Life generally...

day five: processing

Today is a much-anticipated day in my world. It’s been on my calendar for over a month, and it’s taken on a level of anticipation which rivals vacations and Christmas. Today, I have no plans. Not a one. Not a baby shower, not a trip, not meeting up with friends, nothing. I have absolutely nothing on my docket.

That’s not true. I do have a plan. That plan is “I am not changing out of my jammies.” This plan I stated over and over so many times that the Vulcan has been prefacing any reference to this weekend with statements like, “You could probably wear your pajamas to do that,” or “I don’t know if you’d want to do that because you’d have to change out of p.j.s” since the beginning of October.

When I first conceived of this plan, in the deep valley of total work chaos and a lot of physical pain, the plan was actually “Stay in my pajamas wrapped up in all the blankets and watch all the football.” (When you can’t move comfortably and your brain has had defcon 5 alarms going off incessantly for almost a month, what you’re really trying to do is lock yourself in a room where no one can talk to you.) I am happy to report that a month on, we’ve downgraded to defcon 3. So. Progress.

Still I have longed for this day. That’s not to say I regret the things I filled my free time with in the weeks leading up to today–the friends I connected with, the stunning concert I sang, the mini-break to explore a state park with the Vulcan–but I. am. tired. I feel worn to a very small, very wispy frazzle. There are so many things I haven’t done because I haven’t had either the physical or mental energy to start (let alone finish) them. That’s what happens when you’re just trying to stay afloat. If there’s one thing this year has taught me, it’s that I have to be okay with the things undone because I’m surviving. (What did I learn from the pandemic? “I’m going to do the best I can. And sometimes, my best isn’t good enough, but that’s okay, too.”)

So this day is very special to me. I don’t want to do nothing. But I don’t want a plan. I want the freedom to do what appeals to me in the moment. Important things and small things in a pleasant, disorganized little jumble. I want to plant the daffodil bulbs I bought at the store. I want to clean the bathroom (I am not admitting here, in a public forum, the last time I did this). I want to just sit around and let my mind wander–think about things as they pop into my head–work things and life things and frivolous things and serious things. Just…things.

I am increasingly convinced that that last one is the major source of my stress. I have been so busy treading water, then so exhausted and trying to do things I think will help me feel rested, that my brain hasn’t really had time to process anything. I have been doing, doing, doing, trying to be so efficient, trying to balance so many things and wear so many hats, I just haven’t thought about any of it. That’s not true. I have thought about it regularly–between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m. while I become increasingly stressed and frantic about why I can’t fall back asleep. And what that means is that all of the things I’ve been doing (and this includes the “fun things,” too, not just the tough things), has compounded these feelings of desperate exhaustion and inner turmoil.

Last weekend, my choir performed The Sacred Veil. You don’t need to like choral music or know anything about the piece (though you should. Choir is kickin’ and the piece is incredible), except to know that it is a work of such emotional investment and grapples with such deeply foundational issues that you have to think about it. And for me, it being finished and not a part of my life anymore prompted me to really start to process the whole experience of the piece and the living with it and singing of it.

And I guess that is what got the ball rolling. All of a sudden, my brain wanted to process my own struggles. My health. The really lousy way things are going down the VWT. It was bubbling at the surface, and my choices were a.) find some organized outlet for this, or b.) just vomit it all over whatever unlucky human was standing closest to me at the time. Because I love the Vulcan, and being emotionally vomited on is never fun, I finally listened to my mother and started writing in rice and coffee again.

I wrote down exactly what I was feeling, exactly where I am. I didn’t soften it, I didn’t sugarcoat it. I just said it. How angry I am. How betrayed I feel. How alone. And writing it gave me the ability to say it out loud, which for me was another step and an important one. Not like yelling and screaming, just saying, “I am angry. I am not ready to forgive,” to another person. It was freeing to have the words out there, not roiling around in the pit of my stomach like they have been for months. (Have you noticed we as a culture don’t acknowledge anger? Like…you shouldn’t ever be angry, and if you are something is wrong with you? Why is this? Is it just a Midwest thing–we’re too nice to ever be mad?). And I’m starting to feel better. I’ve slept through the night every night this week (that’s big news in my world right now). I can start thinking about dealing with other people’s things because I’ve started to process my own. After a week of living and expressing my anger and frustration, I think I may be able to eventually come to the place where I can forgive VTW for what they did and how they did it.

