Queen of the Road

I get now why some people like driving gas-guzzling, road-hogging monster SUVs and trucks.

Because they’re fun.

You should’ve seen me in Daddy Goodman’s 99 Chevrolet Suburban. Queen of the Road. I imagined that I became Leader of 18-Wheelers out there, as I became a self-appointed member of their tribe, that we own this road, and they fell in line behind me as I went 80 (and even 90 a few times, by accident) on I-81. The truckers were probably getting on their walkie-talkies to each other: “This Chevy Suburban out here knows what she’s doing. Just follow her.” That’s right. Just follow me. I am winning this race.

Nine hours later when I’m sitting in the parking lot of 495, what we call the beltway around here (what we called the perimeter in the ATL), and I’m in northern Virginia only about 30 or 45 minutes from my house, yet it takes me two more hours to get there… well, then I’m singing a different tune. And my AC needs Freon because it only blows out what I call lukecool air. Somehow in the span of the few days I was gone it went from coat- and scarf- and hat-wearing 40s (yep, in May) to full-on summer time. I think I lost five pounds in weight just from sweating. Rolling down the windows did not help, and somehow made it so that the air was hotter around my legs, which were stuck to the leather seats by a layer of sweat.

Then it started to rain, thank God, and pretty soon it was raining inside my truck, right on my left leg. It actually felt great, and I wished it would rain on my other leg, and my arms too.

Last night I had a dream that I was in the backseat of an RV camper, and my bestie’s friend whose name I’ll make Arizona, was driving. She drove that thing like a master, coming right up on this other truck head-first, braking at the last minute like a bus driver, just when you think they’re about to hit the other vehicle and kill us all, but no, they’re just stopping how they’re apparently supposed to. In my dream Arizona’s driving this monster like a pro, without any pride, unlike me, who was pretty sure I needed to announce to all of my co-workers the next day that that was my Chevy Suburban out there in the parking lot, which I drove all the way from North Carolina, all by myself, like a big girl, with no help from anyone, not even a camera for reversing it, and barely any view from the back window to see behind me, just the side mirrors and some prayers to guide me and let me know there’s not a child (knock on wood, please God) or a pole or a garbage can back there. But Arizona just drove that camper like it was second nature, because it was, and she did not have to brag to anyone about it.

Dreams, in my opinion, reveal to us what’s going on in our subconscious mind. Other characters are usually a part of ourselves, maybe an unrecognized part. So let me tell you what Arizona represents for me.

I first met Arizona maybe 12 or 15 years ago when Kim moved in with her when she moved to Asheville. At the time, Arizona had a couple of big labs and a boyfriend, and they each seemed to come and go as they pleased—she and the boyfriend, I mean, not the labs (unless they were anything like my dog). And now Arizona owns a house across from Kim’s, and she’s still coming and going as she pleases. She allowed me to stay in the spare bedroom of her house, where she lives alone with her cat, and which she rents as an air B&B to tourists. She’s my age, and gorgeous. She looks beautiful without make-up, like Kim. Me? I prefer not to leave the house without at least some eyeliner and mascara on. And a dab of foundation and powder. And a smidge of lip gloss.

Anyway, Arizona gets up and gets her coffee and does her morning routine, while I’m in my room doing homework, and I come out to go to the bathroom, when she tells me she’s going for a run. That’s the kind of woman she is. Someone who casually decides to go for a run and then just does it, right then and there. She’s been doing this for years. Last time I stayed at her house 15 years ago she was getting up and going for a run, with her dogs.

The one time I went for a run with my dog–a decision that came after years of contemplating how I should quit drinking and do something healthy, like run–another dog and his human passed us, running in a straight line, obediently following the rules, barely breaking a sweat, and to which Dakota (I don’t know why I’m giving my dog a pseudonym too, but I am. Everyone’s anonymity needs to be protected here!)—Dakota took off chasing them, ready to kill, because this neighborhood is her turf, wrapping a circle around my legs with the leash, tripping me, into a pile of dog poo no less. And that was the end of that.

We tried running one more time, but that was an accident. That was just because I got lost in some neighborhood and had to get back to make it to my hair appointment on time. I didn’t actually want to run. I didn’t know people really did that for fun. I prefer riding my bike, which can kill you going uphill, but then you can fly or coast downhill at your leisure. You get breaks.

But Arizona is one of those people who runs for fun, and she plays soccer, and who knows what else.

In the car on the way to Kim’s graduation I got a text from Jay, and mentioned something about my new guy, and how Steven had just ripped my heart out five months ago, and she said, “Oh yeah. I just got dumped.” But not in a self-pity way. More like in a matter-of-fact way. I told her I knew how she felt, that it sucks so badly, even when you’re not in love with the guy, not that I was not with Steven, as you know if you’ve been following this blog. Then she said, “I thought he and I had a good thing going. We each had our own independence which seemed like a great thing to me. But he didn’t like that. Oh well. I’m just like, if you can’t see the value of this relationship, then…” and she trailed off, the implication being that this bird’s got wings. Good on you, sister.

That’s how I feel about Steven. I tried so hard for so long to convince him of the value of our relationship, yet he was so full of doubt. I can’t be the only one fighting for the relationship. He’s got to meet me in the middle. I never loved anyone as much as I loved him. None of my husbands or boyfriends. No one. The only other person I ever loved that much was my best friend, who’s like my third sister, except I never thought of Steven like a sister or a brother or even like my dad or mom in any Freudian sense, or so I had believed, or hoped, and tried.

