Prudence Where The Sun Don’t Shine

It is prudent to take a rich lover. Marriage is another kettle of fish, but having a wealthy paramour definitely makes many things easier. Need a social life? Money can buy one. Wishing for a more extensive wardrobe? Borrow a credit card on your next trip to town. Sure, you’ll be selling your soul, but hey, who hasn’t in some way, at some point?

Even if you don’t have the connections to align with a properly rich “better half,” you can still maneuver your way into a financially beneficial arrangement. Find out where the doctors go to get coffee, take a seat, wait your turn to flirt. Or become a paralegal, or an executive assistant in an exciting, testosterone-laden field. Forget about working for a promotion within the company; that’s shortsighted! Work those charms (and those gams – make sure to flaunt your assets, as it were). Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Of course, I’m being facetious, at least as this regards my own person. But relationships are contracts, and love isn’t always on the table (or even missed, when it’s not). As sad as it seems, plenty of people still marry for business, power, political gain, and just plain old cold, hard cash…well, probably not cold, hard cash; I’m guessing fluid credit is probably the name of the game these days.

On two semi-recent occasions in my life, my mom has remarked in a weird, seemingly offhand – but actually quite pointed – manner, that I should be trying to marry rich. Apparently, I have older cousins who were encouraged to take influential men for their mates, and did quite well in the endeavor. Mind you, I’m not aware of the actual circumstances (though said partners probably include the requisite doctor, lawyer, and who knows what else, if not a Native American chief, then maybe a partner in a casino?). For all I know, they were love matches that just happened to include some perks. Who knows? And really, who cares, since we’re talking about the familial version of the proverbial Joneses?

When the ex and I broke up, I had to sit through some vague commentary on various relatives’ part about how I was throwing away an advantageous relationship. Apparently, growing up lower middle class (when there was still such a thing) means that it’s practically a miracle to land a gentleman from the middle middle class set. Oh, what will I do now without someone to feed me and take care of my car? Apparently, walk a lot, max out my credit cards, and hand-wash my laundry in the tub, lol.

Yeah, some days I realize that, speaking pragmatically, it would have been smarter for me to swallow all of my unhappiness and sell myself to the guy with the fattest wallet, like women have been encouraged (and forced) to do since time immemorial. But obviously I just don’t have it in me to be subservient, even if it means having a nice shoe collection. I will just have to take my lumps on the poor side of the tracks once more, if it means staying true to myself.

Of course, I’ll still be kicking myself in the ass for being so utterly terrible with money, but that’s one of prudence’s other arguments.

Pausing To Regroup

Has anyone else been watching Legion? Starting to feel like I’ve got my own Lenny calling the shots sometimes. (By the way, does anyone else have a massive girl crush on Aubrey Plaza in this role? She’s electrifying!)

I really screwed up this week. On Wednesday, I went to see Brian Wilson play at the Saenger Theatre, and that night I ended up spending money I didn’t have on food I didn’t really want. I overate, and I felt sick all the next day. But feeling terrible didn’t mean that I went easy on myself the next day and got back on track; I felt so crappy, I ended up getting Chinese for dinner as comfort food, and of course I then overate again. So then Friday I woke up feeling REALLY terrible – bloated and queasy and just out of it, and breaking out behind my ears and under my jawline in an allergic reaction to something I had eaten. So what did I do? I went to a baseball game that night, and ate more crap, so I’d feel truly disgustingly sick. Then I woke up on Saturday, knowing that I had the chance to put it all behind me, and ordered a pizza and wings, and skipped my chance to hear Noah Levine doing a live reading/talk/Q&A because I felt like the most disgusting human on the planet. Then I ate a pint of ice cream and some gumbo and two sodas for dinner, and went to bed really sad with how far down the rabbit hole I’d managed to fall in just a few days.

So I woke up this morning, thought about going to the gym to try to set off on the right path, and decided that I couldn’t face the day, and then went back to bed until early afternoon, when I woke up and got an iced ginger latte and a lox sandwich for my late lunch. I don’t really feel too bad about that, actually. I mean, yeah, I really couldn’t afford to spend that money and I’ll be short for the rest of the month because of it, but it was a truly delicious sandwich, and ginger lattes are probably my favorite thing on the planet, other than decent ginger beer (which is sadly difficult to find – they’re always too sweet).

