Category Archives: Life

the presence of a mother

Boy did this absolutely amazing thing for me. And the effect of this one thing he did has rippled much farther into the future than I ever anticipated.

It had become this running joke about our mothers, that after 11 years they had never met. Of course they knew more about each other than they may ever realize. My mother is obviously a key figure in my  life, and so is boy’s mother. Each has been a tremendous influence on the woman I am and the woman I have yet to become. So after all I have asked from boy – quitting his job (although it has become the longest goodbye yet), relocating to a desert, saying goodbye to our friends (do you KNOW how hard it is to make such awesome friends as an adult?) and leaving the place that holds more sentimental value than the galaxy holds stars – after all of this, he surprised me by managing to get me to the airport for a surprise visit from both his mother and my mother so they could support me at my white coat ceremony. Did I mention this happened on his birthday?

The first night they were here I went to bed in a stupor, so filled with love I tried to describe it and felt like a  babbling fool. I compared it to the realization of a mythical event. For so long I sustained from envisioning a wedding because the logistics sound like a nightmare. So having them both there to support me on my new journey into medicine was something beyond what my mind was prepared to receive. Their presence felt like a blessing on my new journey.

But here’s the unexpected echo from boy’s gesture. When my mom was here I hugged her goodnight as she came from her bath and retreated to the guest bedroom. I noted the slight perfume from her skin and the humidity from the bath tub and it brought me back, so far back, to being a little girl and finding comfort in my mother’s bed time routine.  She bathed every night, followed by the application of lotion, and then turned on the bedside light as she read prior to going to sleep. I would mark time by her routine. Sometimes I would not go to sleep until I knew that she too was in bed. Sometimes I would walk in and tell her I couldn’t sleep and she would walk me back to bed. Most of the time I would try to climb into her bed so I could spend the night feeling safest by her side. All of those nights were accompanied by the slight humidity left over from her bath and the soft scent of her lotion.

I’m 6 weeks into medical school. Even at the age of 31, this is probably one of the scariest journeys I have been on. I get stressed, lose sleep, and try to desperately reassure myself that both dog and boy are happy in the middle of the conservative desert. And sometimes, when I get too exhausted from it all, I drag my feet to the guest bedroom and lie down, not trying to feel guilty about the allowance of rest over studying. I envision that my mother is somewhere nearby and there is a gentle humidity from her bath lingering over the room. Just knowing that she slept in that room is enough to convince me that the scent of her lotion is still permeating through the hallway and into the bedroom. And I can close my eyes and find some relief from that self-critical voice that got me here, that pushes me harder, that knows exactly how hard I had to work to get here and knows that it will not end anytime soon. I fall asleep haggard with the memory of my mother’s comfort tucked into the senses of my mind and I wake up knowing that I am enough. I know that my mother will not always be here. She lost her mother when she was my age. But the shadow of her presence is so powerful that I know it will grant me a lifetime of solace.

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August 24, 2012 · 10:07 pm

Reluctant Vacation

In the five years I’ve been working in publishing, I have ALWAYS worked the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  Most of my colleagues spent time with their families, so being 2,000+ miles away from my family and having not returned home for Christmas since I was 19 years old, I’ve always just spent the week manning the cubicle row.  I didn’t mind.  In fact, the first year I was working there I was so bored I spent the time rearranging the printer area and cleaning my cubicle.  Subsequent years were filled with Macworld preparations.  But this year is different.  When I mentioned perhaps taking a day off, my boss turned to me and said, “you know, you don’t have to work that week.  It’s really boring.  I mean, you should probably take if off.”  Wow.  Why do I have to wait to be TOLD these things?!

So, I have ten days off.  In a row.  TEN! 10! TEN!  I haven’t had that since back when I was unemployed.  And how do I feel about it?  Relaxed?  Elated?  Psyched?

Sadly, no.

