The Ramp

It didn’t rain on the day of the funeral, which was unexpected. Rather, it was a crisp, cool day with a brisk breeze. The sky was still laden with clouds, but the sun peeked through from time to time. It was a perfectly acceptable day, all in all, despite the giant hole in the ground, my father’s body in a box, and the social demands of a hundred or so gawking well-wishers.

My mother had insisted I bring a windbreaker, but I refused, and we bickered as we prepared to leave the house. I had driven up from Louisiana with only a light sweater in tow. I packed hastily, and managed to forget that spring in New Orleans and spring in North Carolina are two completely different seasons.

She had a coat for me, but it was three sizes too large, and looked terrible with my black fit-and-flare dress. I refused to put on another layer, because my outfit was perfect for a funeral, and I wanted to look my best as I met with family and friends. He deserved well-dressed representation. It was a way to prove to the world that he’d done a satisfactory job raising his only child. I would be proof of his good works, if only through my refusal to wear an unattractive piece of outerwear. In the end, I took the coat to assuage her, but left it in the car.

We took separate cars, and on the drive to the cemetery, I turned the stereo up and sang along to Donovan’s “Atlantis.” He owned the record as a teenager, and when I stole his records in high school, he sagely advised me to give that particular tune a listen. We talked a lot about ancient legends when I was a girl, and the song has always made me feel close to him. I needed to know he was with me still, that peculiar, stubborn, restless old man. The Spotify channel was on shuffle, and the next song to play was “Trude” – a song I remembered rocking out to 15 years ago or more. I’d forgotten the name, and had been looking for it ever since. It was my sign that he really was there. He gave me a song, and I sang along to it at top volume as I whipped my rental car into the driveway behind his hearse.

The funeral was. People were there. Hands were shaken, stories were shared, hugs were given. I endured the “Oh, how you’ve grown!” and “What do you do now?” and “Are you still in New Orleans?” with what I felt was great patience and restraint. He taught me that. My mother, of course, was late. She didn’t want to be there, she hates funerals, and she wasn’t afraid to let the general populace know her true feelings on the matter. She doesn’t like black, so she wore a navy suit and black sneakers. She received unfortunate news regarding my father’s estate (or lack thereof) before arriving, and had he been alive, he would have been quite amused at her indignation. In a stage whisper upon her arrival, she angrily told me that she was going to pee on his grave. It was the highlight of the event, as far as I was concerned. I sat next to my paternal grandmother, my Nana. I couldn’t cry. The priest was ancient, and lost his place several times. Afterwards, I talked with my cousins, all grown up and lovely. I felt lucky to be with them. We noticed that he was buried directly across from the only guy in town with whom he’d always had beef. That seemed appropriate, since it was April 1st. Our family shares a love of schadenfreude, and we snickered there between their graves.

Then we went to lunch, my mother, my maternal grandmother, and my uncle by friendship, my father’s best friend. So funny, the four of us sharing tater tots and cheeseburgers, a wheel missing its spoke. It was a nice lunch, though, all things considered.

The next day, the rain fell in sheets, and the temperature dropped another ten degrees. I was unprepared, but stoic. He taught me that, too. We had somewhere to go, though I can’t remember where that was anymore, and my mother needed help taking things out to the car. I’d brought three pairs of shoes with me from the Deep South – black cloth heels, scuffed up black TOMS shoes with no tread, and black flip flops. None were appropriate, but after some deliberation, it seemed that the flip flops were the smartest choice for the weather.

At the front of a house stands a wooden ramp. It was built for my father by a charitable organization in the year following his amputation. The structure is sturdy and adequate for its purpose, but it takes up a large swath of the front yard, eliminating access to the house’s front steps. There’s no choice but to use the ramp to enter the house, but the organization failed to add traction to the ramp. In short, it’s good enough for a wheelchair, and dangerous for pedestrians. I expressed this concern to my mother the first time I encountered it years ago, and then again upon arrival this trip. By now, the wood had grown slightly slimy from falling leaves and other debris, making it even worse. She brushed me off as being dramatic.

Walking out of the house in the rain, noting my flip flops, the standing water, and the already slippery ramp surface, I held on to the railing and walked very cautiously. Even so, I fell. I was shocked, and angry. Despite my precaution, I’d failed. Even worse, I told her that it could happen, and it did! Bruised and shaken, I got up and went to the car, then came back up the ramp and into the house. I told my mother that I’d just fallen on the ramp. We should take it down. She’s going to fall one day, and no one will be there to help! She looked at me like I was a lunatic, and walked away to finish whatever she had been doing.

