Archive for December, 2008

the yes girl

No, it’s not what you’re thinking (and I know what  everyone’s thinking, didn’t you know that?).   As of 3 weeks ago, saying YES is my new response to every social invitation that comes my way these days (OK, I haven’t said yes to doing THAT yet, because I haven’t even been asked. Besides, I’m much pickier than all that…).  I know there’s a new Jim Carrey movie coming out called The Yes Man, but really, that has nothing (nothing!) to do with my new policy, which by the way, I instituted after my last major breakup a decade ago.

So I’ve been spending a lot of times in alcohol-enhanced situations lately and let me tell you, there’s a big difference between being 41 and single and being 51 and single.  Back in 1999, I joined Parents without Partners, a good organization that screens its members before it lets them join.  And while there’s a screening process to weed out the obvious abusers and otherwise dangerous people, you can’t screen for what I like to refer to as Just Plain Loser Status.  And let’s face it, we’re divorced folks.  This means we didn’t screen our own partners very well, or we got blindsided by jackassedness later after the I Dos were said, or we knew they were jackasses but thought we could just ignore that little fact.     After a few organization-sponsored dances down at the VFW (OMG, the fucking VFW, people), I started calling PWP The Loser’s Club.  “No, I won’t be able to do that.  I’m going out with the Losers tonight!”   I never dated anyone from PWP, not that I didn’t have plenty of opportunity.  I just wasn’t interested in dating at that time, only in socializing and meeting people. I’d like to say I made at least one lasting friendship from that experience, but it never happened. 

And now, fast-forwarded one decade, I’ve come to one conclusion:  You generally don’t meet interesting people in bars.  Especially when the median age is about 10 years younger than your own.   And the most scintillating conversation to be had revolves around who fucked who and who’s pissed off about it.   I think I’m more like a beatnik.   Sitting around, drinking wine, wearing turtleneck sweaters and making intelligent conversation while some dude plays the bongos sounds more like my speed.    Groovy.

One upside of hanging at the bar here in our little slice of Heaven is the fact that you can still smoke in bars here.   Having a decent gin & tonic (heavy on the decent dose of gin) while sucking down a cigarette in a public place is a priceless experience these days.  Even when surrounded by throngs of mindless youth.    Had I not said yes to these nights out, I would never have met some of my own neighbors. 

And I’m really looking forward to actually talking to them someday when we’re not drunk and every other word out of our mouth is Fuck. 

Along with my current Yes! experience, I am throwing an actual New Year’s Eve party at Casa Observant.  And being the insecure nutjob that I am, I have frequent visions of me, sitting alone in my house waiting for guests that never show up.   Then one by one, I blow out the candles at midnight, crawl into bed and cry myself to sleep. 

Don’t feel too sorry for me.  I have this anxiety-ridden vision before each and every party I’ve ever thrown in my entire life.    I actually went to a baby shower once where I was the only guest who showed up.       The expectant mother was in the hospital with premature labor.  The hostess was pissed!  I, myself, chose to see it as an opportunity to drink all the wine myself, which I did – secretly grateful it was her party that nobody showed up to, and not mine. 

So, in the spirit of The Yes Girl, I’m really putting myself out there with this party.  And if nobody shows up, I’m drinking all the wine myself. 

You hear that, people?

Ray LaMontagne: Empty

I’ve held this video of Ray LaMontagne as a draft post for a year. These lyrics have always spoken to me personally and convey the simplicity of the primary emotion I’ve felt for 12 months. Empty, estranged. I’ve been lost for awhile, but I feel the hopefulness of the future returning.
The new year is coming, new beginnings, new challenges. It will be time to step out of my sadness soon. Happy holidays, everyone. I will surround myself with family and friends and revel in their love for me.

She lifts her skirt up to her knees
Walks through the garden rows with her bare feet, laughing
I never learned to count my blessings
I choose instead to dwell in my disasters
Walk on down the hill
Through the grass grown tall and brown
And still it’s hard somehow to let go of my pain
On past the busted back
Of that old and rusted Cadillac
That sinks into this field collecting rain

Will I always feel this way
So empty, so estranged

Of these cutthroat busted sunsets
These cold and damp white mornings I have grown weary
If through my cracked and dusty dimestore lips
I spoke these words out loud would no one hear me

Lay your blouse across the chair
Let fall the flowers from your hair
And kiss me with that country mouth so plain
Outside the rain is tapping on the leaves
To me it sounds like they’re applauding us
The quiet love we make

Will I always feel this way
So empty, so estranged

Well I looked my demons in the eye
Laid bare my chest said do your best destroy me
See I’ve been to hell and back so many times
I must admit you kinda bore me

There’s a lot of things that can kill a man
There’s a lot of ways to die
Yes and some already dead who walk beside you
There’s a lot of things I don’t understand
Why so many people lie
Well it’s the hurt you hide that fuels the fires inside you

 

starting over

 

Just when I believe I can keep all the emotional balls in the air (and I believe it with all my heart) confidence falls, rapidly followed by pluck and grit and mettle. 

