Going the Distance

Relationships aren’t always about what’s comfortable.

My long term boyfriend is moving away in two short weeks to start his professional life in a new state.  Mirroring his excitement and enthusiasm is exhausting when all I really want to do is weep and wallow and spend as much time together as possible before he moves. Understandably he is ecstatic, this is a huge opportunity for him and this job is the biggest factor in his life right now.  But it isn’t mine.  Our relationship is my biggest thing.  While our priorities and long term goals are complementary, the phases of our lives are slightly out of sync.

With two years of graduate school to go, I have to wait behind. The shift to long distance will take intentional work and will be taken up by weekend visits and long phone calls instead of dog walks and ice cream sundaes.

It will take hours in the car and money for tolls.

It will take patience.

It will be uncomfortable.

It will be worth it.

After these two years pass I know that my life will be better.  We will be more mature, our friendship will be stronger, and I will be more patient and grateful for the time spent together.  Discomfort creates growth and I’m excited to grow with my best friend.

SDbeach

My Family, My Hero

We all have passions, those that inspire us, those that drive us, and those that act as a little flame that stays burning all the time regardless of how much it is tested. That third kind is the one that I believe gives us strength. To me, that flame is family.

Family is something we all have in one scope or another; some of you may picture, like I do, your parents and siblings, others may have pictured friends, or relatives that aren’t your parents. Regardless of whom specifically you see, I believe they have done something to help you, to further your life, and to make you better and stronger. Have you thanked them?

The last time I was at home, I was in my Dad’s office and noticed in one of the upper corners of the room a little note sheet that I had written most likely during my early teen years simply reading, “I will not blame my parents for ruining my social life” in bright pink ink. My opinions have not changed on either front, the pen color, or the message, but seeing that little note carefully preserved, reminded me why my Dad is my hero. My family unit is incredibly close; we are a team and support each other no matter what. Our relationships within the unit are all unique, and I don’t love one more than another, only differently but my Dad and I have the most in common.

Our character, values, culture, knowledge, and beliefs are all formed by the people who care for us and help us grow. Sometimes they challenge us to strengthen our weak areas or embarrass us to “build character” but it’s all out of love. As a child I was very shy, and refused to speak to strangers thus I would be given the tasks of calling businesses to find out their hours and sales, talking to waitresses at restaurants, or asking for help in stores. It was horrible, but I kept being pushed to do it so that I would not be as introverted as my father. Now as a young adult, I work as a secretary and am a part of two social organizations, so I guess hard work pays off, and that my parents didn’t ruin my social life, but rather the opposite and made me a stronger person.

Knowledge is another gift that is shared between families, we learn from whom we spend our time with. Each day during elementary school, there would be morning announcements over the intercom and they would always close with a quote, think Martin Luther King Jr, John Lennon, Abraham Lincoln, Maya Angelou… I would tell my family about the quotes over dinner each night and my Dad got an idea. He has always had these little one liners of advice like, absorb knowledge as if you were a sponge, enjoy the learning process, and lastly, “wisdom doesn’t come out of a can and has no expiration date.” One night he sat me down to write down a quote to submit for reading. It was this carefully written wisdom “quote.” I remember proudly marching into school to my guidance counselor, who was in charge of the morning announcements, office to give it to her. She read it, looked a little confused and said she would “try and work it in.” I began to lose hope each day that would pass without my submission. Maybe it was wrong, perhaps I was weird or my dad had said something that wasn’t what she was looking for. I felt embarrassed that I had turned it in, and sad for my dad that it hadn’t been read yet, but when I had lost all hope, probably a month after I had turned in my nugget of wisdom, I heard, over the loud speaker, “and today’s quote comes from Bud Bennett and says ‘wisdom doesn’t come out of a can and has no expiration date.’” I was ecstatic. I was proud.

