All of my kindred spirits seem to be people I can’t access in person or to the depth I like. Why would my soul choose such a lonely journey? Such as it is I take the tiny morsels whenever I can get them.
A long time ago I used to work in the Forest Products office at Oregon State University. I worked with my best friend Debbie, a boss who was so stupid sometimes I wondered if it was possible for someone to be that dumb, and a sociopath named Bonnie. Bonnie was…I can’t even begin to describe her in a single word except to say she was a sociopath. She could and did make life hell for a lot of people. She was also very annoying. She was possibly the most negative person I have ever met. If it was sunny, she complained that it was too hot and should be rainy. If it was rainy, she complained it was raining. If we had work to do, she complained that she had work to do and that she was the only one who could possibly do it. If we didn’t have work to do, then she complained because she was bored. She didn’t like her chair. She would get another chair and wouldn’t like it and go back to the original and then complain about it. She had gossip to share on every single person who walked in our door and even those who didn’t. It was a guarantee that as soon as you left the room she was dishing something about you and turning anything you did into something to complain about and to use to make you look bad. The only consolation with her was that she was an equal-opportunity sociopath so if she didn’t have her sights set on you, she was going after someone else and there were a lot of other people for her to choose from.
Most of the time I worked with Bonnie was pure hell. Six months after I started working in the lab, I was wondering if I was crazy. Between the boss who couldn’t figure out how to explain the most basic assignments to this constantly complaining crazy woman who had something nasty to say about every human who walked into the office, I seriously thought I was losing my mind. Luckily, I made friends with Debbie and discovered that no, I wasn’t nuts, the office was. She helped me stick it out (until I got pregnant and realized I didn’t want the loony factory anywhere near my growing fetus, but that’s another story).
Sometimes working with Bonnie could be fun. It wasn’t fun because of anything Bonnie did to make it fun, but because Debbie and I could see what she was doing and it would make us roll our eyes and laugh silently from behind our hands on our lunch break. Bonnie fancied herself the sexiest woman in the office and made a great show of throwing herself at every male who walked through the door. This got to be quite amusing, especially when the male was a 20 something grad student from India or Pakistan who had no idea that what she was doing was supposed to turn him on. Many of the older, white, male professors got off on her attention, which could be kind of gross (especially the one who was married to a disabled wife with MS), but Debbie and I could still find things about this situation that made us laugh.
The lab would periodically hold grad thesis presentations whereby the student would make their presentation to faculty and other students, followed by a small reception with doughnuts and other refreshments. Prior to these events, an announcement was to be made by our office notifying everyone on our floor that the presentation and reception would be taking place. Bonnie LOVED doing this and would literally race to the microphone to make sure she got to be the one to make the announcement. She would snarl something or other to us about how “The goddamned printer isn’t working again! The piece of shit must be out of ink or something.” Then she would turn to the microphone, sexily flip her hair behind her shoulders, lean in and grasp the microphone and breathily intone, “At four o’clock this afternoon, which is in just fifteen minutes (breath, breath, breath), there will be a presentation by Rakesh Akbahr, on the role of stress-strain on the physical transformations that occur (breath) during the cure of thermosetting adhesive-to-wood bonds (breath, breath, breath). After that (breath) there will be a reception in the Buchanon room, where refreshments will be served.” She’d then flop back down in her rolling desk chair and screech at us again, “Goddamned rain. It was supposed to be sunny today.
Debbie and I could laugh and laugh at these displays (out of the office, of course).
Bonnie told us she was an expert on everything. She said she had a degree in forestry, as well as a degree in nursing, and in English, and several others I no longer remember. No matter what came up that required some knowledge by someone in the office, she was in competition to be the top person in that knowledge and she usually had a degree to go along with it. Debbie and I would wonder to ourselves why she wasn’t putting these degrees to good use somewhere considering how underappreciated and underpaid she was sharing an office with us. It is because of Bonnie’s expertise that I even bring her up in this post today. I earned a Juris Doctorate degree in 2003. Then last year, I completed a Master’s in Teaching so that I could transition out of being a lawyer and become a teacher instead.
Last week, I had a conversation with someone, the content of which really isn’t that important. In the course of the conversation, the person I was speaking to was telling me another person had complained about something and that they had to complain because they were a teacher and as a teacher, they were required to complain. This puzzled me because I knew that the thing about which this person was supposedly required to complain was not required of teachers, so I said to the person I was speaking to, “I am a teacher, and that is not actually true.” He looked at me rather consternatedly (now there’s a word) as if to say, “Huh? I thought you were a lawyer?” because in another conversation on another day, he had asked me what kind of work I did and at the time he asked, I told him I was a lawyer, so my saying that I was a teacher on this new occasion was probably a bit odd to him.
I was like Bonnie and her multitude of unrelated degrees. I don’t have a multitude of unrelated degrees, I only have a couple of them. There is my undergraduate degree in English, then there is the lawyer degree, then there is the teacher degree. So I have several degrees and they are mostly unrelated. This got me to thinking about Bonnie and my time in the Forest Products lab so many years ago — twenty years ago actually, is when I started. I’ve stayed friends with Debbie. She came to the birth of my baby and probably knows me better than any other friend.
A lot has happened since then. I wonder now, with my handful of unrelated degrees, if maybe Bonnie really did have a forestry degree and an English degree and a nursing degree, and maybe perhaps something happened that she didn’t need to work in those fields at all. I don’t know. I can’t remember her last name so I can’t look her up (even if I wanted to, which, true told, I really don’t).
If I did look her up, I would find her and tell her I’m sorry for doubting her many educational accomplishments and let her know that I too now have many educational accomplishments. We could get a coffee and reminisce and I could tell her how funny I thought it was when she made the sexy forest products announcements and she could tell me how much she hates the weather and the coffee in the coffee shop we meet in and the chairs in the coffee shop and make googly eyes at the male patrons and…
On second thought, maybe not.
Three years ago I wrote a blog post about the illusion of connectivity. It said:
“I go to Facebook. I go to email. I check all the addresses. I go back to Facebook. I check my blog. I go back to Facebook. In all, I find not what I am looking for. It is not satisfying. I see posts I share. I read here and there. On email I get Truthout, read through the articles. Find one that is really interesting. Read to the bottom. Post on Facebook. Go back to email. Go to Facebook. Read Salon, click on the link to “Continue Reading.” Go back to email. Nothing. Something from Powell’s. Something from Bug of the Day. Go back to Facebook. Share a picture of some cute animal or funny thing from George Takei, but overall, no connection. Not really.
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I had a friend who I thought was one of my bestest friends in the whole wide world. I have a couple of other bestests who fit into this category, but there are some topics that are simply not discussed with them. One is not interested in hearing about my lack of love travails. The other really could care less about anything about spiritual growth or any of that.
Yet I could discuss anything this friend who I thought was one of my bestest. Even when we hadn’t seen one another in weeks or months or years, which could happen because we didn’t live close, we could pick right up and begin again. A couple of years ago, we made a decision to try and visit one another more because we were both lonely for a bestest friend we could see more often.
Then last year she decided not to be friends with me. Stupid facebook. It posts everything you do on all your friends’ pages and all they say back and on and on. All of it was about politics. I am drifting too much left for her (or many friends, actually), and I knew she didn’t like that. She didn’t like what my other friends said so she cut me off, then sent me a message telling me as much, then that was it. I never heard from her again. Phone calls unreturned. No more emails. I knew it was final when the birthday passed without so much as a whisper because she’s always sent a card at the very least.
It’s been a life lesson that I’ve chosen to replicate my family dynamic (I am a cliche’ of the highest order). I get it now. I’ve spent three years of work with a woman who is like an old medicine woman in her capacity to heal old wounds, plus a good year and a half checking in with her now and then. Years with counselors before never even got me in the same healing ballpark that this woman did. She is amazing. In any case, I understand it was my dynamic to choose people to love who didn’t love me back quite as much or at all. I make different choices in how I pick people now, but it’s slow going sometimes.
I never considered this friend whom I have known for nearly 20 years to fall into that category, yet I have gradually realized that she did. I look back and see the signs. They were there. They were sometimes right in my face, but no, I didn’t see it. How blind we can be sometimes when we don’t want to see something. She meant more to me than I did to her. It’s as simple as that, and as painful.
I’m thinking of this now and writing about it because I miss her. I haven’t spoken to her in almost a year and I miss her sometimes so much it hurts. I want her to be my bestest again, even if she never really was because I can be such a deluded fool sometimes.
Ah well. Sunny days will come again? Maybe…
This is what modern life is: All relationships are via some electronic device, or they do not exist at all. Meeting face to face is a rare occurrence except in the workplace, and if you work alone, woe be to you. If you want to find out what is happening in a friend’s life, you have to use some version of social media to discover it, because it will not be found out through real conversation. Even the phone has gone by the wayside and telephone conversations are rare. Everyone is too busy to connect with real humans that have any meaning to them unless those humans happen to live in the same house, and even then, it won’t be the sort of connection time and reflection bring, but the rushed and desperate connection of going to and fro. If there is a misunderstanding via electronic device which lacks the nuance of face to face connection, it is quite possible the relationship will end, regardless of how long you have known one another because with electronic misunderstandings comes the possibility of projection of whatever the person who misunderstands chooses to perceive, whether or not there is any basis in reality. Even when you do meet your friends in person, this is no guarantee you will actually connect with them. The devices are there too, intercepting. Faces don’t turn toward one another, but toward little screens, lighting the visage with cold, blue light.
These are the lives we have created for ourselves. In exchange for products that can do everything for us and do do everything for us, we have given up human connection, human passion. Maybe it isn’t such a travesty that we seem on the trajectory to self-destruction.
A couple of days ago I listened to a story on This American Life about prom. It got me thinking about mine because the people interviewed kept remarking just how important prom was. One person even went so far as to say it was second in importance to a wedding. Seriously? I don’t know that I agree with that. Prom is certainly a ubiquitous high school event, but it wasn’t anything at all life-changing for me, and it wasn’t because I was an anarchist or anything. I just didn’t really care. I thought it was a dumb dance. I was not one of those people who spent all of high school looking forward to attending. I did finally obtain a boyfriend by senior year so I actually had a prom date. If I hadn’t gotten the boyfriend, I probably would not have gone. I was much more concerned with acquiring a boyfriend than attending prom, and much more surprised and shocked that this happened than I ever would have been at getting a prom date.
For me, the story of how I got my first boyfriend was practically out of a high school movie. Every February, our school hosted a Valentine’s Day school dance. For some reason, one of the most attractive, most popular boys in school asked me to dance. A lot. We danced together all evening. This was a surprise to me. He was Mr. High School All-American boy. Extremely popular, he had attended the schools in my town his entire life. This meant something in our little town; it meant you knew everyone and everyone knew you. This could be a bad thing, but for a lot of people, it accorded them with additional status. Eric had this status in spades, plus he was captain of the football team and President of the Senior class. Seriously. He also had blonde hair and blue eyes, lovely chiseled features, and an athletic build.
I, on the other hand, was not Miss High School All-American girl. I had the blonde hair and blue eyes, but my hair was short, and for the dance in question, I had tried beforehand to trim my bangs. After cutting, I realized they were crooked, so I cut them again and made them crooked the other direction. By the time I was done, they were about two inches long and still crooked. I was also skinny as a rail, with no breasts to speak of. Certainly not curvy. I imagine I was prettyish, but definitely not a beauty and never one of the girls the boys talked about or wanted. I spent most of my time buried in books, riding my horse, or acting weird because my friends thought it was funny and I liked making them laugh. My parents lived like they never had money, no matter how much they had, so my clothes were not name brands, which I cared about in those days. (One nice thing about growing up was giving up that ridiculous delusion.)
In spite of my average appearance and lack of social standing, here we were at this Valentine’s Day dance and Eric was dancing with me. My friends couldn’t believe it. “He must like you!” said Marie. “He keeps dancing with you!” I didn’t quite believe he liked me. Deanna kept giggling every time he came near. “Stop it,” I would hiss to her in a whisper before heading to the dance floor. Kari just smiled her poker-face smile.
Over the weekend after the dance, my friends and I spent many hours on the phone deconstructing the dance and its portent. Did Eric like me, or was he just being nice? I could not believe that he did. They could not believe that he did not. On Monday, I was embarrassed and terrified at the prospect of seeing Eric. We had a class together the last period of the day. I spent most of that day a nervous wreck, wondering what would happen in that class. I was terrified.
Later that afternoon, we were all in Mr. Fisk’s class listening to him drone on about who-knows-what. Mr. Fisk’s stories were fascinating as sophomores and stupid by the time we were seniors. I don’t remember now how it transpired, but somewhere along the line in the class a note was transferred to Eric. I think it was supposed to be from me to Marie or Marie to me, or something like that, but it was about how much I liked him. He sent me a note and we agreed to both ask to go to the bathroom at the same time. A few minutes later, Eric got up, asked to use the bathroom, and left. Heart pounding, 30 seconds later, I asked to go to the bathroom as well. Mr. Fisk was none the wiser and let me follow Eric. He probably didn’t even notice we were out at the same time. We were the good kids, the ones who always turned in our homework and would never leave to go fraternize and cause trouble, so bathroom passes were easy to come by.
Eric was waiting by the bathroom. He was wearing his Levi’s 501 jeans, a pink polo shirt, and white sneakers. I thought he looked amazing. He said hi and then kissed me. Exhilarating.
We were going out after that. We never had a conversation where he asked me to be his girlfriend or anything, I just was. I adored him. Completely smitten, I would do anything he wanted to do or go anywhere he wanted to, just to be with him. Compared to stories of teenage activities I hear about these days, our actions were so tame. I would never have considered having sex with him, not in a million years. Honestly, we never made it past second base, but to both of us, this was a lot.
How is it that I managed to get the most popular boy in school for my boyfriend senior year? I mean really? I think about this time and I have to wonder. I know part of it is that this most popular boy in school was unique in some respects. So often the popular kids are so idealized that we have a vision of how they must be, but to become truly popular and liked by everyone (which Eric certainly was), that person must possess some characteristic of some sort that makes people like them. Eric was truly likeable. Plus he’d been in the same town schools since kindergarten. Plus he was handsome. Really. Blonde. Blue-eyed. Captain of the football team. President of the class. I mean, come on, was this for real?
