Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The life for me

I am turning thirty soon and it has been unnerving me quite a bit. Okay, fine, to be fair I am turning twenty-seven in a month, but that's close to thirty you can't deny. Like every year of my life, however, when the day of my birth rolls around, I am downright jubilant and geared up for my usual princess theatrics. I have never felt dread about getting one year older, until this year. Sure, I am still reminding every one who will listen that my birthday is near, because I never waste a celebration, but I have been feeling more and more ominous about the number twenty-seven and how it reeks of being thirty's neighbor.
It is really no secret that a lot of people freak out about turning thirty because it seems like grown-up time and maybe we just don't want to grow up or have to start pretending we're more grown up and have our act together when in truth we don't.
All these feelings though about getting older and all the ideas I have had for myself since childhood, grandiose ideas of an incredibly worldly life seem to be pressing down on me and I ask myself constantly if I am where I want to be by twenty-seven and I freak out and answer no because I am ultra hard on myself.
It's not that I don't have great things and haven't done great things, heck by my childhood standards, I would count myself pretty darn fulfilled to have lived in New York City, made it onto a TV show, finally lost a lot of weight, ran a marathon and be in an adult functioning relationship with a man and happen to live near the mountains. So yeah. What the heck is my problem? Well, this picture about summed it up today.

That is it. Right there. That's why I hate the looming number twenty-seven and why I am feeling that all the other big things that are profound accomplishments don't add up because that one huge thing that I have also dreamt about since the fourth grade, being a writer, in the world of accomplished writers, not just the starving artist kind doesn't feel fulfilled yet. I don't feel like an adult in that respect. Sure I pursue writing in my free time, sure I talk about it incessantly, sure I bemoan that National Geographic doesn't beg me to come work for them, but to make money to pay pesky bills, I still waitress, or cashier, or scrub floors, or toilets and honestly it kills me a little more each day.
And when I clicked the picture on my tumblr it brought me to a link with tons of great quotes that made me feel a lot less bad about how many hysterical downright rotten fits I have had lately to anyone who will listen. Like this one:

"Your life is too short and too valuable to fritter away in work.
If you don’t get out now, you may end up like the frog that is placed in a pot of fresh water on the stove. As the temperature is gradually increased, the frog feels restless and uncomfortable, but not uncomfortable enough to jump out. Without being aware that a chance is taking place, he is gradually lulled into unconsciousness.
Much the same thing happens when you take a person and put him in a job which he does not like. He gets irritable in his groove. His duties soon become a monotonous routine that slowly dulls his senses. As I walk into offices, through factories and stores, I often find myself looking into the expressionless faces of people going through mechanical motions. They are people whose minds are stunned and slowly dying."
-Lewis Hyde

I felt this exact way in my last job and I feel it now in my new one, from retail to restaurants, I don't feel fulfilled but it pays the bills and I panic so I do it. I noted though, much like the brilliant Mr. Hyde suggested, that yesterday while in the grocery store buying milk, I tried to make eye contact with the cashier, possibly to smile at him or start a conversation, but he never once looked up from scanning groceries. Instead he seemed completely robotic and out of it. That look on his face reminded me of exactly what I have been feeling lately and what I aim to spend my life avoiding. Which brings me to another amazing quote:

"The greatest satisfaction you can obtain from life is your pleasure in producing, in your own individual way, something of value to your fellowmen. That is creative living! When we consider that each of us has only one life to live, isn’t it rather tragic to find men and women, with brains capable of comprehending the stars and the planets, talking about the weather; men and women, with hands capable of creating works of art, using those hands only for routine tasks; men and women, capable of independent thought, using their minds as a bowling-alley for popular ideas; men and women, capable of greatness, wallowing in mediocrity; men and women, capable of self-expression, slowly dying a mental death while they babble the confused monotone of the mob? For you, life can be a succession of glorious adventures. Or it can be a monotonous bore. Take your choice!"
-Neil Gaiman

And this:

“Without work, all life goes rotten, but when work is soulless, life stifles and dies.”
-Albert Camus