Yesterday at work I asked the handyman who I’ll call… Dirk (who has the most gigantic hands I’ve ever seen–not that gigantic hands are important to me, just an observation) to help me figure out the trick to putting Freon in this monster. Daddy Goodman had told me to get “one of my boyfriends,” because I have so many, to put Freon in it for me, because he said he didn’t trust himself to do it properly. Don’t you just open the container and pour it in? I’ve had to do this with my previous cars, before I got my sexy little 2008 Honda Civic two-door coupe, and it’s pretty straightforward. But apparently you need some kind of adapter thingie. I dunno. Which reminds me. When I was writing about the wheels on my Civic in a previous post, I had no idea what I was talking about with the lug nuts and the wheel bearings. So if you don’t know about cars, you probably thought I knew what I was talking about, and if you know about cars, you may have been wondering what the hell I was talking about, and you could see right through me, which is fine. I just made those words up because they sounded right.

So Dirk showed me where to put the Freon in, and he said that it’s tricky in old cars like this because there are two possible places for Freon. He didn’t treat me like I was a moron any more than he congratulated me for driving that bigass vehicle 11 hours from North Carolina in spite of my bragging that I was king of the road out there.

This post may seem like one long ramble, zigzagging this way and that, so I’ll get to the point and end here with this: maybe I got this. Maybe I don’t need to brag to everyone about what a badass I am, because I can just be one. And if I want to or need to be vulnerable, I can do that too. Whatever it is, it’s okay. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. I just need to believe in myself.

And the same goes for you. Just believe in yourself. Because if you don’t, no one else will either.

Here’s a fun Roger Miller song from 1964 or 65 that I discovered in college (in the late 90s) when it became cool again to embrace my Southern-ness, which was not cool in high school at all. I thought this song played on the “Pulp Fiction” soundtrack or a Cohen brothers movie, but according to Wikipedia I was wrong. My point is, it could. It would belong there.

Third Time’s the Charm

Welp, there goes my plans to simplify my life by getting rid of 90% of my belongings. Which, actually I’m happy with. Because I’ll still get rid of most of it, but now I’ll have time to go through my things and decide at my leisure what stays and what goes. As it was, I felt like I was on an episode of “Tiny House Nation,” and big decisions would need to be made within the span of an afternoon for what’s important enough to keep. The pressure was getting to me.

I guess I should explain what I’m talking about. So, all my stuff (everything that’s not in my bedroom) is in storage at my stepdad’s house—my stepdad who I may as well call my dad—and I went down to North Carolina to get it this week. It’s been in storage for three years now, since my ex-husband and I split and I moved into the spare bedroom of my sponsor’s house, then into a shared house with five other people, and now in a townhouse with another girl.

Trying to figure out who would help me with this monumental task of driving nine hours to NC, loading up a moving truck, then driving nine hours back… well, it’s not something I wanted to ask of someone. My friend most likely to do it does everything for me all the time so I really just did not want to ask. And now my other new friend already does everything for me all the time too, so I didn’t want to ask him either. No way am I asking Jay, especially after he said he was the daddy in his last relationship, and she was like his teenager, and those were not compliments. And even more especially since Steven took on extra responsibility in our relationship of both bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan, because he supposedly wanted to, then came back and said I never did anything—nope. Not falling into that trap again with him or anyone else. So I decided I’d just get the damn stuff my own damn self.

Daddy Goodman, my stepfather’s new pseudonym, was hell bent on me getting my stuff out of there asap, and understandably so. Mom died nine months ago, he has money tied up in several different properties, and he can no longer afford to keep up with it all. He needs to move into a smaller space, get rid of most of his stuff, put it all on one property, and simplify his life.

It can’t be easy living in the house that he built with my mom, where her pictures are everywhere, pictures of her children and grandchildren, her owl trinkets all over the house, her toiletries by the side of the bathtub as if she’s coming back any day now, like she’s just away visiting my sister and her kids. Mom’s books line the shelves: Jeannette Walls, Amy Tan, Khaled Hosseini, Frank McCourt, Toni Morrison, Mark Twain, Lorrie Moore, Jon Krakauer. The list goes on. A lot of beautiful books that I wish I could keep, but I don’t have room for. I took just the ones that I’d gotten signed for her, books from Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker, and Mary Karr. I don’t know why I didn’t get books signed by Augusten Burroughs or David Sedaris or Hollis Gillespie for her as many times as I’ve seen them, and as much as I love them. I sure got them for myself. These are all writers I was into 10 and 20 years ago. I don’t even read that much anymore, other than self-help books or books on spirituality and now books on nutrition and health. I should read more. I have no idea what writers are even getting published right now.

Anyway, when Daddy Goodman found out my plan was just to take what I wanted and leave the rest, he turned it over in his head this way and that, and finally woke up the next morning with the idea that I’d drive his 99 Chevrolet Suburban back to Maryland with as much as we could fit into it and then I can come back for the rest in a few weeks.

I’ll stop here for a minute and give a quick description of Daddy Goodman. Just imagine Bill Murray (looks and mannerisms) with a Southern accent. Daddy Goodman is from Kansas, and I guess they have Southern accents out there, because that’s what he has. Or a country accent anyway. He worked for the railroad all his life, and he invested money in the stock market and did well for himself.

When I say that he came up with the idea, I mean he offered lots of different suggestions. Nothing was set in stone. Like at one point, when we were loading the Suburban and he was supervising the way in which I put boxes into the truck, I asked, “Like that? Is that how you want me to put the box in here?” He’d been instructing me. See, it’s like a game of Tetris, or a puzzle, and you have to fit the boxes into the vehicle as tightly as possible like puzzle pieces. If the box doesn’t fit sideways, turn it longways, or try another box.