It was. That is what is so remarkable to me. I look back now and for the first time truly marvel at it. I mean, come on! Do you think he could have been more of a cliché? And it’s even more amazing that I, with my background and thought processes, could have had him as my first real boyfriend. That alone is a feat in and of itself.
One night, we were making out in the backseat of his housemate’s ginormous 70’s automobile. The thing was a boat on wheels. I was supposed to be spending the night at Marie’s house, and a group of us had all gone and done something that evening. Eric and I parked the boat outside her house and started kissing in the backseat. It was cold out and the windows fogged up. At some point, I realized there was a round light moving along the back window. We both sat up quickly and pulled on our shirts (each other’s, as it turned out). Then we heard a tap on the window.
Humiliated, Eric opened the car door and got out. The officer took him aside and scolded him. He then stuck his head in the car and asked me my name and where I was supposed to be. Terrified and humiliated as well, I told him. He said I should go into my friend’s house and go to bed. It was probably only 11:30, but I was scared and obeyed without question.
I spent the next week completely terrified that the stop would show up in the local paper. A weekly, the local paper did not have much to report on, and therefore contained a section listing every petty grievance to which the police force responded. I was certain our names would be listed with our transgression for all–especially and including my parents–to see. Thankfully, this never transpired.
Because I now had a boyfriend, prom seemed like it might actually be fun. My friends were all going and I looked forward to hanging out with them. My mom is an excellent seamstress, and after looking and finding no dresses that I liked, she offered to make a prom dress for me. I picked out a pink satin and some pink tulle. She made a long dress with a fitted bodice, with a pink ribbon around the center and tulle around the collar, which sat off the shoulder on my collar bones. I liked it fine. Looking at it now, I think it’s kind of boring, but I enjoyed getting dressed up. Eric looked amazing in his tuxedo, and he arrived in the boat to pick me up, a pink corsage in hand to match the boutonniere on his lapel.
The best memory I have of prom is that my best friend Marie won as prom queen. She had a huge crush on a good friend of Eric’s named Gary. Gary had a girlfriend, but for prom king and queen, there would be a dance. When it was announced that Marie was queen and Gary was king, I was thrilled to death for her. She was able to dance with the boy she liked for an entire slow song. I could tell watching her dance, her head against his shoulder, that she was in heaven.
After prom, we went to a party at some friends of Eric’s and sat in a hot tub before he took me home. Most of them were drinking alcohol and this scared me. I didn’t find that part of the night much fun. I can’t remember when I got home, but I don’t think it was very late.
One other huge aspect of my relationship with Eric was that shortly prior to our starting to date, he had become “born again.” Over the course of our courtship, he became more and more heavily involved in the church. In an effort to please him, I went along. I had been friends for some time with another girl who was extremely involved in her church. I started going with her, mainly because I had a crush on David W. and David W. was in youth group. David W. would flirt with me at youth group and I enjoyed this. Also, my friend’s parents would take us for pie after church. Having grown up in a family that went out to eat maybe once every two years, this was an immense treat.
Interestingly, while I was attending church and trying to be a good Christian, I was discovering a lot of hypocrisies that bothered me immensely. One morning, the pastor described faithful Muslims praying to Mecca. He spent a good deal of time describing the scene, to the point I could practically feel the warmth of the sun on my back and the rug under my knees. Then he dropped a bomb saying, “Isn’t it a shame that all these millions of faithful Muslims are going to hell? I could not tolerate or believe this. This sermon was a turning point for me. I had serious doubts about Christianity and organized religion in general anyway, and that statement made me start looking for inconsistencies, which were not difficult to come by.
However, I kept my doubts to myself. Eric would drag me to youth group on Wednesday and church twice a day on Sunday and I would go with him because usually after we would make out in the back of his truck and I liked doing that. I went along with the church thing, even so far as memorizing the entire book of Romans because he did so as well, and I believed that he wanted me to. I would pray with him, and discuss the Bible with him. Mainly I just wanted to be with him and this offered me the greatest opportunity.
Our small town, like many, had started offering an all-night graduation party to the entire senior class. The point was to keep teens from drinking and getting hurt or killed as a result. I was not a drinker and looked forward to graduation and the graduation party. My grandparents had flown in from Kansas for the event and I was excited by the prospect of all of it.
The day before graduation, Eric took me out in the afternoon to eat at a nice restaurant. When we arrived back at my house, at the top of my parent’s driveway, he got out and gave me a hug. Then he said, “It’s been really fun hanging out with you, but we are going to have to stop. I’m going to college in the fall, and I am afraid our relationship is interfering with my relationship with Jesus.” There were more words, but I don’t remember them.
I was incredulous. I had not seen this coming, not even close. Heartbroken and numb, I stumbled into the house and into my bedroom. I spent the rest of the afternoon lying on my bed in a pool of misery. We were to attend a Baccalaureate dinner that night. I dressed in the new outfit my mom had bought for me, a knit yellow sweater and white cotton skirt. I don’t remember much of the Baccalaureate dinner except there were some speeches. Eric was there, but he ignored me. I stared at my plate all evening. My parents and grandparents could tell something was wrong, but didn’t say anything.
Later, after we arrived home, I went again to my bedroom and lay on my bed, trying not to cry. My family wanted me to come in the living room and visit, but I just couldn’t do it. Finally, my grandma came in to talk. I confessed what had happened. “Oh, honey,” she said, rubbing my back. “It seems so hard now, but you’re so young. It is for the best.”
I still remember her voice and the way she stroked my hair and back. I also remember that graduation and the party were a drag. My friends kept trying to get me to liven up, but I just couldn’t do it. Forever after, when I think of graduation, the memory is colored by the fact that the day before the ceremony my first love dumped me for Jesus.
It was the best decision of course. Eric became a successful missionary in Africa. He is still there, working on a Bible translation of some sort, I think. I saw him at our reunion and it wasn’t weird at all. Time heals all wounds and we had grown up. I was such a baby at 17. I am immensely grateful Eric didn’t do something stupid like ask me to marry him. I would have said yes in a heartbeat and it would have been the wrong decision. We would have been divorced by the time we were 20. I’m so different from that person, I can barely remember how I thought or acted. Most of what I remember about myself at that time makes me cringe in embarrassment. I certainly could never have been a Christian. The seeds of doubt in organized religion had been planted, probably before I knew the ground was tilled.
In any case, this was my prom and the story around it. Nothing spectacular, just an old memory. It’s funny, as I’ve been writing this, how much I actually do remember. Life is interesting and so much is forgotten. I’m glad I remember this.
We have led a remarkably busy, whirlygig sort of existence over the last few weeks. On August 5 we decided to move back to Portland. As a child is imminent (due September 10), we wanted to accomplish a lot in a very short amount of time. We also sent a moving truck along its merry way from NYC on August 13, and required a home for our belongings to land. This put some pressure on us to get things done so we would not have to unload the truck into a family garage or storage unit, reload into another moving truck, and unload into whatever home we located.
Fate was with us. We searched all day for five days for an apartment or house. We applied at many locations and were accepted at one, but it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. Early the morning after that acceptance, I woke up too early (the m.o. these days) and was doing the search on Craigslist. The first house to show up that morning was exactly what we were looking for. I was reluctant to call because it was so early, but figured since the posting had just shown up the person must be awake. So I called. I am so grateful that I did. We were the first callers and the owner said he gave priority in order of who called first.
Later that morning (last Wednesday) went and looked at the house. Not only was it in the exact neighborhood we wanted, it was the style of house I love the most, had plenty of room, and was simply lovely. It is a bungalow with a huge front porch, a fenced backyard, a full basement, and all the amenities we could ask for. The old tenant was a cool guy who was heading to Canada to “hang out with his mom in Vancouver, B.C.” He graciously agreed to allow our belongings to arrive before he departed, whenever that happened to be. On Saturday we received the call from the driver that he would be in Oregon on Sunday. We made arrangements for him to meet us at the house and we started calling friends.
Here is how Oregon is different for us from New York: In New York, we had 3 people who could help us, one of whom had to leave after an hour for another engagement, leaving 2 people plus Dan to load our truck (considering at the time I was 35 weeks pregnant, there wasn’t a whole lot I could do in the hucking boxes department). Here, we had 10 helpers, plus Milla had two girls to play with, daughters of one of the helpers. Loading the truck took nearly 8 hours. Unloading took under 3. Unloading always takes less than loading, but the speed here was phenomenal, plus everything went into the house in an organized manner. I couldn’t unload, but I could certainly direct traffic!
Basically, since we decided on August 5 to move back to Oregon, and arrived so late August 14 it may as well have been the August 15, we have managed to find a place to live, buy a used car, find a new midwife, and begin settling in. We have been busy, to say the least, but so far things are working out. Dan has had a few gigs and I’m slated to return to work for a firm here after baby is born and maternity leave. It has been a lot of work, but it has been so worth it.
A year ago I could not wait to leave Portland. There had been a long string of hard times and it was difficult to see a future here. Having left, spent too much money, and returned, I cannot imagine being anywhere else. I am grateful for a place among family and friends. I am so grateful we found a house we like in the neighborhood we wanted. Now I just need to relax and sleep through the night. It won’t be long before our little one arrives and sleeping through the night will be a thing of the past…
Anyone who knows me well knows I am basically horse crazy. I didn’t come out horse crazy, but certainly acquired the insanity not long after birth. I was three years old when my mom took me to visit her little sister and the sister’s pony, Patches. I fell in love. From that moment on, I was hooked.
When I first told my mom I wanted a horse, because her little sister was twelve when she first acquired a horse, she promised me I could have one at twelve as well. She made the promise less with the intention of actually getting me this equine nearly a decade hence, but more to shut up my incessant requests for my own four-legged friend. She never believed her three-year-old would remember this promise. Ah, the naivete of parents. Of course I remembered and at age twelve years, three months, I did indeed receive a pony of my own.
The story of that pony is for another post. Suffice to say I absolutely adored her, but she was only 10 hands tall, which is basically forty inches. Considering I hit 5’7″ by age 10, this pony was much too small for me. In spite of my adoration, I eventually had to sell her and purchased a larger pony. I continued to grow and outgrew her as well. At age 14 I was 5’9″ tall and it was time to move on from ponies. I simply needed a horse to accommodate my ever-lengthening legs.
I had started doing some work for local farmers, helping out with horse training and stable cleaning. Through this I met a couple who had purchased a two-year-old gelding they did not have the time or experience to train. They offered him to me to buy for $200. Having just sold my pony to a good friend for $350, I had enough to buy him. They called him Volcano because he was born on the day Mount St. Helens erupted, May 18, 1980.
I remember the day I went and picked up my very own horse. I was so proud as I walked him up the road along the railroad tracks from their farm to ours. Though I would never have admitted it to anyone, and although I was terribly excited, I was also a bit frightened. He was big! I changed his name to Star Bright because of the bright star on his chestnut face, plus Volcano seemed a name that did not bode well. I took him home and settled him in. He was my horsey companion for the next twelve years. Life in my extremely dysfunctional family was difficult; Star made those years as a teenager bearable and even brought me happiness.
Star was an amazing horse. He could perform circus tricks and would give me a hug with his foreleg in exchange for a treat. I rode him hunt seat and also in gymkhana. At one horse show, I rode him in an equitation semi-finals class in the morning, which we won, placing us in the finals that evening. That day, I rode him in a bunch of gymkhana classes because he seemed to really enjoy the speed and agility required for these gaming events. He won the hi-point championship for the gymkhana. Then that evening, still energetic, I rode him in the hunt-seat equitation finals and we won reserve champion. He was amazing like that. The horse was as happy in a show ring as he was trekking up the side of a hill or at the beach playing in the water.
Keeping a horse after I grew up and moved away from my parents’ farm was a bit difficult to say the least. I moved him around and even leased him for a year while I traveled. I was modeling at the time and spent a good deal of time out of the country. At some point, it became clear that keeping him was not in his best interest. He needed someone who could focus on him and I wasn’t doing it. My parents didn’t keep horses anymore, so he could not go back to their place, and he would have been ignored there anyway.
The day I sold him was heartbreaking. He would not go into his new owner’s trailer. It was as if he knew what I was doing and did not want to go. I felt horribly guilty and sad. I visited him at his new home and he always remembered me. The new owners eventually sold him to someone else, a woman in a small town in the northwestern part of Oregon. The last time I went to visit him, he was 19 years old, and seemed genuinely happy to see me. He rubbed his head on my chest. I rode him and visited, then said goodbye, not realizing I would never see him again. The farm was over two hours from my home in Portland. The next time I tried to contact the owners to arrange a visit, their number had been disconnected. I was not able to locate them and do not know how Star’s life turned out.
Every year on May 18, the rest of the world remembers the day Mount St. Helens blew its ash all over Oregon and Washington, flattening trees and decimating a forest. I, however, remember May 18 as the day my Star was born. Not a year goes by I don’t remember this day and think about the big chestnut horse who made me happy. Happy Birthday, Star Bright. Thank you for being my friend.
I gave a hungry man an apple yesterday and I keep thinking about it. I don’t want to trivialize it, but I wanted to write about him. I keep seeing him at the other end of the subway car gnawing the apple as if his life depended on it. And maybe it did. I thought of him this morning in my insomniac hours. I thought about the homeless families I read about in the New York Times and I wanted to write and comment about what homelessness is, but that seems so boring and unlikely to change anything. People read me, but no one is going to read what I have to say about homelessness and change anything. I don’t know what would remove the image of that man from my brain. I don’t know that I should remove that image. I just keep thinking about it. So many times I have sat on the subway car and a person comes on and says, Excuse me, Ladies and Gentlemen, apologizes, and then proceeds with their spiel. So many times I have been slightly annoyed by the interruption, yet felt guilty at the same time. I simultaneously realize how close to precarious is my own financial situation, yet I acknowledge that we are nowhere near completely homeless and there are people in our lives who would ensure true homelessness is a most unlikely possibility. I know also how pitiful and useless would be the change in my pocket. And honestly, I am slightly resentful at being asked even though it isn’t fair to feel this way. So I do nothing. But there have been times when I have had food, times before moving to New York, when I would give food to people asking for it. This time I had an apple, he asked for food, why not? He told his sad story and I handed him my apple, then thought nothing more of it until I looked up minutes later to see him devouring that apple like he hadn’t eaten in days. It was ginormous and red and beautifully ripe, a sort of dream apple. It makes me weep to think of his hunger, swallowing the pieces so quickly he could not have had time to enjoy much of its fragrant sweetness. It makes me wonder what would happen if I ever gave into the urge I have had in the past to ask the person to sit down and talk to me. Sometimes I am afraid because the person seems to be mentally ill. I don’t want to be screamed at. Other times I just don’t do it. I’ve never done it. But the urge has been there over and over. I have wanted to stop my car (back when I had and drove a car) and ask the person holding the sign What happened? How did you get here? But I haven’t done it. I wonder if I ever will.
