Monday, January 4, 2021

Hell of a Coincidence

On January 4, 2015, I chose to divorce my husband. 

Each time I think back on this pivotal decision,  more and more I believe that the date was pretty significant. It happened to be the birthday of my mother, who had passed away a little more than a year previously, so I am sure I was feeling rather introspective and reflective, and perhaps more open to making a crucial decision that I had been, until that point, only theoretically pondering. On that particular day, a Sunday, I happened to come across some data that ultimately became the straw that broke the camel's back. I'm done with this, I decided, no more. I'm divorcing Jason. I'm very unhappy and homesick, I know he's unhappy, and I have no business staying in this marriage. 

"It's best to step into the future while it's still waiting for you," says Alice Hoffman in a book that was published  a good few years after all this transpired, but there is truth in this statement even prior to the statement's existence. Not only was I going to divorce Jason, but I was going to do it soon, and then I was going to move home and pursue the life I hadn't yet had a chance to live, back in Indiana.  

Making the decision was pretty easy. Acting on it...well, that took longer. It took me two weeks to confront my husband; 10 months to move out of our home, 11 months for me to file for divorce. But I wasted no time in letting my sisters know about this shift in their baby sister's life. And my Eldest Sister decided that, if her youngest sister was moving back to the frozen wastelands of the Midwest, she would be needing a blanket. And so she got to knitting. 

While she was knitting away, I was going through a rather arduous and painful time in California. Divorce ain't easy, even when it's more or less amicable. It was an excruciating time of loneliness and anxiety and depression and the not-unspoken fear of what if I can never find work back in Indiana and move home? It was a kind of hell. I was terrified that things would never change. 

Of course, things did change: A little more than a year after I decided to leave my California life, I was able to actually do so, and moved home to Indiana. 

And still my sister kept knitting. 

Years passed. Generations passed. 

Okay, not really. But six years did pass. Many things happened, as they are wont to do: The divorce came to pass, my grandmother passed away, I earned a promotion, I learned what it was like to live with a mentally unstable (and mean) individual, I lived through a Trump presidency and a pandemic...and all the while, down in the wilds of Florida, my Eldest was click-click-clicking away with her knitting needles, working at the Divorce Blanket here and there. 

And then today, 4 January, 2021--six years to the day that I made my choice--I opened up my front door to see a lumpy, bulky package on my doormat. And mere minutes later,  I was wrapped up in a colourful blanket, a physical manifestation of my sister's loves and hopes for me and a brighter future. 


It's a beautiful creation, knitted together with the yarn scraps of a dozen different strangers--folks who answered the call my sister sent out for some of their favorite textiles, along with hopes and well-wishes. It's soft and wraps perfectly around my shoulders, and on these chilly Southern Indiana nights, it's just the thing. And it's a reminder of my sister's belief in me, which never flagged, even when my own hope and faith did.  

she
has
been through 
hell. 
so believe me when
i say, 
fear her when she looks
into the fire and smiles. 
-e. corona

*Disclaimer: there are many kinds of hell. My hell is not your hell; there are many, many worse hells. The particular hell to which I refer above is probably neither the only hell, nor the worst hell, I will go through in my life, but it's the hell I am choosing to share at this moment. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Not a Bad Start

 Over the course of four decades, I've read a lot of books, and in so doing, have come across (and retained) a lot of interesting information and phrases. Pretty much all of them very old-timey or British in origin, and I've got a  weird-ass habit of dropping a lot of them into my everyday conversation, much to the amusement and sometimes bewilderment of my friends and colleagues. 

One of my favorite expressions is, "Be careful what you do in the New Year, because that's what you'll do all year." It's a silly superstition, for sure; also, rather quaint. Hell if I can remember where I picked this up from, or even if it's a legit superstition (as opposed to something some fiction writer made up, all rando and willy-nilly like.) However, I've used this expression for a good long while now, and you know, it must have taken root, because last night, when conversing with my friend Brian about my plans for the New Year (spoiler alert: I Stayed The Fuck At Home), he chuckled and said, "Well, what you do in the New Year is what you'll do all year." 