Which leads me back to today. The Day Of No Plans. I woke up around my usual time, and wasn’t mad about it. I just lied in bed and thought about things. Got some good ideas of things I could do at work. Thought about how maybe I should wash clothes this weekend so I don’t run out of underwear. Reflected that I think summer is really gone forever in 2021 and I can put away my warm-weather work clothes (and I wasn’t even mad about it). But most of all, I thought through all of these things, made big to-do lists in my head, and for the first time in literal months, I don’t feel overwhelmed. I feel like I can do it. And what I can’t do, that’s okay, too. I feel light and unfettered. It is a good feeling.

So I guess this means I’m all in. We’re doing it. We’re going to process all this yuck of the last 20 months. (You know, I bet therapists say stuff like this a lot.) I am excited. Even in the un-fun of processing, if it gets me to feel more like this, I’m all in.


“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28, 30

Goals · Grief · Life generally...

day two: secret bearer

Today was a better day than yesterday. For starters, I wasn’t in nearly as much pain, which was amazing. I really can’t overstate how much of a game changer that is.

(As an aside…how people who suffer with chronic pain issues do it, day after day after day? Going to work. Taking care of families. Having friends and hobbies. I have respect for them in a way I didn’t before all of this. It is so hard to try to be positive or do anything, when walking and sitting feels like knives…and I know my pain is a drop. in. the. bucket.)

I also think my improved mood has to do with this blog. Yesterday, when I hit “publish” on my first blog in over a year, I announced, “Guess what? 2021 is the actual worst, and this is why.” I felt liberated just naming the hurt in black and white and putting it out there, even if it’s never read. For the past ten months, I’ve been keeping this terrible secret about how I feel and why. Trying to ignore the grief of this experience that is not what I wanted. But now, I don’t have to keep the secret anymore. It’s not a burden I have to conceal. It’s out there. It’s named.

I hadn’t really expected that–the release, the relief of no longer being the Secret Bearer. (Though now that I’ve written that sentence, I have an image of some sort of bizarre medical/professional Frodo, which is inexplicably funny to me. A Ring that can make you disappear–even an evil ring–is way cooler than a fistula, by the way). I don’t know what I expected when I clicked that “publish” button…I wasn’t expecting to feel so much lighter, that’s for sure. But the weight that has been lifted, which I guess is one way of figuring out it was there in the first place.

And that is something worth holding onto when all of this is over: there is power in verbalizing and naming the Secret–the diagnosis, the issue with work, the fractured relationship, whatever. Putting it in words and making it public in some way–telling someone, writing it somewhere and passing it on–that’s significant. Life-changing, even.

Naming the Secret is taking back power. Now, my struggle isn’t a Secret. It’s just a plain old fact, like the fact that the days are getting shorter or the sky is blue. My Secret is something real: it’s a fistula and a crappy time at work. That’s it. It’s no longer some giant, amorphous monster or a mist that I was blowing out of proportion. It is strange how something can make you feel like you’ve got a seven ton elephant on your back while at the exact same time make you feel like it’s probably imaginary and you’re being irrational and making it up.

So, I feel like I need to pass this on. If you are a Secret Bearer right now, I’m here to tell you you don’t have to be. Find someone you trust. (Or start a blog people don’t read because you post too infrequently–haha!). But do it. You can do it. Voice the fear. State the fact. Take back the power.

Name the Secret.

Grief · Life generally...

day one: angry

Today was a rough day. I was in a lot of physical pain. I spent a lot of today just trying to talk myself through it–like, literally talking to myself out loud like a crazy person. In the quiet moments, you’d hear me saying things to myself like, “You can do it, Self. Only one more class,” or “You can do this, Body, you’re doing great.” I’m sure that sounds totally ridiculous, but that is where I am at. I am literally trying to coax my physical self to get through the pain to do my job. But good news. I made it through the day. I did it.

