Anna’s Camino: Day 17 – Burgos

In October and November of 2015, I walked the Camino Francés, one of the traditional pilgrimage routes to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. It was a deeply emotional journey, with far-reaching implications for my life, and I’m slowly but surely capturing the memories and musings here on my blog. Read the entire series at Anna’s Camino.


One of my favorite interior details from The Cathedral of St. Mary of Burgos.

It was still dark the next morning when Natalie, Ruth, and I left the albergue to begin the day’s trek. We started the day with the routine pitiful breakfast that was the norm across the length of the Camino – toast, juice, coffee – and between the vague irritation from not enough protein, the biting cold morning, and being generally exhausted, starting the day’s walk was quite difficult. There was also the not-so-little issue that this would be my last day with Natalie for some time. I greedily soaked up every second of our walk together, endeavoring to regulate my pace so I could cling to her side for the few hours it took to walk from tiny hamlet of Cardenuela Riopico to the big city of Burgos.


Breakfast. The ham and cheese in the background are from Natalie’s pack – bringing your own protein is absolutely essential if you want to fuel your body properly first thing.

No matter which way one enters any large city, you’ll still find yourself humping it through the ‘burbs for quite some time before reaching city center. In Burgos, it’s no different. The “industrial area” – office parks, some scrapyard areas, a place that felt like the disused back lot of a small airport – that you’d drive through in less than five minutes takes more than an hour to conquer on foot. It’s not pretty, it gets monotonous, but if pilgrimage is life in a microcosm, I don’t think I need to spell out for you why it might be helpful to endure the boring, ugly bits. That’s up to the individual, though – every pilgrim walks her own road. My lessons are not yours. I found a strange joy, even in the not-so-great stretches, something I think has its roots in a childhood spent playing on the railroad tracks and in abandoned houses. I’ve always loved the overgrown and forgotten, the underdog places. They suit my soul.

Two days before, at dinner with Natalie and Terry in Villafranca Montes de Oca, we had spent some time discussing the pros and cons of the route into Burgos. Terry had very strong views on the subject, having done it before. She’d found the route spiritually deflating on her last trip, and advised against walking there. That’s part of why she’d taken the bus from Villafranca. Natalie, who’d also walked this portion of the route before, had heard that there was an alternate way to get into Burgos that was much prettier, and had resolved to find it. I was happy to tag along on the search. As it turns out, the way was quite interesting, in turns ugly and beautiful. There were still industrial areas to slog through, but then the route took us through a beautiful natural area that turned into a city park, first with nature trails, then bike trails and foot paths.


The park route into Burgos.

All morning long, we saw Ruth, then lost her, then saw her again. Finally, about 30 minutes before reaching city center, Natalie and I plopped down on a park bench to eat a snack, and Ruth came along just as we were finishing up. It was nice to join up and walk the final stretch together; I took the opportunity to ask Ruth about the many hiking badges on her backpack. She had at least 10 patches, maybe more, denoting the various places she’d hiked. I loved the idea, and still do.

Our path through the park followed a small river, and as we got further into town, there were more and more foot bridges crossing the river. We could have crossed a bridge and left the park at any time, but kept moving along, scanning the sky for the spires of Burgos Cathedral. Twice we stopped to ask directions, but both locals told us to keep walking, not to cross any bridges yet. The last gentleman we talked to was so emphatic that we HAD to stay in the park for awhile, so we were careful not to stray. At first it seemed like he’d been afraid we’d get lost, but once we got into town proper, we realized that he’d had a different purpose in mind. Though we could have followed the river on either side of the city, entering city center from the path we were currently on gave us an absolutely breathtaking view of the gates of the old town, the spires of the cathedral just beyond. We’d lucked into asking a proud local for directions, and he pointed us in the precise direction required to fall in love with the city the way he had. It was the first time, but not the last, that I’d find myself close to tears over the sheer beauty of a place. I don’t think that I could have had quite the same experience had I not walked so far to get there. It was a triumph unlike anything I’d yet felt on the Camino, thus in my life.


Me and my banana, about to storm the front gate of Burgos. I’m not sure why I look so serious. The banana certainly looks to be having a lovely time of things.

