Anticipation vs. Reality

My mother and I bond over a few things: Shopping, milk chocolate, Patrick Dempsey, and the occasional bowl of oatmeal. When I was young, she spent her weekends sewing me dresses. I could find her at the kitchen table, a foot steady on the pedal I was too afraid to touch, with pieces of a dress neatly pinned to the tissue pattern stacked in the order she would need them. A stocky tomato was placed to the left of the machine, and as she would guide the dress under the darting needles, her fingers would deftly pull them out and puncture the wiry flesh of the cushion. I would push them in as far as they would go, so the primary colored pinheads dotted the surface like pimples.

On Sundays, my father would be in the living room yelling at the television screen. I remember his rough “YEAHHHHHHHHH!” as the Packers scored, and my mother spitting, “Aww shit…” when she made a mistake and had to tear up a row of stitches.

Since the things she created were usually for me, I often felt as if I should help her in some way. Sometimes I was able to pick out the pattern. I’d sit on a thick stool  and lean over the slanted steel cabinets that cased the patterns at Walmart while I flipped through the heavy books. I was a dork: I lived in a fantasy world of dolls and historical fiction. I envied my cousin, who had an American Girl doll until I got one of my own. I had the books and would daydream about Samantha’s Victorian upbringing, where even her swimming suit was a superfluously frilly dress. I wanted to wear a wool cape and warm my hands in a white fur muff. I wished the desks at my school were like the swirly wrought iron one in Samantha’s collection. I wanted to wear stockings and buckle shoes . The more frills and buttons the better. And so at those pattern books at Walmart, I would pick the dresses with the pleats and collars. I picked out a long coat with a nautical neckline, so I could dress like the girls I imagined in my books.

I thought that if I wore those clothes, then I would be transported to those times. It wasn’t that I had a life that needed escaping. I don’t remember my parents fighting. I remember my father working during the days and my mother cashiering at the grocery store at night. When my brother and I would fall asleep on the couch, my father would pry us awake, telling us we needed to go get mom.

While I flipped through the books, imagining all the dresses I would have made for me, she would walk the aisles to find fabrics to dresses she had already decided to make for me. Like most mothers, I assume, she had her own idea of how to dress me, and that’s probably for the best. Though I always liked the dresses she made for me, they were never exactly how I had imagined them.

I think I see the dresses much how I view reality today. I have hopes for how things will turn out, but while I daydream about things, I’m aware of the stink that reminds me things will probably not turn exactly how I’m imagining. Reality rarely lives up to daydreams. The dresses were the first lesson of that.

So what’s better? The anticipation of a daydream or the contented reality that plays out? I’m glad to have grown out of my daydreaming tendencies, but however enjoyable my reality may be, sometimes I wish I could just stay in my head, constantly looking forward to the potential of a situation. This sounds a lot like disappointment, which is the exact opposite of what I want to convey. Today, for instance, I woke up to a rainy morning and had the urge to sit on my couch reading Lorrie Moore stories all day. From my bed, it seemed perfect: brew a pot of coffee and spend the day dehydrated and lost in second-person prose. What I ended up doing was having a single cup of coffee and finishing High Fidelity, punctuated by dozing every fifteen minutes or so.

Was it a good morning? YES. Do I still want to read Lorrie Moore? YES. Will I get to that? YES. But the marathon reading session in my bed probably won’t be as picturesque as I’m imagining because my spun-sugar candle isn’t as fragrant as I had hoped, and my coffee will get cold, or I’ll have to go to the bathroom, or I’ll need to heat up dinner, or I’ll get distracted by Netflix.

Maybe I have an answer to this: Anticipation is often better than reality, but it doesn’t help any to complain about it, so maybe the best thing to do is to daydream about simpler times when the thing you most hoped for was to wear a gaudy dress like the one in your doll catalogs.

You should also make it a point to thank your mom for not making those gaudy dresses because those pictures would be humiliating.

OkCupid messages tend to speak for themselves

Since I’m on a kick to meet new people, I decided to make a profile on OkCupid. I don’t think I’m supposed to be telling people that I have an online dating profile, but whatever. I’m in a much better mindset than the last time I tried online dating, so it doesn’t feel so pathetic. OkCupid seems a lot less sketchy than POF. If POF is the back alley where rape happens, OkCupid is the public park where drug deals happen at night so you don’t go there after sunset. I imagine Match and the other paid services to be like trendy reservations-only wine bar.

