Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When you've struggled to make ends meet or to throw together some semblance of normalcy, little victories are of the utmost importance and gravity. Moments when you realize you're okay, you're doing this thing yourself, god damn it, and that you're standing strong enough that the next wind won't blow you over. You've got roots in the ground. Upright. A human.

There are moments of ridiculous pride that I keep to myself. For example, I refrain from busting into the bedroom where my love is napping, to scream, "LOOK! I MADE A SANDWICH!" Lots of people make sandwiches all of the time. Hell, I made them for a living for four years to get myself through undergrad. But this sandwich, this sandwich I made at home, with meat and cheese from a deli counter that my living wage allows me to buy. I spread hummus on the bread, too.

All I'm saying is, it's a far cry from last year when I ate one meal a day, at work, because it was free. And I didn't turn my heat on because it was too expensive.

And I just made an awesome sandwich.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We watched a documentary tonight, No Impact Man. It is about a writer who, along with his wife and daughter, sets out to live a full year without creating trash, without causing carbon emissions, etc. They compost, they bike, they make their own soap. They eat locally grown foods. The project itself is daunting and impressive if not impractical for most people, and the family is unwittingly bourgie at best and obliviously pretentious at worst. At the end of the film the two things that stayed with me were, I suppose, not really the "take aways" the project had intended. Alas, these were mine.

There is a scene in the film that is so touching. Tonight was the second time I've seen the film, and it still struck something inside of me; the first time, I teared up. For those of you who know me, you know this is rare. I don't cry during movies, especially if the scene involves humans. If a dog dies, forget it, I'm done for, but otherwise, I can appreciate it, aloof and unaffected. Yet something about this scene stays with me. It is toward the end of the film, the wife is burned out on the project, all of her creature comforts, and what most Americans have come to regard as basic needs, taken from her or greatly modified. She hears her husband and their toddler daughter in the bathroom, making a lot of noise. She's rolling her eyes, exhausted, and shuffles into the bathroom, to find them standing in a bath tub full of home made laundry soap and clothes, stomping on them to wash them. At first her face reads, "I'm going to kill you for putting me through this" ...then, something changes. She gets in the tub with them and they're all stomping, and they start giggling, and there is this amazing moment where the husband and wife lok at one another over their daughter's head and laugh, kiss, and share those eyes that only a couple that has been together a while shares.

When I first saw this film, I was going through my divorce. I think I was longing for connection, for family, for a sense of stability, and that scene spoke to that for me. I missed looking into someone's eyes and knowing what their eyes were saying. I missed being pissed off about small things and then being reminded that they don't matter because at the end of the day, I have this amazing human being who I stomp on laundry with, who also chooses to come home every night to stomp on laundry with me. He chose me! A person you think the world of thinks the same of you. Incredible.

Of course, that wasn't what had been happening in my marriage, or it wouldn't have ended. I was getting pissed, and staying pissed, at the beginning and the end of the day. I had convinced myself that most people felt that way. But then I kept seeing evidence to the contrary: my fathers who have been together for 25 years this October and are so in love with one another it is tangible in their home; my mother and stepfather who move around one another in the kitchen as if it is some ancient tribal dance that they've been doing their entire lives; and, this couple, pants rolled up and kissing in a bath full of dirty laundry and Borax. I wanted that. I felt cheated because hadn't I gone through all the motions? Met a boy, loved him, married him? I had done these things yet never felt that joy. I wanted that joy so badly.

Tonight, of course, there is no pretty bow to tie this up with, no "And this time while watching it, I did have that sort of joy!" I do have joy, and love. I love a man and he loves me, and it baffles me; not in a self-deprecating way, but in that awe of my luck, that someone I find so endlessly fascinating chooses to spend a majority of his time around me. This is a happy surprise. This is a welcomed development. And while we're not stomping laundry together quite yet, or sharing a look that is fueled by years of tears and fears and broken promises and perfect brithday gifts, there is an understanding of that feeling, a kernel, if just the simple knowledge that yes, love is joyful.

Toward the end of the film, the man is talking about the community garden he took part in. He talks about the project coming to the end of its year, and how amazing it has been to be more connected to the earth, and really seeing the seasons change. I think of all the markers of the seasons: Halloween candy out? It must be late September! Christmas decorations? Probably end of October. Et cetera. But for a year he saw what the earth would yield at different times for him to eat, and he appreciated it in a new way.

