I’m just like anyone who has to get situated before settling in for a good night’s sleep. And yes, I take pride in being a champion sleeper who can conquer 10 solid hours nightly. But doesn’t everyone have a routine? Doesn’t everyone suffer from some degree of pre-slumber pickiness? Doesn’t everyone need a fresh tube of lip balm, a bottle of hand lotion with an easy pump and at least 32 ounces (preferably 64) of fresh drinking water all within arm’s reach?
My night shirt has to be void of any bunching beneath me. When I had hair, it had to be sprawled up, spanning beyond the top edges of my pillow and couldn’t so much as graze my neck. And then of course I need a pillow between my knees and ankles and another to snuggle between my arms as a preventative measure should my elbows ever dream of touching. And then there’s the fidgeting. Because I learned long ago that if there’s an adjustment that needs to be made, better to immediately make it than lie there thinking about how much it’s bugging me. That itch on my head, the twist in my shirt.
Yes, all of this is true, and yet someone agreed to marry me. Someone who has the weirdest definition of snuggling of any person in the continental United States.
“Ouch! What are you doing?”
“I’m cuddling you.”
“With your elbows?!”
So in a desperate attempt to cuddle me without compromising the fragile microchip that is my sleeping situation, he’s become inventive. He’ll move his upper body as far away as possible, but touch the bottoms of his feet to mine. Or he will turn away and nudge his butt against my back ever so slightly. Once he outstretched an arm from across the bed and grabbed a fistful of my hair.
He tries. He really does.
Two nights ago, I awoke uncomfortable in the middle of the night. My head had sunken far into the depths of my pillow. It swallowed my face, caused my cheeks to flush and my forehead to sweat. As anyone in my position would do, I opted for the most obvious game play in this situation: the pillow flip. Only, when I attempted to execute the maneuver, I was thwarted by something pinning down the other end. In the dark I could just barely make out the sight of a sleeping Patrick clinging onto the far end of my pillow, smiling.
He hadn’t touched me, he’d been careful to limit himself – even in his sleep – to the measly outskirts. And yet he found joy in this, his newest technique in snuggling with his wife. His crazy, fidgety, particular wife. I laid there, the weight of my head sunken into my pillow, and watched him smiling. And I thought to myself, uncomfortable and unable to do anything about it, how lucky I am.
In the beginning.
That really feels like the only acceptable way to begin this post.
In the beginning, there were blinds. Horrible, hideous, loud, cheap-looking vertical blinds. They came standard in our apartment, typical for a rental, and we loved the apartment so much despite them that we figured they’d be an easy thing to replace.
That was five years ago.
Now, to be fair, not all five years (or even most of it) was spent planning or even discussing curtains. Though, every now and then Patrick would bring it up as if it were a matter of national security.
“Something needs to be done about the vertical blinds.”
I’d grown to hate them less, even though they weren’t appealing, they were functional and had just blended into the rest of the apartment. Excepting when our friend’s dog was over for a visit and would crash into them, causing them to clatter and sway, they didn’t really bother me.
My mom, as a thank-you for helping out with her curtains, gave us a gift card to Ikea so that we could finally realize Patrick’s wildest dreams for our apartment. Though, he’s not that wild, and his dreams for our apartment were actually very plain. “I really want the curtains to be the same color of the wall. That’s how upscale design is done.”
So then we went through the natural progression of Patrick’s ideas as they marched two-by-two out of his brain.
Now, all the ideas he has are for things like wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor curtains, which is unsurprising given his privileged upbringing and therefore expensive taste. He doesn’t just want curtains, no, plain old curtains will never do. He wants the Lazaro wedding gown of curtains. The Rolls Royce of curtains. The Wayne Manor of curtains. And when I’d have little concerns, like, “Well, I don’t love the idea of covering up that piece of art,” he’d have an answer. Like, “In France, they hang their artwork OVER their curtains.” And it’s like I can’t argue with him about it because FRANCE.
We took a trip to Ikea “just to look.” Yes, we drove all the way to Ikea just to see what they had and to feel the curtains up in person (Patrick had already scoured the Swedish offerings online and just wanted to do a tactile comparison).
I found a few things I liked, all were in different directions. One was a set of thin, flat sliding panels. Another was a set of dark color block curtains. Meanwhile, Patrick is comparing all of the curtains in the store to the measurements he had taken and was finding that in order to achieve what he wanted, we couldn’t just go with one of my ideas and buy something that was there and readily available. No, we would have to make our own, match the color of the wall exactly and find a light-blocking backing to sew into them. He was of course using the royal “we” because of the two people living in this house, he is the one who doesn’t know how to use the sewing machine.