We arrived early enough in the day for the other two ladies to get to tour the cathedral and grab food before leaving town. Since I was checking into a hotel, I offered my room for baggage storage, so everyone could change shoes and walk around Burgos without packs. The Meson del Cid is a fine, old hotel that fit my needs. It wasn’t the most modern or cushy, but I had my own room with a giant bed, no snoring neighbors, and a fabulous bathroom all to myself. Even better, the hotel is directly beside the cathedral, which is situated in the city’s main square, so I was right in the middle of all the action. When your feet and legs are screaming with every step, not having to walk too far is worth its weight in comfortable walking shoes. We all took a second to admire the generous accommodations, then headed out to take a peek at the town.

First stop was a walk around the cathedral and surrounding neighborhood, where we happened across the most adorable little cafe any of us had yet seen. It was a tea/cocktail shop that was decorated in a very feminine motif, pastels and floral patterns, with beautifully appointed china. Even the barista had a sweet smile and very welcoming demeanor, fitting the overall spirit of the place; the entire experience was enchanting. They also had one of the best slices of tortilla of my entire Camino, with a thin layer of ham baked in between a thick layer of egg/potato, and a thinner layer of egg/cheese.


After a cafe con leche and a little snack, it was time to tackle the cathedral. There are no words to properly explain the awe I experienced, so I’ll just give you photos…


I quickly lost the other two peregrinas, as I soaked in every tiny detail and read every available scrap of info that I could find. By the time I finished the self-guided tour through the church, Natalie and Ruth were long-finished and sitting, waiting for me near the exit. I could tell they were a little impatient to get back on the road again, but they were also both so forgiving and kind in their manner that I felt guilty and forgave myself in almost the same moment. We went in search of kebabs, as one of the two ladies had heard there was a really good kebab shop right around the cathedral. The one that we found was OK, but nothing to write home about. After lunch, it was time for them to walk on. It was already mid-afternoon, and they had a long walk to get out of the city. We went back to my room to get their bags and have an emotional goodbye. I promised to catch back up with Natalie in a day or two. Maybe I believed at the time that that was a possibility; I don’t know.


That night after dark, I walked around the city center, exploring on my own for the first time. One thing that struck me about Burgos, and many of the smaller towns I walked through that had even a smidgen of night life at town center, was how families were out together en masse. In a U.S. city at night, you’ll see couples out together, or maybe groups of people if they’re headed out to eat or to a club. You might even see a family or two, or a single mom/dad with kid or kids. And the same was true here, of course – except that there were many children present, and kids were normally accompanied by both parents, or two grandparents, or parents AND grandparents. The kids were always dressed so nicely, and it was rare to see any little ones acting up (at least in public). The whole scene was completely alien to me, but heartwarming, too.


The fountain in the square outside of the Meson del Cid.

I went looking for a place to eat dinner, but felt so out of my element without a friend. I wandered down a bustling strip and through a couple of squares, admiring various menus and shyly standing around, getting a feel for how fancy the establishments might be. Several restaurants had ads for chocolate and churros, which I craved to try. In the end, though, I was just too out of my element to force myself into dining alone in a foreign language. I walked around until I found a little grocery store that was still open, and bought a selection of junk food to eat in my hotel room. I took a long, luxurious bath, then curled up in bed and ate chips and a chocolate bar, letting the crumbs fall as they pleased with no one there to judge me.

It felt strange to be so solitary. For the first time in a long time, being alone, something that I enjoyed in my “real life” back at home, filled me with an acute sense of loneliness. Looking back on that memory brings to mind the old spiritual, “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child.” I was hurting on the inside that night. I never did get to try chocolate and churros. I also didn’t sleep at a hotel again on my Camino, and even now, I tend to stay in hostels, where I can meet new people. Seventeen days in, and my way of encountering the world was changing.

Dream Diary: Garnished With Garnets


Isn’t this the most gorgeous pendant you’ve ever seen? It’s not from my dream, but I ran across it in SilveryLake’s Etsy Shop, and fell in love. Check out her work – so many drool-worthy pieces!

I had the weirdest dream last night – or at least, the weirdest portion of a dream. I can’t remember most of it, other than having the impression that I was visiting my parents, who lived in a metropolitan area in another part of the United States. Maybe Portland? It felt hip, but also relaxed, with a little bit of a coastal vibe. (IRL, my family lives in rural North Carolina, so wherever my dream family lived, it was pretty much exactly opposite of where they are now.)