Today was also the first day I verbalized to another human being how angry I am with my work situation with VWT. I am too close to the situation to be ready to listen to people who are telling me I need to be compassionate and openminded…that VWT probably has good reasons for vanishing like that, for leaving me high and dry. I’m sure this is true, but I am not ready. I’m still treading water six weeks in and I just don’t have the emotional energy right now. Someday, hopefully, I will be there. But right now, I am just. really. angry. And I don’t want people to try to get me to see the other side. I am barely able to see my own side. I am so exhausted holding things together, trying to be everything to everybody with no thanks and no help…I am not emotionally able to see VWT’s position as anything but abandonment.

We tend to think of anger as bad. But I don’t think it is. Living in anger…well, that can turn into bitterness and that is definitely bad. Sometimes I think we end up at bitter just because we never felt like we had permission to be angry about it–I mean, they say anger is a really early step on the stages of grief, right? When anger is a step, it can be powerful. It can prompt us to change where we otherwise would not have done. It can help us do the scary thing. It can make us brave.

So right now, I’m banking on anger making me strong. If I’m still feeling like this in six months, we may have a problem. But for today, I’ll ride this wave.

But something good happened. I am creative. I am writing this right now. And that is something. I am determined to walk myself through all of these feelings–through the anger, through the sorrow, through the hurt–with my creativity as my God-given sword of hope. I do not have to wallow in the dark forever. I can move forward. Onward. Upward.

Life generally...

things to do (other than disinfect the world)

This is it! My giant list of things to do that don’t include trying to a.) construct some sort of Marie Antoinette-style skirt to keep other humans six feet away from me at all times; b.) figure out how to create an Eric Whitacre-style virtual choir (If you do not know what I am talking about, you need to watch it immediately, and don’t come back until it’s done); and/or c.) consume all the candy and bread currently in our house.

  1. Successfully bake a Victoria Sponge as an homage to my favorite show EVER, “The Great British Bake-Off.” (I have made several attempts previously–all total failures. Paul and Mary would be horrified.)
  2. Storyboard all the way through the novel currently referred to in my hard drive as “Kate”–a book I began 8 years ago, and made the mistake of letting people read before it was finished…
  3. Finish writing above manuscript
  4. Sew new cushion covers for my dad’s sailboat. Fabric has been sitting in my house for the past nine-ish months…oops…
  5. Memorize some of my favorite Psalms
  6. Get back into yoga, so I can do a tricep push-up without wanting to die.
  7. Make chalk. Write positive messages to my neighbors on our sidewalk.
  8. Pack a picnic lunch. Walk somewhere to eat it while appreciating social-distancing.
  9. Actually make my China years t-shirt quilt (I’ve been holding onto the t-shirt squares since I got back stateside seven years ago…?)
  10. Read Robert Frost
  11. Learn to make bagels
  12. Order prints of all the photos I like from the last (shameful wince) 11 months. Put them in our photo album.
  13. Memorize some Shakespeare sonnets (I don’t know which ones yet.)
  14. Read all the awesome books I checked out from our library before it closed.
  15. Write a thank you letter to the authors whose work I love to read.
  16. Learn Italian! Rosetta Stone and all those other programs were LITERALLY invented for this moment!
  17. Take time to do wood-shedding in the long list of arias I need to learn, so when I get to work with my (amazing) teacher again, we can work on the fine-tuning and music making.
  18. Write letters to the people who I love who are far away from me right now.
  19. Knit a project to get yarn out of my stash.
  20. Defeat the gnats in my house.
  21. Learn to bake cinnamon rolls.
  22. Write in this blog.
  23. Marie Kondo my closet–if I don’t want to wear a t-shirt after two months in my house, I never will.
  24. Sit on my front porch and read a book. Fresh air is good for everyone.
  25. Listen–really listen–to great pieces of music. I’m talking “put on the album, lay on the floor and let the music overwhelm you” kind of listen. (I was inspired by this L.A. Times article.) Titles on the list: Eroica, St. Matthew Passion, Brandenburg Concerti, Ein Deutsches Requiem, Mahler 2 (Resurrection), Sea Symphony, and literally ALL the Mozart. Probably Chopin and Debussy, too. I’ve never spent much time with Debussy. If I need a break from the classical world, I’ll move onto Broadway (Big Phish, Les Miserables, Jekyll and Hyde…) If you have suggestions, include them below! I’m always on the prowl for new music.
  26. Finish the paint-by-number I bought last summer.

