Archive for February, 2011

Off Track

My lovely weekend away has ended.  I am back home amidst the chaos that is my own room.  I am buried beneath two down comforters and one denim quilt.  And I don’t want to be here.

A few years ago I went to the UK. London was great, and York was wonderful, but when I stepped off the train in Edinburgh I felt like I had come home.  It was the craziest feeling.  I had never been in Scotland before.  I still don’t understand why being there felt so right.  We only had a couple of days to spend in Scotland before we had to leave for Dublin.  When the time came to leave, I got angry.  That didn’t make sense to me either.  The itinerary was not a surprise.  We booked our Ryanair flight before we ever left the States.  I was looking forward to seeing Dublin, land of my forefathers and all.  But something in me did not want to leave Scotland.  I knew I was acting like a brat, but that’s the way it was.  My entire being was ticked that I had to leave and go somewhere else.

I have the same feeling now.  I just did not want to come home.  Okay, I was in Florida recently, and I didn’t want to come home after that, either, but that was totally about the weather.  Who wants to trade 80 degree days for a snowstorm? But this time it just felt wrong to leave.  And I’m acting like a brat again.

The weekend was not what I expected it to be.  I was looking forward to a weekend of living it up – going out on the town, exploring some of the tourist destinations, catching up with acquaintances, getting in a couple of runs – and none of that really happened.  There was a quick lunch with a friend of a friend, two drinks at a great little bar (one on the rooftop!), and an evening of dancing, but the majority of the weekend was spent hanging out at my friend’s apartment.

I was feeling under the weather, and between the cold medicine and the weather pattern that went from warm and sunny to an unexpected snowfall, I didn’t want to do much of anything.  So we just hung out.  We watched a lot of TV.  I am now hooked on 30 Rock – I don’t even remember the last time I laughed so much at a TV show – and once again thinking about mastering modern video game controllers.  I also took many meaningful naps.  We shared some great pizza, some decent Chinese, and some really good conversation.

The weekend completely derailed, and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.  I would normally be aggravated that I bought a plane ticket for the vague purpose of exploring a city I would like to live in and never really saw any of it.  In fact, I’m not really sure why I’m not.  I am the neurotic person who likes to have a plan so I don’t have to worry about anything.  We had no plan, and I still didn’t worry about anything.

Maybe it’s a reminder that slowing down isn’t such a bad thing.  Maybe it’s a reminder that I don’t have to allot every minute of my day.  And maybe it’s a reminder that it’s the people I spend my time with who matter.  Or maybe I’m making too much of it, and I’m just going through 30 Rock withdrawal.  I’m not really good at sorting these things out.  I start to worry that I’m blurring cause and effect, and I make myself more than a little crazy with all the self-analysis.

Maybe all I can do right now is acknowledge that I had a great weekend.  And look for season 3.

A Simple Haircut

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror today, and I was struck by how much I liked what I saw.

Recently, I went back to wearing my hair short.  The new style is not exactly a bob, but my hair falls to about my jawline.  It’s layered all the way around in a way that works well with my hair’s natural wave.  The lower layers in the back give it a stacked look.

I also recently returned to the gym.  My determination to conquer the push up before it conquers me is starting to pay off.  My collarbone doesn’t stand out, but it isn’t hiding underneath a pillow anymore either.  My shoulders are visible, and they look leaner.  My underarm fat is a little more on the “lite” side of things.

Between my sporty, casually ruffled waves and the new way I’m carrying my upper body, I look balanced.  More importantly to me, I look stronger.

All of the things I have been working on over the past two years – inner strength, physical strength, self-control, simplicity, projecting my best self – are looking back at me from within my mirror.

It is surprising to me that I like the way I look.  That does not often occur.  I think that I am more aware of myself now; I am slowly carving goals and priorities out of the unexamined life I led before I hit the wall.  “Unexamined” may be too strong a word.  I frequently thought about where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, but the thoughts themselves distracted me from the answers.  Over the last two years I have waited for the answers, and I have asked the same questions so many times that I have begun to learn the answers through sheer repetition.

I have realized that strength and self-sufficiency mean the world to me.  I have learned that I want to actively be happy, which is different from assuming happiness will find me.  No matter how I feel about my job, my career defines my place in the world as much as I define my career – I want a career that reflects my priorities, so when my job does not do that I question my priorities.  Maybe it’s circular, but it’s the way that I feel.  And after years of accumulating hobbies and belongings to enable my very many interests, I can see that I am not that complicated and the days do not have that many hours.  By failing to commit to anything I am accumulating to no end.  It is time to simplify.  I may explore everything, but I cannot do it all today.

