Friday, September 13, 2013

Going it Solo Again

The Cowboy needs time and space, and I’m giving it to him.  So I’m single once again.  I’d gotten pretty comfortable being part of a partnership – the closest I’ve been to such an idea yet – so it’s taking me a little work to remember how to do this stuff on my own. 

In thinking about how this works, how one really defines “on your own” or “solo” I have gone round and round on the word “alone.”  Don’t worry – I promise not to tell you how our good friend Mr. Webster defines it, or his pal Merriam, or any of their egghead buddies.  (admit it – you just totally looked it up yourself!)  But I think that the true definition of “alone” is “without a partner.”

I’m surrounded by many people who love me:  friends who’ve known me decades, family members who would give me the shirt off their backs, etc.  Even The Cowboy and I even still connect during the day because we’re staying friends.  I’ve got two cats who love me so much that they fight over who gets to sleep on what parts of my head most every night.  (and they’re so kind – they try to work it out peacefully each night to start, until their love for me finally overwhelms their ability to negotiate.  Usually at around 3 fucking am…)  So I’m not someone who would say that I spend all of my hours in solitude.  But that doesn’t change the fact that since losing my partner I’ve felt tremendously alone. 

So in thinking about that I tried to figure out what the big differences were.  There’s a few that are significant, but this is the thing I think most defines being without a partner; being alone:  not having someone to share the stupid little stories of the day with.

Think about it.  Why do people on FaceBook tell us what they’re eating or about the squirrel that just did that super-cute thing or how crazy it makes them when folks do or say or wear such and such?  Because those folks don’t have someone in their world who loves them so much that they want to hear those stories.  You don’t call up someone and tell them these stories because you know, before you’re done, there’s gonna be that tone on the other end of the line.  That “…where is this going?...” tone.  The tone that says that they’re taking time out of their day to listen to this tiny little vignette from your life because they’re sure, in the end, that it will be worth it, but now that you’re two thirds of the way into the story they’re starting to realize it’s just this story.  In the end they’ll just have this new, tiny, fairly “who cares?” story added to their arsenal, and that’s all that they’ll have. 

But not a partner.

When you have a true partner – someone who sees it as “you and me, baby, against it all;” who looks forward to seeing you at the end of the day just because seeing you is that great; who finds THE stupidest little quirks about you just adorable or fascinating or cool or at LEAST hilarious – that person listens to these stories.  Knows them for what they are right off the bat and still listens.  With a smile.   Laughs when you laugh, scoffs when you scoff, grumbles when you grumble.  Your partner tells your silly little stories to other people!  And the stupidest of your “part of my day” stories are still worthwhile to a true partner because, if nothing else, it shows them just one more tiny little facet of who you are. 

As I felt my partner starting to abdicate his position I stopped telling my stories.  To him, and then to everybody.  Those stories suddenly looked just as stupid and pointless as they are, even to me.  I even stopped posting on FB because I couldn’t avoid seeing those windows into my life as ridiculous, and certainly not worth anybody else reading.  And that’s the thing I’m having the hardest time with in adjusting to solo life again.  I feel like my brain is getting cluttered with these stories and there’s no release valve.  They’re piling up in the corners of my brain like packing peanuts let loose before a 20” box fan.  They’re small and gooey, so they gum up the works of other parts of my brain.  So I guess they’re like packing peanuts dipped in Mrs. Butterworth’s. 

Yeah.  That’s nasty.