I shook off my irritation, grabbed a second load to go to the car, and walked back outdoors again. This time I went even more slowly, holding fast to the railing, one firm step after another. But at the same place in the ramp, I completely lost control. It felt like the ground was being pulled out from under me. No matter what I did to hold on, this was not something I could stop. But still, I clutched that railing for dear life. My feet flew in front of me, my arm scraped down the wooden railing, and I landed square on my tailbone, the jolt shocking the breath out of me. My raincoat hood slipped down, and there I sat, in a puddle of water, arm bruised and bleeding, chilled to the bone, all the things I’d been carrying flung across hell’s half acre, down the ramp and into the yard.

And so I screamed into the rain. God fucking damn it. Fuck this. Fuck you. You stupid piece of shit ramp and this stupid fucking yard and this goddamn rain and all of this fucking shit go to hell and…

Then I sat there. I sat there until I was soaked through and shivering, and I wailed into the storm at the top of my lungs. Eventually, the front door opened, and my mother was beside me, checking me over like I was a Little once again. She told me she was sorry, so sorry, and she didn’t want me to hurt, and she’d do anything to make sure I was OK. That she was talking about more than a fall went unspoken.

So I got back up, and together we gathered all of the things I’d dropped, and took them to the car together. On the way back, I took the ramp barefoot. She walked with surety in the same ugly black sneakers she’d worn the day before.

Later, she blamed my falls on my shoes, which sounds logical, but isn’t true. I live in a rainy town, and walk around in those flip flops regularly. That ramp is dangerous. It’s going to hurt someone. It already has. But even now, I don’t have the strength to argue. That was his job, and now his time has passed. We have to let the world tilt as it will, and spill us across hell’s half acre if that’s what it wants to do. It doesn’t do a soul good to hold on too hard. I have to learn to let go.

Goodbye 2018

Here’s a thing I bet you thought I’d never say – 2018 was a pretty good year for me. (If you’re having trouble breathing right now, I totally get you. It’s taken me a while to come to grips with this weird piece of information, so please, take your time and soak it in however you can.)

I mean, if there were a heat map of the most uttered thoughts of my year, I’m pretty sure it would be a toss-up between “WTF, dude?” and “I don’t have time for this shit.”

I cried A LOT. I spent an unreasonable amount of time feeling hopeless about the future, and scared to make a move (any move), and also worried that all I’d ever feel is sorry and scared. Those moments aren’t completely over. I’m pretty anxious, and coming to terms with the fact that my current “treatment” plan of avoidance isn’t really going to cut it. That’s OK. I can work on that. I don’t have to be the best – I just have to keep working towards it in my own way.

But I also found pockets of bravery, when and where I least expected them. I was resourceful and kind, and I allowed myself to trust others to treat me as well as I try to treat them. Last year, I spent my birthday crying alone in my apartment. This year I had a birthday party with actual friends who love me in attendance. Last year, I spent NYE (you guessed it) crying alone in my apartment. Last night, I just went out with the resolve to trust myself and follow my own beat. Guess who had an amazing night doing EXACTLY what she wanted to do? I wore a cute outfit, got glittered up, had sushi, hung out with friends, visited my favorite bar, BOTH of my favorite poboy shops, and signed up for karaoke (even if I had to leave before it was my turn to sing). I even got a New Year’s kiss. It was a lovely way to ring in a big, bold new year.

Somehow (maybe multiple somehows), I was kick-started back to life this year. Here are some of the weirdest things that stand out to me as highlights of the year:

  • Finally figured out how to tell people they’re hurting me and kick them out of my life if needs be. (I’m looking at this as finally figuring out how to use my life preserver.)
  • 360-degree view of Fourth of July fireworks from the rooftop of a shed on top of a building.
  • Scoring a ticket to Burning Man (but not getting to go, sadly).
  • Going on a 14-hour long first date.
  • Being a nude art model.
  • A summer of breakfasts in bed.
  • 8-hour long conversation about Fela Kuti album covers.
  • Becoming friends with a tree (Yes, this is ongoing. No, I am not on drugs.)
  • Spending a whole day and a half with some of my best friends and not a single working cell phone between us. So much laughter. So much love.
  • Flying to Austin to attend a psychedelic rock festival. Getting asked by some dude in the crowd if the hand symbol flashed by Golden Dawn Arkestra was meant to represent the Illuminati or a vagina. Pretending to be confused that they weren’t the same thing.
  • Finding my own neighborhood haunts, places where everyone knows me and my preferences, and are usually happy to see me walk in. Knowing that I have a standing date at Tiki’s, and the catfish benedict at Who Dat will always make me swoon with happiness on a solo brunch date.
  • Reconnecting with friends. Rediscovering that I have people who REALLY love me, whom I can trust with my thoughts.
  • Starting to wear color and costumes again.
  • After 5+ years of gaining weight, suddenly dropping 25 lbs. with no activity, effort, or plan. I think it’s because I’m happy.
  • Collecting crystals.
  • Collecting cicadas from the neutral ground.
  • Selling my television, once and for all.
  • Making not one, but two, perfect green bean casseroles – one vegan and entirely homemade from scratch, the second with cobbled together ingredients purchased at Walgreens at noon on Christmas Day (Funyuns, y’all).
  • Really listening to my own needs and wants, and doing my best to attend to those desires first, even when it makes me anxious not to anticipate and preemptively carry out everyone else’s wants and needs around me.
  • Learning how to keep my own flame stoked. Realizing that no one else will.
  • Expanding my comfort zone with solo adventuring. Finding ways to be brave and make new friends along the way.

There’s so much more to learn. I’m not even close to thinking that I’ve got this shit figured out. But I made strides this year, and I intend to keep it going.

Oh yeah – that reminds me. If you don’t already, please follow me over on my other blog to find out what I’m doing in 2019 – I’m going to be posting on The Bold Life more frequently as a tool to help me transition into whatever magical psychedelic snow leopard creature I’m becoming.

 

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.

Unpacking

Lots going on right now, even though life on the face of things is quite quiet. It feels like the winds of chaos are beginning to pick up a little speed, and I sense that luck is in my favor. I’m not quite sure just yet what it is I’m supposed to be doing, but I think that the best choice is to buckle down, turn inward, and gather my strength for the jump, whenever I feel it coming. It won’t be long.

I want to publish this year. The thought occurred to me out of spite, more than anything. But my spite is so short-lived and soft. No one would ever guess that half of my reason for doing anything is just because other people piss me off, and I use the irritation as a catalyst to get shit done. It’s tough to explain – basically, I really dislike conflict or hurting anyone (or even displeasing anyone, really), so when people make me sad or angry, I just pick a project to work on until I feel better. It’s the truly bad part of being a perfectionist. I’m weighted down with the expectations for which I’ve blamed others all my life. I have to constantly remind myself that no one really cares, and I’m giving everyone much more power than they actually are entitled to.

In this case, though, I really do want to just go ahead and be a published writer. You know, more than blogs and articles. I’m tired of knowing down to my core that I’m a creative, but having nothing of substance to my name. Life is short. I could die tomorrow.  Spiritually, I can’t afford to keep living in fear. I need to write this book. Who knows, maybe there’s some way to even use it as a stepping stone to get funded to write more.

Speaking of writing, obviously I’m doing that a bit more now. I don’t want to jinx myself, but my thoughts are flowing slightly faster lately. The panic and sadness that was gripping my brain seems to have eased up a bit. Also, I’ve been inspired as of late. My curiosity has been piqued by several people who live wild, colorful lives. I want to be like them. I want to live bigger. I want to be outside of my own head for once.

I’m starting to identify my unique selling points. They’re very odd, but they’re all mine. I mean, surely someone else has to be interested in some of the same things I am, right? Death and ghosts and 60’s music and earrings and whiskey and cats and WWII history and magick and pilgrimage and travel and St. Francis and faerie tales (real ones)…

I can’t afford to get too discouraged. I’ve made some steps in the right direction this year. Sure, the debt feels like it’s crushing my brain, and it’s hard to focus when I know that I’ve got $40 left to get me through the next week and a half. But I’ve got a fridge full of groceries. I have two semi-valuable things to sell in a hurry if I simply must have money before next payday. I get fed for free at work every day that I’m there, and all of my bills are paid up. I’ve done a good deed. I’ve seen a smile in a loved one’s eyes. I’ve given hugs. I’ve loved a neighborhood stray. My braces are working, and my teeth are starting to look nice again. I have ideas for simple things to sell. I have ideas for complex things to write. I’m a lot less heartbroken than I was even a few months ago. I am not afraid of a solo adventure. I am hopeful that all the things that are me will make me worthy of great love from myself, and the friendship of others. I trust that I can dance and sing, and people will join in my celebration. Somewhere out there is a lantern, hanging in the fog, heading in my general direction, waiting to be discovered. But you can’t focus on other fires when you need to stoke your own.

