Getting Out of the House

There is something about getting out of the house. Taking a walk in the woods. Or driving with no destination.

 

Today I had to get out of the house.

 

Things have changed around my home since I’ve been away to school. Every time  I come home there are little things amiss. I think my least favorite part is cleaning everyone else’s stuff out of my room once I get home. The rest of my stay involves me trying to keep them from bringing their junk back in here. It drives me crazy. So I had to get out of my room today.

I went for a walk down the road. Until I remembered that I was a young female walking alone on the side of the road. Then I started imagining all the cars driving by were full of potential rapists and I would totally be blamed because I was wearing athletic clothes and not a suit of armor. (What was I thinking?!) I woefully turned around and started walking back to my house which was a real drag because I seriously needed to be distracted. Then I remembered we have this really great hill behind my house!

The walk up the hill wasn’t terrible. I didn’t even flinch at walking into the woods. Until I got in there and thought about how I could totally die because a deer attacked me. And then I ran into a giant spider web. Fantastic. I kept walking until I saw this giant black beast begin moving toward me in the middle of the flipping woods and I was thinking, Goodbye cruel world. My time was short and kind of sucked. Then I remembered we have a giant black horse that is totally supposed to be back there! I was really happy until I realized I was going to have to walk up a really steep incline if I ever wanted to see my family again.

If you’ve never been on a steep incline with a bunch of sticks and stuff underneath you then you’re really missing out on a life changing experience. Basically the whole time you’re just forcing yourself forward. You’re still thinking about how a snake could totally come up from the ground and eat your leg off but if you stop moving you’re going to fall down so you just keep going. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see grass as when I reached the top.

Then began my journey back to my house because I was pretty done with nature for the day. On the way back down I came across a super photogenic butterfly. So basically the whole trip was totally worth it. I mean, these photos are totally priceless. I was probably six inches away from a living butterfly and it didn’t fly away. If that doesn’t show how totally zen I had become after almost dying of snake venom in my leg then I don’t know how I could prove it to you.

Really photogenic butterfly!

For the Love of Eating

When I was much younger my family used to get together constantly. We would all gather at my great-grandparents’ house for food, fun, and family. My favorite part was always the food. The deviled eggs, macaroni salad, banana pudding, and my favorite: my great-grandmother’s chicken n’ dumplings. I used to call them fluffy white clouds and I loved them.

There was just something about the southern comfort food I used to eat as a child. All the rich flavors and mouth-watering scents. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything better than the dishes that would be served at my great-grandmother’s house. Maybe it was because the food served as a little reminder of how much I was loved by those around me.

Many years, and a few heartaches later, we don’t get together at my great-grandmother’s house anymore. She’s been in a nursing home for a few years now. I’ll probably never have her chicken n’ dumplings again. But I think the worst part about her growing old is that she doesn’t have the strength to hold our family together anymore.

When I think back to those days I get a little sad because my little sister will never get to have those memories of playing at our great-grandmother’s house with everyone around. She was too young to remember all the great times we had there. I can still imagine the living room. The smiling faces taking up all the available space. I remember running from my great-grandfather’s bees in the back yard and playing basketball with my cousins. I remember how great the sun felt.

In the digital age we’ve lost the need to be as close to our families and neighbors. Why get to know your family when you can just text your friends? We’ve all become strangers to everyone around us. In an age of microwave dinners it’s not even necessary to sit down as a family and have a meal. I remember my great-grandmother letting me help her in the kitchen, some of my favorite memories are when we bonded over biscuit dough.

Maybe I’ll go outside today and get some fresh air. Or call someone to ask about those recipes.

The Date

I walked up to her door and rang the doorbell. I had been rehearsing what I would say all week. I told my friends I wasn’t ready to go on a date yet but they insisted. So there I was ringing a complete stranger’s doorbell on a Friday night when all I could think about was how the cat was probably ripping up the curtains.

Then she opened the door.

She was much prettier than I expected her to be. I mean, we were already in our thirties and hardly any good women are single in their thirties. But there she was. She smiled and asked me if I intended to just stare at her all night or if I was ready to go. I laughed because I must have seemed awfully stalker-y and probably a little creepy. Just standing there. I honestly was mortified that she’d felt the need to say something.