This time last year began it all. It was this time last year that I was spiraling desperately, so sad I couldn't breathe under it all, and I decided the best thing for both of us was to let it go. I wrote about it, and in one of the many poems I wrote, I spoke of the flowers that come this time of year. I had spent a lot of time walking the dogs to get out of the house. I would notice the tiny Chicago yards and gardens on these long walks. Last August, I was particularly taken with sunflowers and black-eyed susans. I started doing some writing exercises, and one of them was a free association word game. I chose these two flowers. From sunflower I got buxom, ripe, full, knowledgable, alive, laughter, wise. For black-eyed susans, I got young, petite, inquisitive, giggle, innocent. I think the similarity in color and the vast difference in size helped to set up this dichotomy, this yin and yang for me.

After an interesting year, I am reminded of last August, one year ago, as I saw my first sunflower of the season today. I had been seeing black-eyed susans for a month or so, and I kept holding my breath, waiting for the sunflowers. Here they are. They are blooming again, it is August again, and I am alright, I made it, I saw the earth turn. I saw myself turn.

I'm feeling the incredible impact.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I love going to Planned Parenthood on protest days. Now, before you all peg me for someone who just likes to stir up trouble, as someone just looking for confrontation, let me explain myself.

I work nights. I usually get home around 2 in the morning, 1:30 if the public transit gods are working in my favor, but, since most transit systems seem to be designed by the minions of The Evil One, this rarely happens. Especially if I'm sick, if I know the dog desperately needs to go outside, if it's raining, snowing, or if there is a cute boy waiting for me at home. The minions know, and they laugh from their home in the tunnels of the subway, and in the folds of the accordion bus connecters.

Of course last night I was in no big hurry to get home, but I arrived rather quickly. But, I couldn't sleep. I usually go to bed around 3AM, but at 5, I was still rattling around the house, making to-do lists in my head, reflecting on the last six months of my life...?! Whatever. It began to stress me out though, as I had to get up and get to Planned Parenthood in the morning to pick up my birth control pills.

First, I know that I can go to a pharmacy and get this prescription. But, I believe in Planned Parenthood and want to support them. I used to work for them, don't have much money to donate to them, so I figure I might as well give them my money via Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

I dragged myself out of bed on very little sleep and realized, Shit, it's an AB day. An "AB Day" is a day on which the clinic, if it provides them at all at that location, performs abortion services. It doesn't usually produce longer wait times for supply pick-up as there is a separate waiting area and all, but to get into the facility, you have to cross a line of protesters. Flash forward about an hour and I am there, waiting to cross the street, seeing the protesters. I've been a clinic escort, a clinic assistant, an HIV test counselor, a sex educator. I know this scenario well. But something about it every time makes my heart race. There weren't many people today doing the Lord's work, just a few people praying, and a few people holding signs. There were the clinic escorts in their chartreuse vests to open the door for me, to shield me from the protesters. I felt safe.

I walk toward the door and there is a guy holding a sign that says, and I am not making this up, "What if YOU'RE mom was pro-choice" 1) Your, not "you're;" 2)if she was, she'd probably be attending pro-choice actions with me. A lot of pro-choice women are mothers. This just in!

Excuse me for fixating on the sign. It's just that it was the last thing I saw, this glaring grammar error, before it started flying toward my face, ending in a good smack. Right. I got smacked in the face with bad grammar and misguided information. It wasn't hard, or on purpose, Dude just turned and didn't see my tiny ass there.

As I reflected on this, I really have to say, it's good for me to go there on AB days. It's good to be reminded that while my generation takes for granted access to contraception and abortion, we shouldn't. I was going to pick up a prescribed medication, one that I take for two reasons: for a health concern, and for contraception. I am treating a condition and being responsible. You can't block my access to abortion, birth control, and accurate sex education. By blocking the latter two, you are helping to create more of the former. And, though it wasn't intentional, I still got hit in the face for trying to pick up a medication. That is ludicrous. And sure, I know I choose to go there instead of a pharmacy where it might not happen. But, there have been many reports of pharmacists refusing to fill a BC prescription for "moral" objections; I know that won't happen at Planned Parenthood. Also, it's a health center. I should not be confronted at a health center, no matter the services people seek there. It's a health center, and my health is not your business.

But, to end on a happy note, once I got into the center, they asked what I was there for and they comped my pills as "sample" packs because they felt so badly! :o) To quote the always hilarious and brilliant boyfriend, "Poor Jesus people. They wanted to stop sex and instead they gave it to you for three free months!"

Thank you, Jesus! :o)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"The universe works on a math equation that never even ever really even ends in the end..."