It’s uncanny how similar to my father Daddy Goodman is. Giving someone else instructions on how to put a box into a truck? That’s something my dad would do. If my father had not become alcoholic, and didn’t have Asperger’s or whatever it is that makes him emotionally unavailable—alcoholism—he’d be Daddy Goodman.

But here’s the difference. When I asked Daddy Goodman how best to put the box into the truck, “Is that the way you want me to do it?” I’d asked him, he said, “Now hold on a minute here. There ain’t no asking. This is not me telling you what to do. We’re having a conversation here. I’m saying you just try it different ways and see what works best.” Kind of like, he’s figuring this out too, we’re figuring this out together.

That is not how Walter would’ve approached it. Walter (my father) would’ve gotten so annoyed with me already by now. Didn’t everyone know how to put a stupid box in the damn truck? I mean, common sense would’ve told you that it goes like this, and not like that. You put the heavy ones on bottom and towards the front, and I don’t know why or how you weren’t born with this information already grilled into your head.

Daddy Goodman also had me drive the Suburban from his house to the storage space where my stuff was, on the winding, narrow roads in the mountains, so that I could get the feel of it since I’ll be driving this monster back to MD.

“Ideally you’d have your hands at 10 and 2,” he’d said, and I thought of Walter. That’s exactly what he’d have said, except he might have added that everyone in the world knew that.

“Now you’re driving it like…” he couldn’t think of how to articulate it, so he demonstrated someone who looked like Granny from the “Beverly Hillbillies,” jerking the steering wheel all over the place.

“Oh, you mean like Granny from the ‘Beverly Hillbillies?’” I asked him.

He concurred, so I relaxed my hands a bit, wishing they were down at the bottom of the steering wheel where I usually keep them, but I am a good instruction-follower in front of the parents.

But Daddy Goodman never got upset. He never laughed at me. Walter would’ve gone on about oh Lord this and oh Lord that, and you need a man to come help you with all this stuff, and don’t wreck the truck, etc.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my dad, and I feel guilty writing this, because he means well, and I’m used to him acting like that. And it can be quite funny when he acts that way, especially when it’s not directed towards me. And he has done a whole lot better than his abusive father. And he can’t really help it. He doesn’t know what to do.

I’m just so glad we had Mom.

And I’m glad she met Daddy Goodman too. Last night he said to me, “Well I sure love your mom.”

And I told him, “Well she sure loved you. More than any of the other men she married. Or dated.”

Third time’s the charm, we decided.

I sure hope so.

I’ll leave you with the “Beverly Hillbillies,” which my sisters and I watched when we were growing up in the 80’s. The show came out in 1962, but they played re-runs of it on TBS–I don’t know if that a television station anymore. I couldn’t find just a short clip of Granny driving, but I found this episode, where you can get an idea of her driving around 15:04. My driving was a bit more like how Jethro’s is in the opening credits, the way he holds his hands on the steering wheel—but it’s fun to watch Granny drive. She reminds me of my Nanny, my mom’s mom who drove a 1971 beige Ford Maverick (scroll down to see a picture of this sweet car that was every redneck teenage boy’s dream back then) with a big black stripe down the center, but I’ll tell you about her some other time.

maverick

To give credit where it’s due, I found this picture on this blog–it costs a lot more now than Nanny paid for hers, that’s for sure.

 

On the Road Again

Earlier this week I spent on the road driving to North Carolina from Maryland, listening to burned CDs Jay let me borrow since the smartphone AUX option in my 2008 Honda Civic no longer works. The CDs were Dire Straits, Tom Waits, War, Blondie, Pink Floyd, and for some reason a whole new decade (my high school decade): Beck. I’d hoped the Tom Waits would be the one with the “woke up this morning with cold water” song on it, because that’s the only album of his I like, but no such luck, so I listened to the last three, and finally resorted to turning up the volume on my phone so I could listen to more Neko Case because her songs won’t get out of my head right now. The CDs were the kind one might expect from a man in his 50s, the music of my childhood, from when my sister and stepbrothers were pot-smoking teenagers, and I hung around them as often as possible, until they went off and did what teenagers did, and came home again to make an airplane out of me by lying on the ground and lifting me up on one foot and holding my outstretched arms, or putting me on their shoulders, and I loved it.

As for my Honda, the paint job is peeling, the magnetic locks no longer work, and it now has over 170,000 miles on it. I bought that car new, proudly by myself because I barely count my then-husband, simply because his work consisted of simply being present, and he was terrible at playing bad cop. Plus we both looked like we were in our early 20s and it was our first time buying a car, without our parents, from an actual car lot, and not some used vehicle found parked on the side of a country road, or in a Penny Pincher ad (the old days version of Craig’s List, for my younger readers). I went in with a price in mind, I’d done my research online, had talked to my stepfather who gave me all the tips of what to say and do, I knew the Kelley Blue Book value, etc., and I was willing to walk away if necessary. And I got the car for $18,000… or maybe $25,000. I can’t remember, but 18k sounds a lot smarter so let’s stick with that.

Like I said, my second husband, whose pseudonym I forget so we’ll call him David, is the kind of guy who, when you’re out looking to buy an expensive item, says, “Well you’ve been needing one, and it’s a good price, so go for it!” right in front of the salesperson, instead of something like what my first husband would do, which was comment on what shoddy work it was, that he wouldn’t take it for free, that you couldn’t pay him to take it, that the store across the street had several better quality options for much lower prices, until the salesperson offered to throw in an extra, I don’t know, house, for free if we bought this one particular item for half the price it was being offered for. It was one of the things about my first husband that I really admired.

