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Am a monster that I don’t want this? It’s supposed to be the dream: husband, house, kids. But it’s not my dream. I don’t deny anyone else’s joy in this world, but that doesn’t mean that I need it to complete my life. This week, surrounded by the dream, I just want to scream. Noooo! This is not the only way to live. My dream is for a creative life of simple pleasures and complex imagination and magic and love. There is—there must be—more than one way to be complete. I know that this way would kill me.
The flip side of yesterday’s rant: I miss leaves. I miss spending an afternoon raking them into a pile and jumping into it and laughing. I miss watching someone discover this joy for the first time. I miss walking around the block with a wagon and having it feel like a real journey. I miss having a neighborhood where the kids know each other and the parents wave at each other across the park. I miss living with people who I call family. I’ve never had these things. I seek a life without these things. But I miss them anyway.
Now that I’m leaving, I am starting to feel what I came here for. I am in mourning and overwhelmed with loss. It’s that old emptiness—as though my insides have been scooped out with a melon baller and replaced in the form of an attractive fruit salad. Everything is there, but rearranged so that it only slightly resembles what it really is. Eventually it will settle into something that I can use to move forward. For now, I am merely presentational. Squirt some lemon juice on me, cover me with aluminum foil and check back in a few days.
The last weeks have overwhelmed me and finally left me so empty that I have no choice but to take charge. I am in the driver’s seat now, of my own solar-powered dream. This is my road to follow and deviate from as I see fit. From exhaustion comes energy. There is a place in my life for everything that I will ever need and I’ll know what I need when I find it. Each step at the right time. Writing tonight, a long bath, early to bed, yoga in the morning. That’s how this road is going to begin.
Small things that make me happy: plastic grapes, candlelight, bright colors, the love of a good cat, a hot fragrant bath, flirting, weather that is so comfortable that you don’t think about the weather, fall leaves, running into a friend on the street, waiting to see a really good movie, chocolate, hearing a great new song on the radio, singing, summer fruit, cooking, a brand new book, the anticipation of the first kiss, clean flannel sheets, a killer new pair of shoes, something small made just for me, really good coffee, and a couple hours at a neighborhood coffee shop.
Today the rain started. This is my fifth fall in Seattle and apparently once it starts you can expect it to continue, with only occasional reprieve, until March. This didn't bother me so much at first. It's never too cold and, while the constant gray can be depressing, as long as the sun comes out every week or so it's not too bad. Last year was the first that I even considered complaining about the weather. Maybe it was a harsher winter or maybe I've become acclimated, a true native, scornful of umbrellas.
Yes. I am talking about the weather.
Oh possibility, you are you! You are sitting across from me at the coffee shop and I am trying to read your signals, trying to discover your name. As we tell stories I try at opportune moments to meet your eyes and speak into them or read into them what they are saying to me. I think of an old flirtation technique I heard of where you’re supposed to look at the object of your desire and think about … but I laugh to myself before I can pull that one off. I prefer just to look at you, possibility.
She walks down the street looking at her feet, one then the other, meeting the sidewalk. She will not look up as she walks. She does not see the faces of the people who walk toward her; she knows them only by their shoes. There is the girl who always wears red sneakers and has a red star tattooed on the back of each ankle. There is the man who wears one black and one brown sock every day. There is the old woman who wears bedroom slippers in a rainbow of colors. She thinks of them as her neighbors.
Got together with the song girls last night. There were wine, cheese and grapes, good English tea and rice crackers. There was very little song, but that was there too. Mostly, there were my friends, a group of strong, intelligent, funny, and talented women, beautiful people who think that I am beautiful. We listened to music, sang some rounds, told stories, laughed and shivered together on the front porch when the smokers needed a cig. If had just a little bit of that every day for the rest of my life, I don’t think I could want for anything else.
What I said was “You know I’m just back in town from the funeral and I really don’t know which end is up. I’m kind of a mess right now. I know I can’t do it any Saturday or any weeknight. God, Sundays are kind of rough too. No one can really depend on me for anything for the next couple weeks. Call me in a few weeks. I won’t be hurt if you get someone else.”
Which was all true, but what I meant was “You broke my heart and I don’t really feel like doing you a favor.”
I told someone at work to "chill" today.