Anyway, that was my last five days of burning money and eating myself sick. Oh, and I felt so terrible about it all (physically, mentally, and emotionally) that I also skipped my Recovery Refuge meeting tonight, like an asshole. It felt like an episode of Elementary, where Sherlock starts skipping his meetings because he’s not well, emotionally, and his sponsor has to track him down. Except when it’s pizza instead of heroin, and you have no sponsor, no one’s there to track you down and drag you to a meditation circle. I’ve got to get my own shit together. I’m a grownup. I have to figure out how to do this.

So.

Keeping all this in mind, I know that I can’t change what’s already happened. I can only try to make better choices moving forward. So I took a time out from feeling like a worthless pile of shit and thought back to what I have done differently for the last couple of weeks that seemed to be working out for me.

Step one has been cooking up a big pot of veggie curry to have on hand. Wouldn’t you know that I ate the last of the curry on Tuesday night? And look where that got me. So today I looked up a new curry recipe for my crockpot, and of course the food co-op didn’t have half of the ingredients that I wanted, so I’m doing something new with the things I could find: chickpeas, green beans, carrots, onion, and I’m also trying garam masala for the first time. I’ll let you know what happens.

Step two has been going to the gym, so I’ve already let my gym buddy know that I’ll be there for spin class tomorrow. Step three is, of course, meditation. I’m going to try something new this week, and go to a meditation meetup at the Healing Center on Wednesday night. Singing would be great, too. I wonder if I’d have time to get to the kirtan meetup tomorrow night if I leave the gym by 7pm? Hmmm.

The final step will be seeing a doctor. Mindfulness has been proven to help with binge eating, but I should be seeing a therapist again to work with my anxiety and really give this the one-two punch. Unfortunately, at the moment that’s just not an option. My job is great, and pays for health insurance, but a trip to the doctor still costs $35 out of pocket, and that’s just money I don’t have. Especially after eating it all this week. Insert huge sigh here. I do have a regular doctor’s visit coming up in May, though, so maybe by then I can figure something out.

I feel worse about missing tonight’s meeting because of a weird second of interaction that happened last meeting. When the official meeting is over, one of the group leaders takes the time to talk to people as they’re packing up and leaving the meeting spot. It’s really nice of him, though it makes me a little uncomfortable, just in the way that any personal interactions with strangers make me act even weirder than usual. He strikes me as a very kind, empathetic man, and I don’t know anything about him, but if I had to guess, I’d say that he’s an artist of some kind. He just gives off a vibe – a little bit punk, a tad eclectic, eyes that seem to see you and through you at the same time. I bet he’s a Scorpio.

Anyway, after the first meeting, he took time to ask me if I’d be back, and what I thought, the usual thing. Then at last week’s meeting, he was talking to someone else as I was collecting my stuff, so I just walked past them and started to walk out the door. I was halfway out the door when I heard him call my name, a little bit like a question, maybe a little bit worried. I looked back, and he had his hand half outstretched. It felt like a millisecond of panic, barely reined in. If I had to guess, I’d say that he planned to be personal with everyone, so it hadn’t occurred to him that he might miss anyone on his list due to them leaving without saying goodbye. And maybe he’s a bit like me, really wanting to be good to people, but not entirely sure that he’s doing it right. Or maybe he was worried about me for some reason I can’t see but he can. Anyway, I looked back, smiled, and told him I’d see him next time. He looked skeptical, maybe worried. Which maybe also might be why I didn’t go back tonight, because anyone could tell that I’ve been gorging myself for the last few days. My face is round. My skin looks terrible. My hair was stringy until I washed it a little bit ago. Ugh.

Whatever. I’m doing what I can to get myself back. I gave myself a pedicure. I washed the dishes. I put a pot of curry on. I boiled eggs, and made tea, and fed the cats, and cleaned out the litter boxes. I am writing my blog post. I will pick out my outfit for tomorrow, listen to a hypnotherapy recording, and get a good night’s sleep. I will go to work early (with a healthy breakfast and lunch packed up) and go to the gym after I’m done with all of my paperwork. I will come home and vacuum the house, clean the bathroom, and write another blog post. I will be OK. In the end, that’s really the only choice.