Not that my second was a bad guy at all. He was (and still is) a very sweet guy and he made a good husband. Right now he’s making a good husband to some other woman (I mean, dude did not waste any time, did he?), but in all seriousness, I do hope treats him really well, and I’m happy for him.

Before I left for North Carolina, Jay texted me to be sure to check my oil and tire pressure before I left, which is the kind of thing my dad always told me, and which I used to do, because that’s what people used to do (check their oil, I mean). People except for either of my husbands. Now I just get the oil changed before I go and let the mechanic do that. But back then that was what you did, and if you needed to pour coolant or water or windshield wiper fluid or whatever needed to be topped off, you did that too. I started to tell Jay I don’t think people check their oil anymore, that maybe he didn’t get the memo, because he drives old cars, hence the reason why he has all these CDs, including The Who, which is permanently stuck in the CD player of whatever that car is that he drives—a sedan of some sort, they all look the same to me—which is so old it doesn’t have a smartphone jack in it.

I’ll never forget when I first started dating my first husband, who was what we called a metrosexual, and I was baffled that he didn’t check the oil in his car.

“My car is new. People don’t do that anymore. You don’t have to do that with new cars,” he’d explained, and he’d laughed and made fun of me. How could I not know this information?

I’d only driven used cars, my first having been a 1988 Pontiac Sunbird, which I’d gotten my junior year in high school (1993). When that one died a few years later I got a 1987 Ford Taurus, and when that died, I got a 1994 Toyota Corolla. Each of my cars cost about $1500 to $2000 each, which I paid for with help from my dad—and I think he may have given me one of them. I’ve always been so focused on all the things he didn’t do for me that I forget how much he really did for me. Like it would’ve been really cool if he’d paid for my college tuition or my rent and bills in college like my roommate’s parents did for her… but most parents really did not do that then, except for the rich ones, and maybe it’s still that way today, though it sure seems like parents pay for everything now. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old, or because I’m upwardly mobile. Doesn’t matter.

What I really wanted to say about all of this is that my dad would go on about how I need a man to take care of me, and he would tell me to get Ryan to check the oil in my car, and get Ryan to go with me when I made any big purchases, or if any kind of emergency situation came up or if the house needed repair then I’d be fine because Ryan, and later David, would be there to take care of it.

Now listen here, Dad. Do you think Ryan knew diddly squat about what to do when the plumbing messed up, the roof got leaky, the tire got a flat? Which reminds me: I had a boyfriend who ruined my car by changing the flat and cranking the jack up and lifting my car before putting the lug nuts on, which dropped my entire car onto the wheel bearings–and he did this not once but three times. Do you think he had ever changed a flat before in his life? And do you think that David got me such a great deal on a car when it was time to buy one? What do you think Ryan did when my Corolla broke down in rush hour in midtown Atlanta on spaghetti junction? Well, of course he came and got me, and/or maybe I called a tow truck, but I will tell you that I was not happy, especially because that car had been dying and Ryan decided months earlier that he needed a new car, because a business owner can’t drive a shoddy car. Apparently his wife can. Not that I’m still bitter. 😉

What really pisses me off is how my dad thinks I can’t do any of that stuff on my own, that I haven’t been taking care of myself since I was 18 years old. He may have finally gotten a clue when he told me a couple of years ago after my second divorce something about me not being able to take care of myself, that hopefully I’d find another man soon, when I replied that I’d been doing a pretty good job of taking care of myself for 20 years now, so I guessed I’d be just fine. As tough as my mom was, and as tough as my stepmother is, I’m not sure how my dad thinks women somehow cannot survive without men. In my experience women do most of the work. Though it wasn’t like that with Steven.

When I met Steven, he showed up on my friend’s deck with a paintbrush in one hand and supplies in the other. Guess why? Because my friend was staining her deck, because her good-for-nothing husband wouldn’t do it (just kidding, he’s a great guy, and he was watching the baby—I just wanted an excuse to say “good-for-nothing”). And Steven was her next-door-neighbor and he offered to help. I fell in love instantly. In my flawed, romanticized memory he also had a grilling spatula in one hand and he donned a hefty apron, like he was about to grill the hell out of a bigass piece of bison steak, a tyrannosaurs rex steak, that he hunted himself with his bare caveman hands. I even wrote a poem about it, a poem I found quite hilarious if I do say so myself, though I don’t know if anyone else gets it without me introducing it as a funny poem. Steven showed up with this paintbrush in hand, and then offered to ride his bike all the way up to the hardware store to get some real supplies because Beth only had a few measly small paintbrushes, and what she needed was some rollers. He had a slight beer belly and he was six foot two, and I thought to myself, That looks like someone’s dad. I’ll take him. I couldn’t wait to snuggle up with that belly and sit in that lap.

You could never say that to him though. I could never say it. He doesn’t like the truth if it’s disturbing in any way, and for me to want a daddy is not cool. He already has kids and he doesn’t need or want a third one, thank you very much. But yes, I have daddy issues. There. I said it. So kill me.

But I want a partner and companion too, and I am an independent woman. I’m trying anyway.

As proud as I am of being a badass woman, I don’t want to change my flat, put the window unit in my window, paint my bedroom walls, or put together Ikea furniture if I don’t have to. But sometimes you just do it, and it’s okay. And sometimes friends help—I don’t have to find a husband to do everything for me, and quite honestly, when I did have a husband, they didn’t do any of that shit.