I’m gonna get back into the swing of this – hell, I’ve spent more of my life alone than anything else!  But if, in the meantime, a pointless “part of my day” story escapes and gets on you I’m apologizing right now – sorry about that.  I hope it doesn’t leave you sticky.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Learning How to Lean

I can’t remember if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I’m stoic.  I inherited my wonderful Granny’s epic stoicism, the product of which related in her living with chronic pain for roughly sixteen decades.  (ok, slight exaggeration.  But I kid you not – when she was given pain meds in her early 90’s for shingles she was quoted as saying “Wow, that’s the first time I’ve been pain-free since the toboggan accident…”  WHICH HAPPENED WHEN SHE WAS SOMETHING LIKE 15 YEARS OLD!!!)  I’m like this too – when I hurt myself I generally ice or elevate the injured body bit for about a day, and then I move straight to the “work it hard until it just gives up hurting because it knows that it cannot defeat me.  Cannot defeat me!” form of therapy.   Pain is a form of weakness; fatigue a sign of defeat.  And there’s always way too much to do and way too many people counting on me for something to allow such things as pain and fatigue to get in my way.  I can’t afford it.  I can’t allow it. 

I’m just a little bit stoic.

Part of the reason for my stoicism, as it’s evolved over years, is that I’ve always been a solo player.  I’ve been the living embodiment of the old phrase “if you want something done you’d better do it yourself.”, not because I think I do it better than everybody else…

…ok, yeah, that’s crap.  I do think I do it better than everybody else.  But that’s not the ONLY reason I live that phrase.  The first and most impactful reason is simple: I had nobody else to do it.  I had to bring home the bacon AND fry it up in the pan.  If I knew how to fry up bacon in a pan.  Or in any other piece of cookware.  (and it’s sad, because I really like bacon.  Still, my not really knowing how to make has turned it into magic food, like French fries and frozen yogurt!  But I digress)  Also I had to do all the other things that needed doing:  pet care, home care, car care and all other variety of cares.  On a given weekday I’d work 8+ hours, come home to work out, go for groceries, make dinner, go do my social plans with friends and family, come home to feed kitties and clean-up some part of the house and then find my way to the bed.  So if I hurt myself or get sick and actually sat down or even (shock!  Horror!) lied down to succumb then who would do the work or feed the kitties or make the food?  Nobody, that’s who.  And that guy?  He sucks at all of those things.  Ever et his food?  Dreadful.  No flavor, no texture and absolutely no nutritional value. 

So then what – these things just don’t happen?  Well that’s fine, I guess, for working out or being social – when you’re all sick and mucusy nobody REALLY wants to hang out with you so much anyway.  But you’re also talking no eating and no cleaning up the kitchen, which leads to a hungry, cranky Femtastic surrounded by grungy bowls and stinky pots and eating utensils stuck to other eating utensils.  Uck.  And nobody can “relax” on their couch with two grumpy, hungry cats standing on your chest, yeowling about “where is our food?” and “how about a bit of feeding, yes?” and “don’t you even try to close your eyes until we’re full of foods, you!!”

So there you go – want or need it done?  Gotta do it yourself.  This was my mantra for about 15 years.  And then along came The Cowboy.  A guy my age, but with many more years of being with partners under his belt, he knows how to be someone you can depend upon.  He’s a doer and a helper and a taker-carer-of-er.  He’s someone upon which I can actually lean.

If I allow myself to do it.

Here, in a truly happy, comfortable, wonderful relationship, I find my stoicism colliding headfirst with his generosity, kindness and love.  I know that he would be happy if I could learn to let him support me – he’d love it, in the same way that I love to support those that I love, including him.  But years of my needing to stand on two feet and handle everything, everything, by myself has created this wall.  Or scaffolding.  Perhaps its jack stands and a ladder?  Some kind of construction-type-thing that is preventing me from doing what I know I can, should, and he would like:  lean.  

At first it was so novel when he would do so much for me that I indulged.  It was like someone giving me permission to have pudding three meals a day for a week.  Who says no to constant pudding?  Crazy people, that’s who!  I indulged in his constant-pudding-goodness and let him take care of me in small ways that mean little to most and meant so much to me.  Cleaning up my terrible little kitchen.  He did my laundry.  Mowed my lawn!  Mowed my frickin’ lawn!  Loved on my kitties and got my car washed and just so many lovely things that I over-puddinged and started to be sure I was literally getting spoiled.  I’ve known spoiled people in my life, who let others do for them and never give back and never think to wonder if they truly deserve the gifts they receive and never, EVER think to say “oh no, I couldn’t.”   I don’t want to become one of them, so the construction-barriers reappeared.