It’s a start. I expect this list will grow and change with time (as do all things.) But what a grand opportunity we are given–so much time for focused attention to the “extras” which really are, at their core, the things that make us most human.

So make your own list. Use this time to do the things you love.

See you tomorrow!


Life generally...

A Little Bit is Better than Nothing

In case you haven’t caught on yet, I am not a naturally very disciplined person. I am a perfectionistic dreamer who has the ability to focus in on something to the exclusion of everything else until it is finished (or I lose interest, whichever comes first.) This is a great trait when you are 20 and in the middle of your undergrad, not so great when you are 35 with a career and a hubby at home…

I am trying to be better. This past summer, I discovered the FlyLady (she is marvelous, and you should check her out over at!) She is a wonderful woman who helps recovering perfectionists like myself declutter their lives and living spaces for the long haul. One of the things she says frequently in her writing is that you are NOT behind–just jump right in right now!

So, as 2020 is officially underway, I am trying to embrace this mentality. It is the “Even a little bit is better than none at all.” This is not an easy lesson for the recovering perfectionist–we thrive on the “It will be PERFECT, or I will not do it!” line of thought. This line of thought is also why I paid good money for a blog that I never used. It wouldn’t be perfect, so I just…didn’t.

But because a little bit is better than nothing, I’m trying! I am practicing voice twenty minutes, five days a week–because it is better than nothing. I am running four times a week, even if it’s just a little way–because it is better than nothing. I am doing ten minutes of cleaning in my house every day (Thanks, FlyLady!)–because it is better than nothing. And I am going to drop a blog entry into this site to keep track of my progress–because it is better than nothing.

2020 has officially become the Year of A Little is Better Than Nothing!

Join me! You can do it–because a little bit IS better than nothing!

Life generally...

Packing list for a writer’s weekend

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be washing the last of my dishes, packing up my battered purple carry-on, and heading off into the wild blue yonder for a spring break “gift to me,” a three-day “write-in” retreat.  I’ve rented a cute little cottage with a comfy bed, a fireplace, a little kitchen, and a table that looks out of a big bay window.  (In case you don’t follow the line of thought here, this will be my writing command center for the weekend.)

I cannot wait.  Writing is something I really enjoy, but unlike music (a passion as fundamental to my spirit as breathing,) it is something that often gets put on the back-burner.  Other things–laundry, errands, rehearsal, friends, exhaustion–take precedent over my fictional endeavors.  So those rare times I manage to carve out a few hours to work, I spend the time daydreaming, or paying bills, or whatever.

But not this weekend! I’m going to a place where mobile reception is spotty at best, and there is no one I know for several hundred miles, armed with several projects at different stages and a determination to make progress in something. 

So, because really I am thinking about this, and my mind is a thousand miles from this blog tonight, I thought I’d take you through a little “greatest hits” version of my packing list–it really embodies the essence of what I hope this weekend to be.