Sometimes I think men do these things for women who aren’t their significant others more so than their actual SOs. (Because why do work when you’re already getting sex? Sorry–that was mean. Jay replaced the brakes for a lesbian friend, so I should not suggest that anything other than kindness was his motive.) And when Jay let slip the other day that he’d replaced the brakes on the cars of four different women, plus one woman’s 21-year-old son (to which my dad would say, That son ought to know how to do that and be doing it, in spite of the fact that my dad probably doesn’t know how and his wife probably does), yet Jay didn’t offer to do mine, suggesting I should just take my car to the mechanic, I felt mildly pissed. We haven’t known each other long so I didn’t show my disapproval, and I felt like maybe I was being a princess for that kind of expectation, which I was, so I let it go.

But the real reason I let it go is because he’d said, “Well I had to do it for so-and-so because she’s poor,” and that was when it occurred to me that Jay must’ve somehow mistaken me for a woman who has her shit together, that I must come across that way, as someone who takes care of herself, and somehow who has money because they pay grocery store workers so much these days. And I did inform him that I’m not exactly living the high life, but I decided that if he wants to think of me that way, that’s a good thing, because maybe I am that way.

Maybe I am that way. Maybe not the has-her-shit-together part, because who really has all their shit together? Everyone always has some problem of some sort they’re working out. And that’s how it is until the day you die.

So no, I don’t need a husband.

But I sure would like to have one some day. Or a partner, companion, or whatever you want to call it. I don’t even know if marriage is a requirement anymore. Probably yes but who knows how I’ll feel tomorrow. All we really have is today anyway.

And in the meantime I have everything I need, and really a hell of a lot of what I want, and I am so grateful for this world and the people in it, especially my friends, and maybe even my dad, as impossible as he is. 😉

Just Be Yourself

Like I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been listening to a lot of Neko Case’s music lately, which I used to listen to years ago when I lived in Atlanta, in a big house with a garden tub in an expansive bathroom that was bigger than my bedroom now. That’s because, like Texas, everything is bigger in Georgia, and much cheaper than Maryland, and also I made a lot more money back then. I was rich, really. I don’t even remember how much money I made at the time. Maybe 65 grand a year. But I wouldn’t have told you I was rich. I’d have told you I was in so much debt, because I was, and I had so many bills, that I couldn’t make it on my own, blah blah yada yada, poor me. But you better believe I got my nails done every week, and I bought myself nice clothes, and I can’t even tell you how much money I spent on alcohol. I calculated that it must’ve been somewhere around a thousand dollars a month, when you factor in all the nights I went out to eat (and drink), and I have no idea how I managed to scrape up that kind of extra money, except that it wasn’t all my money, especially in my first marriage, when it was in fact mostly his money. And no, I couldn’t have lived in that house alone, but I absolutely could’ve had roommates or probably even my own studio apartment. But at the time I didn’t believe that. And that’s what matters.

Today I make about $23,000 a year, which is not a lot in the US—it’s barely more than a thousand a month. But my bills are also significantly lower, and I live off my student loans, which I’ll be paying off for decades, possibly until I die, which is worth it to me. It will be like a house payment. I’m investing in my future and I absolutely do not regret it one bit. And just about everyone in America has debt. It’s the American way. My plan is to live a simple life and enjoy what I do every day—working to live, instead of living to work.

But I digress. What I wanted to write about was how much this song reminds me of my first marriage.

Someone told me a while back that sometimes when we grieve the loss of one person, we grieve all our losses before then, especially if we didn’t properly grieve for them at the time. My first husband, who I’ll call Ryan, really loved me. And I played games with him. I would ignore him and play hard to get so that he’d chase me even harder, and it worked. I did and said the meanest things I could come up with to see how far I could take it, to see if he’d stay with me, and he did. The only thing that could make him leave me was if I cheated on him, he’d told me, so finally I cheated on him, and he changed his mind. He said he was willing to try to work it out. But by that time I’d fallen for another guy, who became my second husband.

When Ryan and I got engaged I knew in my heart I didn’t want it, but I was nearing 30, and thought I was getting old (hahaha!), and that if I wanted to have kids I should probably go ahead and get started. Funny thing is, I didn’t really want kids. What I really wanted was to love someone, because I felt incapable. And I was at the time. I couldn’t even love myself. Yet everything was about me, and how I’m going to get mine. And at the time I bumbled along doing whatever landed in front of me, because I did not know what else to do, or rather, how to do it. How to follow your heart? Fear of failure drove me.

It’s hard not to feel bad today for how I treated Ryan. In many ways I treated him the way Steven treats me now, except that Steven doesn’t get drunk and throw things at me or punch my arm and verbally abuse me. So yeah, pretty different (lol), but similar in that he’s self-centered and self-loathing.

And if you’re feeling sorry for Ryan, don’t. He’s a good-looking guy who owns his own business and lives in a $750,000 house and he drives a BMW and of course he has a girlfriend. Not that those things are what make a person happy—they certainly wouldn’t make me happy, but what I’m getting at is that he gets what he wants. He has two dogs who he loves and I’m sure he has no problem attracting women. Probably young gorgeous women happy to jump in bed with a good-looking rich dude.

That just sounds so depressing to me though. I need meaning in my life. Ryan could really use God in his life. When I would talk about how I needed to quit drinking, he’d say, You don’t need to quit. Just cut back. And don’t go to AA with all those religious Jesus freaks.

What is the point of this blog post?

