Like a black hole, but with emotions

In a perfect world, I would have posted more in the last year, because so many wonderful things have happened. I fell in love and started a new career. It felt like my real life started. But it’s not a perfect world. Instead of posting, I was learning about business analysis & writing requirements by day, kissing & laughing with Mike by night.

I’m posting now because it’s the only thing I can think to do. When my heart feels fractured and my contacts salty, my mind gets restless. For the last few months, I’ve sought easier outlets than writing: HBO, new crochet projects, wistful novels, adult coloring books, and binge-drinking. Writing about pain is difficult. Writing about personal pain is exhausting. Writing about family pain is dangerous.

Yet here I am, about to dig in.

The specifics aren’t important, but the basics are probably necessary. The last time I saw my mother was on my birthday, February 29. She left without notice in early March. The last time we spoke was mid-April. She filed for divorce sometime late April. She’s been with a man in Oregon since early June. The last time we exchanged texts was Saturday, while I was recovering from a hangover. The night before I either instigated an argument or cornered her into confessing her sins, depending on your perspective. Either way, I blame alcohol.

Part of me is terrified to write about this – privately or publicly; the other half doesn’t give a damn – it is what it is. These thoughts and feelings have been churning for a long time, and I haven’t been able to do much with them. I talk to Mike. I see a counselor. I try to spend time with my dad and brothers. I take vitamin D and sleep in on the weekends. But when I slow down, I realize I’m buckling under the weight. I just want to be past all of the frustration.

I thought my depression phase of the grieving process was very short. There were only a few days in June where I couldn’t concentrate and slept so hard I woke a zombie. Other than that, I’ve been angry. My counselor assured me that I would likely be going through cycles of grief for the next few years. The idea is daunting. It hadn’t occurred to me that I’ve never had to deal with something so emotionally massive.

This isn’t just something I’m going to have to deal with over the course of the next few months. I’m going to have new questions, frustrations, and concerns as I hit my own milestones.

800px-Black_Hole_in_the_universe

My emotions, circa spring/summer 2016. Everything is at the event horizon, basically.

I want my rhetorical questions to have answers.

How? When? Why?

Lookin’ Forward to Hump Day

A few weeks ago, I found myself stopped at a red light on my way to work. It was a bright mid-august Monday morning, complete with golden sunlight, dew-glittered fields, and cool air. I’m stopped at this light most mornings, I still haven’t figured out the pattern to work in my favor. I was in the right lane when an orange truck pulled up next to me.

People often joke that there are two seasons in Wisconsin –  Winter and Construction. It’s true. They’e always finding new ways to tangle the highways and frustrate commuters. As August falls into Construction season, the truck didn’t really draw my eye, though I assume the point of the color is to alert drivers of potential hazards. But construction sites and all their accessories have really just turned into one more blemish of a highway drive, like a billboard or wind turbine.

Any moment free of social obligations is one I savor. Typically my resting bitchy face is defense enough against bland small talk and handsome men in coffee shops. (To deal with the slightest romantic anxiety, I’ve developed these really cool defense mechanisms that basically say, “I’m going to avoid eye contact with that handsome man so he doesn’t think I’m at all interested in him. The few moments of potential polite rejection isn’t worth the potential payout of meeting my soulmate.”) Does this enhance my life? Probably not. But I’ve accepted that I’m just not one of those naturally social people who makes a new friend weekly.

When I’m not humming along to music, I’m wearing my resting bitchy face during my morning commute, so I was surprised to hear a man greeting me. “Mornin!” He hollered over the idling engines. One wrist rested on the steering wheel, and he held his nonchalant but purposeful gaze on me. His sun-bleach facial hair contrasted sharply against his tanned skin. Sunglasses covered his eyes, but I was sure he had winked behind the lenses. His reflective vest indicated his destination.

“Good morning,” I said.

“How you doing?” He asked in that leery tone, accentuating “you”.

“I’m doing well.”

