This Is Your Life

Some of my friends and acquaintances suffer in ways that I used to do, and I want so badly for them to know that life doesn’t have to be that way. Each of us is on our own path, and I cannot control the rate, speed, direction of yours, but I hope to be able to help along the way somehow, if possible.

But first I want to give you an update of where I am today. Yesterday’s post was written last week, when one day I was feeling sad because Mr. Right Now wasn’t doing what I thought he ought to be doing, ie, what I want, and I longed for the connection shared with my ex. That feeling passed, and every day gets a bit easier. (And Mr. Right Now redeemed himself.) (And he doesn’t have to do what I want all the time.) Though I don’t want to spend the entire relationship making comparisons, I can’t help but notice how much easier the new guy is. How even-keeled. The coolest thing is that he asked me to be the leader in the relationship because he says he doesn’t know what to do, which I find hard to believe from a grown man who has no trouble attracting women. No matter. I like being the leader today. It’s the absolute opposite role I played in my last relationship, that’s for sure.

Enough about that.

Back to you.

You’re unhappy with your life and you have no idea where to start, what to do, how to make it better. You’re tired of doing the same thing, day in, day out. You hate your job, you can’t stand the people there, and you have to spend most of your waking life with these assholes! Everywhere you go a cloud of impending doom follows. Sure, something good might happen, but it’s only a matter of time before something tragic or merely frustrating happens. Even if your life got better, you know you’d still be the same you, and you worry that maybe you’re just defective, that happiness is impossible for you. What do you do?

I’ll tell you what I did.

First, I left my husband (who, by the way was a perfectly good husband). Then, I left my job (which was a perfectly good job). I had some money saved in the meantime, and I got a job I liked, making far less money, and I downsized my life dramatically, and I moved into the bedroom of a friend’s house for five times less than what I paid in rent for my townhouse.

I’m not saying you have to take such drastic measures. It’s not up to me to decide what you do. Only you can decide that.

More importantly the actions I took during that time were this: I read self-help and spiritual books on topics that spoke to me, I talked to a therapist who worked with me on a sliding scale based on my low income, I did not drink or drown my sorrows in unhealthy ways like with alcohol or drugs. I prayed a lot. I meditated as much as I could bear. I researched articles online for topics important for me: how to be in a healthy relationship, how to find your dream job, how to be more assertive, how to meditate–any question that popped into my head, I asked Dr. Google. I got books on these topics from the library. I read positive affirmations and I read them again, repeating them in my head throughout the day. I talked to people, trusted friends and my sponsor who guided me. I exercised more. I went outside more, I took long walks on trails in the woods. When I felt sad, I cried. If I felt angry, I raged, often in the form of typing words on this screen. I tried to practice exercises I learned from my self-help books on mindfulness and pay attention just to this moment, right here, now, and not what I have to do after this, or next week, next year, or 10 and 20 years down the road.

This is your life, now. Today. Don’t you want to enjoy it?

One problem I’m having right now is deciding what I want. Why not write down a list of what I want, and go from there? With my ex, I wanted to live together, possibly get married, and do whatever I thought he wanted me to do: become a stepmother, move to wherever he found a better job near his kids, and basically rearrange my life around whatever he planned for himself. Today I have the freedom to do what I want. Mr. Right Now doesn’t want to live with anyone again, ie, he’s not planning to get married again. My first thought was, Maybe I don’t want that either. Maybe it’s nice to be alone, waking at 4am to write my blog posts, sit outside if want to, sprawl across the bed if I want to, leave my shoes in the middle of the floor. Or maybe I’m changing my mind based on what someone else wants, and that’s no good.

What do you want? Ask yourself, what do I want from this life?

Now go out there and get it.

Here’s a song that my dad used to play all the time when my sisters and I were little, and looking back on it, I wonder if this was his personal anthem, a big middle finger to my mom, who left him, and left him heartbroken from what my sisters tell me. I was too little to remember. There’s a lyric in this song that I took the name of my blog from, which is this: “Either way it’s okay / you wake up with yourself.”