How do I feel?  Anxious.  The first few days were concealed under the excuse of holidays.  Followed by holiday recovery.  Monday had a tight schedule of waking early, getting a workout in, cleaning, getting things done.  Today, I slept in late, tried to go out on a rainy day, found the business I was seeking to be closed, came home, read, napped, and woke up.  Woke up to feeling anxious.  I’m thinking back to this post.  Where I vowed to just sit.  Simply sit.  Without thinking about cleaning, running, gardening and all the things that have to be done.  I struggle with this.  I strive for it.  I feel like I fail at it.

This evening I was web browsing.  One of the things I really didn’t want to do during this break was get stuck in front of the television.  I’m happy to say I haven’t.  It has remained off most of the time.  But the computer?  Ha.  I follow Gwen Bell peripherally.  I admit, most of the time I’m simply not in the mood to contemplate things on the level her posts demand, but sometimes I am.  And sometimes it helps, and sometimes it frustrates me.  She’s in the midst of doing her reverb 2010, a reflection of the year through writing prompts.  I only blog once a month, so like I said, I’m peripheral.  But I saw this prompt:

December 21 – Future Self.

Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)

And I’m sitting here, feeling like I have failed once again.  I was actually considering going into work tomorrow because I need a schedule, I need a routine, I can’t sit still.  And I read this.  And I pondered it.  And what came to mind?

Dear Alison, fucking relax.  Just fucking relax.

I don’t like using curse words unless they are absolutely needed to drive a point home.  I feel like they are needed here.

I had kind of a rough year starting in fall 2009.  I don’t know why I thought I could take 3 classes, work full-time, study for the MCAT, and sneak in some physician shadowing, along with a few work travel trips on the side.  What did this amount to?  I was sick every few weeks, including one of the worst illnesses of my adulthood that kind of freaks me out just thinking back to it.  So is it any wonder that I withdrew medical school applications and had a bit of a rough time with the process?  ( hello ego, is that you on the floor getting trampled?)  It’s no surprise to me.

So what would I have told myself?  The constantly sick and overworked and under exercised myself?

1) Cut yourself some slack.  You’re working hard.

2) Live presently.  Not in the anxiety of an application process you have very little control over.

3) RELAX.

I’m not going to work tomorrow and cut this vacation short.  I’m enforcing it.  I don’t want to successes to be measured by how much can be done and accomplished.  I want them to be simpler, more focused, and to carry a little bit more meaning.  If I had just done this throughout this past year, wow.  Look at how successful I was.  No, I didn’t get into medical school, but I learned so much!  I learned what I could balance and what I couldn’t.  I learned to let go of a really bad relationship I was in and all the stresses it brought.  I am a better communicator, a better listener, a better friend.  I have yet to learn how to dress for my body-type or the ins and outs of physiology and anatomy and cell messenger systems, but that’s not worth the stress.  I can break this down.  I can accomplish what is important to me.  In the meantime, I’m going to fucking relax.

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Filed under beliefs, Life, narcisissist

a situation

Boy would say it’s a problem of my incessant jar collecting.  Something along the lines of “Al, we don’t live in the country.  I know you want to live in the country, but we don’t.”  Have I mentioned my recent inner unrest over wanting to live in the country?  A refurbished farm-house.  A loft bedroom.  A long driveway.  A wrap-around porch.  And jars.  Jam for thumb print cookies.  Fig preserves for fig pies.  Homemade apple butter from my crock pot.  Sun tea with fresh mint sprigs.  They all require extra jars.

However, after assessing the situation, I would say we have a problem of mugs, bowls, and ramekins that threaten to cascade out of the kitchen cabinet.  Because you can never have too many ramekins.