I could go on and on with the incredible quotes I found in my reading but I think my point is made. That exact feeling that Hyde, Gaiman and Camus talk about is the exact panicked soul-sucking feeling I have been having of late, in regards to my birthday, my profession or lack thereof and defining my own adulthood.
Until I realized this: I am limiting my own belief. That twenty-seven is practically thirty and thirty means it's all over folks. I can't succeed; I've missed the boat; it's too late. That's what I have been believing. Yep, I'm an idiot.
Some people are wild successes at their art at twenty-two, like Taylor Swift and I commend her, but lots of people have not gotten it figured out at twenty-two or twenty-seven or even thirty seven.
J.K. Rowling, the richest female author to ever bloody live, didn't get Harry Potter published until she was in her thirties and this was after publishers continued to reject one of the most imaginative books ever written for an entire year! Rejecting J.K. Freaking Rowling?! Unfathomable.
So yeah, I should stop measuring my success by my age for starters and also maybe grow a pair like J.K. and send my manuscript to more publishers. Yes I have sent it two people in the writing world: an agent that was recommended to me who never responded back and one editor in New York who actually had the good grace to look it over, respond to me quite kindly and suggest what needed working on. It was a clear no but still, I put myself out there!
All this ranting is really just me working out in my mind this reoccurring immense overload of feeling I have been having about what I desperately yearn to do and what I am forced to do in the meantime to make money (anything in the customer service world) which feels like the scene in Hocus Pocus when the witches suck the soul out of the children and they slowly fade color and start to droop.
In working all this out today in my crazed and passion fueled mind, I studied up a lot on J.K. Rowling. Before she wrote Harry Potter she said that rock bottom became a solid foundation on which she rebuilt her life.

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than I was and began diverting all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.”

Thanks J.K. I needed that. As waitressing in a Faux French restaurant, saying Bonjour, then rattling off toast varieties while I dream of ripping off the noose (okay tie) I am forced to wear, does make me feel like a failure and so does having mountains of debt. But, the powerful thing about doing something I absolutely want no part of doing anymore, is that it makes my one purpose that nags at me incessantly, scream louder and longer in my ears, that a life filling salt and pepper shakers with my hands that were made for writing, is no life for me at all.
So in hopes of changing that, yeah I want to blog more, I need to finish my book, but also my very wise friend Sophia said something equally profound to me on her visit here recently.

"Quit saying you will write for free. Put a value on it."

She meant in regards to my desperate attempts to get any magazine or newspaper to consider me, even as an intern, but she was right. I have lost the value on my writing and in some small way would like to try and get it back. So if you notice that I have put a donations button at the bottom of my blog it is for that very reason. My writing is worth something to me and one day I aim to see it packaged in a book, on a shelf, with a price-tag, but in the meantime, of course I adore readers who want to celebrate my work with or without paying. But if you so choose to donate, (key word being donate, my blog will always be free) to my blog as supporting my hopes of joining the paid writers out there, then not only can you consider it my birthday present and celebration of not only twenty-seven being stupendous, but all the way up to thirty and every year beyond, also know that I thank you ever so graciously for continuing to come back time and again and read my words. For they do mean something to me and I am delighted if they mean something to you.

**And to read both of the incredibly moving articles that I quoted from in full detail, here are the links:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Scaredy Baby

After watching one too many episodes of Monsters and Mysteries in America and sufficiently scaring myself out of my wits--yes I am a huge wuss and that show and all its grade D reenactments has the power to render me nervy and skittish. Yeah the Devils Highway and Native American curses are not to be trifled with, people, no joke!--I immediately had to put on an episode of I Love Lucy that DC ever so kindly recorded for me on DVR.