“Yeah?” He nodded, prodding for more.

This is exactly why I hate small talk. Small talk so clearly demonstrates the checks and balances of conversation, and no one is ever sure of the final value of a shallow exchange. I loathe owing somebody a response for nothing. But I’d rather fill the silence than endure the discomfort of going against social expectations.

“Yeah, you know. It’s Monday,” I said, defaulting to the lowest common denominator. I started to question the intention of this interaction. What did this guy have to gain?

“Yeah,” he said, grinning widely. “Can’t wait for hump day!” He paused slightly before laughing heartily.I laughed that empty obligatory chuckle. I looked forward and pretended to focus on the traffic light.

It took me a moment. Hump day? Wednesday? Who looks forward to Wednesday?  Who looks forward to the middle of the week? Just to have the satisfaction of knowing the workweek is half done? You still have two more days of work – why not look forward to Friday?

By time the light turned green, I got it. The subtext became clear by the time he started his left turn. Hump day. He was just being pervy. Way to rise to your stereotype, sir.

What made him think this was a good idea? Had this worked for him in the past? What was the best possible outcome in his mind? Me suggesting we celebrate hump day together? My shock swiftly shifted to disgust. What a gross way to start my week. I had just been sipping my coffee, minding my own business – certainly not inviting casual discussion of genital friction. What had started out as a beautiful morning now had the grime of some man insinuating that he wanted to hump me. I didn’t need that clouding my week.

Construction Worker

In the right context, most women wouldn’t hate that sentiment. But even contexts of the most generous musings don’t involve separate cars and a 15-second exchange between strangers. The few words he yelled over at me essentially told me: “I don’t value you, your comfort, or your dignity. But I do kinda want to rub against you.” That momentarily robbed me of my humanity.

The momentary loss of of one’s humanity might seem like a negligible loss, but when those moments are compounded, the result can shift your perception of what is right. Most women have been harassed, honked at, or otherwise objectified by strangers and have just come to realize it comes with the territory. The fact that he was comfortable making a crude joke is indicative of a culture that disregards women’s right to a personal realm.

What I wish I had done (in my fantasy, I immediately realize what he was really saying) is remove my sunglasses and looked him in the eye to say this: “I don’t appreciate your insinuation, sir. For future reference, it is not acceptable to imply that you want to hump a woman. Fuck off.”

Whoops.

I came home from the gym all set to write a witty How To blog post but then I got a bunch of magazines and catalogs to look at while I take a bubble bath. Sorry guys, I have to keep my priorities straight – serious writing or unproductive relaxation with bubbles, cider, and whiskey? I’m going to go with the semi-drunk bubble bath.

Anyway, I’m still alive and occasionally I think about this blog. I sometimes even jot down great ideas for posts, but the whole following through thing is giving me a real hard time.

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This is a post about scraping paint off a wall. Don’t get your hopes up.

Last weekend, I decided that I was going to paint my kitchen. After working for a few hours on Saturday, I appreciated a home improvement store for the first time. When I was young, I hated Menard’s. There were absolutely no dolls there.

But now that I have a place that I can customize to my liking, I’m sucked into the endless possibility that exists in these places. When I forwarded my mail, I got two big envelopes full of coupons and advertisements. I held onto a few of the coupons, two of which were 10% off at Lowe’s. Though I walked around the store for about two hours, I kept my purchase modest – only a bucket of Valspar and a half dozen plants.

Everybody's getting engaged and having babies, and I'm over here like, "Look at my jade plant."

Everybody’s getting engaged and having babies, and I’m over here just like, “Look at my jade plant.”

When I got home, I promptly made myself a pair of jorts because it seemed appropriate for my first DIY project in my new home. I was all, “I’m an independent woman who can paint her own kitchen. This patriarchal society can kiss my ass!”  I turned on some music and started taping up the edges of cupboards and trim. Just as I was taping the final two edges along the room’s single full wall, I remembered that there was a big crack in the paint. I figured I would just flick it off with a putty knife and sand it down or fill it in the best I could. So I grabbed the little knife and put the edge under the crack. When I moved the knife only a half inch beneath the paint, a six inch chunk of paint popped up.

