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?

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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.

image

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.” 

April Snow Brings Carb Binges

I’ve been going through a mild depression. I’ve really only noticed it over the last week or so, while the weather has been exceedingly shitty, even for Wisconsin. You think that we’d have this figured out by now: spring doesn’t really happen till the first week in May. Yet as soon as April comes around, we all expect lush grass to replace the dingy snow. And then when it doesn’t, we complain. Each time snow is forecasted, our rants get louder and more dramatic.  “It’s snowing again? It’s halfway through April for crying out loud!” “It’s a beautiful winter we’re having this spring, isn’t it?”

Even though I know my spring will only last about two weeks before turning into a sticky summer, it’s still frustrating that I’m stuck inside watching the grass get coated in a wet snow again. It seems hopeless.

You are drunk, Spring. GO HOME.

You are drunk, Spring. GO HOME.

I’ve been working a lot lately. Between trying to get caught up at work and saving money for my new place in June, work has just about consumed my life. For the most part, I enjoy my job and my coworkers. But between working 10-hour days and working out nearly everyday, by the time I get home, I’m too exhausted to do much of anything. So I usually just shower and fall asleep reading, annoyed with anyone who has the balls to reach out to me and say hi. It’s not very conducive to forming friendships or relationships. My friendships have dwindled to the small handful who are tolerant of my absentminded selfishness. My love life has all but vanished. I spent Friday night on the couch with blankets and Hulu. Saturday was spent at the office, then stubbornly watching four hours of The Killing when I really should have just taken a nap. I reached out to a few friends from college, trying to fool myself into thinking I’d actually go out. I knew that I would just end up in bed by 9, asleep by 9:30. I was right.

I’m not sure why my depressed and antisocial behavior feeds itself. It’s turned into a beast I don’t really know how to tame. I’ve always required a certain amount of alone time, but I feel like that’s all my life has become. The transition of college to work is harder than I anticipated. In college, there are new people to talk with every hour and your schedule varies each day of the week. But working is the same all day everyday, and even if I do like my coworkers, I need to talk with other people.

I think really, I’m just feeling sorry for myself while the weather continues to suck. The forecast should just read SHITTY TILL IT’S NO LONGER SHITTY. But instead, they go through the trouble of describing the shittiness.

Completely unnecessary

Completely unnecessary, Accuweather.

I don’t really care that it’s supposed to be in the 50s. It’s still shitty and I’m going to blame my terrible mood and uncontrollable urge to shovel carbs into my mouth on it. Today I made two loaves of french bread, rice crispie treats, cake batter cookies, and I’m probably having spaghetti for dinner. An all-carb diet is good for the soul, right? I think what I need is a crazy night out with friends. I need to feel wild and free and like I’m stunning, beautiful, and constantly witty. The right amount of alcohol does that, and with any luck, I’ll find that next weekend. Until then, I’ll probably just keep reading and wasting time on Pinterest.

It’s my birthday and I’ll angry-cry if I want

I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but you’re currently reading the blog of someone who’s only had six actual birthdays.

Leap Day

I’ve never understood why people react with such pity when they find out I was born on Feburary 29. On Leap Years, I’m completely justified in having a gigantic celebration. Not that I have enough friends to invite to a big party, but if I did, I would have epic celebrations.

note to self: make more friends in the next three years

The general public thinks my birthday is February 28th. My family says it’s March 1st. I tend to side with my parents, but I just go with the flow by accepting the Facebook notifications on the 28th and knowing my grandma will call me on March 1st to sing to me. Last night she called around nine. She didn’t even bother greeting me, she just started crooning. While she was singing, I told her I thought she forgot. “Don’t interrupt a polack when they’re singing,” she told me after her performance. She’s full of great life lessons.

I spent Thursday evening at my parents’ house, then I went home, determined to get some reading done. Instead I ended up spending about three hours on the phone with Andrea. Sometime around 11:30, we decided to stay on the phone till midnight so we could ring in my birthday together. I think I got to bed around 1am, which made Friday a long day.

I'll understand if you're intimidated by my ability to mix mint, coral, and trouser-style denim.

I’ll understand if you’re intimidated by my ability to mix mint, coral, and trouser-style denim. 

Friday started out just fine. I woke up with an absurd amount of energy for getting about four hours of restless sleep. I decided to dress all fancy and post a selfie on Facebook because that’s a thing adults do, right? My department had thrown a small pig-out for a coworker who was moving to a different department, so I didn’t pack a breakfast. I had three cups of coffee and a donut. Around 11:3o, I decided to touch base with my brother, who works in a different department, to see if he had lunch plans.