What I can do today is delve into a couple of those interests.  I will finish some projects and learn enough to sate my curiosity.  And then I will pick a few more interests to enjoy.  If I should discover that, upon closer examination, a topic-person-place-task is not so interesting, I will stop, clear away the remnants, and start fresh.  I will not burden myself with the acquisition of things not worth reprimanding myself over.  I will simplify so that I can enjoy.

I look again at the simple haircut that makes me so happy and wonder why I didn’t get it sooner.  It’s just so ME. But I immediately realize that, until now, I would not have recognized myself.


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The Fire Eater

I have so many thoughts that ping around in my head.  They are like sliver steelies shot out firing up and lighting up that brainiac pin ball machine.  I shoot the metal ball out and it hits targets, lights flash, and I keep drinking the caffeine keeping the pulsating  side buttons flapping.
“Oh, yeah baby,” in a heat I can hear myself murmur, “lets see you beat that high score.”

I am a complete arcade junkie.  I lean to the side and speak to the twelve year old child next to me wanting to take that turn. Picture me with that cigarette hanging off my lip, doing that smooth hand wave and shifting my weight over to my ultra smooth and cool right hip.  I slur, “watch and learn kid,” showing experience when really all I have is nothing.  I have nothing figured out and keep shooting out sliver balls not even knowing why I am shooting and what I am aiming for.

When I get near to that high score I wane.  I know this game too is flawed and damaged and I get that raw sinking feeling inside.  I tell myself I need to slide in another quarter, take another go around, something is bigger and better and I will beat that last 100 point score.  Just need another game and another racket or buy myself another ticket.  When I get to that 1000 point destination I don’t want to be there anymore.  A constant addiction for the next best thing. 

Now out of these endless games I happened to chance upon that fire eater.  The tattooed bald one earring man that skillfully swallows knives and—- yes you may have guessed it. 

I don’t want him to eat that sword blazing stick—

At least not for me. 

I don’t want to be that person that has to ask him to and I don’t want to have to give anything to that man in return for his show.  I secretly want him to perform amazing tricks giving me my very own V.I.P. ticket but I don’t want to have to pay that premium price.    I think I want the dancing ponies and circus clowns to tumble out bringing me coffee, changing flat tires, switching filters out of the heat vents, long foot and back rubs, calling me at random times throughout that work day letting me know I am amazing, beautiful, and easy on the eyes.  I mean this particular fire eater actually spends quality time with his 11 year old nephew, takes care of his widowed mother, is on track to be a 401K millionaire, is younger than I am, has never been married, no drama, no baggage, has nice legs, thighs, arms and yes has those really dreamy and soft and deer like eyes. 

 He says this show is just for me…………so

What the fuck is my problem?

The problem people is that I know that the game over sign is eventually going to light up even if I do hit that jackpot.  That cigarette is going to burn down to the filter and that foggy smoke brings cancer, the eyes always get red and tired, hands get sick of smacking the sides of that lit up blinking box, and that steelie ball will get cold and still.  After all that initial fun the arcade and circus janitors are called to clean up discarded tickets, cotton candy cones, cup lids and chewed up sipping straws. 

The prancing ponies leave that manure mess and a broom and shovel are always required.  The circus tent gets taken down and all that’s left are the crickets.

Cricket….cricket…..cricket and I am spent, tried, drained and down more quarters than I care to count.

Truth is a Dare

I am a dishonest person.  It isn’t that I TELL lies.  Trust me (I note the irony), I could never get away with more than a little white lie anyway.  But I usually avoid those, too, with vague, enthusiastic cliches that convey nothing.  For example, the word “interesting” can mean so much when you say it with feeling, but on its own it doesn’t even say whether a thing is good or bad, it just isn’t boring.  And even train wrecks aren’t boring.

When I was in high school I learned the value of under-sharing.  On the rare occasion that I wanted to go out with a guy I told my parents that “some people” were going to a movie.  I just never clarified that “some people” meant him and me.  They never asked, and the lesson has served me well.  Unless you are testifying in court, people rarely ask if you are telling the whole truth.  They just assume you are.  Okay, maybe that isn’t the best example.  Back then I clearly implied that there were more than two people in attendance.  Over time, though, I became quite adept at telling nothing but the truth while skirting it almost entirely.

