since Time Immemorial (she is now both the Matriarch and the Martyr of the Family) 
Middle Sister sits on the couch and peruses the Black Friday ads (although we aren't dummies, we don't go out into that brouhaha) 
The Little Odd Duck stays as much out of the way as possible and watches X-Files. This is a tradition that stems back to my teens, when I worked at a toy store and had to be to work at 3 AM the day after Thanksgiving, literally ducking toys flying overhead, so during Turkey Day I would hunker down, rest up, eat food, and drool over Scully. 
 Me, Pre-Drool
Occasionally I holler at Eldest Sister to add more broth to the stuffing. I don't care about stuffing, but it's what our mom and grandmother did. And what was good enough for them is good enough for us, dammit. 

So there we go--how I lived my  2017 Thanksgiving. It was chill but not chilly, lovely and cozy and filled with laughter and memories of people and days gone by. I lived it genuinely, as I have tried to do every day since taking the leap into Life After Marriage--as a sister, a friend, the Indy Grrl, the Odd Duck, Crazy Aunt Mel, and feme sole. It's a good life, and it's one I am grateful I had the courage to grab on to.

Monday, November 6, 2017

You Say Self-Care, I Say Survival

Since The Great Shitshow of 2016, there's been a lot of talk in the world about self-care. This concept differs wildly from person to person--for some folks, it's taking a day to apply a $75 squid jizz mask, eat a vegan concoction of rhubarb and kale and chickpea innards, and meditate for three hours. For other folks, it's getting a mani-pedi, shopping at Kate Spade and Kendra Scott and Sephora, and then eating a leisurely lobster dinner. And then there are some folks that just take that time to do basic "I should do this every day but don't because I suck at adulting" shit. With poptarts. And wine.

Guess which category The Indy Grrl falls in?

Towards the end of my workweek last week,  I realized that I had an opportunity to clear my schedule and hunker down for the weekend. (My brilliant Eldest Sister calls this a Fuck Off World! Weekend, which I think is the most accurate, if not kindest, description.) And it was perfect timing--we were supposed to get rain all weekend. So that's what I did--promised myself 36 hours of "self care" and went so far as to commit to it on my planner, stocked up with some food essentials, and disappeared from the world.

Here's what these adventures in self-care looked like:

Gently Moving, Saturday Afternoon:
Usually I feel like I am constantly going-going-going, with half of my mind on the task at hand and half my mind scanning the horizon for the next thing to get done. Mindfulness, schmindfulness. But as I am coming home from the grocery store on Saturday afternoon, the brilliant scarlets and orange leaves against the stormy sky outside my apartment building catch my eye. With nowhere that I HAVE to be now, it seems like a perfect time to take an amble. 

Sleeping In and Having a Lazy Morning
The women in my family have several endearing talents; chief amongst them is our ability to sleep and sleep and sleep. And then sleep some more. As you can imagine, having to adhere to a schedule of...well, waking up at designated times really puts a cramp in our style. So any chance we have to not bow down and submit to the cruel mistress of our cell phone alarms, you can be damned sure we are grabbing it. So I've done just that, letting my body wake up on its own, natural-like. Amazingly, I manage to wake up at 9, but any smugness I feel is quickly banished when I realize that I'd forgotten that daylight savings time had ended, we had "fallen back" during the night, and my body feels like it's 10 a.m. No matter. I shrug it off, fix some coffee, light a candle, and creep back into bed for a couple of hours of YouTube and Interneting. 

A Little Bit of Productivity
My Eldest Sister believes that the ideal weekend includes a lot of puttering, in which nothing really gets accomplished, so she would be appalled at my approach. But I've got my own roll--my idea of a pampering weekend is one in which a LOT of stuff is accomplished, but none of it feels like work. Nothing too strenuous, but part of self-care is doing something to feel like your home is a haven and not a shithole. And so I clean for a bit, fold some laundry, do some dishes, change the sheets...with the help of my furry feline fuckers. 

Some Entertainment
So books! Much words! 

