Saturday, December 31, 2011

This Time Last Year

In all actuality, this time last year is hard to remember.  Maybe it's the stress from everything that was going on, or just some kind of safety mechanism in my brain blocking out how bad I felt, or maybe I just was tired of feeling by then.  Either way, I only remember last December as fact more so than experience.  I remember sitting very still on the couch from my apartment after it had been moved into my parents basement.  I remember sending e-mails to my school and department heads informing them that I was not coming back.  I don't remember Christmas or New Year's, or what family, if any, was in town.

This time last year was the settling of dust after the abrupt collapse of a building four years in the making.  Later I would be forced to pick myself up and reassemble, but for these few weeks last year I was permitted to just lie down and think of nothing.  It was, in retrospect, quite necessary.

It's strange to think that a whole year has gone by since then.  In a way it feels like decades, but at the same time like just yesterday.  I feel like I have so little to show for this year.  All I've done, really, is work retail and write poetry.  Even so, this time last year was a whole human being ago.  Part of the reason I have such a hard time remembering that time is perhaps because the person who went through it doesn't really exist anymore.  There were arguments and explanations, acceptances and refusals, far too many misunderstandings, and encouragements from the least likely of places, all of which effectively killed off the shame of failure.

That's what sticks out the most from back then, trying to deal with the fact that I had, for the first time in my life really, truly failed.  It's still difficult to articulate, especially in the deadly arena of casual smalltalk.
"So, you've graduated, right?"
"Yeah, over a year ago."
"Is that so!  What have you been doing since then?"
"Oh, not much, just pissing my life away.  You see, I thought I was going to pursue an academic career studying religion, but found out that choosing one minute area of research to read about the rest of my life, with absolutely no time to do anything else that might make even remotely happy, made me want to ram my head through my crappy apartment's living room window.  So now I work at the mall."

I've always hated smalltalk.  But the point is, it doesn't bother me anymore.  What happened is what happened, I don't regret it or feel embarrassed by it, I can look back on it with the clarity of distance and "now-I-know-better."

As for the future, I'm not really any more certain about it this year than I was last.  There are some prospects, but I don't want to discuss them too much for fear that they won't pan out, and I'll end up looking like an idiot.  For now I'm content with having spent my holiday season with people I love and haven't seen in a very long time.  I got to talk about common things, like fudge recipes and my cousin's dating lives.  I got to watch the youngest members of my family do the robot and sing Adele.  I got to hear stories, about military life, deceased loved ones, Africa, and crazy neighbors who knock possums off their porch with a frying pan.

In short, it's been a good time, and right now I don't need anything more than that.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Evolution of Self Part Two: Hats

I am still in the process of cleaning out my room.  Obviously I'm not being too intense about it, I just pack up some things or rearrange a bit on my days off from work, and hopefully I'll eventually reach the day where there's no stuff lying on the floor.  Hopefully.

One thing I've realized from my last bought of cleaning is that, for a person that doesn't really wear hats that often, I have a hell of a lot of hats.  So of course, rather than finish up what I should have been doing, I decided to take pictures of myself wearing them, and use them as another excuse to ramble about my life.  If you're wondering why there is a shower head in the upper right corner of each picture, it's because my bathroom had better lighting than my bedroom.  And what matters most when you're taking dorky Myspace-style pictures of yourself is lighting.

What made me sad here was that this hat used to fit on my head.  I was twelve when my grandfather (my father's father) died, and I stole this hat from his house.  It was one of several that he wore out when he was running errands or driving me to school.  We've always lived close to their house so my parents used my grandparents as babysitters until I was old enough to stay at home by myself.  My childhood summers were spent running around their yard, playing with their dog, and learning about things like gospel music, moonshine, and The Price is Right.  Good times.

My uncle died when I was very young, but I didn't really know him very well and I only cried because that's what people do at funerals.  When my grandfather died, I was, for potentially the first time, truly affected by loss.  It was not a slow death.  It was years of gradual cancer growth and decay, a loss of mind and body, the latter years of which are burned into me at the deepest levels.  I wanted something tangible to remember him by, that didn't hold any painful connotations.  So I stole one of his hats.  It doesn't make me think of weight loss or hospital sheets, but of trips to the bakery and the post office, and how he used to tell me that horsepower meant the car was being powered by hundreds of tiny horses that disappeared when you opened the hood.

Through high school I kept the hat in my car and wore it while I was driving, but I didn't take my car to college with me, and I haven't actually worn the hat for years until now.  I really wish it fit.

I took quite a few pictures of this one, trying to find a way to look decent, only to conclude that I just can't pull this hat off.  It's my fathers from his time in the Army.  He was drafted at eighteen to be in the Vietnam War, graduated high school, met and got engaged to my mother within three months, went to Basic Training, got married, then after a short honeymoon spent saying goodbye to family out of state, went to receive his assignment and be deployed.  However, shortly before he was supposed to leave for Vietnam, he was chosen seemingly at random to be sent to Hawaii instead.  Seriously.  He was able to bring his new wife with him, and they spent about two years there living what I understand to have been a pretty great life.

My parents are, in a way, the antithesis of everything the outside world has taught me about relationships.  They met on Christmas Eve (my father was already drafted), got engaged in February, at which point my father went off to training, and they only communicated through letters for the next six months.  As soon as he came back they got married, and my mother honestly had no idea if she'd ever see him again.  Then they randomly went to Hawaii.  Every outside resource I had access to growing up told me that you can't rush into relationships.  You have to make sure you have the "right one" and all that.  Almost every couple I've ever seen get together ends up separated or divorced, no matter how long they've known each other beforehand.  But the two people who raised me threw their lives together on a total crap shoot of a bet, and they're still making it after over forty years.  How does that even happen?

In spite of the overwhelming evidence I've found that most relationships are doomed for failure, I have this ever-present proof that there are at least a few that aren't.

I don't know why I still have this, but American Girl was totally my thing back in the day.  The only books I read were the ones about Samantha.  She was my favorite because, of all the American Girl characters, she looked the most like me.  I had the doll and everything.  This hat came with a computer game my aunt bought me where you could make your own plays with all the franchise girls, set up the staging and move the people around, record their lines, and end up with essentially a short film of your own making.  It was really cool, but I could never get the timing quite right.  People would end up moving while they were still talking and things like that.

When I got to be around Jr. High, I think, is when American Girl really took off as this whole multifaceted beast worming its way into all aspects of young female culture, but by then I was real heavy into anime and had pretty much moved on.  But this was the first stuff that I was really into, that held my imagination and got me thinking and writing.

Don't act like you aren't jealous.  I love Rob Dyrdek and all the stupid crap he puts on TV, the Fantasy Factory in particular, as it involves some fellow Akronites, The Pfaff brothers.  However, that show didn't exist when I got this hat, which is from Rob & Big.  This hat has been worn a grand total of twice, including the time you're looking at right now.  It was something that made me laugh, so I got it during winter break of my freshman year of college, and the only other time I wore it was the day I was moving back into my dorm for the next term.

My freshman year of college was stupid.  I was worried, not so much of being alone, but of people feeling bad for me because they knew I was alone.  Everyone else seemed to be so much more socially active than I was and I didn't want anyone to think there was something wrong with me.  By the middle of the year I was on anti-depressant/anxiety medication.  I depended on stupid, funny things to distract me from my awkward, malfunctioning life.  I still do.