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Filed under Life

dodging a bullet

There are times when I was pretty sure that the only reason I got what I wanted was because I was a girl.  My car was once towed for free.  I got a free radio installation.  And who knows what else, because when you’re 17 and have long blond hair, society trains you to expect to get certain things, no questions asked…  Sad, but true.  (also why I think it’s important for girls to chop that hair off and then see what happens!  It’s VERY enlightening…)

I’ll come back to this, bear with me.  Recently someone mentioned a good volunteer opportunity with a doctor.  These aren’t easy to come by, but this physician in particular worked with a  lot of students and has had a private practice for over 30 years.  I sent in my application and received more than I expected in return.

I went in for a preliminary meeting with the doctor where he seemed nice enough.  He was an elderly man that kind of stuttered over his words and talked… a lot… about himself… I didn’t say much that first meeting.  But he asked me to come in to shadow a bit so I could see what it was like.  I thought this was a bit much for volunteer work, but I asked for some time off and went in (yes, time off to volunteer…)  I really liked what I did.  I talked to patients, he explained charts, medications, I saw how the whole office was run.  I left kind of excited about the opportunity.

About a week later, he sent me an email asking me to come back again during my work time to “see what we could do about turning me into a cheery volunteer.”  Okay, I have this quirky sensitivity to not being a cheery person.  I know, it’s retarded, but I’m WELL aware of the fact I appear to be an unsmiling pisshead.  But I’m also not a naturally chipper person, it’s just not who I am.  (An aside, my dad once told me he hoped I would choose to live in Europe because I was so introverted and Europe has a better acceptance of introverts than Americans.  And you want to know something?  SO TRUE.  I get reamed all the time for not smiling, even by homeless people.  But my 9 months in Paris?  I got flack over my boy short hair, but never over my not smiling…)  Anyway, needless to say the doctor mentioning that made me super paranoid over nothing and I thought I was not going to get the volunteer job at all because I don’t smile enough and how lame would that be?  But the during work hours thing?  Kind of also lame.  Because he knew I had a full time job.  And he knew I wanted to volunteer after work in the evenings…  But once again, I moved my work schedule around with some vague excuse to go in a volunteer late one afternoon.

I loved talking to patients.  I loved pulling out medical charts for the next day, learning about prescriptions, and flipping through histories to get a sense of what brings people in.  After the office closed the doctor asked me out for a drink to talk about volunteering.  I agreed and we went to a restaurant for appetizers.  He told me a lot about his practice, told me how everyone on his staff was in school (4 part time medical students, 1 receptionist, all female).  He told me about how he liked having students around.  Since he is in a private practice students insured he had people interested in medicine he could talk with and he also had something to offer – a nice recommendation.  And he brought some of the recommendations with him to show me (I’ve never had this happen before and honestly, it seems like something that should stay private, but he brought them, and I read them…)  I read two.  Each for a previous female volunteer.  And what stood out?  Well, the general lack of anything spectacular about his recommendation (did he even know these people?)  and one sentence in the second one – “However, (this girl’s) biggest asset is her physical appearance and demeanor.”  I think I stopped there and don’t even remember what the rest said.

He told me about how he met a previous medical assistant and volunteer.  They were cocktail waitresses at a resort that he is the physician for and he recruited them.  He told me there are lots of perks to working with him, one being he tends to give really great gifts after his volunteers and staff get into med school.  In fact he gave the last volunteer an iPhone with the caveat she keep in touch with him.  And he recently went to a former employee’s graduation party from med school.  He liked what  he did and wanted to establish a family vibe…

He asked me on the spot if I’d like to join the team as a volunteer.  I told him wanted to talk about it with my partner.  Why did I say that?  Honestly, it was the line in the recommendation letter.  It REALLY bothered me that he would comment on someone’s physical appearance and that a med school would see that.  What did he say to my response?  Well, first he kept asking me in however many ways possible if I would accept the volunteer job.  Then he asked:  “Well, do you mind me asking if by ‘partner’ you mean ‘lesbian partner’?”  Yeah… He did ask that.  And yes, I do call boy my partner.  Because he is my life partner.  I told the doctor no, it’s my boyfriend, I just call him my partner.  He gave me this lecture on terminology and said well if you’ve been together so long you may as well call it common law spouse.  I left it at that, and walked back to the office with him as I had accepted his ride home since it was already 8:30 pm.