When I was about three years old, my mom took me to visit her sister, then age twelve. Her sister had an originally named pony named Patches, an old pinto with large patches of brown and black covering her white body. My aunt took me riding and I was hooked for life. From the day of that first ride, I begged my mom for a horse. Finally after listening to my ceaseless cajoling, she promised I could get a horse when I was twelve, never imagining for a moment her tiny child would remember the promise. Ah, such simple logic.
From that moment I read, slept, breathed horses. I took riding lessons when I could, went on trail rides at farms that rented horses, attended horse camps. When my twelfth birthday came and went, I knew a horse was on the horizon, and not long after, the promise was fulfilled and Rosie came home to me. She was too small for my long legs, but I adored her and she quickly became a part of the family.
Riding was fun and my sister started saying she wanted a horse too. My parents relented and took a trip north of Salem to the horse auction. They came home with a larger, seven-year-old pony mare. She was a perfect bay, shiny and red, with black points and a rambunctiously thick mane and tail. She was dainty and pretty, quite ladylike, and so we named her Lady.
I had outgrown Rosie by the time I got her and a year and a half later, my feet touched the ground. It broke my heart, but I had to find a bigger horse. This story continued for the next several years. After I sold Rosie I bought a larger pony, sold her and bought a horse. As time progressed I became rather horsily proficient and started doing some training work. For one such job, I traded training work in exchange for stud service to Lady. Eleven months later, Lady had her first and only baby, Prize.
We had many horses live with us during those years. We experienced many different horse personalities, some pleasant, some obnoxious. Lady always lived up to her name. Where many of our other horses were difficult to catch, Lady would always come wait at the gate, eager for human contact. She was a smart girl. She seemed to know the capacity of the rider. If the person was skilled, she was right in front of the leg, willing and capable. If the rider was timid or really young, she responded in kind, taking gentle, gingerly steps and walking very slowly. My mom was terrified of riding. Her young sister had jokingly put her on a horse with much too much spunk for her abilities or willingness, scaring the daylights out her in the process. But she rode Lady a few times, the only horse who made her feel safe. My brother would ride Lady like a wild hellion up and down our mile-long driveway, his whoops filling the air as Lady’s feet clattered on the gravel.
Time progressed and I grew up and moved out. I kept riding in various capacities, but when I left, my sister’s desire to ride left as well. My brother only seemed to like riding because horses went fast. Once he moved on to cars and motorbikes, horses lost any appeal. My parent’s horse farm dwindled and eventually Lady and Prize were the only horses remaining. After a few more years they sold Prize to some horsey acquaintances of mine.
For a few years, Lady did not get much attention, but she enjoyed hanging out with my parent’s cows. They would band together to eat and block the wind. Then my sister started having babies, I had a baby, Derek had a baby. All these babies grew into small children who liked to ride the pony at Grandma’s house. When Milla was two, we rented an old farmhouse in West Linn, Oregon. It sat on two acres of land right in the suburbs with a grandfather clause allowing livestock. We decided to have Lady come and live with us. I was riding at a large hunter jumper barn and Milla had been begging to ride. I did not feel confident putting her on a tall Thoroughbred, but Lady was just right.
Milla would go out the back door to spend time with Lady. Lady would lower her head and allow Milla to put on her halter. She would then lead her around the yard or out into the fenced paddock. Milla used an old log to clamber onto Lady’s back so she could walk and trot the perimeter of the field. Friends would bring their children over for a ride. Our suburban neighbors were thrilled. They would stop by the fence and offer Lady bits of carrots and apple.
We eventually bought a house and moved on from there, so Lady headed back to my parent’s farm. My sister had four children and between them and Milla, Lady got pretty regular rides. My sister bought a farm and Lady came to live there for a while until the place got too muddy, then back she went to the farm.
Lady was long in tooth and pretty swaybacked, her eyes cloudy with cataracts, but she would always come to our whistle, eager to see if we had any special treats in our pocket for her. Last winter her weight dropped dramatically. The year was bitterly cold, far below the average, and we worried Lady might not make it through the season. My parents bought her a warmer blanket and started bringing her up to the house to eat her grain separately from the cows who were hoggy and pushed poor Lady to the back of the line. Her weight improved and it seemed she would get to see another summer.
The last time I was in Oregon, in late December, I went to visit my parent’s farm. Like an old fixture there stood Lady out in the pasture among the cows, grazing on the stubby grass. She was so familiar, such a part of the landscape. I pointed her out to Boyfriend, who had not been yet to my family’s farm. “That’s Lady. She’s got to be in her thirties by now.” Little did I realize or even think to consider it would be the last time I saw her graying face. My mom called this morning to let me know that Lady died on Martin Luther King’s birthday. I had been driving the death truck across country on the day of her death, and my mom had not wanted to add further stress to our blisteringly stressful trip. Apparently Lady was lying down in the pasture as if asleep. My dad saw her and realized she was gone. They buried her on the hill below the house in the place were as children we always rode.
Over the years, Lady patiently allowed little hands to braid her mane and tail, and stood untied while they brushed her, bathed her, and picked her feet. She would carefully nibble treats from outstretched palms, making certain to leave fingers behind. In her easy manner, she helped us learn how to care for horses. She was a part of my life for so long, carrying three generations of our family on her back. So many children rode, played with, and cared for Lady. In turn, she cared for us. I will miss her.
We just entered California on the second day of our great moving adventure. We are both happy to be on the road and headed to our new home. I have lived in a lot of places, moved around the country on several occasions, but this time feels surreal and exciting at the same time. It is the first time I have decided to permanently settle somewhere besides Oregon, with no intention of returning, and the first time I have done so with another person. We are both thrilled and a little scared.
The last few days have been exhausting. We picked up our rental truck on Monday morning, drove to my friend Kathleen’s house to pick up my boxes that were stored there, drove to my friend Mark’s house to get the last of my boxes, then drove home to pack the truck with the piano. Our timing was perfect; we drove up just as the piano movers did.
A word about piano movers–they are brilliant at their job. They loaded up a baby grand and got her on the truck in under a half an hour. I was mightily impressed. We had a set of stairs at our Oregon house. They led from the yard down to the street. The piano movers backed up their truck and placed a bridge across. They then just wheeled the piano across the bridge, backed their truck up to ours, set the bridge into our truck, and rolled the piano onto our truck. Viola, piano loaded!
After the piano movers left, we loaded some gross furniture on the truck to take to the dump. That was an experience. We went to an environmental dump where they parcel everything out into different piles depending on what it is. There was a giant wood pile, a giant couch dismantling station with piles of upholstery, foam, and wood, and a giant plastic pile. The plastic was tossed onto a conveyor belt where it was dumped into a compactor that turned it into hideous, plastic lumps. I am constantly refusing to buy certain items for Milla because they are landfill disasters. I took a photo of the landfill disaster and sent it to her to see where all the ugly plastic goes when it breaks or someone doesn’t want it anymore. Too bad we can’t put the dump next to Walmart or Target so people can see where the shit goes six months after they buy it.
After the dump at nearly 4 in the afternoon, we headed home to load up. Boyfriend wanted to leave early Tuesday morning. I thought he was being overly optimistic, but hey, who am I to rain on his parade? Unfortunately, Boyfriend’s belongings were not quite packed yet. We started packing boxes and loading the truck at the same time. A friend came to help, but things were slow. Another friend of Boyfriend called and offered to help. It was dark but things were moving. Boyfriend’s mom came and helped to pack the kitchen (thank goodness–she was a lifesaver). Her fiance’ packed Boyfriend’s bike (thank goodness again).
One of our best helpers was Robert, an old, alcoholic singer with grey hair. Long in the face and long in tooth, he is simply awesome. He took charge and ordered Boyfriend and helpers diplomatically. When rope needed cutting, he pulled out his trusty “Old Timer” pocketknife. Such an old character, so cool, and he adores Boyfriend. He was indispensable.
It became apparent after the mattresses went into the truck that all the stuff would not fit. We packed the truck completely, but realized at about 10 p.m. we were going to have to get a trailer. The rental places were closed at that hour so we amended our plan to leave until later on Tuesday. Finally, at about midnight, we were ready to stop work and get food. It had begun raining about 11, so we were grateful everything was in out of the weather and that we could finally eat. After eggs at an all night Denny’s we headed home to get a tiny bit of sleep. We had packed the bed so we curled up on an old twin mattress on the floor.
Our dog was confused by all the changes. She had spent the day wandering around watching all her stuff leave the house, her black, triangle-shaped head cocked to one side. She lay on her bed next to us, blinking sleepily. I can only imagine her doggy thoughts. Probably not much more than some vague notion that life was not right, and hopeful her people wouldn’t leave. Before dawn the next morning Boyfriend moved to his roommate’s futon because he kept falling off the twin mattress, so the dog came and curled up next to me. It wasn’t until the alarm went off that I realized it was the dog I was snuggling and not my warm man. She was a worthy substitute.
The next morning I immediately called the Uhaul up the street. They had trailers we could look at. As we drove the truck to get the trailer, it became patently obvious that the truck had not been packed evenly. It listed precariously to the right, all the weight dragging it over. A baby grand piano, 300 pound armoire, and thousands of records were all on one side, mattresses were on the other. Damn it if we weren’t going to have to repack half the truck.
Boyfriend immediately jumped on the phone and called everyone he could think of who might help us. An hour later we had three friends to help, the rain had stopped, and we began to furiously unload to beat the weather and lost time. We managed to reload and load the trailer in only a couple of hours. We both feel much better about the reload; the armoire and records are now on the opposite side of the truck from the piano. We also repacked a bit more securely. It must have worked; so far at every check, nothing has shifted and fallen.
We were finally able to leave the house at about 6 p.m. Tuesday night. We had to stop and give a friend the key to Boyfriend’s car because he is selling it for us. We also had to stop and buy a lock for the trailer. It was rainy and late, and traffic was terrible because of the hour, but we were both so excited to be on our way, we didn’t care.
Boyfriend climbed a steep learning curve last night on how to drive a big truck with a trailer. I have driven many trucks and trailers because I have hauled horses all my adult life. I am used to the stopping distance and turning radius required. I have learning how important it is not to overcorrect, how a little move of the steering wheel results in a big move with a heavy vehicle. Boyfriend figured it out last night driving in the dark and rain. Needless to say, his shoulders were a bit tense.
Today, however, is a different story. He is driving like a pro. At one point he went to pass a slow car in the right lane. The truck began rocking side to side. He held the wheel and the rocking gradually ceased. Later, he was making strong man arms as he climbed the mountains at 45 mph.
Our iPhones have been a fantastic road trip addition. Once we were finally on the road, we figured we would make it to Grants Pass, Oregon for the night. I jumped on the internets and booked a room on Expedia for $40 a night. Not bad for a twin bed, clean room, and warm bath! Tanya the dog approved of the room, and she protected us this morning from an 80-year-old Navy veteran. Good dog, Tanya!
Luckily for us but not so for the planet, it has been sunny and warm today. It was too warm for hats and scarves, that’s for sure. Anyone who thinks climate change is a myth is deluded. We spent the last two hours driving over the Siskiyou Pass. At 4600 feet there was barely any snow on the tops of the mountains off in the distance. Everywhere else it looks like late August. I can’t quite express my dismay and fear at the sight. Things really are changing; arguing over it is a tragic waste of time.
Right now we are driving through Shasta national forest. It is breathtakingly lovely. Here there actually is snow on the ground, but the road is completely clear and dry and the sun is shining. We could not ask for better conditions for driving the first week of January. Our original plan was to head south through Albuquerque, but forecasts and friends assure us we can go through Denver without any problems. We will decide here in few hours because we have to decide by Reno whether to continue to Elko or head south. Right now it is looking like it will be Boulder. We’ll get to stay with friends and see Milla besides. Sounds good to me.
The local Boulder weekly paper published this article with advice on how to make holiday parties easier. Among the ideas is the suggestion to buy certain foods rather than making them yourself, including cranberry sauce.
Advising someone to buy cranberry sauce to make preparation easier is like telling someone to buy bottled water instead of using the tap. Gravy I can understand. It take a bit of effort and skill to get it right. Pie? Same thing.
But cranberry sauce? Toss cranberries, water, and sugar in a pan and boil for five minutes. Voila, cranberry sauce. It tastes better, has no extraneous ingredients, and doesn’t use up a can. If you’re really feeling brave, you can add cinnamon or other spices. Again, it’s not rocket science. Homemade cranberry sauce is so easy and tastes so good, it’s a wonder people ever thought to put it in a can.
Sometimes, it seems, humans go out of their way to make life more difficult.
See this piece on Huffington Post:
I would like to take you on a journey of the imagination…
Imagine that Sarah Palin is not a woman, but a man. We’ll call him Mr. Palin. Mr. Palin has been mayor of a small town in Alaska, and governor of that state for less than two years, a state whose entire population is less than that of most US major metropolitan areas and in this position. In this position, Mr. Palin is being investigated for questionable conduct. Imagine that he obtained his passport within the last couple of years, and that he considers foreign policy experience living next door to another country. Take it further and imagine he believes the earth was created in a few thousand years, that dinosaurs roamed the earth with humans, and that creationism should be taught in public schools. Suppose also that this man believes women should not have the right to choose, and that rape victims should pay for their own rape kits. Imagine Mr. Palin hunted moose from a helicopter and sought removal of environmental protections for polar bears. Imagine he has no knowledge of financial markets, the cold war, weapons systems, or Middle Eastern history. Imagine all of this and more.
If this were true, and Sarah Palin were a man, would he have even been on the longest list of potential US vice-presidential candidates for any political party? It would be unthinkable.