This is the latest installation in a series of attempts to replace The Greatest Hat of All Time.  I don't know if it will work yet, since it not cold enough to test it in real life conditions, but it's been a long search and I really think this might be the one.  Allow me to explain:

This is The Greatest Hat of All Time, and I lost it not too long after this picture was taken.  It was devastating.  I can't even explain what made this hat so great, I just found it in a Kohls one day (it was the only one!), and that was that.  It was warm, soft without being flimsy, plus I think we can all agree that it looked downright awesome.  I was doing a service project my sophomore year during one of the breaks, and it was never seen again.  Ever since, I've been trying to replace it.  Nothing to date even compares.

 This is one of many I tried using in its place.  I bought it from my college's bookstore, though what I really wanted was the matching scarf.  My roommate bought one, but I didn't want to come across as a copycat, plus she said she got it because it looked "Hogwartsy."  This annoyed me because I'm one of the very few who hasn't read all the Harry Potter books.  People are sometimes horrified when they discover this.  It's not that I think there's anything wrong with the series, from what I've read it seems like it's pretty great, actually, I just never connected with the characters for some reason.  I can't explain it.  Believe me, I've been forced so many times to try, and I just can't do it.

Anyway, I ended up with the hat instead of the scarf.  It is not comfortable.

Last picture:

Another hat I only wore twice.  The first time is when it was given to me, by a guy I knew my freshman year of college.  It was his hat, and I found it in his car when he was giving me a ride somewhere or other and put it on.  He said that I looked better in it than he did and told me to keep it.  I did.  This guy was the first guy to be really nice to me.  Like really, really nice.  Unfortunately he had a huge thing for my roommate.  The same one who bought the scarf first.  She never actively did anything to hurt me, in fact she really tried to make me see the good things about myself, but I always felt like I was in second place around her.  Not that she was prettier or smarter, but people always liked her more.

There was a time, I guess, where I was very concerned with whether or not people thought I was "okay."  I've always been a bit of a sociophobe (which Firefox has seen fit to try and correct to "sociopaths"), but when I got to college I really noticed how much time I spent alone and how everyone else seemed to be with other people constantly.  There were probably lots of other people out by themselves all the time, but I never noticed them.  Instead I felt like everyone was looking at me, feeling bad for me, assuming I was freak without any friends.  I did a lot of unnecessary damage to myself during this period of time.

I've managed to get more used to myself since then.  Making friends is a long, slow process for me, and that's just fine, since those few people end up being extremely important.  Also, so long as you aren't out on the streets shouting about how much better your god is than everyone else's, no one really cares what you're up to or gives you a passing thought.  So this bizarre little fear has largely fallen to the wayside.

Don't worry, it's been replaced with a number of other, equally foolish worries.  Work in progress.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cats and Bugs

It's sad to say goodbye to something you love, even if you're getting something better out of the deal.

This is going to be mostly about cars, and a little about creepy statues. First the cars. Since I was seventeen I've had a 2000 Mercury Cougar, which I always lovingly referred to as "The Coug." A lot of people didn't seem to understand why I called it that, which kind of made me sad, but I was still learning back then that not everyone had brothers as old as mine letting them borrow their old cassette tapes.  Anyway here's The Coug:

Lovely, right?  Well it's gone now.  Over the past few weeks The Coug was acting a little odd, and upon further inspection we discovered a rust problem that would be pretty costly to fix, so my dad decided to trade it in.  Before we left the house the morning we got rid of it, he asked if I would miss my old car.  I said no way!  I didn't even use it during college, and besides, it's just a car!

Fast forward to my actually having to empty it out.  Here's some of what was in there: two umbrellas, price tags from our local grocery store/garage sale Marcs, a JC Penney employee lanyard from my high school job, Winnie the Pooh plush toys my mom put in there to "surprise" me when I left it behind during college, a pink blanket of unknown origins, a Batman kite I bought with my friends one day (senior year of high school, I think) when we decided to go buy kites and fly them on an empty piece of land near our school, an old key chain containing a miniature Russian doll one of my friends brought back from her first trip to Russia and a Hiei from Yuyu Hakusho that I bought back when Hot Topic was the new big thing, and this guy

This gnome has been buckled up in the backseat of my car for almost four years.  My junior year of high school I opened my locker one day to find him peering out at me, and he lived in there until the year ended, at which point I moved him to my car, where he's been until last Monday.  My friends gave him to me for reasons I don't completely recall, but I know it had something to do with the Travelocity roaming gnome.  He was safely fastened until late November of last year, when I slammed on the brakes on my way back to grad school after Thanksgiving break to avoid hitting a dear, and he slid out of the seat onto the floor.  I remember this because it was noisy.  He never got picked up and re-buckled because almost hitting that dear triggered something in me that turned what had up til then been a slow decline into a full downward spiral.


So all of these things sat in my parents garage while we traded in The Coug for something better, and I realized that I was really going to miss my old car.  My dad knew the feeling, as he is very sentimental about vehicles, and talks about all his old cars like they're fine wines or old girlfriends.  He's had about forty-six of them throughout his life (cars, not girlfriends).  Just about every three or four years he gets the itch to look for new ones, making our family perhaps the only example of how leasing can make more sense than buying cars.  According to my mother, there are much worse habits a person can have, and so long as he's not trading wives like he trades cars, she's fine with it.

I doubt I'll ever be like that, but for now here's car number two:

As much as I miss my old car, I definitely love this new one just as much, if not more.  However, due to the fact that the seats in the Volkswagen or, if you have a slight lisp like I do, "Voltzwagen," do not have as deep a dip in them as the seats in the Mercury, they do not hold my little gnome in place.  Now it's sitting in the house and I don't know what to do with it.  It's actually a little bit frightening.

I don't know when it started, but it seems to have some kind of weird weeping statue thing going on.

But back to the car.  It surprised my dad when I picked this one out, but Bugs sort of run in the family.  My grandfather (on my dad's side) owned one from the '70s that lived in his garage until a few years ago when we sold it to a family friend who could restore it.  One of my aunts also had one when she was younger, which she loved very much.  She told me that hers had been named Betsy, and asked if I was going to name mine.

The Coug got its name from a musician, and for now the Beetle is on the same track.  Thanks in part to my mother being a victim of the British Invasion, and to the indie/hipster/whatchamacallits for listening to them continually, I am completely unable to spell the would "beetle" without first typing "beatle" and deleting it.  So more often than not I end up talking about my new VW Beatle.  Does that count as a name?

Either way, I'm excited.  I had a lot of good memories with that old car, but a lot of horrible ones, too.  This new car is just that, new (to me, anyway, it's an '05).  A blank slate of sorts that I have been otherwise unable to obtain.  I'm sure it will fill up with things eventually, but right now it's just empty and clean.  And that's kind of nice.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Most Important Person I Don't Know

My grandmother, the wife of the grandfather I wrote about last post, died in February, the same month both my brother and I were born.  It was about four months after this death that my mother found out she was pregnant with me, and the timing of this arrival/departure combo is the most singular fact of my existence.

Without going into too much detail, my mother adopted my brother after about six years of struggling with infertility and failing to have a child.  It was her dream, for some reason or another, to have several children, and she continued with treatments for another six years before giving up.  Eight years later, her mother died, and almost immediately afterwards her twenty years of wishing and waiting were over.

She told me once when I was younger that she felt like her mother had given me to her, like maybe some kind of afterlife bargaining had brought me to life.  It made me feel so heavy to think that I might only be alive because someone I never knew had died.  It also made me feel like I mattered very, very much.