“No, I haven’t thought about it,” he told me in a biting and exasperated tone. “I’ll probably just go out and grab something.”

“Okay, well do you want to plan on going to Festival at like 12:30?”

“Ash, just go by yourself. I just got this project and I have to work on it.”

“Fine. Bye.”

I slammed my phone on the receiver, appreciating the satisfying smack of a pissed off phone slam you can’t achieve by aggressively pressing the END button on a touch screen. “Well fuck you,” I said in my head. “Don’t be nice to me on my birthday.” Then I started doing that inner angry-crying thing where I threw the most intense 20 second pity party the world has ever known.

It’s my birthday and I didn’t even have cake yet and you can’t be nice to me and I didn’t even get much sleep and why is it too much to ask to take lunch a half hour later than usual and damnit, Corey, you don’t need to be a jerk to me on my birthday and gosh this is the worst birthday ever and omigosh I can’t even get my brother to be nice to me and what an asshole and what is wrong with my life if I’m about to cry in my cubicle on my birthday and oh my god if I cry and ruin my eyeliner I am going to be so mad and oh my gosh Corey should be buying my lunch anyway because it’s my birthday and oh my god nobody loves me and I am so alone because nobody understands me ever.

When my stomach grumbled, I realized I hadn’t taken care of myself that morning. I blinked a few dozen times to make my hunger tears go away and started my Dan Savage inner monologue.

You need to calm the fuck down. This might come as a shock to you, but the world does not revolve around you. What did you expect? It’s not like Corey’s supposed to coordinate a fucking food parade for you just because it’s your birthday. He’s got his own shit to deal with. Now put on your big girl heels and go get yourself some damn food – something more substantial than a damn sprinkled donut. What were you thinking anyway? Yeah, that’s some great brain fuel, Ashley. Sugar and caffeine. Breakfast of fucking champions right there.

I imagine some people kindly talk themselves out of these sorts of things. You know what, self? You normally make better food choices and you know that it feels better. So just go get yourself something with a lot of protein. You’ll have a much better afternoon. Also, you’re gorgeous and perfect. Don’t forget that, self. Obviously my brain works a little differently. I don’t react to coddling; I react to a bitch slap.

Before going to lunch, I decided to finish up the file I was working on to give myself a chance to calm down. Corey called back a few minutes later and apologized for being short. Then he asked if I still wanted to go to Festival.

On the way back from the store, I told Corey about what had gone through my head. We had a good laugh and went back to our desks. I basically inhaled my lunch (fruit and dip with a bowl of chili that was essentially a quarter pound of ground chuck drizzled with some chunky tomato sauce) and marveled at my renewed sense of optimism. Isn’t it kind of amazing how much food and rest can affect your mood? I bet Africa is full of crabby people.

All in all, my twenty-fifth birthday has been good. It’s been sort of a week-long endeavor: on Sunday I met an old friend from high school who gave me a Real Book so I can start butchering some jazz standards. My aunt sent me a package full of goodies. My roommate indulged my New Girl fangirl and gave me a copy of The Douche Journals. Last night, Andrea showed up with six and a quarter red velvet cupcakes before we went out with a few friends for shots and cucumber vodka drinks. Tonight Vince (he’s the academic, I’ve mentioned him enough times that it’s getting weird for me to not use his name) is making me dinner. Tomorrow, I’m spending the afternoon with my family for cake and quality time.

If you've never heard jazz violin, it's sort of bizarre. Regardless, it's still pretty fun to play In the Mood and Call Me Irresponsible alone in my apartment.

If you’ve never heard jazz violin, it’s sort of bizarre. Regardless, it’s still pretty fun to play In the Mood and Call Me Irresponsible alone in my apartment.

That necklace is the brightest piece of jewelry I own. I'm a little afraid it will blind people on sunny days.

That necklace is the brightest piece of jewelry I own. I’m a little afraid it will blind people on sunny days.

I can stop looking for the perfect coffee table book now.

I can stop looking for the perfect coffee table book now.

 

Andrea made me red velvet cupcakes with vanilla frosting and triple-double stuft Oreo crumbles. She even went through the trouble of eating 3/4 of one cupcake to properly reflect my age.

Andrea made me red velvet cupcakes with vanilla frosting and Oreo crumbles. She even went through the trouble of eating 3/4 of one cupcake to properly reflect my age.

The bar we spent the night at is kind enough to put pictures of hunky men in the women's bathroom. I had to crop this one to make it family-friendly, but you get the idea.

The bar we spent the night at is kind enough to put pictures of hunky men in the women’s bathroom. I had to crop this one to make it somewhat family-friendly, but you get the idea.