--lyrics from "Never Ending Math Equation," Modest Mouse (1998)

Since moving out on my own at age seventeen, life has been, as it is for most adults, a balancing act of income versus expenditures. Last fall, this rose to a frenzied level as my husband moved out, and I took on the mortgage and everything else all on my own. Life was a "never ending math equation." It came down to the pennies, and I recorded every cent I spent and made in a Word document, my account balances always at the front of my brain. This caused an obscene amount of stress that I could feel, physically, and that others could see. I got down to 98 pounds, and the fact that I had little money to eat didn't help.

But things are better now. Much better. Life is startlingly wonderful, and it's almost hard to remember the woman I was in those months. Almost. I hope I don't ever forget, as I learned more about myself during this time than I ever have. Aside from mushy, touchy-feely new age knowledge of "the self," I also gained an immense understanding of the way to move forward, especially financially.

I still find myself tripping over math problems, every sojourn to the grocery store incomplete without a calculator. I won't buy anything that isn't on sale. I check my bank account daily. I still keep that Word document budget. And even with my paychecks from my new job that pays so much better, I panic, thinking, I need more. I need more money. I don't. But I'm so used to existing in panic mode, that I can't relax and enjoy a modest, but normal, financial life. I am going on vacation this summer, I bought some new clothes for the new office job, and I signed up for an aerial arts class. I'm doing some fun things. But, not without fear. It was sudden, plunge into not having enough was shocking. It really was.

I'm hoping to find a balance. I'm hoping to always remember how hard it was.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It's one of those nights when I can't shut my brain off, can't keep myself from reflecting, even when I know some of the trails my mind is due to wander down are not good for me. I know it, yet, tonight, it seems as if it's the only way. Shall we?

Five years ago today, I graduated from high school. I stood outside my high school for the last time with my high school boyfriend, said good-bye to my first real boyfriend, and was waved at by my estranged best friend's family from their mini-van. Wow, I had thought to myself. Things have certainly changed.

There is a quote from one of my favorite writers, Thomas Lynch. He is reflecting on life, on the had-I -known-then-what-I-know-now moments. He says, "In my fifties, I imagine the man in his twenties, who never could have imagined me." That quote makes me feel two things. First, I feel hopeful. I think about being fifty, and how wonderful I might be, how great life might have turned out, and how I can't imagine it now, in my twenties. I hope the fifty year old Mar is saying to twenty-something Mar, Just around the corner is something wonderful, if you could just wait long enough.

But then I think, what if I don't become a wonderful person by my fifties? What if I look back on my twenties thinking, What happened to her...? I can't bear that. I can't. So I guess I'll go about the business of creating the former.

Life is so good right now. But, in typical Catholic Irish fashion, that just means I'm waiting for the inevitable horror, the tragedy to ruin it all. The longer I go without that happening, the higher the stakes, the scarier the downfall. Perhaps it's scarier, this time, coming from what felt like rock bottom to me. August-February were the hardest months of my life. I don't think I have ever felt so many things at once, to such staggering extremes, for so long. It really was painful. My entire life changed. Now that things are evening out, I can breathe a sigh of relief, but also fear a return to the bottom. I don't want to go back. I don't want to feel hopeless like that again.

Positive changes, as of late: I met one of the most amazing men, and, oddly, he enjoys my company too. I'm not offering that as a happy ending, a Cinderella moment, but, as a happy beginning, as an acknowledgement that yes, fine, I will concede that not all humans are awful and that I want to be in close proximity to some of them. I welcome it. In other more life-changing, and I mean that, banter, I got a new job that pays, literally, twice what I made at my last job. This means paying all of the bills, and on time, and not having to sell my home, which was about to happen. It means keeping my dog, feeding him and myself, and having a little extra money to enjoy life too. I am sticking my toe in the water, trying new things. I'm smiling a lot.

I'm remembering that evening, five years ago, when I couldn't possibly imagine that five years from that very moment the high school boyfriend next to me would be my ex-husband; that my mother and I would actually have a relationship; that I would be a single woman who owns her own home in Chicago, filling it with books and dog hair and attempts at cooking. I couldn't imagine feeling the sadness I just overcame, nor the strange freedom and elation I feel now.

I would have been shocked to know what friends stuck with me through it all. People I would have guaranteed to have been there are not, and people who were mere acquaintances, or not even known to me yet, have carried me through. I blink. I stare. I blink again. Is this my life? Is this me? Is this the woman in her twenties, imagining the girl in her teens, who never could have imagined me?

I guess it is. Here I am.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"And I know it's best that in this empty heart of mine is where I begin the movin' on..."

I feel like I can finally catch my breath.

The past eight months have been a blur of every imaginable emotion. I’ve exclaimed, during the same day, or perhaps even in the same hour-long period, that I’d never been happier, but also that I’d never been more lost. These things were both true.