I was named after this woman: Heather Arlene.  Heather because of Arlene.  But for owing so much to this Arlene character, I know next to nothing about her.  There aren't a lot of videos or pictures of her, and all I've really ever gathered from what anyone who knew her has to say is that she was pretty much the nicest lady, and an extremely good cook.  If I ask for details, everyone just comes back to that one word Nice.  She was just so very Nice.

Going through my grandfather's house we found Arlene's high school yearbook.  Everyone in her year has a single-word description next to their picture.  They range from preferable traits like Intelligent and Witty, to the rather unfortunate Fleshy (honestly, why did they let that get printed?), and by far my favorite, Unconcerned.  But guess what Arlene has next to her name?  Nice.  Is it possible for someone to be so nice that the word completely takes over everyone's memory of them?

I wish I could be more like this person, whoever she is.  I wish I could be Nice.

Since I tossed all my belief systems into the muck between Yes and No, I don't feel like I owe this person anything anymore.  I'm not sure about afterlives or what sway, if any, our words can have on god, but I know that even if it's true, even if I am Heather because of Arlene, the only way to repay her is to live.  No matter how it came to pass, I am alive, and that is most important thing ever.

Again, without going into too much detail, I didn't always see it this way.

So I want to take this moment to thank Arlene, the nicest person I've never met, for giving my life some value when I couldn't see its worth.  While I've never been worse off financially, and have never felt less successful in my life, everything is so much better now.  I get it.  I'm alive.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I watched a biopic on Joan Crawford the other night on TCM.  It was a conglomeration of interviews of co-workers, friends, and family members mashed together with some old footage and a faceless narrator making vague connections and awkward puns.  What hit me about this show was the conflict between how she was represented by her peers and her children.

I think most people have read the book or seen the movie Mommie Dearest, but I had never seen Christina Crawford actually speak before.  Some people say she made up or embellished parts of her story, but if she did, she's very convincing.  She talked about how Joan wouldn't let her or her siblings keep their Christmas presents, or how they all had to scrub the floors over and over, or how she smacked them up for no reason.  Compare this to how directors, actors, and friends spoke of her, as a woman who was very particular, maybe even harsh, but certainly no one worth reproaching.

The real crazy part was, towards the end, I noticed several of the interviewees mention that, even if Joan had been a terrible or abusive mother, it was sad that people only remembered her for that, and not her craft.  But is it?  Even if someone is the best ever at something, does that mean their inner monstrosities should be overlooked?

I'm not sure it matters either way, though, since I'm pretty sure one of the only people still watching Joan Crawford movies is my mother.  We even have a Mommie Dearest joke in my family regarding wire hangers, but I never really understood it until a few years ago.  Almost everything ends of a joke eventually, I guess.

During the brief period of time where I went to therapy, the therapist inquired as to whether or not I had ever been abused.  My nervousness, my loathe of human physical contact, everything pointed, in her eyes, to some sinister actions of my parents long ago.  I told her I hadn't been abused by anyone ever, which is true, but she didn't believe me.  She kept pushing the issue, and that's why I don't go to therapy anymore.

My parents have always been so supportive, even if what I'm doing is giving up.  When it got really bad last December (in about four months it will have been a year, how odd) I called my father and told him how I just didn't know anything anymore and he said it was okay.  Then he came and got me.  Then, when he saw how much worse things were than he thought they'd been, he said that was okay too and let me lay in a ball on his couch until I felt safe enough to uncurl.  Without that person always saying it was okay back then, I have no idea if things would be as okay as they are right now.

But I am lucky.

Joan Crawford adopted four children, two of which claim to have been abused.  The younger two, however, deny that any abuse ever occurred.  That's not saying that it didn't, because children living in the same house often experience completely different lives.  My brother and I had the same parents, but we are fourteen years apart.  How much does a person change over fourteen years?  In a way, I'm sure it's like being raised by totally different people.

My grandfather lives in a veteran's nursing home.  We went to visit my grandfather at the nursing home last week, just me and my mother.  It was strange to see him looking so small, because he was always so strong-willed and just plain strong when I was little.  Now he has dementia and spends most of his time not knowing where anything or who anyone is.  More often than not he thinks he's still in his own house.  He still remembers my mother, though he sometimes mistakes her for his wife, and sometimes I think he remembers  me.  Other times I can tell he doesn't but won't say anything because my mother seems to like me so much.

The nurses told us about how someone else came into his room one night and wouldn't leave, so he chased the guy out with his cane.  Now this is hilarious, but it's also really heartbreaking.  This person used to be someone people respected, were afraid of, even.  Now he's an old man swinging a cane.  And the person he was chasing is the same, a great big someone who withered into a shuffling wanderer of hospital hallways.  What can you say?

We're always laughing at things that are only funny because they have to be.  The reality by itself is too hard, so you have to twist it until it detaches from everything else and becomes a lone act, like some lady yelling about wire hangers, or two old guys in a fight.  Then you laugh and ignore all the other things you are supposed to feel.

I have do decide how I am going to remember my grandfather, as big and intimidating or funny or weak, and I don't know what to do.  Which parts of him should I prioritize, which parts underplay?  How do you decide what matters most about a person?

I just don't know.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

To Stand Still

That last post wasn't supposed to end on such a low note, but I guess low notes are just what I do.  No matter.  I'm going to try again.

My music taste has been undergoing a major overhaul as of recent.  Really I'm just re-exploring an avenue that I left behind years ago.

In early high school I went through I short phase of listening to bands like Tiger Army and The Horrorpops, which sound like this:

If I remember correctly, this is also when I began reading comics like Hellsing and JTHM.  It kind of makes me laugh to think that I was so stereotypically angst-ridden as a teenager.  Of course, I am, perhaps, still just as stereotypically angst-ridden now.  Depression is always en vogue.

Anyway, most of this stuff got left behind as I got older, except for JTHM because it's funny, not to mention contains one of the more interesting non-fire-and-brimstone versions of hell I've come across (I could do a whole separate entry on media interpretations of hell.  Maybe I will).  But the past few months I've been using Pandora to find music, and since I've been on something of a nostalgia fest, I made a Horrorpops channel, which led from one band to another, to another, and so on.  And you know what?  It's been awesome.  I've found stuff like this:

I'm not sure why these things in particular are resonating with me right now.  Maybe because I'm back home, which has been triggering all sorts of nostalgic fits regarding everything from books to dressing habits.  I really want to leave, to move somewhere else and try life over, I guess.  But that's something else I wish would change.

For about a year I was moving every couple months to an entirely new place.  England to Naperville to Akron to Oxford... I had been some of those places before, in fact, was quite used to them, but the transience of it was nice.  Actually, the past four years of my life I haven't been in once place for more than four months.  Any problem I had, whether it was with a research paper, a person, or myself, could be pushed aside in favor of going back home, going back to school, studying abroad, and so on.

I have been living at home now for seven months.  To put it lightly, I think I'm losing my mind (as if any of the previous entries hadn't already alerted you to that).  Every fiber of my being wants to bolt, to desperately dig for any chance of getting away, to go somewhere else.

The problem here isn't in the physical picking up and moving.  I have always been restless and prone to wandering off, and this was never discouraged by anyone in my life so long as I was careful and promised to come back.  The problem is why.  Dealing with my problems is difficult, and I've pretty much managed to avoid it all for quite some time.  However, no matter how many times I bounce between locales, I can't get away from myself.  Whatever I left behind at school or home is still there whether I am or not, and just because no one around me knows who I am doesn't mean that I've become a different person.