At the end of the year, the guidance counselor pulled me aside and said she wanted to return my quote to me. She pulled a coffee tin labeled “quotes” down from the top of her file cabinet, fished around in it and gave my the same paper that I had turned in earlier that year. I’ll let the irony sink in for a moment. My father’s insight couldn’t be contained in a can preserved in a windowless closet of an office. To be randomly drawn for morning announcements, it needed more attention, so home it went into my dad’s higgle piggle of sentimental artifacts, not to surface until my high school graduation where it was presented to me, expertly preserved and framed to send me off to college with the knowledge that wisdom is all around us and that it will never go away.

Family is more than a source of who we are and our knowledge base, it is friendship. If the people who you spend the majority of your time with aren’t your friends all those hours will be miserable. Being around people who make you laugh is good for your health, it releases stress, and it makes your brain feel good. We love to play games at my house. A better way to describe that would by my brother and mom love to play games and my dad likes to play one game, phase 10, which is kind of like rummy. When I’m home for breaks we play games a couple times a week, and force my dad to play games like taboo, win lose or draw, and awkward family photos. His over exaggerated displeasure if only for effect because I know the times when the four of us are sitting around the table together are treasured now that I am away at school and my brother is increasingly out playing some war video game, or on dates.

I know he loves it because I like to watch people’s faces when they are doing things they enjoy. Like at the movies, in concerts, or across my dining table during game nights. Believe it or not, I generally have a very serious face, no I’m not tired, I’m not sad, and I’m not angry, that is just my face. Once again, I have my father to thank for that gift. He too has a serious face that for almost my entire life has been made even more serious by a full moustache and beard. Now that he has shaved it, he looks much more cheerful, but I, unfortunately do not have such an easy fix. Anyway, when looking at his cards, writing his answer, or planning his next move, he looks content and happy, like he is really enjoying himself, but as soon as he starts to look up to play his turn or be the “judge” he flips a switch and looks annoyed and serious once again. Our friendship within my family group is strong, built on the foundation of time together and a fierce loyalty.

That loyalty is another key aspect of family that I think we often don’t think about. Each of us has someone who is willing to go to bat for us no matter what. Often during teenage years we feel alone, resentful, and like there isn’t anyone on our side, but that’s generally not the case. We all have our team.

Your team should double as your cheerleaders. With family comes pride, the people who want to share in your biggest accomplishments and cheer you on. My father is the coolest. He is a documentary producer, a musician, an artist, an archivist, a gardener, a home brewer, and the hardest worker I have ever met. It makes me proud when I’m listening to his cd and my friends ask who it is, and when they tell other people how neat he is , when I see he is succeeding in his many projects I feel an unparalleled sense of pride, and when he is there cheering me on.

It makes me happy that I always had someone who was at my track meets, a pal to stare at American Alligators laying too far to even really see for hours, and who would help look out for the mother alligator when we happened upon a whole mess of babies in the wild. Someone who plastered his office at home and work with my childhood artwork, who pushed me to try new foods, to learn new skills, and to work hard every day.

We all have similar stories and experiences, a group of people or one person in particular that has changed your life or made you stronger by shaping who you are, sharing their knowledge, being your friend, showing you loyalty, and by being proud of you and giving you someone to be proud of despite all the mistakes you have made. We all have that little flame of hope and passion pushing us on each day whether they are minutes or hours away.

Say thank you. For the cumulative hours spent in the car shuttling you around to sports practices, games, to school, music lessons, or dance. Thank you for birthday parties, for silly times, for playing games, and for loyalty. Your family loves you unconditionally regardless of it is a parental connection or a friend-family. They deserve your thanks for what they have done, what they have sacrificed, and for hours and hours spent with you even when you were at your worst.

Solitary Enjoyment

I spend a fair amount of time and a great deal of money at the movies.  There’s something about checking out for two to three hours in a cool dark room in a comfy chair sharing an experience with strangers.  Movies at home become distracted by beds, dogs, and boyfriends, but “alone” at the theater is different.  The separation is clear from life to movie and it allows for an escape.