Weeks went by, we took a trip and he talked about the curtains at least four times each day. “We could…” or “What if we…” and it grew more and more exhausting. We went to Ikea again, to look, and probably for a new scrub brush or something, and found that the color block curtains I liked so much (that had a light-blocking backing) also came in a more subtle tone, with thin beige and white stripes.
“They aren’t long enough to reach from floor to ceiling,” he said, because if this curtain debacle has taught me anything, it’s just how disagreeable my husband can be.
Weeks went by, decisions were made and we went back to collect our Swedish home goods (Patrick had, of course, written a detailed list containing every last fastening bracket). The curtains we picked were sold out. The sheers we’d selected for our bedroom were sold out. We grabbed a plan B for those, along with a few light-blocking roll-up shades for our bedroom and guest bedroom and some curtain wire from which we planned to hang the sheers. We bought a version of the living room curtains in a different color so that we could know how high to hang the hardware.
We had decided for the living room we were going to hang the curtains from copper piping, because if they weren’t going to be floor-to-ceiling (heaven forbid), they were at least going to have a good-looking rail system. We’d gotten the bug planted when we saw some friends over the summer who had used piping for their curtains, and it looked great.
Though, we didn’t hang the copper piping, because we realized there’s really no way to get the understudy curtains on and off without unscrewing the entire plate from the wall. It all just seemed like a giant mess we didn’t want to attempt.
So Patrick started with our bedroom, beginning with our roll-up shades. They were more than adequate at blocking the light, however, there were gaps around the edges and the light still came in. The sheers had tab tops, so they looked cheap hanging from the bowing wire. It looked more like we’d strung up a bed sheet over an exposed wire spiking out of the wall. Most of our decorating decisions are good. This one was not. Patrick was mad.
We were both surprised to miss our vertical blinds.
Long copper pipes laid on the floor for days, we were nervous to hang them up because of our first failed experiment. Even more, we had specific concerns about the copper piping, mostly that it would sag from the weight of the curtains. And OF COURSE we had to have wall-to-wall curtains, which required so many more panels that we were right to second guess not only the strength of the copper piping, but also the sturdiness of the wall and industrial soundness of the building.
We abandoned the copper piping idea and opted instead for a sliding rail system, which wouldn’t limit us to opening them only symmetrically because the curtains could be slid all the way across the seams from one side of the room to the other. And if you haven’t ever thought about this, welcome to my life, where making simple decisions can’t be made without first rattling off no less than 97 hypothetical scenarios.
We went back to Ikea, the curtains were still sold out.
Days later, I went back to Ikea to get all the rails, found our curtains were in stock, and also found some of the sheers for our bedroom that we originally wanted.
Patrick spent the next day hanging the living room curtains. This is not an exaggeration. He spent the ENTIRE DAY hanging the curtains. He hung the first bracket, then held the curtains up to gauge how long they’d hang. We both decided he should move them down one inch. He proceeded with the rest of the brackets, measuring and drilling and anchoring each one. When he finally had them up, he assembled the bar. When he had that up, we strung on the curtains.
And they were too low. By less than one inch.
We debated leaving them, wondering whether it would really be that big of a deal if they dragged across the carpet and didn’t hang properly. Piece by piece, he disassembled them, smoke rising from his ears. He transformed into the angriest version of himself that’s reserved for bad rounds of golf and, apparently, curtains. He’d drop a screw and let out a string of profanities. Like the world was ending, you guys.
At one point, he broke a globe on this lamp. I asked him if he wanted me to move the lamp, and he breathed fire at me.
When the job was done, 12 hours after he started, he decided that 11pm was the perfect time to steam them. So that’s exactly what he did. Then, after all that, he looks right at me and says, “Well? Do you like the curtains?”
“I love them.”
Because who would be crazy enough to say anything else?
As the seasons begin to change, I’m washed over with a wave of nostalgia. And what better view is there of summer than standing on the first days of fall?
So long, summer. And what a wonderful summer it was.
Most of the music I listened to this summer was in my sister’s van. Driving around, listening to the satellite radio. Or sitting in the way way back next to Sawyer, because anytime we would go anywhere, he’d bat his eyes at me and say, “Whitney, I want you to sit by me. Can you sit by me?” And then I’d finagle my way back there and squeeze in next to his car seat and that’s the story of how I watched Frozen 147 times in three months.