They didn’t shoot back up, nor were they as high and blocky as before, but I found I had to make a concerted effort to allow him to support and do for me.  I also thought about how seldom it seemed like I did for him.  Not for lack of trying, but he was so self-sufficient, strong, grown-up that from my paranoid, spoiled perspective I felt like it was always him doing for me.  So walls or scaffolding it was.

But in the last few months a couple of things have happened.  First, he finally has truly needed me.  He’s had health issues crop up a couple of times that I’m sure he could have handled on his own, but I was around and he let me take care of him.  I loved that feeling, taking care of someone I adore so much, and I thought of how seldom I let him have it.  And I recognized that by being my stoic, mule-headed self I was being selfish too. 

He also had some rough days and he let me see that they were rough.  He let me see how he was truly feeling rather than pulling out the old “I’m fine” card – one which I’m all too familiar with.  That was such an honor and a privilege and once again I saw that what I’d thought was an imbalance that only prospered me was actually an imbalance that robbed from him. 

And then, as if the universe knew I was right on the rim of the “I could trust and depend on this man” hole, I found myself really needing someone. 

I won’t bore you with the details – they involve running on the beach, gravity plus momentum and the jaunty ways of a one-eyed basset – but I took a spill.  Nothing too severe; no broken bones or trips to the hospital.  But my big, dumb knee swelled up to the size of my big, dumb head and I really needed help to get around for a day or so.  When the shock and size of the problem hit me, pushing through one hell of an adrenaline cloud, the only person I thought of that I wanted to lean on was my Cowboy.  He protected me not only from my injury, but even from my stoicism, strapping me to the couch to keep me from hobbling to the fridge for a soda or gummy bears.  I could ask him for help and also for input because I honestly had no idea how to handle the head-sized knee of badness and he did. 

So I leaned.  Hell, at one point I even wondered if I’d be leaning so hard he’d be carrying me fullstop.  (But thank god that didn’t happen.  There are no words for how much I hate being carried.  Except for these words:  I COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY HATE TO BE CARRIED, DON’T DO IT EVER, I WILL POKE YOU IN ALL YOUR SOFT, SENSITIVE PLACES, DON’T THINK THAT I WON’T!!!!!!)  From the leaning a funny thing happened:  I pushed through the version of leaning where you force yourself to do it and into the version where you really don’t have an alternative, and you can instead truly be grateful and thankful that you can lean; that you have someone on which to lean.  Leaning where you just keep realizing how lucky you are in your leaning. 

Stoicism has it’s place.  But when the universe kicks your legs out from under you and you’re face-first in the dirt snorting sod it’s an incredible thing to look up and see a strong, safe hand reaching down to pull you up and limp you to a comfy place to sit; bring you a cookie and maybe even (if you’re truly lucky) rub your feet.

Me?  I’m truly lucky.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Different Kind of Break-up

I lost a friend at the end of 2012.  She didn’t die – she basically broke up with me.  It’s a friend I’ve known for literally decades, but as someone pointed out to me recently an old friend isn’t always the same thing as a close friend.  She has been both at various times, and though she’d kept the “old friend” status all along, in the last few years we’d definitely grown further and further apart. 

The petty, small part that we all have had been tempted to use this, my own personal sandbox, as a place to hash out the whole damned situation.  And if I said I don’t still have that temptation I’d be denying all of the sentences I’ve already typed and deleted in what is only two paragraphs of writing.  Because I’m frustrated.  Because the end of this long, and once important, friendship came in the form of an angry, accusatory, vitriolic email to which I chose not to retaliate.  I took what I had decided was the ‘high road.’  I honored the demand that she made for our relationship to be ‘done.’  I let her have her say and didn’t lash out and carve her down to a sad, quivering, humiliated lump, and I’ll be bold (ok, smug.  Cocky even.) and tell you that I could have.  Instead I just said “ok.”