Hint: if you are non-English speaking scientist writing a paper which is being reviewed by a very-well-English speaking assistant for your plentiful grammatical mistakes, and said assistant is also answering phones, ordering supplies (including those all-important sugar laden snacks that you can’t walk down to the corner drugstore to buy on your own) and doing 4000 urgent tasks for you and 50 other idiot savants every day, then perhaps you should give that assistant more than 20 minutes before you start harassing her about finishing your goddamn work.
Bonus hint: spell check.
This is kind of embarrassing. I’ve always been the kind who is attracted to the whole person. The men that I like are quirky, funny, intelligent, interesting, not universally recognized as hot. So I’m in line for coffee, when a dark handsome Italian stranger meets my eyes and says in a soft faintly accented voice “excuse me.” He looks at me with approval. My heart and jaw drop simultaneously. I stutter, blush, make way for him to pass, refuse to look at him again. I think about him all day. I’m trying to explain this to my sense of myself.
I started a new scandal at work today. Someone opened a communal candy bag, ate the candy, and left the empty wrapper inside. I was loopy and bored so I wrote an Onion style article about the incident and sent it out over office e-mail. I got immediate replies and several people spent the afternoon in heated e-mail exchange. Accusations ran rampant. Personal remarks were made, about 90% joking. Me, I didn’t say another word. The joy of office politics is that—if you’re smart enough not to care—someone is already to fight your most petty battles for you.
I’ve noticed a lot of my words in the past few days have come from a mean and petty place. All of my worst instincts are jumping up and demanding to be heard. I’ve covered pretty much everything except self pity and I’m about one more vodka tonic away from that one. I know that these things are part of me. I know that they are just as valid and need to be expressed just as much as my best qualities. But I just don’t like them very much. And when I see myself this way, I don’t like me.
I saw a movie after work today, I won’t say which one, that made me feel like my life itself could be a movie. The colors of the rainy night harmonized as though they were shot by a cinematographer. At the moment that I opened my umbrella, or when I jumped off the curb in the rain with a definitive pop, I felt—felt not heard—a chord of music. My steps moved in rhythm with the world and I felt that, even though there is nothing momentous in my life right now, it could be right around the corner.
I see my watery reflection in the window of the coffee shop: pale face hiding behind a suggestion of wild dark hair and black turtleneck sweater. Today I am my surroundings, part of the landscape: Seattle girl, Capitol Hill variety. Look how she reads and sips from her latte. Notice the pen and notebook at her side. Curious is the presence of a red umbrella on the ledge next her, indicating that she is not native to the area. Her diet consists of tofu and phad thai. Her aspirations are artistic. Her politics are leftist. She has no mating call.
I realized before the show tonight that up until that moment, I hadn’t spoken to another human being all weekend except to order coffee and movie tickets. I know that reclusive seed within myself, the one that cocoons in my apartment for days without thinking a thing of the outside world and then is shocked when hit with a sudden overpowering loneliness.
“Why hasn’t anyone called me?” I say, pulling the blankets up over my head and reaching for the cat. His purring comforts me because it means that at least one other creature realizes how very alone I am.
I made big progress on small things tonight. Washed my quilt. Sorted laundry. Organized the neglected paperwork. Cleaned the bathroom. Put all of the old clothes that I still have to sort through in one corner of the room. Made a list of small things that I can buy for the apartment to make this space feel beautiful again. Working on the momentum. I’ve had a bizarre and unreasonable inability to be a grown up about this kind of thing for the last few months. It feels good to do them out of something other than panic. It feels clean.
This is a purge of things that make me want to scream:
Stupidity, uber-coolness, no good auditions, building castles in the air while sitting on one’s ass with a beer, lies that are supposed to make me feel better, laptops at the bar, refusing to share, non-committal dude behavior, what’s in for me-ism, feeling fat and unsexy, piles of paper with no place to put them, inertia, big life-controlling machines, small life-controlling doubts, lack of imagination, greed, storms without thunder, why the hell does anyone care about J Lo, and where’s my damn henna?
Tomorrow: In with the good air.
Now I summon all those things that keep me from jumping out of windows:
Improvising musicals about stealing a car, intriguing compliments, friends who look out for me, laughing so hard that it hurts, my cat curled next to me when I sleep, cheerful connected banter, the moon shining through my window, loud angry girl music, interesting color combinations, human creations that challenge my vision of the world, unexpected kindness, a hot bath with smelly stuff, the Pacific ocean, imagination, my sense of humor, small surprises, huge epiphanies, thunderstorms, fresh summer fruit, and chocolate.
