Sunday, July 29, 2012


This post is a celebration of one year since the night of Unsinkable. It should be read first. Thank you.

My apartment smells of bananas. I am not harboring monkeys, despite what the downstairs neighbors may have thought over the past two years, my children running and screaming and jumping all hours of the day and night. No, I am moving. The walls are lined with banana boxes, picked up in sets of 5 or 6 from the grocery store. Inside I pack the contents of my life; 25 boxes of books, 6 boxes of shoes, dishes, paints, blankets and other acquisitions with which I define my life. Packing, unlike cleaning, is comforting to me. Packing is organizing the past and preparing it for the future. Cleaning is hiding, hiding stains and dirt, removing them from existence and putting things away, lost behind cupboard doors and in drawers. As the stacks of boxes grow taller, the apartment grows tidier. The children and I glide around our towers of possessions, labeling their ownership with a purple magic marker, trying not to stub our toes.

I spray Windex on my bathroom mirror and scrub hard, but the writing merely fades. Apparently it is going to be harder to remove the words than I thought it would be when I wrote them two years ago: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step- Lao Tzu" printed in black Sharpie. Is moving to a house my 'step' or my 'thousand miles'? I wondered, smiling. Moments are letters that become words to the chapters of our lives. The ending of a chapter is not the end of the book. I scraped at 'thousand' with my nail and decided I would consider this the first in many thousands of miles.

Last time I printed these words it was on a chalkboard in rec room at the hospital. One year ago, I chose the quote of the day. I looked around at the addicts, the schizophrenic, the compulsively lying teenage girl who spent hours a day on the phone at the end of the hall, giggling with various men, telling each how she loved them. It seemed like a good quote, despite the fact that a year of having it on my bathroom mirror hadn't done me much good. I wrote it across the chalkboard in pink chalk and dedicated it to the skinny old biker who was recovering from a heroin addiction and suicide attempt. He had lent me a hair tie earlier in the day which the nurse had acquiesced to letting me use, despite my restrictions. He laughed and I egotistically told myself I was helping him. Chronically addicted to deflecting my own painful need to let go, I dedicated it to him with no idea that my step from the hospital on Monday would be my first step to my 'thousand miles'.

A couple days ago I was thinking to myself how well I am doing for a 33 year old. I am educated, have a good job, am purchasing my own home on four acres, I have two fantastic kids, one starting kindergarten next week and another starting middle school next month. I drive a nice car and I have some good friends. I have a loving and funny boyfriend. I'm 33, still young, not bad at all. One year ago all I could think is of how I had lost 13 years. And now I feel ahead of the game, or at least right on time.

Two years ago I printed the words at the top of my mirror. I was broken, split and determined to find myself. For a year I clung to identities and filled my every moment with self realizing activities, which kept me busy and deflected my pain. I took pottery classes and watched art films on the lonely nights that my children left. I volunteered at the soup kitchen and the community garden. I worked out. I kayaked and biked, I sweat and I bled. I tried to purge the guilt of failure, to "clean up" my identity through good karma and positive living. I scraped up my old life and hid it in cupboards and drawers until I became a hoarder of my past. And then, one year ago, I took my first step. I stopped trying to find myself and accepted who I was. I stopped searching and started living. Today I celebrate the anniversary of pulling away from the dock.

One year from now I might look back on what I thought I knew now and laugh. Realizing this makes me happy. No good journey ends at a thousand miles.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Not My Problem...Yet.

I was walking out of Walmart when my ears were accosted by the words.

"Get your ass in the store, woman."

I looked up.

"Get your ass in the store. Get your f**king ass in the store."

A couple was walking across the parking lot coming toward me. The woman was walking ahead of the man, her face gave no expression. "F**k you, bitch, get your ass in the store." The man trailed behind her, taunting her. For a moment I thought, "maybe they're playing." Maybe, he was teasing her. But his rant continued. "F**k you, bitch." Again and again. I stood, appalled. I didn't know what to do as I walked in their direction. I wanted to say "no, f**k YOU, asshole, don't talk to her like that!" But I knew better.

