Fearless

 

Recently, a stranger paid me one of my favorite compliments to date:

He told me I was fearless.

I was at the Buffalo Bill museum in town covering an art discussion for work. I had my notebook and photographer (my boyfriend, Raym) in hand. The older gentleman had ambled over to talk to Raym before the presentation. He’d then reached over to shake my hand and tell me he greatly enjoyed my columns for the newspaper.

I write a column on adventure, called This Wild Life, in which I generally do wild and crazy things that scare me. Not every time is it crazy, but I have written about going over my handlebars while mountain biking, flying in an aerobatic plane and taking a dip in the frigid waters of the Shoshone River on New Year’s Day.

At first, this person shaking my hand with no proper introduction (he hadn’t asked my name) and professing to like my writing thrilled me. I get compliments from time to time, mostly from women, though it means a great deal to me all the same.

But this was different. People who have paid me compliments in the past generally know me or I’ve interacted with them on some occasion. I had never seen this man. Somehow that already seemed greater, as he had no stake in reading what I wrote.

And then he made that fearless comment.

At first I was stupefied. Does this man know what he’s talking about? I am the most scared person that ever was.

Truly. Everything scares me.

I feel a weird lump on my head and become alarmed; I WebMD cancer. My boyfriend is late in getting home and I fear he’s gotten in a wreck. I write a story that deeply moves me and the New Yorker doesn’t call and I am afraid I’ll never make it.

And that’s just everyday nonsense. That isn’t even my “wild and crazy” adventures. I had a coworker recently joke about how much I profess a fear of dying in my columns. I don’t think I am a dark person per se…

Please reference my favorite movie here:

Harry: When I buy a new book, I always read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.
Sally: That doesn’t mean you’re deep or anything. I mean, yes, basically I’m a happy person…
Harry: So am I.
Sally: …and I don’t see that there’s anything wrong with that.
Harry: Of course not. You’re too busy being happy. Do you ever think about death?
Sally: Yes.
Harry: Sure you do. A fleeting thought that drifts in and out of the transom of your mind. I spend hours, I spend days…
Sally: – and you think this makes you a better person?
Harry: Look, when the shit comes down, I’m gonna be prepared and you’re not, that’s all I’m saying.
Sally: And in the meantime, you’re gonna ruin your whole life waiting for it.

While I feel a little like Sally in my happiness inclinations, I can relate to Harry’s need to prepare for the end. I suspect it’s moreso my dramatic flair rather than any real darkness, yet it is something I worry about incessantly.

It mostly stems from this deep seated fear about my life being cut short before I have accomplished it all. I almost have to believe in reincarnation because I know I can’t get it all in in this life alone and that’s with me really trying.

So the fact remains. Nearly every time I do any adventure I inevitably plan for my death just in case. I try to make peace with God, kiss my boyfriend, or not kiss him, because I am a believer in the jinx, and usually tell my mom what I am about to do. Like a chairlift evacuation on a ski hill.

A black cat crossed my path the day before I did this and I had to try really hard not to read into it. The amount of scenarios that ran through my mind on that mere adventure were nothing short of a doomsday prepper.

I was fine. It all went so smoothly as to be laughable.

Then later that night I ran into the stranger surmising that I must be a fearless person.

While I loved that a word like that could be used for me, one that so bespeaks of bravery, my mind couldn’t help but think this man had gotten the wrong impression. I am a huge scaredy baby.

But then later that night I asked myself the question I always ask myself when doing most things that scare me straight down to my underwear.

Why do it? Or better yet: Why constantly put myself in situations where I am afraid?

The answer, I realized is twofold.

If I do something that terrifies me and I don’t die (which has been every time to date), I call on that experience for the next time. I remind myself what it’s like to be truly terrified and how I conquered it.

It makes me feel stronger and somehow braver when I know myself to be the polar opposite of brave.