  1. Slummy clothes.  I am taking nothing but leggings and old sweatshirts and oversized, old sweaters.  It is all the essence of comfort.  I aspire to change from pajamas into (essentially) other pajamas.
  2. Fuzzy socks.  As I have very few plans to venture into the cruel outside world (save maybe a walk to get the creative juices going, as it were,) socks that are basically slippers are a must.  My poor feet suffer through “work shoes” for most of their existence.  They will be free for these next few days!
  3. My computer.  Obviously.  I have this rocking writer’s program called Scrivener.  If you are a writer and you have not downloaded it, DO IT NOW.  It is such a slick program. It is worth every penny of the $40 or whatever I paid for it!
  4. Pink pocket notebook with gold embossed “Awesome Ideas” on the cover.  This may seem a bit more out there, but I subscribe strongly to pen-and-ink lists.  This little baby has got the running record of different writing projects I can work on if I get frustrated with what I’m on.  Sick of trying to get through that one dialogue? Do a plot map of that new idea!  Totally over trying to think yourself out of that corner you wrote yourself into?  Brainstorm landscapes for that fantasy you’ve been “meaning to get back to!” And so on.  You get the idea.
  5. “The Writer’s Journey,” by Christopher Vogler.  This book was recommended to me by a great writer, and it is the single best thing I have read about how to structure fiction writing.  It is genius.  I love it.  I need it to reference.
  6. Other reading. And by that, I mean real reading.  During the school year, I read, but it’s largely the kind of fluff one reads on a plane when you don’t really have to focus. I want to read other authors who really knew how to write–to inspire and feed the writer’s soul.  There’s no place better to learn than at the foot of the masters.
  7. Walking shoes (and I guess I’d include my puffy vest here, too).  Sometimes, you just need to take a good walk and let yourself think without distraction. (Isn’t that an odd thought?)
  8. Coffee.  Do I even need to explain this one?
  9. A heart that’s ready to write.  This has not been me for ten months, but it is finally me now.  I am hungry to write.  I am hungry to start trying to get things down on paper (er…on the screen?) I want to be creative in the way that writing so uniquely is.

I am so ready for this! I can’t wait to get there and get started and get frustrated and get over it! There is no way to write a novel, I have heard, except to make yourself write.  Well, chalk that one up for me, anyway!




Life generally... · Teaching

One Day More

Tomorrow is the last day of school before we begin our (well-deserved, in my mind) spring break.  Only one more day of waking up, one more day of kiddos climbing the walls because they, too, know that break is almost here.  Only one day more!

After the kids got on the buses and the hallways were clear, I treated (tormented?) my colleagues with a chorus of One Day More, the Act I finale of the musical Les Misérables, because I am a choir teacher, so this is what I do.

I love the night before the Last Day Before Break.  I love it because I feel like I can stay up later than I should because I’ll have time to catch up on missing sleep.  And even though things come up and it always ends too quickly, the night before, the whole glorious nine days of sweet freedom stretch before you like a pristine, snowy morning.  There is time for everything to get done on the night before.  It’s magical.

On Saturday, I head off for three days in a cabin for my “Light A Fire Under It, Already, Girl” write-in.  I am going incommunicado and it’s going to be marvelous.  Time to focus on things that I’m always “too busy” for.  I am excited for the chance to breath and step away–something I don’t do often enough.  Excited for time to reflect and thing.  Excited for the change of pace.

Half of the joy of things like vacations and breaks and mini-vacays is the anticipation of it.  The final countdown until you board the flight, get in the car, or turn off the alarm.  I love to revel in it, and sometimes I feel like my instant-gratification life robs me of the chance.  But nothing can take away the excitement surrounding a day like tomorrow–

One more dawn! One more day! One Day More! (It’s not exactly the French Revolution, but I teach middle school so it very well could be!  Haha!)

Life generally...

A picture is worth a thousand words

I am not much of a picture-taker, which I guess makes me kind of an oddity as a card-carrying Millenial.  As a generation, we are obsessed with oversharing our lives with family, friends, and That One Guy I Met At That Party Ten Years Ago–and pictures, so much faster than explaining everything in a story, feature strongly into that world.

But even before those days…back, “Once upon a time…” when you still had to shoot pictures on actual film in an actual camera, and you had to wait until you got everything developed (which took actual time) before you could find out if your picture actually came out, I still was not a picture taker.  Time has not changed me much.

I don’t know, I guess I’ve always been too busy being in the moment to remember to record it.  In high school, I was involved in our drama program, and by my senior year, I was playing main roles in most of our shows.  My parents came to every performance (only after I told that was what parents of the leads were supposed to do…) but they just came and watched the show.  No camcorders (remember those!?), no cameras.  Just my mom and dad.  Sitting in the audience.