I left a relationship I had been in for five and a half years. Sure, relative to my pending lifespan (fingers crossed, I suppose!), that is a blip on the radar. But at 23, it’s significant.

In the past eight months I have tried to make a marriage work, failed, sought a divorce; lost my in-laws, whom I loved more than I can ever convey; taken on a mortgage and bills on my own; started a new job; fallen in love, poured the entirety of myself into a relationship that was more about commensalism than mutualism, and then watched that relationship end in what can only be described as a spiraling mind fuck that left me sleeping abut two hours a night, not eating, and missing class and work. Over the course of the eight months, I’ve lost 22 pounds and while I’ve been healthier in the last month, still can’t seem to gain it back. I’ve listened to copious amounts of sad music, feeling sixteen again, lying in my bed crying, identifying with trite song lyrics. I’ve ignored my friends except for when I needed them and called them in hysterics.

I don’t like that person. I don’t. So I’m quitting that.

In February, I decided I’d had enough. One can only be sad for so long. One can only live dishonestly for so long. I thought I had learned, and heeded the lesson, back in August, but it has taken more heart breaking tutorials. I’ve observed who has stuck by me, who has listened to me cry about the same things time and again. Several people have driven to Chicago just to spend the night with me. As it turns out, my mother is incredible. These are things you miss when life is going your way. Friends are fun, mothers are obnoxious and overbearing.

Throw a divorce, a dysfunctional new relationship, and a loved one’s suicide attempt in the mix, and you understand what friends and family are really here for. It becomes real clear.

I feel myself bouncing back. With the spring, I am happier, I am smiling, I am laughing. I’m surrounding myself with positive people. I will finish applying to grad school, finish books I could never concentrate on, commit to laughing more than crying. I’m listening to more happy music. I’m seeing the light. I’m feeling the breeze.

I hope I can trust again, love again, and find myself again. I am laughing again, which is a good first step.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

falling in love

I had a moment tonight when I fell in love, all over again, with my city, and my dog, and my life.

Really, perhaps, I was falling in love for the first time.

Life is so different now. Everything is different. It's funny; you change one component, albeit a rather significant one, and all the others seems to look different, feel different, smell different, sound different. Walking on the east side of Winthrop Avenue, my street, heading north, I passed the small playlot where David and I would take Jake to run off-leash the first winter after we had adopted him. It was cold and clear and snow was on the ground, on our boots, in Jakes paws. We laughed. David and I hadn't laughed or smiled like that for some time. Winter in Chicago wears on people, you know.

It was the winter, I always told myself. Or the summer, or the spring, or the autumn. It was always something.

He moved out three months ago. And this place looks so different. Thanks to two best friends who, in conjunction with their ability to listen to me cry on the phone at odd times of the night about the same thing I cried about the last time I called, are incredible artists. The condo feels like mine, and not ours. It helped me move on. They helped me move on.

I haven't written about this yet, really, because I don't believe in blogs being tools for unearthing thoughts, be they negative or positive, about others. My divorce, the end of my marriage, the end to six years with someone, is not anyone else's business. But I write. It's how I express myself best, it's how I deal with things. I am attempting, now, to deal.

Bear with me.

He did nothing wrong. I don't hate him. I love him. And for all the laughter and good memories and photos of us smiling... in Jamaica, Charleston, South Carolina, duckpin bowling, and, yes, of course, at our wedding... for all of those millions of moments that only we shared, or those that were captured on film... for all of those millions of moments there are millions of tears and millions of regrets and millions of moments when my breath catches and I know I'll never breathe again.

But then I do. And I'm not sure how or why.

But tonight after work I fell in love. It was late and my street was deserted. The street lights lit up the snow and the cars and Christmas trees, which usually make me sad, peered out at me in a friendly way from my neighbors windows. Jake skipped happily ahead of me at the end of the leash. My street wears winter well. It looks good covered in snow and ice. And as I passed the playlot I remembered laughing in the snow and taking photos of Jake doing just about everything those first few days, and I remembered sharing that with David. I remembered. And somehow I was still able to be happy, to smile, snow blowing in off the lake into my eyes and fogging up my glasses. I smiled at Jake and the thought of myself, alone.

I came home and cried all night. One should never rummage through forgotten drawers alone, especially when emotionally precarious. But I did, and I cried, and called in the aid of a good friend, yet again. And by the end of the night, too too late to be awake, I am alright again, and perhaps I can even fall in love again with this new life of mine. I don't think the occasional crying jag means that I can't. I think it means I am, for once, not the strong one, not the one others come to, but the one that needs her friends desperately. It's uncomfortable being that person suddenly. Perhaps this is part of my new life, and a facet of myself with which I must fall in love.