I’m bookending this with one of my favorite versions of “Feeling Good,” for your listening pleasure…

Happily Ever After

I’m one of the oldest of my coworkers, though if it weren’t for the emerging smile lines, a few gray hairs, and my complete lack of Nickelodeon trivia knowledge, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell. They all act way older than I do. They’re settled in a way that has never felt right to me. Other than my Assistant General Manager (late 30’s) and the General Manager (early 50’s), most of the people I work with are in their late 20’s, and all either have children, spouses, houses and cars, or spend their time talking about attaining any of a number of those things.

My closest coworker, job-wise, is also one of my favorite people at work. He’s a really sweet guy, and we share some similarities, like hailing from North Carolina. He’s 27, in the process of buying a house, and has also just started shopping for a ring for his girlfriend. He announced these things at work the other day, and I appeared to be the only person who absorbed the knowledge with something akin to dismay. The others are taking it with a grain of salt, and in general are giving off an excited vibe that implies these steps are only right. There’s a feeling that my friend will be joining a different tribe when he takes these last steps into manhood. The other work guys crowded into his office to offer slaps on the back, or talk over ring prices. I did my best to keep my facial expressions neutral, for fear that I would betray too much of my inner workings.

It’s like they’re all familiar with a particular model of invisible conveyor belt, and they’re all just chugging along toward a finish line (a giant, fiery-mouthed machine? a cliff? a bunch of angels in tennis shoes, idly strumming harps?). Meanwhile, I’m standing in a bucket of slowly-hardening concrete, watching them roll away – and the weird part is that I’m not all that upset about it.

In the real world, when I’m brought into these kinds of conversations, I do my best to be kind. It’s obvious that I’m definitely in the minority with my opinions, so I just smile and nod, and concentrate on not saying anything rude. But if I had any kind of impulse control issues when it came to holding my tongue, I’d have spent yesterday running around the office, screaming at them all to snap out of it, to jump off of their conveyor belts while there’s still time. Of course I didn’t say anything, even when I caught a glimpse of the engagement ring picture on my coworker’s computer (and hated it – so ostentatious and glittery, all diamonds and yet still, curiously, no substance).

Why stay silent? Because I know how this goes. I know that not only am I in the minority, my minority is so small, it makes me look like I’m batshit crazy to voice any of my opinions. I mean, sure, yeah, I can still imagine myself getting married one day. But I can also imagine myself owning a unicorn, so it’s maybe not the best thing to ask me if I believe that marriage is an intelligent decision. It’s definitely not right for me now, and let’s face it, I’m quickly approaching the sell-by date. But I guess there’s always a later, until you’re dead.

So let’s fantasize for a second about just how perfect this imaginary man would have to be to be husband material, shall we?

  • He’d have to be artistic – not necessarily a painter or writer, but someone who finds joy in making and doing. If not someone who builds castles on paper, then someone who takes pleasure in working with his hands, and through this, is able to empathize with my own need to create (even when I’m being particularly shitty at it). He could love to cook, or to do woodwork, or to garden.
  • He’d also have to have a firm appreciation for music, and he has to at least be able to sing. I dated a tone-deaf guy who disliked most of the music I liked, and it was heartbreaking. Not kidding, just remembering it makes my gut churn. Music is THAT important to me. Some basic music appreciation is a must; no compromises there.
  • He has to read. That’s another place where I couldn’t compromise. I could find a way to work around a man who doesn’t like the cinema (it would be sad, but I’d survive), but I have a strong suspicion that I’d secretly believe a non-reader to be stupid, and of course it’s practically impossible to have a healthy relationship with a man you believe to be an idiot.
  • I couldn’t give two figs for whether or not he’s athletic, or even if he appreciates sports. Actually, I really hate having sports games playing on TV in my home, so extra points for not being into watching sports things (baseball, soccer, and hockey get a pass, though). But he does need to love nature, and care about the earth. And I’d flip my lid for him to be the kind of outdoorsy that means he’d be genuinely excited to go hiking and camping with me. That would be really cool. But that’s also not expected; I’m fine finding my own tribe to support me in my outdoors endeavors.
  • He’d need to make money – enough to take care of himself like a grownup when I’m not in the picture, and it would be nice if he made enough to take care of me a little bit, too. He’s imaginary, so he’s just as successful as my imaginary self is – he can easily pay rent and car note, take vacations, and put money aside for retirement. God, I love living in my imagination. But seriously, marriage should only be for two people who can take care of themselves without any help, so that when they combine forces, they become a super team, rather than one of them becoming the other’s sucking chest wound.
  • He’d be open, spiritually. He’d know the difference between “agnostic” and “atheist.” He’d be respectful of religious exploration, even if he had a chosen spiritual path. He’d love to talk about gods and religions, and his own inner quest. Most importantly, he’d have an inner quest. Having already wasted time with a non-dreamer, I can confidently state that I will never, ever, be happy with a man who doesn’t yearn to find his own Truth.
  • Then there’s the small stuff that’s really the big stuff, like making me laugh, conversing for hours, being a great kisser, always having time to give me a hug, never going to bed angry, holding my hand at the movies, giving good foot rubs, washing my hair, cooking me breakfast, being nice to my cats, always being up for an adventure (even the tiny kind, like trying out a new coffee shop), doing chores without me having to gripe, taking care of his health and wellbeing, and never EVER waking me up before my alarm clock goes off.