Pampering/Treat Yo'Self
I don't have a lot of fancy facial stuff on hand (alas--no squid jizz!) but there is some e.l.f. stuff I've been wanting to try, so today I took the plunge and used them. I wouldn't say my face felt transformed, but it did feel nice. 

Another treat--Brie, and some out-of-season-yet-still delicious berries. 

Not Dying
It's November here in the Heartland, and it's second storm season. Halfway through my Self-Care Day, the sky darkens, the atmosphere grows still, my phone buzzes with an emergency alert from the county, and the "torny warnies" start warbling their weird, wild wails. My housemate and I round up the disgruntled feline fuckers, as well as some wine and other boozy companions, and hunker down into the tiny little half-bath. 

Four hours later, second verse, same as the first. 

Fortunately, any tornadic activity went to the place known as Not Here. Nonetheless--at one point, I grouse to the Housemate, "This is NOT how I wanted this Self-Care Day to go!"
To which she responds, not inaccurately, "Survival is self-care."

You say self-care, I say survival. 

It's too bad that we have to take time to set aside, specially, for self-care. In a perfect world, it's part of our daily routine. In a perfect world, we don't have to clear our schedule for a day of it. In a perfect not the world we live in. The world I live in is chaotic and busy and I am a flawed inhabitant of this world, but I survive it as best I can. I could do better, I could do worse. But I have to move through this world believing that I deserve to treat myself to some kindness, to some survival, to some quality of life. I invite you to do the same. To take care of others, we gots to take care of ourselves first. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Chasing my Happy: The Winter Weirdness Edition

My happy isn't your happy, and that's okay. There's enough to go around.

In the early morning hours, I reluctantly slipped out from underneath my covers--disturbing the furry feline fuckers in the process--and padded over to my window. Was I seeing snow? It was hard to say for certain; darkness still enveloped everything, and my bleary eyes weren't aided by glasses. And really, what did it matter? If it was, in fact, snowing, well, chances were I'd have plenty more opportunities to see it. So I padded back to my toasty bed and burrowed back underneath the covers, and the furry feline fuckers quickly forgave me.

When I woke up for good, a couple of hours later, I quickly realized something pretty darned cool (heh, literally):

It's November 1, and here in the hoosiery hills of Southern Indiana, we've had our first snowfall of the season.

It didn't last, of course. But what did last was the wet, gloomy, cold weather that brought us the snow to begin with. All day, the temperature has hovered in the low forties, and there's been absolutely no sun. If I'm being honest, I'll admit that I've been vaguely cold, all day. And it doesn't bug me, not in the slightest. In fact, I am relishing that warm feeling that I'll finally chase down to earth later this evening, when I am in bed once again, and the furry feline fuckers are trying to get as close to me as possible. I've learned that when you achieve a penetrating warmth after a prolonged chill, it's a beautiful, almost sensual thing, an incredible feeling.

I might not always feel like this. Maybe some day, I will resent this place and dread the winters as I once resented California and dreaded...well, all the seasons. But right now, I am just happy to be happy with these cold, grey mornings and evenings, these bare trees, these empty, hollow nights. Even looking up at the picture above, at that grey sky over the rooftops, makes me happy. And not in a "gloom and death and badness and everyone is miserable!" sort of way, but in a "I love the sight of that grey sky and all the cozy homes and people tucked safe away" sort of way. 

Not any one thing is going to make everyone happy. And my way of happiness seems to be distinctly different from most other folks. Folks don't need to get why this cold, empty, gloomy weather makes me happy (which is good, since I don't get why, myself); it's enough that I knew enough to chase that happiness, and that it brought me here. And that I didn't get any frostbite in the process.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

...Ready for it

Today, I've been a bit confused.

The calendar says it's Halloween. So too do the dishes of candy and chocolates, scattered about work, and all of the wee buggers, trotting about in their various costumes. But when I step outside, what I think is, "MERRY CHRISTMAS!"