We drove in silence. I couldn’t think of anything to say and she didn’t know how to work the radio. So there we were, in total silence. I was busy panicking thinking about all the awful things she was probably thinking about me. I thought we would never get to the parking lot. And then we were there. Suddenly I felt myself begin to do that nervous-sweating thing my mother always told me was gross. My mother had been very supportive about it. I believe she said something like, “You’ll never find a woman that will love you if you keep doing that.” That probably explains why I was tempted to shove my date out of the car and drive away.

“Aron, are you going to park the car?” She asked, her worry lines showing. “Oh-Yeah, absolutely. I was just trying to find the prime parking real-estate. Y’know. I’d hate to make a pretty girl like you walk any further than she had to.” I must’ve seemed completely unhinged because she just nodded and turned back to her cellphone. I pulled into a parking spot close to the entrance, the empty parking lot implying an empty restaurant. Crap. There won’t be enough people to be distracting. I’m going to have to talk to her. I began panicking again. “Aron, are you going to turn off the car?” I snapped back into reality and killed the engine.

~~~

He was acting really spaced out but I wasn’t terribly worried about it. In fact I was rather thrilled to have a date that wasn’t watching my every move like I was under a microscope. He was making things too easy. I glanced at my phone as we walked through the parking lot, “Are you still watching the Supernatural marathon?” I quickly shot off a reply, “Yeah, it just got to one of my favorite parts.” Emily was such a great alibi. She always felt like texting and it was easy for me to use her as my witness. I had text her earlier letting her know that I’d cancelled the date I had with this Aron guy in favor of having a night to myself. Emily didn’t argue with me over it, she was a “single woman for life” and had offered to come over and make it a girl’s night. I’d told her the dog was enough company.

We were escorted to a little table near the back of the nearly empty restaurant. It was kind of disappointing actually, that the place was almost empty. I had spent a good part of my day applying makeup and putting on the wig. Not to mention the dress I had picked out special for the occasion. It would, of course, need to be burned so it was very bothersome only a few people would ever get to see how absolutely lovely I looked in it. This night was hardly any fun at all. I was actually considering bailing when he finally started talking, “So, what is it you do for a living again?” I tried not to roll my eyes, “I work as a waitress at the diner on main street. The really old-fashioned looking place.” I was running out of professions to claim that I had which is why I resorted to saying I was a waitress. Don’t judge me.

“That sounds lovely,” -liar- “Maybe I can stop by sometime and you can show me the good stuff on the menu.”

I nodded, “Yes that sounds nice.” Then I can choke on my own vomit.

“I’ve always wondered, are people really as bad at tipping as they say?”

I shrugged, “It wouldn’t be so bad if wait staff got paid without accounting for the fact people are supposed to tip.”

“That sounds awful. Y’know, I’ve got a friend in HR in my office. I could arrange for him to interview you. You seem very smart and I bet you would like it there.” His face was contorted like he was genuinely concerned for me. I was almost regretting the disguise, clearly I was too pretty.

“That sounds very nice. I’ll have to make sure to give you my email.”

At this point the food reached our table. I was silently thanking the heavens for sending me an excuse not to talk anymore. He was making my head hurt. Calm down, he’s only making small talk. Soon this will all be over. I coached myself. This night was dragging on a lot longer than usual. Normally these middle aged guys did their best to show how much fun they could be by taking me to amusement parks and to concerts. I always got a nice token to remember them by on these adventures.  This date really sucked. There was no fun to be had in this quiet little restaurant. So I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu. He hadn’t seemed at all bothered and had even asked the waitress if she would be so kind as to get us some wine to go with our meal. I grabbed the cork. Better than nothing. 

~~~

She was acting kind of distracted and she kept checking her phone. Not that it really bothered me. I’d just left mine at home. I really should quit assuming people will want to talk to me when we go out. Everyone always has their phone anymore, dummy. Get your act together. I sighed and resigned myself to eating. The wine was wonderful, as per the usual. The waitstaff here knew me. Owning a restaurant has its perks. Cynthia, our waitress, came back over to ask if there was anything else she could get us. “No, but I have to ask – Why is the restaurant so empty tonight?” Cynthia shrugged, “There’s some big celebration being held down at Emma’s restaurant tonight. They’re doing free desserts, even if you just walk through the door. It’s ridiculous.” I nodded, at least this wouldn’t be a thing. The restaurant had experienced some hard times before but I wasn’t mentally prepared to do any firing this year. I had come to really like all of my staff. I looked across the table at Sara. She seemed to be enjoying the food. I wondered how she would feel about the dish. I had considered taking it off the menu a thousand times but people always begged me not to. It was a favorite and I respected the opinion of my diners. “How is it?” I asked.