The thing that most frustrates me about all of it, and which makes this post really hard to write the right way (by which I mean the fair and correct and not evil way) is that I didn’t do anything wrong.  I protected people who were important to me, and kept confidences that were entrusted to me and let my own happiness be at least as important as the happiness of others and for all of this I’ve got more than one person out there considering me evil.  I know the truth of it, and the people who see me through this kaleidoscopic view are not the people who matter to me.  So why does this still occasionally pop up in my peripheral vision and eat at me? 

I’m sad to say I think it’s pride.  It’s years of “she dids” and “I nevers” that I didn’t get to play in this terrifically stupid game.  It’s this final “high road” I took after what I see as years and years of high roads bringing me to the point where I’m on the frickin’ Mt. Everest of damned high roads but which I don’t get to flaunt.  And, most lame of all, it’s this really inherent sense of what should be “right” and “wrong” in the world but which isn’t being those things.  And my need to get them there.  To make the world line up with my view of it.  And to be able to see my actions as being exactly what they should have been, and noble to boot. 

In the last year before this friend stormed off she and I connected with each other maybe half a dozen times.  Certainly no more than a dozen.  So we’re talking one chat or email or “ships passing in the night” encounter a month at best.  I’ve got people that I actually DON’T like that I interact with more.  As far as things I can live without go this friendship is a doozy.  And yet I have stopped and walked through the conversation that I didn’t get to have with her a few damned times since she proclaimed herself “done.”  So, in the end, what this whole thing did more than anything was force me to face some things about myself that I need to keep working on.  Ironically none of them were things with which she took issue, but as it always is it’s not the things that others tell me I should care about that matter.  It’s the things I know I want to improve.

So if my ex-friend were to stumble back on this blog I’d want her to know that I’m working on the stuff I think I need to improve, and thank her for giving me this annoying, niggling view once again on my imperfections. 

Damn her.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Why Do We Blog?

You know about my new man – we’re going to call him the Cowboy.  One of the things that makes me so thrilled about him and us is how many things we see very eye-to-eye about.  We’ve been completing each other’s thoughts and sentences since the first weekend we knew each other. 

Still, one day I mentioned to him that I am “a writer”, (being a “writer” means I am totally qualified to use “air quotes”) and part of how I exercise those muscles is by way of this blog.  He listened, did the “I’m listening” nod at just the right intervals, and didn’t react too much.  Not right then.  But a day or two later he came back to the subject.  Came back with a look of genuine confusion.  And, long story short (“What?  Why?  You know that’s not why we read this blog, right?  You’ve never made a long story short before – why are you doing it now?  Boooo….”), he asked me not to write about him in this blog.

(Yes, I know I wrote about him in the last post.  It’s ok.)

He was incredibly articulate in his request, giving me clear reasons why and never showing any anger or judgment.  But it was clear that at the heart of his request was confusion.  He was, quite frankly, baffled at why I’d want to write a blog. 

(Yes, I’m writing about him again.  Here.  In the blog.  Like right now.  I know.  Seriously, it’s ok.)

He saw blogging as basically “public journaling” – the laying out of my heart and mind and emotions to the entire world.  He worried how he might come across in these pages, especially if something between us were to go south.  Worried that I might take out some revenge by slandering him, or (even worse) by telling an ugly truth. 

(Just keep reading!  We’re getting to it!  I’m not even making the long story that short!  Chill OUT.)

More than that, he boggled at why I’d ever be willing to put my heart and mind and emotions out here in the public eye, where people could judge me, criticize me, try to hurt me or tear me down just because I’d given them the chance and the access.  His confusion lead to a request to protect him, but it also had shades of being protective of me.  I’ll admit I was a little bummed about it because I’d really been excited to gush to you guys about the awesomeness that is the Cowboy and about the cool relationship stuff going on and still to come, but I understood where he was coming from and respected it.  And more than that, it made me think. 

God, I hate that.