I was also painfully shy in high school.  It was generally easier to avoid conversations altogether than struggle through them.  With time I have outgrown the worst of it – I can handle myself in professional situations, and I have learned how to converse with strangers.  What I am not good at – still – is letting someone in.

Whenever a topic becomes too personal I use those half-truths to avoid being honest, or I just turn the conversation into a joke.  I hate the idea of letting someone see enough of me that they can hurt me.  Or judge me.  Unfortunately, if I don’t react quickly enough I don’t react at all.  I literally lose the ability to speak.  I turn bright red, my eyes get all shifty and refuse to make contact with anyone else’s, and I can feel my throat swell to the point that I can’t speak at all.  I can’t stand feeling so out of control, so I just avoid conversations that lead to that point.

I excel at avoiding the truth.  It didn’t matter until my avoidance hurt someone else, and I couldn’t explain what was happening.  Now I see how much it hurts me, too.  I lost the ability to be honest with myself, especially when it comes to recognizing the things I want.  It is as though I am afraid I will jinx my goals even if I only think them.  Or that if I tell someone else they will just point out that I have ridiculous goals.

It is odd that this is still my reaction.  I feel like it has been a long time since I felt cowed by the opinions of others, but maybe the truth is that I anticipate their opinions, assimilate them into my own, and react without an actual catalyst.  The hows and whys are something I will have to come back to another day.  Most likely over wine.

Today I am simply going to resolve to improve. I can trust me even if I am not ready to trust anyone else.  When I think I might be on the edge of finding something that I want, or at least want to pursue, I will try to stop avoiding the truth behind the thought.  I will tease it out and think about it in its entirety.  I will think about the thing I want, and I will think about how it would feel or taste or smell.

I don’t want to shut down my wants anymore.  I want to honor and enjoy them.  I will learn to excel at finding the truth.


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Soul Search

I like to think of it as a coffee can soul.

I don’t know what my soul looks like; it doesn’t even seem like a part of me. I carry it separate and apart – in a coffee can.  As long as it’s in there I can explore its past and contemplate the history that made it so small.  I can ask where it wants to go next.

I can’t lose it this way.  The can is big enough to find, even in low-lighting.  If I touch it, drop it, the crash-clang lets me know immediately.  The can is safe to hold onto and easy to cart around.

Inside the can, my soul is slowly turning into something stronger and more palatable.  Like an unfinished bread, I don’t want anyone to interrupt the work in progress and stop it from rising.  I worry that opening the lid to share it will just ruin the dough, or maybe me.  Like I said, I forget that it’s a part of me.  What if I let someone in and find out I have to start all over?

For some reason I can’t reconcile a relationship with the path I want to follow.  If I am figuring out me, how can I bring someone else into the equation?  That doesn’t seem like an answer so much as a delay tactic.

I want to know if it can just be a neutral factor.  Maybe a significant other wouldn’t contribute anything, but maybe he wouldn’t ruin it, either.  Maybe the things he would contribute wouldn’t turn into crutches, despite my disproportionate fears.  I am finally forcing myself to face myself – I don’t need help running away, but I am so worried that I will take the easy road if I pass by it again.

Would it matter?  There is no rule saying that I have to figure this stuff out.  No judge waiting to sentence me for stopping to enjoy my life.

But I feel hollow.  I don’t want to give someone the impression that I am ready to appreciate and treasure them.  I want to proposition a man with the benefits of skin-on-skin and a warning that all he will actually get is my coffee can soul.  Because my heart is in that can, too.  It is protected by the tin and the non-biodegradable plastic lid.  The seal is air-tight.  I’m not ready to break it open.


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Orlando

This week I am in Orlando.

I am not going to go to any amusement parks because that is not me. I need rest and relocation. I am here because the Michigan weather has driven me out. I cannot take another sunless grey sky. I am here to eat prosciuto with expensive french cheese and to wash it down with wine. I vow to be here in a bathing suit all week. I vow to drink Coronas with lime. I am here to take a week away from my mundane existence and figure why I slug away, kick and claw. I need to put some meaning back into my routine. I am here to sit in a hot tub, take long warm baths and get a back rub.

I am that spoiled little brat needing to be pampered and to soak in sunshine. My soul needs something new and a vacation is what I know I need.

