The Surest Way

It seems that the surest way to feel alone is to share my feelings with other people. I keep making the mistake of believing that other people are on my page, just because they say things in a way that I can understand and get behind. Typically, I”m the quiet one who lets everyone else do the talking, so it’s easy to feel like we’re vibing when I’m supporting their mental breakdowns and accepting their searching statements. But then it comes time for me to talk, and it turns out they’re not listening. Way to go, me. Always the bridesmaid, or something like that.

Anyway, I do have a couple of people in my life who are doing their best to listen when I talk (and vice versa), but it’s always disappointing to weed out the others. But what can you do besides remind yourself that the goal is to be your own mentally healthy sounding board one day?

Still, I can’t help but be disappointed. I just wanted someone to celebrate with, and it got turned around quicker than I could write a second sentence. Way to kill the buzz.

On My Mind

Life lessons from Francis and Rumi…

Break down your walls:
Sow love, instead of hatred;
Seek to heal, instead of hurt;
Instill faith, rather than doubt;
Foster hope in times of despair;
Call on the light when the darkness threatens;
Channel joy in times of sadness.

Look for ways to comfort others,
Understand that we’re all different, and in great need of love. We’re dying to be accepted as we are, and to be loved without judgement. Open yourself to that grace.
Giving (and forgiving) is how we receive.
Be the love.
Be the love.
Be the love.
What you seek is seeking you.

Playing Doctor

…Frankenstein, that is – muahahaha!

It occurred to me tonight that it might be fun to take all the best parts of the guys I’ve dated and try to concoct the “perfect man.” I’m putting that in quotations because of course I don’t believe that there’s such a thing as a perfect person (of any gender identity). But it sounded like a fun exercise, and something a little Halloween-y, so let’s give it a try, shall we?

Rather than hop around from characteristic to characteristic, I’m going to put the guys I’ve dated in order, starting in college. The names of the innocent have been protected, but now they’re all just a number, lol. In order:

  1. Not much is salvageable from this one. He was a real turd, overall. However, to date, he was the only man who was genuinely interested in taking me out to fancy dinners. He bought me my first sushi, and bought me a steak at Smith & Wollensky, and for that I will be eternally grateful. My monster will be excited to go on culinary adventures.
  2. He was passionate about writing, with an encyclopedic knowledge of horror movies. My monster will love to curl up and watch horror flicks with me. 
  3. He spoke French, and introduced me to foreign language music and film for the first time. My monster will be enthusiastic about exploring and sharing other cultures.
  4. Absolutely nothing of value.
  5. I’m cheating a little, because this is someone I dated in high school but saw again (very briefly) in college, and the things I’d salvage are from when we were kids. My monster will walk me to the front door, and will kiss me passionately in the rain.
  6. He made me a good mixtape that I STILL listen to (and this was like 2002). My monster will have eclectic and far-flung tastes in music.
  7. God, where do I start? He was a wonderful human being. Sure, he screwed up some big things (like managing to stay alive), but he will always be one of my favorite people. He was effusive and kind, with a Camino soul. He was Italian, and loved to feed people – mangia! He took the time to really get to know people, and listen to what they were saying. He was the first person to teach me the meaning of consent, too. My monster will walk in kindness, and be a gracious host and true friend. 
  8. I liked this one a lot, too. Still do, even though he’s kind of a dick. I can’t blame him for it, though – we’re just so similar, it hurts. We were born on the same day, and that does funny things to a person. Never date your sign, and especially not your birthday. My monster will have a dry wit, fantastic taste in clothes, and will let me drive his car without batting an eyelash.
  9. Handsome as hell, but not the sharpest crayon in the box. My monster will be easy on the eyes. 
  10. I loved this one with an intensity that echoes through to today and still makes my heart ache. He – we – had magic. He is a very talented musician and sculptor, and when we were dating, he put everything that he had into his music. I haven’t seen him in years, but I hope that he’s found a way to balance his life out a little more. Either way, his intensity was inspiring. My monster will be passionate about their gift(s), whatever they are, and will put in the effort to bring their best self to the table.
  11. So smart – the first thing that comes to mind is how analytical he is. His sense of humor is legendary (at least to me), too. I also love how goofy he gets over animals and children. He’s definitely someone’s keeper. My monster will love animals, and be really good at math/computers/puzzles in real life situations.
  12. Jesus, he was weird – but I kinda liked it. My monster will be confident in his oddity. 
  13. We wrote and sang songs together, and I miss his friendship, if not his caustic nature and self-destructive streak. I really liked making music together. I’ve never found anyone else to sing with like that. My monster will sing with me, and will encourage my musicality (especially when I’m terrified to get on stage).
  14. Ugh.
  15. Double ugh.
  16. Yeah, can’t see anything worth salvaging in this one, either. Glad I didn’t get stuck with him – that would be seriously disappointing.
  17. OK, so this one was a trash human, but…My monster will have an adventurous streak, and take me along for the ride. 
  18. This one had a great many positive aspects, and that’s why we dated for nearly a quarter of my life. My monster will take care of things around the house without being asked, will often dress well and normally be clean (and not overly groomed), will love his family fiercely, will make me nachos, will always do his best to be good to me, and will call me an adorable pet name. 
  19. He does yoga, contributes to worthy causes in meaningful ways, and loves adventure travel. He runs marathons and climbs mountains. My monster will love nature, and want to travel with me to spend time in the outdoors. He’ll also be interested in helping the world, actively looking for ways to give back.
  20. This one had a lot of great traits, as well. There’s a reason he stuck around for so long. My monster will slow dance with me in the kitchen, and give me foot massages just because. He will get excited to talk about theories and film plots and the deeper themes behind all sorts of things. He will hold me when I cry, and never be ashamed to discuss his feelings with me. 
  21. I loved that he was searching for deeper meaning, and doing his best to shed the bullshit as he went. He was also patient, a fantastic cook, and very giving. He understood the meaning of teamwork, and could handle complex relationships without being overly dramatic. My monster will be a seeker, like me, and we will go looking together. 