This works for adventures, all kinds. But it also works for when the everyday fears kick in. When I am not rappelling off mountainsides or sliding myself off a chairlift midair trusting someone has me down below, well it’s all a little more bearable.

I feel like I am living my life to the fullest. Or at least 3/4 of the way full as I sometimes am still miffed I have yet to run with the bulls in Pamplona or master croissants in Paris.

But I feel as though, slowly but surely I am getting there. One fear-filled day at a time.

Then when I do run with bulls, or learn to mush sled dogs, or birth a child, or ever get to have an all important book editor look at my work, I can remind myself:

Girl, you’re fuckin fearless.

At least, one time that stranger told me so.

 

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Eyes on the Mountains (Part 1)

I used to fancy myself a city girl. I sat in my humble house in the country, located in a small farm town in Lower Michigan and dreamed of getting out. I envisioned bigger and better. To me bigger and better was New York City. I watched When Harry Met Sally as a teen, and seeing Sally aimlessly walk through Central Park with Harry, or drag her Christmas tree down twinkly streets was so picturesque and vastly different from Fowlerville, Michigan that I latched onto that place and vowed to get there.

All my thoughts orbited around New York City. How to get there, how to make it there, how to have what Sally had. So easy and simple. She moved there as a hopeful writer and voila, she was a writer. She had this friend that kept coming back to her and he fell in love with her. She watched Casablanca and had lunches at the Boathouse with her girlfriends, while bemoaning men.

I moved to New York City, fresh with my newly minted writing degree, down ninety-two pounds from working my arse off on The Biggest Loser and ready to take on the city streets, writing and love with all my know-how from When Harry Met Sally. Imagine my surprise and dismay when the only jobs I could find were waitressing and Starbucks. The only men looking my way were gay (fabulous, but not interested in any sort of lip-locks) and the city streets, while magical in their own right, were also fraught with a lot of trash and noise, making me realize that maybe making it there wasn’t like the movies at all.

I am sure a lot of people could’ve told me that. And there’s a reason Frank Sinatra croons, “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!” This is true. NYC is not for the faint of heart. I don’t believe myself to be faint of heart, but I think I gave a lot of credence to my city love (based on a movie and a couple class trips to Chicago as a youngster) and zero credence to my country love.

I was having the worst anxiety of my life while living in New York City. While she was a dreamy place full of fantastic culture, art, cupcakes, architecture and wonder, I felt closed in and manic. I never slept while I lived there. This isn’t one of my dramatic exaggerations. I really didn’t sleep; at least not at night. I had insomnia that wouldn’t go away and I utilized this the best I could by training for my first marathon in the middle of the night, instead of tossing and turning in bed, fitful with worry and damp with sweat.

I lived in Brooklyn Heights and I would leave my apartment in the middle of the night and start running: across the Brooklyn Bridge, weaving through Manhattan’s skyscrapers, past policemen milling about, fishermen fishing off the pier, kids skateboarding, and the homeless sleeping against fence-enclosed graveyards. And then I would run back and sit on a bench looking at the sun coming up across the Manhattan skyline while rats scurried beneath my feet. I would amble home, shower and lay in bed in utter exhaustion until eventually I dozed somewhere around five, or sometimes as late as seven.

I remember talking to my friend once as I walked to work in the Village, telling her that maybe I overestimated how much of a city girl I was and underestimated how much of a country girl I was. This troubled me, because I wondered how I could be so wrong about a place I had planned on loving for over a decade.

A need for nature kept hounding me, a need to escape to somewhere quiet where I could gather my thoughts, which were as rampant and erratic as the New York City rats. I would look at the skyline and wish it were mountains. I wanted all the hustle and bustle to be forest-still silence. I wanted the murky concrete puddles to be cloud reflected lakes.

My mom blamed all of this on a love who had recently broken my heart and then up and moved to Alaska while I headed for the big city. She thought the reason I saw mountains instead of skyscrapers was because of him. And that the whole heartbreak thing was ill-timing, ruining my NYC experience. And maybe to a certain extent it was. But I think it was more than that.