Why are the standards for this woman running for vice-president so much lower than they would be for a man? Shouldn’t the standards be the same? To determine whether someone did not get a job because of something other than merit, simply slip whatever that person is not into the position in your mind and ask yourself whether the same standards would apply. If there are disparities in the standards required between two people seeking the same position, it is quite likely that discrimination is occurring in some form, even if it is allowing someone to be worse at something in an effort to pretend there is no -ism taking place.
Here, we have a woman running for vice-president who is grossly underqualified. Those who support her claim that her position as a vice-presidential candidate is evidence of women shattering the glass ceiling. Actually, the opposite is true. Allowing her to take a position for which she is not qualified and giving her extra points for being a woman is the ultimate in sexism: it is using gender as a qualifier rather than merit. Beyond the obvious arguments against her abilities, her position as a vice-presidential candidate assumes on some level that a qualified woman could not perform the job. Sarah Palin’s place on the Republican ticket does not shatter the glass ceiling, it lowers it.
In December 1996, I decided that I wanted another dog. I had lived with my sweet dog, Autumn, for four and a half years. We had moved back to Oregon from the east coast, and I had finished college and begun working full time. I decided Autumn needed someone to hang out with during the day while I worked, so I chose to go to the humane society and look there. I had been donating money to the humane society for years and fully supported animal adoption that way. I considered myself an ideal owner; an animal that lived with me would be a full member of the family, receive top of the line care, and lots of love.
I was living in Corvallis at the time. I decided to go look at the humane society in Salem because it was bigger and would therefore have a larger selection. I was not sure exactly what kind of a dog I wanted, but I knew I did not want a brand new puppy and that I did want a female dog.
There were so many dogs to choose from. There were lots of brand new puppies and most of them had signs on their cages indicating they were already adopted. I entered the back kennels to search for an older dog. The kennel was bedlam. Because it was a Sunday, there were lots of potential doggie parents milling about looking for dogs.
I wandered up and down the aisles, occasionally stopping to pet one and say hello. One dog in particular caught my eye. She was about the same size as Autumn, but mostly black, almost like Autumn’s photo negative. Where Autumn was brown, this dog was black. Where Autumn’s points and eyebrows were dark brown, this dog’s were beige. She sat quietly in front of the fence. I went over and started to pet her. She looked at the floor, but leaned into the fence of the kennel so I could pet her ears. She was extremely thin, so thin I could count all of her ribs and see her hip bones.
This dog had curved front paws. There was no obvious bend like an L. Rather, her paws simply curved like the bottom of a U. Later when Autumn contracted diabetes and gradually starved, her paws began to curve too and I learned that curved paws were caused by starvation. I did not know at the time that the reason this dog’s paws were curved was because she had been starving. The sign on her kennel read QUEENIE. Her breed was listed as a doberman mix. I did not think so. Her colors might have been vaguely reminiscent of a doberman’s, but nothing else about her resembled that breed.
I pet her for a bit, then moved on to look around some more. I would wander up and down the aisles then return to the kennel with Queenie. Other visitors would stop at various kennels, but no one else stopped at Queenie’s. I kept going back. She would look up at me, then look at the floor, then look back up at me. The workers allowed me to take her out into a back yard to walk her around and spend time with her. She sat next to me and walked quietly beside me while we walked around a bit. I asked her if she wanted to live with me. She just looked at me, then looked away, then looked back again at me. She won me over and I decided that she was the dog I wanted to take home.
The workers told me that Queenie had been found wandering the streets of Salem three weeks prior. The day I chose her, she was extremely thin. I could count each of her ribs and she had those curved paws I did not know signified atrophied muscles from malnourishment. If she was in this shape after three weeks, I can only imagine how thin she had been upon arrival.
Prior to that day, my dog Autumn lived as a child with my husband and me. She slept in our bed. She ate the best dog food. When it was determined she had hip dysplasia, she received top of the line vet care. She was a priority in our lives. I cannot imagine an animal more loved and cared for. Yet the humane society in Salem would not let me adopt Queenie because the house we lived in was rented and did not have a fence. There were other smaller reasons as well that I no longer remember. The main thing that stood out was the house situation. Even though I had owned another dog and cared for her in that house for over a year, the people there determined it was not good enough. No wonder so many animals can’t find homes. If someone like me could not adopt a dog, I did not see how anyone could.
I hugged Queenie and left the facility completely dejected. I wanted her. I knew she would fit well with our little family. I had to find a way to bring her home.
Knowing the criteria that had kept me from adopting Queenie, I set out to find a friend who would “kidnap” her for me. I called around and described the situation. My uncle John had just moved to the area. When I told him what was going on, he agreed he would go and get Queenie out for me. I was so pleased! Perhaps she would be coming home with me after all.
The next day, Uncle John went down to the humane society. We rehearsed the story we would tell in order to ensure he could adopt Queenie. I waited and waited for him to call. Over an hour later, he finally called to tell me he had Queenie and was on his way to my house. I clapped in joy. She was mine! The story my uncle had told was convoluted and long. He told them he owned his own house with a fenced yard. He said he had a little boy who wanted a dog. They told him he could not take the dog until the little boy had visited. He then created some sob story where they had had a dog who had died. His little boy was desperately sad and missed this dog more than anything. Queenie looked like that dog and he wanted to surprise his little boy. The people bought it, thank God!
The night Queenie came home I changed her name to Molly. She did not look like a queen, but she did look like a sweet Molly girl.
As part of the agreement to adopt, I had to pay a rather large fee, something like eighty dollars. It was claimed that most of the fee was to pay for a certificate to spay Molly. The humane society where she was adopted was in Marion County. I had been assured the day before that I could use the certificate at a vet in the county where I lived. I scheduled the appointment to have her spayed. My vet told me that the certificates were not good in our county. I called other vets and was told the same story. Because I was not going to get to use the certificate anyway, I took her to my vet. He decided he would honor the certificate even though he would not be remibursed for the work by the humane society. I was grateful to him. We had only been shortly acquainted at that time, but I now consider him a good friend.
Two days later I took her in to be spayed. She was afraid of the vet’s office, but went along willingly. That was Molly. There were many situations where she was afraid, but she would trust me and go along if I was there. She stayed that way her entire life. A couple of hours after dropping her off, I received a phone call from the vet letting me know her surgery was complete. It turned out that when they opened her to spay her, she had already been spayed! The doctor sewed her back up and called me to come and bring her home. He said because the humane society told me she needed to be spayed, it had not occurred to him to question it before performing the surgery.
As I stated before, I had donated a lot of money to the humane society. I wanted to help the organization so it could help animals. However, after my experience that day trying to adopt that dog, after the experience with the spaying certificate I was told would work and then did not, and finally the fact they did not even know she had been spayed already requiring she undergo an unnecessary procedure, I stopped donating to them. It has been my experience, then and since, that there are many people who work in the animal adoption industry who seem to have the attitude that they are the only people good enough to care for animals. I absolutely understand taking steps to keep animals out of bad homes or laboratories. Yet when organizations that claim their purposes are to serve animals, to keep them from being euthanized, and to find them decent homes, they should not make it impossible for a good owner to adopt a pet. Unfortunately, because of the holier than thou attitude at some facilities, this is exactly what happens.
Molly was initially skittish, but she loved me and trusted me right away. Autumn was not thrilled by the interloper considering I had been sole mommy for the four years comprising her entire life. However, she grudgingly accepted Molly into the pack once she determined she was not going anywhere. For the rest of their lives the two basically ignored each other. In my attempt to get Autumn company with Molly, I failed wholeheartedly. Later when we adopted Poppy, Autumn and Poppy became good friends. And later after that, Autumn and Edna seemed to like one another as well. But Autumn and Molly never did. They acted like the other did not exist. About once a year they would get into a nasty quarrel and one or the other of the two would end up with a bloody bite.
From the beginning Molly knew certain words and was terrified of them. Her entire life if I said Vacuum she would go and hide. In the early days, she was genuinely frightened. In later years she would go and sit on the back porch or in the closet when the vacuum came out. She could not stand the thing. She also knew cuss words and would go and hide even if they were spoken in a sentence full of other words. For instance, I could say I’m going to go and dump the damn garbage and she would go hide. It was like a parlour trick, her knowledge of naughty words. I often wondered what happened to her in her early days to instill such a fear.
My vet and friend, Dr. Fletcher, examined Molly’s teeth very closely the month I brought her home and told me he was 95% certain she was just under two and a half years old. This would have put her birth around September 1994. A lot could happen in that time and I will never know what. In addition to her fear of cuss words and vacuums, she was terrified of loud men, arguments of any kind, and she knew sit, stay, and come. It was obvious she had lived with someone, but who knows what her life was like exactly.
Molly did not like being in trouble. Her perception of trouble had a higher threshold than most of us. During Autumn’s last years, Autumn would get into the trash and try to eat things beyond her diabetic dog food. I would come home to Autumn wagging her tail and Molly sitting in the corner hiding. Simply based on Molly’s body language, I knew Autumn had done something naughty. I know some animal behaviorists would say that Molly was reacting to my reaction, that she had no way to know Autumn had done something naughty. This explanation does not satisfy. Molly would be reacting to Autumn’s behavior before I even knew and reacted to it. Molly was smart. She knew.
Molly was also extremely fastidious. She would hold potty for hours and hours rather than go in the house. For a couple of years we lived in a 1930’s farmhouse with a full basement. There was no door on that basement so we put a gate at the top of the stairs to keep Milla from falling down them. The top of the stairs opened onto an enclosed back porch. When we were gone, we would leave the dogs on this back porch. One day I came home to discover Molly on the top stair to the basement. How did you get over the gate? I asked her. She wagged her tail. I went down into the basement to discover Molly had gone potty in the farthest corner of the basement. Rather than potty on the back porch Molly had jumped over the gate landing on stairs and gone down and as far away as possible to do it. That’s how she was.
Molly loved sleeping on the bed, but we had decided after we had three dogs and a cat and a child that the bed was too crowded so the dogs were relegated to beds on the floor. Every so often, Molly would slip quietly onto the bed and lie there as still as possible hoping we would not boot her to the floor. Most times we let her stay; she was not obtrusive.
Last April, Molly had a severe seizure. I wrote about that on this blog. You can click here to read about it. The seizure was horrible. When I woke to her twisted body writhing on the floor, her eyes rolling in two different directions, feces and urine everywhere, I thought for sure she was dead. But she did not die. Three hours later, to the surprise of everyone who had seen her, especially the vet, Molly was 95% better. And she stayed better. The vet warned me that more seizures were to come, that she likely had a brain tumor and would continue to seize until one of them killed her. But that never happened. She never had another seizure.
Because of her age, I knew Molly would not be able to cross the ocean to live with us in Hawaii. I arranged for her to stay with my boyfriend and his dog, Tanya, in Portland. She seemed to accept the change after I left. She spent a good deal of time under the bed, her favorite place to be. Boyfriend bought her a rug to lie on under the bed and a pillow for the living room. He bought her a new tag for her collar that said Miss Molly on a pretty pink flower. I would talk to her on skype. I don’t know if she knew what was going on, but she always had a happy face and would come out to play and say hello.
Yet over the last week and a half, Molly seemed to deteriorate before our eyes. She fell down the stairs to Boyfriend’s basement. She has had difficulty with stabilty on slippery floors for some time now and these stairs are covered in linoleum. She stopped wanting to eat. We thought maybe hard kibble was bothering her so Boyfriend bought wet food on Saturday. Molly gobbled that up like a starving beast and we thought things would improve. Only the next day she did not want to eat wet food either. Boyfriend fed her some by hand and she ate that, but the next day she wanted even less. Two days ago when he took her outside to go to the bathroom, she slipped and fell going up the back porch steps. Yesterday when she went out to go to the bathroom, she urinated then lay in it. I knew then that something was dreadfully wrong. My dear, sweet, fastidious dog would never go anywhere near her urine if she could help it. Boyfriend bathed her and I made an appointment with our vet for today.
Molly died this morning in the arms of my boyfriend. The vet said she had a large tumor in her spleen that had burst and her belly was full of blood. She said we could operate to remove the tumor, but she would likely not survive any surgery. There would have been no benefit in trying to save her life. She was fourteen years old. Her body was old and worn out. Trying to keep her alive would have been selfish and cruel.
Milla and I spoke to her over the phone telling her we loved her and goodbye. I hope she heard us and if not I hope our love was there for her. I imagined her flying away from that body just like Autumn did a little over three years ago. My boyfriend took her body home and buried her in the corner of his backyard. Tonight he went out and sat by her under the full moon.
I am so blessed this creature was a part of my life for almost twelve years. She was always there, quietly in the background. Molly loved a lot of people. She was always so excited to see my mom or my good friends. She loved my boyfriend and enjoyed his company, following him around the house for a snack or to have her rear end scratched. She took a bit of time to warm up to a person, almost like she was sizing them up to determine whether they were worth her friendship. Yet once she decided she liked you, she always liked you and would remember someone after months or even years of an absence.
Upon hearing of her death, a good friend said this to me, “She was such a good friend and such a polite and gentle dog. What a blessing to have had her for so long – she loved you all dearly.” These words are simply true. I am grateful Molly came into my life. In her quiet way she was a fixture in my life for over a decade. Of the hundreds of dogs I could have chosen from the humane society that cold, winter day, I am so thankful I chose her. I loved her and I will miss her terribly. I am glad that she was my friend.
Do you think you can be president of the United States of America? Should you be president of the United States of America? Do you have the qualifications necessary to run this country? Regardless whether you want to be the president, would you like to have a president you see as a person with whom you could share a beer or hang out with?
It seems to me that the desire to hang out or have a beer with the president comes from a desire to view this person as human, as “like us.” But think about it, how much “like us” should the president really be? Are any of the people you hang out with ready to be president or should they be? Are the people in your child’s soccer league ready to run the country? What about the people in your PTA? Are the people you have a beer with at the park ready to run the country? Hell, are the people in your city council, or even your mayor ready to run the entire United States of America?
Just because we could sit and have a conversation with a person does not mean either of us is ready to run one of the most powerful nations on earth. Think about it. Faced with the prospect of leading at least two wars, global starvation, natural disasters, increasing environmental concerns, a worldwide mortgage crisis, an economy on the brink of collapse, millions of uninsured and unemployed Americans, and a multitude of other issues, are you or your neighbors ready to run this country? Could you do it? Could you fix these problems?