Some of my Chicago friends were there – I think Nate, John, and AJ? It was all guy friends, all people with whom I feel absolutely relaxed and loved. We went out shopping at some point, though that was a fleeting portion of the dream, just the impression of leaving a multistory apartment building to go shop for something vaguely artsy or architectural. When we came back from the trip, I had a new garnet necklace, a really big gem that I was very proud to show off.

Towards the end of the dream, it was revealed that my dad had another house guest coming to visit, but hadn’t wanted to tell me because he didn’t think I’d be pleased. The guest was my real life (and dream life, as it turns out) ex-boyfriend. I’ve had many ex-boyfriends over my years, but this is the one that I dated for the longest, whom I assumed I’d marry before things went awry and I realized it wasn’t going to work out. We’ve both moved on, and it sounds like he’s really happy with his new lady, which in turn makes me happy. I do miss our friendship, as I got the big freeze and he’s never spoken to me again, but to be fair, I knew that would happen, and that’s just how life goes. C’est la vie.

Anyway, in the dream, I felt betrayed that my dad would invite the ex and not let me know. My parents always loved him, though, so it didn’t surprise me in the dream (and honestly wouldn’t surprise me in real life). But I resolved to just go with the flow and be a gracious and hospitable hostess. It felt like my dad was far more excited to have the ex visiting than to have me visiting, which was annoying, but I played it off.

When the ex showed up, he was happy, and dressed more casually and fashionably than I’d formerly seen him dressing. It was obvious that his new relationship was letting him be happy and free, which in turn made me feel relieved and glad to see him (instead of stressed or anxious, as I was feeling towards the end of our IRL relationship). I decided to show him my awesome new necklace. My dad was also there, and since he’s never happier than playing one-up, he showed off his own new piece of garnet jewelry, a bolo tie or something similar. It was only then that I realized the ex was also wearing garnets – a LOT of them. He held out his hand, and I could see that every finger was adorned with a big, rough-cut garnet ring. That’s the last thing that I remember before waking up. Overall, the dream was on the positive side of neutral. I woke up feeling inquisitive, but not upset. It made me feel like the world was a little bit mended, if that makes any sense.

I looked up the dream meaning of garnets today, since this was such a specific symbol. I like garnets, but I don’t typically go for them in jewelry; the only ones in my collection are a pair of garnet earrings from when I was a kid. DreamMoods says that garnets symbolize “loyalty, vitality, and devotion” as well as “overcoming negative feelings.” says that:

“…dreaming about a garnet is indicative of your passionate and understanding nature. This crystal is symbolic of clarity and control so seeing one in your dreams conveys the notion of you feeling enlightened and in control of your life…Garnets represent strength and the power to overcome difficult situations at hand.” 

During my research, I also found out that garnets are sometimes called “Arizona rubies,” which is rather ironic, given my latest obsession with moving to the desert. But more than this, they are also associated with the root chakra, overcoming trauma, and grounding one’s dreams in reality (see more about them on Crystal Meanings & More). Looks like it’s time to go garnet shopping 🙂



Queen of Denial

When I was a kid, one of my favorite songs was “Queen of Denial,” by Pam Tillis. When I saw that today’s Daily Post prompt was denial, it was the first thing that popped into my mind. As I listened to it again for the first time in years, I reflected on lessons learned in youth. I think that this song was responsible for me growing up to not take any shit from men – at least not of this particular variety.

I have a Grade A bullshit detector. I don’t trust easily, and being noticeably insincere makes me keep you on that “don’t trust” list forever. Seriously, be smarmy with me once and see if I ever respect you. It will take an act of God to get you onto my loyalty short list. Life’s too short to take chances with people who like to jerk your chain, so either be transparent or GTFO. That being said, I’ve usually winnowed out the shady guys in short order, and have overall been great at avoiding serious entanglements with guys I can’t trust. Can’t say that I’ve avoided all entanglements, but hey, life wouldn’t be fun without a little drama now and then, right?


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.