Yesterday: out with the bad air
Last night, around midnight, I heard a train whistle. The nearest railway is on the other side of a noisy urban area, maybe a mile away. The city noises I hear are usually from police sirens, news helicopters, or ambulances going to one of the hospitals. It’s pretty unusual for a train whistle to make it through the din. When I lived in the country sometimes a train would come through in the middle of the night and the noise, in all of that silence, would scare me out of sleep. Funny how it seems equally out-of-place in both places.
Every day at work I am flooded with questions: Can you fill the candy dish? Where are my copies? Will you read this for me? Today the questions came from a different source, messages asking about who I am: What kind of coffee do you order? What makes you happy? How do you love? I had no time to answer them, but thinking about them made it easier to answer the first set. I am not a candy filling, coffee making, 50 wpm minute typing, phone answering, proofreading machine. I am something else. Ask away, I already know the answer.
I feel as though I am approaching a sea change. There was a shift in my cells this week. To which of the following factors shall I attribute it?
a) Singing that amazing song about stealing a car at improv rehearsal
b) My new purple hippy shower gel containing essential oils to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder
c) My much cleaner apartment
Or is it merely that after a long period of gestation some of the pieces are coming together? Happiness may not be about finding what is missing but about finding what is already there. Is that trite?
I confess that I’m writing this a day late. Yesterday I wrote so much more than 100 words. I wrote every truth and honest fiction that was in my soul. I wrote the new version of the great American novel. I wrote mystery and romance and melodrama. I wrote the epic story of me for an audience of one who will never realize how true that is. I wrote through my insecurity and into my desire. I wrote words words words words words and because of them nothing and everything is changed. So I’m writing this a bit late. Sorry.
I am bursting. I am restless. I am foolish.
I should break something. I should cry. I should know better.
I would have risked. I would have laid bare. I would have loved.
I am disillusioned. I am questioned. I am confused.
I could quit. I could get back on that horse. I could say what the hell.
I believe in love. I believe in risk. I believe that I am still right.
He was sensuality. He was potential. He was a liar.
This is the end. This is the beginning. This is just more of the same damn thing.
Someone forwarded a message to me about Hu Jintao being named chief of the Communist Party in China. What followed was a political take off of the classic Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first” baseball routine. “Hu is the new leader of China” and so on. My Dad would have loved it. He used to have a tape of that bit and I memorized it and we would recite it together. So I thought about Dad today, just a little bit whenever I opened my e-mail. I thought about trying to find a way to forward e-mail to the dead.
I’m very good at being alone. I am not Bridget Jones. I have a horror of the Ally McBealification of single womanhood. I also have a great desire to love and be loved. It is natural for me to seek a partner in life. So I can follow “The Rules” or my rules. I can compromise my values or my desires. I can end up feeling trapped or feeling unloved. I can find myself alone on a Saturday night with a half empty bottle of wine and my favorite music playing, either dancing or crying. I don’t like this choice.
The city was quiet today, empty, stripped down to its skeleton of streets and buildings. Walking around Capitol Hill this afternoon, it felt like 3am with the lights turned on. If you weren’t in the suburbs eating turkey, it was a day to see what usually hides in shadow. I won’t tell you what I saw or what it made me think. I don’t think any less of you for not seeing it. But I feel so incredibly lucky, and yes, thankful, that I did. My city told me a secret today. I’m glad I was there to hear it.
Today, for a few minutes, I became one of the city’s secrets. Fortunately, today was the opposite of yesterday. The city was filled with people who had a purpose, myself included. I wanted to avoid downtown, so I went to the Jewish bookstore in Ravenna to buy Chanukah candles. Even there was a smaller microcosm of people getting ready for the holiday tonight, buying candles, or bagels from the kosher bakery across the street, and getting latke recipes from their neighbors. And I found myself, without reason or warning, crying there on the street surrounded by people. No one noticed.
So I’m sitting here in the window of my favorite coffee shop. A cute boy rides up on his bike, makes eye contact through the glass. He looked interesting. He was about to smile. I froze and turned away. Why the hell do I do that? It’s not intentional. Even if we didn’t speak, or he was actually smiling at the boy at the table next to me, or his own reflection, what is so frightening about a smile? I want to believe that I’m comfortable in my own skin but moments like this bring my insecurities into scary focus.
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