Though, more than Frozen, the most-watched movie of the summer for us was Rio, which is quite possibly my favorite animated movie. The animation is good, but the sounds – the voices and the music – make the movie what it is. Plus it’s got a special place in my heart because my nephew Jude walks around going, “Reeee-oh! Reeee-oh! All by. All by.”
We were once in the car, just Ashley and me, and heard “You know what to do with that big fat butt! Wiggle wiggle wiggle.” And I don’t remember the last time we laughed so hard about a song. Maybe it was that time when she and I were driving around after my grandpa’s funeral listening to “My Band” by D12 and Ashley sang “please, won’t you please let me suck your cock” in front of my mom. None of us has ever been the same.
So we drove home after running our errands, I clutching onto the bag of Chipotle that would feed our whole family, both of us laughing and snorting. Talking about how ridiculous it would be to write or pitch or produce this song, and how impressive it is that it was executed with any seriousness at all.
Another time we were driving around and I wanted to look at the face of Sam Smith, who I was sure was a handsome black man with muscles for days and good taste in shoes. So I was surprised when I found a photo of him, and he turned out to look nothing like my mind’s image of him.
“You want me to show you?” I asked her, because she went so long without knowing what Bruno Mars looked like that she stopped wanting to know after a while. We both agreed he was more Boy George and less John Legend than either of us expected, but, good song nonetheless.
So much of the media coverage the past several days has been centered around Ray Rice and the details of his domestic violence case. About how they’re married now, or that his wife dropped the charges. I’ve seen a lot of talk about how smoking weed can earn a player a one-year suspension, but Ray Rice’s original suspension was only two games. So many people are talking about this, but so little is being said.
We need to instead discuss the right things, which is that this man hit his then fiancee so hard, she actually fell unconscious. Any other circumstances about the incident are irrelevant. I’ve heard people mention that she was spitting at him, that the attack was provoked, and that is not an excuse. There is NEVER a reason for a man to hit a woman that way.
For the most part, I know little about this situation: the complexities of their relationship, the character of Ray Rice. I hadn’t even known that the second part of the video (where he removes her body from the elevator after she is unconscious) had been circulating around the Internet since February.
The latest in this saga is that the NFL commissioner has come under scrutiny for denying having ever seen the video footage of Rice crash-landing his fist into Janay Palmer’s head. Whether or not he is lying about that is irrelevant to my point, which is that he saw the other part of the video and did nothing. In fact, what most people assumed when viewing this video out of context, is that she had too much too drink and had passed out in the elevator. And so for seven months Janay lived alone with this, and Ray Rice went about his usual life.
The problem I’m seeing here is that I know what it looks when a man tends to a drunk woman, and I know what it doesn’t look like. We all know, and yet everyone who saw this video ignored the glaring warning signs of what was really going on.
More sickening to me than the punch itself is the way he dragged her seemingly lifeless body from the elevator with such nonchalance for her well-being. Had this been a one-time act of violence, an angry lashing out, he would have reacted differently. He’d have been shocked by his own behavior. He’d have knelt down by her side to check on her. He’d have called her name, yelled for help. And when it came time to move her, he would have done so in a way that didn’t appear that she was nothing to him but an embarrassing inconvenience. He didn’t cradle her in his arms, or stay with her in the elevator until she came around. No, he hurriedly dragged her body, haphazardly, clumsily, until finally growing too frustrated to continue. And he left her there, splayed out on a tile floor in a compromising, undignified position.
Regardless of whether NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is being honest in his statement that he hadn’t seen the video of Ray Rice physically beating Janay Palmer, he admitted to having seen Rice drag Palmer from the elevator and didn’t feel compelled to act. In my opinion, he, we all missed the mark. Every person who viewed that video, assessed the situation, and did nothing.
Three women die every day as a result of domestic violence. THREE WOMEN DIE EVERY DAY AS A RESULT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. This number is shocking, and that’s only the women who die. One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes, and this violence is beyond the physical assaults and rapes by domestic partners, it’s also psychological, economical. It’s about asserting control, showing dominance, belittling their victims so that these women come to believe they deserve it. Domestic violence is a silent oppression that often lands women in situations where they’re socially isolated, estranged from their families and have fewer social and financial resources than other women. I could go on and on about the statistics, because they’re out there, and they’re shocking. But the issue we need to be focusing on is how domestic violence spans beyond the physical hitting. Sometimes abuse doesn’t look like a knockout punch in an elevator. Sometimes it looks like a man making careless attempts at springing his fiancee’s unconscious body from an elevator, only to leave her on a dirty floor, cold and alone and requiring medical attention. And it’s our responsibility, everyone’s responsibility, to recognize it and to never, ever stand for it.