“Fine. I would have preferred if it had a little more zing to it, but it works very well with the wine you ordered.”

“Thank you. I try to make sure the food and the drink work well together.”

“Oh, so you’re into food stuff?” She asked, looking a little incredulous.

“Well, I have familiarized myself with fine dining. I’ve tried to make it my business to know.”

She looked very unimpressed, “You must’ve traveled all over trying new dishes.”

I was a little hurt by her tone, “Yeah.”

~~~

He was so incredibly annoying. I prefer when they don’t talk too much but that’s all he seemed to want to do. He was probably a divorcee. They always want to talk. I’m convinced that after you live with a woman too long you start to act like one. All the feelings and such nonsense. I shoved the food down my throat, I hadn’t really cared to taste it. “Are you ready to leave?” I asked hastily, it was probably too pushy but I wasn’t really worried about the second date. “Yeah, let me get the check.” He said as he waved the waitress over, “Can we get the check?” She laughed, actually laughed. His face must have told her that wasn’t appropriate because she stopped, “Oh — You were being serious!” She glanced over at me and a look of recognition came over her face. Then my phone buzzed. “OMG! I need to come over to your place right away!” I sighed, This is rather inconvenient. How do I imply I don’t want guests without tipping her off? “Now really isn’t a good time. Is it an emergency?” He looked over at me, “Are you ready to go?” “Yeah, yeah. Let’s go to the park.” I said, glancing back at my phone. “Ok?” he said, striding through the restaurant like he owned the place or something. Men.

I have never been so grateful to be in my park. Turtle Park has always been very poorly lit and the turtle pond in the middle gets deep enough in the middle to easily drown Sasquatch. Or, for that matter, to hide an idiotic middle aged man. I grabbed his hand as we walked into the park, this was the easiest part. It was always the same. Guys never notice if you walk behind them, I don’t think they care as long as they’re the ones dragging you. It’s on my long list of things I hate about them. As I began to slow my steps so I could casually move behind him he slowed down too. I have never been more frustrated. “What are you looking at?” He seemed genuinely interested in why I had slowed down. I’m looking for a good place to stab you, idiot. “Oh, I thought I saw a squirrel! I guess it’s gone now.” He nodded, “Yeah, they’re wily things.” I waited for him to speed back up but he just wouldn’t. Normally I would be leading him toward the pond but things were not going as planned. I had to improvise, “Hey, what’s that up there?” I had seen some movement ahead of us. He was so excited he started moving faster to look and I quickly took the opportunity to stab him. Right in front of a freaking old lady on a park bench!

~~~

I looked up from the sweater I had been knitting for my dog, Toto. He loved his old red sweater so much I had decided to make him a new one. I’d been so busy knitting I hadn’t noticed how late it had gotten when suddenly a couple came down the walkway in front of me. The poor fellow’s face fell into a frown and tears came bursting from his eyes. It took me a moment to realize he had a knife sticking out of his back. The young lady that was with him stared at me like she was the one that had walked onto a murder scene. Before I could move she had grabbed the knife out of his back and had run away. I asked the young man if he had a phone on him. He would be the only young person without a cellphone. I told him I’d be back and I walked toward the phone booth outside the park.

Pros and Cons

Clara pushed the door open just enough to allow herself into the room. The floor creaked as she sauntered into the kitchen and put the grocery bags on the kitchen table.

“Thomas!” she yelled, peaking through the open doorway to the living room.

“What?” Thomas asked, moving into the doorway.

“Are you ready to work on dinner?” Clara asked as she began emptying the grocery bags onto the table.

“Clara, I told you I needed a little while to process this.”

“You’re not going to get more used to the idea if we don’t talk to each other.” Clara said as she threw a can of beans at him.