Somebody once told my father, “Your daughter is so talented and does all these things!  Why don’t you record them?” And my dad said something very wise that I have taken to heart, “I would rather watch it once, and really experience her performance, and have the memory of that to carry with me, than to only ever see it through the lens of a camera.”  So that has been my life–I have lived my experiences, but never through a camera lens.

Now, don’t get me wrong–I think people who take pictures are awesome.  I love the cool photo montages they hang up on their walls and the great moments they capture, but truth be told, I just never remember.  If I’m lucky, I get out my phone for five minutes, snap a few pictures, and figure I’m off the hook.  Usually, I just mooch pictures from the collections of my photo-taking friends who plan and are mindful of things like that.

Nevertheless, as I’m getting older, I’m growing more fond of pictures.  But not the million-pictures-on-my-phone kind, or the Snapchat story kind, but the actual, ink-to-special-paper, hang-on-your-wall kind.  I don’t need a lot of pictures, just a few that remind me of really important seasons and people.  I think I love the history of pictures.  I have a picture collage on my dining room wall.  I have pictures of Baby Me with my parents.  I have pictures of the first time I talked my whole family into running a 5K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving with me.  I have a picture of Lily, the gentle mutt who helped my grandpa babysit me when I was tiny, and one of Gracie, the even kinder dog who I really consider “mine.”  There is a picture of my grandmother when she was young. My story is there, in birthdays, and Christmases, and my baby brother’s graduation.

To me, photos (like so many things) are more about quality than quantity.  I don’t need a DropBox with fifteen million photos I’ll never look at.  I need fifteen I can look at when I’m eating breakfast and remember those happy times, those important people and places and times.  My wall isn’t the fanciest or chicest photo collection, but it’s mine.  There is history on that wall.  My history.  Evidence of where I come from.  Evidence that I am here. And anchor to the past, and one I can tie the kite of my dreams to so it can soar.

Maybe that’s why pictures are starting to matter–I’m getting older and am starting to feel like I have a history.  (For instance, I clearly remember things that happened twenty-five years ago.  TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO!!!  This is NOT supposed to be a thing!) There is more to me and my story now that you might guess if I don’t tell you.  Maybe the pictures are as much for me–to remind me of that history when I get weighted down in daily grind.  It’s a good way to be.  It’s good to have those memories.

And this is why I know people who like to take pictures when things happen to us…it gives me someone to mooch off of…

Life generally... · Misadventures

Curly hair, don’t care

I think it’s fair to begin by saying that, as I write this, my hair is completely slathered in coconut oil and is currently clipped onto the top of my head and wrapped up in an old t-shirt.  It has been this way for the past two-and-a-half hours, and realistically, will probably be that way for another three.

If your gut reaction was somewhere between “That’s an odd way to spend a Saturday night,” and “That is downright bizarre,” you are probably among the 89% of people in the world that do not have curly hair.  (I can give you this math because I just looked it up.  Google is such a nifty thing…) If you are one of the 11%, and therefore among my curly haired sisters, this sounds perfectly normal to you.  Curly-haired folk fall into two camps: they that spend hours and hours trying to make their hair sleek and smooth like the straight-haired people of the world, and they that spend hours and hours trying to get their curls to behave in a civilized and attractive manner, rather than like an Exorsist-style version of Cousin It.  It’s very time consuming.

What you have to understand about curly hair, if you do not have it, is that curly hair has a life of its own, and nothing you can do will convince it to do anything other than exactly what it wants.  Oh, sure, you catch me on a day when it’s cooperating, it’s amazing.  But you don’t see all the mornings when I wake up and look in the mirror only to think, “Oh, why?!”  Straightening it is an involved, forty-five minute process that only lasts about an hour, until I walk into anything even moderately humid (say, past a drinking fountain…) Keeping it curly involves trying to tempt and cajole it into doing what you want, which is dicey at best.  I can do the exact same thing to my hair three days in a row, and I’ll get “Meh” hair on day one, “Smashing” hair on day two, and “I Just Put My Finger In A Light Socket” on day three.  It’s completely hit-and-miss.