If someone is hurting you, don’t be ashamed, don’t stay a victim. You are worthy, you are loved, you are important and you are not alone. It’s okay to ask for help. http://www.thehotline.org/
Patrick and I recently ventured up to New York to reunite with my family for my cousin’s wedding. It was great seeing everyone, and we figured, though limited on time, we’d make a quick visit to Niagara Falls because we’re rarely in New York, and even then we don’t venture outside New York City.
The wedding was in Rochester and then we were having a family gathering in Grand Island, and it was in between these events that we thought we’d be able to squeeze in a tourist attraction that typically takes an entire day. Whatever.
No matter how old I get, I can never seem to get a good grasp on estimating how long things take and planning accordingly. Time is like a mythical creature that I can’t see or touch or welcome into my inner circle. I used to hear my alarm go off and negotiate things I’d give up if only I could sleep in longer. I will only brush my teeth for one minute, yeah, that’ll save time! And then I’d snooze for 30 minutes. As if I’ve ever brushed my teeth for 31 minutes. No person in the history of dentistry, not even the most orally hygienic brushers exceed four minutes. And here I was, planning to skip rinsing the shampoo out of my hair so I could sleep in until 8:50 and somehow still start work at 9. So of course I’m thinking Hey! We have two hours until the cookout. We have plenty of time to drive an hour and a half, drop our stuff off at our B&B, change our outfits, visit a national monument and be back in time for the cookout. We had two hours of driving to do in two hours, yet I thought, “We have time to visit Niagara Falls.” No. Because, no. Even I can’t believe me sometimes.
What we expected to encounter was an unparalleled view so majestic that we would weep at the mere sight of it. Nature at its finest. Instead, what we saw when we first arrived were crowded parking lots, food trucks and tacky souvenir shops stretching for miles in every direction.
We hopped in the first of the 29 lines we would go on to stand in that day, lines that were seemingly endless and comprised of the entire continent of Asia. Patrick offered to hold our spot while I, on the brink of peeing my pants, leapt (not literally, because I would have leaked urine all over myself) at the opportunity to duck into the bathroom for a quick bladder-emptying. Which, if I may delve (maybe a bit too personally) into what’s been happening with my bladder, I seem to have traded mine out with that of a 70-year-old woman. I have to pee every 12 minutes like clockwork, and when I’m not actively sitting atop a toilet, I have to maintain a constant state of lower body clenching so as not to release the droplets of urine that seem to be straddling the doorway out of my body.
Trotting back toward Patrick, I saw him, along with a crowd of people, being directed from one line into another. “We would have been through already,” he told me. “The line moved so fast, I was in front of all these people but had to let them go because you were in the bathroom.”
The line didn’t really move anymore, we mostly just stood around while the clouds darkened and started to pour on us. Wind howled and turned rain droplets into violent pelts. Patrick, meanwhile, towered over everyone, so he was exposed to the elements wearing nothing but a long-sleeved button-up shirt, a pair of jeans and his wife’s flip-flops.
We waited for a long time while someone spoke about us being in a group, though we weren’t part of any tour we knew of, and when we were nearing the front of the line, they announced too many tickets had been sold and they’d reached max capacity inside, so we’d have to wait five minutes for them to start selling tickets again. And yet again I’m confronted with how detrimental a dysfunctional bladder can be.
“Do you want to just look at it?” Patrick asked, implying we’d skip riding Maid of the Mist, the boat that hauls gaggles of poncho-clad Asians, and occasionally a few others, into the eye of the falls. He was pointing toward an overlook point, adorned with safety rails, that jutted out toward the falls. He didn’t have to mention that we could do this 1) for free or 2) immediately. Most of Patrick’s good ideas don’t need the details explained. I understood all of this.
“No, let’s get on the boat!” Because maybe on Planet Whitney, if you throw your poncho on really fast, you get back some of the time you wasted standing in line and make it to your family cookout on time. Ticket sales resumed, but because we weren’t technically part of the group we’d been clumped with, we had to stand aside and wait for all of them to pass first, further delaying our sightseeing. Further perpetuating my bitter resentment for my overactive bladder.