Some argue that society is splitting further apart due to new technologies, all people are becoming more solitary and that our attention spans are becoming more like a goldfish than an elephant.  I don’t wholly disagree but I don’t think that we are hopeless.  Movie attendance continues to be strong despite the home services known as Netflix, HBOGo, Hulu, and certain unnamed pirating hubs.  We want to go, we want to see it on the big screen, and I think a little piece in all of us, want to experience the drama and be transported along with a roomful of people who we don’t know.

No, I really am allergic!

I am awkward in social settings.

The line at my favorite downtown Starbucks was unusually long.  At 8:24 each Monday and Friday morning the line has four people in it and usually goes no farther than where the Rice Krispy type treats are in the display case.  Today, however, I was late. The line placed me with my back against the door behind ten people; the 8:24 crowd was in the front placing orders for their usual morning vices and were followed by a large family from out of town. The family was causing a minor scene with its  teenage daughter ordering something complicated and acting loudly embarrassed as her father was confused about what to call a medium.  Following the family was a short guy dressed in sharp jeans, a black t-shirt, and a black flat brimmed snap-back hat.  He kept darting from the line to his seat and back and the young woman directly in front of me politely was holding his place which lead me to assume that they were together.

While the Dad was stumbling over his order and the teenager was looking embarrassed and annoyed, the short guy mumbled something about a chocolate croissant to the young woman.  She responded with a noncommittal answer of, “I’ve had it before and it’s pretty good.” When it was his turn to order he looked at her and asked if she wanted a chocolate croissant, she looked very confused and said no.  He leaned back and asked me the same.  I quickly shook my head and became engrossed in digging quarters out of my wallet.  He still told the Barista that he wanted two croissants.

After paying and going back to his seat, the young woman laughed and said, “I thought he was asking if they were good or not, not if I wanted one! That was so awkward!” Apparently they weren’t together. I responded with an awkward laugh and a “No!” Why that is what I chose to respond with, I don’t know, it didn’t even make sense with what she was saying.  Luckily it was her turn to order so any chance of more social fumbling was avoided.

When it was finally my turn to order, I was already five minutes late for work and flustered by the croissant situation, so I hastily picked something that I hadn’t tried before that cost me an arm and a leg.  At the serving dias a Barista called out “two chocolate croissants!” For fear of interacting with the short guy again I became engrossed in playing Kim Kardashian Hollywood, the new and highly addictive game on my phone that caused me to use up 75% of my cell phone data allotment for the month in just a week and a half.

This guy would just not get the message and came up to me with the little pink paper bag that one of the croissants was in.  He dangled it in my face and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want one?” Annoyed, I looked up from the “high profile appearance at Panino” that I was playing in my game and said, “I’m allergic to wheat, sorry.”  Something about being allergic to one of the most widely used ingredients in our country, makes people uncomfortable.  While not intending to make another awkward moment, I unfortunately did.  He scrunched up his face in a confused way and walked back to his seat.  In hindsight, he probably thought I had just made something up to make him leave me alone, which in his defense I kind of did, but his confusion really made me want to say, “No! I really am allergic to that croissant, it is made of flour, which I can’t eat because flour is gluten and I have a gluten sensitivity!” I refrained.

Finally my iced mocha was ready and I could leave the Starbucks. In a hurry to get in my car and speed down main street I somehow became entangled in my skirt.  Since I was parked on a hill my car door swing shut and closed half of my body in the car while I was trying to juggle my oversize handbag and my coffee in one hand.  Subsequently I spilled the drink all over my car seat, blotted it with the towel I keep in my car (thank you Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and was a grand total of fifteen minutes late into work.