This is your life.

Something Better’s In Store

Last night I dreamt that there was a chance Mom was going to survive her stroke, wake up and be herself again, alive and recovered. We were in North Carolina, where she lived, and she’d had the stroke and was on life support, just like what happened in real life, except we kept her on life support for several days instead of the 24 hours she had a machine breathing for her just so my sisters and I could get there to say our goodbyes. I’d made a Facebook post about what had happened, and then a few days later the doctors said it looked like she might make a remarkable, miraculous recovery. I debated posting a Facebook request for prayers, because I believe in the power of prayer and felt that if I could get enough people to pray maybe she would make it. I myself prayed really hard, and thought of all the things I’d say to her once she made it through, how much I loved her and saw her as a wonderful role model. At some point I got confused, because I remembered the reality that we’d taken her off life support, that she had not made it. Or maybe I’d woken up by that time, I don’t remember. The belief that she might live and I could tell her how I felt was so real.

My ex’s birthday is around this time of year.

I can’t begin to tell you how much it pisses me off that he abandoned me just a few months after my mother died.

Who does that?

Maybe a lot of people.

Father’s Day is also coming up, and I have a lot of unresolved anger towards my dad for being Stonewall, ie, emotionally unavailable. He loves Stonewall Jackson so it seems an appropriate nickname. Still, it’s like being angry with someone for them being who they are. They cannot help it. It’s a futile resentment.

And then Steven is a dad, and I felt like I took a backseat to his kids at times, which is part of why we broke up. Most of the time it didn’t bother me, or rather, I told myself it didn’t, and I didn’t complain about his choice to spend holidays with them, because I don’t really care about holidays anyway. It would’ve been nice to have him around but I would survive. A little piece of my heart felt sad that he couldn’t be around my family when I went to visit them, holidays or not, because if he wasn’t in the right mood I didn’t want to ask, and I wouldn’t have wanted him around during those times anyway. I never introduced him to my mom because I wanted him to be in the right mood when he met her, because I knew she wouldn’t like him if she saw him in a depressive or hypomanic state, unless she’d already met him when he was even-keeled, or mildly manic. But even then, it’s hard to say. She was good at reading people, and she had no problem changing her mind about someone, especially if they hurt me.

Something I heard from a friend last night about how to approach life struck me. When we ask for something of the universe (or multiverse, really, or God or a higher power, whatever word you choose), only three options exist: 1) yes, you can have whatever it is you want right now, 2) not yet, or 3) there’s something better in store for you.

Number 3 really struck me. Though it doesn’t allow a person to live in the moment, it gives hope for a better future. I would add to it that if times are hard right now, just think of what can be learned from this situation right now. For example, why am I attracting a particular kind of person in my life today? And if the relationship is not what I think I want, what is it I’m sending out into the universe that’s bringing this back to me, and what can I learn from this? Maybe I’m thinking I will settle for whatever or whoever comes my way. I might be thinking, Oh, it’s okay if that person doesn’t text me good night or respond to my texts, when I know in my heart I like someone who communicates their interest in me. So that’s a red flag. I get to choose how I live my life and who I spend my time with. I do not have to spend my time with someone who takes me for granted.

On the other hand, I don’t have a lot of time for a boyfriend, so this helps me be more independent. Nothing wrong with Mr. Right Now. In that case, I can ask myself what is to be learned from this. Maybe it’s just that I have the choice. I have power and freedom to choose how to forge ahead in this life. While I have no control over what others say or do, I do have control over what I say and do. And this is what I’m doing right now.

Mostly it just makes me think of how I miss my ex.

But then I have to remember how strongly his moods affected me, how much he hurt me, how hard I tried to keep the relationship together to no avail. There’s something better in store for me.

What can I learn from this right now?

Well, everything I just wrote, for example. And that I get to spend time on studying, on changing my career, on learning who and what I want to be and how I want to live this life. Once I get through school I may have a different attitude towards who and what I want. It’s nice to have a companion in the meantime. Maybe he’s not pledging his undying love for me, but I’m not exactly pledging mine to him either. No other person can be my higher power.