Now that I can rent a car at a reasonable price, get cheaper car insurance, I’m sure I’ll run out of things to blog about since I’ll stop making all the mistakes women in their early twenties make. Just kidding, I’ll keep drinking too much coffee and swearing at people in my head. 

Five Ways to Win My Heart

I stumbled across a 30-day challenge on a blog (here). Day one was yesterday. I’m not sure if you realize it, but I didn’t post yesterday. So I guess I’ve already failed the challenge. But whatever. I’m doing it today. I probably won’t do all of the topics because a lot of them remind me of my days on Xanga (oof) when I was a melancholy fool who was certain her views on boys and emo bands were vital to everyone on the internet. I’ve matured since then – I’m certain my views on men and books are vital to everyone on the internet. Priorities, people. I’ve got them.

Anyway, I’ll start out with a strong and mature topic: FIVE WAYS TO WIN MY HEART.

Are you reading, men? Because you should be.

  1. Don’t suck at basic grammar and punctuation. SERIOUSLY. This is a deal breaker for me. If you don’t have a firm grasp on your/you’re, there/they’re/their, and its/it’s, don’t even bother approaching me. If you don’t understand how and when to use an apostrophe, don’t try to date me (or make produce signs – I don’t want to buy your “apple’s” or “onion’s”). I’d like to see proof that you understand these rules, preferably in a handwritten letter, but a well-organized Facebook message will do in a pinch/the current decade.
  2. Dedicate a song to me. Something really sort of cheesy and romantic, but not in a top 40 way. This means no Jason Mraz, no J Biebs, or even Gotye. I’m talking something good and sexy. Like “No Sunshine” (I love me Bill Withers) or “Inside and Out” (either Bee Gees or Feist’s version will be fine – with the latter, don’t worry, I’m smart, I can change pronouns). Also, since it just came up on my itunes shuffle – do not play Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me”. We’re not living in a Dawson’s Creek episode.
  3. Buy me a book. Not just any book, but a book that shows you get me. If we’re at the point where you’re buying me a book, you know that my two favorite writers are David Sedaris and Vladimir Nabokov…and Kurt Vonnegut and Anton Chekhov if you catch me on a cloudy day. You also know that I don’t own all of these writer’s books.This does not mean that I want to read Gonzo – Hunter S. Thompson’s biography. I’m sure he’s written some great things, but Fear and Loathing freaked me out so much that I have no interest in reading a word of his. By the way, an ex (Scott? Scott.) bought me that book for Christmas. I threw it away a few months later. OH! Bonus points if you buy me the newest Kindle. I love my 3g keyboard Kindle, but I wouldn’t object to a higher contrast and pixel count.
  4. Be a musician, apparently. I have a history of dating musicians.  I’ve dated two drummers, a singer/cellist/drummer (?), more than one guitarist, a bass player (short lived, but it was very romantic in a freshman year, let’s-kiss-in-the-practice-rooms sort of way). When I say musician, I don’t mean that you have a band that plays in your garage and records their ep using GarageBand. I mean that you have serious talent and dedication to your craft. I prefer classically trained, but I’ll settle for self-taught prodigy. Of course, none of these relationships were very successful, so maybe I should rethink this whole musician thing. I thought about dating writers, but I’m afraid I’d either be super competitive or intimidated by the guy, depending on his talent. But let’s face it, if he’s a crappy writer, I’m probably not interested in him.
  5. Never underestimate the importance of an Arrested Development reference. I’ve devised a pretty simple elimination test for potential boyfriends. I ask if they’ve seen Arrested Development. If the answer is yes, then I proceed to ask which of the ridiculous cast is their favorite. Most guys say Gob, which I say is the wrong answer, but it’s really an acceptable answer because Gob. I say the correct answer is either Buster or Lucille Bluthe. (Buster is adorable and amazing, Lucille is underrated.) If he haven’t seen the show, I subtract 200pts from his initial score of zero, then invite him over to watch an episode or two. If the guy doesn’t laugh at least eight times in the first episode, I’m pretty sure we won’t be seeing each other for much longer. Anyway, a simple “I’m afraid I just blue myself” or “I’ve made a huge mistake” will make me laugh and probably put my hand on your arm.

I think I’m making myself sound really easy. I’m not. I’m very particular about the men I date. My main criteria are the following: Be intelligent, don’t be a douchebag, have goals, be passionate, be empathetic, and be okay with the fact that I’ll blog about you. As far as I’ve seen, the above mentioned points eliminate about 97% of the men I encounter.

Oh, you also have to be approved by my dog. If he doesn’t like you, shit isn’t going to fly. Also, if you hurt me, he’ll tear your balls off.