Archive for May, 2011

Paint

Amy has some great friends. I was invited to tag along for a group dinner on a week night. It was a house party in the back yard with candles placed in small tin buckets and music pouring out of an ipod. This is the second time I have been to this home. I determine that I adore this couple. She is as naturally flawless and beautiful as a person gets. He is a funny, quirky, and handsome Brit. I know he is lucky to have her because he as so much as said so. I envy their love and their relationship. You can see it in her face when she looks at him. You see it in the way he clears her dishes and pours her more wine. I save their corks and I put them in my pocket. They are a talisman. I can look at the evidence later when I doubt this evening existed. I want the magic to continue and hope I become infected.

The Brits parents (Keith and Wendy) and brother (Warren) are at this dinner. I feel a recognized warmth. My family gives off the same heat. His parents are well versed in travel and art. Warren could read the phone book and Amy and I would swoon. They share their wonderful stories. I learn from this meeting. I love the sing song of the four accents. They have passion that is so lacking in others I meet. It flows like paint onto a canvas. They invite us to their home abroad. I know the offer is real and genuine. I feel safe here on this back porch. We talk about tea cozies. Wendy tells us about a ruffian named George that held a crush. Keith confirms her story and tells us how he won.

On this back yard porch we explore ourselves. A little bit of fiber fill is pulled from Amy and I. Some seams pop. Questions are asked. Amy admits that too many people are reading our blog and she feels like shutting down. I reveal that I read too many books at once and I fail to finish them.

Harmless stories that really appear inconsequential. Keith admits that he has canvas on an easel that needs to be painted when he gets back home.

He retired so he could paint.
He has been putting it off.
When I ask why he says, “Because there is no time really.”

I hear his response as my own. “I don’t know why really.”

We all have some heavy coins in our pockets.

I feel that Amy knows there is more beneath his reasons for not painting. I feel that she knows there is more beneath my reasons for not finishing my books.

I feel loose pieces floating under my skin. I feel them like a wool sweater.

So later that evening I take it upon myself to ask St. Jude to help me. If I am a lost cause I might as well follow the leader of them. St. Jude is not giving me any answers but just more questions.

What is the harm in not finishing a book really? Who says I have to finish them if I don’t want to?

What if Keith doesn’t go home to finish his painting?

I don’t much like the thought of that.

Why should I even care? While we all shared a fun evening that hardly qualifies me to demand that this man go back to England and paint a picture upon my selfish insistence.

My thoughts gush like shallow creek water. The water spills and splashes up and over all shapes and forms of stones.

I want Keith to start and finish his painting.

I already know that I would travel to England to view it.

A Good Conversation

“How are you today?”

 

“I’m good, how are you?”

 

“I’m good.  Things are good.”

 

What a normal conversation.  I’ve had it a million times.  It is true, and it is not true.  I am not hungry.  I am not homeless.  I am not suffering from a fatal illness.  My body is safe.  And yet it is not entirely true, is it?  I am not a negative person, and I don’t want the world to think otherwise.  I want the world to know I appreciate all of these things that I have.  If I am not satisfied it is no one’s problem but my own.  I don’t want to whine, and I don’t want my low moods to sully anyone else’s day.

 

I have not wanted to write for the last two weeks.  The last time I wrote my sadness and hurt bled into the page.  If it was just me, just a journal, that would be fine.  Learning how to express myself is important to me.  But now we have an audience.  I do not want anyone to see this minute aspect of my life and assume this is all there is to me.

 

We began this project as an anonymous website an occasional person might stumble upon.  But our words are being read.  Some of the readers know who I am.  When I write now I wonder how the words will be understood.  Obviously, the reader’s perception is a mark of how well a writer is expressing herself, but I am not ready to come out onto the stage.

 

I have begun to sanitize my thoughts.  If a topic seems too inflammatory I shy away from it.  If a word I want to use might cause offense I hesitate.  I am afraid of the judgments that may come.  I am worried that recounting a new experience will cast shadows on my personal or professional life.  I am treating this blog the way I treat my real-world life.

 

This week I met someone who is “good.”  He sounded grateful for his job and the experiences he has had, which would be the envy of many of his professional peers.  And he admitted he wasn’t happy.  He hasn’t found the thing that gives him purpose.  Speaking with him was comfortable.  I wanted to talk for hours.  I wanted to pick apart all of his unhappy moments and compare them to the happy ones.  I wanted to swap theories on how to redirect your life.  I didn’t want to focus on the negatives, I just wanted to find the patterns.