I think the mountains were in me long before that love came along and broke my heart, long before I saw When Harry Met Sally, and perhaps long before I even knew which way to go.

When things began to promptly fall apart in NYC, around the time I was due to fly back to the Midwest for my marathon, I didn’t much feel like going back. I was in between apartments and without a place to live. I was sleeping in a hostel in the fetal position and sniveling, wondering how in God’s name Madonna had done it, and starting to unravel in a most disheartening way. I would wander into churches and cry alone in a back pew. Or find parks to sit and do yoga-style breathing techniques and then get mad when I heard an ambulance blare on by.

When I told my mom after my marathon that I couldn’t go back, I just couldn’t, she seemed distressed, thinking I was giving up on my dream and that I had to just stick it out—the anxiety and insomnia and noise. My mom wasn’t being pushy, she was being supportive of how bad I had wanted this one dream.

I couldn’t do it though. I loved New York City and truly always will, but I knew what I needed and it wasn’t skyscrapers and bustling streets. In fact a guy I had started dating around this time took me out one day when I was visiting a friend in Maryland. I was still living in New York and was wildly shaken up. He asked if I wanted to go see Washington D.C. and I all but screamed, no! I didn’t want to be in the city. I didn’t want to hear traffic or see people. I wanted him to take me into the country. “Where?” he asked. I told him where the pumpkins and apples grow.

It may have come as a shock to everyone who knew me and knew how badly I wanted the city-girl life when I abandoned ship and ended up moving to Virginia. Granted I was living outside of Washington D.C. in an urban metropolis about as busy as NYC, but I told my boyfriend at the time that I didn’t care where we lived as long as I had a view of the mountains and easy access to them. Suddenly the mountains became my new focal point.

They were my obsession and I wanted my eyes on them at all times. On my way to work they were on my left; on my way home, on my right. I wanted to talk about them constantly and found myself in a continuing state of awe over their grandeur. I must admit not many people in Virginia seemed to share my amazement. I got a lot of people giving the Blue Ridge Mountains the ol’ brush off and saying, well have you seen the ones out West? I had not, but I thought it was a little disrespectful to discount mountains right in front of us, for even bigger ones far, far away. Clearly these people weren’t mountain lovers.

And with my eyes on the mountains I started rerouting my belief system. About what I really wanted and questioning where I really belonged. I considered that maybe I belonged in Virginia because I had fallen in love with her and the man that lived there. And yet… there was still a displaced restlessness deep down that haunted me. It didn’t keep me up quite as badly as it had in New York, but it was there lurking in the shadows all the time.

To be continued…

He’s the Berries (Part 2)

All the next day I hoped I would see the pilot again and that he—instead of his friend—would ask me out. I was in the midst of a smallish dinner rush and was buzzing about my tables, checking on how their food tasted and if they needed refills. I had a water jug in hand and was filling up a table’s water glasses when I spotted him out of the corner of my eye. Instantly my stomach clenched and I could feel myself wanting to beam, but I didn’t want to seem overly giddy, so instead I kept my cool—which if you know me at all, is still me being wildly uncool. I kept filling the glasses though one wasn’t water, it was Sprite and as soon as I did it I snapped back to the present and away from the pilot’s smile.

“That was Sprite wasn’t it?” I said to the gentleman staring at his newly destroyed Sprite/water mix. He smiled and nodded. “Ooops. I am so sorry. I will go get you a new Sprite.”

I scurried to the front to seat the pilot and get a new Sprite. Again, he stayed until close. His new buddy Bill joined him again and I frequented their table, pretending it was just because I am an attentive waitress, but really I couldn’t get enough of the pilot or his disarming smile.

I hardly knew what to do with myself, he was such a distraction to me. I was delivering the wrong food and pouring the wrong drinks, but I couldn’t redirect my thoughts to the tasks at hand; they only wanted to be on him.

