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

Who Should Get My Compassion?

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.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Currently (1/5/2017 Version)

Watching
In the current climate, I think that regressing to The West Wing years is an entirely appropriate response.

Reading
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates: I'm actually listening to this right now; it's the first time in a long time I've listened to an audiobook. Yet, oddly, it works: so much of the time, we spend our time listening to other people talk just so that we can answer, and it's good that I am listening to an indictment of white people and white privilege without having someone to respond to and provide vain denials.

Listening
Courtesy of Amazon Prime, I've been exploring more of the music of Balmorhea. I first discovered (okay, was exposed to them) through Eldest about seven years ago, just before my wedding. I spent many hours scrapbooking my wedding preparations and listening to their music, and so there are some heavy associations there. I'm branching out a bit and listening to some of their other creations, so that in years to come, when I hear them, I won't be thinking of narcissistic men, wasted craft supplies, and sweltering summers, but instead, cold winters, a vague sense of limbo, and the never-ending curiosity of what comes next?

Using
Living in a college town, being surrounded by all these fresh, young faces, not being the youngest person in the room, is a bit of a disconcerting thing, and more than once, I've turned a sharp eye at those age (sun? liver?) spots and fine lines that are crowding around my eyes. So I caved and got some of the good stuff: Estee Lauder products geared towards Advanced Night repair. Is it working? Probably not, but it IS giving me pimples, so perhaps the clock IS turning back on my face.

Loving
Fuzzy socks. It gets COLD at night, people, and finally, I have a reason to use them!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year, New...Meh.

I remember, when I was a little girl, a time or two my grandparents had a get-together on New Year's Eve. It was just them, and a couple of neighbor couples, and snacks and boozy drinks and Trivial Pursuit, and that annoying, awkward little girl staying up 'way past her bedtime and annoying the grown-ups. These grown-ups were in their seventies, and no doubt had seen many, many old years die and new years born. I wonder now if they felt a thrill, a charge, a sense of relief of a bad year ending, or a sense of joy of a new year starting? Did they make plans and resolutions or goals? Or had they simply been around the block enough times that it didn't matter?

Guess I haven't hit that point yet.

On December 31, five friends came to my home and together, we watched a epic historical Chinese war film, and played games, and ate food, and drank champagne, and talked about nothing too major. Some of us had endured a pretty rough year, and at that late point in the game, there was no point in re-hashing old, painful ground. Together, we said good-bye to 2016, and helped 2017 be born. Whether we all had made goals and resolutions, I don't know. We didn't really speak of it, at least not too seriously. Perhaps most of us hadn't made any, or perhaps none of us felt comfortable enough yet to reveal those things to each other.

I know that I've been trying to ponder my goals and resolutions for a while now. There's so much in my life that will eventually need changing, and I really don't know where to start--particularly since I don't know quite what I want to change into. Professional ambitions, geographical desires, romantic interests; I am at sea when it comes to those. I simply don't know what I want. I'm just not there yet. And who knows? Maybe I'm not supposed to be, yet. Lord knows there are other things I need to be tending to. So while I don't have anything too earth-shattering planned out, I know what I need to tend to: I've got to get my health improved. I've got to get a place of my own. I've got to continue to spend time at the job that gave me my escape. I want to continue exploring my beloved state, ideally with the friends I am trying to bond with. And that's enough to be getting on with, at least for now. I suppose, in other words, now that I'm settled into my state, it's time to start reversing the damage I've done to myself over the last decade. And once I'm well on that path, I can start tackling the bigger stuff--start trying to find answers to the questions I'm not yet ready to ask.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

In the Heart of the Winter, This Night is Not The End

"In the heart of the winter, you can see through the trees, 
and the frozen ground waiting, is the feel of your dreams. 
Life used to be simple, the world used to be sane
There's something that's missing, I want it put back again."

A year ago...

...Was the second year anniversary of my mother's death...

...I filed for divorce...

...I attended my work holiday dinner with a hollow smile nailed to my face and watched my energetic colleagues receive (well-deserved) awards and dance with their love interests...

...I drove home, and got on Facebook, to see that my soon-to-be-ex had thrown himself a birthday party, and was surrounded by many of our mutual friends...

...And I sat in my bed and cried. And then had a lengthy phone conversation with a totally inappropriate person, and drank a lot of vodka, and eventually fell asleep, not knowing if or when anything would change.

And now, today. A year later. Everything is different, in all the best ways imaginable. I'm removed from that life, that environment, and most of those people. I'm safe, and busy, and I have the only thing that I knew I wanted. I'm home, and I'm trying to re-build a life that I never should have left.

Fittingly, tonight--on a cold, sleety night, just before the start of winter-- I attended a concert performance at the UU Church here in town called "Made in Indiana", featuring one of my favorite musicians, Tim Grimm. He, and another musician, and two authors, all shared their reflections and stories of life in Indiana, and Tim sang a song about the winter solstice, that dark time of the year...basically, where I was this time last year. Then I was struggling, reaching out for any sort of hope, reassurance, validation, no matter the source. Now I am in a quiet place in my life, laying fallow, perhaps. My soul is regenerating, I suppose you could say. I imagine that in a while, I shall be ready for more hope, more experiences, more possibilities, more risk. 

For now, it's enough that I am here, and that everything is different. 

"No, we are not alone, this night is not the end...
Brothers and sisters, all around, 
a new day is ready to begin..."





Monday, December 12, 2016

I lost a month of my life.

I mean, I knew exactly where it got to, but still, it's lost. Gone.

On October 30, after a long night of some pretty hard partying, I woke up tired and achey with a sore throat. Thus began the WORST headcold of my life--which lingered throughout all of November and into December, and in fact turned into a sinus infection and bronchitis, and possibly walking pneumonia. (I'm waiting to see on that last one.) This wretched epizoodie from hell was still going strong on November 8, when my friends and I gathered together and threw back drinks called "Nasty Woman" and "Putin's Puppet" and "The Bad Hombre" and prepared for the election results. We were trying not to jinx anything, but I would be lying if I said we weren't looking at each other with hope, and excitement, and glee. 

As the night went on, the mood went downhill. A lot of our friends are LGBTQA+, and they started making weak, grim jokes about the internment camps. Anna sat on Michael's lap and began to cry. My friend John saw the expression on my face and silently switched over to making me gin and tonics. 

I cried myself to sleep that night. 

The next morning, I woke up with a crying hangover, probably an actual hangover, and my sickness still wreaking havoc on my body. Like so many of the folks in my country, I was decimated, devastated, disgusted, and frightened. I still was, 10 days later, when I flew down to Florida for an extended Thanksgiving holiday. 


And so, I lost a month. An autumn month, at that. And then when I emerged (still coughing) into the cold, grey morning of December 1, I noticed three things: 

1. It got cold, at some point. Goodbye, fall, I barely knew ye.
2. I somehow managed to inexplicably sprain my toe.
3. The upstairs toilet flooded. 

The following days haven't been nearly as bad, but I am still kind of bewildered about how I lost a whole month. Only in the last ten days have I really felt like I've opened my eyes again to my surroundings and hopes and plans. The days are long, but the years are short, and when you've lost a month of your year, it gets even shorter.