We made it up stairs, through turnstiles, around corners. We snaked back and forth, shivering in the rain. Sly tourists tried to sneak past us, to cut, and a few successfully pulled it off, which only made us more miserable: deep in the coldest part of hell. “How much longer from here?” Patrick asked one of the employees, a young man, probably late teens, who commented on Patrick’s resemblance to Adam Levine. “Not long.” We were herded like livestock into the elevator that took us to the lower level and opened up to several hundred miles of slow-moving lines. Not long, I could hear his echo in my head. Like, Hey guy, how long did the Jews wander in the desert? Not long. How long did it take for women to get the right to vote? Not long. How long has the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict been going on? Not long.
We’d bought our tickets, it didn’t matter that we were an hour late for the cookout already and weren’t even glimpsing the end of the line. A few more slow twists and turns, the minutes ticking by, and Patrick finally says, “This will take at least another hour.” We’d paid for our tickets with money and time. We’d subjected ourselves to the cold and the wind and the rain. And now, after all that, we were going to step out of line and go home. “I don’t want you to be upset,” he said. “I’m upset I’m not with my family.” We hopped the gate and trotted toward the exit, the pads of our feet slippery in our sandals.
“Look,” he said, pointing to a rocky staircase that led straight up to the water. “Want to go up there?” Unfortunately, we’d left the line before getting ponchoed.
“Let’s just take these,” he said, pointing to a giant recycling can filled above the brim with ponchos. And the whole time I was wearing it and the knot tied beneath the hood kept brushing against my mouth, all I could think about was whose mouth it was brushing against before it was yanked off and discarded. So unsanitary.
The climb up the stairs was treacherous, the wind pounded the water that came crashing down on us in heavy waves. I held the railing to keep from taking a steep, painful fall. Our eyes were no match for the pouring water, allowing us to catch split seconds of glances before closing again. We made it to the top, the drops hung in the air like fog. The water dumped on us – over the edge and onto our bodies. We left, dripping wet, and trotted the half mile back to the car. We stripped out of our wet clothes, which clung – seemingly for life – to our bodies. We’d brought towels and spare outfits, and we blasted the heat on our way to my aunt’s house. I wiped off my makeup – which more closely resembled the markings of a woodland creature than the workings of a cosmetics line.
By the time we’d arrived, everyone had already eaten, but they still had food out for us.
It’d cost us hours of our life, $10 for parking, $17 each for the unused Maid of the Mist tickets and a mascara stain on my white hoodie that will never come out.
“So?” they asked. “How was Niagara Falls?”
“Chandelier” – Sia
Once again Sia has blown me away with another beautifully sung song that is dripping with emotion. Her knack for flying under Hollywood’s radar has kept her personal life out of the spotlight (except what’s she has willingly provided to magazines during interviews). But her low-key, private lifestyle has allowed us to focus on her raw talent, her mighty voice that shoots up and out from her toes. When I heard “I’m in here,” I decided she’s the most underrated singer/songwriter in the business. And with this song, she might have outdone herself.
I posted the video as well, because if you haven’t seen it, this is an incredible performance by an 11-year-old contemporary dance prodigy.
“All about that bass” – Meghan Trainor
I heard this song for the first time while getting my hair cut on Sunday. Not sure whether this has been already floating around and made it’s way to everyone but me, but I don’t listen to the radio unless I’ve gone over my monthly allotted data or I’m riding in my sister’s van. Sometimes I feel way ahead of the curve when it comes to music, and other times I hear a song for the first time and everyone around me is all, “Wait, you’ve never heard this?” What is this, high school? I live under a rock, GOT A PROBLEM?
Meghan Trainor’s “All about that bass” is the kind of song that makes me want to round up all my friends and shoot a music video of us dancing. It’s got a sound that makes you involuntarily dance and lip sing. And it even makes you pout your mouth because that’s the only logical way you’d get that sound to come out.
“Come with me now” – Kongos
Is everyone (anyone?) into this song as much as I am? It’s everything Nickelback set out to be but never was. Because Nickelback is fucking terrible, you guys.
“Home is not places” – Apache Relay
Was recently turned onto this band by one handsome gent. So far I’ve liked every song I’ve heard. Plus? Best album cover ever.
“Old Money” – Lana Del Rey
More like Lana Del Cray…zy. I mean, seriously. But even though she seems out of her friggin mind, I super love her music. Haven’t had a chance to listen to her new album, Ultraviolence, in full, but I heard this track and loved it. (Also, if you haven’t heard her super creepy cover of “Once Upon a Dream” you should check it out. Stat.
Enjoy these and other tracks on this week’s mixtape.