And so when he got up to leave, I kind of slunk behind my waitress station in nervous anticipation of whether he would just leave and that’d be the end of it or if he did remember that tomorrow was my day off and he really did want to take me to dinner. I had a large glass of ice water I was sipping on and I inched over to the counter at the front of the restaurant. He had paid for his dinner and walked back over to the counter where I was standing.

“So, if you would like to hang out or anything tomorrow on your day off…” he ventured while my brain instantly ceased functioning. “I can give you my information.”

I don’t remember what I said, maybe I just nodded like a loon, sliding a waitress tablet across for him to write down his information. He ripped off the sheet and slid it back to me. And being too dumbfounded for words—because besides his smile, have I mentioned how beautiful he is? How tall? Or dapper? How ‘bout that he looks just like a cowboy—I accidentally knocked over my entire glass of water onto the slip of paper, ice sliding this way and that, while water ran over the sides of the counter.

He laughed and asked if I was alright.

I felt honesty was my only option at this point. “It’s just your smile…” I confessed. “It’s very unsettling.”

“That doesn’t seem like a good thing,” he replied.

“No it is!” I insisted, “But it distracts me… and well…” I motioned to the mess I was trying to mop up with napkins, while shaking out the paper with his name, phone number and email.

“Maybe I should take your information too…” he suggested. I was deeply relieved. I knew I would have contacted him, because I was already too far gone, but I was very nervous and preferred the idea of him getting ahold of me.

I wrote out my information and finished cleaning up my mess.

The next day I shopped in town with my sister trying not to dwell on the impending ‘hangout,’ and if that meant date and if the pilot would take me to dinner or worst-case scenario, if he would even text me at all. When he did text me and even passed my serial killer joke test—where I ask if he’s a serial killer to test his sense of humor, to which he responded, “No I am not a serial killer! What about you? Are you the Bear Lodge brutalizer?”—I had to phone my mother and give her the lowdown: that my life goal of being asked out by a handsome stranger while at work, had finally come true.

I kid that isn’t my life goal, but I will admit, many a romantic comedy had given me the notion that this rather rare happenstance—at least in my case—could one day happen to me.

We settled upon meeting in the lodge gift shop at two and would go into town to visit, King’s Saddlery Museum. I ran into the lodge a minute late feeling breathless and nervous and quickly apologized for being late. He shrugged it off and said he usually ran late too. We walked out to his truck where he held the door open for me.

I chitter-chattered our way down the mountain. I couldn’t seem to stop or take a breath. Maybe it was nerves or maybe he just brought out the extra verbose in me. Country music played in the background and we both agreed that the new pop style of country was utter rubbish.

We arrived at the museum, where we wound our way throughout the Wild West decor, him admiring ropes and the fine craftsmanship of the saddles, me mostly admiring him. The pilot made saddles as a hobby. And he had horses. And although he was a pilot—also as a hobby—and not a cowboy, he had the quality of a cowboy, both in attitude, dress and general demeanor. He even had a sort of cowboy drawl.

Before we got to the checkout, so he could purchase his King’s Saddlery baseball hats, he asked me if I would like to get dinner. I nodded casually, while inside I did fist pumps and victory leaps that would impress the flashiest gay Broadway star.

Dinner was lovely and after we went on a drive around Sheridan and then out into the country where he played me cowboy poetry he had on his Spotify. My heart quieted for a minute, while I let the gruff words sift down inside of me like lazy dust flecks coming in through a sunshiny window. I think in that moment, driving in the country with him, rock ridges to my right, mountains to my left, and cowboy poetry playing on the radio, I fell a little in love with him.

He told me he wished I didn’t have to work the next day as he was going to a canyon he’d always wanted to see, and he would’ve taken me with. I told him I only worked the morning shift until one, if he wanted to wait.

He said he’d wait.