 

Our conversation reminded me why I started to write.  I want to be honest.  I want to work through the layers of facts and emotions that make the path so foggy.   I want to feel emotions as they come instead of bottling them up until the least opportune moment.  Hiding behind the veneer of societal normalcy is exhausting, but more importantly it leads to misdirection.   How do you determine what you think or want when you have so many voices in your head explaining the rules you must follow?

 

I have never been great at sorting things through in my head.  The words jumble up like a giant math problem, which is definitely not my strong suit.  I need lists and sentences and chapters to organize me and use as reference points. Or I need a good conversation with a friend I trust.  I still don’t want to open up the coffee can, but at some point I will have to share myself in order to find and maintain the relationships that matter.  Maybe it is like the skydiving Jodi wants me to try – something you just have to jump into, regardless of whether you are ready.

 

I will whine in these entries.  I will discuss emotions that may be embarrassing or painful.  I will not focus on the negatives.  I will settle in for a long talk about the unhappy moments versus the happy ones.  I will seek the pattern.  I will indiscriminately trust anyone who happens to read what I write while I am learning how to be discriminating enough to find the people I can trust to be a part of my life.  I will speak as if I am meeting a new friend.

 


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341 Meeting

I had a 341 meeting in Lansing last week. This is where a bankruptcy attorney has a meeting with their client and the Chapter 7 trustee. The Chapter 7 trustee has a bunch of questions for my client.

This hearing is so routine. At this point in my practice I think a monkey could do it. My clients are always anxious and nervous even when I tell them not to be. This goes with the territory of being sworn in under oath and having to discuss the most intimate and humiliating reasons why that individual needed to file bankruptcy in the first place. It is financial failure at it’s finest. I feel for my clients. I am often humbled by their struggles.

My client insists that I attend this meeting. She wants me to go. I could have hired another attorney to attend. This would have saved me both time and money. I never have enough time. There is never enough money.

I really care about my client. So I go. As I pull off the downtown ramp I feel my body tense. I know this town well. I lived here. My past self walked these streets. She feels far and distant from me. I see her as a stranger. I bump into her at the courthouse.

I ask her if her struggles were worth it. She smiles. It could have been easier she assures me. If she would have known this and that. She could have remained single and entered law school. It took her some time to figure her path out. Would haves, could haves, should haves.

Yes but there are the children. You can’t ever wish them away.

She reminds me that she had two small children when she entered law school. She also started an in home day care to help pay their bills. She would get up at 4 a.m. every morning and read until 6 a.m. The children would come and she would watch four additional children until 5:30 p.m. When the last child was picked up she would run out the door with her books to class. It was a 6 p.m. to midnight haul every night of the week. Weekends were library days unless she had to grocery shop. She did this for four years of her study.

I know her husband was not very kind or supportive. If you ask him he would tell you he was. He would tell you a lot of things about her and none of them were very nice things. I wondered why he wanted to marry her in the first place. What did he really see in her to begin with? She wonders why he objected to their divorce. He constantly would remind her that she was really quite worthless. I mean couldn’t she see that she was a horrible wife and mother? His words were stones. He really liked throwing them.

There were a lot of arguments. She really couldn’t do much of anything right. One night her law books ended up in a mud puddle in the middle of the street. Another night he tried to throw her down the stairs. Police were called. Too many times they came and went.

It was easier for her if the suppers were hot and on the table at 6:00 before she left. Laundry ironed and folded. House cleaned. Bills paid. She was only lacking sleep. She would anticipate what he would complain about and take care of it before it became an issue. This was also very taxing and exhausting. It started to become an exit strategy.

When she softens and attempts to defend him she will blame herself for the currents that pulled them apart. At the time neither party could really define with clarity the currents that tugged.

She wanted a law degree. He wanted a stay-at-home wife.

He wasn’t her soul focus. He began to hate her for it. She began to lose respect for him. His anger was violent and volatile. She never knew what would set him off. Lack of money didn’t help. Her lack of attention didn’t help.

The library and the school became a safe place to be. She loved it there. She loved her professors. She loved her classes. She loved the intellectual challenge. She would stay as long as they would let her.

She will tell you that there was a moment of complete despair. That moment where you face that wall of self-doubt. She was left wondering why she was put on this planet. Thinking it would be so nice just to sleep and never wake up. Wondering what drove her to this. Why wasn’t she just happy being a wife and a mother? Why exactly was she working and trying so hard? Questions that bombard her—what are you really doing? Do you really think you can make a difference? Do you really think you can become a lawyer? There are so many of them. Look at the hours of study. Look at the lack of sleep. You are never going to make it. You are not smart enough. This is so expensive. You don’t have any friends because you have no time for them. Your children miss you when you are gone. Your husband can’t stand your class schedule and your marriage is falling apart. He is right you should just up and quit.

