A Year Ago Today

A year ago today, I walked into the theater. Did I walk behind you, or in front? I can’t remember.

I was wearing that simple, sleeveless black dress, the one with the high neckline and the flouncy skirt. Boots and tights and a light purple cardigan looked nice. My crystal wand, strung on a necklace, dangled just below my breasts. I like to think I wear it to look cool, but I actually wear it because the quartz and amethyst calm me down, and the glass and metal binding them feels cool to my palm when I start to be too anxious. That night my nerves were aflame. It was our first real date.

Only a few weeks before, I’d experienced the panic of finding that a casual acquaintance was actually a kindred spirit. We listened to Neutral Milk Hotel and leaned against each other as we sang along to every word. On the way home that night, after hours of drinks and conversation and laughter, I looked out over the city skyline from the back of Wheels’ car and realized that my hand felt funny. I looked down, and saw with not a small amount of shock that your fingers and mine were intertwined. Like they were supposed to be that way. Like it was OK. It was not OK. But I did not remove my hand, any more than I told you that it was wrong, that I was not yours to touch. I just let my mind linger on the sparks that flew between our fingers. It needed the energy.

But that was before a year ago today, and before anyone is invited into the story. Let us fast-forward back to the intended beginning.

We walked into the theater. I think maybe I was in front. Did we stop so you could smoke a cigarette first? The black dress and purple sweater and boots were a good choice. I felt hip and sophisticated. I felt like we matched. What did you wear? Probably your black hoodie. And those amazing Union Jack Doc Martens, the ones you wore the week before at the comedy show.

Oh man, the comedy show. It could have been a date, had I not attended with Wheels (who did not tell me that you were coming, by the way). I saw you and your friends hanging out before the show, and instead of walking to your table to say hi, I made a beeline for the bar. I was still there, back to your table, waiting for my drink and rehearsing the proper nonchalant opening line when you walked up behind me. Don’t worry, you said, I had to take a Xanax. I laughed, and was immediately OK.

I think that was the last time I felt truly anxious around you. From then on, your presence has set me at ease. Just the sight of you makes me take a deep breath, unknots stubborn solid muscles in my neck, gives me the urge to let a smile scrape its way past my scowl. A year ago today, walking into the theater with you, there was just one thing that kept buzzing around in my mind, though – we hadn’t kissed yet. When would that be? What would that be like? Would it be tonight? I felt like a teenager again.

I can’t remember the shoes, the coat, the first cigarette. I can’t remember what we were drinking, though I’m relatively sure that you had a Jameson and water, and I had a Jameson on the rocks. We’re so predictable. I remember the balcony. We were sitting way up high, almost at the very top, so that we could step over the backs of our chairs and into the balcony bar area (so handy, we said). The people sitting just to the right of you were a mother and her teenage son. This is only important because of how annoyed she got with us after we talked all the way through the first act, and into the headliner, Broken Bells. We couldn’t stop talking! We still can’t.

As soon as we sat down, drinks in hand, I started to feel self-conscious. What next? We’d held hands that one time, but ever since then, we’d played it by the book. I hadn’t wanted to cheat on my boyfriend, and I especially didn’t want you involved in any kind of drama of that sort. I just wanted out of that relationship, and was simultaneously realizing that, even though it was completely idiotic and totally not the right timing, I also wanted in on you. Badly.

So now, three weeks after attending one concert as friends, we sat in a different part of the same theater, at a different concert, nursing the same drinks, thinking about becoming lovers. In my memory, it’s the longest three weeks in the history of the world. I used it to end a long relationship, figure out where to live, and listen the Spotify playlist you made for me overandoverandoverandover. Dry the River, The Nationals, Amanda Palmer, †††, Chvrches…

At the time, though, this night seemed much longer than those three weeks had – mostly because I couldn’t figure out how to get you to hold my hand again.

I tried to remember how holding hands had happened as a kid. What do middle school girls do when they want their crushes to grab their sweaty little palms and caress them skill-lessly? We talked, the band played, and my mind wrapped itself around this conundrum. Your hands stayed firmly on your own lap, well away from me. It started to feel like some kind of statement, one I wasn’t keen on letting stand. Finally I decided it was now or never. I put my hand on my knee, then slid it down my leg a bit until the pinkie finger side of my hand was touching your leg. At first, nothing happened. Nothing. You drank your drink, I drank mine, my hand lingered awkwardly between our thighs, fingertips enjoying the subtle prickling of a few stray leg hairs as they poked through my tights. I’ll be so glad when they perfect laser hair removal.