We wound our way back up the mountain where an 80’s party was taking place at the lodge. My outfit was to be your basic 80’s aerobics gear, while my sisters dressed up as Molly Ringwald and Madonna respectively—total knockouts. But upon seeing me in my simple cotton workout gear the pilot beamed and said, “If this is what the 80’s looked like, I want to go back!”

Later after we had a couple drinks and I danced with my sisters to Footloose the pilot walked me home, while holding my hand. Then he pulled me to him in a tight hug while he beamed and told me he would see me the next day.

The next day we drove two hours to the Wind River Canyon. He held my hand and made me laugh until all my mascara washed off. We stopped at the Marriage of the Waters, where I joked that I was going to jump in. We struggled to find anywhere to eat in Thermopolis, but I hardly had an appetite anyway as I was drunk on him.

On the drive home he told me I could sleep and got me a sleeping bag to lay my head on. Before I dozed he told me to pick out songs on his Spotify. I was listening to Righteous Brothers, You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling, while he pumped gas, and at the part where they belt out, “baby, baby, I’d get down on my knees for you!” he popped his head in the car and belted out the words to me.

I fell a little more in love.

Then I passed out.

When I awoke we were already winding back up the switchbacks and his hand was in my hair. I sleepily commented that we were almost home. He looked at me, the dashboard light flickering on his five-o-clock shadow and said, “I wish we had a 100 more miles to go.”

And right then I knew, the way you know about a good melon.

He left to go home to Pennsylvania a few days later and I ached thinking it was just to be some perfect mountain fling, but right before leaving, he wrapped a blue silky scarf around my neck that he said was his lucky scarf.

“I want you to have it,” he said.

Why would he give me his lucky scarf if I was just a fling, my brain reasoned?

I went off to Colorado on a weekend trip and he made his way back East.

And that’s the end.

Just kidding! That’s not the end. Barf, that would’ve been horrid.

No, my pilot cowboy continued to text and call. And then send me packages and letters. And generally seem like I was the farthest thing from a mountain dalliance. And well, now that handsome pilot is my handsome beau. In fact I am going to see him in Pennsylvania in two days.

So there you have it. The berries. Total berries up in here.

The Old Girl’s Still Beating

I have been rather forthright about my heartache and while it’s not something I plan to prattle on about for long—as it reeks of stagnation and does not embrace the spirit of adventure—it does cloud most of my mental space on a daily basis. You know that scene in When Harry Met Sally (everything in life can easily tie back to that movie) when Harry and Sally are talking about moving past their ex’s and Harry is talking about a date he went on recently.

Harry: We’re talking dream dates compared to my horror. It started out fine, she’s a very nice person, and we’re sitting and we’re talking at this Ethiopian restaurant that she wanted to go to. And I was making jokes, you know like, “Hey I didn’t know that they had food in Ethiopia? This will be a quick meal. I’ll order two empty plates and we can leave.”
[Sally laughs]
Harry: Yeah, nothing from her not even a smile. So I down shift into small talk, and I asked her where she went to school and she said. “Michigan State”, and this reminds me of Helen. All of a sudden I’m in the middle of this mess of an anxiety attack, my heart is beating like a wild man and I start sweating like a pig.
Sally: Helen went to Michigan State?
Harry: No she went to Northwestern, but they’re both Big-Ten schools. I got so upset I had to leave the restaurant.

A version of this has been happening to me all day every day. I was at work rinsing out a mug when I noted that the song, Wagon Wheel was playing. Right as I began to happily sway to this dreamy of all tunes, this trainwreck of a thought happened:

This song is by Old Crow Medicine Show.

I saw them in concert.

The day I saw them in concert DC and I were texting.

He wouldn’t stop calling me ambrosial.

At the time I thought his over-usage of the word ambrosial was nauseating.

I would give anything to be called ambrosial again. Okay not really—still hate the word—but I wish he still thought I was ambrosial enough to tell me so.

And then I wanted to puke in the freshly rinsed mug, my heart was hurting so bad. How did my brain do that from a song that has virtually nothing to do with DC? Because everything has everything to do with DC right now. It’s just the way love and heartbreak work unfortunately.