You are facing the tax code, rules of evidence, and the UCC. This is that moment when that distant stranger is in the library. She puts her head down on that table and just closes her eyes.

This is too hard. She and I can’t do it anymore.

And then there is silence and she squeezes out a silent prayer: “Please God, just let me make it through. I will do anything if I can become an attorney. I want to help people. I want to make a difference. I want something for myself. I want to provide an example for my girls. I want to contribute to the financial well being of my family. I want to carve out something for myself. I want this to belong to just me. I want to make my parents proud. This is what I would like to become. Please just help me.”

She is back on the courthouse steps and I am looking at her. I remember her story when the security guards make me take off my shoes and belt and ask that I open up my briefcase. I am reminded of who I am when they scan my driver’s license and check my bar card.

I am asked to give my appearance for the record. I feel needed and wanted when my client hugs me and thanks me over and over for helping her though this very difficult time.

When I get back to my car I am relieved. I want to leave her and those difficult times in Lansing. They are hard to look at. When I look up, I see her smiling in my review mirror.

She is nodding and waiving goodbye, “Yes, it was definitely worth it.”


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Take My Bags and Go

I missed thunderstorms.  When the dry mountain air would get the better of me I would imagine them rolling toward me across the lake.  Thunder charging at me, lightning slamming across the sky.  I love the energy of a good storm.  It is as if something exciting might happen.   Sitting here writing I am listening to a storm carve up the night.   It suits my mood.

 

My sisters decided to throw a retirement party for my parents.  I agree that my parents deserve one.  I do not agree that actually throwing one is a good idea.  After planning many parties, I hear the suggestion and start picturing gathering address lists, coordinating schedules, agonizing over invitation language, buying, hiding, and preparing food, planning activities for children, arguing over budgets, arguing over who ponied up the least amount of cash, arguing over who put in the least amount of effort, arguing over who should get credit for what, and, really, just arguing.

 

We did a lot of work on the party tonight, but the hours dragged on and tempers became shorter, and I made a crack about not wanting to reformat the page setup again just because some of the invitations were a different size.  And then one sister threatened to just leave with another.  I thought we were joking, so I said it isn’t my house, I’ll be right behind you.  And that’s when she said it.

 

“Oh, yeah, like it’s fair for you to just leave.  We have kids, it’s not like you have anything going on.”  And it wasn’t a joke.  And I remembered why I left Michigan and missed the thunderstorms in the first place.  It’s funny, here.  I am aware, as a non-parent, that I am a second-class citizen, but I always think I’m being overly harsh in judging their beliefs.  But tonight I knew I wasn’t exaggerating the lack of respect.

 

As I’ve mentioned, I have two jobs.  I do my parents’ supplemental grocery shopping.  My mother hates everything I cook, but I always make sure I make enough for her anyway.  I do most of their dishes on weekends.  When my sisters need a babysitter I do everything I can to accommodate.  I don’t do that much for any one of them, but collectively I think I have earned the right to say I am busy, too.  And I didn’t have to go off birth control to justify saying it.

 

Kids are probably not going to be in my future.  They are a lot of work, and I’m not sure I want the never ending responsibility.  My doctors aren’t sure I can have them anyway, so it seems to be a moot point.

 

So I look around this land where only parents have a right to be tired or ask for help, and I get angry.  The final straw for me years ago came when my sister took my baby name.  Obviously, I probably wouldn’t have used it, and if she had just asked if she could name her daughter the name I had told her I might – someday – want to use, I would have said yes.  But she didn’t ask.  She informed me.  And when I objected she asked if I was going to name a cat.  When I told her in front of my mother that I wanted an apology my mother told me to stop crucifying her.  And I knew.  Until I crack out a kid or two, my opinion is irrelevant.  That was when I started making serious plans to leave.  I had wanted to move on for years, but I had hesitated to leave my family.

 

Tonight I was just as done.  This year of trying to fit myself in, of trying to find the positives of living here so I can be with my family, of trying to stay open-minded, it was just a waste of energy.  My nieces will grow up with these same expectations, and the knowledge frustrates me even more.