Huh. What do you know? People actually listen to me sometime. 

Anyway, I do subscribe to this superstition, even if only because it encourages deliberate and mindful choices about how I spend my time and my energy. And this rather bodes well for the year ahead. I spent my New Year in the following lovely ways: 

  • Chatting with friends and loved ones on the phone and Facebook and Google Hangouts and Skype, trying to consciously cultivate a warm and loving support network
  • Gazing out at the spookily foggy weather

  • Making a delicious breakfast casserole and sharing some with my downstairs neighbor (thanks again, Brandi, from saving me from eating all of it! PS--the leftovers maybe taste even better, especially with hot sauce and a dollop of sour cream) 

 

  • Brainstorming ideas to further grow my eldest sister's YouTube channel
  • Cuddling with my cats
  • Spending some time pondering both the past year and the year upcoming with a tarot spread
  • And otherwise just generally enjoying a cozy, quiet day in my home. The pandemic continues on, and I know it will be many more months before enough of us are vaccinated to really resume something akin to life in The Before Times. But the turning of the year somehow kicked me into a place of hope. I feel like once we are over the entirely predictable winter surge, we'll be in a better place and can really move forward. The end is far, far away, but it is in sight. 
  • So, the most important things that I did today, that I will hopefully do all year? I behaved responsibly, and I cultivated hope, and I remained safe. Stay strong, folks, and cultivate hope. That's what will help us through this. 


Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Best of 2020. Which will be a reach.


But before I peace out of 2020...

Best Book I Read:

It's funny, you'd think with me having to Stay the Fuck at Home so much this year, I'd have read more. But for some reason my concentration was shot, and I only ready about 40 books this year. And very few of them really stuck out in my memory--which is nothing against any of the books. Some of them were really quite fine and buzz generating! The Girl with the Louding Voice and Shelter in Place both helped transport me. But oddly, it was America's First Daughter--a fictionalized account of the life of Thomas Jefferson's daughter--that I consider the most memorable, if not the best. I read it about a month before the elections, and it was oddly comforting to read about the toxic politics and governmental dysfunction and party politics that seem to threaten our country from the outset. 


Best Purchase I Made: 

If one good thing came out of this shitshow of a year, it's that I cooked so much this year. Like, more than I have collectively in my entire life. Which tells us less about how much I cooked this year, and more about how little I cooked (i.e., functioned as an adult) in the previous years of my life. Anyway, along with the cooking came the acquisition of several bits and bobs of cookware, including this lovely Dutch oven. It's no Le Creuset, but I'm not fancy enough of a cook to need that at this point; this is versatile enough for me. I've made breads, curries, chilis, soups, and pot pies in this, and my god, I do feel adult-y when I'm  hovering over this pot, stirring away.  

Best Recipe I Cooked: 

Am I actually starting to enjoy cooking? Perhaps, although I will never be anything more than a barely-competent cook. However, I don't enjoy meal planning, so I rely mostly on Dinnerly for my weeknight meals. Nonetheless, I've enjoyed finding and trying out new recipes, and the one that I enjoyed the most this year was this (surprisingly healthy) shrimp and veggie skillet recipe. It was colourful and flavorful and rather delicious.

Best TV Show I Binged: 

Back in January, almost a year ago (!!!) when I was laying on my couch, possibly dying of Coronavirus (I'll fight you on this one; I know I had it), I had very little energy or will to live, so finally settled down and binged all of the existing episodes of The Crown. It's a truly magnificent show, and yes, I am biased because I'm an anglophile, but fuck you. It's great. It's beautiful and heartbreaking and thought-provoking (Queen Elizabeth may be a bit of a cold fish, but goddamn, she knows her duty, and you cannot underestimate that, these days), and it's kind of perfect that I was able to bookend the year by watching the latest season in December when I was laid up with a bad back.