It happened again another day while buying strawberries. I picked up the package and then was lost in remembering strawberry-picking with him in the mountains.

I had walked up to a neighboring fence with a white horse and bragged to DC that horses just trusted me, as sure enough the horse ambled over to me and let me touch his striking jaw and feed him some grass. We made our way through row after row of strawberries plucking and sweating while I paused to take photos of him. I loved photographing him.

And still yet while thrifting with my best friend I spotted some Yankee Candle melts and touched them as anguish washed over me in deep floods. I shook the Yankee candle at her saying even this stupid candle was dragging me down into an abyss. She asked how?

When DC and I first started dating, we went to this quaint German town in Michigan called Frankenmuth. We walked around the town holding hands while it rained. He bought my mom a bunch of Yankee Candle melts because it was near Christmas. He carved our initials in the side of a bridge. I looked at his wool pea coat that was dappled with raindrops and thought, ah love, how perfect.

And now… ? Now Yankee candles were giving me gut rot.

I just kept thinking about that line where Sally curiously asks if Helen went to Michigan State and Harry matter of factly states no, Northwestern, but it’s a Big-Ten school (I even know what Big-Ten schools are now thanks to DC) making connections that only heartbroken people can make. I could connect an earthworm to a sports stat at this point, that’s how badly my heart wants to find its way back to his heart.

I have seen When Harry Met Sally 1,000 times and that line never affected me much me til now. And now I can so easily see how it didn’t matter at all that Helen hadn’t gone to Michigan State; Helen hadn’t yet left Harry’s heart, so still he could make the connection.

So while I may suffer daily with these inane and improbable connections myself, I know it’s just my hearts way of making sense out of something utterly nonsensical. My heart doesn’t understand what my brain does. I wish that were so, but my heart has always marched to its own drummer, brain and rationale be damned.

So I’ll leave my poor heart alone and let her do her thing. I’ve always trusted my heart too much to start in on her now. If this is what she needs to cope, then I guess I’ll accept that certain things—or everything—bring me back to DC in some way. But as a wise friend of mine once said: feeling sheer and utter sadness over something reminds us we’re alive. And if my heart is still carrying on this much at least the ol’ girl’s still beating. At least there’s that.

I Can’t Find the Funny

I wrapped my arms around DC hugging—no clutching—him goodbye a little over a week ago. It feels like an eternity has passed and yet time has gone so slow it’s agonizing in every way. I have never despised time so very much.

I also despise everything else. But only in increments. Horrible increments of hatred for messes that seem uncleanable or a life that feels unfixable, and everything in between. The view in front of me seems void of all color and everything around me feels loud and frustrating.

My sisters friend was over the other day when I was in one of these moods, (which don’t last more than a few minutes or a few hours—13 at most) these awful soul-sucking moods, and the saccharine sweetness of her voice felt like nails on a chalkboard. Her inane chatter which of course was conducive to life, felt to me conducive to death. I wanted it to stop, to go away. I couldn’t believe anyone could possibly be talking about normal things when I was in the throes of break-up anarchy, which was swiftly taking me down to a very bleak place.

How were people talking about camping and jobs and houses and life when every molecule in my body reflected what my heart was feeling, which was debilitating pain and mind-altering sadness?

I ran into an old friend in my favorite coffee shop in town and she asked if I was here to stay. I said yes. She asked if that meant my boyfriend and I were still together. I said, no. She said, oh okay.

No period.
Oh okay period.

That is what my relationship had been reduced to and to say it felt all wrong would be all wrong. There aren’t words to sum up how that made me feel. No period. Oh okay period.

Just like that, no. Oh okay.

No.
It’s not okay.
It’s not okay.
It’s not okay.