So I'm going to stop it.

I'm embarrassed that I've been conducting myself like this, running away so obviously without even noticing.  Like I said before, so stereotypical.  My inner hipster is horrified at how common I am.

For right now, I'm going to stay put.  The things I want to accomplish can easily be done from here, and if I find that to be somehow less interesting, then I've completely lost my imagination and abilities as a storyteller and there are much larger issues to be addressed.  I will save money and energy.  I will push through the restlessness and hold myself very still.  I will pay attention to my own heart and mind instead of shuffling back and forth from place to place, and when the signs of complete system failure start to present themselves, I will notice them because I am not so incredibly busy with other things.

I don't know how long this will take.  What I do know is that, until I can say with certainty when I move it is towards and not away from something, I will be living in Akron, Ohio.  This makes me sad, because I really want to go somewhere else.  Anywhere else.  But I also want to really enjoy the somewhere else I end up someday, so I know I can't go there just yet.

Friday, July 1, 2011

An Evolution of Self

Life Stress Test

Your Results

You're highly likely to develop a stress-triggered illness due to everything that's going on in your life. However, your coping skills and the efforts you make to reduce stress can minimize this risk. Talk to a mental health professional if you need treatment. Support groups and convenient online forums can be beneficial, too. Common stress-related illnesses to watch out for include:
Back pain
Common cold
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Autoimmune diseases
Heart disease
Heart attack

I got this quiz from and I know I just talked about this last post, but I thought it was interesting just how many illnesses are related to stress.  The common cold?

Anyway, this isn't supposed to be about stress.  This is about something else.

The low I was experiencing has largely subsided, which is nice.  I feel much less likely to implode than I did earlier this month.  The urge to blog during this low was strong, but I know that my thoughts tend to take a turn for the weird (not the good kind) at those times, so I felt it best to keep them to myself.

Again, anyway.  A song.  I don't feel like a post is complete without a song.

I've had the past couple days to myself, no work, no friends, no whatever else people usually have occupying their lives.  So I decided to spend this time trying to clean out the room I've been using since I was twelve and try to put all the stuff I own now in it so everything's not just scattered around my parents' upstairs area like so much dust in the wind.  Of course, this hasn't happened, mainly because I found a bunch of old pictures and ended up spending all my time on those.

It's odd to look at old pictures of myself.  I feel like I've changed so much as a person that it's like looking at pictures of someone else, or a series of someone else's I vaguely recall from some point in my past.


I thought I'd put up a few of them, partly for amusement, partly to try and sort out what it is I really feel about them.  Here we go:

This is me around five or six, maybe?  I have no idea.  Either way, I like this picture because I seem kind of really happy in it, which I've found didn't happen much throughout my life.  Usually I'm not smiling at all, or the smile is fake, and maybe I don't have the best smile here, either, but I am clearly thinking something along the lines of "Yeah, look at this spread.  I made out this year."  Good for me.

Fun facts about this picture: that weird little white scraggly thing on the table above my head is an Easter tree.  It had little ornaments of things like bunnies and colored eggs my mom and I would hand on it before we set it out a few days before Easter each year.  My basket of goodies was always sitting under it on Easter Sunday.  I can't remember when that tradition stopped, but I remember that it was fun.  Also, that little doll on the bottom right?  I remember that thing.  It was two-sided, and you could twist the head, middle, and skirt portions to mix and match the designs/faces on both sides of it.  I played with that for years.

In the end, though, it probably got chewed up like most of my other toys.  I've always had a bad habit of chewing on toys, pens, the inside of my mouth, whathaveyou.  That's part of why I have a permanent jaw problem.  Next picture:

Again, I don't know exactly how old I am in this one, but I'm going to guess around nine.  This is around when my "chubby phase" was starting, which lasted until around Jr. High.  The weird thing about this "chubby phase" is that I was made to feel as if I was so fat.  I don't remember who, if anyone, ever implied I was fat or said anything mean to me, but I know I felt different from everyone else and eventually altered (i.e. stopped) my eating habits in order to slim down.

Looking at pictures now I don't think I was very fat at all.  Maybe I was a little bigger than kids my age were then, but why did I feel so bad about myself?  You were fine, little-kid-self, I wish someone had told you that.

Those two other girls in the picture (if it wasn't obvious, I'm far left) are interesting for two reasons.  One, I don't have any idea who they are, but I do know they are older than me.  Two, the distance between me and them, along with my incredibly bad posture, go a long way to explain my failings as a social creature far better than I could ever try in words.  Next:

I am eleven in this picture, and it is the year 2000, if you couldn't tell by that seemingly ghostly image floating behind my head.  It's actually Disney World's Epcot ball with a giant light-up 2000 sitting on top, but it's too dark for you to see the ball itself.  This was taken during a family vacation, and we are waiting for a parade to start.  I had only gotten those glasses within a year or so.  When I was in fifth grade we were learning some math skill using time, and whenever the teacher would call on me to tell her what time it was, I couldn't do it.  She thought I was messing around and verbally chastised me in front of the class on more than one occasion.  However, my parents figured out that, when they pointed something out to me and I said I couldn't see it, it wasn't because I didn't turn my head fast enough.  They took me to the eye doctor and found out I was incredibly nearsighted and could only see about six feet in front of my face.  At school the day after I got my new glasses, I remember the look on my teacher's face.  She was the first adult I had ever seen look so guilty.

Those glasses looked awful, and they were pretty thick since my eyes were so bad.  And that hair looks disgusting, even though I know it was always clean and brushed, and even if I eventually got it cut and sent it to Locks of Love, I can't believe my parents let me look like that.  Gracious.

This is me just a year after that playing Foosball with my brother on Thanksgiving 2001.  My hair is still recovering from the disaster of a cut I got earlier that year.  Around this time is when I started losing weight, and for some reason I know I got that shirt from Marshalls.  This Thanksgiving in particular a lot of family was together (somewhere around forty-fifty people, I think) and the cousins all got together and played a huge game of RISK, which I had never played before.  It was crazy intense, and people stuck around until after midnight to finish it.

My grandfather had died that May.  His death was long and drawn out, which taxed everyone's patience and strength.  The will he left behind also caused some degree of controversy and arguments.  These problems, along with the fact that we had basically just lost the patriarch of our family, caused most of my family to lose contact and drift apart over the years.  Thanksgiving 2001 is one of the last big family gatherings we ever had.

Not at this point exactly, but somewhere near it, is when I started having panic attacks.

This is 2003-2004 during another family vacation.  I saved the picture as "2004" but now that I'm thinking about it I'm pretty sure most of the red had gone out of my hair by the time I started high school, and in this picture it's clearly still visible.  At some point in eighth grade I wanted to dye my hair red.  Fine.  Good for me.  The problem came when, after dyeing it, I didn't wash my hair thoroughly enough, meaning that some of the dye actually sat in my hair over night.  What I ended up with was an alarmingly red mess on my head that practically glowed.  There was little do be done unless I wanted to redye it, so I just left it that way until the semi-permanent dye slowly faded out.  In this picture it's actually starting to tone down.  When it first happened the harsh red coupled with my pale skin made me look kind of ridiculous.