Best Song I Listened To: 

Back in early July, one morning I was minding my own business and walking a letter to my mailbox, I suddenly felt my ankle turn. This has happened countless times before, but something about this time was different. Even as I was falling, I was thinking, Oh, this is going to be a bad one. I smacked my head into the sidewalk; my left cheek hit the cement and I heard my front tooth make contact with the unyielding surface. Immediately I tasted blood; I had bitten clean through my upper lip. Somehow, I hauled myself up and posted the letter and walked back to my apartment, badly shaken and tearful and thinking, Not my tooth. Please god, don't let me have broken my front tooth. I managed to actually do work through a lot of the day, but I was legitimately traumatized, and it kickstarted me into one of my spirals. By the evening, I was exhausted, drained, shaky, I had a bruise and scrape on my cheekbone, a busted lip, and a tiny chip in one of my teeth. On top of that, my mind was doing what it always does with even the slightest encouragement (or, rather, discouragement): I'm clumsy and worthless and can't even walk in a straight line and I'm falling apart and I'm an ugly incompetent mess and everything is awful. I poured a glass of wine and sat in bed, and started to listen to the Decemberists song Everything is Awful. I sniffled and wept a little, and then Spotify decided to intervene and move onto another song, unbidden. And suddenly I was listening to a defiant, angry, brave, female voice bellowing...

"And sometimes when you're on, you're really fucking on 
And your friends they sing along and they love you
But the lows are so extreme that the good seems fucking cheap
And it teases you for weeks in its absence
But you'll fight it and you'll make it through
You'll fake it if you have to
You'll show up for work with a smile
You'll be better and you'll be smarter
And a better daughter or son and a real good friend
You'll be awake, you'll be alert, 
You'll be positive though it hurts..."

I sat there, with tears pouring down my battered face, listening to this anthem, and I have never felt more seen and validated in my whole goddamn messy life. And that night, Rilo Kiley's "A Better Son/Daughter" became my Song of 2020. 

Best Piece of Clothing I Wore: 

Ugh, SPORTS BRAS. DUH.

Best Picture to Sum Up My 2020:



Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Weirdest. Christmas. Ever.

...But, by golly, it was still Christmas. Having made the decision to lean into the holiday as best as I was able, I went right ahead and did what I could to enjoy things. 

On December 23: RUMBALLS!

Most years since returning home, I've spent the weekend before Christmas in Indy with my friend Jessica; during which, we partake in some sort of iconic Indy Christmas activity, eat an obscene amount, make rumballs and get drunk, and then watch cheesy holiday movies. This year, for obvious reasons, most of this couldn't happen...but Jessica, game as ever, joined me for an evening of making rumballs, drinking, chatting, and whatnot via Google Hangouts. 

Fuck you, 2020. I still win. And my rumballs are better than yours. 


December 24: It wasn't a white Christmas, per se, but it was balls-shrivelingly cold, and snow fell on and off throughout the day. I listened to Christmas music and drove about town, delivering Christmas gifts and noms to people. And, for the first time ever, I went caroling. Not, like, going from door to door with a bunch of people, singing. But standing around, with three other women in Bryan Park, freezing our tits off as we sang to ourselves and eachother. In masks. 6 feet apart. We crooned. We warbled. At times, we belted out tunes with gusto, if not pitch or rhythm or harmony. If we opted not to sing a song, we had to do an interpretive dance. It was awkward as hell, and delightful, and I very much hope we can do it again next year, with more of us, without masks. I'm sure the other park-goers wish no such thing.

December 25:  You know, I could focus on the fact that I spent this Christmas alone. But instead, I'm going to focus on the fact that this was, I think the very first Christmas of my life, that I spent alone. How freaking lucky am I? But even so, I don't feel like I was alone this Christmas: my day was filled with phone calls, Skype dates, text and Facebook messages, cards and letters and emails. And, later in the day, I tuned in for the Queen's annual Christmas Speech. Her possibly immortal Royal Highness said, "Of course, for many, this time of year will be tinged with sadness: some mourning the loss of those dear to them, and others missing friends and family-members distanced for safety, when all they'd really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand. If you are among them, you are not alone and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers."