Okay, still not a big deal. I figured I’d just take off whatever paint came easily and then paint over. The surface beneath the paint was a dusty green drywall of some sort, so I started getting nervous when I had a four-foot blob of it. I might have been able to get away with a six-inch blob of unprimed wall, but four feet was a bit much. Because once I start projects and/or picking at things that readily flake off, I had a hard time stopping. There was tan, yellow, blue, white, peach, and, for some reason, a shit brown. I had considered painting the room blue or yellow, so it was good to know that I wasn’t the only one who thought those colors would look good. But I was even more pleased that nobody had picked the same crazy green.

GTFO, previous painters

GTFO, previous painters

About an hour in, I decided I shouldn’t make plans for the night: I was going to paint this wall the right way. By that time, I had hit some stubborn patches that took a little elbow grease. I started to get pissed. It was a matter of principle: don’t half ass home-improvement projects. If you don’t do it right the first time, not only will you constantly notice all the imperfections you could have avoided, but it will take about 36 times longer to fix when you inevitably revisit the project. I drove across town for the second time that day to buy a primer. While stomping around Walmart, thankful to have bought beer a few days earlier, I decided to toss the whole Independent Woman thing since I was going to have to spend my Saturday night correcting some asshole’s mistake. I offered my brother $50 to help me with the wall. He obliged. I told him to bring a putty knife and a vacuum.

Sometime between a beer and Corey’s arrival, it started to storm. When he arrived, we found that the plastic putty knife he brought was laughable against the more difficult chunks of paint. With about twenty-five minutes before Menard’s closed, we decided to race across town to buy a new putty knife. Blame it on the beer, on my frustration with the wall, my absence in Oshkosh over the last two years, whatever you want – somehow I forgot that, due to the rapids, the streets of Oshkosh are best navigated by kayak during a rainstorm. After a couple detours due to flash flooding, one particularly scary moment where Corey and I both thought his engine had flooded, we got to Menard’s around 9:54.

When we got back, we each downed a Red Bull and started chipping at the paint. Several hours later, we were deliriously laughing at Louis CK and Patton Oswald jokes and just hacking at the stubborn paint on the edges of the wall. Our hands had turned into claws from holding the putty knife for so long. Our forearms and shoulders were cursing. Our hair and shoulders were coated in the same dust that swirled into the night through the windows in grey clouds. Around 2:30am, we were both like FTS and went to bed. 

FTS

FTS

We ended up finishing the scraping and were able to prime the wall late the next morning. It caused me to be late for a lunch date with my friend, and brought on what felt like the beginnings of an epic migraine later that day, but dammit, we got it done. 

I know. It looks diseased.

I know. It looks diseased.

When I was finally able to paint on Monday night, I couldn’t decide if it was a satisfying or underwhelming sensation to finally get it done. When I had set out to paint on Saturday afternoon, I pictured it being a wonderful private declaration of my independence. I had several people offer to help me paint, but I declined, picturing myself delicately tearing away the tape to reveal a fresh-faced room that I had done myself.

I tell people I painted it a bold celery color because lime green makes me sound like a 12 year old girl obsessed with VW Beetles.

I tell people I painted it a bold celery color because lime green makes me sound like a 12 year old girl obsessed with VW Beetles.

I might be disappointed if I didn’t know it would have taken me all week to scrap that wall by myself. If Corey hadn’t been willing to help me, I probably would have just extended the kitchen into the bathroom and called it a day. “No need to give me my security deposit back,” I’d tell my landlord upon moving out. “Just a well-written thank you letter for the improvements will do. It will be on Craigslist for approximately 30 seconds when you advertise the bath nook in the kitchen.”