I know that you can’t find everything in one person, and that love means compromises. And I have compromised, in every relationship. I’m good at that part. Maybe too good, who knows? As it goes, my current relationship hits almost every one of these bullet points, plus a lot of the small stuff. It’s by far the healthiest partnership I’ve ever had a pleasure to take part in.

But the biggest bullet point is the one that’s not included here. It’s a personal bullet point, the thing that goes on behind the scenes. To be able to fall for someone, you have to also be capable of standing on your own two feet. And I used to feel like I had that part down, but now I’m not so sure anymore. It feels like I’m just barely doing a passing job of keeping myself in one piece, here. I am the one that’s not marriage material. I don’t want to make someone take care of me, just like I don’t want to take care of someone else. Sure, I want to indulge, and be indulged, but I want to also know that I am capable of holding my own in this world.

So that makes the real question, “What is it that everyone else sees that I don’t?” Are they just as fragile as I am, and hiding it, AND emotionally capable of happily sucking someone else into their own disaster – is everyone that terrible? Or are they so much stronger than I am? Or are they blind to it all, and just moving along at the pace they’ve been told they should be keeping?

All those conveyor belts.

When I look into my future, I never see a husband and children. I see a tidy little house in the desert, a pickup truck, a dog, a couple of cats, and me. Maybe horses, though I bet they actually belong to the neighbors. I see beautiful outdoors, and wrinkles, and gray hair, and an impressive collection of soft, natural fabrics, fun shoes, and ethnic jewelry. I see waking up early to a cup of coffee on the front porch. I see art projects, and crossword puzzles, and many more hiking trips before my knees start to give out on me. I might die in hospice, but I won’t die alone. I’ll have dear friends until the end. Maybe no husband, no children, no lover there to hold my hand when it’s time to let me go, but I’ll have a friend or two to say goodbye. And that’s OK. You can’t take any of this with you, can you? No one can.

(P.S. The music video above is off of Jonathan Coulton’s newest album, Solid State, and deserves a read/listen. Read more about the album concept here.)

Just When You Thought You Knew It All

Last night, I heard something beautiful. I was listening to a meditation on addiction, and the man on the recording was asking listeners to picture a person or creature in our lives that we love, that we count on, to whom we could open ourselves. It could be a family member, a lover, or even a beloved pet that is there for us in times of need. But in opening up this idea, the speaker said something like, “You might not be able to picture this person just yet, but they are there, still. Their love, though you haven’t met it yet, reaches across the divide of time and space – they are reaching for you even now, just as you reach for them.” The point being, not that there is a soulmate or love interest for everyone, but that we have counterparts in the world who need us as much as we need them. Friends. Family. Strangers who will count on us in moments we have yet to imagine. And yes, maybe lovers. Maybe just pets in the future. For me, at the moment, I’m picturing the next crop of pilgrims I’ll meet on the way to Santiago de Compostela.

I met a handful of truly magical human beings on my trek across Spain – and they’re still influencing my life in various ways. Natalie’s music, her superpower of listening with an open heart and mind, her easy-going nature. Claire’s resilience, her way of making a statement with such effortless grace, her dogged determination to see exactly whatever it was she sets out to see, in her own way, in her own time. Terry’s eye for adventure, and never-ending curiosity, her grit, and her way of walking the walk – I am truly inspired by the effort she puts into living humbly. Nestor’s joy and kindness, always giving to others, even when he was making his way through his own darkness, with a smile that lights up a room, and this effortless charm that’s utterly irresistible. Jakob’s fairness and strength, a protective presence with a streak of impishness, the improbable feeling of finding a long-lost sibling on the other side of the world. David’s inquisitiveness, the analytical mind of an engineer, the bemusement of world traveler who knows he has so much more to see, and too many odd things to explain already. And now that I’m back, I get to know others that I didn’t get know on the road – so many beautiful people, each on their own quest. We all walk the same Camino; it’s a matter of relaying the signs and symbols to each other, to get to know where the others are at at any given time.