I’ve recently expanded my fitness regimen to include swimming, which is something I rarely do because despite living in close proximity to 30,000 lakes, 11,000 miles of rivers/streams/waterways, an ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, I am afraid of what’s lurking. WHAT’S LURKING? That sounds like it could mean a hundred different things. Perfect slogan for a new security system ad campaign, or possibly the latest tween slang, like, “Hey, man, what’s lurkin’?” But what I’m afraid of is lepto, amoebas and alligators – oh, my!
My sister, whose irrational fears know no bounds, just shared with me that a piranha was recently caught by a fisherman in a lake in the contiguous United States. So because I’m a glutton for terrifying knowledge, I went searching for news articles about this deadly catch and found that not only was that true in recent news, but also I learned of a new fish, a cousin of the piranha, which has been found in numerous fresh-water bodies throughout the U.S. has been EATING OFF PEOPLE’S TESTICLES.
YOU HEARD ME.
My swimming has been in the safety and clear, uninfested waters of the YMCA lap pool. My instructor is my husband because this girl’s on a budget and can’t pay an actual swim coach for lessons. Let me start over. My instructor is my husband because he is a fantastic swimmer and one of those people who seems to be good at everything. What the hell is with those people, anyway?
The first 10 minutes of each swim lesson is spent getting into the pool.
After that, I spend about an hour flopping around trying to do as my husband says, however I can’t lift my elbow and keep my hand low because they’re connected, and I’m not some kind of fucking swim magician. Though somehow, we’ve managed to make it work and the pieces of the freestyle stroke are coming together but with one exception.
“You’re still lifting your head out of the water to breathe.”
Must have left my gills in my other purse.
“You’re still lifting your head.”
Because I am a human fucking being.
Then it turns into this, “Here. Let me show you.” Because that’s ALWAYS where these things go, when you’re in the presence of someone whose skills far surpass your own, and the last thing you want to do is make a comparison they insist on going, “Watch me.” Yeah, I’m watching. Show off. Then there’s a follow-up. “Did you see how I did it?” Translate: “Did you see how I did it right?” “Yes, looked great.” You smug bastard.
“You barely want to get your mouth out of the water. You’re going to suck a little bit of water in, and that’s good.”
No, that’s drowning.
“You just spit it back out when you exhale.”
Oh, is that what you do? You just suck water into your lungs – the very definition of drowning – and then simply expel it all whilst keeping your hands low and elbows high? Cake.
I will admit that several years ago I’d have been much more combative during a lesson from my husband, but I’ve learned to take instruction well. Maybe I’ve grown humble in my old age (see: where the fuck did 29 go?), maybe I’ve learned other people possess wisdom that I don’t. What I do possess is a new bathing suit, an unflattering one-piece that cuts each of my butt cheeks in half.
Here’s the progress. Criticize away.
Look at me, Mom, I’m swimming!
There’s a piece of my soul that recognizes itself in my sister. It’s happy and playful, and goes untapped but for when I’m around her. I don’t think this is unusual, as it’s human nature to reach inside yourself and reflect back the things you see and feel. There are friendships I hold closer, feelings I reserve only for my husband. With my sister, the connection I share is deep-rooted, long-term and a bridge to my childhood, even.
“My jaw is sore now. I was chewing four pieces of gum.”
“I wanted to blow bubbles.”
I just returned to Florida after 12 weeks of traveling up north, most of which was spent visiting family. The beginning of this summer trip marked the first anniversary of my dad’s death. And much of the time since he died I’ve spent wallowing in sadness. The heavy kind. Irreparable, unrelenting sadness. There is a dad-sized hole in my heart, and though he was a small man, the wound is big. And like any wound, the instinct is to apply pressure, to quell the bleeding, control the damage. No one ever gets stabbed in the gut instinctively spreads her arms open as a reactionary response. No, the instinct is to push as hard as you can, to stifle the pain hoping that if you hold it in your own two hands and squeeze with all your strength, it might just burst apart.
And so I did this. I went inward, I pushed people away, became a stranger to my friends and created distance in my marriage. All I could do was wrap myself up tightly with both arms and try to hold myself together, hold pressure to the wound. To stop the pain from seeping out between my fingers. Sadness, I’ve learned, is a thick, coating ooze. And a person looking for sympathy is like a black hole, a wad of dark matter with an irresistible pull. And so on top of the sadness, I’ve been plagued with the guilt of having pulled down all the people around me, used them as buoys as I’ve tried to stay afloat in the coursing waves of emotional instability.