 

I drove home tonight in the thunderstorm, marveling at its power.  Adele played loudly, and the songs fit the storm and the drive.  I want to leave.  To escape.  It’s been years since I’ve been so close to packing a bag and hitting the road.  I know it’s a sign of my frustration.  I don’t like my job.  I don’t like my living arrangements.  I don’t like that I’ve been sick for over a week for the fourth time since Christmas.  I don’t want to try anymore.  I just want to go.  Both of my bosses know that I occasionally have low periods.  Lately it’s become more and more obvious that I’m slipping down again.  I suspect that if I threaten to show up at work tomorrow they would gladly tell me to just take the time.  But kids or no, I feel responsible.  I don’t want someone else to have to clear my desk.  I don’t want to tell Jodi I’m not coming to boxing.  It isn’t smart to drop money on gas or a hotel room. But I do need to find something, and I’m not finding anything here except opportunities to whine.  Maybe someday soon I’ll come home at midnight and have the urge to pack a bag and I’ll just do it.  Maybe a random dot on a map will be a better fit.

 

Then again, maybe the world and I will just keep shuffling along beside each other, sawing away at the best parts of each other while we shoot dark looks and wish for better traveling companions.  If this is the best arrangement the world and I can make, I just don’t see the point.  Maybe no matter where I go I’ll just be missing thunderstorms again.

 


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Relapse

I did it again this week. I had a relapse. It happens whenever I have too much fun. I am out in this world loving it, meeting all kinds of crazy people and seeing all kinds of crazy things. I get so wound up and energized. Then I crash. I just do it to myself, again and again and again…….

This past weekend at 11:30 p.m. I got that text from my friends (yes I have them). I have to go out with Stacie and Alicia because they have sooo much fun when we all go out together. I look at my watch. It is Saturday night. Too late for me to venture out. I should just stay in. It takes time, money and energy to go out. Do I really feel up to it?

Laziness is sitting in my bed. He is rubbing his big fat belly wanting me to lie down next to him. He reminds me that I have more depressing things to do like write in my journals and read my books. He points out I don’t really have any cool outfits to wear and that I don’t look so hot. He points out I really do look rumpled and tired. I need to stay in and just keep him company.

Opportunity barges in the bedroom. He overheard our conversation. He tells Laziness to just shut up. Opportunity insists that I need to go out. He points out that I don’t get invited out very often. He grabs my cell phone and scrolls through my text messages. “See three texts for you to go to River City Saloon means that they really want you to go.” He guilts me. He tells me that if I don’t go they will just stop calling me. So the arguments to go or not to go bounce on that teeter totter. Laziness and Opportunity start in on a roommate war. They are starting to shout. It gets loud and I grab my car keys. I hope they don’t start throwing things at each other while I venture out.

I went. I drank one beer. It was late enough in the evening where a lot of people in the bar were tanked. I take in these people who come to a bar named River City Saloon located on the West side. The women, now in their 60s, are still wearing an 80s hairdo. They are bleached and wrinkled tan. Their breasts sag. I wonder for a second if it looks like I fit in. As I enter the bar I become self conscious and I remind myself not to look too long at anyone or hold a gaze. I am in no mood for mindless chatter with a unknown person. I want to find my table full of friends. The men to me look the same: old, fat and bald.

The evening unfolds itself easy. The band is great. The music is loud but not too loud. We dance and are having more than sweaty dance floor fun.

Then ‘it’ happens on break between the sets.

It was in the form of a too drunk, hippie haired, nose ring, biker chick—sea hag. She whips off her tank top. I am looking at the glory of her bare pink boobies.

This is the moment I look at my fellow beer drinkers. I am pinching myself. Is this scene real? I am looking around.

“Hey, do you guys see what I see?”

Her boobies continue to flop and flail. Her tire of fat rolls onto the dance floor. She runs and sways and is shaking her arms in the air.

We all in unision yell, “Cover that shit up!”

An excited 4 ft. Fabio then decides he is going to do a cartwheel on the sidelines in proper cheerleader fashion.

This apparent shocking nudity (that I did not pay to watch) is something I am not accustomed to. Our table explodes with whoops and hollers.
I am embarrassed and in awe.

Over the course of that evening these events transpire:
Laura gives a handsome married man a lap dance
The band’s drummer lets me in on his drums
4 ft. Fabio’s twin brother makes moves on Alicia and she is not having any part of it
the sea hag’s brother singles me out (lucky me) and wants to carry on a conversation
(All I do is laugh and he gets mad at me and frustrated with my apparent lack of any meaningful conversation & takes it upon himself to lick my arm).

The table witnesses all of this. Everyone is full of beer and rolling with hysterics.

