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.

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.

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.

 

If Turnips Were Watches

When can I begin? When do I get to give myself a break?

There’s this song that I’ve identified with ever since it came out in 1997, called “Graduate.” Of course, back then I was a high schooler, and it seemed like forever until I’d graduate. The song meant what it said. But then I got older, and it started to ring true to me in other ways. Still does. Sometimes I wonder if I inadvertently programmed myself to it, but then I think that’s probably too optimistic. Maybe a lot of us feel this way, trapped in circumstances just outside of our sphere of control, watching as the world whirls around us, thinking that any minute now, we’ll figure shit out, right? But that’s never going to happen. You have to live now, and stop concentrating on things getting better tomorrow. There’s no tomorrow.

I don’t know when I get to do what I want. Why do I live in fear? Why am I shut off and shut down? Why can’t I be a success at being myself? And if I know the things that I want, why can’t I get them? Haven’t we reached a point where anything is possible? Is my problem that I don’t believe I can have what I want? (I know right away, as I write this, that’s not true.)

My problem is that I believe I’ll get exactly what I work for, and I still won’t like it. It will be broken, off-key, a demented lie. It will be what it always was. It’s just that my vision was skewed. I’m afraid that I see what I want through rose-colored glasses, and that I’ll surely suffer the consequences if I reach out to take it.

And so I’m shut down. Shut off. Stuck in 11th grade for-fucking-ever. I’m tired.

 

The Decisions

How often in our lives do we lay it all bare?

I’m wondering if that’s why I can regard my breakups – my bad decisions – so positively, despite the emotional damage. At least when you’re breaking up with someone, you can come clean with everything that you’ve been thinking.

Nope, even that’s a lie. That’s completely untrue. Sorry, dear reader. I didn’t mean to lie to you. It’s force of habit. That doesn’t say the best about me, I know. It’s just that I’ve been trained to be sweet, nice, amenable. If being a pushover is the prime directive, being myself is so far on the back burner as to be on a stove in someone else’s apartment.

So, here:

I have fallen in love four times. I have fallen madly in love twice. My most “serious” relationship was with someone whom I loved, but with whom I never counted myself as being madly in love with. I measure “serious” on us both acting like adults – cohabitating, both holding down jobs, mutually planning for a future together. I have only had that one serious relationship. Everything else has been wishful thinking on my part. I know that now.

The first man I fell in love with was my first taste of magick, and how much of a bitch it can be. We met my freshman year, through a very weird set of coincidences. We had the same birthday, even though he was two years older. We were supposed to go on a date, but before it happened, I met someone else and my life went another direction, entirely. We didn’t end up going out on that date for three years, after meeting again via another odd set of coincidences. Once it finally happened, we were inseparable. We spent days in bed, watching Adult Swim. He moved in with me and didn’t pay rent. His cat peed on everything. My friends hated him. I thought he was amazing. In retrospect, I don’t think he thought much of me.

The first man I fell madly in love with feels like a bad dream. I still get sick to my stomach thinking about him. It was the second time I’d fallen in love. I was singing on stage, and looked out into the crowd. He was there, bathed in blue. He looked like Krishna. I fell hard, and immediately. When I got off stage, he was waiting to talk to me. It felt destined. He felt perfect, but I was a mess, and I guess he was, too. It couldn’t work. He once kicked me out of his car because I said I wished that I could trade my life for Freddie Mercury’s, to bring back a star in exchange for a dud. I thought his music was sublime. I can still pick out the sound of his trombone over any other horn on Frenchmen Street, 15 years later. It helps me decide what bars to avoid. Maybe I tried too hard. Maybe I just weirded him out. I don’t know. I still can’t see the past clearly enough to understand exactly how it didn’t work, but at any rate, I kept trying. I can be accused of many things, but giving up is not one. I clung to him for two years after our breakup, and he had pity on me, much to my detriment. Thank god for Hurricane Katrina, for enforcing a break that I couldn’t make for myself.

There was a break. I didn’t take time off on purpose, but life went on, and no more love happened. I wasn’t sad about it. It was a relief, actually.

And then the serious boyfriend happened. We were friends for a year. I took my time, inching along, inspecting every crevice, anticipating every problem. He seemed safe enough, grown up and responsible, but with piercings, and tattoos, and a dark sense of humor. He liked me. He got my jokes, and understood my timing. He thought I was pretty. He just couldn’t understand my emotions, or talk to me about God, but by now I understood that I’d need to make concessions to find a partner. It was a good basic concept, but I wasn’t making the decision from an informed place. I didn’t understand yet what really made me tick, or that being with a man who refused to discuss God (or to put it in easier terms, Universal Truth) meant that I could never have a meaningful conversation again in my own home. It was too much to accept. We dated for nearly eight years, but in the end I couldn’t keep going. He was blindsided, but I’d known for awhile that it wasn’t working. I kept telling him that I was unhappy, but I guess I should have shouted, or used ruder words than “unhappy.” When I finally told him I was leaving, he fell apart. We’ve never spoken again.