I allowed myself to become absorbed by new hobbies and characters in books and the lives of people on television. Because it was easier than living my own life, of figuring out how to carry on in a world where my dad no longer existed. It was easier than spending every minute of every day feeling the burden that is crippling grief. Of being so submerged in tragedy that you’re pushed to the brink of human capability. There were small periods of time during the past year when I was able to delight in things that delighted me, but those joyous moments were fleeting.
Spending so much time with my family this summer forced me to confront a lot of the things I’ve been avoiding simply by way of distance. But looking at them every day I was able to clearly see what we have and, sadly, what’s missing. There were nights I spent awake or having nightmares or tossing and turning, days spent bogged down by panic or fears I didn’t know I had. But each day there was something to be happy about: a new inside joke, a birthday party, a memory that, even in that moment I knew I’d hold onto forever. And experiencing polar emotions – happiness during sadness, laughter while depressed – was in itself a dose of intensive therapy.
There is victory in letting yourself move beyond loss, but that doesn’t come easy. I experience difficulty in enjoying day-to-day things because why should I enjoy this if he can’t enjoy it too? There’s an abundant list of cliché things people would say about this, like how I have survivor’s guilt or how he’d want me to be happy. But none of that helps. You lose someone significant in your life, and in comes the steady stream of bullshit people all-too-willingly shovel at you. Like a funeral is really just a game of bingo where you get to check off spaces every time someone tells you “He’s in a better place,” or “God needed another angel.” None of this brought me any comfort or any sense of peace – not then, not now – because at my nephews’ first birthday I know that, given the choice, my dad would have been there.
“Hey Dad,” the conversation would have gone. “Sounds like a pretty sweet gig, but it would mean missing Jude and Milo’s first birthday, as well as all their other birthdays and milestones, and the milestones of all your other grand kids and kids and friends and family. But, I mean, God does need another angel.”
On my last day in Indiana, Ashley and I were out shopping and running errands. And though we were hurrying to get through our laundry list of things to do that day, she took the time to distribute Target coupons that she cut out but wouldn’t use. She could have given the envelope to a cashier to use at his discretion, or she could have handed it off to a busy mom in hopes she’d have some of those discountable items on her shopping list. Instead, Ashley placed each coupon onto the shelf next to its corresponding item. I watched her walk through the aisles and distribute these little gifts and thought about the people who might find them. Maybe an expectant couple on a budget who can now splurge on their first-choice car seat.
Ashley will never know how extensive or profound an effect her good deed will have on others and on me. She’ll never know whose lives were made even a little brighter by her kindness. And she didn’t realize that standing there in Target I would snap out of what seemed like a year-long hibernation. One kind gesture that brought me back to myself by one person who doesn’t have to owe the world anything. She experienced the same loss I did, but with more poise and less anxiety. It’s like she’s already figured out the secrets of the world, knows what will take the rest of us years to piece together. But the feeling I got that day from watching her has lingered, a contagious kindness that has reignited my spirit.
I spent a year after my dad’s death learning how to check out of my own life, but I spent the past three months learning how to check back in. The dark cloud that seemed to be hanging over my life hasn’t parted to make way for clear skies, life just doesn’t happen that way. But I’ve learned to unwrap my arms from their grip around my body and spread them wide to accept the raining down of circumstance. Sad and lonely and disappointing and unfair and brilliant and hilarious circumstance. I’m checking into the present, watching my sister blow bubbles in the car, paying attention to what’s happening now and enjoying my life enough to chronicle it (on this website) again.
There will always be sadness in the world. There will always be pain that is, at its worst, paralyzing. Even yesterday we heard of Robin Williams’s death. He was, coincidentally, the same age as my dad when he died. Death will always seem untimely and unfair and tragic, but what has brought me peace is very simple: there is goodness in this world.
Hold onto the goodness.
All my money is plastic. My banking is done online. Funds for bills I owe are automatically sucked from my bank account when they need to be. We’ve come a long way since the hours my mom spent sitting at the dining room table with a stack of receipts balancing her checkbook. I don’t know how money will magically appear in my bank account simply because I’ve snapped a photo of it on my phone. But I also don’t know how cassette tapes work, and so I’ve come to believe it’s better to not question some things. Like why so many people love Crossfit.
So despite not ever using cash, I’ve decided to put my pack rat skills to good use by collecting loose change and donating it to charity. The thing about loose change is, I’ve found, you can’t just show up at a bank with three gallon-sized Ziploc bags of loose change and expect them to wave a wand over it and have it appear in your account.