In my darkest moments, I reach across the divide of time and space to my pilgrim friends. In particular, I spend time in one particular moment, no longer than 5 seconds maybe, but big enough to live a whole life in. I return, time and again, to the albergue where Jakob, David, and I slept the night before my birthday. It was a terrible town, like one big, awful strip mall. The name escapes me right now, but it was within the last 100 km before Santiago, and I disliked it intensely. We were just a few days away from the end of our pilgrimage. The albergue was cheap, but it had internet and hot showers, and a place to do laundry. The pillows were threadbare, the mattresses barely more than bags of springs. It was a huge place, enough room for at least 80 or so pilgrims, but there were only six of us there that night.

Even though we had all the room in the world to spread out, and had been living on top of each other for days, there was this unspoken agreement to stick together. At first, I wanted space, but to be honest, as soon as I’d put my things down by the bunk, I started worrying about how far away the boys would choose to be. As it turned out, I didn’t have to. We actually moved rooms and beds a couple of times, looking for the best mattresses and WiFi signal. Finally I settled on a particular bunk, and Jakob immediately posted up on the bottom bunk next to mine, with David on the top bunk of the bed on the other side. A couple of weeks before, it had felt a bit odd sleeping on a bed just a few feet away from a strange guy, like an intrusion of my privacy, but any oddness had ceased, leaving familiarity and an odd necessity. Jakob called himself my German Shepherd; maybe that had begun to wear off on me. I grew accustomed to having him near.

Before we went out to dinner, we washed clothes (Jakob had forgotten his headphones in the laundry for the second time, so I made sure to pick on him about it, enjoying the hell out of my favorite of all moments, schadenfreude). The guys took me out for a birthday feast of pulpo and Estrella Galicia at a local pulperia. We were the only folks in the bar, and the owner told us that any local knows you aren’t supposed to eat octopus at night, since it’s a heavy food. I didn’t care – it was exactly what I wanted for my birthday – friends and local food in a foreign country – how could you go wrong with that?

After dinner, we wandered around town, then went back to the albergue to get some shut eye. Sometime before bed, we played this terrible game where I laid on the floor and Jakob tried to drop Oreos into my mouth from a great height (NOT a success, since I was laughing hysterically and trying to avoid an Oreo to the eye). That was followed by a push-up contest that ended poorly, too. All three of us were playing and joking around a lot more than usual, I think because we could all feel the end approaching. But finally it was time for lights out…and this is the moment that I return to.

The albergue lights had been turned off, but you could still see by the dim orange light from the hallway. We’d all gone to bed, then one-by-one we’d gotten up to get one last sip of water, go to the bathroom, find forgotten sleep masks or earplugs, steal a second pillow off of an empty bunk, etc. – the last minute things that we get annoyed at little kids for doing at bedtime, but adults all do without thinking. Finally, everyone was settled. The albergue was quiet, and we’d whispered our goodnights to each other. Overhead and to the left, I heard David’s breathing shift as he fell asleep. Jakob, to my right, was still awake. I shifted, and found just the right position in my sleeping bag, clutching my stolen second pillow to my chest like a teddy bear, and began to drift off. As I did, in that delicious weighty time between waking and sleeping, I had one last thought. More of a feeling, really. I felt a deep, abiding gratitude. I felt safe, and completely at peace. I felt love, and knew it was reciprocated. I don’t think I’d ever felt exactly that level of (home? I don’t know what to call it) before. And whenever I’m scared that I won’t feel it again, I simply reach across the divide, back through time, and tap into that goodness where it still lives, WILL live, forever. My own little dose of life-giving elixir. Love.

 

Predator & Prey

Today’s Daily Post Prompt is “Symbiosis,” about which it turns out I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately. Well, that’s backwards, really. I’ve been thinking about relationships that are supposed to be symbiotic – both organisms surviving together, with mutual, reciprocal benefit – but are not. I guess we’re talking more about codependency, or probably any number of other relationship types of which I’m not yet aware.