Mr. Perfect had recently sat before the gun board to get his concealed weapons permit. He told me how many people were there. He relayed to me the story of a man who had a domestic violence charge on his rap sheet. The man on the board fidgeted, obviously uncomfortable giving this man the right to carry a weapon. The wife hadn't pressed charges. Having no conviction, the board had no reason to say no. The man got his permit. I knew too many people carry weapons. I knew this man before me could be one of them. I couldn't react for my own safety. I couldn't react because it might cause him to go home and beat her. I stood helpless and stared.

She turned, just slightly and told him to shut up. He continued his tirade of profanities. I stood in the parking lot and stared him in the eyes. I willed him to look at me. I willed him to challenge me. I dared him to turn his hate toward me, a stranger, who would not have been willing to take it. I refused to ignore him.

The woman turned around and walked back to her car. He followed her. I walked toward my vehicle. She got into the driver's seat, he got into the passenger's seat and I got into my truck. She stared ahead looking exhausted. He rolled down his window and propped his elbow out. He wasn't a young man, born into a culture that wore pants around their asses and called women bitches. He had a head of silver gray hair; he was born of an era where people knew better. I followed them from the parking lot, my hand on my phone, waiting for him to lay a hand on her. They didn't speak, and I didn't breathe as we slowly drove the expanse of asphalt to the main road. We turned in opposite directions, toward opposite lives. 

I left Walmart with new underwear, a DVD and a question burning in my brain: Did I do enough?

I kept thinking, 40 years ago this wouldn't have been OK. A man walking through a parking lot yelling F bombs, in front of women and children would have been looked at as a crazy person. He could have been arrested. Now no one even looked up. Nobody got involved. It wasn't their problem. We live in a world where everyone has access to everybody's business, but nobody really cares. No one cares because it doesn't affect them; but it does. His words affected my ears. He WAS my problem.

Recently, Michigan passed a law allowing motorcycle riders to ride without wearing a helmet. Some people rejoiced, because it was their heads and their business. Even people who thought it was a stupid rule said, "whatever, it's Darwinism, weed out the idiots, it's their problem." But freedom isn't a personal thing in a society. EVERYTHING we do and are affects other people. If a person dies, riding a motorcycle with no helmet, does it only affect them? What about the person that accidentally hits them and in a moment becomes a killer? What about the children that might be in the car or the drivers on the road who witness the smearing of the cyclist's brains on the street? What about the EMS workers and the doctors who will work three times as hard to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, called away from their lives and families because the rider wanted the freedom to be unsafe? We affect each other.

Individuality is a right. Who we worship, how we dress, what we read and believe is a right in this country, and thank goodness. But how we act and what we do cannot be. We are a society made up of communities of people, and our actions affect others. No longer can we afford to be OK with violence and with hatred. No longer can we sit idly by and smirk off people we deem "not our problem." This is reality, one cannot simply change the channel and move on. There was a time when certain behaviors were shameful, because people said something. It is time we spoke up and out about what is not OK.

Staring evil down and willing it to become your problem is not enough. 

I write this with a heavy heart thinking of the many victims, families and friends affected by the horrible Colorado movie theater shooting. Hindsight is always 20/20, but I know I will always wonder about the Walmart woman. And it makes me wonder if we also let this shooter slide by, until he became...our problem.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I Might Be Batty, But I Love Who I Am

I was sitting on my bed when it swooped over my head. "Oh my God," I thought, "there's a bird in my room!" Then it struck me that birds don't normally fly around in apartments, so I thought, "The missing hamster! It's flying around in my room! It's been found!" Then I realized hamsters don't fly. So, I ran out and slammed the door the behind me. Feeling curious, I cracked the door just a bit; to see the bat perched on the tapestry that hung above my bed.