“I need space to think about it. This is new territory for me and I’m not really clear on what I’m doing.”

“Well, you could always ask for advice. There are plenty of people that have gone before you.”

“Clara, this isn’t something you can just brush off! I told you I needed space.”

“Thomas,” She said, turning to face him, “you don’t need space. You need to make a decision.”

“Well, I’m not ready to make this decision.”

“Well, what do you need to do to get ready? Because I’m waiting for your decision.”

“I was going to make a pros and cons list and think about all the–”

“Oh my God, Thomas! A pros and cons list? Is this so difficult for you?”

He sighed, she had never been good at empathizing with him. That was one of the cons. “Look, Clara, I’m just not much of a relationship person. I like my space.”

Clara sat down at the table, her expression had changed to one of exhaustion. “Let’s make a pros and cons list, then.”

“Clara, I’m really not feeling like doing this tonight.”

Her eyes were pleading, “Please. Can we please just do this.”

“Fine, Clara. Pro: I’ll finally be in a relationship like a normal human being.”

“Con: You’ll have to actually pay attention to the other normal human being.”

“Pro: I’ll finally have someone to take with me to all the formal events I attend.”

“Con: You’ll always have to invite me.”

“Pro: I’ll have someone to bring me soup when I don’t feel good.”

“Con: You’ll have to take someone soup when they don’t feel good.”

“Pro: You’ll be happy.”

“Con: Your friends will get even less of your time.”

“Pro: I won’t be alone.”

“Con: You won’t be alone.”

“Clara, I’m really too tired for this. Can I just call you tomorrow?”

Clara stood up from the table, “I don’t think you need to Thomas. When you’re ready call me. I won’t push you anymore.”

She strode toward the door, feeling his eyes on her back. “You can keep the food.” She said as she pulled the door behind her.

He listened as her car started up and she was gone. He sat down at the table and placed his head in his hands. He didn’t know if she understood the kind of turmoil he was going through. He had been alone for so long now he didn’t know if he could figure out how to not be alone.

A Poem for Two

Today I decided to have some fun and write a poem with my younger sister. Her words are in purple

I like dinosaurs.

I like omnivores.

Sometimes I like to pretend I live in a zoo,

But there is a lot of poo.

So then I pretend I’m an astronaut,

I laugh a lot.

Some days I like to play doctor

And then I have to ride in a helicopter.

Sometimes I sleep the whole day away

And I dream about eating clay.

Every once in a while I get very scared

Because I shared

My thoughts with you

Honey Dew.

She Goes on a Hike

This weekend I went on an adventure. It wasn’t anything huge, in fact I wasn’t an hour away from my house, but it was lovely. My aunt, uncle, little sister, and I decided to go for a hike. At the beginning of our hike I was all in and totally excited. Then we kept walking at a very steep incline. Forever.

I’m not a very in-shape person so it was a little rough on the way up. I turned bright red and I thought I was going to sweat out all the water in my body. To add insult to injury it was extremely humid and hot. More than once I thought about sitting down and waiting for everyone else to come back down. Fortunately for me I have my pride and it forced me to keep going up.

Once we got to the top of the mountain I was so happy I had made it. I was happy because I don’t think I’ve could’ve walked any further and it was absolutely gorgeous up there! I felt like I was in a whole other world. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so very alive.

I’d forgotten how much fun being outside could be and what a beautiful place I lived in. I look forward to going on many more adventures like this one before the summer is over. Being out in the mountains is like nothing else. They remind you how big the world really is and how much exploring there is left to do.

The Letter

I hadn’t noticed it before I got home, the letter stuck to my shoe. Assuming that it was just a receipt I removed it unceremoniously. Then I noticed it was a folded piece of paper. Curiosity forced me to open it. The beautiful handwriting told of the precious time it had taken to pen the letter. I felt terrible – I didn’t even know where it came from. As I sat there totally lost I began to read what it said:

 

Beautiful,

I know you told me not to write, but I have to tell you this: I love you.

 

The rest of the page just said “I love you” over and over until the words were no longer legible.