He left something in his office, so we went back before going to his car.  While in his office he showed me a bulletin board where he wrote little poems and rewrote songs to sing to his employees and volunteers that went off to school.  He sang a few, I was tired and wanted to go home, but he sang and read some more and finally we left.  So he dropped me off at home where boy and I talked it out.

I liked this volunteer opportunity.  But it was the doctor himself that put me off.  Not only was it the line in the recommendation, but he directed me on how I should refer to boy.  That just flat out annoyed me.  So we talked out pros and cons, and as much as I liked the work, the doctor would annoy me.  Just his singing and poetry alone would put me over the edge.  Just not worth it.

I called the doctor the next day to thank him but to let him know I would not be accepting the volunteer opportunity.  And he flipped.  “Was it me?  Did I say something?  I really thought you wanted be a part of this office, that’s why I read you my poems and took you out for a drink!  Were you intimidated by the work?”  Yeah, I’M NOT KIDDING, this went on for about 10 minutes in which I repeated over and over “you know, it’s just not a good fit for me.”

I’ve repeated this experience to quite a few people, because personally, I was terribly shaken up by his response.  I was really upset by his response.  Part of me felt guilty, but a huge part of me was scared.  I can’t really explain why I was scared I just was…  The response from other people however has been very divided.  Some people are like oh well, you’ll find another place to volunteer.  And others?  “Al, you dodged a bullet.”

My thoughts on this having sat on it for a few weeks?  This doctor is a sexist old man.  He surrounds himself with young 20-something women where he not only assumes a position of paternal power that is looking out for their career, he has no boundaries.  The receptionist told me about her 2 weeks of unpaid training when she started and how he only compensated her on bridge tolls driving to and from the office.  (Is that even legal?  I think it’s very exploitative)  He asked me about my personal life crossing the limitations of professionalism, pressured me into commiting to the volunteer job on the spot, and the initial email (about being a cheery volunteer) seemed like an attempt to manipulate someone who is insecure (which often soft-spoken and not smiley is misinterpreted for lack of self-confidence.)  I think his response was because I bruised his ego and he has never been turned down by a young woman before…  And honestly, I don’t think any of this is extreme accusation, but rather the truth…

I do think that less than a year ago I would have not seen any of this and would have volunteered for this guy.  I think this is my first awareness of sexism and I think many people find this harmless.  I think that’s too bad.

The experience is sticking with me because I am still shaken up by it.  Mostly that I got so far into being around this doctor before I could see what was up.  I was about to let myself be typecast as one of the office girls.  And now, I’m recalling all of the other times I have allowed myself to be typecast, not stood up for myself, let someone assume I was just one of those girls.  Just one of those girls…  And while I keep beating myself up for not seeing this earlier in my life, I know now that I will never let that happen again.

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The Battle of White Noise

I don’t hide the fact that I go to therapy.  Every Monday I leave work an hour early and commute over to my therapist’s office and for 45 minutes I allow myself to be the most narcissistic person that I will ever allow myself to be.  (As far as I’m concerned, it’s the most selfish thing I will ever do, and paying for it is the only way I can justify it…)  But why do I still need it?  9 months after I started to go?  Especially since I told my boss I’d only be going for a few months back in October and I keep waiting for her to ask “hey, what’s the deal with the leave-early Mondays 9 months later?” but rather I usually get a surprised look when I sweep by at 3:20 and say “see you tomorrow.”