Really just thinking about how now I know what it’s like to get my heart broken, the way I broke Ryan’s heart. All the money in the world really doesn’t matter if you can’t spend it with or on someone you love. Relationships, cars, houses, none of that matters without true love. I do hope Ryan is happy today. He’s not one who delved deep into the meaning of life the way I like to, so I believe he is happy. Different strokes for different folks. I can say he needs God, but it’s not up to me to say he needs God or a higher power. The important thing for me to remember is that I need God. If I didn’t have faith in God, the Universe, Buddha, a power greater than myself, whatever you want to call it, I would not be here today. I would have committed suicide or drank and drugged myself to death.

Which reminds me of another gorgeous song by Neko Case:

I don’t know why the universe or multiverse is here, or why I am here, just that I am. And I want to live this life the best way I know how while I’m here. And I am so grateful for my life today, even though Steven broke my heart, and even though Mom died suddenly without me getting a chance to tell her how much I love her, and that I am not resentful at her for growing up with my sisters and me instead of beforehand. Hey, some parents never grow up. So you did pretty darn good, Ma.

I’m on my way in a couple hours to Mom’s house now so I guess this is all weighing heavily on me right now. I want to write so much more, like about how I was raised by a pack of wild, self-absorbed teenagers, at least three of whom turned out to be angels who I’m so grateful to have in my life (my mom and my sisters), but I’ve got to get ready for this nine-hour drive, and I’m the kind of girl who likes to pack everything I own, just in case. You never know how you’ll feel that day, right?

I apologize if this was a tearjerker of a post. I mean, I know I was crying there for a minute, but I never know how it comes across to my readers. I will try to be funnier in the next one but I can’t make any promises. It’s hard to try to be funny. You have to just do it. You have to just be yourself.

Peace and love,

TCH

 

Gut Health, Lessons Learned, and Other Random Thoughts

This week I’m going to North Carolina for two reasons: 1) to see my best friend graduate from acupuncture school (congrats, K!), and 2) to get my stuff out of storage. In the interim I have research assignments to submit for the two classes I’m taking. Needless to say, I am stressed.

The goal is keep things I want, that will fit in my car, and get rid of everything else. Not easy decisions to make, though I am fairly good at getting rid of extraneous belongings. But given that this is all of my stuff, everything that’s not with me now, including things Mom gave me, and pictures of her… well, I don’t expect it to be a fast and easy task. I just want to get this over with.

In other news, I learned so much from my gut health nutrition class this past weekend, and I cannot wait to implement what I’ve learned. If a person has recurring problems of any kind, whatever the problem is, most likely it can be traced back to issues in the gut. You are what you eat, literally—and you’re also what your mother ate. It’s all about the microbiome, which supports the immune system. It makes sense. Garbage in, garbage out. Unhealthy food goes in, disease comes out. I could go on and on about this, but that’s for a different blog. The main thing I got out of it was the relation of gut-brain health, and how food affects a person’s mood, that a person can impact their mood by changing the way they eat. How would that impact a person who has, for example, bipolar disorder?

I want so badly to mail a copy of my professor’s book along with a protocol to my ex-boyfriend with a request for him to try it and get back to me to let me know how it worked. I just know it would help. I won’t do it right now, but if I get any sign from my higher power to do so, I absolutely will. If nothing else, I can use this information to help other people experiencing anxiety and depression. It kills me to think of all the suffering we put ourselves through when there’s a solution right under our noses that we’re not utilizing. It’s simple but not easy, yet it’s here. My ex, for example, has gut issues, which I believe are the cause of his mood disorder. How many others with mood disorders or even just low-grade depression also have other symptoms? I bet 100%. Who doesn’t have some kind of symptom, especially once we start paying attention to our bodies, and especially once we reach our 20s, and even more so when we get into our 30s and beyond. Not that we don’t have symptoms younger than that. Maybe an athlete who eats well and exercises regularly gets a sports injury unrelated to gut health, but let’s be real. How many of us live like that?

I don’t know what the point of this blog post is, just that I want to write this morning before I go to work, and I figure maybe y’all are tired of reading about my mom and my ex. The good news is that good can come out of the saddest events in our lives. I’m learning about vitamins, minerals, and herbs that can help prevent or improve hypertension (which can lead to a stroke, which my mom had and died, for those of you who are new to this blog) as well as what a person can do to improve not just their physical health, but their mental health (having just come out of a relationship with a person who has bipolar disorder, who I still love very much).

I believe in God, and that everything happens the way it’s meant to. I don’t always get what I want, but I can look at whatever situation I’m in and ask, What can I learn from this? I’m still heartbroken, but things did not work out the way I thought they should for a reason. Maybe in the long run this is better for me though it may not feel like it now.

Maybe I can teach others about hypertension (which I don’t think enough people pay attention to, including doctors) and how to prevent stroke and diabetes (which my dad has), and possibly how to manage one’s mental health. It pains me that I didn’t have this information before my mom got hypertension, or before my ex left me. But then, would they have listened to me? Would I have searched for that information or even paid attention to it had I not experienced it from my relationship with them? Most of us do what we want to do, when we’re ready to do it. Hopefully by the time a client comes to see me, they are ready to change their lifestyle, and my goal is to help them do that. I’m still in the process of doing this for myself, and if I can do it, anyone can. I have the willpower and self-discipline of… a baby, or an animal. Or a baby animal. You catch my drift.