 

 

Losing Herself

I wanted to include a little bit of a disclaimer before this post. I’m writing on loss because thats the prompt for the Writing 101 activity I am participating in. I decided that to follow the theme of boldness I would write about how loss had shaped who I am. I wrote this in a rather abstract way as this seems to be the style I’m using for my blog posts. Anyway, because this must be bold I feel this piece is very “welcome to my life.” If you’re not looking to read that kind of thing I would visit some of my other blog posts. Some of them are really very whimsical and are nice for a light bit of reading.

 

We have all experienced loss. It comes into your life in a variety of ways. Sometimes it leaves without making much of a difference. Sometimes it rocks your world on its foundations.

Loss and I are old friends. He’s been there for many of the important turning points in my life. He was there when I lost loved ones, my ideas about family, my friends, and when I lost my hope. Loss became a huge presence in my life when I was about 12. It was at this time that I lost my childhood to mother nature. I lost my two best friends in the whole world. And the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae was the loss I felt when my parents split up.

To be fair, this didn’t all happen within a matter of days. In fact, Loss visited me constantly for quite a few years. Every time Loss came for a visit I felt my world shatter. I would begin to pick up the pieces, desperately trying to glue myself back together. Then he would stop by again and look me dead in the face as he crushed everything I had worked for.

Loss doesn’t have time to feel remorse. He has to visit so many people in so little time that he doesn’t even get the time to comfort you. He doesn’t remind you the world can have a new normal.

More recently Loss has stopped by a little more frequently than I would like. Sometimes he even waves to me as he passes through as a little sign that he remembers our history. Or maybe that’s his way of apologizing for the pain I’ve had to endure. He knows I lost out on a “normal” childhood. I lost out on having an example of what a healthy relationship looks like. I lost out on learning how to trust. I lost out on learning how to love.

I like to think that Loss watches over me. I like to think it’s his job to admire the things I am creating in my life and once they become too comfortable it is his job to remind me that this world was not made for comfort. He watches to make sure I’m always a little bit on edge. It’s his job to remind me how fragile everything I do really is.

Loss sees me putting up my brick wall every day. He sees how I labor to get up in the morning and put a smile on. He hears me on my worst mornings, the tears melting into the water from the showerhead. He sees me as I bounce over to my roommate and ask her if she’s ready to go to breakfast. He knows I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before he takes her, too. He knows my heartache when I go to a class and I make a low grade on an assignment because I know how easily he can take away everything I’ve worked so hard for. He watches me curl up on my bed after a long day, the smile I’ve held so firm finally leaving my face.

Loss is still my friend, though. I have to believe the things I have lost were for a good reason; otherwise I would lose my mind. Loss knows I will not allow myself to be broken again. He knows how hard I work to keep other people at an arm’s length.

My friends don’t know the real me, the one that screams and cries and feels. I have always been afraid that I would lose them. I’ve always been afraid that I would lose everything. To let them in is to let my brick wall begin to crumble and crumbling is not an option. If I crumble all is lost.

The Songs in Her Head

Music has always been a very large part of my life. As a little kid I used to absolutely love dancing and singing. I was always the star of the plays we did at church because I could sing, and I did. When I got a little older my mom put me in a piano class. I hated it. I didn’t hate the piano, in fact since then I have toyed with a few pianos since then and I really love how beautiful they are. Not just the sound, but the very aesthetics of the piano. It’s magical watching other people play them. When I really entered into the music world was when I told my parents I wanted to join band in middle school. My parents objected, they didn’t want to pay for the instrument, but it was clearly a good investment. I still have that alto saxophone and it plays wonderfully. Music speaks to me in a way nothing else can.

One of my favorite songs to play is Nimrod. If you’ve never heard the song I beg you to look it up. It is hauntingly beautiful. It starts off so quiet it’s imperceptible. The notes are so very mournful that they make your heart hurt. Then the song slowly builds so that you no longer have to strain to hear it and your whole soul will cry out to be wrapped in its sweet melody. None of the other students really liked playing it like I did. It wasn’t loud and fun and in your face. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. I couldn’t help but smile every time we played it. I could pour my soul into that song, giving myself up to the music. Nimrod is the song that I can really get into when I’m feeling awful because it always makes me feel better. The haunting melody reminds me that everyone has been there. When I listen to it in the presence of others I feel a deep connection as we are all there together, one in our silent agonies.