Label That Feeling For Later

It’s Day 20 of my social media detox. I have my second terrible cold of the year, and it feels like my head is swaddled in at least one large duvet. My hearing is shot, I can’t breathe out of my nose, and my eyes aren’t watering, exactly, just feeling old and tired. I am also incredibly bored. Like, monumentally bored. BORED. The kind of bored that made you angsty as a little kid. The kind of bored I haven’t been in I can’t remember how long, because I’ve been filling all that empty space in with Facebook, TV, or just generally being incredibly anxious about gods-know-what.

I finished reading my third book in four days today at lunch, and I’m not really feeling like starting a new one yet. The apartment could use a good deep cleaning, but when my nose and throat are this irritated, the solvents from the different cleaning solutions make everything swell up and make every breath torture, as I learned the hard way last night, when I tried to spray down my kitchen counters and had to leave the house. So nothing more than vacuuming and dish washing is getting done tonight. I could watch TV, but I just don’t feel like it. I spent a little time dream-shopping for new apartments in new hometowns on Craigslist – that was fun. My favorites were the mid century mod apartment buildings in Phoenix, and a cute apartment in an old Victorian house in Maine.

But the real reason I’m taking a moment to write is that I think I might have stumbled across something, due to this pesky cold, and I want to label it now while I can see it most clearly. So here it goes:

Today I can’t breathe through my nose, so I can’t smell properly. And because I can’t smell properly, everything I’ve eaten today has been unappetizing. I could barely force myself to finish my tiny little container of curried chickpeas at lunch. That is something with which I’m entirely unfamiliar, as I generally have no stopping mechanism, so I have to control my portion sizes to get myself to end a meal. Stopping before the food is gone is almost alien to me. This being said, while I have no drive to eat today, I AM incredibly bored. Do you get where this is going? I think I’m feeling a boredom I don’t normally feel because typically, when my mind starts pushing me closer to this state, I eat. I eat when I’m bored, to cover up the feeling (which apparently I’ve been doing rather well), and then, once I’m done eating, I move on to other things, like feeling terrible about myself. Voila! Solution to boredom is feeding the anxiety. Literally.

Fur Faces

Just like humans, cats’ faces change by the second, reflecting their various moods and whatever point they’re trying to get across at the moment. Of course, no one likes to get a camera stuck in their face by surprise, and knowing that I was bound to tick off a whole house full of cats tonight, I chased everyone around to get in their business and see what kinds of shots could be taken. I feel pretty good about catching everyone in a natural pose.


Isabel, who turns 10 this year, is typically solemn and a little suspicious (she takes after the human in the household). Here, she stands on my lap and asks what I’m doing waving my iPhone in her face. I’m sitting on the bed, and everyone knows that the bed is for cuddling with Izzy, not for taking crummy snapshots.


Munky is 7 years old, and spends the majority of his energy seeking out kibble and affection. This is him trying to look nonchalant while also making googly eyes at me in hopes that he’ll get a butt rub. He did.


Charlie’s still a baby, not even a year old yet, but already Isabel’s size. He’s all muscle, and spends most of his time running amuck. He plays fetch, and he makes little turkey gobble noises as he throws his body around the house at top speed. At night the house sounds like “GOBBLE! THUMP, THUMP, THUMP, CRASH! THUD. GOBBLE! THUMP, THUMP, THUMP…”He’s also just learning how to be a proper cat, and is experimenting with cuddling for hours, purring for a second or two, and finally understanding the thrill of catnip. Don’t let this look fool you; he’s a maniac.


Kuzia is an outside cat who technically belongs to my neighbor, but spends a lot of time on my front porch. He rules the neighborhood, and has his own barstool at a bar down the street. I feed him wet food when he visits, so it’s not uncommon to be walking back from the grocery store and find I’m being escorted home by a fierce little cat king. He seems to be composed entirely of bad attitude, and will consent to exactly one light body rub or two head kisses before he gets bored with you and walks away. This is him asking what the hell I’m doing interrupting his beauty sleep.

This post was a response to the Daily Post Photo Challenge prompt, Atop.


Today’s Daily Post prompt is “Pattern,” which is appropriate, since I’ve been contemplating several reoccurring patterns in my life as of late. The other day, I had a long talk with an old friend from high school who has pretty much grown into a pen pal over the years. I haven’t seen Andy in over 17 years, but we’ve remained loosely in touch, communicating first via letters, then email and IM, and now Messenger.