The main thing is not to have someone machine-gun-text me all day or ask when they can see me again and certainly not to feel ignored or taken for granted, and definitely not for me to rearrange my schedule around theirs. What’s really important is, Do I feel safe and secure in this relationship? Does this person communicate through words and actions that he’s committed to the relationship, and do I trust that? That’s the ideal situation. Then I can feel comfortable doing what I need to do in order to grow, and they can do the same, without us being up each other’s asses all the time. I need my own life, and they need theirs.

Next week I’m driving the big-rig back to North Carolina, sadly. I hate to see her go but I’ve got to get my little Honda Civic back—a faithful and trusty car who deserves her own blog post—and I need to get back to Maryland to focus on my school work. I’m learning about vitamins and minerals this semester. I had to drop my herbalism class, and I dropped my fermented foods cooking class because I just cannot take it all on while working a full-time job and taking time for self-care (which is a necessity, btw). Maybe it will take me longer than a year and that will be okay. I’d hoped to finish asap so that I can make more money and get my own place, but the world seems to have something different in store for me.

Happiness can’t be found in making more money or getting one’s own home. True happiness is finding meaning in life today. That’s another thing I learned from someone who was quoting from a Max Strom book. In spite of the hardships I’ve faced in the last nine months, and in spite of what a downer this post might seem to be, I can honestly say I’m pretty darn happy with my life today.

I am grateful for the blessings I’ve received. When I think of the heartache I’ve been through in recent months, I must remember that God has a bigger, better plan in store for me. Something much better is on the way, maybe even just around the corner. Maybe even right in front of my face.

Whatever the case, there’s something better in store for me.

Here’s a really good codependent song for those of us who feel like we need someone, because we don’t yet realize we don’t really need anyone but a higher power and our own self-love:

 

Cinderella

I should be spending every spare minute on schoolwork, but instead I’m writing, because my life depends on it. And I keep listening to this TI cover song on repeat:

The original version came on the radio while I was driving back from North Carolina, another reminder of Steven, who’d played Joan as Policewoman’s version for me many times. I love this song, in spite of the effed up message it portrays, the modern Cinderella, “Pretty Woman” lie that is total bullshit, portraying the woman as victim and the man as hero, rescuer to come and save her from her life of poverty. It’s an incredibly sad song to me, but I love it.

And I can relate. I’ve certainly felt that way before, on both sides. I would love a sugar daddy, and I would have also loved to buy whatever my ex wanted to put a smile on his face. He spent a lot of money on me, and I actually spent a lot of money on him (though not nearly as much as he spent on me, because I’m poor and he’s rich). When I saw something at work I thought he might like, I got it for him, including this $12 coconut vanilla lotion that he inhaled like it was cocaine. Groceries, health and beauty supplies, supplements, all of that stuff is not cheap in an organic grocery store, even with my 20% off discount. Anyway.

Here’s the original video from TI:

My favorite part of this video is at the end, when we realize it was all a dream she made up, and the guy at the counter brings her back to reality. She asks, “What? You need me to do your hair again?”

And he says, “You gone charge me this time?”

My interpretation of that question is this: you did my hair for free last time, and I’d love to get it for free again, because maybe we all want a sugar daddy or sugar mama, but the reality is I’m broke and you’re broke, so get your ass back to flipping them burgers because we have bills to pay, and I’m hungry. I might be reading too much into it there with that last part, but that’s the message I like. You do what you have to do, and no one else can rescue you from your life. And I would add this for my young readers: Go to college (aka university). Or any readers. You don’t have to be young to go to college, or a trade school, or something that allows you to get a job doing something that will allow you to pay your rent/mortgage and bills. And yes, of course follow your dream. You do not have to flip burgers or rely on someone else to make your dreams come true for you. I know that I personally would not want to be in Melania Trump’s shoes. That’s all I got to say about that.

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