Then I cried a little. And then, because I'm a demented magpie, I got distracted by the old broad's brooch.



Thus ended Christmas 2020. While it could certainly have been so much worse, at least for me, I can heartily say that I hope we never see its like again. This year took a lot out of us, and this holiday, even moreso. We've made it through, and we'll keep making it through, but we've got a long way to go. 

Stay safe, friends, and keep faith. Merry everything, and happy always.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A Letter To You

'

The thing that I have had the most difficulty processing during The Longest Apocalypse Ever is time. I've remarked on it in several entries before, so I won't bang on about it much now. Suffice to say...one moment, I'm doing battle with the Christmas tree ("Fuck you, Christmas tree! I win!") at the beginning of December, the next moment it's two days before Christmas and where the hell did December go?

(Although, let's be real: I've been saying shit like that for years now. It comes with the whole getting older thing, I reckon.)

Anyway, December has flown past, basically a blur of 10000 work emails, many nights of insomnia, and a ridiculous amount of YouTubers' silly, cozy vlogmas videos. However, I've been relatively engaged in this holiday season; I even managed to send out a few scores of Christmas cards, each with a personal message. Even a couple of actual, handwritten letters!

Writing out, and addressing, those cards was simultaneously very melancholy, yet oddly joyous. Each time I wrote someone's name, I conjured up a memory of our shared past, a vision of our potential future: Dear Jain (one day, we will hang out in your living room and once again bemoan the obliviousness of men); Dear Dotty (When this is over, we will gather together at Divvy and eat overpriced appetizers and share memories of our common ancestors); Dear Connie-Mom (when flying is safe again, I will come to California and see you and let you mother me); Dear Jessica and Eric (maybe by this time next year we will be together, in person, laughing at cheesy Hallmark movies); Dear Beth (I cannot wait to hold your baby, who is not so much of a baby anymore) Dear Casey (remember when we baked cookies and practiced for our Latin finals while John the Saint brandished those silly oven mitts?)...on, and on, and on. Word after word, sentence after sentence, I labored over those missives and sent such powerful love to those who have peopled my life, who chose to keep me in their lives, who I miss so much, and love more fiercely each day. A fucking plague may keep us physically apart, but so help me god, it won't keep folks out of my heart and mind.

Keep Buggering On, friends. 

Monday, December 7, 2020

A Very 2020 Christmas: The One Where I Decorate the Tree and Bore You to Death

So, back about fifteen years ago, in early September, I hatched a plan that, in retrospect, was about the most unrealistic thing I could have concocted. I promised myself that if there wasn't a resurgence of the plague come Christmas, I'd drive down to Florida to spend the holidays with my sisters.

Ha. Ha. Ha. (Definitely not Ho ho ho.)

For a number of reasons that should be obvious, this isn't happening. The plague is resurging. I work with people almost every day, and I would rather not put my family at risk. And even if I were completely isolated, I'm not an asshole. The winter is slowly closing in on us here in the Midwest, and since it's no longer easy to socialize out-of-doors, people are doing exactly what anyone could have predicted: they're being dumbasses, inside. 

Anyway. I digress. My point is: Boy howdy, I will sure as shit be home for Christmas. 

It's hard. I love Christmas, weird little heathen that I am. I love the decorations and lights and coming up with lovely ideas for gifts, and I love the songs and parties and foods and glittering, glowing, sparkling joy. I even love the rather melancholy, but entirely inevitable, time of reflection that comes along with the lowering grey skies and the year ending, when memories of family and friends who have moved on or passed on out of my life crowd into my head once more. 

When I made the decision not to go to Florida for Christmas, I sulked and stewed inwardly for a second, and resented anything and everything about 2020. And then I thought, "2020 doesn't have to ruin Christmas. I can still enjoy this fucking holiday. If I don't, that's on me." So, I'm going to lean into this extraordinarily fucked-up holiday season as much as I can. 