Watching I Love Lucy has not only been my favorite TV show since childhood, but my go to when I am scared, that and singing Jesus loves me, like I did last night when I had a wretched nightmare and DC was not much help as I clutched his hair while he tried to shush me back to sleep like I was a lil five-year-old and my ghost dream wasn't earth-shattering at 3A.M. or something, when everyone knows 3A.M. is so the worst time of night to wake up, it's in all the horror movies, but whatever. I wanted all the lights on and of course I Love Lucy. I didn't ask for either, but he put on The Office which worked in a bind.
In college my rotten, scary-movie-pushing best friend, Ashley made me watch Pet Sematary before I was ready, (I would've never been ready for the record) causing me to sleep in my living room for nights on end with all the lights on and I Love Lucy blasting in the background. Nothing wretched can happen when Lucy is getting into hijinks, irritating Ricky and crying, wahhhhhhhhh to get her way.
And it was no different this time when instantly my first reaction to any kind of being scared, besides getting Lucy on, is to lift my feet from the floor and tuck them underneath me assuming that there's obviously something lurking under the couch now that I am aware I'm scared. See this is exactly why you shouldn't watch creepy stuff as a child because it comes back to haunt you the rest of your life, literally! Or I really am a giant five-year-old and normal adults stop being scared about something grabbing their feet at around sixteen. But hey, I have never claimed to be a normal adult and I take pride in that fact.
Anyway, this huge digression into how big of a scaredy wuss I am is to say, that I think I realized something watching Lucy flail herself about, rip at her hair and wine to Ricky for a part in his show: That all these years I have been chalking up my love of theatrical drama, exaggerations of all outlandish sorts, and grandiose proclamations as a product of my DNA. But I am beginning to suspect it may have started as a mirroring of my favorite redhead, watching her and idolizing her as a young girl, then well into adulthood. Heck, I want to name my first born daughter after her and have wanted that since I was about seven, so... I think it's safe to say I'm fond of the hilarious lil minx.

Either way though, whether it truly is in my DNA to love making a statement with lots of broad gestures and theatrics, or it is because I secretly, or not so secretly want to make just as much of an impact on the world as Lucy did, the comedic genius that she was, I still can't help but salute her time and time again, as my comfort, a recollection of childhood, and taker-awayer of all things frightening.

Oh Lucy, I just hope one day to be even a fraction as brilliant as you.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Harper's, Hemingway's & Redheads

It is the biggest conundrum of my life, my lack of belief in myself. I am at war with this one thing, this one festering wound gaping on the inside of my very being, at least 23 hours out of any given day. I don't know psychologically what it is about me wanting to sabotage myself at every turn, or stand in my own way, but I am a master at it. I've given myself ample practice after all, as I think I've believed the worst in myself since I was about six years old.

I have been giving a lot of thought lately about how to combat this hideousness that is self-doubt and complete disbelief and the answer seems so simple: maintain positivity, have faith, and stop rocking in the corner in fear and step into the murky, ominous waters of uncertainty--which is going after what I really want with the potential to fail--don't like that business--and let myself succumb to what will or will not be. So simple, sure. A piece of cake really, that I want to eat, speaking of cake, in my corner, while avoiding having to face big things. It's so much calmer in the corner with cake, though isn't it? Why ruffle the waters?

Because in actuality I fucking hate the corner I've put myself in (Dirty Dancing reference that I didn't mean to create, but roll with me here) and I abhor not being Pioneer Woman yet! Which is a blogger, writer, photographer, horse owning, cook book writing, TV show goddess and I loathe and love her at the same. damn. time. Ugh, why are all the best woman redheads? Ahem, my other hero, Lucille Ball, duh. Hmm, maybe that's it, I should go red again, and I have been fighting red for so long... gosh why did I never make that connection... Okay, I digress.

So my boyfriend and I got in quite a few little (okay and big) tiffs yesterday on this very issue, the issue of my disbelief that is. It was all me, projecting onto him, my own runaround with myself, my feeling that I am lacking and being scared, so on, so forth. Then when he confronted me, I ever so gracefully attacked like a caged and prodded wild thing. Claws officially out, baby.

Whenever DC says something I don't want to hear, literally my first response is to get away from him. If we are sitting on the couch and I am leaning on him, I lift my head and move to the other side of the couch. If I am standing in the kitchen and he's in the living room, I turn around or walk out of the room. If we are in bed and he has his arm around me, I try and squirm out from under him and get to the farthest reaches of the bed with my head turned.

I think that if I get myself far enough away and curled into enough of a ball he will sense I am not responding well and stop. He doesn't. It's crazy but when he pushes me, so far out of my comfort zone that I don't want to be near him, I want to plug my ears and scream at him to stop, I want to cry and I do, I am so mad, so combative, yet I respect him so much (after the fact, admittedly, in the moment I kinda can't stand him, sorry honey) for saying what I won't deign to let others say to me. Almost all of my tactics work on other people, if my mom is pushing me and I don't want to be pushed, crying seems to work, if my best friend is, I can easily agree with her and say I know, I know, and placate her enough that I am understanding and moved to action (which sometimes I am and sometimes I am not) but usually she doesn't go for the jugular.