So, what do we have? A monster who likes going out on adventures, but also cuddling up at home with a good movie. Someone who is intelligent, but always still excited about learning and discussing and growing. He has a practical side, and can take care of himself, but also knows how to contribute to our team. He’s good at what he does, and takes pride in a job well done. He’s an adventurer and traveler, and wants to spend quality time on the go, outside in nature and in exploring foreign countries and cultures. He likes to cook and make music, and wouldn’t be embarrassed to put on a record and dance with me and be goofy. He loves animals and his family (with “family” being defined however he needs it to be), and is a welcoming host and good friend.

Y’all, I think I just built a pretty solid monster. What do you think?

Sometimes I hear people talking about their elderly beloved, and how “sharp” they “still are.” The qualifications tend to be a combination of having a great grasp on vocabulary, and the ability to conduct a lively (read: interesting) conversation with other participants in spoken format. Given those parameters, I suppose that I’m suffering from early onset dementia. I frequently struggle with capturing just the simplest words out loud, and immediately tire of in-person conversation, even with those closest to me. I suppose it must be cognitive dissonance that keeps the same friends who declare their elderly to be “losing it” from deciding that I’ve joined those numbers. Are they not listening to me? Are they giving me leeway? Are we all speaking our own languages and just pretending to ourselves that someone else knows the words?

That being said, I started to write this blog to capture the fact that tonight I’ve been visited by the ghost of Annas past. I frequently find myself mentally visiting specific locations that I’ve visited in my younger days – bars, bathrooms, particular shop windows, settings at specific times of day – at the spur of a moment. I feel like a time traveler when I do this. It’s SO sudden, it could give you whiplash. It’s not the same as something reminding you of a place. It’s like being at Applebee’s, enjoying a margarita at the bar, then suddenly looking up to realize you’re at the beach in Cabo three years ago. Realistically, you can see that you’re still here at Applebee’s, but the memory from that trip long ago is so very strong that you’re almost there for a moment. You’re a time traveler. I’m definitely good at that sort of time travel. There’s a reason that I can so clearly recall my days on the Camino. My brain is not so good at the here and now, but my long term memory is incredibly sharp, and for reasons I still don’t quite understand, every now and then I get pulled back to a place that I once loved, in a way that’s solid and violent and sad and good and true. I don’t know if that’s normal or not, but I’m happy about it. In the here and now, I tend to live on my own frequency. Sometimes I find other people to explore the here with me, but normally I’m pretty much living here alone and trying not to get too sad about it. When I go back in time, I can slow things down and re-interpret the moments. I can be in the presence of people I love, at the times I most enjoyed sharing with them.