There are days when you feel like you’re on top of the world, and if you’re like me, those days are usually followed by an abrupt change in the opposite direction.  Out of nowhere, the enormity of decisions  I’ve had to make hit me like a sucker punch and I go down for the count.  Sometimes I stay there until the fight is called and everyone goes home.  Then, and only then, can I pull myself to my feet, dress my wounds, and consciously decide to live to fight the fight again.  

Can I do this by myself again?   Can I live this life without a helper, a partner, a mate to help pick up the slack?  At times I feel my life moving too fast, slipping by at 600 miles an hour at a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet.  Descent is imminent and pre-ordained.   How do I begin to start over again?  How do I begin?

I begin at the beginning and hope not to slide backwards too often.

Cass County Lamenters

Come and hear my multi-talented cousin sing this Friday night!  (maybe she’ll sing a sad one just for me – hint,hint).
I’ll be there – will you?

the unraveling

sweaterI had my old sweater for almost ten years.   It was comfortable and warm and had a certain smell I loved, right in the center of the front, where my heart would lie sheltered by it.  Sometimes I buried my nose in it and breathed deeply the scents of  love and safety and peacefulness.  The yarn was old and fuzzy and grey and had seen younger days, but I preferred the comfort of its stretched-out shape and the way we fit each other.  I wore this old sweater every day, buttoned tightly against my heart. 

I believed it would always protect me.

One day I noticed a loose thread, but paid it no mind.  I tried to ignore it but it always seemed to be whispering to me:  Go ahead, just pull on it a little bit.  I knew if I did, I wouldn’t be able to stop  (for pulling the thread was the same as firing a gun – irrevocable, unstoppable, deadly)  and I wasn’t ready to give up my sweater’s comfort and warmth, its heady scent of familiarity, its way of knowing me completely.  

I managed to restrain myself for an entire year.   In the meantime, I tried to mend my sweater by diligently applying patch after patch, but each time I tried to fix it, my sweater seemed to lose a little bit more of its ability to soothe me, to provide solace, to protect me from the world.  Its scent no longer promised a lifetime of companionship.  It was becoming unrecognizable.  Or maybe I outgrew it.  

One day I grew tired of my sweater’s constant need for mending and I began pulling that loose thread – tentatively at first, unsure if I would be able to stand to see my sweater reduced to an uncomprehensible heap of gray, fuzzy yarn.   The stained right cuff was the first to go and once it was gone I gave  great tug and the entire arm disappeared.  I moved over the left arm and dismantled it in an instant also.  

Before I finished it off, I examined the part that was left and reflected back over the last ten years –  the way we conformed to each others shape, the particular scents we imparted to each other and combined to make our own, the promise of a lifetime together – and felt saddened by my sweater’s need for maintenance I could no longer provide.  In the end, I possessed no patch big enough or strong enough to keep it from ultimately falling apart. 

sweater-unraveledI gave one last yank and watched it disappear before my eyes.

shades of brown and gray

Thanksgiving weekend. Western Kansas. Away from my own family, I travel the 300 miles out here to the prairie with my partner to visit his mother for 4 days. Four days.

The city girl in me finds this small town difficult.

The colors here are all neutrals. Shades of brown and gray compose the flat landscape of mostly barren fields put to rest for the winter. The few trees are bare skeletons of dark brown, and the overcast skies add only a top layer of gray and white. Fields of dark green winter wheat dot the countryside and add the only spot of cheerful color to this otherwise sad and lonely place, where the wind blows constantly and the trees permanently bend northward, their branches outstretched, arms reaching and fingers extended as if to touch something that is perpetually out of reach . The town where we stay is typical of many of the small farming communities in this country – once a booming, thriving community, it’s now a town of mostly boarded-up storefronts that used to hold grocers and filling stations and hardware stores. The population is aging and my partner’s 83 year old mother is full of news of the latest deaths and illnesses.

The day after Thanksgiving we drive to the closest city with a cinema – Dodge City – which is 30 miles northwest.   Again the skies are gray and overcast and the wind whips the car as we drive the 2-lane highway northward. Irrigation machines, parked for the winter, sit sentinel like giant skeletal millipedes, waiting to be called back into service to nourish next year’s wheat crop.  We drive past fields filled with grazing cattle.  Then the feedlots appear, positioned southeast of town so their fetid stench will not offend the residents of Dodge.  Closer to the city one can see steam rising from the several slaughterhouses that are the basis for the economy here and I reflect on the machinations of death that occur within.   What must it be like to work in such a place, where killing and dismemberment are a way to make a living?   Does it bother the employees, or are they simply thankful to be employed these days, as we all are?   We arrive in town during shift change for the largest slaughterhouse and I note the older model cars filled with Hispanics lined up at the traffic light waiting to make the turn into the plant. I wonder what they think of life here in this cold and lonely place after having left their warm and colorful climate for this.

The movie we choose is Australia, the new epic love story starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, and although the separated lovers eventually reunite at the end, I cry and continue tearing up during the 30 minute drive back.  I cry for loves lost and found, missed connections, misunderstandings, miscommunications.  I cry because this land leaves me feeling wistful and disconnected and I can feel myself disappearing each day I’m here.

I reach out my arms to the east, longing for home.  Longing for reconnection.