My experience so far hasn’t been too bad. My profile doesn’t go too in depth, but I mention that I read, write, and never go anywhere without my Kindle. I also have a disclaimer that says “If you don’t spell well or use poor punctuation, we probably won’t get along very well.” I think that has significantly decreased the amount of messages I get from douchebags. However, it’s still split about 50/50 as far as creeps/non-serial killers. I don’t respond to many messages, because quite frankly, I’ve only come across a handful of promising candidates (pre-law student from Milwaukee, small business owner from Green Bay, purchaser for a manufacturing company from Neenah) I like the idea of narrowing the dating pool to men who share similar interests and values. I realize, of course, that a guy can claim anything on his profile. Before I meet any of them, I’ll talk with him for a few weeks to make sure he’s not a serial killer. It doesn’t take long for me to weed out the ones I’m not interested in, especially if under “I’m really good at” they list shotgunning beer. True story.

I’m trying to come up with an appropriate introduction to this, but it’s just not working, so I’ll just jump right into it. The following are the most ridiculous messages I’ve received in the last few days, as well as the responses I would like to send:

63% compatible: You’re kinda hot, are you friendly?

Well, you used the correct “your/you’re”, but no. I’m not friendly. Also, you look like a cast member from Jersey Shore, and I don’t GTL or use bronzer.

42% compatible: What’s up Charlie’s angle

Charlie’s angle? Do you mean Charlie’s Angel? 

0% compatible: Yummi 😉

I just threw up a little.

45% compatible: How does this sound hope on the back of my motorcycle up to door county sit on one of the cliff sides n we right poems or short stories on ur kindle 🙂

You have no idea what a Kindle is, do you?

73% compatible: Hello how are you doing I just have a question do you go for the men with looks or do you go for what they have to offer you and treat you like gold and may I add that you are extremely beautiful

I go for good looking men who treat me well. Can I ask a question? What do you have against punctuation? 

0% compatible: Hi, I like ur profile, wanna chat? Would u step barefoot on a cake?

What. The. Fuck. 

Somehow, I’m terrible at shavasana.

This morning I went to yoga. I woke up feeling optimistic and fresh-headed, mostly because of the sunshine and a good night of sleep. I am still feeling like my body is made of rusted tin, so I figured yoga would either be the perfect or absolute worst way to spend my morning.

It turned out to be a mix of both. I took a few yoga classes when I lived in Milwaukee. The first one was taught by a ballet dancer who was obviously incredibly flexible and did each pose so accurately she could have been the model for a yoga coffee table book. Fortunately, she was also an excellent teacher who made sure to explain each pose very thoroughly, telling us which muscles to engage and which ones should be void of tension. I actually felt like a got a workout in her class. I was usually sore on the days that followed the class, realizing I could engage muscles I had never acknowledged. It was sort of like discovering my body and what it was capable of.

I also felt much more balanced. The I used to think that the whole body-spirit balance was for crazy new-agers who stink of patchouli and incense, surviving on jicamas and green tea, swearing that animal protein is full of evil. But I’ve realized over the last few months that it’s pretty important. I feel so much better when I’m active and taking care of myself. If I spend a few weeks with my butt on the couch, my whole outlook changes. The only thing that seems in the realm of possibility is continuing to watch Netflix and eating bowls of cereal. My outlook turns negative and I say no to everything because none of it seems worth the effort. Then somehow a switch is flipped and I get sick of the lethargy and go for a bike ride or something. That’s when things turn around – I’m more excited about life, days seem brighter and I get upset that there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I want.

It comes down to something very simple that I don’t acknowledge as much as I should: physical activity like exercise, excitement, love, and sex raises endorphins. This makes a person feel good. It gives you a feeling of euphoria. Which might explain why Michelle Obama Arms continues to work out despite the fact that she looks amazing.

What I like about yoga is that it feels like an hour of stretching. You’re encouraged to turn inward, focusing on your breath and working at your own pace, coordinating the poses in sun salutations with your inhales and exhales. Today, I remembered the one thing I struggled with the most while I was in classes at Milwaukee: calming my mind in order to be fully engaged in the poses. The ballet dancer used to tell us that the goal of shavasana (the corpse pose at the end of a session, where the body recovers and your mind, body, and spirit are rejuvenated) was to have a completely blank mind. We worked during the class to breath deeply, imagining all the stresses and worries being expelled with each exhale. During shavasana, I was usually aware that my mind was noisy. I was distracted by the buses starting and stopping in front of the building, how if I moved my palm slightly on my mat, it made that soft sticky sound, and that my breath was much more shallow than I realized. There were only a few times when I felt truly at peace and clear-headed during shavasana. And when that happened, it was amazing. Those were the best classes.