That's my mom with me in the picture, by the way.  We're standing in front of the Dukes of Hazzard car which is kept outside Cooters Place, located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  My parents are fans of country music, so we've vacationed in Tennessee numerous times.  Around the area of Gatlinburg in particular are fun things like DollyWood, Dixie Stampede (both owned by Dolly Parton), The Comedy Barn, and possibly one of the funniest experiences of my childhood, The House of Knives.  I couldn't find a website for this place, and it might not even exist anymore, but man The House of Knives was crazy.  It was right by our hotel one year, and I made my mom take my inside just because I thought the name was funny.  Inside was basically a giant hunting goods store, specializing in terrifyingly huge and intimidating blades that I'm not even sure you would be allowed to take outside.

The funny things about The House of Knives, though, were the animals.  Lots of hunting stores have stuffed animals mounted on the walls, chilling in corners, etc., but this place didn't just have your run-of-the-mill deer and moose set up.  They had zebras and peacocks and all kinds of weird stuff.  All real.  How on earth did this backwoods paradise for serial killers get a hold of exotic animal corpses?  I thought the whole thing was hilarious.

Maybe my mind has exaggerated somewhat the deadliness of the weapons I saw there, but I know the zebra was real, and the experience took a boring vacation and made it somewhat less so.  More pictures!

Christmas 2006, I think.  This is what I looked like through most of high school, minus the glasses.  I wore contacts almost constantly in high school, except on days when I slept in, like Christmas.  Every year my mother takes pictures of my brother and I with each and every gift, making us hold it up and pose.  Neither of us take it too seriously.  What I'm holding there is a necklace with a dragonfly pendant.  If I recall correctly, I quite liked it and wore it quite a few times until I went to college, at which point I pretty much never dressed up for anything.  Those two strips of hair that are hanging in my face... those have always been a problem.  If you look back up at the picture from 2000 you can see them, one on each side of my head, straying ever so slightly from the rest of my hair.  It doesn't matter what I do with those things, they just don't want to be incorporated into the group.

Though, to prove I did at some points clean up and look nice, I've included one of my senior pictures from high school:

That's about a respectable as I can get.  My ability to smile at this point as been stunted, I think, by years of dealing with blind fear and anger that I could never properly understand or explain to anyone else.  I've been able to learn about what's going on, articulate myself, and cope with my problems better over the years, but those smile muscles still don't work the way they're supposed to.  I can only smile properly for a picture if someone does or says something to make me smile or laugh right in that moment.  Learning how to be happy was very hard, learning how to look like I'm happy might not ever happen.

Maybe it's too subtle for anyone else to see.  This is my with my brother and my father some time in 2007, and this is what I looked like through most of college.  See that little strip of hair separated just a tiny bit from the rest on my head?  See it?

Anyway (last of the entry, I swear), I got bangs a little over a year ago, maybe longer.

I still can't figure out if I like them or not.  This was my profile picture on Facebook for a long time, I just changed it about a month ago.  A couple weeks ago someone commented on it to randomly say they liked it, which made me laugh, because the person in this picture doesn't exist anymore.  The person in this picture has no idea what's going to happen to her in the next year, no idea what she's on the verge of.

This one does:

This is what a person looks like six months after they have a nervous breakdown, I guess.  I genuinely thought I was smiling when I took it.  Oops.

The problem isn't that I'm unhappy.  Almost every day I get to laugh at something and talk to people I love, in fact, I feel happy much more now than I have at most other points in my life.  The problem is that it's impossible to wipe the past off your face.  I'm not trying to say that my life has been difficult, it hasn't.  I am the one who has been difficult.


So there's that.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

This, On the Other Hand, is No Fun at All

I looked up this video, "Panic Attack", to start out the entry, as most of these seem to start out with music videos, and this came up in the results:

I get you, Mark. I totally get you.

That being said, I'm pretty sure I don't have schizophrenia. Pretty sure.

Anyway, this isn't about schizophrenia, this is about panic, which is back on the rise in my life.  For a while I was trying to figure out what the problem might be, so even if I couldn't fix it I would at least know what I was reacting to.  Then I remembered that, way back in the day, back in jr. high and high school, this happened all the time.  Most of my college career I've had so many things to worry about that I forgot my panic goes on whether there's actual worries to be had or not.

Things really had to calm down for me to panic like this.

Now I know I talk about high school and below a lot, but here's why: my college years are stupid and generally not fun to talk about.  Freshman year was potentially the worst year of my life.  Transitioning from a tiny school I'd gone to my whole life and known everyone to a still-small-but-still-larger-then-where-I-came-from school full of strangers was hard for someone with next to no social skills, and it basically took me the whole year just to find someone I could talk to and genuinely smile at (a friend, so to speak).  Sophomore year was dramatic as all hell because I had friends during it, and a decent portion of it was spent going through withdrawal from escitalopram because I'm a great decision maker who stops her meds cold turkey without consulting her physician.  Junior/senior year (I graduated a year early thanks to PSEO and overlapping humanities majors) was all about finishing my thesis and getting into a grad school I shouldn't have been getting in to once I got back from my term in the UK.

I did blog about studying abroad, and you can read that here if you want to.  The last week or so of the trip isn't on there, though, because I went to Ireland with some friends and immediately after getting back had to fly home, and thanks to layovers and a cramped plane seating I some kind of crazy-intense superflu on my way back and pretty much just laid around stuffed up and helpless until I went back to school in January.  Good times.

And most of what happened after undergrad is on here, so there.  But back to high school.  I will stay on topic here, no matter what.

Disorganized thoughts and "jumpy" thinking are, by the way, symptoms of schizophrenia.

So, high school.  I panicked a lot in high school.  The first panic attack I can remember having was in church, which is perhaps a bit telling, but at the time I had no idea what was going on and it was awful.  I tried telling my mother what happened afterwards, and she identified the episode as a panic attack.  Then I started having them all the time.

If I could describe one, for anyone reading this who doesn't know, a panic attack is like when someone turns the television or radio up so loud that nothing can exist in your mind anymore but the sheer sound of it.  You can't process anything except that there is loud and it should stop, so you pound helplessly on the remote buttons (which under any other circumstances you could operate perfectly) until you by some fluke hit the right one and turn the volume down.  A panic attack is exactly like that, except instead of noise it's fear, and there's no remote.  There's just yourself.

Sometimes I had situation-specific attacks (read the entry on Barbara Walters if you want an example of that), but more often then not they came on randomly when I was doing things like eating lunch or drying my hair.  I got really good at having panic attacks because I had them so often.  It got to the point where I would feel one coming so I'd just find a quiet place to have it out, then get right back to whatever I was doing before.  Once I hit college things got much worse and I had them so often that I was almost always trying to get away so I could panic privately and freely, but there was a difference.  I was panicking for a reason.  Things were stressful and difficult, but knowing the why behind something can make it a whole lot more bearable, so I was almost happier since the attacks were no longer seemingly baseless.

Fast forward four years.  There's nothing going on anymore, and I'm back to the old style out-of-nowhere panic fest. 

So far I haven't had a no-holds-barred, death-feels-imminent-even-though-it's-not style attack, and for that I'm grateful, but that doesn't mean one isn't sitting in the wings just waiting to pounce.  In fact, I'm sure one is.  Life is lived inside one's head, and mine it seems is not wired to sit quietly, even for a second.

In either jr. high or high school, I can't remember which, we learned about depression, along with some other psychological disorders.  The symptoms list for depression was so vague and all-encompassing that lots of people in my class started feeling like they might have it.  Anyway, I think I've just done the same thing with myself and schizophrenia.  It started as a joke but now I'm really reading about it and freaking myself out.