I’m unpacking the bullshit, and leaving it behind. It might be just one piece at a time, but I’m getting there.

 

 

Monday Dreams

I own a copy editing business, and make enough money to have health insurance, a car, and an apartment that is large enough for me and all three cats. Eventually I’ll get that dog, too. I work a couple of shifts a week at a hostel front desk – not because I have to, but because I love meeting travelers and hearing their stories. I write, publish, and miracle of miracles, get paid for it. I sing on stage again, my heart breaking and re-mending right there and then. My anxiety does not prevent me from talking about the things that I love the most – food, architecture, and learning about other places and people – and I get paid to travel and write about it. I spend time at the local stable, riding and helping muck out stalls, just to be close to the horses. I leave milk out for the fairies. I practice my Spanish. I pay off my debts. I practice my tortilla in Spain and my shepherd’s pie in Ireland. I wake up to freshly brewed coffee, and a sweet smile. I move regularly, and go to sleep to the sound of rain on a tin roof, or the frogs singing, or the broad silence of snowfall, or maybe just the gentle roar of the ocean. I am permanent in my impermanence. I use my body to be as active as possible, use my eyes to see all of the colors, use my voice to sing my happiness to life. Ultreia et suseia. As I will it, so it will be.

Right Now

As of the moment, I’m failing at keeping this blog running. After years of writing relatively faithfully, sometimes multiple times a day, it’s odd to find myself having nearly run out of words. I tend to think that it’s a low-level case of writer’s block, brought on by emotional distress, coupled with exhaust from my job, and probably polished up nicely by how closed off I’ve been feeling for the last year. Anyway, all this goes to say that I’m not stopping in with a really juicy post with lots of great information or funny stories or anything like that (even though, strangely enough, I’m finding I have a few things to say as of late). Really, I’m stopping in to leave myself a reminder, something to read and remember at a later date. Also, Grandma, I know you’re reading this, so I figured I’d throw in a tidbit for you. Nothing like a bit of gossip to add spice to life, right? 🙂

I probably shouldn’t say anything at all, since too much info is how things tend to go awry, and I’m loath to be the cause of dissolution. But I just have to say it somewhere: I’ve met someone. He’s tall, handsome, decent and kind. He has working hands, and a creative streak. He cooks. He loves his family, is great with plants, and has a soft spot for animals. He enjoys wine and goes to yoga, and doesn’t think my obsession with finding the perfect NC BBQ sauce is the least bit strange. He has gorgeous hair. We are not overly similar, but we have a lot of good things in common. I don’t have to explain myself (though you know I do, I must, emphatically, ad nauseam, or else my brain would overheat and my engine would explode). He walks through spaces with a lovely mix of kingly comfort and shy self-awareness. He enjoys small space living. He makes the best asparagus I’ve ever eaten. I spilled a glass of wine on this sweet quilt his mom made him, and he didn’t hate me, even the littlest bit. He played me a song, though I didn’t let on that I knew. The signs are thick. Owls, antlers, amethyst, airstream.

Who knows what this is? I’m endeavoring not to think too hard or be too weird (it’s kind of funny that I just typed that, because literally the definition of Anna is “thinks too hard, and is pretty weird”).

One thing that I can say is that I have a strange thought in my head, and I’m not sure if I manifested it, or if he is just good at making me feel it, or what. But from the first time that he made me feel comfortable and adored, my brain shouted “YOU DESERVE THIS!” I like that. I intend to hold on to that feeling. It hasn’t happened often in my life.

It’s late, and I’m very tired. It’s time to cuddle with my cats and call it a night.

 

New Tactics – Horror Movies, Cuss Words, and a Bold Life

I spent Thanksgiving at a friend’s house. It was a good time; even though it was his first time hosting Thanksgiving, it was obvious that he has a flair for entertaining. The meal – every part cooked from scratch – was delicious. The company was eclectic and well-balanced. There were only seven of us in total (not counting Gracie, our canine guest), so we could all jump in and out of conversation. We drank champagne, devoured a huge meal, then talked in small groups for hours. It was nice. No political conversation, no arguments, no family in-fighting. Definitely an A+ Thanksgiving.