I didn’t achieve a clear head during yoga today. I’m assuming it was because it’s been years since I’ve done a downward dog or a sun salutation. I don’t think I turned inward once. I think it was because it was a new situation. I was aware of the smallness of the fitness studio and began to wonder how they held classes in a such a small space. Then I noticed the trees outside and realized it was windier than I remebered. And the cars on the street – they were driving fast, offering a sharp contrast to the stillness of the bodies in the room. And the whispery flute music playing over the speakers was distracting since every other song seemed to be a variation on Pachelbel’s canon. At the end of the class, my body felt much better, but my head was still all over the place.

It was so unsatisfying. I had woken up with such a clear head, but as the morning had worn on, it had gotten cluttered by the day’s plans and things that needed to get done. I felt off balance in such a strange way – much like when your body is exhausted and your mind is racing or vice versa (which is worse in my opinion) – when you’re mentally exhausted but your body is awake.

I really did enjoy it though. I’d like to do this more regularly. Ideally I would like to do it daily, but I doubt that will happen. I’ll shoot for a couple times a week at least, then maybe it will just become a part of my day on it’s own.

Anyway, namaste from my couch to you, wherever you are.

Michelle Obama Arms

Tonight Katie and I went to a strength training class. It was further proof that I have almost no arm or core strength.

This time, the instructor was male. He was a small-built man with tight muscles and small tattoo on the inside of his forearm. He seemed nice enough. He welcomed us as he put on his headset – which I found funny since there were only five people in the class tonight, but whatever – and told us we would be doing a circuit workout with three stations.

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So, other than Katie and I, there was a young mother trying to lose baby weight, a middle-aged woman, and a fifty-something woman with Michelle Obama arms.

Each station lasted twelve minutes and consisted of six exercises. The first was arms – chest presses, rows, curls, something called an Arnold press, and squat presses. Because I have almost no arm strength and have very little willpower, I thought I would grab 10lb weights. I started out with chest presses, only to do three reps before Tattoo Headset came over and handed me 15lb weights. “You can do more,” he said. “Ten pounds isn’t allowed here.”

“But I have no arm strength!” I protested.

“You’ll get it,” he barked before also swapping Katie’s weights and then harassing the middle-aged woman.

I think I should have stayed with the 10lb weights. Tattoo Headset kept yelling about form and each time he yelled, my form got worse.

Michelle Obama Arms was a champ with perfect form and Tattoo Headset kept complimenting her. I wanted to tell her to go home. She was done working out. Like, done working out for her life. She was in the best shape a woman her age could hope for and could rock a sleeveless dress.

Then we had to do these exercises around these massive tractor wheels. I don’t know if you know about tractor wheels, but when lying on the side, they’re roughly four feet tall. Tattoo Headset told us to step up with kettlebells (EIGHTEEN GODDAMN POUNDS) to the beat of the music – which was roughly 210bpm. And we had to keep our bodies straight when we stood on the wheel. Yeah, my body was not cooperating. My abs hurt more than anything else by that point, so it was almost impossible to stand straight. I would pause briefly to compose myself (re: let my muscles stop quivering), and he would yell, “KEEP GOING! MAKE IT WORK! STAY STRONG! COME ON, GUYS!” I had no center of gravity. At one point, I almost fell into the tire and then back out of the tire.

When I gracefully stumbled with the kettlebell prepared to break my fall, Tattoo Headset just told me not to do that. In fact, he said to pretend it was lava. Right. Like my body would stop falling just because there was pretend lava in the middle of the tire.

While I was falling into the tire, Michelle Obama Arms was stepping up like a champ, hardly breaking a sweat. Bitch.

On the way home, Katie said she hated the instructor. She’s one of the most stubborn people I know, so it doesn’t surprise me that she didn’t like him swapping her weights or telling her what to do. But I appreciated his insistence. As I’ve already stated, I don’t have much willpower, so when I work out, I tend to slow down when it gets hard, instead of pushing through. So, even though I almost fell into a tire and will most likely not be able to pick up a folder tomorrow at work, I feel good.

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Now I’m going to go make this face in and flaunt my imaginary Michelle Obama arms.

I should thank Tattoo Headset for making me use the 15lb weights.