We’ve always gone for long stretches of time without talking, sometimes a year or two between missives, but we always just pick everything back up where we left off. It’s funny, really, because our friendship started over notes, as well. We were paired up in biology class as lab partners, and since we were both smart kids who didn’t have to pay much attention to get A’s, we spent the entire semester writing notes back and forth between completing assignments. Later, we took a pre-calculus class together, and he made sure I didn’t fail, again through notes and also helping me figure out how to use that stupid graphing calculator. He might have also helped me figure out how to cheat via said calculator, but I’m a little fuzzy on that. It was a long time ago, and I’ve always been against cheating. But I also can’t for the life of me figure out how I managed to pass that class, so the only thing I can imagine is that Andy introduced some sort of moral gray area where I could tell myself I wasn’t cheating, but I still had notes or help-aids of some sort in front of me during exam time.

Anyway, we were talking the other day, and it threw me back into my high school self for a few hours – a needy little nerd girl. At 16, I had a crush on the cool surfer guy/secret math whiz/biology lab partner who only had eyes for the hottest girl in school. I endured months of “I think she’s interested in me – did you see her looking my way during class?” etc., while patiently doing something that I can only assume was my idea of waiting my turn. I have no clue what was going on in my head. I know that I liked him, but I also know that I saw he wasn’t getting over this girl any time soon, so I went on with all of my other crushes and flings while mentally tapping a finger on my watch. I knew we were running out of time. And then we did run out of time, and we went our separate ways. We’re still friends, but life has moved on, and the process of all that moving on has made us drastically different people, from our old selves and from one another. As fun as it might be to think in movie plot “what if” scenarios, the honest answer is that the moment passed us by when we turned our tassels at graduation.

When Andy and I were talking the other night, conversation briefly passed over a guy from home whom I’d briefly dated in undergrad. When we were in high school, there was a beautiful cheerleader who was rather snooty to me. She dated a popular, strikingly handsome football player (imagine that). I coveted that boy, in retrospect not because I cared about him, as a person, but more because I didn’t like the girl, and I wanted to have what she did. So it came to pass that three or four years later, I ran into the guy when I was home for the holidays, we hit it off, and then we dated for six months or so. In the end, we broke up after I came to terms with the fact that, yes, he was gorgeous and sweet, but also not too bright. I’d never be happy with a guy who wasn’t my intellectual equal. During our conversation the other night, Andy told me that he’d never understood what I was doing when I was dating this guy, and I know now, many years later, that it really didn’t make any sense from the outside, unless you were me. I explained it the best I could, quite simply: I want what I want, and I like to win.

If there’s one thing I can see from examining my relationships with my high school crushes, it’s that I have a very distinct pattern. I always seek out the unattainable ones, and I push until I get them, then one way or another, it ends poorly. There was the older guy with a trail of multiple secret girlfriends, the writer who didn’t want to take advantage of me by claiming me as a girlfriend (but was more than happy to take advantage in other ways), the Quebecois who’d never be happy with a girl who didn’t speak French, the guitarist with crippling depression who lived on my dime for six months but refused to date me, the trombonist who broke up with me to give more time to his music, the historic preservationist who told me straight up that he didn’t have ANY dreams, the Costa Rican with a secret girlfriend, the Brazilian with a secret wife…I could go on, but it’s not worth it. Even the ones that seem attainable and perfect at first glance – and yes, there have been a handful of these – end up being rather soul-crushing in the end.

But in the end, we can never truly become one with another human being. Sometimes it seems that I have trouble just relating to myself, never mind my love interest. I wonder how often I’ve seemed like the unattainable one, and if that’s the real pattern here.

Circling the Point

Last night, two separate friends told me in two different conversations that one of the reasons they like me best is that they can always be completely honest with me, knowing that I won’t judge. Not only was it an unusual thing to hear (though in retrospect, true), the two people who told me this tend to keep their thoughts close to the chest, as it were.

I was honored, and it also was an interesting thing to think about in a little more detail. I don’t suppose it’s too egotistic to muse here that this could be one of the things that makes me special, makes me ME. I love honesty. I crave it. I don’t trust people who don’t really talk to you about themselves. What are they hiding? Why is it less shameful to talk about pointless, bland things like shoe shopping or the weather, than it is to talk about the things that make us who we are? I’m not sure I’ll ever get it. People should be ashamed to have less depth, not more.