Though I had a fabulous time just chatting with everyone about all sorts of stuff, one of the host’s friends and I found common ground in our shared love of horror movies (especially supernatural horror). Once we discovered each other’s interest, the conversation got deliciously geeky. We talked for a long time, sharing movie suggestions and finally dragging the host into watching movie trailers with us (we were the last three standing, thanks to getting sucked into movie conversation).

It was so nice to meet a new friend, but more than that, it was a total rush to remember this thing that I’m passionate about. I’ve been feeling lost, like I can’t communicate myself to anyone, including me. I’m just starting to try to sort through the jumble of facts and fictions in which I’ve wrapped myself, to figure out what it is that I am, what I love, where I’m going to go with all of that information. So to get SUPER EXCITED about discussing horror movies was total joy. I know, I know, it’s small to you, maybe. But for me, it gives me hope.

I have a thing that I love (a few things, actually – I can now confidently say that I love hiking, the Camino, WWII history, medieval religious architecture, St. Francis, NC BBQ, and supernatural horror movies). And I know people who like each of these things. I have friends who love the outdoors, and Camino buddies, and even a friend from the Camino who is also a WWII history buff. So logically, I understand that my interests are not held within a bubble. My interests are not special, exactly. But you can love these things, and when you never talk about them, you forget that they touch your heart, they open your mind, they bring you a passionate connection to the world.

So in meeting a person who deeply appreciated something that I also deeply appreciate,  it’s been reiterated to me that my interests are valid. And even more special, my new friend likes this movie genre for the same specific reason, in the same way, that I do. You know, you meet people all the time who like horror movies because they love blood, or like monsters, or get some weird joy out of seeing bad things happen to people in a make-believe setting. But that’s not why I like horror films; in fact, most blood and guts type movies disgust me (unless the “bad guy” is a witch, in which case I normally root for her, no matter how gruesome it gets, understanding that the story is being told from a skewed P.O.V., and she has every right to protect herself from the bullshit religious right patriarchy, lol). But in general, I watch supernatural horror because I like thinking about the unseen, and how close we are to touching it, and how often we’re a part of it without knowing. It was really cool to meet someone who understands that, and geeks out about it in the same way. It gives me hope for my future.

All this being said, it’s time for me to focus my energy on that hope, on firing up my passion, becoming more confident in being myself, knowing who that “self” is, discontinuing my need to seek permission to be joyous and geeky and fired up over the simple things (and the complex ones). I’m going to take a step away from Compass & Quill for awhile, while I build my message over on my new blog.

NOTE TO MY RELATIVES: Before you click that link above, if you’re related to me and don’t like cuss (curse) words, just do yourself a favor and don’t bother. I will be cussing. You won’t like it. And honestly, I don’t intend on entertaining a conversation with you about watching my language at 36. I’m not going to, the end, get used to the fact that I’m a decent human being, you’ve done the best you can, and it’s time to move on and stop nitpicking. I’m having a difficult enough time with my life without having to deal with making you happy 100% of the time. It’s your job to make you happy, and when you let me make you unhappy over something miniscule and pointless, it’s not my fault, it’s yours for blowing things out of proportion.

The #1 problem in my life right now is that I’ve always shifted my life around to make everyone around me happy, and in the process, I lost the ability to see the difference between making you all happy and making ME happy. And EVERY SINGLE DECISION ends up being a source of inner conflict, as I worry about what every person I’ve ever known and loved might think of me when I make it. I mean, seriously, I get caught up and confused when buying dish soap, in case one of my friends might come over and be upset with me for using an unpleasant scent (and I don’t ever have houseguests). Let’s not even get into choosing throw pillows, or new shoes, or picking up a hobby, or trying to have a normal conversation at a coffee shop. This goes to say that I have a major problem with letting what I think you all want dictate the way I run my life, when you’re not even present. That’s entirely my fault, not yours, and I’m going to eliminate it this year. My first step is being painfully honest about the ways that I let people hurt me, and have power over me, without even knowing it. So let’s just cut the bullshit, and you can stop agonizing that my use of cuss words will make me white trash, while I stop agonizing that my use of cuss words will make you not love me anymore. Capice?