I have to go back to September of last fall to explain.  At the beginning of every Chemistry class this past year we had a 15 minute quiz.  I spent all of my Sundays last year reading Chemistry for Monday night tests.  I’d read over my notes before class, walk into class, take the quiz, and fail.  People would finish in the first 5 minutes, start chatting, the professor would start talking as I tried to finish up my quiz, and I couldn’t focus on anything.  Panic built up and my brain felt like it wanted to explode and I would either spend the rest of the class fighting back tears or, come mid-semester, I started to simply walk out of class after the quiz and walk from campus to boy’s apartment crying.  It sucked and I felt like a loser because I studied, I knew the information, I just couldn’t take the goddamn quizzes.  On top of that, I would come home to boy who had no understanding about the nature of my frustration.  He would tell me over and over to practice with timed quizzes at home not realizing that the time factor wasn’t the issue.  I couldn’t get my brain to relax and focus on the test without everything else in the room going from a soft buzz to a screaming train.

The frustration trickled into my studying.  Doing physics homework became an inevitable cry it out session that lasted about 4 hours each time.  I couldn’t get through a problem without breaking down and losing sight of what was even being asked of me.  I had hints of this the year before in Biology.  At one point I approached my Biology professor and confessed that I thought I had a learning disorder because I had no idea how to take a test.  (Taking tests – a guaranteed area where your overly-liberal arts undergraduate education will fail you.)  I just felt plain stupid.  I had flash backs to my college roommate who, being the same major as me, was in at least 1 class with me every semester since our freshman year.  The girl’s a whiz.  Ask her today and she can still remember every piece of literature we read and the theme of each title as well as every article she read in Foreign Policy magazine during our study abroad and will challenge you to recent political trivia like it’s the latest entertainment news.  For someone who had to read and reread to grasp at just what exactly was going on, I remember often feeling stupid and unable to participate in class discussions.  I completely read over a rape scene in my women’s literature class.  (Try explaining to a class of 15 feminists that you didn’t think the rape scene constituted rape because, fact is, you just didn’t recall what you read.)  Feeling stupid is a terrible feeling.  It leads people to act out of sorts; some people get angry, some people become overly proud, some people get depressed.  My esteem crashed.  I took it personally when people suggested nursing school or told me that some people just don’t have the aptitude to become doctors.  Convinced I was going to have low grades for that semester, I started to look at certification schools for surgical techs and physician’s assistants.

So, I went to counseling.  Talked about what I was feeling.  Talked about methods that helped some people.  I used a few, but I mostly got through the semester out of fear.  I have a few methods I use (mostly meditative visualizations prior to sitting down and studying or test taking), but part of me still wonders if they’re good enough.  Half way though spring semester a girl in class behind me mumbled “I have got to take more adderall before this class, I am falling asleep.”  Huh.  I guess that’s one way to get through it.  I wasn’t sure what it even was, so I looked it up when I got home and found this article in The New Yorker.  It’s an enlightening read.  My counselor had suggested prescription meds.  I missed a few days of work this year after endless nights of panic attacks and rather than relaxing I would spend the day worrying that my boss would expect a doctor’s note or a deathly cold that I was martyring my way through upon returning to work the following day.  But I didn’t want meds.  That was the point of counseling, right?  to avoid meds?  to talk my way through this and nip it in the bud?

I met with my premed adviser for the first time recently.  Yes, my GPA is low (3.3 is low for premed.)  He asked how I am at standardized testing.  I told him the problem, the white noise that creates a fuzz in my mind, the panic, the fact that I know the information and it has nothing to do with whether I know the information and everything to do with focusing.  He told me about his personal experience with this problem.  The lack of retention of what he’d read, the same panic, the fact that testing didn’t reflect what he knew.  But what did he suggest?  Adderall.  (To his credit, he offered several solutions and was happy to hear I was seeing a counselor about this, but what stood out in my mind was the Adderall.)

I’ve had the conversation with boy about this – if we had easy access to this drug, would we use it?  How prevalent is it in the premed community?  Well, premeds are of a certain sort and I was embarassed at even admitting to getting panic attacks because it’s what you’d expect from a premed student, right?  I found this article on the student doctor network.  More interesting than the article itself is the comment section.  Where does adderall cross the line and become a neuroenhancer verses a helpful drug to those who need it?  What are the side effects on creativity?  How far behind will I be in my application process next summer when held up against my peers, several of whom take adderall?

