Kill Your Darlings

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Faulkner said that in writing, it is paramount to kill your “darlings,” those special, yet extraneous, details that ego often asks us to keep in the manuscript. Creating feels so good, and it’s easy to fall prey to your own fripperies. If you don’t watch it, fear of whittling down your paragraphs can lead to a clunky, over-embellished final product.

My life is feeling over-embellished and lopsided right now. Too much detail in all the wrong places. Too many time wasters. Too little quality content. It strikes me tonight that my true connections are few, and I could be spending my time much more wisely than I currently do. Most of the actions I make in the social media sphere are an effort to woo or impress, but whom? The only people who follow my memes and photos, and longwinded musings are either good friends or decent acquaintances. We “like” and “share” each other’s funny little quips, but if that’s all a relationship is, what point of continuing? I’m only doing it to give myself mini doses of serotonin. I’m not going to magically find new people who love me in that echo chamber. I am addicted to feeling like someone gives a shit – and let’s be honest, very few do.

The kicker is that the ones who actually matter in my life aren’t even on social media. None of my best friends participate. I get my serotonin in our relationships by actually conversing with them IRL, at great length, either in writing or over the phone. Jess and Trin text. Katy connects via Signal. Natalie, Trin, and Katie use Whatsapp. Pete and Martius are on Messenger. I see Anne and Caroline and Amy and Theo in person.

I need to spend some time contemplating what self-made cancers to cut out of my life. I’ve already decided to end codependency once and for all in 2019. No more smiling and nodding and giving my soul away because it makes other people less inclined to be shitty to me. No more supporting the endless cycle of damaged, yet soulful, artist partners. Infinitely more saying YES to me. A corresponding number of NO to all of the people, places, and things that I don’t want to do but agree to because I’m afraid of what they’ll think, of letting them down, of failing as a woman or a professional or a friend. I’m tired.

Pretty sure that the first step to freedom is killing some of those darlings.

 

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.