Anyway, this all goes to say that I know I’ve visited some places tonight in passing, but the last two were specific to old birthdays, and also quite enjoyable. For a split second I was drunk on the dance floor of a club in Vienna, about a mile’s walk from K’s apartment. It was my birthday at midnight, which means it’s my birthday now. The band has gone home, the lights have come on, the staff is cleaning up, and the rest of the crowd is dwindling away. It is way too late, and we’re still here. She’s angry about something, in that funny belligerent way that she has, the one that lets me know it’s totally OK (even though she’s SO DEADLY SERIOUS). She’s a part of me, and I know how to counteract this, and I do (but that’s a story in itself, and it ends with me under a bench and with us missing a flight to Berlin).

The next memory is also in Vienna, also with K. It’s my birthday again, but another year. It’s always my birthday in Vienna. Or maybe it’s always Vienna on my birthday? Maybe that’s the smarter way to play this rotten old world. Anyway, it’s Vienna, it’s my birthday, and it’s the second time that I’m at The Prater. I visited the park on my first time in Vienna, but never managed to ride The Reisenrad. This time around, I do. It’s terrifying. I’m surprised, for no good reason. It’s creaky and old – it’s the oldest operating Ferris wheel in the world, after all. The cars swing more than any I’ve ever encountered (and I’ve rode many – I love Ferris wheels, and make a habit of riding them in every city I visit, around the world). It’s a quiet night as we head to the park. We go to a museum about the Ferris wheel. We ride the wheel in question. We leave, but we’ve just missed the tram. To pass the time, we go to a bar across the street. It’s cold out, a quiet Sunday night. We are the only two in the bar, getting our beers, and we end up sitting on the patio alone. There aren’t even tables and chairs out there anymore. It is awkward in that comfortable way, the way that tells me I am fine there, and only uncomfortable because the other person is not feeling great about being there. K wants to get home and get ready to work in the morning. I’ll fly out pretty early.

I can’t remember how the night ended, but I know this was the same trip that I dropped a vegetarische sandwich and caught it in mid-air, like a drunken ninja. I know that there was a Billa AND a Bipa within a block of the apartment. I know that I slept too much of the morning, and ate too much sonnenblumenbrot every single day. K’s bed was broken, and her couch was magically a futon and some sort of treasure chest for blanket storage. I had just started dating Dan, and I remember our online conversation as having a film of darkness to it. Is it just my memory playing tricks, or was I already disenchanted? Or maybe I was disenchanted but believed that was the norm? In looking around, I can see this potentially being true. I have seen too much of my friends and their relationships, and I know that I approached that with a learned pragmatism. I set myself up for that one.

But now I am tired. I can’t remember the other places my mind pulled me tonight, but they were weirdly OK. A street corner in Chelsea at 2am – nothing special, just a hug from a man I admired but didn’t yet know enough to call a friend. An elevator in Gold Coast, a few months after Katrina, feeling ashamed but used to it. The basement of a palace in Astorga.

I’m writing with one eye closed. I think that means I should call it a night.

Thoughts Re: My Last Birthday

I had a great realization today. In just a couple of weeks, I’m going to turn 37. A few months back, realizing that I haven’t had a vacation since November 2016, I asked for my entire birthday week off. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do something extravagant, but just getting the chance to not go to work is HUGE. After some finagling, I figured out a way to use various rewards points and an unused flight credit to get a free round trip to Chicago to visit friends – I’m beyond excited to go back to a city I love, and to see some of my favorite people in the world.

I’ll be back in New Orleans in time for my birthday, and I’ve planned (sketched out, really – planning makes me anxious, which is ironic, given my profession) a quiet night at my favorite little bar, inviting just a few people whom I think will get along together, and will not require any tending to. I think I’ll spend the day going to the spa or doing self-care things like getting my hair and makeup done, maybe going dress or shoe shopping, and just generally taking my time and doing my own thing. On top of all of this goodness, one of my friends is coming in from out of town, and that weekend I’m going to go to our 15-year college reunion weekend, hopefully to see a bunch of other classmates I haven’t seen since we were bright young things.