At last, you shifted a bit and placed your hand next to mine, fingers dancing over mine ever so softly. There it was. The electricity from that night in the car. Then we were listening to music and letting our hands explore each other. It was PG, but also intimate. Every time you caressed my palm with your thumb, shivers ran up and down my spine.

That’s probably why the transition from holding hands to kissing was so subtle. I used our tangled fingers as an excuse to snuggle closer to you in those uncomfortable wooden theater seats, leaning my head on your shoulder and breathing in deep. Can I tell you one more time just how amazing it is to love the very smell of a person, sans stupid colognes and body sprays and stinky deodorants, just plain old deliciously-scented masculinity? I had to kiss you. And I did.

A year ago today, we went to see Broken Bells play at the Civic Theater. I didn’t know who they were before we went to the show – I just said yes because you were going to be there. But you knew that. The show was good, but honestly I don’t remember all that much. Because once we start talking, we can’t stop, and once we start kissing, that’s all we ever want to do. I’m fine with that.

These Choices

Today’s Daily Post prompt asks us to consider what we would do if we knew we couldn’t fail. It’s an appropriate question for this day, and is closely aligned with something my therapist asked me a couple of days ago and that I’ve been mulling over ever since. After listening to several days of stress-filled rants regarding my career (aspirations vs. actuality), the therapist remarked that I didn’t sound like I liked what I did very much. Would I consider changing careers?

I have this little nagging suspicion that after I return from Spain in November, I might be forced into this choice. Of course, I can hope that both of my jobs decide not to can me for leaving them high and dry for 45 days, but let’s face it – America does not believe in taking a break. Vacation days are for wusses. If we’re lucky, we get two weeks of paid vacation, but even then, we’re subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) made to feel guilty for desiring to use all of them. And that’s why people like me are slowly losing their minds. We need a break, and what’s more, we need a long one.

Working in America vs. Working in Other Countries. Click the image to read more.

Working in America vs. Working in Other Countries. Click the image to read more.

So I made this decision to love myself enough to give myself the break I so desire and deserve, even if it means that my employers can’t get along without me. I’d rather have to find new jobs than continue to put off this pilgrimage for another year. When I’m old and gray and too old to travel outside of my retirement home, I don’t want to have any regrets about missed opportunities to explore the world. I’ve told my New Orleans job that I plan to leave, and to be quite fair, my officemates are really supportive of my choice, even if they’re apprehensive at where this will leave them when I’m gone. I haven’t told the Chicago job yet, because I think it will lodge in my boss’s mind like a piece of grit in an oyster, slowly turning and growing into a giant pearl of contention. It’s not worth it right now to upset her. Maybe in a few months.

The other part of the equation is this sneaking suspicion that nothing I do really matters. I look around me, at my job, at my friends’, and it seems that we waste our lives sitting in cubicles, performing mundane tasks that ultimately don’t matter. I really enjoy marketing, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m not helping the world in any way. And it’s no question that the continued exposure to technology is destroying my brain. I’m frequently too sad to leave the house, and have the attention span of an ADHD goldfish. My memory is measurably worse. It’s no real stretch to imagine dementia setting in sooner rather than later, and that’s terrifying to me.

Is this who I want to be? From a physical and spiritual standpoint, how can I afford to continue this trajectory? But from a financial standpoint, how can I not? It’s a conundrum. I wish that I could tell my 18-year-old self not to lose that full scholarship, or my 23-year-old self not to go to school for historic preservation. But killing those butterflies would destroy this world as I know it, and I’ll take the crushing student loan debt in exchange for the handsome writer who makes me coffee and laughs at my stupid jokes, thanks. I still have hope that some small changes will help me keep my sanity and figure out how to live a fulfilling life within the boundaries I’ve created for myself.

Still, what would I do if I knew I couldn’t lose? If I knew I could keep him AND achieve success in a fulfilling career? I don’t even know how to turn the hopeful part of my brain back on to contemplate that question at full capacity. Maybe when my feet meet the Camino, those gears will start to turn. Maybe I’ll be able to figure it out. I guess I’d cast my net wide. I’d look to new cities for opportunities. I’d look to new countries, even. I’d try to get into the film industry. I’d take this idea of writing a book and make it central to the way I live my life. I’d fold so many origami flowers that my apartment would be the envy of gardeners everywhere. I’d find a museum that wanted a ragtag history like mine, and would take a chance on me as a curator. I’d sing, sing, sing every day.