A bigger problem for me is the white noise is spreading.  I now struggle with this more at work than in my studies.  Part of my job encourages me to be on social networks tracking and participating in the trends of social outreach and engagement.  This involvement has created enough white noise to turn my days into project-hopping madness mixed with an over-caffeinated effort to GTD (get things done.)  I dread interruptions because I have enough in front of me.  I fret over wasting time and have trained my visualizations for studying, not for work.  Even when studying, however, I sometimes require a good few hours of mental prep before tackling the material.  And after cracking open a book, I don’t really hit the meat of the material until hours 2-4.  I am not a study on the train and during lunch type of person.  Rather, I do study marathons that leave me buzzed on focus and usually I have to channel any remaining energy into Sudoku puzzles to wind down afterward.  It’s a great feeling actually, but one that I have to work hard for.

So what’s the answer?  I don’t know.  Maybe I am a good candidate for adderall.  But part of me would still feel like it’s a cheat.  Of course I want good grades and recognition at work for being the person who is always on top of my work load.  But at what cost?

I’m exploring osteopathic medicine and philosophy.  Not only because of my low GPA, but mostly because of my personal philosophy on this subject alone.  I want to believe I’m more capable than a pill will ever make me, I just have to learn how to exercise my capabilities.  The awareness of this white noise problem seems to be making it worse, but I can at least say the edge of panic has been removed.  I don’t slip into the freight train mode despite the white noise mode becoming more constant and present.  And I’ll accept that as improvement with more to go.  In the end, who knows.  I suspect it will seep in and out of our culture similar to restless leg syndrome – an awareness will slip into an obsession that requires medication, and as soon as the obsession fades so do the symptoms.  Let’s hope the obsession doesn’t last until the end of my current class, because I really want to up my GPA.

Update: How timely that I should wake up to this article.

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Filed under Life, narcisissist, school, Uncategorized

My beef with Lazy Boy recliners

Boy was 30 when we met. And having heard rumors about his 20s, I was always intrigued about what they were like for him.  Since the crowd he pal’d around with were his party buddies, most of those people disappeared after we met.  I would try and ask about what those years were like for him, but have you ever asked a boy what he discussed after just hanging up the phone with someone?  Yeah, something like this:

Me: How’s your dad?

Boy: Oh fine.  Same old stuff…

What stuff?

Just playin’ his computer games.

What about your mom.

Fine.

Sister?

Fine.

Well, what’d you talk about for 30 minutes then?

Nothing in particular.

So they’re all doing nothing?

Well, pretty much, I mean my Dad had his surgery and everything.

And everything?  Having surgery is same old stuff?  Is he okay?

Yeah, he’s fine.

And so on and so on and so on for about another half an hour.  Me? I get off of the phone with my sister and without him even asking to I volunteer that my nephew pulled his underwear down and started running around while I was talking to my sister and it was frickin’ hysterical and then I sang twinkle twinkle and said the pledge of allegiance with both of them and blah blah blah because THAT is what is called COMMUNICATION.

Anyway, boy has had this imaginary friend he has spoken of since we met.  I say imaginary because for 8 years, he was exactly that.  Boy would speak of him and everytime they visited I was in New York, Paris, or a business trip – how convenient for his imaginary friend to visit during those times…  But a few weeks ago, boy said a few nights before that he was going to be in town and we were going to dinner.  I think I said “yeah right, I’ll believe it when I see it.”  Well, lo and behold, I came home and boy is on the phone giving his imaginary friend directions on where to park and I’m like “dude, seriously, it’s okay…”  And then he showed up!  See?

Terry's visit 008

He’s real!