One of my favorite traditions is decorating my tree. One day, I'll have two Christmas trees--one of those shiny sparkly bougie themed trees for show, and a hodge-podge tree with all of my lovely ornaments and bits and bobs I've acquired over the years. But for now, all I have is a scraggly old tree with a hideous assortment of ornaments. I usually have a friend or two over to keep me company, and as I put up the various ornaments, I share the backstory of some of them. This year, of course, I can't do that. 

Except I can. With all y'all!


This is the latest addition--my brother-in-law sent this along
 to me, and if isn't perfect, I don't know what is!

When my sisters and I were wee mites, we would play with the ornaments
on our tree, much as though they were dolls and accessories. Our cousin
worked for Avon, and provided us with a magical treasure trove of Avon-
issued ornaments to aid us in our earnest flights of fancy. One of our favorites 
from this trove was the set of "Nutcracker" characters; we'd spend countless 
hours, over many Decembers,  with these crude wooden ornaments clutched 
in our fumbling, childish hands. Of course, they disappeared during the various
 traumas and upheavals of our adolescence, but about 12 years ago, Eldest Sister 
scored a vintage set on Etsy and brought this magic back into my life. 

Each year, my friends Michael and Anna give me an ornament with
 a picture of their son, my "nephew" Wesley. These pictures always 
remind me of how we choose our family, and how lucky I am that 
these lovely people chose me for their family, too. 

One of my ex-boyfriends...we'll call him Mr. Robinson...gave this to 
me, back in 1998. It was originally part of a set (with Mickey, of
 course), but Mickey has long since departed. Or perhaps I showed 
Mickey the door, much was I eventually did with Mr Robinson? 
Also, I don't give two hoots about Disney shit, but the boyfriend 
sure did. I'm still not sure why he got me this, but I know why I keep 
it. Mr Robinson passed away five years ago now, and as problematic
 as our relationship was, it feels wrong to forget it, or him. 

Back in 2002, I was living with another boyfriend (John the Saint). It 
was my first apartment; it was the first man I shacked up with; it was the 
first time I had my very own Christmas tree. It was a beautiful (thematic!)
 tree, decorated in silver and white and ice-blue and lavender. This spray
 of stars is the only remaining ornament from that gorgeous tree...and 
close to the only thing that remains of my time with John the Saint. 

Speaking of boyfriends (again), this is an ornament that I purchased 
back during Indiana 1.0, in 2004, when I was shacked up with my boyfriend
 at the time (Mr. Indiana, AKA the previously mentioned Michael.) In the
 great scheme of my life, it was a fairly short-lived relationship, and it
 ended with me throwing out or giving away most of my belongings, packing 
whatever was left in my car, and driving to California to launch my career
 as a librarian. What on earth made me decide, Yes, I will save this ornament, 
but not my pots and pans, and move it with me all the way to California? 
No fucking clue, but I'm glad I did!

Speaking of California...this little dangly, wobbly...crawdad? bay bug? came 
into my life around 2007, given to me by one of the first friends I made when
 I came to California. Kristin and I both had (and hopefully still have) a ridiculously
 absurd and quirky sense of humor, and every year, when I unpack this little guy, 
I laugh as much as I did when I first got him. Damn, I miss Kristin. 

My time in California (along with my marriage) finally and thankfully
 came to an end, and I returned home to the Midwest. I was so freakin' glad 
to shake the California dust from my shoes,  but I still stayed in touch with 
some of the folks I had befriended there. My first Christmas back home, one 
of those California friends orchestrated a Secret Santa exchange with all of 
her Facebook friends, and I decided to participate...only to be gifted, by some
 well-intentioned stranger, these ornaments. At the time I unwrapped them,
  I maybe shuddered a little bit, but enough time has passed now that when I
 put these ornaments on the tree, I smile and remember that past life and don't
  curse all those who peopled it to the bowels of hell. (Also, they live in 
Palm Springs, so I'm pretty sure they're already in hell.)