Opportunity slides up next to me. He is so goddamn handsome. He whispers in my ear, “See I told you this would be crazy fun.”

I nod and agree.

The next morning I text the friends who did not go on this adventure. I tell my girls about it in the morning. I tell my prune faced mother. I make my classy family proud that I have ventured into this dark cave called the River City Saloon.

I don’t care what they think.

I am on a hillbilly high throughout the weekend and it spills over to Tuesday. Then it starts to wane. On Wednesday I start feeling that hole and gap in my life. I am slipping back into my depressing funk. I realize I need another fun fix to keep me moving forward.

I need another fun adventure or contact with this crazy world to keep me from crying. I feel it is getting chilly outside. My head is heavy with my business worries. I have trials. I have work.

Real life has an appointment and he is sitting across from my big lawyer desk.

I shut the door for this appointment. I secretly confide in him that I need another snort or hit of last Saturday. I ask him what is he selling and how much is it going to cost and most importantly, “How soon can I get another fun fix.”

Real life just looks at me unblinking. He refuses to answer any of my questions.


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To Put it Bluntly

“I’m pretty fucked up.” 

That’s what I want to say anytime a guy asks me out.

I’ve been avoiding dating.  It isn’t that I’m opposed to going out for drinks or heading to the bedroom.  But I am against taking things any further.

I don’t have the patience to pretend that I’m perfect, better than him, or worth picking over anyone else.  I’m not.  Neither is he.  In our own ways, we’re all fucked up.  The question is whose messes are most compatible with mine.  And I’m not into slowly revealing our issues over time.  I’d like to know up front if a guy has any dealbreakers, and I’m happy to return the favor.

See, what I’d like to say to someone is this:

“I’m pretty fucked up.  I’m going through this long, drawn out identity crisis.  I occasionally live on cake and ice cream for weeks because they’re the only things that cheer me up.  It temporarily helps my mood, but it doesn’t help my health or my body image.  I don’t like the career path I’m on, but $70,000 in student loans say I should probably stay on it.  Another $20,000 in credit card debt from years of injuries and illness, unemployment, and trying new things says I probably shouldn’t even stop working long enough to talk to you.  It’s not that I have any major illnesses, just a history of minor health problems that add up to one big hassle.  It’s entirely likely that I’m coming down with the flu again as we speak. You should also know that I’m currently living with my parents.  I don’t know what I want out of life, how long I’ll live in this town, or where I’m going to go next.  If you can’t tell I’m not big on commitment. Since it might be relevant, I’m also going to point out that I’m not good with emotional intimacy.”

That puts all the bad shit out there right away.  If someone doesn’t want to deal with any of the issues in my buffet, they’re welcome to move on; no hard feelings.  If they make it through that part and still want to hang around, I’ll tell them what they’re getting.

“I’m open to trying new things and can actually be a lot of fun. I’m usually nice.  I don’t expect you to take care of me.  I’m smart. My friends think I’m funny.  Depending on my mood I’m up for going out or staying in, we’ll see how things work out.  I’m better with humanity than with people, which means I’m more likely to feel sorry for you in the abstract and tell you to get your ass in gear in the specific.  My goal is to fix the things in my life that make me unhappy, instead of just complaining about them.  If I’m not good company on any given day I will excuse myself until I improve.  Obviously, I can be very direct.”

If we can have that discussion up front, I should be able to stop worrying.  He should know what he’s getting, and from that point on it’s buyer beware.

The truth is I do worry about the men I date, and I would even if I gave that speech before every first date.  I worry that I will rub off on them, transfer my malfunction. I can’t shake the feeling that I am as responsible for them I am for myself, if not more.  This mess is one that I made, I shouldn’t be dragging in innocent bystanders.

And if he’s still talking to me after that, I want to tell him what I need.  Because it’s easier to be alone than to compromise. So what do I need?

“I need you to be strong enough to take care of yourself.  Although I am willing to listen to your problems and help you in any way I can, I need you to not make your problems my problems.  I need you to be a positive force in my life.  I need you to understand when I need some space.  I need you to be moving forward, no matter how wayward your path.  I also need you to understand that I don’t want to feel emotionally rushed.  And no matter what I say, I might not respect you in the morning, so you’re going to have to take responsibility for your own decisions. If you can do all of that, it’s only fair to tell you that someday I might fall in love with you, and it will be your job to tell me – as directly as possible – if that’s too heavy for you.  I need to know that you can do all of this, so that I can let go and enjoy the ride.”

Prospective dates should also be smart, funny, and adorable, but I figured that goes without saying.