Don’t just ask yourself if the person running for president could drink a beer with you or hang out at your church. Ask yourself if this person can manage the complex and myriad problems facing this massive nation. Over three hundred million people are citizens of the United States. Three hundred million! Could you lead three hundred million people? Perhaps in considering whether someone should be president we should worry less about whether that person is “like us” and start asking if they can do the job, because I highly doubt that most of us could run this country. I doubt our neighbors could. I doubt our friends could. Perhaps after years of experience and training we could do it, but not right now, not today after drinking that beer. Being “like us” does not qualify someone to run this country. It might make someone more likable. It might provide us with some link to the enormity of their responsibility to feel that person could be “like us.” Being “like us” may make us feel in another lifetime at another time we actually could do that job. Unfortunately it is not enough to determine whether someone could be president of the United States.
Presidents should be super heroes. Yes, they are human. Yes, they shit. But I want someone in charge of the fate of a very large number of people to have superhuman strength and abilities. Just because this person could have a beer with me is simply not good enough.
I have not been writing as much here as I usually do because I have been working on a book idea that I have. It’s an academic book so I’ve been doing some research in an attempt to solidify a thesis argument. I have also been researching grad school programs to determine whether it might be worth my while to turn this idea into a dissertation (it’s that sort of book). It might be useful to turn it into a dissertation because I could get a degree that would allow me to teach if I wanted to.
As an undergrad I wanted to become a university professor. I entered the honors program at my university because it was designed to determine whether one would be interested in that track. After spending a year on my subject and writing the thesis, I decided I was not interested enough in any one subject to become an expert on it. Since then, I have often wondered how different my life would be if I had made that choice instead of law school. I have considered attending law school one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. I decided to attend law school because I thought it would be a way to make money while writing. I realize that for me, making money should never have been part of the equation. It’s one of those life lessons that are often talked about, but have little meaning until you experience them yourself. Actually, thinking about it now, if I had chosen grad school then, it would not have been the right choice because I was not fired up enough about any one subject to become an expert on it. Oh, I probably would have liked my job better than I liked being a lawyer, but it still would not have been just right for me.
Since I have had this idea for a book/dissertation, it is nearly all I can think about. I believe that if I had been this fired up about a subject when I was considering graduate school as an undergrad, there would have been no question I would have gone that route. I would have wanted to pursue something that arduously if I was passionate about it. This latest is a subject I have been thinking about, talking about, and even blogging about for about 8 months now. The friends of mine I’ve told about it kind of go hmmm, like Lara is nuts. I just can’t get it out of my head. Lately, I see and hear more and more around me that make me want to write about it even more. The idea is solidifying, taking form.
This is how it was for me when I had the ideas for the papers I wrote in law school that eventually became law review articles. One of them started niggling my brain in a constitutional law class. The professor had made a passing remark about something and I started turning it over and turning it over, wondering and thinking. I finally went and spoke to one of the con law experts at our school, an absolutely brilliant constitutional law professor. After discussing the thought with him, I still kept thinking about it. I went back and asked him if he would advise me if I wrote a paper about it. I had already written my A and B papers. I did not have to write about this, I just wanted to. He agreed to act as my advisor and I wrote the paper and published it. I was similarly fired up about the subject of my A paper, and I got it published too. I feel just as excited about this latest idea. Maybe I can turn it into something. If not, I can at least write about it and try to convince a couple of people that my argument has merit. Rather than sitting around on the computer lamenting myself, I have been working on this book, giving it shape. It is preoccupying. I need to find a temp job, or some job, but I keep thinking about this and wanting to work on it instead. Ah, the muse…
Some who read me may have noticed a rather large number of my posts disappeared. Well, they are not gone, they are simply marked private. This means they don’t show. Why did I do this? Ah, hell. I don’t know. I was having one of those days when I wanted who I have been, at least parts of me, to go away. So I hid everything I had written. I periodically go back and unhide certain posts when the whim strikes, but like I said, having a project to focus on has been quite useful for my overactive brain, leaving me little time to worry about myself, or to repost my writings, as the case may be. It’s a good thing. I don’t imagine people are going back and reading old posts anyway. My saying this is not me being a martyr; it is me being realistic. If I thought anyone really wanted a post, I would put it back out there. I just doubt it’s that important. I am not some famous author, after all.
Aaaaanyway. Didn’t my professors tell me never to begin sentences with aaaaanyway? Maybe not. Anyway, if I don’t post, it is not because I have jumped off of a bridge or drowned in the ocean. Rather I am likely holed up in the library here where I cannot check out books. Or I’m online researching grad school programs. Rest assured, if I decide to kill myself, I will write about it first.
I don’t fit. I just don’t. I feel like I spend my time in groups of people who fit in whatever they are in, but I’m not of them, I am just there. I wonder if this is a manifestation of mine or if I’m meant simply to be always alone. Surrounded by people and always alone. I am certainly not a part of Hawaii. I knew that coming here though, so it was not a surprise. I suppose I had harbored some hope, albeit small, that I would not feel my aloneness as acutely here as I had in Portland. But such thinking was naive.
The first few days here were a struggle, primarily because any move is a struggle. We were worn out and travel weary. Upon arrival we had originally intended to look for an apartment. We started out renting a room in the house of a friend of a friend. It was supposed to be the bigger of two rooms the homeowner had for rent. Upon seeing it, I knew we would have to find our own place because it was simply not big enough for the two of us. However, after settling in, spending time with the homeowners, and looking at what we could get for similar money on our own, I determined that we would have plenty of space if we rented both rooms. So here we will stay. The house is expansive and comfortable, in a good neighborhood, and our housemates could not be better. The apartments we looked at for a similar price were ratholes in neighborhoods I would not want to live in. This house is also quite close to Milla’s school and near nice shops and restaurants. It will be a good place to live.
I also had to buy a car. This would not on the surface appear to be a daunting task, but for some reason every person I called about cars was a complete freak. The two cars we ended up actually getting to see were trashed beyond belief and there was no way I would purchase them. And looking at them and apartments was a day long ordeal and a huge pain in the ass, simply because getting around Honolulu can be a huge ordeal and a pain in the ass. This is because the main interstate through the city has off ramps with no coordinating on ramps and vice versa. In addition, directions to exits are not well marked, or at least marked to coincide with the directions provided by Google maps. I suppose this could be considered an error on the part of Google maps. There also seem to be several roads with more than one name. One sign will have the first name but not the second. The second sign will have the second name but not the first. The final sign might have both or simply a number. By the time I figured out that all were one and the same it was too late to take the exit thereby necessitating taking a further exit. However, on return the previous exit was not accessible so I would have to go on to the next exit to try and head back. Only then there would not be an on ramp, so I would have to drive down further through town and attempt to locate one. This happened to me four times. Each occurrence took over a half an hour. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. Luckily at the end of the day one person who had placed an ad for a car on craiglist without a phone number responded to my email inquiry. She was female and sounded like a normal human, unlike any of the other sellers to whom I had spoken. I made arrangements to see the car the next day and bought it after a drive. It’s a good car. I like it better than our clunky rental. It is a 1992 Toyota Camry.
Milla also started school yesterday. This was the big reason for our arrival at the beginning of August. Milla’s school experience has been the most satisfying part of this trip. I have had many moments of homesickness for a place that does not exist, moments where I long for a place that is mine, knowing it is not Hawaii or Portland. It has been lonely and painful. But finding a school that seems so good for Milla is a blessing. Her teacher met with her for a half an hour. Within that half hour, he knew Milla better than most people who have known her for some time. He was able to identify parts of her personality and character and discuss these traits with me. He seemed genuinely delighted to have her in his class. I am so pleased Milla may finally have found a place where she is welcome. Finding a place where Milla could thrive was one of my primary reasons in choosing to come here; in this at least we are blessed.
Non sequitur…but not really because I’m listening to him, but Chet Baker’s voice turns me inside out. He puts me in tune with the universe. Him and Nina Simone. Milla has become a Nina Simone convert. I can’t play Nina enough to satisfy my daughter. She has good taste.
I saw a ghost last night. I told it to leave. It did not belong in our room. It did not belong here. It needed to leave and it left. I was not afraid. For a moment, I felt a strength I only occasionally know I possess and wondered if my being lonely all the time is so I can someday use this strength. I do not know. There are so many times I do not know if I will make it to that point. Perhaps I can use it if I ever get over this blinding loneliness.
I think anyone who reads this will wish I kept not having an internet connection for a few more days. I’m in one of those moods where I’m not mad at anything specifically, just generally irritated. I want to slap something. Too bad Boyfriend isn’t here. I would tell him some of the things I don’t usually say to avoid an argument, but which probably should be said. Of course, because I have a burr in my ass we might fight and fights with him tend to be demoralizing affairs. The air doesn’t get cleared, it gets filled–with shit, and I just couldn’t handle that right now. It’s probably a good thing he’s off playing the piano at musical theater he claims is crap and not here acting nice to me one minute and cranky the next. Did I mention I’m slightly irritable?
Annoying Number One: I can’t even spell out the whole story because it annoys the crap out of me, but Qwest needs its rectum cleaned with a giant bottle brush. I will be posting the entire story here sometime soon because the world needs to know what a filthy toilet germ Qwest Communications is. I just can’t do it now. I’d get all mad and shit and being irritable is annoying enough.
Irritating Number Two: This woman I’ll call Pita because she’s a pain in the ass stopped bugging me for a few days after she made me royally angry. She was one of the things that inspired the rage spoken of in my post from a couple of days ago. It has been so pleasant not seeing her number on my phone EIGHT THOUSAND TIMES a day. It has been so wonderful not having FORTY MINUTE voicemails left on my telephone. Well, she called today. I was on the phone with Annoying Number One. I saw her number on the phone. I hit ignore. A few minutes later, I’m shooting the breeze with the rep at Annoying Number One when I hear a message beep in. Huh? I didn’t even hear that ring. Uh, yes I did. It was Pita SEVERAL MINUTES prior. Pita is constitutionally unable to just call and either a) leave no message, or b) leave me a short message. Every message is like a call to the therapist or an instruction manual. The calls to the therapist are long, drawn-out affairs whereby I end up hitting 3 every few seconds to fast-forward through her self-analysis. Instruction manuals are her telling me what to do and how to do it. These inspire hits on button 3 as well. All of it irritates the fuck out of me. I have decided never to answer her calls again and delete all messages before I ever hear her voice. Perhaps she’ll figure out the plan soon and stop calling me.
Grumpy Number Three: Part of the I is Pore and Dum concert series, back today by popular demand, we have the Lara can’t get medsin agin cuz shes on Orgun Helth Plan an cant do nuthin but make up fake pill papers an sellum fer muny. Dang me! I was hopin I cud get sum muny for them fake pill papers but that there Walgreen place stopped me. Nunna my kids daddies sent any muny agin. Men. Shit. Mebbe all jes hafta go an watch that telly agin an keep on wippin them 7 kids amine cuz they is blockin my soaps. Hell fire! Wish one a thems daddies wud come on over here and takes one of em cuz theyz makin me tired. Mebbe him an I can roll in the hay also for old time sakes.
Demoralizing Number Four: One minute Boyfriend acts like I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread. He has a way of making me feel pretty special. Unfortunately, the next minute Boyfriend acts like he thinks I’m the stupidest fuck to walk the planet and he’s going to make sure I am apprised of this fact. My friends wonder whether he’s just using me for sex. I asked him once. I may as well have asked him whether he had murdered someone because he was so offended I would even ask. That’s how it is with him: you can’t ask because asking comes with the implication that by asking you imply he could do such a thing and how dare one imply he would do such a thing? I don’t know, the fact he seems not to give a shit about me half the time makes me kind of wonder. However, there seems to be no correlation between sex and his desire for me because occasionally even during sex he’ll suddenly turn from really cool to really shitty in about 30 seconds. I can’t figure it. Yesterday it seemed to come after a meal. Eating made him stop being talkative and friendly. To that point, he was the best boyfriend in the world. I actually was thinking I love him again (yes, my love waxes and wanes, like the moon. And don’t give me a lecture about real love not waxing and waning. Whatever. Maybe for you. For me, it fluctuates.) Anyway, he gradually became less talkative and more sullen towards me. He pointed out some error I had made in an observation. By the time we got to the place we were going for dessert, he barely spoke 10 words to me. I almost told him to go home and leave me alone. Demoralizing. I don’t know if he realizes all of a sudden he’d rather be picking his ass or cleaning his sock drawer than be with me, but it’s disconcerting and yes, very demoralizing. I don’t know how much more of it I can put up with. I keep asking myself if the half time wonderful is worth the half time feeling like shit. On top of it, I think he still might read me. I’m not sure. But if he does, he’ll think this is some broadcast message about him and he’ll probably punish me for it. Good times.
Pissy Number Five: Why did WordPress change the layout of this design to include the list of tags? I hate that. It’s ugly. Now I’m going to have to go through and find another design and blah blah blah so I don’t have all those words at the top. If something isn’t broken, DON’T FUCKING FIX IT people, for Christ’s fucking sake. Fuck.
Whipped Number Six: I can’t fucking sleep. I can’t fucking sleep. I can’t fucking sleep. Did I mention I can’t fucking sleep? The days I’ve been able to sleep in, I can’t. It used to be Boyfriend snuggling me at night helped me sleep. Lately that doesn’t even work. Part of it is the demoralizing issue, but the BIG thorn in my backside is STRESS. Too much stress, too little outlets for it. I have to be out of my old house a week from today and still haven’t sold enough crap. I don’t want to give it all to charity yet; there is still a lot of nice stuff there. On top of it, I’m required to pick up the dog poo in the dog yard and paint some spots the size of silver dollars and clean the place up after getting the things out of it and I work and I’m a bit overwhelmed. I also can’t find a home for my dog and do not want to give her back to the organization that gave her to me. Also I’m kind of frightened by all the changes I’m instigating and want but which still scare the shit out of me. And basically, I simply tired tired tired tired tired. I just need a good massage and a cuddle. I think those two things would go a LONG way to improving my outlook on life in general.
So there you have it. Don’t you wish you had stopped reading after about, oh, sentence two? I would. Perhaps being able to write again will help. Getting through major life changes would help as well. All I can say now is that my bed is beckoning and I’m going to go try and sleep.