Whenever I travel to someplace new (oh, travel! remember that?) 
I like to pick up a Christmas ornament to remind me of my travels.
 In 2019, I journeyed to Australia, and picked up this little guy. 
It's a cassowary. Otherwise known as a Murder Bird. 



The end result of all these ornaments, gathered over various lives within my life. And 
yes, that is a mask you see, dangling towards the bottom of the tree. Fuck you, 2020.


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

I Got Lost In My Travels: Australia, Part 2

Flying across the world is no joke--particularly when your flight requires you to jump ahead in time. Brian and I departed from LAX on a Saturday evening, and when we shuffled, zombie-like, off our plane  into the Brisbane Airport 14 hours later, it was Sunday night. The flight itself had not been awful--on the contrary, it was probably the best flight I've ever been on, with plenty of food and wine and leg room and enforced, guilt-free idleness. But a 14 hour flight is a 14 hour flight--plus, as much as possible, we fought hard against the temptation to sleep on the plane. The reason being: we had a 12 hour layover in Brisbane before the final leg of our journey to Cairns the following morning, which was  a freaking awesome opportunity to try to orient ourselves to Australia time. We rented a hotel room adjoining the airport, and collapsing into the bed was utter bliss. 

Too soon, we had to wake up for our next flight, but we were nearly there, nearly to the real start of the vacation. As we left the hotel, I hounded Brian about putting on sunblock--"Highest rates of skin cancer in the world, dude!"--but when we stepped outside and took in the fact that the sun had not yet even risen, Brian simply smirked and shook his head, and I knew I would be in for many years of mockery. 

Three hours later, as our flight began to descend over Cairns, I happened to glance out the window--my eye had caught an interruption in the endless blue of the Coral Sea. Below us was a massive reef. I nudged Brian, and together we silently watched one reef, and then another, and then another, pass by far below, and for the first time, I grasped the sheer size of the Great Barrier Reef. And what we were seeing was only a tiny, tiny portion.


Cairns: The Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. My initial impressions were somewhat muted--travel and sunlight and heat and crowds often overwhelm me, and there was plenty of all of that! It's a bustling city, or at least it was a year ago. I suppose, a bit, it reminded me of a far-less-trashy Daytona Beach. And to be fair, most folks don't go to Cairns to go to Cairns; it's a stopping off point before moving on to the really good stuff. And that's exactly what we used it for. We didn't waste a moment. The instant after we tumbled out of our cab, we hit the ground running--we got to our hotel and dumped our stuff and charged ahead. The next couple of hours we spent  exploring, getting some local currency, and grabbing a bite to eat, before heading to the Marina, where we took a ferry to Green Island. 




Not much to say about Green Island--it's a resorty-kind of island, catering to daytrippers and overnighters. We booked a brief excursion to there, simply because the idea of me not exploring the Great Barrier Reef on my first day was anathema. And it was worth it; we snorkeled a bit, and it felt a bit like an appetizer of things to come. And we got to spend some time stalking this little fella: 

 

Our time at Green Island was brief--perhaps mercifully so, as it really was crowded-- and after a few hours of snorkeling and walking about the island, we hauled our waterlogged bodies back onto the ferry, which soon deposited us back on the Mainland. Blissfully exhausted, we made our way back to the hotel for a bit of rest before we went out to dinner. 

Later that evening, we sat outside on the terrace of an Indian restaurant, and enjoyed a soft breeze finally start soothing away some of the heat of the day. We relaxed over our paneer masala, lamb vindaloo, and naan, watched the crowds of tourists pass by,  and agreed that no matter where one went, Indian food was delicious the whole world over. We managed to stay awake long enough to devour it all, and then stumbled back to our hotel for a few hours of sleep. 

(To this day, I resent the amount of time I had to spend on sleep when I was there. Anyone else feel like that about vacations?) 

Our next installment will find your intrepid heroine on the high seas, trying her best to befriend sharks and keep her cool whenever she finds Nemo.