I like this moment in my life. I have the power to decide to get my ass in the car and drive until I feel and see sunshine. We all need moments like these. Time away. Time to think. Time to push our faces toward the sun. Time to recharge our batteries and ask the proverbial divine, “Where am I going?” “Why am I trying to get there?” “What is the point in all of this?”

For years I have wanted to write. So now I am at that point in my life when I don’t have any more excuses for not writing. So I need to begin the process. I am here to begin that chapter. I started the process— it’s official. I came and I wrote.  

I even out of habit write out a new updated to-do-list.

I am also here to spend time with my youngest child. Sometimes I realize I don’t even really know her. Who is this person that lives with me, whom I am responsible for and have taken care of for twelve years? I love her and yet sometimes I think I barely know her. Days do that to a person and to a family. The demand to make money to pay the mortgage, electric, water bill and groceries keeps me on the gerbil treadmill. I have responsibilities. It is not just me and I have to take care of three girls. I do my best but my time with them can be limited. I am like a stretch arm strong being pulled in several different directions. In that demand I am also trying to be true to me. True to my soul. I want to focus on my health, my work out schedule, and the need to help others. To contemplate and reflect what I would like to get out of a romantic relationship—to have or not to have a love life?

My conclusion: I am spread like butter on toast. Thin and melted. I am lacking any real substance. I am no good to anyone like this.

This week has fettered away and I am left with just a few more hours. I am better for being here. I have some new short term goals. I want to be a better mother, a better lawyer, more creative, more organized, more thankful….I just want to be more of everything.

I have reconnected with myself for just a few moments. It appears that I might be able to continue to face the mundane with more energy and passion. At least for awhile longer.

Thank you Orlando. I am taking some of you back home to Michigan with me.


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A Better 40

Each week contains 168 hours.  Most jobs require you spend 40 of those hours working.  My profession typically requires more than that, maybe 50 or 60.  That is one-third of my life.  And when I am at work, I tend to be aware of every minute ticking by.

I wasn’t always this way.  When I got my first real job I was giddy about going to work every day.  To be fair, I kicked off my post-graduation career with ten months of unemployment.  I suppose I was bound to be giddy.  But it was more than that.  I thought I had found something truly meaningful.  I thought that I was helping people.

I went to work, I went to the gym, I hiked, I met people for drinks, I dated – life was okay.  But after a while I started spending more hours at work.  I couldn’t commit to weekend plans anymore.  Holiday travel plans were only kept for major holidays, and then only if the plane ticket had been purchased months in advance.  And then I injured my knees.  And then my back.  I started catching every minor ailment going around.  I couldn’t hike or work out anymore.  But I kept going.  My plan was to enjoy the city for a few years and then move home.

It sounds stupid, but I also thought my ex and I would find a way to work things out, so I would be moving home to be with him.  We loved each other, and even after a year of not seeing each other he said he would still be there for me.  But then one day he wasn’t. And when I realized I wouldn’t be moving home for him I had to take a look at the life I was living for me.

I hated it.  I didn’t want my job.  I wasn’t helping people.  I was moving around piles of money.  I didn’t take pride in my work anymore.  And the work environment was the stressor making me susceptible to all of my minor ailments.  It turned out the only thing keeping me there was the pay, which I thought I needed to make the moving home / joyous reunion happen.  Overnight I realized my entire life needed an overhaul.

As a short-term solution I went part-time.  I was still working 50 hour weeks, so I returned to full-time pay.  Then I ended up taking a lot of sick time, and eventually I stopped coming to work, or was told to just go home when I did.  After a short-term leave I quit and completely changed jobs.  Then I moved and went back to a position related to the one I had hated.  Now, I’m trying to figure out what I can do to make my 40 hour work week more enjoyable.

It would be nice to find employment that justifies my student loans.  More importantly, I want to find a job that lets me pay off the loans while doing something that is interesting.  That has been the hard part.  Lately, nothing seems interesting for very long.

Certain people have been interesting, and so have certain hobbies.  I keep hoping that if I pursue those interesting people and hobbies, one of them won’t be a dead end.  One person won’t think my intensity is an indication that I’m a stalker.  One hobby will translate into a new career.  Or, better yet, I’ll find a way to combine the interesting part with what I’m already doing.  Because parts of it are interesting.  Sometimes.

It’s like a puzzle with tiny pieces, but no picture or borders.  Just pieces.