I have refused for days to write about my break-up (of course I have to write, I have to write through the pain and write myself back to happy) because it felt too raw, it felt like I wanted no one inside my hurt. I wanted to hold it tight and fast within myself, for to let it out would be my demise. It would mean accepting. And though I initiated this split, at the time thinking it wouldn’t really happen, that we would realize and fight harder than ever for our love, now I couldn’t remember at all what I was thinking or why I thought this horrible thing was a good idea. It was the worst idea, I’d ever had. For now, all I could remember was the love. All the love and how good it felt. And why did it seem as though the love had tripled in force which in turn tripled my agony at its sudden absence.

And for days I tried to make my break-up funny for I didn’t recognize all the sadness and rage staging a hostile revolution in my body. I wept with it. Where is this all coming from? This isn’t who I am. I am happy. I am full of optimism and cheer and wit. Where is my wit? Where did she run off to? I can make the worst of the worst funny, but somehow I couldn’t find even one fiber of funny in this situation. I couldn’t find it and I found this to be one of the worst offenses of all.

How deplorably sad was I that I couldn’t Mindy Kaling it up and make my break-up relatable and silly? Nora Ephron made break-ups snappy in my favorite film of all time When Harry Met Sally.

Harry: Right. So I go to the door, and there were moving men there. Now I start to get suspicious. I say, “Helen when did you call these movers?”, and she doesn’t say anything. So I asked the movers, “When did this woman book you for this gig?”. And they’re just standing there. Three huge guys, one of them was wearing a T-shirt that says, “Don’t fuck with Mr. Zero.” So I said, “Helen, when did you make this arrangement?”. She says, “A week ago.” I said, “You’ve known for a week and you didn’t tell me?”. And she says, “I didn’t want to ruin your birthday.”
Jess: You’re saying Mr. Zero knew you were getting a divorce a week before you did?
Harry: Mr. Zero knew.

It’s still sad of course, but Billy Crystal doing the wave while relaying his divorce to his best friend at a football game softens the blow somehow. Why couldn’t I soften the blow? Where the fuck was the funny hiding and why the fuck couldn’t I find it?

As I screeched and sobbed that it wasn’t funny, my sisters wisely pointed out to me that if Mindy Kaling and Nora Ephron made break-ups and divorce somehow comical, they did it when they had time away from the situation. They guaranteed me that in the throes of painful heartache, surely my writing idols didn’t make break-ups funny and neither should I. At least right now. I have my fingers crossed that soon, sometime soon I could turn a witty phrase about my withering heart, but alas right now, I do mostly want to howl like a wounded animal and erase myself.

I want a giant eraser to start at the bottom—my feet, scribbling them out, working my way up to my legs, erase, erase, then my midsection, around to my arms, my chest, erasing particularly vigorously when I got to my heart—erase that shit and then my mind, erase it all, the memories, the love, myself, so I could no longer feel it.

That’s what I want to do.

But because I am a human I have to feel it all. I can’t Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind myself, I can’t give myself a lobotomy and I most certainly can’t erase myself. For as much as I want all those things in this moment, it’s simply because the hurt is doing all the ruling. It’s manning the systems from the inside and the system is short-circuiting from how shockingly bad my heart can make the rest of me feel.

But here’s the up-side. There is one and despite my sadness, agony, rage and hatred for colors and noise I do know there is an upside. Once the hurt heals as hurt often does, I would probably regret wanting to erase any of my love for DC, erase my existence or my large heart that does still very much believe in love and goodness and cheer and possibility.

So no. It’s not okay. I am not okay. And my break-up isn’t funny. It’s fucking sad as sad ever was. But it won’t be like this for long. No, it sure won’t be like this for long.

Ugliness Attack

I have a real problemo with ugly. Ugly shoes make me scrunch up my mouth and nose in distaste. Ugly cars? I ask myself why? Why would you ride around in that, it’s clearly modeled after a hearse. Ugly dogs, no, I don’t want to pet you (but I will out of politeness), now go on, shoo shoo, you’re no husky and you and I are both sorry for that. Amendment—some dogs are so ugly they’e cute. That works for me. Ugly home decor. Oh my. Don’t even joke about that. In fact watch this commercial that perfectly sums up my thoughts on my low tolerance for ugly.