So we all went to dinner and he left shortly thereafter, but not before I grabbed the camera to get proof.  I needed proof in case another 8 years goes by and boy still occassionally mentions this dude friend of his…

Anyway, dinner was… well… weird.  As we said good bye and boy and I walked back up the stairs, I couldn’t really place it.  I was rambling about how he didn’t meet my expectations and the comparison between boy and his friend was just odd because I couldn’t quite place it and all I could say was “He’s old!”

Boy laughed and turned to me saying “I was going to warn you of that ahead of time, but I figured you’d just see for yourself.”

This was the first time I had seen boy up against one of his peers.  Someone his own age, someone he shared late ’80s early ’90s music tastes with, someone who knew boy during the time he was dating his first girlfriend and, my, if you saw that picture of boy and his first girlfriend you would know why I am banned from asking any questions pertaining to that time in his life…  (and it wasn’t just her, I’m talking high tops, acid wash jeans, and a mullett my friends.. eeesh.)

But the hard part of the evening was topic of conversation.  Boy and I spoke about plans to keep up with what we’re doing, not caring too much about settling down here because we know we’ll be off in a few years, really wanting to get back to Hawaii soon soon soon, but not dropping big bucks and instead doing weekend jaunts.  What did boy’s friend talk about?  Moving his 2 kids and wife into their new 5 bedroom house and mowing the lawn.  A long drawn out story about mowing the lawn and the job he has had for 11 yrs (mind you, he was obviously passionate about both those things, which is nice to see for a change.)  Not boring, kind of entertaining in fact, but the bottom line?  I just could relate.  And honestly?  I didn’t want to.

I may or may not have mentioned it already, but boy is very nontraditional in what he wants out of life compared to other people his age.  And at times I have mourned that – he will always make light of proposing instead of actually doing it, we probably won’t ever have a wedding if marriage is something we decide on, if I want a settled domestic-looking place to come home to, I have to bully him into unpacking his junk boxes and hang art, not framed movie posters, on the wall.

But when I saw boy next to his friend, I remembered that I never wanted that life in the first place.  My best friend back in Louisiana told me that she felt that a man is supposed to drive a truck, so she made sure her husband had a truck.  She runs the household like a champ and in her first marriage would get up at the butt crack of dawn to make sure her husband’s coffee was made before he left for work.  I remember willing off any man who drove a truck back in 10th grade because every punk in my high school class drove exactly that.  I never wanted a house because I wanted to make sure I was able to pick up and leave on my next adventure.  I never wanted a husband either because hell if I was going to cook for anyone but myself.  It’s no wonder everyone thought I was going to be the crazy old single bitty that had 5 bajillion cats, because in the south women don’t generally aspire to live alone.  It was not something I could admit to and I felt at odds with friends and family around me for not wanting what they all had.

The funny part is, boy and I settled in quickly together after we met.  And now with Jack around, it feels like a family.  And all those things I really didn’t want, I have – weekend pancakes, once a week pasta nights, family television nights with me, boy, and Jack in between us.  The most important thing is, I have them on my own terms.  We have agreed we will never, ever, ever ever ever own a lazy boy recliner.  No one in our home will ever have to move “because that’s your father’s chair.”  Equal opportunity seating for all.  I will never be responsible for putting a meal on the table.  In fact, if boy wants a meal on the table he usually takes the lead and starts cooking.  If it were up to me?  Hummus.  Every night.  I don’t ever see us emphasizing the importance of eating dinner at the table if we have a kid.  (I don’t know anyone who actually liked forced dinner time around the table…)  We probably won’t ever own power tools that we can show off to our neighbors.  I never want the biggest weekend accomplishment to be mowing the lawn and having an ice cold beer afterward.  We will never own a bar-b-que pit or a deep freeze.  I won’t ever have mad baking skills.  Most important to me, I won’t have to ever be a stay at home mom.  Boy has gladly volunteered taking that role if we are ever in such a position.