I should have been more useful to my ex in this time of dissolution, but a few weeks before calling it quits and moving out, I’d met a friend of a friend with whom I really clicked. It was a first for me. I didn’t know it then, but I was entering new territory for me. I finally knew myself, and could speak from the heart in a way I hadn’t before. This new man saw me for myself, and to my surprise, he liked what he saw.

So I moved out, found my own place, and before long, man #4 and I fell madly, deeply in love. It hurt, physically, to be apart from him. I could barely breathe while he was away. I didn’t take any time to recover from the trainwreck of my prior relationship, and it would damage me much more in the end. Worst of all, in retrospect, is that this new beau turned my brain on. I don’t know how long it was off, but I’m assuming that it was only partially working for around eight years prior to meeting him. All of a sudden, it was humming with intensity. Story after story. So many ideas, just pumping out of me night and day. I couldn’t keep up. And for everything that worked its way out of me, there was a conversation to hone it, beautify it, make it more, bigger, sweeter, sharper. He wasn’t just a boyfriend. He was a muse. He was oxygen to a brain so starved it barely remembered how to function. There were shortcomings, yes. Shortcomings galore. And now that everything has ended, hindsight is 20/20. But while he was happening, he was nothing short of jumper cables for my brain, artistic life support in a world where I had long ago drowned.

See? I’ve still only given you half truths. Even with the best intentions on the line, I can still only give you what my heart’s ready for you to know. I’m sure if any one of these men weighed in, they’d give you their own version of how I was a monster to them. Only one would have a leg to stand on, but his offenses and mine weigh just about the same, if you add them all up over time.

That’s not why I started this, anyway. I started this because I wanted to tell you that I have a new crush. It’s not terribly new. I’ve known it for months, but have been logic-ing myself out of it. If I had to make a prediction, it’s that it will end badly. Maybe not death; just drama, and plenty of tears. I don’t want that. I should stay away. But I won’t. I won’t because I knew as soon as I saw him the first time that he was on my predetermined list of decisions. Whether he’s a bad one or not, I guess I’ll have to let you know.

 

 

It’s A Kind of Magic

It occurs to me that the likelihood is very high that I will never connect with a life partner. I’m sure I’ll have other short term partners, and even some longish term. But what are the odds of finding that person who’s experienced just the right set of life experiences, and has the knowledge, humor, and tenacity to be willing to hold my hand til the bitter end? (If I’m cooking up a dreamboat to visualize, it occurs to me here that I should probably insert “tempered, yet contagious optimism” to my list of requirements – can’t hurt.)

I found out the other day that I had my Myers Briggs profile wrong, and I’m actually INTP. Suddenly, everything clicks into place. The deep loneliness. The inability to connect. The annoyance at small talk and occasion-specific clothing. The overwhelming desire to find Truth, even without understanding exactly what Truth means. Never being able to explain myself because I skipped all the steps in the middle to get to the answer, and hell, I’m not a teacher, you figure it out. The overwhelm. Disliking arguments because if I know I’m right, I don’t want to waste time convincing you of something you should be smart enough to know. The mad scientist excitement over a hundred and one ways to create and innovate…but squirrel!

I sing out loud when I’m walking places in the city. It makes me happy, and I’m past caring about social norms. When I sing, I tell myself I’m sending out a beacon to the Universe. See me! I’m here, doing your work! But it’s really a distress call, isn’t it? See me! Don’t let me be invisible!

I’m doing my best to stay calm. It’s not that I am scared of being alone, physically. In most ways, I prefer it. I like quiet and having my own space. It helps me think. But the idea of being locked in my head forever, of never finding someone to understand me – I can’t find the words to paint the appropriate level of anguish for you here, dear reader.

I think that’s what hurts the most about the end of my last relationship. Connecting mentally and personality-wise with other humans is just not normal for me. It takes me years to move someone from the “acquaintance I spend a lot of time with” bucket to the “friend I would trust my life with” bucket. There’s no in-between collection receptacle.

It takes extraordinary circumstances to circumvent this process, but it’s happened in a few cases – most notably, on the Camino. That’s one of the reasons that trip looms so large in my life story. To go halfway across the world, expecting to be alone and stay alone, and then to meet multiple people to whom I could gladly offer my heart – that’s so far from my norm that I still can’t comprehend it fully. To quote one of the greatest musical acts of all time, it’s a kind of magic.

But I yearn for that magic in my everyday. The challenge is to find a way to reverse engineer it. Surely I am capable of whipping up some sort of recipe for success.