The question he was asking made sense.  In fact, the question made way more sense than the blogging did.  Why the heck DO we do this?  Is it crazy to let folks into our inner workings like we do?  Even though I respected his request and considered his concern, my strong desire to get back to writing here was hot.  It was ferocious and nagging.  “Write me!” said my thoughts and feelings.  “Spread me out over the internet like honey roasted peanut butter over a cheesy Asiago bagel!” they cried.  “Don’t worry about protecting yourself!  Wriiiiiiiite Meeeeeee!”

(Side note:  peanut butter on cheesy bagel?  Seriously awesome.  So many yums, many of them very unexpected.  Check it out.  But, you know, later on.  For now go back to reading.)

But why?

I’m putting this question out to you folks who might still read this and who also blog.  I’ve got my own answers, which I’m going to cover here, but I want to know how many of you have had this same soul-searching moment, either because you’ve had it bite you in the ass or because someone who doesn’t have the writer’s bug questioned your reasoning, or possibly your sanity.  What say you, fellow bloggers?  What is the deal with this?

…I let the Cowboy’s request to keep him out of the blog sit for a while, initially thinking I could work within that boundary.  But as time passed I discovered first that the boundaries were making it hard for me to get back to writing because in very short order he had become intertwined in pretty much everything in my life.  And because so much of what I desperately wanted to write about, frankly, was him.  And since the things I’d wanted to write were not easy to negotiate with his request I just didn’t write anything.  Which is why it’s March and I’m just now getting back to this.  (Well, ok, and also life is crazy busy with way too many things to even sleep enough, let alone hobbies and exercise and… ok, it’s crappy to blame the boundary.  But it was still harder.  Or it would have been.  If I’d really tried to writing.  Juggling things is hard!)

In order to figure out anything else I had to figure out the answer to his question.  The first answer is true and obvious:  because I’m a writer.  And writers just need to write.  They also need others to read what they write.  I’m a writer; therefore I write.  See how noble and even eloquent the response?  Full of alliteration and pithy repeatiosity.  Classy even.  I’m embroidering it on a throw pillow as we speak.  Soooo fancy.

But really also crap.

I write because I’m a writer?  That’s like saying “I sing because when I talk it’s really slow.  And rhythmic.”  I’m a writer because I love to write.  You know that endorphin rush that everybody always says you can get from working out?  Running or whatever, and people talk about hitting that stride where suddenly it’s joyous and you’re making energy instead of spending it and it’s better than sex, etc.…  Well I’ve been biking 100 miles a week for 5 years and also kickboxing and recently dabbled in running (except of course it’s not REALLY running if it’s just in 60 second bursts, but it’s a start) and I’ve never had this mythical endorphin rush.  Not once.  NOT.  ONCE.  Not from exercising or running or jumping or…  oh come on, neither have you.  Neither have any of you!  MYYYYYTHIIIICAAAAAAL! 

But I’ve totally, totally had it from writing. 

I’ve had the experience where it’s 11pm and I’m sleepy.  In fact I’m sleeping.  Or I was, crashed on the couch with the TV blathering in the distance, all drooling and mouth hanging open.  Out COLD.  But then I wake up, with some kind of vague idea of something to write about – maybe I dreamt about fish politics or the IQ of paisley or impressionistic madlibs – and I open up the keyboard to jot down the idea.  A quick note, just enough to remind me later.  OK, maybe a couple of sentences, because there’s a nuance, you know?  There’s a gist that I need to get, to be able to do it right later.  And that takes a three to four sentences…  six tops.

And the next thing I know it’s 3am and I’ve written the idea I had, it’s vaguely amusing neighbor idea and four mistreated step-children of the initial idea.  I’m on a roll.  I’m on FIRE!  And I swear to you, I’m flooded with these mythical endorphins.  I write because there’s about four or five things in the world that give me a bonafide rush.  A high even.  And one of them?  It’s taking handfuls of words and phrases and concepts and hurling them all over empty sheets of “paper.”  It’s taking that most frightening of things – the blank page – and carving and scribbling and mooshing and oh-my-god-even-hacking and slashing upon it until it’s a thing.  A story, or an essay, or a letter to an editor of a thing.  It’s my thoughts, cohesively assembled into a readable thing. 