Most of  my hair-care habits have been picked up from one of three sources:

  1. A really smashing book called Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey. This was my first soirée into accepting my curly hair.  (If you have curly hair and have not read this book, you should stop reading this and go read it. Immediately.)
  2. My African-American students who wear their hair the natural way.  They come in from swimming in gym class and we talk about how insane curly hair is if it gets wet and you don’t put in product, and they’re always like, “Miss D., what you really need to do is…” I’ve gotten some good stuff this way.
  3. Pinterest.  (Because whenever do you not have Pinterest on a list like this?)

Pinterest tends to be my favorite lately, mostly because I like trying new stuff, and like every curly-haired girl of my acquaintance, I’m constantly on the quest for a miracle produce that will give me cinema-style perfection on a daily basis.  (This is totally impossible on the level of waking up at 3 a.m. on two hours of sleep with perfect make-up, but a girl can dream…)

Segue into the coconut oil and the t-shirt.  A Pinterest find, in this case.  It’s ridiculous and it might not work.  But it might.  And the article had 4/4 tried-it-and-loved-it hearts, so that’s something.  Of course, after I had this all slathered up, I read about how some people are really allergic to coconut oil and get horrible breakouts–with my luck, that will be me, but it will be an interesting object lesson.

My hair has gotten curlier as I’ve aged, but even in my teens, my hair was voluminous.  I came of age in the final seasons of Friends, where there was nary a curl or wave or even a hint of volume to be found.

While it’s nice that curly hair (along with brunettes, a membership card I also claim…) are finally back in fashion, having hair that could never be “cool” taught me a lot in those formative late-teens and early-twenties years.  I made peace with being me.  I will never be able to pull of all those sleek, polished looking up-dos.  It always looks, well, wrong and anyway, it would only last about ten minutes. But I like my curly hair.  It’s kind of crazy and everywhere and only marginally following the rules, which is kind of who I am as a person, really.  I only marginally believe in patterns and instruction manuals and believe top-down mandate protocol is open to a certain amount of, shall we say, interpreation. I’m kind of like my hair.  So I guess it’s no mistake that it’s growing out of the top of my head.

I have started finding a few gray hairs (a total moment of panic that would have been worth getting on camera…) mixed into my mass of curls lately.  They are a million times more curly than my “regular” tresses.  I hope this is an indication of what kind of old lady I’ll be one day–no Bea Arthur coif for me, no sir-ee.  I’m going to be that crazy old lady who is always coming up with wacky ideas and bending rules and doing all the things she wants to do.  That’s what curly hair says to me.  And I say, sign me up. 

Life generally... · Misadventures

I hate romance (and other truisms)

So, tonight, I was conned into going to see the new, live-action Beauty and the Beast with a couple girlfriends of mine, and I was reminded (for about the fifteen billionth time) about how much I hate romance in fiction.  Hate it.  I will avoid it at all costs.  I will make up excuses not to go over when people are watching these movies.  I turn the channel when they are on T.V.  A friend lends me a book that clearly features a love story as a major plot (or sub plot), I’ll let it sit on my table for a month, then read a synopsis and give it back.  The rom-coms I own sit in a drawer, unwatched for I-don’t-know how many years.  I have a love-hate relationship with my darling Jane Austen.  So, let me state that again, emphatically: I HATE ROMANCE.

I hate it so passionately, because at my core, I am a hopeless romantic.  I read somewhere once that “Within the chest of every jaded cynic beats the heart of a hopeless romantic,” and I reckon that’s pretty much dead on.  I hate romance in books and films because it’s like a drug to my spirit–I get high on the idea that somewhere out there, there are men who are well-read and can quote Shakespeare (who are not my college English professors).  I get completely bombed on the reckless abandon with which love happens in fiction–the idea that someone sees the funny, quirky things about you and sees them not only as gems but encourages them.  (I will cite that moment when Belle gets that exquisite library, in the cartoon, in the stage show, in the new movie.  It doesn’t matter.  It is such a part of her character, that to me that moment is magical.  I confess I brushed away a literal tear of jealousy in the movie theatre tonight.)