I don’t know if the fact I feel like I’m going crazy is because I have not had this outlet or because of all the other shit going on in my life or both. Last night, I totally and completely lost it. I went out into my car and screamed FUCK at the top of my lungs. It did not help. I had to sit there and stew in my juices until I calmed down. I was so angry. Actually angry. The kind of angry where if the wrong person had been in front of me, I probably would have smashed them in the face. That would not have been good. It was just one thing after another after another after another, all damn day long. I finally blew a fuse. It kept me twitching for hours, like some fucking meth freak or something.
This morning when I came to work and was able to get on the internet, there was an email from someone who reads this blog checking in on me. He was worried about me because my posts of late have been a bit angsty, then I disappear for 6 days. I thought this was so sweet and somewhat ironic. Some person I do not know wants to make sure I’m okay, but the people who do know me could give a shit. It’s fucking insane. This is the life I’ve created for myself? Indeed.
I do not have internet access at home. It will be a miracle if I do tonight after the shit and hell I’ve been through with stupid Qwest. Their bullshit contributed to my fuse blowing. I have a lot of work to do at work, not to mention the fact I’m being paid by someone to work for him, not write on my blog. But today, I had to write something, even if it’s trivial nonsense like this. I can’t stand the angsty, twitchy way I feel. I can’t stand waking up in the middle of the night, then falling asleep before dawn, then waking up feeling like a train wreck. If writing these few paragraphs will help, I’m willing to try it. It’s worked in the past.
One kind of cool thing happened. I won these tickets to a live performance at a radio station this afternoon. I think I’ve heard the band. I had one of their songs on my computer downloaded from when I used to have an ipod. Other than that, I don’t know if I know their music since I’m great at knowing a song but pretty lousy at knowing who did it. I don’t have a guest to bring to the performance, even though I’m allowed, but I’m not going to dwell on that. I’ll pretend one of my internet friends is with me since it seems that’s what I’ve created for myself these days, a world where internet friends give more of a shit than live ones. But that’s a big pity party and I hate that shit, so I won’t go there. Still, all this makes me wonder where I went wrong. Was it one thing or a series of less than decisions leading to this conclusion? Probably the latter.
Sometimes I feel like my sanity is slowly dribbling away. I try and regain it. I try and exist in a life I want to be in. I try not to focus on being lonely. I try to enjoy each moment. But sometimes, it just doesn’t work. When shit is piled on one thing after another, when I realize I’ve drifted down a path I thought I took on purpose but it isn’t where I want to be, when my heart aches with the love that is no longer there, I feel like whatever semblance I had of who I am is escaping from a valve in the back of my head and this person I do not know is taking over my body. And I’m not sure this is the person I want to be. However since I can’t seem to figure out who that is anymore and no one else seems to give a shit, I wonder if it is worth bothering. So I’ll keep on keeping on and hope in the meantime I don’t kill something when I lose my mind.
Reading back through this, it sure seems like a big pity party. Ah well, such is life. It’s one of those extra lonely days after a really bad day. Guess I can’t be perfect.
Maybe it is evidence of my friend choices, but I realized the other day while trying to justify again to another friend why I want to live somewhere else that I actually was justifying myself. After I got off the phone I started thinking about all the people in my life who have made it their business to question my choice and to try and talk me out of it and it leaves me wondering why the fuck they think that’s okay. I would not question their choice to live somewhere else or make any other decisions. And it isn’t simply a matter of people asking out of curiosity either. They genuinely question me like they think it is their job to talk me out of it. I don’t get it. It’s my life. Part of me can hear them reasoning that they just want to make sure I’ve thought things through. The irony in this statement is that I would be willing to bet most of these people would describe me as one of the most responsible, unfrivolous people they know. I have heard all of them say something to this effect at one time or another. Yet when I make a decision they wouldn’t make, they try and talk me out of it and claim it is for my own good.
Now that I’ve noticed this is going on, I’m going to point it out to people when they do it. We’ll see how quickly the backpedaling begins when I ask someone why they are questioning my choices, what they hope to gain from the interaction. I’m not justifying myself any more. I do not make huge decisions lightly. I have my reasons for making the choices that I do. They may not be the same reasons or choices another person would make, but that is one of the beauties of being human, we are individual and can be different.
A friend of mine emailed me about the second house sale falling through. She said, “You’ve been living in a perpetual house of horrors for several years now.” Exactly. That is exactly how it has been. So I want to make a locational change in an effort to 1) get away from the perpetual house of horrors, and 2) perhaps live a life without a perpetual house of horrors. Is that too much to ask? These people who question my choices haven’t lived my life. They don’t have what I have here. Their situations are different.
Well, I received a letter last week from a well-meaning young fellow. I have to say I am impressed with his fortitude in contacting me. He is obviously an intelligent person who knows when to ask for help. Here is his request:
HI love guru i dont know ur reputation but having studied ur letters it made me relaxed and confident enuf to share my problem with u. The problem is that due to bipolar sickness and other problems i feel that i may am lagging behind than my other fellows in mental growth at this time i am doing my masters in digital communications but believe me in social activites and day to day living i spend my most of life in room and have gained very less experiences well thats another problem. My love problem is that i dont feel to marry or engage coz i dont feel mature enuf but ma parents insisted me and after rejecting a few proposals i accpeted one. But that was due to pressure. Now its 4 months since i engaged to a girl. That girl is sincere to me as i am the only man in her life but u know i dont like her much. i dont think about her that much. i respect her she is quite descent and mature girl but i wanted a lil funky girl so that she brighten ma life. ne way now tell me wat to do she is not a type of ma beauty choice. i m very worried these days. tell me wat should i do please. Ali
To begin, Ali, I would suggest a bit of grammar school. This would help you immensely in your ability to communicate. Perhaps improvements in your communications will improve your social skills. However, because you are a man, a bit of leeway will be accorded to you. We women know how easy it is for men to revert to their caveman ways, and grammar is not something that appeals to cavemen. Cavemen prefer banging things with lumps of rock and grunting. This is certainly not conducive to correct articulation. I understand this. However, practice your grammar. Considering your mental problems, you need all the help you can get.
Regarding your love question…Ali, shame on you! You have a perfectly lovely woman who is willing to put up with you, keep you in your private quarters, and feed you. What more is it that you want? She isn’t “beautiful” enough? If you do not think she is pretty enough, I would suggest the problem is not with her, but with your eyes. The solution is simple. Go and find a stick and poke your eyes with it. Once you are blind, you will not notice what your woman looks like. An alternative is some wood glue. Simply rub some glue along your lids. This will cause them to stick shut, thereby increasing the strength of your other senses. You will notice the lovely perfume your woman wears, the sounds of the music she plays, the tastes of the food she has made for you, and the feel of the softness of her skin. Who needs sight when these other senses are so visceral? Your woman loves you and wishes to keep you near to her. Simply return to your quarters and all will be forgiven. Kiss her feet, pour perfume all over your body, and shave. Then beg for her forgiveness. She will be so happy to see you, she may even feed you more than once a day.
Unfortunately, if your girl drove you out to the side of the road somewhere, she is over you and nothing you can do will change her mind. I realize you are suffering from mental delusions in the form of bipolar disorder, but you need to get yourself under control! How? It’s simple. You need to have a beer and watch some football. You said you do not think of her much as it is. I am sure the walk alone started you on the way to forgetting about her, but your mental disorder likely interfered. I assure you the beer and game will complete the exodus of this person from your mind. You will wonder why you needed to write to me in the first place.
Good luck, Ali. True love really can be yours if you follow my simple advice.
Wow. So I check out of reality for a few days and when I check back in the hottest story out there is a transgendered man having a baby and Obama’s bowling ability. I think maybe it’s time to check back out again. I normally avoid the news but there are some headlines that are unavoidable. Plus I listen to NPR and get bits and pieces there, although I extended my news fast to All Things Considered several years ago and have not felt the worse for wear as a result. Gotta protect that old sanity, ya know?
So I pulled into WordPress this morning to discover many changes. I’m sure there are lots of us out here commenting on it, what we like, what we don’t. I think once I get used to it, I will like it. I’m already liking the place to type better than previously. And I’ve noticed that there is a spell-checker. Yes, I think I’m going to like it. I’m not so keen yet on the dashboard, but I think with time and familiarity, it will all be good.
Okay, so right now Piper is spinning around and having a coniption fit because I’m typing and not paying one hundred percent attention to him, and Molly is standing over him, hovering like a bee over a flower. I’m not sure of the influence she is attempting to exert, but Piper is oblivious. Oh, and now she just got a good sniff of his butt. Yum. How was that for you, Molly? Dogs. They are unabashedly willing to partake of their senses, even if it involves a good solid butt sniffing.
I realized today that I am in some regards paralyzed by the sheer number of things I need to do. Many of them are small things. I just need to chip away at those things. Others are huge, like packing, for instance. I just need to dive in and begin. It’s funny, just last week I was discussing hoarding with my counselor. You know, why people hoard, how it gets started, all that. I know a few hoarders and their lives are completely stuck. One of the reasons we discussed is how something happens and the person lets things go, then things get out of hand, then they are paralyzed by the mess and magnitude. Then I discovered this morning that my paralysis is similar; I have not been doing anything because there is so much to do.
Earlier this week, I had dinner at the new house of some very good friends. They were lamenting all the work they need to do to make the house a home. I advised them to take it one space at a time. Break it down into smaller pieces. I’m taking my own advice. I’m going to make a list, then I’m going to sort the list into manageable pieces, then attack each piece. Some of the stuff I need to do could all be done in one day if I just did it. Like filing a tax extension. The taxes are done, I just don’t have the money to pay them yet. So I’m going to file this extension. I doubt it will take long, but I haven’t done it. And this CLE reporting thing lawyers have to do. It’s a pain. I started it, then stopped for some reason (probably to go do something really important like bang drums or play the bass) and never picked it up again. Now it’s sitting here on my desk. Both these things, tax extensions and CLE reports, have a deadline. It’s a good thing or I could see them sitting there even longer.
What is this, this procrastination? I’ve not been much of a procastinator before. Yet here I am. And this week when Milla has been gone, it has been oh so easy to play. South Park video? Much more appealing than tax extensions. I have a friend who texts me, Want to go watch a late movie? Yes. Not Uh sure, or okay, but YES. Emphatically, yes. Oh, and go here and watch this video. It’s called Mathmaticious and parodies Fergilicious. It’s better than Fergie’s. More entertaining. His sexy dancing in front of the window kills me. Very clever. Pretty soon he’ll be passed all around and end up in a South Park episode getting killed by Chocolate Rain guy. Good times.
See what I mean? It’s so easy. Just start typing your blog or doing something else. After a bit, feel like a break. Casually open a new tab. Type in YouTube. Then surf a little. Find something that looks interesting, like Mathmaticious. Watch it. Laugh. Then watch what it’s parodying, or click on something else on the side where all the videos are in a row. Discover a lot of time has passed. Shake your head in dismay at your ability to waste a lot of time. There is facility in time-wasting like no other, especially when computers are involved. Millions of others conspire to help you. Yikes.
I have wasted enough time this morning, er, afternoon. I must do something productive, if only for a moment. So I’m going to get up and go brush my teeth. That’s a step in the right direction. My drum store neighbor is bringing over the drum set this afternoon. I’m thrilled. I CANNOT wait. I keep looking out the window, waiting for him to pull up. Come on little drummies, come into my house. I want you. Banging drums has to be better than watching YouTube, right? I’m having one of those moments I’ve written about before where I can’t come up with a coherent ending to my post, so it continues to ramble on and on about nothing at all. Come here little drummies? Seriously? Did I say that? Okay, I’m really going now. I have to go to the bathroom. Oh there’s a story there that I can’t tell on the internet, but it’s so awful and funny, maybe I’ll put it on my secret blog, my anonymous blog. It needs to be written about because it’s that hilarious.
I’ve decided since typing this that I REALLY like the new WordPress. It’s much more user friendly. It saves my posts for me, eliminating the likelihood of blog loss because of my fucked up computer. It’s great. I love it. I’m going to have to figure out tags and all that, but it will all be good. I’ll get it done.
Life is surreal. It’s amazing how twisted up people can make things. I constantly hear stories that from the outside seem to have such simple solutions, yet the parties involved are fully unwilling to act simply, choosing instead to remain mired in complications. Humanity. It appears we are doomed to destroy ourselves, but before we go we are all going to make certain we’re as miserable as possible. How often, I wonder, could one’s life be different with the simple choice of just letting something go? Ah, what do I know anyway?
Blogging non-sequitur: I did not know that Willie Nelson wrote Crazy.
So yesterday I went to Aberdeen, Washington. The trip was an homage to Kurt Cobain. We listened to Nirvana the whole way there. Okay. I’m joking. That would have been pathetic. Aberdeen was an afterthought. We listened to a lot of music, but none of it was Nirvana. My friend and I decided to go to Long Beach to get out of Portland since we both had the day free. We got to Long Beach and although it was brilliantly sunny, the wind felt like it was blowing off the side of a glacier. We walked out to the ocean then turned around and went right back to the car. Our ears were frozen. The best part of the visit was our dogs. His dog was thrilled to pieces. Oh my God, we’re at the beach! There is sand! There is water! There are people to sniff! I can get wet! I can run! I can wag! My dog was not thrilled to pieces and clearly thought we were insane. He followed behind me whimpering. You have got to be kidding. Can’t you pick me up? My paws are freezing! Is that water? That’s water. No way. I am NOT crossing that water. Oh for Christ’s sake, are you crossing that water? What is wrong with you people? That water is freezing. Do you feel that wind? Seriously. I can’t believe you would volunteer to come out here into the sand and water and wind. There must be something deranged about human beings.
I think Piper was right. It was too cold, windy, and wet. So we decided to leave Long Beach and head to Aberdeen. It was only another hour north and Kurt Cobain grew up there. We had to see if the town was anything spectacular, particularly since he’d become famous and then died. I mean, towns love that stuff, don’t they?
Apparently not. Wow. That is about all I can say. We both lamented having failed to bring any sort of recording devices beyond the cameras in our mobile phones. I don’t know that I can convey in words the pitifully depressed state of the place. I actually had the thought that I could understand why someone living there would want to commit suicide. Of course, Kurt wasn’t there when he committed suicide and had probably not been there for a long time, but it gives one the sense of the place to know that the impression it leaves is that of the will for self destruction.