Paranoia is another symptom.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Even More Fun

So, that poem I thought of as fun that I sent to the people who thought the not-fun poem was fun?  I got a response.  They loved it.  To clarify: they said they loved it, but would pass on it unless I took some of their edits into consideration.  Which I did.  It's not like they wanted to change anything major, basically I used the word "that" a lot and they wanted it gone, and I really do think the poem read better without them, anyway.  When I reworked it a bit and sent it again, they took it.


It was interesting to have the poem sent back the first time with notes on it, like back in my undergrad poetry classes when I would get critiques from my fellow students.  I miss having the input of others in my writing.  Whether I would always do what was suggested is beside the point, I just enjoyed making something and seeing what someone else would do with it.  Most of the time.

Friday, June 3, 2011


When I'm having a bad day, this song always makes me feel better. When I'm having a good day, this song takes that day from good to great.

I've been having something along the lines of writer's block recently.  Obviously I've gotten over it to some extent, but I still feel like something is trapped or blocked off somewhere in my head that needs to be gotten at in order for things to progress.  Letting go of the issue entirely sometimes helps things to surface, like when I used to do math homework and sometimes the answers to hard problems would come to me if I stopped working on them.  That's where all this music comes in.


That last one is kind of old, not to mention awesome.

The writer's block started, I think, when I got something published.  Of course, the issue I was supposed to be in was late, and for a while I was convinced that my writing had somehow driven the whole operation to shut down.  It usually comes out on the 20th of every month, but the May issue was delayed until just a day or two ago.  If you want to read a few of my poems, along with some other really good stuff, click here.

Anyway, at the time I found out that someone, no matter who, had read things I produced and liked them, I thought I could send things elsewhere and have similar results.  Not the case.

Being rejected is not the worst thing ever.  However, having that rejection contain something so odd you can't even process it makes you kind of want to give up.  I'm sure whoever wrote this particular rejection letter was just trying to make me feel better, and I know it's really hard to give someone bad news with some sort of positive spin, but they really could have done better.  I might be overreacting.  All they did really was call my poem "fun" but essentially not right for their publication.  That word "fun" is the problem.  What I sent them was not "fun".  It was very painful and personal, as most poems are, and I was hurt by what I'm guessing was either a complete misunderstanding or complete disregard of my work.

So, being a person who is all too easily impacted by every minuscule event, I began wondering if anything I write makes sense to anyone other than me and if that other website who took my poems was only being nice and etc. etc. on until all manner of depressing thoughts had been explored.  Then I couldn't write anything.  I try to get out a poem a week, just to keep up some sort of schedule and because I now have the time for such things, but almost three went by and nothing was happening.  The word "fun" had totally destroyed me.

Then some nice things happened.  My friends came home from school, so I had some people to talk to, interact with, and places to be at other than my house or work.  I also found the music I used to listen to back in high school, the punk and the hip-hop stuffs I had been shamed out of keeping around by my cooler hipster college friends.  Now, I've always held on to music like what I mentioned earlier, but that's mainly because it's supposed to be stupid, lighthearted crap for laughing and jumping around.  "Fun" you could say.  What I'm talking about now meant a lot more to me than that.

What I've found out from re-listening is that it still does

And I started feeling better. I am, dare I say it, having fun. There's still that feeling of not-quite-ness in my writing, but at least I am, in fact, writing.

I've taken all this new found energy and put it in to a fun poem.  I've sent that fun poem to the same publication that mistakenly took the other to be "fun".  Maybe they'll notice a difference?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

On Wolves

Biology prevails!

This whole video is bonkers, but that line is probably my favorite part of it.  That being said, though, I really do like this song.  And TV On The Radio in general.  And wolves.

Since there is something else that I really want to write about, but I don't feel able to do it just yet, so I am going to talk about this for a while.  Bear with me.

I was obsessed with animals when I was little.  I would often pick one and then research it mercilessly for weeks at a time until I had essentially mastered it, then move on to another.  When I was at a pretending age I almost always pretended to be some sort of animal, usually a dog or a wolf, as those ended up being the types of animals that really held my interest.  Wolves in particular were my knowledge strong point.  I stopped reading and largely caring about wolves around when I entered Jr. High, but I still remember some things about them, like how intelligent they are and how well structured wolf packs really are.

So, when most youngsters where in to Harry Potter, or whatever else kids my age were supposed to be enjoying, I was reading Julie of the Wolves and its sequels.  Again I don't remember much about this, but I know I loved these books and that they fueled my imagination for several years.  My uncle found out about this interest and fueled it further by gifting me on every applicable holiday with little gems like this one:

Note that this is not just a disembodied wolf head, which would really be bad enough, but this is an entire disembodied wolf torso.  I'm not even sure you could call this a disembodied wolf shirt when most of the wold is in fact shown, but they still had to fade out that last bit, as if they cannot make wolf shirts without the wolf fading out to some degree.  You could also consider this shirt to have a bonus because you don't only get the one running wolf, there are more wolves running inside of it.  If only they were fading out as well.  This shirt seriously boggles my mind.

Anyway, I've had this shirt a long time time.  I don't wear it outside anymore, but I'm pretty sure I did at some point, which I think shows that my parents really didn't protect me as well as they should have.  I wear it to sleep now, as it has that perfect amount of wear necessary for a shirt to feel fantastic.  Its also really funny.

I actually had lots of these when I was young, but most of them either wore out or were thrown away in a fit of sensibleness.  Can you imagine that I had trouble socializing as a child?

Like I said before, the wolves were put away around when I turned twelve or thirteen and have largely stayed put locked up in my memory.  However, every once in a while I see something like that TV on the Radio song, and I remember what now feels like a weird dream I had where I thought I was a wolf.  I remember how much I used to know and care about these animals, and how my kid-self had a whole little world built of and around them.

It's interesting for me to find out that wolves factor as symbols into other people's lives as well, and what they mean for them.  One of my poetry-writing friends has a series about wolves that I react to on some core level because of her chosen image.  Any song mentioning wolves appeals to me on some level beyond my own comprehensionThere's really an interesting mix of music here if you click each link.  That last one is some German band I found while looking up these other videos and typing "wolf" so much.  I think this paragraph had intention when it started, but I got so caught up in linking music that it turned into mush.  Ah well.

The point is that I am now permanently set up to feel towards the image or idea of wolves some fundamental emotion stemming from my childhood preoccupation with being something other than myself.

I just figured that out now writing this post.  So at least there's something.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

This Ended Up Being About Grammar. I'm Not Sure Why.

Today really was a good day, though I'd have trouble explaining why.  I worked for most of it, and there was definitely the (perhaps even worse than) usual group of bizarre and demanding people, but the point is that I was able to cope with it, which is both new and exciting.  More often than not I am completely unable to gracefully withstand the odd and slightly cruel way sales people are treated.  Of course, I am slowly becoming notorious for relapses, so I'm not expecting myself to respond this well every time, but knowing that I'm capable of doing so will certainly help me along.

If I haven't mentioned this before, I work in a department store now.  In the shoe department, to be exact, which is pretty much what I did back in high school, though I'm not at the same store.  It's a little bit sad to have gone through so much schooling, to have had as many good experiences and opportunities as I've had, just to end up right back where I started.  I'm trying to treat this like a launching point, like a return to zero before going off in a whole new (and hopefully more successful) direction.  In any case, this job is reintroducing me to the non-academic world, which I had almost forgotten existed, and giving me enough funds to keep from defaulting on my student loans.  I'm content with that for now.