I had a bat in my house. It took to it's swooping, circling my bedroom in a frenzy, so, feeling slightly nauseous, I again slammed the door. I called Mr. Perfect and told him we had a situation. Normally I wouldn't have called him, not at 1:30 in the morning, even being vaguely aware I was dealing with a man job. I normally wouldn't have called him because I wouldn't have felt this was "his problem." The reason I allowed myself the call was because his children were sound asleep in the other room. Their presence somehow made it appropriate for bat containment to become his issue. He left work as soon as he could. While I waited I Googled "how to catch a bat". Information is power and armed with a cyber diagram, I donned a winter jacket, grabbed a tennis racket and a towel and prepared myself to take care of the problem. I swung open my bedroom door, walked in, stared at the little brown fur ball attached to the wall and prepared for battle. It started flying at me, so I screamed and ran out, slamming the door. Again.

When Mr. Perfect arrived, we couldn't locate the bat. Until the middle of the afternoon the next day. He took it out with the same racket I had left on the other side of the door. He took its lifeless little body out on the back porch tossed it up in the air, like a perfect serve, and lobbed it over the back fence. I, of course, cried, wishing it could have lived.

Tonight I sit in my bat free room, wondering what I would have done if there was no man to come and rescue me. And I stumbled upon an interesting reality about who I am.

I would have given the bat my room.

Let's be honest, I'm moving soon anyway. So I really think, that for the next month, I would have just let the bat have the room. During the day I would have gone in and packed up my stuff, always conscious that Mr. Bat was nearby. I would have slept on the couch. I would have carefully kept the door shut and advised the children to stay out. I would have studied it when it was perched and screamed at it when it swooped, but all in all, I would have left it alone.

This is why I love living on my own. 

I really, really like doing things my way. I like wearing the same outfit all weekend. When I read a book I like to start and finish it in the same sitting. If I stay up until 6 am reading, I just take a nap the next day. Taking a nap, for me, makes far more sense than cleaning a garage. I name trees and talk to frogs. Sometimes, I eat bowl after bowl of dry Life cereal for dinner. I like to eat out when I feel like it. I like to sit around and tell stories. I like to stare at the wall and think about things. I'd have no problem letting a bat boarder take over my room. The only time I use the clock is when it comes to work.

I'm acutely aware that my living style is not the "normal" grown-up one. I have asked Mr. Perfect if it was going to bother him, when we live together, if I spend a whole day decorating a tree, or painting stripes on the wooden walkways, or sleeping away my days off of work. Will it bother him if rather than matching up socks, I just stop wearing socks for a while? Will he understand that I cannot do the dishes until I've finished another chapter? I am scared of these questions, because after almost 3 years of being on my own, I like my life the way it is. It's a calming life. I don't want to change it, but I know myself and know I will readily change things to make the people I love happy. Up until the point where I can't take it anymore. And breaking points are never a good thing.

It's a peculiar thing, knowing oneself. Defending an identity is tricky, because so much of a relationship is about compromise. As wonderful as it is having someone there to kill your spiders and trap your bats, pick up a gallon of milk or tell you they love you at night, it's also a situation requiring sacrifice. Some bats may die and some selfish moments of lazy reflection may be compromised. I am going to have to change and that, I am very uncomfortable with, because I have spent so much time building the confidence to be exactly who I am: A woman willing to share space with a bat, as long as it lets her sneak in a get her blanket out. And her phone charger.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I'm still here...

I am acutely aware I have not been writing. Every night the awareness seeps into my skull, tsk tsking at me like a Catholic mother,  filling me with guilt. I have lists of things I want to say. My brain drips with words. But nothing can seem to hit the screen. It's like I can never tell my story until that story is done and I find myself back in the seam, between two chapters of my life and it leaves me tongue tied. Just as I had adapted to my "new life", my Unsinkable Life, here I am on the Journey into the Woods; moving again, redefining again, transitioning again.

My new house has a writer's desk, in an artist's room. And it seems my brain, until I am sitting in that chair, is holding back. All I can promise is that it's coming.