Sometimes I hate being both a dreamer and a realist. I hate how I crush my own spirit so much more efficiently than anyone else could. These choices seem so simple when I see them in writing. Why are they monumental in my imagination? Please, Santiago, help me walk back to my life, the real one, the one without fear.

Music Monday: The Imperial March, by John Williams

I’m not sure if I watched the original trilogy in the correct order, but I tend to doubt it. I know that I fell in love with Luke in Return of the Jedi the second he glided up to Jabba’s palace in his mysterious robes and mind-tricked his way in with the tiniest of efforts. My dad taped Return for me off of TV, and I still remember the fateful day I finally wore that VHS out, after a good three or four years of weekly viewings. By that time, I’d watched all three movies multiple times. I’d grown a bit, and was obsessed with bits and pieces from all over the trilogy: Salacious Crumb’s beady little eyes and wrinkled snout, R2’s general badassery, Leia’s gold bikini, the rawness in Luke’s voice as he screams to shut down on the trash compactors on the detention level, the subtle comedy in Chewbacca’s resignation at Han’s churlish behavior, C3PO’s arms getting ripped off at every occasion, Han’s devotion to his friends (even when money and common sense are trying to talk him out of it), Yoda’s gentle wisdom and tiny house, that last precious moment where Anakin Skywalker’s helmet comes off to reveal the sad, sweet face of a man who threw his life away on the Dark Side.

The original trilogy molded me in some ways. I came to expect a certain amount of bravery from the men in my life, but like Leia, even more from myself. I learned that if I listened and sat still long enough, I could feel the Force, too. And I learned to use Star Wars as my ruler – if you liked it, you’d probably be worth getting to know, and if you didn’t, well…

Minimalist Star Wars poster by Drew Roberts. Click through to purchase on Etsy.

Minimalist Star Wars poster by Drew Roberts. Click through to purchase on Etsy.

Also, like Luke, I grew up in the middle of nowhere, and I hated it. Star Wars probably had a heavy hand in giving me the travel bug. I’ve honestly never dreamed of exploring new planets (short of nightmares of being sucked out into space), but I’ve definitely felt the pull to see all of this weird world, which can be quite alien enough, thanks. I remember having a Star Wars movie magic book when I was 8 or 9. It talked about makeup and costuming, and how the sets were made, and that was the first time that I really took the time to contemplate that they’d filmed the Tatooine scenes in a very real place on Earth – Tunisia. I’ve always wanted to see what’s left of that set; maybe one day.

But this post isn’t about how much I love the original trilogy (notice how I’m being really nice and not saying anything about how much the prequels suck the joy out of life?). It’s about how much I respect John Williams’ score. Particularly “The Imperial March”, which manages to contain what some might argue is the very essence of the trilogy in a 3 minute song. “The Imperial March”, as most of you know, is Darth Vader’s theme. It is the aural equivalent of everything Darth Vader’s physical presence hints at – darkness, violence, the unquestionable need for absolute obedience (and obeisance).

From now on, the song will also represent something else to me, something a tad bit less dark. Each year in March, my friends Angie and Glenn gather friends together to watch the original trilogy on VHS (the original releases, prior to Lucas’ sacrilegious little “fixes” like making Greedo shoot first). They call it the Imperial March party. Everyone wears homemade Star Wars-themed outfits (the rules are that it must cost $10 or less, so there’s lots of tin foil and duct tape involved), and all of the snacks are named after characters or places in the trilogy. It’s a ton of fun, and last year’s party was the first time I got to meet my boyfriend’s friends. This year’s party was even more special, though, because this year Angie and Glenn got engaged. I managed to take a couple of snapshots while Glenn was proposing to Angie (dressed as a very dashing Lando).

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Late Night Thoughts

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed (is that the right word? maybe it’s just “amazed” or “taken aback”…) by how much I love my boyfriend. I’ve always been the first one to mime puking whenever I see some teenybopper girl declaring her undying love to the boy in her life, but right now I guess I’m in that position, despite my age. I adore my boyfriend. He’s just amazing. I love the look of him, and the feel of him, and the smell of him. I love the way he makes me laugh, and the way he makes me think. I love the way he brews his coffee, and the way he curls up under the blankets with one foot stretched out to keep cool. I love the way he thinks, and that he really pays attention to me when I’m sharing some thought that’s taken me ages to spit out. I love that his mind is always racing with new stories, and I love watching him bring those stories to life on paper. I love the way he holds my hand when I’m anxious, and that he never judges me for being sad, or scared, or not having the energy to face the world that day. I love that he picks his battles wisely, and I love how he articulates his thoughts when he finally does walk into the fray. I love how he connects the dots, and how he helps me connect them, too. I love how much he loves his friends, and how much they adore him. I’m so lucky. Please don’t let me fuck this up.