The approach into town from Long Beach leads one by miles and miles of decimated forests. Good for you, logging companies! It appears you have ensured there will be no lumber to harvest for decades! The land was fully raped and pillaged. We passed the Weyerhauser Mill, drove along a stretch of uninviting highway lined with storage warehouses and beaten down manufactured homes. We came to a bridge and wondered whether Aberdeen continued on the other side or if the next locale was Hoquiam. We discovered to our delight that Aberdeen did indeed continue to the far side of the bridge. Unfortunately since our visit was an afterthought, we arrived just shortly after six p.m. This meant that nothing was open except the corporate strip mall and a porn shop. We browsed the porn shop. It was the same as all other porn shops I have ever frequented. The funny part of the visit there was that a man sat at a counter and another man browsed horrible videos. There were rooms in the back and we heard noises leading us to believe there were men back there as well. But as far as we could tell, other than me, there were no other women in the place. I informed my friend that the other men in the place were probably impressed he had a real girl with him and not a plastic pussy. Good times. The other highlight of our Aberdeen visit was the Star Wars store, but unfortunately it was closed. Today I discovered quite by accident a similar store less than a mile from my house. Since we missed the Aberdeen version, we’ll have to hit the one here.
The homes in Aberdeen were run down beyond belief. My friend suggested that perhaps I could purchase one there for cash out from the money received in the sale of my house. We took down the address of a place for sale to look it up. I did and it is actually possible to buy a house there for 1960’s prices. I saw several for between $40k and $80k. The only problem is why would you want to? Yuck.
Visiting freezing Long Beach and decripit Aberdeen was a fun impromptu road trip. We went to the grocery store in Aberdeen and bought jelly beans and went to the bathroom. The bathroom had a beautiful view of the bay. Seriously amazing. Too bad it was wasted on a grocery store bathroom. We drove home on the non-scenic highway through Olympia. An enjoyable time was had by all.
Yippeekayyaiyay! The couple who made the offer seem just perfect for this place. The wrote me a letter with their offer describing their impressions upon moving in, how they could tell how much love has been put into the house, and how excited they are to live here. I couldn’t ask for a better family for this lovely little place. It has been my first, real home. I’ve lived all over. I’ve had lots of other houses. But I made this place all mine. I put real blood, sweat, and tears into remodeling it. I showed it love and it has blossomed. Now I pass it to a new family and I will start another phase in my life.
A tear rolled out of my eye after my agent called to tell me of the offer. I thought suddenly of all the possibilities and changes to come. I’ve been in a holding pattern for so long now, it’s amazing this is finally happening. Amazing, exhiliarating, and terrifying.
While I am here, I would like to tell Maestro that I have been having an amazing bit of fun. I give you kudos. You’ve been brilliant, thank you.
I encourage all who have a dark sense of humor to watch the South Park episode on Britney Spears. It can be found here. It’s truly priceless. I laughed so hard I hurt a muscle in my tummy. Oh, and another video to watch for sheer entertainment and gross out value can be found here. This video is truly sick and wrong. It’s not sickeningly nasty like Two Girls and a Cup, but it’s still pretty foul. Don’t watch it while eating ice cream or yogurt or having a milkshake. I’m just warning you. It might not be a good thing.
Every third day or so there is a post on the frontpage of WordPress about white people and what they do. I know they are supposed to be funny. I am sure there is some truth to the witty observations about the white people subjects, although it is obvious that the group chosen is not typical to the area where I live or my social class because I have never met anyone who embodies the characteristics the blog author talks about, although I admit I didn’t read very many of them. I read enough to know I wasn’t interested in reading more than a few. Inherent in the posts is the social commentary at writing about white people in a stereotypical manner after so many centuries of stereotypes about other races and groups. It’s kind of an interesting idea.
The thing is, I don’t think the posts are in any way funny. Or annoying. Or brilliant. Or anything. I read through the comments and person after person went on and on about how the writer has exactly captured the subjects (Whoever they are. They aren’t like any white people I’ve ever met, although I do admit though that my experiences are limited and dull.). They say that the posts are hilarious. Others go on and on about how annoying they are, how stupid, blah blah blah. Whatever it is, a bunch of people are reading this stuff and commenting on it and I just don’t get it. I just don’t. I never thought Seinfeld was funny, but I could see why people would, I just couldn’t stand most of the characters. But this. I’m at a loss.
So my refrigerator is naked. Some might think this is euphemism for my having no food, but it’s not. I had to take all the stuff off of the front of it so people coming to look at my house who might want to buy it don’t stop and look at the things on my fridge but look at the house instead. I go into the kitchen to get some grapes or make an egg and the refrigerator shocks me, all white and obvious. It’s been covered for years now by all the crap I swore I wouldn’t have on my fridge before I had a daughter who wrote me notes telling me she loves me and drew five dollar bills. Where else am I going to put that stuff? I love her drawings. I love her love notes to me. She draws pictures of us holding hands then writes “I Love You, Mama” across the top. How cute is that? And once Milla was old enough to figure out that is where I hung stuff from her, she started hanging things there herself.
In fact, just yesterday, she hung up a note right at eye level so I could see it. It said: 3-4-08 1) Go to the libaraery. 2) Watch Lady and the Cheramp. 3) Go to Starbucks. 4) Lara takes a nap, Milla watches c.cl.m.cw.t.t. (this last stands for Click, Clack Moo, Cows that Type). It is spelled just like this and written in Milla’s atrocious handwriting. I admit it. My daughter has the worst handwriting in the world. But she is smart enough to leave me misspelled notes explaining exactly how she wants our evenings to proceed, and thoughtful enough to include a provision allowing me to take a nap. She is so smart and funny and perfect. Of course I’m going to leave her notes on the refrigerator.
Or not. When I looked at the web site showing photos of our house, the ones of the fridge do look pretty bad, so when my real estate agent said I should take the stuff down, I begrudgingly agreed. It’s sad. But of course I saved all of Milla’s wonderful notes and drawings.
Maybe I can do a white person post of my own, since I’m white, I can comment on the experiences of white people. (Well, at least on this one white person, or two if I include Milla.) White people cover their refrigerators with their child’s drawings and notes. The children of white people are thoughtful, smart, and wonderful. When the real estate agent tells them to take the stuff off the refrigerator, white people do so because they want to sell their house, but they save the stuff their children created. After removing the creativity from the front of the refrigerator, when white people walk into the kitchen to get some grapes, the refrigerator seems naked in its glaring whiteness.
There. That was about as bland as the white people posts on the front page of WordPress. And at least this time I can relate.
So the lady who wrote me about the girl who was mean to me in junior high and I had a little chat via email over a few days. I actually enjoyed chatting with her. She seems nice. Anyway, I kept thinking about that time in my life, maybe because my brother is living with me for the time being and I think about childhood, I don’t know. One thing I have thought a lot about was what kind of a kid I was back then, especially from about age 12 to age 14. Looking back, I still don’t think I like who I was. I know there are all these self-help growth books blah blah blah that tell us to go back and love our inner child and embrace that kid who felt so rotten about herself.
Whatever. I don’t mean to be dismissive when a person needs that, but for me, what a load of crap. I could perhaps feel some compassion for the kid who was picked on and whose stepfather had turned out to be mean instead of loving and possibly even for the big dork that I was as I tried to navigate through junior high, hormones, and popularity. But in some ways I was exactly like the mean girls, just trying to survive. Funny what humans will do when they think it will buy them some control.
I watch movies like Mean Girls, where the main characters come to the realization that they are selfish and shitty and shallow, and it’s great that this is how it comes to be for them. But in my life, I was not as enlightened. I decided not to be friends with Sandra Gordon based solely on the fact that the other girls I wanted to be friends with termed her a “scumbag.” I purposely pulled away from her for no other reason than that. I wanted to be included with more popular people and if that meant dumping Sandra, then I did it, even while the even more popular girls were picking on me.
And later I stopped being friends with Dee Roberts for the simple reason that I heard others thought we were gay, and I did not want anyone to think that. So stupid. So shallow. It was years before I grew any sort of personal backbone, years before I quit giving a shit what other people think and standing on my own. Luckily Dee and I have some friends in common so as adults we were able to reconnect.
I look back now and am amazed at my ability to cut my friendships off with such precision. Perhaps we would have grown apart anyway, but I will never know that because when I decided that I was not going to be friends with someone anymore, that was the end of the friendship. Thinking on it now, maybe some of that ability was just the age. I had friends who cut me off with the same sharp capacity when they saw me as a hindrance to their own popularity. Friends one minute, not friends the next.
I followed my friends Rae and Wendy around like a puppy, begging them to love me. Especially Rae. She was my best friend, in my eyes, but I wasn’t hers. I was there for her, but she wanted Shawna Peterson. And at some point Shawna Peterson decided that she hated me. So if Rae was hanging out with Shawna then she was not hanging out with me. I guess I can hardly blame her. In eighth grade all my friends had braces. I had perfectly straight teeth. So one day I wore tin foil to school. I told Rae the dentist made me do it. Seriously. I did this. Is it any wonder few people wanted me near them?
Rae never openly told me not to let anyone know I was her friend, but she did not hang out with me at school. I hung out with Sandra Gordon until Rae and Wendy told me I shouldn’t, then I didn’t hang out with anyone. Those years in junior high were utterly hopeless, utterly miserable. Then I went home and life there sucked too.
I wonder where the kids with a backbone get the backbone. In movies, the left out child that the others bully comes back with a vengeance, kicking ass and proving their inner strength. Often the bullies realize that they don’t have to be so mean either. In my real life, I did not have any such inner strength. I hated myself. I think I believed them.
Occasionally I would stand up for myself, but I was fucking scared to death of it. One time on the bus, a torture chamber if there ever was one, these girls put gum in my hair. They were perfect. They had perfect clothes, perfect hair, perfect makeup. And they hated my guts, just because I wore the wrong clothes, the wrong hair, wore no makeup, and probably looked like I was waiting to be kicked. I told the bus driver. She told me to put gum in their hair the next day. I waited, planning to do so, but scared shitless to actually go through with it. I ended up just putting gum on the pants of the girl who instigated it all. I don’t think she even noticed.
Another time, the bus driver made me get off early and walk to my house. I was pissed. So I hid in the bushes in front of my house and when she drove by, I threw gravel at the bus. She pulled it over, brakes screeching. I hightailed it into the house and hid. My sister Melanie wouldn’t let her in. I think I got written up, but I don’t remember. Funny, that bus driver was a friend and an enemy. Mostly I did not like her. She let a lot happen on the bus that shouldn’t have.
It is also interesting that when I would stand up for myself and not chicken out, I was ruthless, kind of like with cutting off my friends. Where is that? Where does it come from, that ruthlessness? That ability to be so cold? I just don’t know. But I could do it. Maybe it’s that survival instinct, that belief in some control.
The main person able to incur my wrath without fear was Kim Dawson, Melanie’s friend. She hated me and I hated her. I don’t recall why. But she was constantly after me. The first time I fought back, I had gotten on the bus wearing purple cropped pants before they were in fashion. I think I just wore them because I liked them but had outgrown the length. As was typical in those days, I did not have a lot of clothes and my parents would not buy what was in fashion. My mom tried making me some pants like the other girls wore, but it didn’t make me popular. Nothing could have, I don’t think.
Anyway, Kim asked me if I was waiting for a flood. When she went to get off the bus, I stuck my foot out into the bus aisle as she walked by, smearing mud on her pants. She was pissed. She pulled my hair when I got off the bus. I pulled hers. The bus driver pulled us apart. We both got written up.
Then another time, the bus was really crowded. I sat in a seat near the front with a little boy. She was in the seat directly behind me. She leaned forward and made some comment about me and the little boy. I reached back and slapped her in the face. She grabbed my hair. I kept hitting her until she let go of my hair. I think we may have gotten written up then too.
Funny, I was written up three times in junior high, but all three times were so far apart that each time, the principal said since it was the only time I’d been written up, he’d let it go at that. Makes me laugh.
The final time I fought with Kim, I beat the crap out of her. I was twelve years old. She was at our house with my sister. The two were nagging me, picking at me, egging me on. Finally, Kim said something to me that I do not remember now. I jumped her. I sat on her and hit her. Melanie screamed. I finally got up and that was the last time Kim bugged me, but we hated each other to death.
Luckily for me, Rae hated Kim too, so we would order pizzas to her house and make hair appointments for her at salons in town. This was in the days before caller id and all that tracking. We knew her address and phone number so it was easy. Later, she got a boyfriend who was a really big dork, and Rae and Wendy would tease Kim about him. I just joined as a watcher. I loved it because I still hated Kim.
I can’t believe now that I got in hitting fights. Actually, my fights with Kim were the only fights I’ve ever had where hitting was involved. And mine wasn’t one of those situations where I saw open violence at home all the time or anything. Our home was filled with the stealthy kind of violence, like a gaseous poison that oozes through the walls; words laced with hate, looks of vile hatred, screaming matches between parents while children hid in their rooms, doors slammed. Except when I would get hit for doing something, which was somewhat infrequent, we didn’t witness hitting or slapping like some of my friends did. My fighting with Kim came from my own inner capacity to whack someone. I don’t know where she got hers.
Funny, I read back through this and it’s as though I’ve unintentionally continued the same theme that permeates all my posts lately: nothing is black and white, human behavior is mostly directed by an illusion of control or an attempt to garner control. Like I said, it has not been intentional. It just keeps coming up. Maybe there is some deep dark purpose behind this, but more likely it is just that these are central themes in human behavior and I happen to be noticing them in my attempt to reach a point. I don’t know. I do know that I’ve been writing for a hour now and my daughter is irritated at me because she wants to go bike riding and she says I “always write” and she can’t understand it. She wants me to stop and focus on her. So that is what I will do. Maybe I’ll have to show her the scene at the end of the movie Stand By Me where the dad is writing and his son who has obviously been waiting and waiting comes in and asks him when they are finally going to leave and the dad says in a minute. Then the boy turns and tells his friend his dad gets like that when he writes. See Milla? I’m not the only one.
Weird. Apparently shitty workplaces are a popular topic. The story has been hit over and over and over. My readership stats have tripled, and most of them are to that post. I have this book called the No Asshole Rule. The guy who wrote it said it started as an article in Harvard Business Review or something, but he got so much feedback that he ended up writing a book. Apparently, dreadful workplaces and mean people are pretty prevalent in good old America. In fact a woman added a link to my post from her blog called www.DecontaminateToxicPeople.com.
