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.

Anyway, I don’t like to say things like, “It’s early days,” because that says you anticipate for there to be late ones, and that feels either incredibly prideful or just inviting of disaster, I can’t figure out which. But we’ve only just met. So 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?

Unseen & Unspoken

It’s crazy how just a little more information can completely change your view of a person – and of yourself. I have prided myself on being an open book, completely forthcoming, complicated, but ultimately willing to hash out those complications in painful detail so as to keep the lines of communication open and clear. But I have not been keeping up with this grand vision. There have been a number of things in my life that were so painful, so difficult to look at, that I just swept them under the proverbial rug and kept on marching along. It’s really a wonder that things went so well for as long as they did, given this glaring oversight.

What’s worse is that my behavior, something I thought I was doing of my own accord, in an attempt to be kind (even though it was killing me) is a direct result of emotional manipulation that I don’t believe either party realized was happening. I only got cued into it today, by a trained professional who pointed it out to me in detail and patiently walked me through. Of course, I somehow refused to see what she was saying for about five cycles, until it suddenly came into view, like one of those stupid Magic Eye posters from the 90s. How easy it is to prod me along a certain path, using only veiled references of guilt and shame. How desperately I want to help, to shoulder more than my half of the burden, to apologize for things that are completely out of my control. To bow down at the greatness of the men before me, and let myself be eclipsed.

I am not without blame. Not by a long shot. This is a direct result of growing up with some solid emotional manipulation at home, and that, in turn, has its roots in the fundamentalist Christian culture in which my hometown has been steeped for a century. As a result, though I might do my level best to be kind and understanding, this is going to take much more work. A lifetime of it. My dual need to be loved and to be fair makes it nearly impossible to stand up for myself. I simply cannot speak my mind when I think that something less than kind will come out. The old saying “think before you speak” was put to good use on me, and my thoughts, though judicious, are often not the kind of thing anyone will want to hear about themselves. I see too much. I am a true Scorpio. I know exactly what to say to sting, and it’s the first thing that wants to come out.

So I hold back, and I do not argue, under any circumstances. A lifetime of holding my tongue has turned into something like a panic attack as soon as voices are raised. So I freeze up, have trouble catching my breath, and can’t talk sometimes, which has erroneously been interpreted as “the silent treatment” (though the silent treatment is literally not talking to someone until you get what you want, and that is not at all what I do…I just can’t argue, and I get all weird and can’t breathe and my eyes start thrumming along with my heartbeat, and then I generally start to cry. If I can sit quietly for 10 minutes or so and just breathe, I get over it and can generally talk again). But either way, avoiding any topics that make me freak out is a malfunction that leads to misunderstandings. It needs to be dealt with.

The other half of this equation is seeing the ways in which I’ve been pushed to do things that I didn’t want to do, and how much this irritated me. All it took was a hangdog air, a guilty, embarrassed look that made me feel guilty for not taking care of him more. A shame that begot shame, and encouraged me to always be sympathetic, to never demand repayment in money, time, or reciprocated action. Explanations for being forgetful and sloppy, then that same old kicked puppy expression, a self-loathing that made it unfair to ask him to do more, to try harder. How could I, when he suffered so on his own? Depression, yes. But also a learned behavior of subtle manipulation, from multiple generations living in a household fraught with this secret language of love and loathing. Mostly harmless in small doses. Absolutely lethal over the course of three years. And still, at the end, the catalyst of the breakup was me, one of the only times I asked for more than he could give.

This sounds cruel, even as I write it. But I have to remind myself that sometimes truth is cruel, and it must be said if I’m going to keep my promise of being an open book. At first, I was horrified to find that it was all my fault. I could have prevented the breakup by just not getting upset, and never expressing my needs for physicality, and maybe just continuing to hold off on suggesting therapy. What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I try harder? Why didn’t I express myself in a different way? I was drunk, I cried, I said something passive aggressive. That’s not nice at all. But then I talked it through with a half-dozen other women who were amazed at my fortitude, and horrified at the mental gymnastics I’d been performing to keep telling myself that this was OK. For me, these were just the things you do for love. You never express dissatisfaction, or push a person to do anything else for your needs or pleasure. Wanting someone to do nice things for you is a purely selfish standpoint, right? But that’s broken thinking. Yes, love should be freely given, but that’s just the point. It needs to actually be given, not hinted at and never shown. I’m just so used to shoving myself into boxes to meet the needs of the men I assume won’t love me otherwise. I can’t keep doing this.

For love, you seek help. For love, you slow dance in the kitchen. For love, you find new ways to build a life together, despite your hangups. For love, you say what you’re thinking, and duke it out if you must. You might push away sometimes, but you pull close, too. I am full of regrets right now, but for the most part, feeling strangely better. I got dumped, but it gives me a chance to set myself on the right path. I’m too old to follow along, cleaning up someone else’s crumbs, boosting their ego, lying about how hurt I am at never having them return the favor. I am not cut out to be a mother. And right now, I have been given the opportunity to only be myself. So thank you for that gift, ex-boyfriend. I hope you find what you’re looking for. For that matter, I hope I do, too.

makings of me

the moon

st. francis of assisi

lace up boots

comfy underwear (a must for this big ol’ booty)

cats

animals of all sorts

the deer woman

the hag

the morrigan

toe rings

earrings

earbuds (the flat type, since the globular ones fall right out of my ears)

the bbc

gulag stories

wwII biographies and autobiographies

horses

quiet

trees

little brown birds

inchworms

tiny baby toads

the fae

faerie tales

graveyards

burial mounds

castles

cathedrals

sunlight through stained glass

long hikes

mountains

oceans

pretty rocks

flamenco

embroidery (not lace)

paper

spirals

khussas

singing

attempting to capture thoughts adequately

holding hands

kissing

sleeping enough

sleeping in

sleeping late

taking a nap

deciding to go back to sleep

waiting to sleep for good

lemon bars

labyrinths

shadows

secrets

understanding