Last night DC went for the jugular and I was so stinking, irrationally mad. I thought I will show you, you rotten pusher! I will write my novel and it is going to rival Augusten Burroughs, Chelsea Handler and your precious J.K. Rowling! How dare you! How dare you push me to the brink of my own belief and then let me fall! Well, by golly, it worked! He is a sneaky lil shit, as I have told him that nothing works wonders like someone not believing in me. Again, psychologically I don't know what that says about me. And for the record, none of his pointed questions even insinuated disbelief, they were just ugly truthful questions that were very hard for me to evade, like, "What do you seriously want to be?" I purposefully answered artist because I knew he was hitting close to home and if I said writer he would ask me when the last time I wrote was. Oh I was so onto him, but still, he is no amateur either, so he dealt quickly and efficiently with my sidestep and still got himself back around to the question I didn't want to be voiced, "How much writing have you gotten done since moving here? You talk about when you sell your novel, but it's always a distant whimsical thing? When are you going to do it?"

And boom, dismantled. He has hit my Achilles heel and I am done. And at this point I have tried, very unsuccessfully I might add to get as far away from him as possible. But he's onto my game and is holding fast. If he had let go, I would have fled. Honestly I was contemplating stealing his keys and making a mad dash for the mountains, that's how much I did not want to have that conversation with him, or anyone. Heck I purposefully avoid having that very conversation with myself 99% of the time, until even I have become a pro at hiding in the wooded depths of my own soul. I am a very tricky beast, that's for sure.

The thing about me is I can't be babied. Do I love it when I am babied? A lil bit. On adult things that I loathe doing, like my taxes--Mommmmm, fix it! Or the five year old in me that probably will never go away--getting ADD in a museum after an hour looking at old bones and tugging on DC'S shirtsleeve, I can't look at any more, I want an ice cream cone!

But really for the most part I love when people expect more of me and push me to rise to the occasion, for they are seeing something I am not recognizing in myself and that is I am a heck of a lot tougher than I give myself credit for. That's why Bob Harper and I got on so well; sure he absolutely pumped me up about my strengths and believed in me, but certainly as the sun rises in the East would he pulverize me in a workout, not tolerating a wuss out on on myself for one second and I honestly appreciated that.

Moral of the story, here, as livid as I was last night being challenged on my dreams and belief system, accompanied by all my histrionics and evasion maneuvers, now in the fresh light of day, I can deeply appreciate that DC would not back down just because I cried, pulled away, sulked for awhile and refused to answer certain questions, because look what it accomplished! Here I am writing. And as furious as I was for being made to so boldly introspect what I was doing, I have an even greater fury today to prove to not only DC but myself that if a writer is what I claim to be, then maybe I shouldn't talk about writing anymore, maybe I should just do it. Which leads me to my main man Ernest and this quote I have on the side of a writing box my mom gave me for Christmas one year:

The writer must write what he has to say, not speak it.

So I would like to salute the Harper's, Hemingway's and daring redheads of this world for doing bold and wondrous things and making me want to stand among your ranks. And for the record, DC was my Harper last night.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

And I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before

Today is my sixth-month anniversary with this real important fella. Besides noting the enormity as a nice solid milestone in any relationship, it's also the first time I have made it to said milestone with any man and, honestly it feels more exciting than my birthday. And if you know me at all, you know I still love celebrating my birthday as much as a five year old with a handful of tickets at Chuck E. Cheese, after two slices of pizza and a mouthful of cake, yeah that kind of fervor. In short, it's a big freaking deal.

Our story is a unique one and could probably fill a novel at this point, and no I won't do that to you, yet, anyway, but I do want to tell you a little about him. The thing about DC, as you may have heard me refer to him, his real name is Ryan, but I rarely call him that, unless I am talking about him to his mother or trying to get his attention rapidly in Ikea, is that he is the best man I have ever known and I have been lucky enough to know a lot of pretty great men: My dad, brothers, grandfathers, uncles, of course among those ranks, and even male friends, but none like him, and none who have ever loved me and ever so patiently shown me their love over and over again when I don't deserve it or don't believe it. In fact that is how our whole relationship began, with his patient persistence in showing me his love.