I’d Rather Feel the Earth Beneath my Feet

I, like many others, have numerous and conflicting dreams; I want to live the American dream with the white picket fence complete with garden gate, beautiful home, and loving family.  I feel called towards being a mother and a wife, lovingly sliding sandwiches into plastic baggies and tucking sweet notes into my future husband’s coat pocket before he walks out the door.  I hope to be like my mother and have my little girl sit on my bed watching me in the mirror while I put on my face and brush out my hair to teach her pride in herself.  I see my children having a wonderful relationship with their grandparents, going over to be spoiled and do things they don’t get to do at home.  But there is a part of me that resents this stereotypical life for fear of being inadequate and out of control.

While this retro view of family is lovely, I am also attracted to the Beat life, the Jack Kerouac experience.  If I were to be locked down into the nuclear family before I got to experience the world I would be heartbroken that I never was able to relax, disconnect with the material, and just drive toward the sun.  On a few occasions, I have driven with no destination, no map, and no schedule.  I felt no anxiety or pressure, which by itself was freeing, but in combination with rolled down windows and beautiful music playing, it was both satisfying and hungering.  So hungering in fact that it eats at my mind, forcing me to take the long way home and go on random, secret drives through the country, just to quiet it down.

I know one day my little excursions will not be enough to quiet my curiosity, I will have to pick up and leave, hopefully, with a companion who could play acoustic guitar and sing with me as we drove wherever the road took us.  I want to see America and her many cultural pockets, biomes, and her people. I want to see what made colonists and explorers so enchanted, and I want to feel like I belong to a community much larger than the sleepy little town I, my mother, my grandfather, and my great grandparents have lived in.  While on my trip, I want to crouch down and put my hands on the earth at every stop, in every state to feel its texture and warmth, from the deserts in White Sands, to the pine-strewn carpet in California’s Sequoia forest, and to the wet and rocky cliffs in Maine.

The pain of pushing on day after day becomes too much sometimes; it forces me to lie on the floor and float in the hurt of it all. I feel inadequate as a person and particularly as a woman, struggling with infertility issues and fighting depression and anxiety. When these episodes come on, I mentally get on the road.  I can see a place so flat the curve of the earth is the only thing lying on the horizon; it is an hour or so out from sunset and the sky is glowing.  I am in the driver’s seat letting my hair fly around my face and dance in the wind coming in from the open windows and sunroof.  In the passenger’s seat is a boy with a cheerful face, grinning and strumming a guitar, singing with a voice like my father’s, full of soul and still very clear, the voice of America.  I know what I ate, the outfit I had on, the color of the car, and every single crack on the road we were riding on, the scene I have is so detailed that it is on the line between something imagined and something remembered from an earlier time, though I know it hasn’t happened.

It is very important that I take this  path. That I turn the hours spent dreaming about it and running through my short vision on repeat into reality, it has always brought a smile to my heart. My journey would feel disappointingly incomplete if I were to settle into a domestic rut without stepping out and feeling the embrace of the world. Looking out over water and at pictures of the far reaches of outer space never fails to make me feel cold, depressed, and lonely, while gazing across land, knowing that for thousands of miles farther than what I can see with my own eyes, it stretches on, has always been incredibly comforting.  Like Simon & Garfunkel said, “I’d rather feel the earth beneath my feet, yes I would, if I only could, I surely would.”

Look How Much You’ve Grown part 2

I felt the pressures to lose weight, to be thin, to make others like and want me because I looked a certain way. I gained 25 to 30 pounds. None of my clothes fit and I was miserable.  My metabolism slowed drastically, I was no longer exercising for two hours a day, and I was enamored with the delicacies afforded at the university with the best food in the nation that first year.

 

I was disgruntled because as a free spirited individual, I knew I shouldn’t have cared about my weight or the way I looked because that was how I was. People should have focused on me as a person and not me as something to look at, but I did care, I really did. Breaks from school were stressful, I wanted to shed all the pounds and expected I would because I would eat home cooked meals and not drink alcohol, but they didn’t help, especially not because my mother pretended that I hadn’t gained any weight at all.