First, let’s consider my cats. They’re the most innocent of all of the relationships I’ve been considering. They can survive without me. If I opened up the door right now and shooed them all outside, sure, they’d have a rough week or two, but barring getting hit by a car, they’d be OK. Isabel would find a spot in the sun and sit there, looking frail and vulnerable, until some old lady came along and took her in. Munky would probably run into the first open door and demand kibble and a back rub. Charlie would go feral in no time, and his size and natural ownership of all situations would make him king of the block. There might be some tussles with Kuzia, but they’d work out a way to hold the title jointly without either getting too ticked off.

All that being said, they stay here with me. I feed them very expensive food, take them to the doctor whenever anyone exhibits signs of pain or illness, am constantly refilling food/water and cleaning out litter boxes, and everything I own is covered in cat hair/litter/cat footprints. One of the top reasons I’m stuck in this tiny apartment is because having cats makes me wary of trying to find a roommate, and landlords either don’t want pets or just don’t want three of them, so when I do find a place that would work with three cats, it’s WAY out of my price range. But I love them, and when I’m lonely, there’s always a furball to curl up next to, and when I cry, Charlie loves to lick tears, and when I take showers, Isabel loves to get petted through the plastic shower curtain liner, and when I brush my teeth, Munky loves to have me pet him with the non-toothbrush-holding-hand. So we count on each other, and here we are.

I know too many people who are in negative relationships. Relationships where one of the participants has taken on the role of caregiver, and gives the other participant way too much leeway to not be present, active, giving. I also know more people than ever before who are in desperate need of therapy, or at least some sort of help, whether it’s coming to terms with an addiction, or dealing with childhood trauma, or mental imbalance based in health concerns like PCOS. And I know too many women who can’t come to terms with the fact that you can’t keep from being alone by forcing someone else to depend on you. You’ll still be alone, just alone with someone else in the house. And believe me, that’s much worse, loneliness without being allowed to find a way out of it. And YOU doing it to YOURSELF! What a pity. What a waste. I wish I had the guts to tell every one of my girlfriends that I see in this situation to get out. It’s better to be on your own than alone and stuck under the influence of a man who somehow believes that giving 1/4 of the effort amounts to participation. Relationships are very hard work, and we shouldn’t have to put in 3/4 of the effort for no reward, especially in this day and age, when there’s just no more reason to suffer. It used to be that you needed to be under the protection of a man, and that there was financial security in it, but not anymore. Come to think of it, I don’t have any girlfriends who aren’t the more successful partner, financially speaking.

On that note, I was thinking about romance earlier, and why it is that we have this trope of the handsome, romantic, experienced foreign man (you can set this story in Spain, Italy, Greece, anywhere in South or Central America – just make sure that the men there are dark and handsome, and are rumored to be skilled at seduction). Wouldn’t it be satisfying to have a story where the down-on-her-luck American woman visits a foreign island, in search of romance (a la Eat, Pray, Love), and finds herself unfortunately paired up with a bumbling, analytical, completely inexperienced foreign guy? Like, the only available man on the island is available for a reason, and the resulting pairing is hilarious. I’d enjoy that story.

Well, it’s Sunday afternoon out there, and in a few hours I’m going to go buy some eggs at Dollar General, then hit up my weekly Refuge Recovery meeting. I went to Zumba this morning, so I’m feeling good about being back on track at the gym. Just hoping it’s possible to avoid catching a cold or flu or whatever other bugs are there every time I go for more than a few days in a row. Today I washed my hands before and after Zumba, didn’t touch anything in the classroom, and the equipment that I did use after class, I sprayed it off before and after. I’m trying to be very conscious of when I touch anything, and not touching my face, but we’ll see.

One Sock Missing

There I was, emptying the laundry basket and pairing up all of the socks, when I stumbled across just what this whole thing reminds me of. By “whole thing,” of course, I mean life.

Can you remember back in grade school, when a teacher would call in sick and you’d get a substitute teacher for a day or two? There were some substitutes who were really gung-ho about their job, and when they took the helm, it was basically like nothing had changed. You’d still have a coherent lesson plan and homework, the whole nine. But every now and then you’d end up with a substitute teacher who was basically just a placeholder. She’d sit at the desk, looking vaguely bored (and maybe a little frightened), and the class would spend the entire period pretending to do some busy work, but really writing notes and doodling in the margins, whatever.