On the flip side I have always been drawn to very upbeat and exciting songs. My most recent favorite is Shark Attack by Grouplove. The first time I heard it I didn’t hear the lyrics, I just heard how happy everyone on the recording sounded. The song is hard to listen to and not become overwhelmed with feelings of joy and sheer ecstasy. The lyrics are just so light and float-y. The song represents the sheer joy of just letting go and being yourself. It is literally a plea to all its listeners to just have some fun. This song is a breath of fresh air after listening to many of the songs that are popular on today’s radios. (This song doesn’t have any misogyny, hate lyrics, or make you want to rip your hair out!)  Any time I listen to it I can’t help but feel like dancing. The song speaks to me because it just feels so very free. For me this song represents my moment in the sun where I don’t belong to anybody, where I, too, am free.

The third song I want to talk about is one that really gets me. The first time I heard it I was just absolutely stunned. I won’t claim that it’s an overly complicated work of musical genius, according to some music snobs I have rather bad taste in music. Yet, this song spoke to me. The singer seemed to be crawling into my skull and finding the exact lyrics to sing. Coming of Age by Foster the People, I am absolutely in love with a Foster the People song. Unlike the other songs I mentioned I love this one for the lyrics. I can’t help but sing when I hear this song. I love harmonizing with the singer (Even if I don’t know his name). It’s not that the song is particularly lyrical genius, I just love what it says to me. I’m not the only one that has been hurt: kicked, beaten, battered, and bruised. And I’m not the only one that has been absolutely filled with doubt and regret and pain. That song is how I remind myself that to grow up sometimes we have to face mountains.

I hate going a day without listening to some kind of music. I have found one of the most soothing activities is to just scream lyrics while you’re all alone in your car, cleaning your room, or hanging out with your best friend. When I’m upset I tend to put on music because then I’m not alone. These artists that have never met me, they are my friends. Their music has helped me through some of my hardest days, and helped me to celebrate some of my best days. How could you possibly be sad when you’re dancing?

Containing Her Emotions

I am a very emotional person. I feel all of my emotions with such force they can sometimes prove to be a little overwhelming. I think that’s one of the reasons my mother made me feel ashamed of my emotions when I was younger. She would yell at me for crying, as if yelling would make the hurt go away. All my mother did was make me feel ashamed about having emotions. That just produced an even more stressed out child and led to many more tears. Which led to more tears because of how ashamed I felt for having emotions. It was a cycle of hurt that I still haven’t fully escaped from.

I think one of the reasons my mother was so opposed to my emotional responses to things is because emotions, particularly the emotions that are manifested in tears, are associated with femininity (and by association, weakness). I’ve really never been sure that my parents didn’t just want me to grow up as a boy. They forced me into sports, encouraged rough-housing, and at times when I was particularly vulnerable the response I got was basically “Man Up.”

All of this socialization that encouraged me to have a tough skin didn’t actually make me any tougher, it just destroyed my psyche. My self-confidence received a bullet to the brain and I felt isolated from the world. Since I wasn’t supposed to express my feelings I couldn’t connect with anyone. I didn’t feel safe letting anyone know what was wrong. I tried to learn how to force a smile all the time because that’s what they wanted from me. It didn’t matter what I was going through on the inside as long as I forced a smile. Not to smile was weak and I always felt like shit when I finally broke down and cried. How could I be so pathetic?

It is only now as I enter into adulthood that I’m seeing that it’s O.K. for me to get in touch with my emotions. I guess in that way I can kind of relate to Elsa (the main villain-turned-good-guy in the movie Frozen). Her parents taught her to fear a part of her, in this case the power to shoot ice from her hands and make snow happen. By trying to contain it, instead of trying to understand it, she lost control. In a similar fashion I lost control of my emotions. I’m still terrified of feeling angry because I don’t know how to deal with that emotion. Similarly I don’t know what to do when I’m feeling very sad. Or when I’m stressed out. I haven’t even begun to understand my emotions and because of that they control me.

I didn’t want to write this blog post. (I got really sad writing it!) But I put the word bold in the title and I feel like I need to own up to that expectation I set for myself. I don’t want to be the girl that has to hide behind a smile anymore. I want to face my demons head-on.  You know what? The tears never bothered me anyway.

Smile