 

I could deal with it though. I could deal with having to buy new jeans and having a higher number on the scale, until I looked up “ideal weight for 5’6 women” and the US Army guidelines came up. I was outside the bracket that the Army would allow in. I definitely was not interested in joining the Army, but realizing that I was heavy enough that the Government did not want me to fight or our country was horrible.

 

I think it’s unfair that children are praised for growing bigger and bigger because growing up is such an exciting thing to do, it means new shoes and brightly colored clothes at Target, but as an adult it means stretched seams on the inside leg of jeans, shirts that pucker at the chest, boots that don’t zip up all the way, and marks on your waist from where the waistbands cut in. I’m not looking for praise. I’m looking for support.

Look How Much You’ve Grown part 1

When children are young, adults always comment with pride, “look how big you are” or “look how much you’ve grown” and parents beam with bittersweet pride at getting the next size up in clothing for their child. This goes on through elementary school for girls, and perhaps middle school for boys, and then growth and size become something not discussed, until it starts back up towards the end of high school and into college. In those later years, the focus becomes the opposite. That fond expression of a childs growth and development switches in tone to being one of disapproval, disgust even. The focus shifts from growing into the next phase of life and age to growing too tall, too broad, too muscular, or too heavy.

I remember sitting on the white hard plastic covered wood chip lunch bench next to my childhood best friend Chelsea, looking at how our thighs spread out on the bench as we sat. We were wrapping our hands around our leg to see if they could meet on both sides or not. With pride I announced that my thumbs couldn’t meet around my leg while Chelsea’s easily could. I was tall and mature for my age, reaching 5 feet tall by the fifth grade and I was strong from many hours of climbing in trees.  The only body based shame I ever felt was not being able to run the entire time in the mile fitness tests that were mandated by the government each year.

In middle school gym we had nurses come in, weigh us, measure our height and other basic measurements for our health chart. Boys were separated from girls and on the girl side, the scale was up against a wall and all of us had to sit against the other wall to keep our weight private. When my name was called I marched up, still wearing my heavy winter sweater and sneakers. The nurse asked me if I wanted to take them off to get a more accurate reading, I responded confidently with a no, that I didn’t care if my chart reflected a higher weight than what it truly was. She shrugged, took my measurement, and called up the next girl. All the others went shoeless and without any extra layers.

Looking back I am proud of my choices. I was a strong and healthy girl. I had no care if I weighed what others thought I should or if my legs were bigger around than my closest friend’s. I strode with such pride and confidence in my body as many children do and I carried that pride on through high school.

Sadly, that pride and self-love ceased as I went into college.

 

to be continued

Why now

After starting, and soon after deleting my fair share of blogs, why start over now? Adding my words and thoughts into the huge blend of other writers in the world wide web to hopefully find a home and not get lost in a mix of ones and zeroes, is appealing to me.  I hope that what I have to say can resonate with someone, perhaps make them laugh, think, learn, or be inspired as I have been by others.

I have been journaling on and off for 5 years beginning right after I decided to stop taking medication for depression.  I don’t like to be out of control, taking medicine that alters me and causes strange side affects is equivalent to being blindfolded in a car with someone I don’t know, hurdling down the highway towards an undisclosed destination.  I hate it.  Writing was a way to acknowledge that the feelings I had, and continue to have, are in fact real and that they can be worked out and soothed.

The writing bug bit me harder than ever after I ready Tina Fey’s wonderful book, Bossypants.  After finishing it I moved onto Mindy Kaling’s memoir, started watching Lena Dunham’s Girls, read everything I could find that she had written with a quick Google search, and pre-ordered her book along with Amy Poehler’s book.  All these women are smart, funny, and proud of who they are and what they have made for themselves, as they should be.  They are not ashamed and are not dominated by what women are conventionally supposed to think and do, they are powerful.

Women are writing, sharing their feelings in an unabashed way, and I am excited to be a part of it in my own little way, writing about my experiences, life, and opinions.