For some reason I’m listening to Neko Case again a lot lately, so I’ll leave you with this Sarah Vaughn cover she sings:

Happy Mother’s Day To My Mother In Heaven

Years ago I went to Costa Rica for vacation and one morning I remember waking up to the trills and warbles of birds just chirping away, and I remember thinking how beautiful it was, what a paradise it was there. My boyfriend and I were staying at a simple but gorgeous bed and breakfast that cost only $17 a night and had an open courtyard in the middle of it, and I imagined all these colorful parakeets and macaws perched on papaya trees, serenading their little hearts out to the world, and I remember thinking, I could live here.

Then a few years ago I remember the same thing happening, except I lived where I live now, in Maryland. One morning I woke up early, maybe around five o’clock, and I heard the choir of birds caroling, and it sounded like a rain forest was right outside my window. I remember thinking that I’d never noticed that before, that I didn’t realize I lived in paradise, right here.

That would have been after I got sober, because I got sober six months after I moved to Maryland. Prior to that, if I was awake at five A.M., I was not a happy camper. I would have been hung over and if I’d noticed any birds singing, I’d have wanted them to shut the hell up while this human tried to get some sleep around here. At least wait until eight or nine, okay? What was there to be happy about? A new day. New day, my ass. I’d wished I hadn’t woken up, ever.

But today I am so glad that I woke up.

I am so grateful to be blessed with the sound of the birds singing their song.

Soon after Mom died I was pretty sure I heard owls hooting every morning and night, and even during the day. That’s Mom, I thought. She’s letting me know she’s with me, because Mom loved owls. Later I figured out they were mourning doves—at least the ones during the day—because owls don’t make daytime calls. I know I heard an Eastern screech owl a few nights after she died, when my sister and I were walking on the trail near Mom’s house in North Carolina, and it sounded ghostly and eerie but somehow comforting. It sounded like the first button on this page.

It doesn’t matter if they were owls or mourning doves, both are significant, and even if they were neither, that doesn’t matter either. What matters is that today I value my life and the world I live in. I miss Mom and I try not to feel guilty for all the times I did not tell her how much I loved her, how much I appreciated her, and what a role model to me she was. But it’s hard sometimes.

Right now I’m so busy with life I only had time to write this because I woke up at five A.M. I am taking a fascinating class on digestion and the gut-brain connection that is full of solutions I want to give my ex-boyfriend, and it’s all I can do not to buy an extra copy of my professor’s book and ship it to him. I am sure he’d benefit from it, because it’s all about problems he has, which I believe are the cause of his depression and anxiety, and I know he’d be willing to try it. It kills me not to send it to him. But he doesn’t want to be my friend anymore because I’m dating other guys (and really by other “guys,” I mean one guy: Jay), and so dinner at Steven’s house is off. It’s so hard for me to understand how he can throw it all away so easily, how he is basically saying that if he can’t have this relationship on his terms, which means me waiting around for him while he doesn’t commit, then he doesn’t want it. It really pisses me off, to be honest. I deserve more than that. Overall I treated him very well, though I hurt his feelings once, and he cannot let that go. It’s still so hard for me to let go, of the relationship, but I’m not changing my mind. I’m not going to stop talking to Jay—who, by the way is an amazing guy with far more advantages over Steven—just so I can have a chance at dinner with Steven who may or may not want to commit to me.

But I am not going to mail him a copy of the book, or email him links to Tara Brach’s podcasts, or send him any other solutions that come my way, because he’s a grown man and he can take care of himself, just like I’m a grown woman and I am taking care of myself. He has his journey and I have mine.

I hope that my mom knows how much I love her, how much she will always mean to me, and I believe she does. I am pretty sure she did. I can hear it in the birds outside singing their song.

On Beauty and Loving Yourself

There’s a question my father asked me at my wedding that stuck with me, that may have been the wisest, most eye-opening thing he’s ever said to me, which was this: Does he know you’re pretty? You are pretty, but does he know that?

It surprised me. What was he getting at? Of course my husband knew I was pretty… Why was my dad always acting surprised by my attractiveness? Just because I was an ugly kid? Did he just forget what I looked like until he saw me? It seemed like every time we all got together he’d go on and on about how pretty I was, Look at your sister and how pretty she is, he’d say to my sisters. To be fair, I did shave my head when I was 18 and I wore possibly the ugliest, grungiest thrift store clothes I could find that I was certain made me the coolest girl around. But somehow I had become The Pretty One. Sherry got to be the smart, genius one, Tracy was the sweet, angelic one, but me? The Pretty One. No personality, no humor, no brain, no thought in her head, no opinion of her own. And it’s bullshit putting that label on my sisters, because they’re beautiful and always have been.

But my dad’s question left me with a nagging feeling. It occurred to me that no, my husband did not think I was “pretty.” Or rather, he took me for granted. He was not concerned about me being at 12-step support group meetings every night and at social events with my new friends. For whatever reason. He didn’t initiate sex and rarely wanted to in the last couple of years of our relationship, though to be fair that’s not that uncommon in the end of a broken relationship. I did wonder if he was gay at one point though. What healthy 35-year-old male doesn’t want to have sex? What partner never has any problem with their spouse being gone all of the time? Maybe one who’s having an affair, or who’s hiding an addiction. I don’t know. Him.

There’s this pop song that comes on at work which goes like this:

I loathe this song. This is my first time watching the video—I had a feeling the singers were young, but my Lord. Boys. Little boys.