Anyway, I think it’s sad we are all laboring, literally, in places that are horrible to work with people who treat us badly. The thing I find amazing is that in most cases, other than the fact that we are forced to spend some amount of hours with them a week, our coworkers are generally not our friends, at least they weren’t before we went to work with them. They are not the people we choose to hang out with because we met them and have a lot in common or whatever. Some may become friends or lovers based on forced proximity, but for the most part, people who work together are all essentially strangers who give their time to a place to pay for their time outside a place. Yet a large number of these people think it is okay to behave horribly to people they really don’t know. How pathetic this is. I guess it would be worse to treat someone you know badly, but there is a different kind of moral reprehensibility in treating a stranger in a wretched manner.
No, actually. It’s all bad. I sat here and attempted to separate out whether it is worse to be cruel to people you know versus people you don’t know. Either one leaves me at the same conclusion: it’s all bad. I’m not much of a black and white person. I can see the grey in many things, even in situations where many others can’t see anything but solid black or stark white. But in this, in humans treating each other like crap, it all seems morally reprehensible. I just can’t see where it’s justified. Over and over I come up with situations in my mind where it might be okay, and I can’t justify any of them. Well, I suppose it is alright to run over a little old lady who crosses the street against the light, but that’s it. That’s the only time it is okay to be mean.
All kidding aside, this is my question…under what circumstances is it okay to treat another human being badly? Because they treated you badly? For revenge? Revenge meanness is probably one of the most often employed reasons for hurting someone else. I would argue against it because in treating someone poorly because they treated you poorly you become as they are in responding in kind. And I just can’t think of any other reasons that aren’t patently objectionable on the surface, such as being mean because someone is black and you’re white, or not liking the look on someone’s face. There are just no good reasons to be mean to each other.
Yet it happens. Over and over. Apparently people don’t care if there is a good reason or not. I suppose in most cases it has more to do with the person being a jerk than the victim. Actually that’s probably it most of the time. Inside the person feels worthless so they get some pitiful power out of being mean. Or the person assumes no one likes them so they act like an ass to prove themselves right. Or for some other psycho babble blah blah blah reason. But these are still lousy reasons. It says a lot about the state of mental health in most workplaces if this type of behavior is so prevalent, that there are a hell of a lot of people who feel bad about themselves and act this way to compensate.
Based on my own experience I wish I could say that the best response is to be kind and compassionate, and on some level I think that is necessary. But from a practical standpoint, my experience was to stay the hell away from the toxic people and to avoid them at all costs. I tried the being direct and professional approach. They would use it to find a way to hurt me. I tried smiling. That seemed to make them mad and would result in some form of retaliation. I tried being friendly and acting like there nothing was wrong, while simultaneously making damn sure my work was covered so they couldn’t sabbotage it. That made them sneer and laugh behind my back about whatever friendly comments I had made (I caught them at this several times) . Frankly, there was no way that I saw to behave except to stay as far away from them as possible. Play dead. The opossom approach. That is the only viable method I advocate. It might seem pathetic, but it worked.
Dogs. I swear part of the reason they live with us is to cheer us up. Yes, I know that is totally human centric, but it’s true. I have spent all morning in a funk. My little pack has been sitting around me, hovering and waiting for pets and lovies. Just now I got up from sitting and writing and the three of them went running along with me. The greyhound tapped her feet. The chihuahua spun in circles. Molly just hung out watching. All of them had doggy smiles. They cheered me up. Now Piper is spinning around on the floor on his tummy with his back legs stuck out behind him. It’s pretty hard to stay in a funk with three dogs doing their best to make you smile. Funny, I went to type in Dogs on the tags line and typed Gods instead. I think there is something to that.
Once upon a time there was a lovely little path that ran north and south along a cliff. The cliff dropped to the edge of the ocean. The path was covered with ashy, pea-sized pebbles. The sky above the path connected the ocean to a grassland that grew between the path and the horizon. The grassland swayed back and forth in the gusts and breezes that blew in off the sea, rhythmic and habitual, keeping time as it had for centuries. The cliff’s edge scalloped in and out, rising up to one hundred feet above the waves. The cliff walls were sheer and precarious, plunging deftly into the foam.
The space between the path and the cliff was close; too close for some. Periodically, a rock wall appeared in this margin, moss bathing the stones in its ancient, curly tendrils. The cliff below the places where the rock wall stood was particularly steep and rocky, cascading directly into the water below, with no sandy shoreline dividing the face and the water.
In places, hardy trees fought the wind and coarse soil to make a home for themselves along the path. During winter, the trees were cold and skeletal. In spring, blossoms burst forth with luster and strength, giving birth to lush foliage that lasted well into fall.
The path ran for miles. It began randomly off the coast amongst several run-down cottages that overlooked the shoreline. It concluded at the berth of a hill overlooking a quaint, little town. Every year different townspeople took it upon themselves to care for the path. Men would lug bags of gravel to fill the thin places. Children would plant lupines and sweet peas.
Citizens of the town used the path for various purposes. Some ran. Others strolled. One old woman walked down the path and back every Saturday, no matter the season, no matter the weather. Couples sauntered hand in hand, sharing the sunset, bundling together against the breeze.
One such couple walked daily along the path, if the weather suited them. Depending on their schedule, they would walk for a short half hour or spend the day walking to the path’s end and back. Some days, the fellow held the woman close, her head laid gently on his shoulder, their stroll languid, contemplative. Others, she would bounce ahead, while he followed more sedately behind.
Regular path walkers knew the couple. The woman had walked the path since she was a small child. She had developed a routine whereby she walked its entire length once a week on Sunday if the weather was cooperating. The man was not much of an exerciser, but he loved to walk the path as well, and gradually adapted to her habit. When she jogged, he would walk along behind, waiting until she returned, the two walking back together while she cooled off. Or sometimes he would ride his bicycle, the handlebars unsteady on the gravel, as she ran beside him, her ponytail bouncing to the rhythm of her steps.
One elderly woman, Mrs. Mettle, often followed them while they walked together, hand in hand. She eavesdropped on their conversations, wishing her life was more like theirs. She was not certain of their names, but she had taken to calling them Martin and Beth in her mind. She felt the names suited them. She knew the two were not married, but thought perhaps they were planning to do so soon. Martin worked as a schoolteacher in town, teaching math. Beth wrote children’s books and sold vegetables and flowers from her expansive garden. Mrs. Mettle also knew that Martin owned a rambling, delightful bungalow with an enormous front porch that overlooked the cliffs to the sea. She longed to follow them into that bungalow and learn more about the life she was sure the two must lead.
Ah, if she could. As is often the case, Mrs. Mettle would soon discover that things were not as sanguine as the surface would have the world believe. Although the two appeared connate, if Mrs. Mettle had spoken to one of the pair, each story would be quite different from the other’s, much more so than either of the two could contemplate.
Both of them had remained unattached for quite a long time before their inadvertent meeting in a bookstore one rainy morning. Martin had a family who adored him, decent friends, and a good job that, although it did not pay a lot of money, allowed him enough for a comfortable living. But he had been terribly lonely for a long time. He had longed to share his life with another. He dated women and had a few girlfriends, but nothing ever panned out.
Then he met Beth. She was a wild, fearless, energetic woman who rearranged his every aspect. Her life was so different from his; she had four dogs and three cats, her work was sporadic, and she often had a million things going at once, which overwhelmed his sure and steady single-mindedness. But overall, she liked things mostly tidy like he did, she enjoyed art and theater, she cared about the environment, she loved to travel and relished studying other cultures, she had principles and lived her life accordingly. And she was so beautiful. Devastatingly so. His heart ached each time he imagined her pristine complexion, the golden hair she wore casually pulled back from her face, her luminous eyes, whose color matched the ocean below his house. He felt certain that he was truly in love. Beth completely captivated him; she was perfect and everything he had ever dreamed of.
Martin knew he had never loved a woman as he loved Beth, and not long into their courtship, he realized he would ask her to marry him. Even though they had only been going out for a few short months, he had no doubts that she was exactly what he wanted, and he began to plan how to convince her to accept a proposal so early in their relationship.
Beth was not as immediately enamored of Martin when she first met him. She had a busy life and liked the way things were. Although she was not in the market for a boyfriend, she welcomed the diversion. She thought that even though his hair was thinning, he was attractive enough. He wasn’t conventionally pretty, but she enjoyed the way his eyes crinkled at the edges like he always had a laugh waiting, and his calm and easy smile made her feel secure. There was an allure in his manner that made her unusually active mind sedate. He was frankly earnest, and this made her laugh.
Still, she spent their first few dates debating with herself whether she really wanted to go out with him. He was much too interested in science fiction and sports cars to suit her tastes. He insisted they watch all of the credits in the movies they watched, which drove her to distraction; she hadn’t the patience for it. And even though he had worked at his job for a number of years, he complained incessantly about the place when the subject came up, but would take no steps to change things. She wondered whether he was a pessimist in disguise.
Over time, though, these things seemed to matter little. He was so attentive, she could not help but react positively. He brought her bundles of flowers on a regular basis. He took her to dinner at fine restaurants and refused to even consider allowing her to pay. Beth had girlfriends who would have found this offensive, but Beth did not. She actually thought it was quite sweet. Martin wasn’t pushy or aggressive; he simply wanted to offer her a nice time. And she liked that, rather a lot. In time, she was certain she would grow to love this man.
Gradually, Beth stopped questioning her interest in Martin and allowed that she was utterly in love with him. She accepted the characteristics of his that were different from her, to the point that she found them deeply endearing. She noticed acutely his absences. When they spent even one night apart, she found that she could not focus on anything. When they were together, she felt complete, content. It did not matter if they were on a date at a fancy restaurant or digging plants in the garden. In any case, she wanted him there with her.
But Martin had begun to notice what he perceived as Beth’s flaws. She was irritated by small things and this drove him nuts. For instance, Beth would swear and complain during nearly every walk about the roots that poked into the path and tripped her when she was not paying close attention. Why couldn’t she just pay closer attention? The roots weren’t going anywhere and it ruined their walks to have her bitching about it all the time.
And she was shy. He would take her to functions at his school and she would stand off to the side, avoiding conversations with anyone she did not know. Why was this? She said she felt uncomfortable talking to people with whom she was not acquainted. But Martin knew them, so why couldn’t she just step up and start talking? And if she would talk to them, she would become acquainted, thus eliminating the concern over not being so. Why did she have to make such a production out of it?
Reality was sinking in: his lover was human and this humanity scared him. He did not want to feel the distress of heartbreak. He did not want her to either. But sometimes he could not stand how she was. He was also concerned that their being together would eliminate who he had been without her, a perplexing problem for which he saw no solution. He could not bear turning into one of those meager, simpering men who crouched at the call of their spouses, rushing off to do their “chores” with their tails between their legs. Castrates, thought Martin.
He was terrified of arguments. They did not have many, but each time one occurred, he was certain it represented the state of the relationship’s future. The subjects of these arguments were most often trivial, and usually occurred when both were overly tired, not feeling well, or both. Yet he was unable to shake the feeling that argument was their destiny.
With time, he began to ignore all of the things about Beth that had seemed so marvelous, and looked longingly into his past at the days he spent alone, wondering how those days had gotten away, forgetting how lonely he had been. He blamed her for the time he was not spending by himself, for the choices he had made in letting things go too fast. Oh, he blamed himself too, but he really felt that she was the problem because she was no longer what he had dreamed. He began to wonder and worry again and again how to eliminate their courtship without the wretchedness that was guaranteed to ensue.
Of course, Martin could not tell Beth these things that bothered him. To do so would solve nothing. He did not want to hurt her feelings. He hated conflict and speaking to her about such matters would bring considerable conflict. And most of the time, he really felt he loved her. He would take one look at her immaculate cheekbones, her delicate, slender neck, her impossibly long legs, and swoon. Could he give this up? Never.
One morning, Martin decided to take the day off to spend with Beth. They went to breakfast at a lovely café. They went back to Martin’s bungalow and made love in the late morning. Afterwards, they walked hand in hand through town, to the bookstore, and ate lunch at the local delicatessen. That night, they attended a play together, laughing over its silliness as they curled together in bed, nestled in one another’s arms.
Beth yawned in contentment as she snuggled deeper into Martin’s shoulder, falling drowsily into sleep. She felt so safe with this man she adored. Martin lay with his arms around Beth, wondering when their next struggle would develop. He forced these thoughts from his mind. He would not think of them. He would not. He held Beth close and fell determinedly to sleep.
The next morning, as Beth kissed Martin goodbye on his way to work, she asked if he would like to take a walk down the path on his lunch break. Martin liked the idea. He enjoyed getting away from the school during the day, and the path always worked to clear his head. He readily agreed and Beth offered to pack a picnic lunch.
Later that morning, Beth held Martin’s arm as they strolled away from the town. No other walkers were out. It was early spring and winter still held sway over the temperature. The air was cool and still, a mist hanging over the edge of the ocean, hovering lightly on the tranquil grassland. They settled onto one of the rock walls overlooking the ocean and spread out their lunch.
Neither spoke as they finished their sandwiches and potato salad. Beth brushed bread crumbs from Martin’s chin. He flinched. She patted his hand and asked if he was okay. He smiled, but did not answer. She turned and began to pack the cloth, utensils, and plastic cups back into the basket. They stood and began to walk down the path. Beth traveled slightly ahead of Martin, as was often the case where the path narrowed. As she headed towards town, Beth stumbled over a root in the path. She stopped and bent to rub her foot, complaining bitterly at the root’s existence, at the fact of its being exposed.
Thoughts flooded Martin’s mind, overwhelming him. Beth was so exquisite. In some respects, they got along marvelously. But she was also frustratingly picky, had an obnoxiously quick temper, and he would never understand her sense of humor. And most of all, he was losing himself. He had no idea where his fundamental self had gone. Who was Martin? Who was this man who would spend his life with a woman who complained about roots? He no longer knew. If he broke up with her, he would break her heart. If he stayed with her, he would smother. He would disappear. Martin would cease to exist.
Martin reached out. He saw his hands, disembodied from his arms. He saw his thumbs. He saw each of his fingers. He saw the two hands like the plaster hand impressions taken as a child, hanging in memorial on his mother’s kitchen wall. Together his hands pushed Beth in the back, shoving her hard from the path into the water below. He did not look at her. He did not look over the edge. He did not look down. He kept his eyes up and walked back to town.