“We’re not taking that,” they told me. “You’ll have to roll that up,” they told me. “Turn around and walk away,” they said. “Ma’am, you’re belligerent,” they said. “We’re calling security,” they said.
I loaded up on paper rolls for quarters, nickels and pennies, however, they were out of the dime variety. Because apparently dime rolls are the most in-demand, most coveted paper roll of all the change. The more you know.
So months go by and all my non-dimes have long since been rolled, so I figure it’s time to pick up where I left off.
The first bank I tried was closed. Checking my watch, I realized that if I hadn’t spent so much time practicing my South African accent into the bathroom mirror, I’d not have missed the bank’s closing time by 14 minutes.
The second bank I tried was open an hour later, probably because the proprietor was also keen on spending the afternoon hours practicing his accents or maybe his Michelle Pfeiffer lips (which I actually did spend an entire afternoon doing once).
This was apparently the place where the Royal Baby was sleeping, if such an assumption could be made based solely on the level of security. I opened the door, and an only slightly annoying alarm sounded inside the bank to alert them I was entering, and then stopped almost immediately. I can’t say I blame them for being so adamant with their security measures, because I’ve heard I look like someone who would walk into a bank wearing a maxi dress, peacock earrings and flip flops and rob it in the face.
The doorway doubled as a metal detector. I was locked in what appeared to be an airless antichamber, likely with hidden faucets ready to shower me with battery acid should I make any hostile attempts to force my way through the doors that aren’t unlike the ones in Jurassic Park guarding the T-Rex paddock.
When the door closed behind me, I heard the lock latch, which made me question whether I’d stepped into a bank or an elaborate trap set up by a serial axe murderer who grew up poor, became a self-made man and now gets his kicks murdering innocent victims in a bank vault. I know it’s not necessary to think about his difficult upbringing and all the opportunities he was’t given, but I like to create three-dimensional characters.
After performing a series of tests, including but not limited to an eye exam, sobriety test, algebra pop-quiz, a lightning round of the-floor-is-lava and a robot dance-off, they determined I was not, in fact, an imminent threat. A light on the doorway in front of me changed from red to green to grant me access to the lobby of the bank. Yes, ALL OF THIS HAPPENED before I was granted access to the lobby. Because this bank is no fucking joke.
“How can we help you?” They asked, accusatory. They still perceived me as dangerous. Bunch of paranoid em effers, apparently.
“Hi,” I said, sweetly, my arms straight, hands clasped together at my side as I swayed back and forth like a recently potty-trained toddler still trying to recognize the urge to pee my pants.
“I need some rolls for dimes if you have them, please.” Masters. I was feeling scared and inferior. Whatever mind control techniques they were using were working. I was feeling lowly and inferior, and not just because I’m unemployed and without child at 28-and-a-half.
They stood behind glass, which I assumed was bullet-proof but I was afraid to ask. Because what you don’t ask when you’re inside a bank are any questions to confirm their suspicions that you’re a god damn criminal. She handed me a short stack of paper dime rolls and then asked whether I would need anything else. I snatched them up and turned to quickly exit the bank, sick of being scrutinized and judged by the pompous tellers behind their likely-bullet-proof glass.
“Anything else?” She asked.
“NO!” It came out louder and with much more force than I’d planned. “BYE!” I said, turning to run out of the bank. Though, my plans were foiled when I tripped awkwardly and slipped out of one of my shoes. I spun around, my phone flying out of my open purse and landing on the floor. I was reaching my foot out to find my shoe, but then aborted that mission to instead go for my phone. I took one step with my bare foot onto the bank floor and the realization hit of what was happening. I turned back toward my shoe, hopped one-footed back to my shoe and slid it on before turning and making the short walk to pick up my phone. I didn’t want to face them, so I said, “GOOD DAY!” and then made a break for the exit, however, I got to the door and realized it was locked. I stood there pushing for what seemed like an eternity, noting the measuring tape adhered to the door frame. No doubt there was a security camera at my back taking in my description and height.
The door buzzed I nearly fell through. Ahead of me I saw a familiar box with an illuminated red light. This time, I knew. I was to stay in this chamber until the door behind me locked before exiting through the final door. While I waited, I turned to them, beaming with pride at how fast I caught onto their security measures. And to make the situation even more of a drain on my dignity, even more humiliating, I waved.
The light turned to green and I held my head up high as I walked through the final door and into the parking lot, more thankful than any person has ever been for online banking.