Since no one else in the music industry bothered to enlighten these young fellows, I will take the liberty myself now, plain and simple. An insecure woman (or anyone) is not what you want to attract. What did these boys’ parents teach them? Son, get out there and find a pretty girl who thinks she’s ugly. Here’s what I say to that: No one, “pretty” or “ugly” should hide behind their appearance. No one should go into any space and think, I’m not attractive enough for anyone here to like me or pay attention to me so I’ll just pretend I’m not here, or apologize for my existence. If you walk into a space like you own it, smile at people and talk to them like they’re your friend, most of them will respond in a positive way. The ones who don’t aren’t worth your time—those people are miserable and want to bring everyone else down, but you don’t have to allow them bring you down.

As I mentioned, I was an ugly child, with dinosaur teeth, telescope-lens glasses, and a short hairdo that looked suitable for someone’s grandmother. My mom encouraged independence so we dressed ourselves, which meant my clothes didn’t match, and a Kool-Aid stained Smurfs t-shirt was often in order. When I was in fifth grade, I got contact lenses, and grew my hair shoulder-length, and lo and behold, the boys started to notice me. In sixth grade the two cutest boys in the class who I’d pined over for years finally got around to asking me to be their girlfriend, after having been the boyfriends of all the prettiest girls in the class (I was their last choice) in that note-passing “Do you like me? Check yes or no,” way that they did, and I became their girlfriend, one at a time, before promptly being dumped by each of them for prettier girls who had boobs. At the time I was just grateful to be paid attention to, but if I could go back in time, here’s what I’d say, You didn’t like me last year (or the year before, or the year before) when you called me a nerd and a four-eyed witch, so don’t be trying to come around now, buddy boy.

Steven used to say to me, on occasion, “You don’t know that you’re pretty.”

Let me tell you something, Mister. Newsflash. I know that I’m pretty. I’ve seen pictures. I have a mirror. (Not that I look like a million dollars when I get out of bed in the morning.) I got the memo, in fifth grade when the boys suddenly noticed me after I got contact lenses. Maybe I am what my first husband called a “classic beauty,” whatever that means, or maybe someone who’s girl-next-door-pretty, both of which seem boring to me, but I can’t complain. I wouldn’t go so far as to say a beauty, not a supermodel, but possibly, on occasion, the prettiest girl in the… room. Or one of them. I could be a part-time model, like for JCPenney, but I’d have to keep my normal job. And again, I cannot complain about that one bit.

I’m not sure what category I fall under, and it doesn’t matter. There are so many advantages that come with having what society deems as an attractive appearance. Most people are nicer to you, though a few are meaner, or will avoid you.

There are also a few drawbacks. I know that when I, for example, see a beautiful woman, who everyone’s going gaga over, well let’s just say I don’t try to become her bestie (but it’s my goal to stop acting that way). I’ve been in situations where people treat her as though she’s a precious museum relic while I’m invisible, and I’ve been in situations where I was treated like the museum relic to my invisible friend, and that does not fill me with joy either.

But here’s what’s important: is your partner attracted to you? To who you are as a person? Do they see your inner beauty? Do they know you are a beautiful, precious soul, not to be taken for granted, a unique individual who cannot be replaced? When someone dies, you realize how irreplaceable each of us is—I did, anyway. It happened when my friend died, when my co-worker died, and obviously when my mother died. We each bring something unique to the world.

There’s something about a person’s personality that can make them more attractive. The same person can look unattractive given an unappealing personality. [Spoiler alert on “Orphan Black,” so don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want to know.] Sarah in “Orphan Black” is far prettier and sexier than Beth, but she’s played by the same person. Two different personalities. Helena is unattractive as hell. Again, same person. They are all Tatiana Maslany. The soccer mom? So far, in season one, not that appealing to me. Paul falls for Sarah—he was not into Beth, who he’d dated for years.

This is why online dating didn’t work for me. Chemistry cannot be picked up or manufactured from a computer screen or photo and questionnaire. Not for me.

One might not have necessarily looked at a picture of Steven and said, Wow, now there’s a hottie for you. But to me he was handsome, masculine, and the most beautiful person in my world. But he’d go on and on about how ugly and overweight he felt. At the same time he’d tell me how his ex-wife looked just like Jessica Simpson, how gorgeous she was, with big boobs, big eyes, tall, and skinny. For the record, I think it’s boring to look like a Barbie doll. Not that I didn’t love Barbie like so many other American girls growing up, aspiring to be just like her, squeezing my feet into foot-binding heels in my 20s and 30s. That’s who we’re supposed to look like, right?

Wrong.

The other thing about physical beauty is that it’s temporary. I could be in an accident at any time, like the time I practically ripped my face off in a bicycling accident, and it did leave a small scar on my chin that I’m proud of. I know another woman who has a big scar on her face, and she’s no less gorgeous, and in fact, to me, looks like a badass. My 93-year-old grandmother likes to brag about how pretty she is, and how pretty she was when she was young, but let’s be real. Our culture doesn’t plaster the faces or bodies of elderly people—certainly not women—on the covers of magazines. American culture does not glamorize Betty White for her physical beauty. As a side note, my mom never talked about how beautiful she was, but I don’t think that meant she thought she was ugly. It’s just not the most important thing in the world, and it says nothing about a person’s character.

And if Steven was drawn to me for my insecurity, well, that’s not the kind of man I want to attract. Like attracts like. Confidence is sexy. Standing up for yourself is attractive. Speaking your mind, using your voice, being yourself. That’s what makes a person beautiful.

So there you go. That’s my two cents on beauty.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Meghan Trainor songs. My favorite lyric is, “I won’t be no stick figure silicone Barbie doll / So if that’s what you’re into then go ahead and move along.”

Now. If I could just take this newfound confidence with me into the workplace (not at the grocery store because I own that place), but in my next career as a nutritionist.