I’m not saying I wasn’t like other kids; there were times when I celebrated in this kind of time wastage. It was always fun when the substitute would show a movie, or give us art exercises. But most of the time I hated the empty space. It always reeked of “waiting around.” Everyone was waiting for the next thing. Now was pointless. The busy work wasn’t going to get counted towards your grade, other than maybe towards participation. No one wanted to be there, and everyone knew it. You were all stuck together, sharing the same time suck against your wills, waiting for lunch, or recess, or the bus ride home, whatever came next. Even math class was preferable to the emptiness of substitute hell.

Anyway, that’s what this feels like. Empty. Endless. Monotonous. I’m tired of being here. It is pointless to exist, and at the heart of it, I believe that there is nothing else but this pointlessness. How disappointing.

But ultimately, this realization is what I’ve been trying to get to, I believe. An understanding of what was at my core, what I’ve been overlooking, blanketed as it was by the symptoms of my anxiety and comforted by my food addiction. Now that I can feel it properly, I know that it’s something I’ve felt before, and tried to ignore (many times, in fact). But I’m a different person this time, so I’ll try a new approach. I’ll try being mindful of this big empty closet that is life, and see if I can put a few things into it, to make the void seem a little less like an echo chamber. To find a way to be comforted, and to comfort, until I can finally be done with being.

What’s On The Tube?

One of my earliest memories is of a TV show. Not Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (though I certainly remember both of those shows fondly), but The Jeffersons. I watched that show religiously every afternoon, around the time my Mum was fixing dinner. One day, just before the show was about to start, our TV gave up the ghost. There was a big POP! and a fizzle, and the television was no more. This was the early 1980s, so the working parts inside of a television were a lot different back then. Either way, it was time to get a new TV. In later years, I was to experience a similar situation where the television died, and my then boyfriend calmly walked out of the house, went down the street to the Best Buy a few blocks away, bought a new TV, and was back in less than an hour. But when four-year-old Anna pitched a fit about the television breaking, demanding that her mother drop everything she was doing and go find a new TV in time to watch The Jeffersons, she got nothing for her efforts.

In my memory, my Mum was actually pretty cool about the whole thing. In her customary “this child is nuts, there’s no fixing this situation, OK, let’s keep a cool head” way, she frowned (even her forehead got involved in the effort – my Mum has a very expressive countenance), explained that televisions were expensive and I should get used to not having one, then immediately went back to doing whatever she had been doing in the kitchen. I got the point – mostly that one more word out of me would mean punishment. Obviously, I was upset (no “Weezy!” for how long???) but I got over it. Who knows, maybe losing George Jefferson was the impetus behind me becoming a champion reader. Or maybe not. I don’t remember how long it took for my father to buy a new TV, but it couldn’t have been that long. I can’t imagine him going without the old boob tube for longer than a few days, max.

Tonight I was thinking about television shows that I’ve absorbed over the years, and how in some ways, I’m composed of them. The favorites have stuck with me for an awfully long time. It might mean nothing, or it might mean just the smallest bit of something. I’m sure it means less than a lot, but more than zero. So it felt right to start collecting those shows here. I’ll stop waxing ridiculous and just start the list, in more-or-less the order I remember watching them in:

  1. Sesame Street
  2. Mr. Rogers
  3. 3-2-1 Contact
  4. Lassie
  5. The Jeffersons
  6. Fraggle Rock
  7. Pound Puppies
  8. Sanford & Son
  9. Garfield & Friends
  10. Star Trek: The Original Series
  11. Captain Power
  12. Family Ties
  13. Benson
  14. Silver Spoons
  15. Miami Vice (NB: I didn’t watch this show, but vividly remember it in regards to my relationship with my mom, who watched it religiously.)
  16. The Cosby Show
  17. 227
  18. The Storyteller
  19. Perfect Strangers
  20. Alf
  21. Growing Pains
  22. The Pirates of Darkwater
  23. Different World
  24. Full House
  25. M*A*S*H*
  26. Quantum Leap
  27. Star Trek: The Next Generation
  28. The Simpsons
  29. Head of the Class
  30. Fresh Prince of Bel Air
  31. Blossom
  32. Days of Our Lives
  33. Passions
  34. Saturday Night Live
  35. Saved By the Bell
  36. California Dreams
  37. MST3K
  38. Pop Up Video

(I’m stopping at high school for the night…I’ll come back to finish this later.)