Photography Friday: Abstract Orange

I must not take a lot of photos incorporating the color orange in my day-to-day. In general I’m really not a fan of the shade, so wondering if orange things just don’t catch my eye that often (kind of the opposite of how I go gaga over purple objects). Today’s photo challenge asks us to share a photograph that features the color orange, but a brief look through my phone shows almost nothing of use. However, I love this shot that my camera took on its own one day on a trip to the mall, and it’s orange enough, right?

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Glimpses of Truth

The one thing that links all of my favorite blogs isn’t content, or even style, exactly. It’s truth. I like reading blogs the same way that I like walking by houses in the dark and glancing through open windows and doors to catch a peek at the vignettes of life within. It makes me feel closer to humanity. It gives me proof that I’m not alone.

Blogs that only share happy thoughts bore me. They come off as fake, somehow. My favorites are the people who’re endeavoring to share a little piece of their soul with the Internet, people who are brave enough to be vulnerable. I don’t care if the blogs I’m reading tell deep, dark secrets, or if they’re just sharing bits and pieces from everyday existence. It’s really all the same to me. I want my friends to talk to me about the big bad shit as well as the minutiae. Tell me about the look in that guy’s eye as he cut you off in traffic, or about how you knocked over your water glass during a business lunch and it made you feel like a total ass, or about how dance class makes you weirdly gassy, or your struggles to quit eating so much chocolate. It’s not the information, it’s the intent that makes it so endearing.

For the most part, lately I like to read blog posts by people who’re wrestling with feeling useful. It helps me figure out how to say the things I know need to be said, the things I’ve yet to find the words for. With that in mind, I guess I’ll tell you something new about myself: I’ve found a therapist. It’s online counseling, which means I can “visit” with the therapist whenever I’d like to talk about all of the things that are going on in this old brainpan. I’m hoping that she can help me work out why I’m so anxious, and help me figure out ways to mitigate the stress I’m going through so I can start to live a better life. Guess we’ll see.

Challenge Update: Diamonds Out, Trekking Supplies & Workout Leggings In!

Despite my inner child’s excitement over the potential of owning another pretty, shiny thing if I hit my weight loss goal by April 3rd, I think I’m going to have to change my direction re: prizes for meeting my goals. I know, I know, it’s a disappointment – so much less sparkle involved in hiking gear than diamond jewelry!

But seriously, I’ve been thinking about it over the last few days, and it would be a much better use of funds if I focused on getting my supplies for the Camino, instead of a new belly button ring. I’ll have to buy things (a pack, hiking poles, new socks, and all manner of other fun odds and ends) to go on pilgrimage, anyway. It makes more sense to reward my good behavior with supplies that will only encourage more good behavior. Also, it would be a lot less wasteful of me. Maybe I can save the bling for my next milestone.

No matter what, I’m also thinking that some new fun workout clothes are in order, whether or not I hit that 170 lb mark. Some of the ladies at my gym have been wearing these amazing workout leggings, and I’ve been coveting pretty hard for the last month or so (Sad, right? Totally going to hell over spandex. Oh well.). It wasn’t that long ago that it was hard for me to even find decent workout pants and leggings, and back then it seemed they were all gray and black and uber boring. Now I’m seeing awesome ones in a plethora of colorful patterns. I dig loud, crazy designs, so incorporating them into my gym life is definitely a big plus. Something like these…

Onzie Low Rise Leggings

Onzie Low Rise Leggings in “Copa Cabana”, at Nordstrom. (Click image to visit site.)

Onzie Capri Leggings in Prism Print from Bloomingdales. (Click through image to visit site.)

Onzie Capri Leggings in Prism Print from Bloomingdales. (Click image to visit site.)

Onzie Track Leggings in Teal Chevron at YogaOutlet.com. (Click image to visit site.)

Onzie Track Leggings in Teal Chevron at YogaOutlet.com. (Click image to visit site.)

What do you think? Do you dig going loud and crazy at the gym? If you’re a lady (or happen to know a lot about women’s gym clothes), any good workout leggings to suggest?