Every sentence in that paragraph begins with the letter "I".  A couple of them also begin with the same word, which is somewhat bothersome.  Around 6th or 7th grade, I was told by my English teacher not to start multiple sentences with the same word in the same paragraph.  I'm sure she said this only to prevent the "This happened.  Then this happened.  Then this happened," style that many youngsters are prone to, but this rule had lorded over my writing forever since.  In academic papers, in poetry, even in my own head, I am always aware of what words I'm starting off with and how often they're being used.

I have a similar issue with commas.  If I write a sentence with one comma, or maybe two, the sentences both before and after it must have some other amount of commas.  The sentence structures must be appropriately varied within a given paragraph, so as not to sound monotonous.  Each paragraph would also ideally have at least five sentences.

That one does not.

On one level these rules have done a lot of good for me.  They've forced me to think carefully about what I write and how I write it, which has probably helped make me into a better writer.  However, I know full well that most people do not notice or care about all these little details, and I'm starting to feel like I'm holding myself back by sticking to them so strictly.  In any case, this nothing-alike-too-close-together way of writing is so ingrained in my system that I have to make a conscious effort to go against it.  Maybe someday I'll be able to just type and not over think so much, but for now all I can do is just be aware of my over thinking and over think about it.

Did you count the commas in those last two sentences?  I know I did.

You know, I always start out these blog entries with one idea in mind, only to wander off on some crazy tangent.  This was originally supposed to be about the Jung/Meyers-Briggs personality types, can you believe that?  I've spent so long on this other stuff, though, that I'm not sure I still feel like talking about what I meant to, or that I even remember what I wanted to say.  Maybe next time?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I had a dream the other night about a friend of mine's ex-boyfriend.  Nothing scandalous happened, it's not like I stole her man or anything, the two of us were just hanging out.  It was weird, because I was never really friends with the guy and have no actual conception of what hanging out with him would be like.  It was also weird because I woke up with the feeling that either dream him or dream me had said something really important, but awake me couldn't remember what it was.

Dreams are important markers for me, because they mean that I'm having complete sleep cycles, which doesn't really happen all that much.  However, things have begun to improve drastically.  The main reason for this is because I now sleep with a mouth guard.  Not a retainer.  A mouth guard.  It makes me feel a little like an idiot, but it's bumped up my life quality about ten or so points, so I'm dealing with it.

When I got my wisdom teeth removed last summer, the X-rays they did showed that my jaw bone was thinning out.  The doctor explained that this was happening because I grind my teeth in my sleep, hard enough to completely destroy my own jaw.  There's already some permanent damage.  My jaw pops when I take big bites or food or yawn too wide, and it starts to hurt or even lock up if I sing along with the radio too long (I'm sure it would lock up if I talked too long, as well, but that's never even sort of started to happen).  Nothing can ever be done to fix those things, but I can slow down any further degeneration of the bone by using a mouth guard while I sleep to cut down on the pressure and friction of my grinding teeth.

I've had the thing a few months, but I've only just now started using it seriously because I need to sleep better so I can act like a proper human being at work.  Even after a few weeks, though, I've already scraped up the guard and left a few pretty deep dents from my lower incisors.  I think it's only a matter of time before I chomp right through it.  It scares me that I exact that much force on myself, self-destructively and subconsciously.  This jaw thing, I think, is like a microcosm of my larger life patterns.

I've figured that there will come a day when I destroy my jaw bone entirely.  Maybe by then they'll have some sort of bionic jaw they can replace it with, but then again having a bionic jaw might only make things worse.  I could grind right up into my own skull or something.  Either way, for now I am able to sleep and dream, and wake up feeling like I am actually awake.

I'm pretty sure I felt like I was going somewhere with the above ramble when I started it late last night, which is why I saved the draft in the first place, but coming back to it this afternoon I have no clue what that might have been.  My apologies.  Even so I'm still going to post it, because I think there's some telling stuff in there.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Xangas and Failing at Life

When I was in Jr. High (and potentially early high school) I had a Xanga.  Said Xanga is long gone now, deleted, actually, since at that point in time I really didn't like the idea of my words floating around the internet once they stopped carrying meaning for me.  Now I have old blogs sitting around all over the place.  Whenever my life changes enough, or I start a new chapter, so to speak, I start up a new blog.  The old ones get bookmarked on my browser, and I occasionally look back over them and remember what I was going through and what I thought about back in the day.

Anyway, my old Xanga had a picture of the characters from Saiyuki as its background (still my favorite manga) and played the song "Cool to Hate" by Offspring.  You could not turn the song off.  I had that Xanga for a long time, I think, and now that I've become the sort who likes to remember what I've written, it makes me kind of sad that it's gone, because I have next to no idea what I ever wrote in that thing.  However, I do remember one entry, where I basically called out a friend of mine for something she said because it upset me and I wasn't strong enough to talk to her about in person.  Instead I just embarrassed her on an open forum almost everyone we knew would read or potentially hear about.  The whole thing was pretty much settled online, and we both went to school the next day free of grudges, but I've always felt a little strange about how I handled things.

Even now, I still have a bad habit of telling people things in writing that I should really say to their faces.  I'm so much more confident in my ability to write than speak.  If you've ever talked to me, you know I trip on my words a lot, get confused in the middle of my own sentences, and generally muck up whatever points I try to make.  So if it's something really important, I feel better writing (typing, really, paper really seems to be on its way out, doesn't it?) out what I want to say, looking it over, making sure it's what I mean and that it's effective, then sending it out to whoever it needs to get to.  I know this isn't a good way to conduct myself, that I should grapple with my awkwardness and insecurity by really facing people, but as my recent drop-out-of-school-and-leave-town-without-telling-anyone debacle shows, I'm hardly reformed in this respect.

One time in my freshman year of college, someone witnessed me having a panic attack.  He was the first person to see me that bad outside of my own family, and he was actually really helpful.  I wanted to thank him for being there for me, even when we weren't exactly friends (we knew some of the same people, but never really talked much), but between the aftermath of the attack and my constant fear of not articulating myself properly, I sent my thanks via Facebook message.  I don't remember his response word for word, though I know it was something along the lines of "no problem."  What I do remember is that he mentioned exercise could help with my anxiety.  So of course, instead of follow his advice, I just worried about whether that comment had any sort of backhanded, you're-a-fatty-so-go-fix-yourself double meaning.  I'm pretty sure it didn't.  Anyway, I still never talked to the guy much, so it turned out to be just this one meaningful moment I had and never responded to properly.

Here's another good avoidance story, though there's no writing component: my sophomore year me and some friends were sitting in the front yard of our dorm doing homework, lounging in the sun, etc. when a couple guys came to get the campus bikes that were also sitting in the yard.  As a side note, our campus supplied several bright red bikes for anyone and everyone to use, but it was sometimes difficult to locate one so it wasn't odd to see a few people scouting around for them.  Anyway, I noticed one of these guys was wearing a NOFX shirt.  I really like this band, and was having a hard time struggling with the leave-punk-behind-you-and-listen-to-some-real-music attitude a lot of the people around me were pushing, so I got excited and did something totally out of character for me.  I went out of my way to address this stranger by telling him, "I like you shirt."

It doesn't seem like a big deal, but it totally was.  NOFX guy responded to my comment by inviting me on a bike ride.  Now, I'm so wary of people and socially out of whack that I have no idea if his invitation was weird or not, but we did already have the bikes right there in front of us.  Either way, it freaked me out.  I also can't ride a bike very well.  These reasons combined led me to decline his offer, so he left and I went with my friends out to eat somewhere.