Sounds great, right? I think so. It’s not anything too huge, but overall, a really nice week.

What’s funny is that I was talking with a friend today, and we were generalizing on what a difference a year can make. All of a sudden, it hit me that in this case, the platitude is strikingly true. Last year, my boyfriend of three years dumped me a couple of months before my birthday. I wasn’t surprised, exactly, but I was still devastated. I loved him, and I will always struggle with having a connection like ours severed, but c’est la vie.

For years now, I have had a joint birthday party with a very dear friend, but since this friend is also best friends with the ex-boyfriend, I suddenly no longer had a boyfriend OR a birthday party. I’m sure I could have scrounged up a few people to hang out with, but the effort seemed pointless. I was terribly depressed. I came home from work and spent the night sobbing my heart out in my apartment. It was neither the first nor the last time that would happen over the course of the last year, but it was one of the worst times. It was a really shitty birthday. Bottom of the barrel bad.

So today, I’m talking with my friend, thinking back to where I was, mentally, a year ago, and things are pretty good. Not perfect. Not wonderful. I’ve got a long way to grow. But I have friends, and a place to hang out where people know and like me, and I am 99.9% sure that I’m not going to cry myself to sleep on my birthday this year. That’s pretty good stuff. I’ll take it.

Dead End

This business of having a crush sucks. I’m tired of it. When will it go away? It’s been months now since we met. We’re getting to be friends. He brings out my bright side. I want to stop being so attracted to him. I will myself to, but it’s not going away. The more I talk with him, the more comfortable he is with me, the more I like him. He was flirty when we met, because that’s his regular behavior with women. He’s no longer flirty with me, and I struggle with that. Is it because he knows I hate it, and wants me to be comfortable? Is it because he’s comfortable, and doesn’t feel like pretending? Is it, as I suspect, that he’s never seen me as anything other than one of the guys? If I had half a brain, I’d just ask. But I’ll never ask. It would break my heart to find out anything, good or bad. I will concentrate on revealing nothing. There is no way through from here. He’s just a handsome dead end.

Shadow

I Dreamed I Was A Raven Art By Cathy McClelland

“I Dreamed I Was A Raven” by Cathy McClelland. View more of her works and purchase this as a giclee on Cathy’s website.

There’s this hint of an idea, rattling around my brain, and I want to try to capture at least a fraction of its essence here. Please bear with me. Note that this will not be a full blog post, and it probably won’t make sense. I’m merely wool gathering in the digital realm.

Thoughts, in no particular order:

  1. It was said to me today: “You just need to embrace who you really are instead of fighting it.” At first, I was confused. Then hurt. Then a little angry. Then irritated at the presumptuousness. It felt vague, like a fortuneteller’s comments. Of course we all need to embrace ourselves. But the question was, what was this person saying to me in saying this? Which one of mes do they think is the real one? What version do they believe I am embracing? What version am I fighting? Because hell if I know. I don’t have one particular personal brand that I’m trying to sell, here. I don’t even have an ideal self in mind, the way that other people seem to. Most of the time I seem to be here to observe others. Just passing through, if you will. All of these things passed through my head over the course of the day, and in the end, I returned to being annoyed. I decided that perhaps the person was saying that I should just stop fighting the inevitable, and crumble under the weight of it all. But then I thought:
  2. The other morning, I woke up with one driving impulse. It was so clear in my head that I didn’t even pause to consider if it was the remnant of a dream. It just WAS. And now it IS. No quibbling required. I woke up knowing that I needed to become a battle mage.
  3. I believe in the Fae. Not the cute type that are made of light and sprinkle faerie dust and bring sweet dreams – the Other type. The type that allow us to live here, but would eat us in a moment (and often do). The tricksy types. The types who will turn a kind hand your way for a nice saucer of cream and a bit of cake of an evening. The ones who drink the whiskey left out for our forefathers on All Hallows Eve.
  4. I have always looked at the world with sorrow and resolve.
  5. I have more backbone than anyone I know. That’s not pride speaking, just truth. I am simply resilient. It’s in my genes, perhaps. Or maybe just in my zodiac. Maybe a bit of both.
  6. About nine months ago (which sounds rather ironic right now), I decided that Elen wasn’t doing it for me right now as a goddess. I needed a warrior. I needed someone who would understand my rage, sorrow, need for physicality. I needed The Morrigan, but in particular, her sister/self Macha. I have healed with a warrior goddess as my guide, even if it has been a little too casual, up until now.
  7. My cousin, whom I also call my sister, and is also like a part of me, is best described as “ethereal.” She is full of light and magick and all of the smells of autumn and comforts of a perfect summer afternoon. Not to say that she comes without faults (that would be boring, and kind of frightening, now that I’m imagining it), just that she balances them out with lots of love, and care for those around her. But here’s the thing – we are somehow twins without being at all alike. It’s confounding, but also comforting, to know there’s at least one person in the world who will never need further explanation. We both operate on the principle that all will become clear in time. It’s like fishing for yourself in a pool of stars. That’s a pretty picture. But with all of the similarities, there are major differences. One is that I can say something like “fishing for yourself in a pool of stars,” and think “what a lovely image” and also “ugh, that’s some trite bullshit right there.” And my cousin can hear me thinking of her from literally a thousand miles away and text to see what’s up, and my response is both “well, of course, we share a bond,” and “it’s just a coincidence.” We even once had a conversation about Fae, she getting excited about meeting some sprites in the wood, me simultaneously planning protective measures to ensure that I wouldn’t get eaten by one of those crafty little buggers. I allow myself to see and believe all, but also to disbelieve all with even measure.
  8. I both believe in ghosts and disbelieve in ghosts, pretty equally. God is multiple and singular, male and female, and living inside of Schrodinger’s box (which by the way, looks a lot like the inside of the bottle from “I Dream of Genie.”) More than that, all cats everywhere are both alive and dead, as evidenced by how often I indulge in sorrowful, vivid daydreams of how I’ll handle my favorite cat’s cremains.
  9. The other day, I answered one of those stupid FB questions, “If you could cure cancer or discover a new planet, which would you pick?” My answer was neither, because they were both pointless endeavors (of course, I spent a couple of paragraphs explaining it from both sides, and felt utterly secure in my analysis). One of my friends remarked that reading the answer made her feel like she was looking down an endless black tunnel. A few other friends (whom, it should be noted, I instantly wrote off as lacking in imagination and, just maybe, intelligence) remarked that curing cancer was the obvious choice – even after I’d explained why it wasn’t. Anyway, this isn’t to say that I’m right and they’re wrong, or they’re right and I’m wrong. After all, it’s a huge, pointless hypothetical meant to get people talking, and that’s what happened. Just that I tend to see all sides of a thing, and I see dark, and the dark doesn’t seem to mean the same thing to me that it does to others. It is nuanced, thick, full of texture and possibility. I see now that some people ignore the dark out of fear, try to paint over it with false light. But false light is its own dangerous form of darkness. We act like negativity in its base sense is evil, instead of just the flip side of positivity. Dark is not inherently bad. It’s what you do in the dark that sets you up for the fall.
  10. All this going to say that I realized that all this time, I’ve envisioned myself as a lightbringer, a white witch. Of course, that’s pretty funny, when viewed from this angle. I HAVE been fighting myself. I can’t tilt the scales of my own spiritual makeup. I can’t pretend that the balance of my inner truth skews toward the sun. I have always been one for grey days. The world requires tough choices, based on truth rather than fancy, on solid fact rather than hope for what may be. There are plenty of healers, learning their craft, keeping the world from going under, one heart at a time, like my beloved cousin. When the time comes, the healers will require a solid line of defense. I will happily take up a place in the shadow if it means giving the light a few more minutes to work.
  11. I have spent a lifetime focusing on being “good,” but to me, “good” meant not rocking the boat. I’ve lately come to realize that, however unintentionally, I have built a fake persona that most people don’t/can’t see beyond. This comes in handy for me, as I have limited energy for human interaction, so only the creme de la creme make it my front door, so to speak. But thus I have built up a toolbox of secret skills that can be repurposed, with none the wiser. That being said, some of these learned behaviors will have to go. Mostly, patience with mediocrity – including my own. It’s time to stop hiding. It’s OK to not know who or what you are, or even what you want. It’s OK to be afraid, to not know what to say. It’s not OK to stop fighting your way forward, finding ways to call others, wearing your colors proudly so that your comrades will know to fight their way to your side.
  12. Vive La Résistance.