As much as I love this place, I can't deny the fact that most of my life has been spent in warm climates. 19 years in Florida, most Halloweens being gross and humid. 9 years in California, most Halloweens being toasty and "oh it's a dry heat" and still feeling like hell. So when I step outside on Halloween morn, and see that my windshield is coated in a layer of ice, and realize that my long wool coat might not be enough to withstand the morning's chill...I'm a little con-fuddled. My body, my personal history, they tell me it's Christmas, even though my life now tells me, "Happy Halloweenie!"

(It's also worth mentioning that we are forecasted to get a wintry mix of precipitation late tonight. YAAAAAAAAAS.)

What I've noticed is that October tends to be a pretty busy time for me--even without the job and two side-hustles I've got going on right now. I'd love to say that I read a dozen books and cooked some amazing meals and crafted some lovely creations and so on, but that's just not the case. I do my work--buying media (we are at the end of the spending cycle), teaching my class, doing a bit of caregiving for my former boss. I socialize with my aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Indiana and their son, and a few other friends. I pursue some fall adventures, like watching scary movies and frolicking in a picked-over orchard. I scold the cats and watch "The West Wing" and think about simpler presidencies, and I try to enjoy the fall as it creeps in.

I attend an utterly magical play with my D'uncle, and remember the line, "It's supposed to hurt...that's how you know it meant something."

I laugh with my friends, and try to focus on the day at hand, and not look back too much on past Octobers, or worry too much about Octobers ahead. I love the thought of homes, cozy and welcoming in the darkening nights; I turn my collar up and face the cold. Some folks believe that Halloween is the witch's New Year, and while I haven't been witchy-poo enough in a long time to adhere to that, a very big part of me hopes that this Halloween is a new year, and that the various shit--physical sickness, political insanity, personal betrayals and disappointments--that have sprung up since last October are now drawing to their close. We will see.

But I gotta admit...I'm ready for it.

Monday, October 2, 2017

On Being Alive

This might be my favorite time of the year,  these early days of autumn. The mornings and evenings are cool--a couple of times, now, they've even been chilly--but days are still warm. And yet...the late afternoon sunlight is a particularly brilliant yet gentle golden, as though it's apologizing for the harsh summer months and trying to encourage us to soak up what little warmth remains before winter sets in. The crickets still chirp at night; not the loud clamor of high summer, and rather fewer of them, but they are still their, making their noises quietly and persistently as though saying, "We will continue our song until the bitter end."

It's a beautiful early fall evening right now, and I am reminded of a fall evening from my very early years. It must be one of my very first memories--I was three, or perhaps four. We were still living in Ohio. My mom was getting me ready for bed, and insisting I wear an undershirt under my nightgown because the nights were getting cooler. I remember looking over her shoulder at the open window in my bedroom, seeing the dark night beyond my cozy little world, feeling the chill night air, knowing she was right.

It's a beautiful fall evening right now, and for me at least, it is a beautiful day to be alive. And oh, how rotten I feel, thinking that. At least 59 people are no longer here to enjoy life on this peaceful evening. Their lives ended yesterday, their peace shattered. I wish that I could believe that they have never-ending peace, now, but I don't have any certainty of that. I know that we who are left have even less peace and security than we had before (and really, those were and are only illusions), and I know that many of us sit in our homes, and look out our open windows into the chilly autumn evening, and know that it's a dark night that lies beyond our cozy little world. And not all of us have the privilege of a cozy little world.

I'm sad, I'm distressed, I'm exhausted. I imagine most of us are--and probably for a lot longer than just the last 24 hours. I don't know what to do; I only know that I can close my eyes against this gentle autumn night and wake tomorrow and rise and meet the day with a desire to act with courage and a strong moral compass and compassion. Maybe that's all I can do. Maybe that's all any of us can do. Or maybe that that is the bare frickin minimum.

May we all retire to our beds tonight, safe and loved. May we all wake tomorrow to wrest whatever beauty we can from this chaotic world. May we all survive to see another beautiful autumn evening tomorrow. And may we rest our heads tomorrow night knowing we did all we personally could to set this world to rights.