He saw me on The Biggest Loser and got quite taken with me and my snappy gumption, charm and unbelievable wit (okay snappy gumption, charm and unbelievable wit are my words not his, but that's the gist) and reached out to me. What ensued was a nine-month friendship and courting in which I repeatedly shot him down and put the kibosh on his advances, while pursuing someone else that I was in love with but who didn't love me in quite the same way. I can be a real stubborn arse when I want to be. It's one of my helpful and not so helpful traits, depending on the situation. I will say in this situation it was helpful, because by the time October rolled around I began to see a lot of instances adding up where DC went to every effort to make me happy and take care of me, while I was choosing to stay alone and heartbroken.

Did DC send me a Target gift card when I was wretchedly sick in New York, couldn't afford a cup of OJ, must less medicine, having all of two pennies in my account? Yep, he did that.
Did he bail me and my sister out of a very scary situation in Brooklyn when I was losing my mind with anxiety and far from home and again, penniless? He sure did.
Did he answer the phone at 1 a.m. when I was going through my worst insomniac period of my life, just so I could cry about another guy? The answer is yes.
Did he forgive me and still want to be with me when after a week of finally dating after 9 months of pursuit I broke up with him, because I still wasn't sure I was over my last love? Not only did he forgive me, still cheer me on in my crazy life endeavors at the time like saying I was joining the Navy or going on a six-month pilgrimage, but he still wished me the best and was kind to me. He's insane right? By golly, I wouldn't have been kind to me! I would have plotted my demise, swore off my fickle nonsense til the end of time, and probably hired a witch doctor to put a curse on my head. You get the point. At this juncture is when I began to see that yeah, maybe he was insane for still liking me or even giving a flying fig what became of me, but I too was insane for pushing him away at every possible turn when all he had tried to do for nine months was love me.

I had my grand epiphany and took the break-up back. Did he tell me to take a hike, punish me, or tell me I missed my opportunity? Of course you know the answer to that. And a week later he spontaneously drove up from Virginia to take me on a week long road trip/official first date to New York to pack up my things and then take me to Niagara Falls because I casually mentioned I had always wanted to go there. It was about seven hours out of the way.

Now before you pull out your barf bag, with all the romantic goo and go fine, you wretch, you got one of the good ones, good for you, also know this:

He swears like a bloody sailor and when I mention this he combats it with,
"Aren't you the one who wants to be dating a sea captain?"
"Um I didn't say those words exactly... I like their dapper hats and beards, but ease your roll with the F-bombs. I am a lady!" Psh, no I'm not, but still, I like saying so.
"You said you wanted to be dating a lobster-man. Lobster-men probably talk like this."
Fine, so I've started a swear jar for him that I never keep up with.

He also thinks he's ruler of the road and every other driver out there is an idiot and comments on this every time we're in the car ever, setting my teeth on edge.
He likes sports a great deal more than I do and listens to sports talk radio in the morning, yuck. But to be fair, that's the only time he doesn't let me monopolize the radio.
He can be such a square and has a real fear of trespassing, so weird, and likes to plan and plot and account for things all. the. livelong. day and be absurdly early everywhere, including to my 6:35 yoga class, in which we arrive at 5:45 just so I can scowl at him because heaven forbid I do an extra workout before my workout.
He has an obscene collection of Tiger Woods-y polos. Okay, fine! I know that doesn't matter much, but he looks so much hotter in flannel. It's just a fact, but whatever.
He is an extreme know-it-all and beats me constantly at games of all sorts and well, I don't enjoy either of those things much.

But at the end of the day, when I am my utter worst, when I am in a tizzy over not going on a walk with him, when I cry over something little, when I get mad that his plotting, planning ways have rushed me or off-set my hippie balance, he again, doesn't get mad or tell me I am being ridiculous or roll his eyes at me. I can count on two fingers the times he has even gotten slightly stern with me and both times I was dumbfounded into speechlessness and then he apologized if he hurt my feelings. It's me, my feelings get hurt if someone looks at me wrong, so why is he apologizing? Because he just accepts me. I can be my absolute craziest self and never feel judged, contrarily I feel more accepted and sure of his love.

I read this quote and thought it was so well put:

Love is the result of appreciating another's goodness.

I know DC somehow appreciates all of my goodness, despite my constant histrionics and flair for drama and yes, despite his road rage and meticulousness I appreciate his goodness, because he is not in short supply.

And I write all this, simply to try in some small way to show him how much I appreciate him, his love and his role in my life not only for the past six months, but the nine before that.

I love you, my darling.

Here's to six more, then six more after that... Happy anniversary.