And this one for good measure because, it too, is hilarious and so true.

Before you go thinking I am vain and wretched, it is not so. Reference one of my earlier posts where I dressed like a long dead male poet, complete with moustache. I clearly am not Kate Winslet, nor do I pretend to be. I just have a real issue with aesthetics. I blame my mother.

She has really good taste and growing up had a way of taking anything—tree branches, a dresser she found on the side of the road, window panes— and turning them into pieces of beautiful art. Though our home was modest and our family size was abundant (12 of us in all) I have always felt Martha Stewart would tip her hat, or maybe her fashionable garden shears to our home— when it’s clean and ready for Thanksgiving or a graduation party that is.

Not only that, but I recently found out on a trip back home to Michigan to visit my family that I was having ugliness attacks even as a toddler. My boyfriend, mom, sister and I were driving home from Ann Arbor, after some thrifting and Zingermans sandwiches, yes and yes. My mom and I were regaling DC (my boyfriend) with car horror stories of yore while my sister laughed in the backseat.

The car horror stories came about because I casually mentioned to my family that DC didn’t know you could buy used tires. As in he literally hadn’t ever run into the problem of not being able to afford brand spanking new tires, should he need some. Ah, how the other half lives.

This is why I must tease him about being a Richie Rich. If you know anything about the movie Richie Rich, you will know that Macaulay Culkin had a lot of moola, enough to buy his own mountain if he wanted to. My boyfriend does not have that kind money. But he has always had enough where he did not know you could buy tires that have been pre-owned.

My family on the other hand grew up knowing how to stretch a dollar—because we had to—and the worth of a worn-out tire. Sure I have been warned on more than one occasion that my tires may blow out at any given moment, have no tread left and that I am actually a danger to myself and the road if I continue to drive with such shoddy tires. It’s quite shocking that all those years of crappy tires held out as long as they did, but I credit good mechanics with solid patching skills combined with reasonable used tire prices and the fine grace of God for why my car tires have never blown out to date.

So there we were, driving in DC’s posh car with Sirius radio, brakes that don’t grind, a steering wheel that doesn’t screech and a transmission smoothly doing whatever it is that transmissions do, while showing DC that our family is no stranger to used tires, in fact used tires were the least of our concerns when it came to cars.

My mom told a story of one car that was missing the ignition, or the ability to start the car normally with a key. You had to start the car with a screwdriver. I was very young and do not remember this car. My mom said one day we were getting ready to leave and she tried putting me in the car. I saw the interior, the faulty ignition and began to cry and refuse to get in.
I was having my first ugliness attack.

So see, it’s been ingrained in me even as a wee lass. It’s not my fault. I knew even at a very young age that I wanted to surround myself with pretty and I have strived for that ever since.

In all seriousness though, my version of pretty is probably very different from yours. Sure I cried over the car that had to be started with a screwdriver, but does that mean I covet Range Rovers? No. I want a 1986 Jeep Wagoneer. Are my flannels from Urban Outfitters? No, they’re my grandpa’s or they were purchased at Goodwill. And um, they’re flannels. Do I decorate with tree-branches and old books? Sure do. But these are all things that are beautiful to me. Old flannels, old cars, old soul. It’s just a matter of taste. To quote my favorite movie, When Harry Met Sally:

“Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor but they couldn’t possibly all have good taste.”

Lucky for me, I not only have great taste but I am a hoot. I am just talking about the other people. The people who buy ugly dogs, shoes and cars. But alas, I suppose they too think they have good taste and a sense of humor. Alas, what can you do? Just know that if I walk into your doctor’s office and the paint is muted green, the chairs are a plastic magenta and I am suddenly shuddering, well I am having an ugliness attack and will question your credentials.