Unfortunately, I am now too old and smart for this.  My little girl, princess days are long behind me.  I know what reality is–I pay bills and clean my bathroom and use a CrockPot and spend more hours than I could ever count dedicated to raising the children of other people.  I have learned that (let us be real) things that make heroines really awesome in books and film does not necessarily translate to great success to real life.

I recently celebrated my thirty-third birthday.  I know, those of you among my elders are thinking things like, “Oh, you’re such a baby,” and cognitively, I agree with you.  But for some reason, this birthday hit me hard.  I don’t know why.  It’s not a round age.  Thirty slipped into my life with zero doom-and-gloom.  This year, though, I started looking at my life, and began to panic.  I think it’s because I feel like I’m such a static person.  All around me, friends, family, have gotten married and started families, while I remain good ol’ reliable me, ready to help–the good friend, the good sister.  Though I’ve always wanted those things, I didn’t worry.  I guess it’s because I subscribe strongly to the idea that you should live the life God gives you, not mope around wishing for something different.  So I’ve done lots of cool things with my time.  I guess I (stupidly?) just figured that when it was right it would happen.

But, then tonight, I found myself sitting in the movie theatre, with my two friends who live in the suburbs and have their husbands and houses and three kids, and I felt lost.  I’m not a starry-eyed idealist all the time–I know that life is just hard.  You give up the right to sleep for about six years when you have a child.  Marriages are tough and your spouse will annoy you.  I have been a steady shoulder for each of them in some of those tough times.  I have walked with these two women, my friends, through illnesses and cancer scares and miscarriages and layoffs and broken furnaces.  But I have also walked with them through the new homes and babies and good report cards and anniversaries.  And through their list of important life events, I just…am.  Good ol’ me.  Always there to lend a hand.

I find myself under the  pressure of time, and the reality that, no only am I in a profession where a girl just doesn’t meet single men, but no one I know knows any single men.  (The whole online dating nightmare is a post filled with enough drama and mad comedy to fit in with your average middle school dance…that is for another day.)  I feel the rising fear of complications that accompany “geriatric pregnancies” (the phrase “geriatric” alone fills me with unabashed terror.)  It’s horrifying.  I panic about what will happen to me if I get seriously sick–who will go with me to the doctor?  Who will help me make hard decisions?  Of course, I know people do these things all the time.  I know that I’m not totally alone, that I have God on my side, but it’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re tired and frustrated and lonely.

The only way I know to avoid the irrational desire to get weepy and call my mom is to just…put my nose to the grindstone and get on with the business of my life.  If I don’t think about it, I’m pretty okay.  I do my job, have my social life, have my little stresses and little victories.  Life keeps on keepin’ on.

But movies and books (I mean, it was Beauty and the Beast tonight, for crying out loud.  It’s a ruddy fairy tale!) knock me off my rhythm.  They feed me that narcotic of people finding each other, and ordinary, lonely people who do not have to be alone anymore.  It’s intoxicating.    And as long as the high lasts, I imagine that maybe one day things will change for me.  But then the lights come back on, I get into my car, and the crash comes, because I am smart enough to know that it doesn’t work like that–not for me, anyway.

But (and someone else very smart said this) “Hope springs eternal.”  The most frustrating thing about being a romantic is that you can’t kill hope.  You can’t kill that stubborn little flame of “just maybe.”  I guess it’s a good thing.  It keeps life interesting.  It keeps you guessing.  I suppose it’s why God gave it to us–to keep us from giving up.  But, wow, is it tough.  Tough, but unbreakable–it’s the reason Jane Austen sits in a place of honor on my shelf, and why I can’t just give away those DVDs.  I guess it’s also why I love writing fiction–it may not happen for me, but in my fictional world, I can make it happen for someone else.  And that is a high in and of itself.