When someone who doesn’t have this crazy-ass reaction to writing (or painting or decoupage - you pick the artistic endeavor) asks you “why the hell do you do this?” it’s really hard to explain to them the “why.”  It’s harder when they see this artistic endeavor as something that could lead to crowds of strangers mocking and ridiculing you and your thoughts and feelings and, ultimately, crushing your soul.  Because the true question at this moment is “why do you want people to crush your soul?  I happen to like your soul, and I want it to stay in it’s current, non-crushed condition, and there is no way I can protect it, and you, if you’re willing to leave it on a busy street corner, naked and unprotected with a sign saying “super-crushable – ask me how!”  They’re worried about you.  They want to take care of you.  And you’re saying “that’s super-sweet, baby, but I’d prefer to dance around with a big, shiny target on my head and my heart.  Thanks anyway.” 

Since the original discussion about the craziness of blogging and the request to please not write about him my new, wonderful partner has done some of his own soul-searching, and he’s offered me an incredibly generous, brave compromise that allows me to write about him here sometimes.  In a normal situation I’d be very impressed with this action.  Knowing how scary he finds the idea of being put out there for public, anonymous, unfair and vicious internet bullying makes this action amazing.  Heroic even.  And in the face of this how can I not at least take some time and thought and think about why I need to be out here, swinging in the breeze?  So I ask you guys again:  Why?  Why do we do this? 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In Love in 2013

Happy New Year!

I’m in love.

…see what I did there?  Boom!  Last you heard about such topics from me I was all sad and trying to recover and then I was recovered but then I was all “screw you, love.  Screw you romance and relationships and other such things.  You suck and I totally know that I'm never gonna find it again; that I’m gonna be alone and blue.  So I choose to know I’m gonna be blue and to own that emotion and wear it like a big, shiny, Captain America shield.  Impervious to want!  Immune to loneliness!  What’s that?  Desire?  Never heard of it.  Good day sir.”

(and then love went “yeah, but-“ and I went “I said Good Day Sir!!!” and I totally stormed off.)

I’d been that chick for a long, LONG time so I knew I could do it.  And in my questionable head and heart that seemed to make some weird kind of sense.  Like the time with T.E. was this little vacation from being that chick which the universe had seen fit to gift me.  A bone thrown, if you know what I mean.  Maybe so I’d know what it is I’d always been missing.  Maybe to make the loss and absence more real.  More poignant.  It’s possible I was looking for an excuse to become a poet and thought such blues would make it seem a little less lame. 

And then, probably just to remind me that I’ve pretty much always sucked at predicting the future, the universe threw me such a curveball.  Almost immediately after I stood up and looked my old relationship in the eye and flipped it the bird (finally!) I ran smack into this new guy.  This new, amazing man. 

I have this blog post in my head – have had for a few months – which is the greatest glowing, adoring, gushing letter to this man.  It goes into great detail about the scores of ways that I find him astonishing and impressive and so totally too good for me.  It talks about his sense of adventure and his generosity of spirit and the way that he balances being this rough, masculine manly-man with being this big-hearted, tender, sweet and sensitive companion.  The main reason I haven't written it yet is that I don’t have FOUR SOLID DAYS WITH NO PEEING, EATING OR SLEEPING AND SIX MILLION WORDS with which to write it.  But it’s coming.  You’ll want to clear some time on your calendar to read it.  Mow the lawn later. 

I can’t tell you for sure what 2013 is going to bring.  I’ve got plans; lots and lots of plans.  Probably more plans than I’ve got time to put into place or money to pay for them.  But I knew that 2013 was going to be better than 2012.  It had to be.  I wasn’t going to allow anything else.  Now, pretty much no matter what of my plans comes to fruition, I already know 2013 is going to completely rock.  Because suddenly, out of the blue, there’s this man.