Are people more honest with me than they are with other people? And where am I on this spectrum? I strive to be as honest as possible, without harming other people. This demands that some secrets be kept, not necessarily because I’m sneaky, but because I live an active fantasy life, and have many things rolling around in my head, some of which wouldn’t be kind to admit to others who might get confused about my intentions. I’m always making alternate plans for every situation, and living in my dreams of things that I know, realistically, can never happen. Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s healthy or unhealthy to be living so many lives concurrently. Today it’s got me feeling fine, so I’ll take it.

All the same, there are times when I just can’t come right out and say what’s on my mind. Times when I circle the truth, prodding at it, referring to its various aspects with oblique references, hoping that the other person will somehow miraculously catch on to what I’m trying to say. In a way it’s cowardice, but it’s also a game I’ve always liked to play. It gives me the exact same emotional charge that flirting does. People say “flirting with the truth” to mean circling around it, touching on it but not truly embracing it. But I realize now that, at least in my example, I get the same thrill from hints at furthering a physical relationship (whether or not I actually intend for it to happen) that I do from hints of furthering someone else’s relationship with a currently unknown fact (which I typically do intend to reveal at some later date).

I realize that this is probably all pretty abstract to you. It’s abstract most of the time to me, too.

You’re Killing Us

I heard a song yesterday that spoke volumes. I listened to the song probably 10 times on the walks to and from work, and fell in love with the lyrics. Then I got home, and decided to watch the music video, to see how the story unfolded in images. It was a total shock, because the story I heard (and still hear) in the lyrics is not at all what was shown in the video, and on top of that, all of the comments seemed to be from people who had also heard an entirely different story than I had.

Of course I understand that sometimes lyrics are nuanced, that there can be multiple variations of a message being told. But what I heard and what everyone else heard are so wildly different that I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Finally today, after listening a few more times, I decided that I don’t have to wrap my head around it. I hear what I hear, and I don’t hear what they’re hearing (I mean, kinda? But it’s a total stretch. Maybe I have a tumor or something…)

Here’s the song with lyrics – not the official video (which I’m putting a little farther down the post, to let you hear it and make up your own mind about the story):

The song is called “Saving Us,” by Serj Tankian, of System of a Down fame. I love System of a Down, and have found that listening to them really improves my mood. So I expanded a little to Serj’s stuff, and found that I enjoy him a lot, too. I get strong spiritual vibes out of System of a Down songs, so I was a little surprised to listen to “Saving Us” and hear the story of a normal breakup, written by a guy who could see the beauty of the situation, even through the pain.

As I hear the song, I hear him singing about breaking up with someone whom he really loved, and realizing that through making the hard choice to say goodbye, in a way his lover is saving who they were together. The goodness that they shared can live on through exiting in a thoughtful way, and yes, it hurts, but in the end it’s the right thing. The lover is both “killing us” and “saving us.”

It’s great. I’ve dated a lot of people, and I’ve broken up with a lot of people. Most of the time I was the dumper, but sometimes I was the dumpee, and no matter which side you’re on, it really sucks. It sucks when you’re feeling like the relationship is failing, it sucks during the actual breakup, and it continues to suck after everything’s said and done. Sometimes for months, other times for decades, maybe forever, but I can’t speak to that because I’m not dead yet.

When your relationship was pretty casual, it’s not that big of a deal to break up, but when you’re codependent (or whatever the healthy version of that is – I don’t know that I’ve ever truly experienced whatever that is yet), breaking up with someone is like cutting a piece of your heart out and throwing it away. Or having that done to you, depending on which side of the dumping you’re on. Either way, the cutting, tearing, killing, and saving are all things I’ve experienced. The relationship – the “us” – is, in its own way, a separate living thing that you have created together. It’s not something you just close the door on and walk away from. You have to be careful. If you’re very, very cautious, you might make it out of the relationship with fond memories attached, and maybe even a friendship, at some point in the future. In this song, his lover is making the difficult choice to cut ties now for the sake of their love, rather than holding on to something that’s going to destroy them.

So, that being said, here’s the actual music video:

As the videography and all of the comments underneath it would seem to suggest, the video is actually about world issues, and being kind to one another. Which is fine, but actually less interesting.

But maybe I’m just a romantic.