Occasionally, when I hear about how someone spent their whole weekend baking and prepping dinners for the week or doing house projects on their vacation, I get a little pang of jealousy.  How nice it must be to own a house, to have the skills to cook, to be able to build a fence around your garden with the help of a neighbor and be friends with that neighbor and not only know him for being the guy that makes weird noises before bed keeping me awake as he paces back and forth for 50 minutes…

But when I really think about it, put myself in that life and try and fit boy and Jack in there with me, it’s like watching a kid play one of those building block learning games shove the star into the square whole.  Every now and then I put on my apron and try… I try to cook a meal that doesn’t consist of just one thing served over rice… and I usually get so frustrated with myself (I once cried over buying snow crab claws bringing them home and not knowing what to do with them in the slightested once I got them on the plate.)  But this time, with boy’s friend, I was happy with the fact he was living the suburban dream and I’m not.  And it doesn’t include a lazy boy recliner.

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easing back

Eight years ago I spent all night riding around the back roads of Pensacola and Perdido Key returning home around 5 am.  My sister lent me some of her clothes, told me how to do my hair, and then sent me on my way to my first real date (yes, you’re counting right.  my first real date at the age of 19..)  It was a night full of awkward silence broken by quips like:

“Know what that is?” he was pointing to a stain on the cloth of the passenger seat where I sat.

“umm, no…”

“Dog blood.”

He proceeded to tell me the story of the frazzled dog walking around the parking lot of a mall.  He couldn’t let the dog just roam around next to a busy street, so he pulled up near the dog and slowly lured him into his car.  Only after the dog skittishly got into the car did he notice the dog was injured and bleeding.  He drove the dog to the nearest shelter to be tended to and put up for adoption.

The drive lasted all night because that’s how long it took for us to get the courage to ask each other questions.  What are you doing here?  Where did you come from?  Where do you hope to go?  Are a you a big fan of Where the Wild Things Are or does a 30 year old wear that tee shirt because he has nothing else to wear?

We stopped at a Dairy Queen parking lot.  How southern of us.  Except this one was along Scenic Highway and overlooked the gulf.  He had a tattoo I heard about.  He rolled his eyes, kicked up his converse to the table, pulled up his jeans, rolled down his tube sock, and there he was.  The Lorax.

He explained how he eats a sandwich.  He has to hold it, take bites while never putting it down.  Because the moment he puts the sandwich down he loses interest, won’t pick it up again for another bite.  No leftovers for this guy.  The only leftover he ate was pizza that sat all night in its box on top of the stove.  How ignorant and wasteful, I thought.  Years after telling me this, he ate day-old leftovers of something I cooked.  I was more than a little proud.

He asked permission before hugging me.  I’m a stand-offish person.  Not one to openly hug friends or let them know how much they mean to me.  My chest exploded when I realized I agreed.  I didn’t know how to move, we ended up somehow in a bear hug between man friends kind of position.  I had one arm over his should and one around his waist thinking to myself how this arm position is so off and I just blew it.  The whole night lost to an awkward arm position in a hug.  But what’s with this sweater?  This ribbed sweater he’s wearing, so soft.  A year or so later I found that same sweater at the bottom of a drawer, stole it, hid it, kept it so he would never give it away.

That was it.  He drove me back to my sister’s apartment.  I had my hands stiff on the seat and probably looked like a deer in headlights because it was my first date and how can I like this dude I know nothing about and how can I know nothing about him after spending about 7 hours in a car with him.  And then I saw him reach over and grab my pinky and say that he wishes he could chop it off to have a part of me to hold when I leave town the next morning.  I had slight relief at him saying something rather disturbing to take away from my awkward hugging skills.  We were back on level ground.

I thanked him, got out of the car, walked to the door too scared to look back knowing that he was watching me, and pretended to sleep 4 hours until I got out of bed and my sister said he had already called to say good morning.

That was 8 years ago.

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