What's funny, and kind of sad, really, is that I saw him again towards the end of year.  He noticed me walking by and said, somewhat cheekily, that he liked my backpack.  I laughed, but kept walking.  Poor NOFX guy (I'm actually just realizing how awful this really was now as I'm typing it) tries again to have some kind of conversation, but again, all I remember from it is one thing, him saying "don't be shy."  Again, I don't know if that's weird or not.  What I do know is that I responded with, "No, I think I'm just gonna be shy."  I actually said that to someone.  Someone who seemed pretty nice, interested, and, as is against type for what I usually attract, good looking.  At least, I remember him to be good looking.  I know it was only two years ago but, as I've already shown, trying to pin something down in my memory is very much like playing darts blindfolded, so who knows?

That was the last time I ever saw NOFX guy.  Maybe he was a senior and graduated.  Maybe he just gave up and started staying away from me.  Either way, I feel like I missed out on a real opportunity there all because I can't bring myself to properly communicate face to face.

That's what this is about, I guess, how avoiding direct confrontation, whether the message itself is good or bad, can lead to missed opportunities.  I've lost chances to have good friends, and potentially more, by worrying over saying the wrong thing.  If there was a more fulfilling way to end this post, a way to tie up loose ends, or something, I would.  But I can't.  This is what I'm like and I'm trying to get better but it's really hard and I don't know if things will ever improve.

What I can say is, if you're out there, NOFX guy, and you're still willing, I'll go on the bike ride with your now.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Brief Update, of Sorts

I feel like I left things here on something of an ominous note last time, and then didn't speak for about two months.  The problem is that I actually have things to do with my time now, so I'm not sitting around moping or writing blog entries.  I'm working.

Having a job makes a big difference.  My energy is being used to perform tasks and interact with others rather than overtweak poetry and hate myself.  Of course, it also means that I'm not writing as much poetry, so even happiness is a little bit sad.  I'm trying to figure out how to balance everything right now, so I can do what I need and still do what I want.

Other things are happening, too.  Living with my parents has been tough, especially with my dementia-addled grandfather there, as well.  I never got along with him, he was always the typical patriarch/angry old man, and that persona coupled with the fact that he had no idea who I was anymore, or that he was in our house instead of his own, made things near unbearable at times.  However, he still managed to be funny or nice once in a while, and that helped to keep everyone going.

Last week we moved my grandfather to a Veteran's nursing home up in Sandusky.  On one hand, it needed to be done.  Everyone in the family was wearing out and, especially after I got a job, it was hard to figure out who was going to watch him when so we could all get things done with out lives.  On the other hand, it's heartbreaking to see what was such a strong man be reduced to the lifestyle and mindset of a small lost child.  No one really knows how to feel about him leaving.  You almost can't enjoy, or don't even want to enjoy, your new-found freedom due to the guilt of how you've obtained it.

Even so, it feels like some kind of heavy black cloud slowly dissipating over my head.  Things aren't great, but they're ok, and they could quite possibly get a whole lot better later on.  So hopefully I can keep the good trend going.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Being Boring

My birthday was this past Thursday.  I don't know if this is a problem for other people, but I always feel a lot of pressure to have fun on my birthday, which makes it really hard to actually have any fun.  It was the worst on my twenty-first birthday, when you're pretty much expected to party yourself into oblivion, and I had just gotten back from England a month before so I was still dealing with reverse culture shock and catching up with what all I'd missed while I was gone.  I honestly think I went to bed before midnight.

This year really wasn't much different.  I'm not sure what the proper morning period is for a life plan, but I'm not quite over it just yet.  Plus, everyone I know is somewhere else.  Last Thursday came and went with little to no ceremony.  Of course, I did manage to have some fun this weekend, and I know next weekend my brother and I are having something of a late joint birthday party (his birthday is today), but not doing anything on the actual day was kind of nice.

It's hard for me to enjoy myself when I know that I'm supposed to be enjoying myself, and it's even harder to admit I'm not enjoying myself to the other self-enjoyers around me when this happens.  This is why I don't like watching a lot of movies, especially comedies, and especially with other people.  There's nothing worse than watching a movie everyone around you loves that you can't seem to find anything funny about at all.  You don't want to ruin anyone else's happiness, so you just do your best to smile along and not give voice to your real feelings.

Sometimes this is what I find myself doing on my birthday, trying to assure whoever I'm with that they've provided me a sufficiently good time.  But not this year.  This year I "borrowed" some good music from the local library, had a big bowl of ice cream cake, and vegged on my parents new couch (my parents made a really good decision with this new couch; it's fake leather, and whatever they stuffed the cushions with is so springy that if you plop down on them hard enough you could potentially bounce right back off).  Maybe it sounds boring, but I was relaxed, and thus fairly happy.

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, another chance to feel pressured.  Just yesterday my mother felt the need to comment on my current (i.e. perpetual) lack of boyfriend.  For once I can point out that my life should probably be on some sort of track before I try to bring other people into it, but there is something of a stigma for those not attached on February fourteenth.  For women (am I old enough yet to be referring to myself as a woman?  I'm not sure) it seems you should either be in a relationship, desperately attempting to be in a relationship, or a single-and-proud-of-it-Valentine's-Day-hater.  If your are none of those things there's nothing for you, at least not in my experience.

So tomorrow will be the same for me as any other day, hyping myself up on copious amounts of tea while searching for a decent job and writing poems that will hopefully at some point see the light of day.  Again, maybe that's really boring, but it feels better than what I was trying to do before, so I'm content.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It's strange to wake up on a day when something significant was supposed to happen and now isn't.  On Sunday I woke up thinking, "I should be getting back to Oxford," but I didn't, because I don't live in Oxford anymore.  Today I woke up thinking, "I should be going to some class," but I didn't, because I don't go to school anymore.  Instead I holed up reading old books and trying to convince myself that I made the right decision.

I did, of course.  There was hardly another option.

There are a couple things that bother my about what I've done, though.  The first is that I've never really quit something before.  It's always been my way to just hunker down and plow through any and every ordeal, regardless of what good would come of it or its affect on my physical and mental health.  This time, though, things got worse than I can ever remember, so I had to put a stop to it.

The other bother is how I left things, which is quickly and with little to no explanation.  My own parents didn't know what was happening until about a week before I left, and almost no one else heard about it until after Christmas.  There are still a lot of people that don't know who should.  The whole process of dropping out, moving out, and cancelling all my internet/cable/etc. was carried out within three or four days, and it's been hard to do much else since.

As for how it got like this, there are a number of theories.  It's been over a year since I dropped my meds and decided to navigate things on my own, and maybe that game of Russian roulette has come to its inevitable conclusion.  Maybe the weight of doing something I didn't really love as much as I thought I did was just too much, or maybe I just burned myself out.  After all, the past few years have been wirlwindish to say the least, particularly this past one.

I crammed a B.A. double-major into three years, and I spent that last year studying abroad, followed immediately by thesis-writing and grad school applications.  After I graduated I had two months to get myself together and move from Naperville to Oxford, which left almost no time to decompress.  Once I got there I found it hard to do just about anything, let alone my work, so maybe what's going on right is just the breakdown of a car with no more gas.

Either way, what matters is that I'm done.  It's weird to be done.  Like I said, I've been waking up thinking about what I would be doing if I'd kept on.  I'm also very worried about what I'm going to do now.  Up until this point my plans have all been short-term and education-centered: I'll go to high school for four years, now I'll go to college for four years, no, make that three, and now I'll go to grad school for two years...  Not anymore.  Now I actually have to try and figure something out.