Saturday, June 26, 2010

Those Heavy Vines

Even in a small town it’s impossible to take a quiet walk. So, you’re here. There was a wedding here, today. You could tell because of the green little benches that were still set up nice and neatly in a semi-circle surrounding the gazebo. That’s nice. If nothing else, you hoped that they had a good day and didn’t look stupid in their photographs.
You knew a handful of people who got married here. A person never thinks that the end of the relationship will be landmarked by the wedding date but that’s how at least one of them went. You still feel immeasurably sad when you consider it and so you do not consider it often.

Your little sister got married in the very same spot early in the spring in the awnings, when the vines were still brown. There were kids running around, between legs and underneath benches and there was something sweet about it all but you couldn’t help but think of the others who said those same things in that same spot. And so there was something that tasted a little over-ripe about it all. But for her, it’s starting to feel quite nice and safe right about now.

Here in the height of summer, the vines are so full of leaves and fruit and mysterious stickiness that they hang down low and get caught in your hair when you walk through them. But it is perpetual shade and it stays so cool. If it weren’t for the mosquitoes, it would be quite a nice place to lure a boy come dusk--under those heavy vines.

When you lived in South Dakota, there were these gardens. These acres and acres of flowers and plants and trees and miscellany wildlife. Around some corners and through some tunnels, there were these hedges and awnings and vines and little nooks sculpted out of the plants and inside of each, there was a small swing built for two. You imagined that the city planners envisioned a fair share of engagements happening in these secluded places but probably didn’t take into account the teen pregnancy rate. If there’s one place that a tenth grade boy can convince a tenth grade girl to lose it, McCrory Gardens is the place for such a persuasion. Tucked between lilac bushes and a spread of morning glories in the view from the dirt floor, you can’t blame them. It sure beats the hell out of the backseat of a Datsun.

You don’t know how you ended up here in this park full of weddings and little kids in a sand pit. Even in a small town it’s impossible to take a quiet walk and so you went to an internal spot, far from the extra-wide streets. You found the middle of that place and you sat and you listened to sad songs and couldn’t help but feel a little cynical about those poor kids who, you imagine, were probably too young to be getting married in the first place. You wish you could just believe that people who get married will always stay married and will always love one another and treat one another with mutual admiration. But you’re pretty certain that most of it is bullshit wrapped up in taffeta and you will feel that way until every single married couple you know gives you a teeny-tiny sign that tells you that they mean it.

You have a pair of friends who got married a few autumns ago. You remember specifically sitting down with her at lunch a few weeks into the engagement and telling her straight forward that you did not think that she should do it. You did not believe that he loved her the right way. (What would that “right way” be, anyhow? You didn’t know but you were feeling pretty self-righteous at the time.) She didn’t love him the right way either and they should not get married. She accepted what you had to say, she even agreed with parts. She still married him and she still wanted you to stand next to her when she did so and today you have no doubts. You believe that while you have no idea what the standard for “the right way” is, you see it in there somewhere and that’s enough. Sometimes that’s enough. But every time you find it you take it as the exception.

You have a lot of ideas about the ideal relationship. You could write a book on the way that a man should treat a woman and the way that a woman should treat a man and you wouldn’t have to research anywhere but your own brain. Unfortunately, your theories have barely been tested and those that have, have all mostly failed. One day, not today, you’ll sit back and realize that you haven’t got the foggiest notion about most things--let alone matters of this caliber. That will happen sometime--but not tonight. There’s so much more to take in tonight. Not now. You just want to calm everything down a little bit but even in a small town it’s impossible to take a quiet walk.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Now, you say something.

I like to verbally process things for the most part. And without a companion for an actual conversation at the ready, I'm taking it to the blog and looking for input.
Ordinarily when I write, I type a bunch of stuff that I think and then say "There, you, read it and like it." But today will you just talk back to me a little bit?

So I was watching Paper Heart this afternoon. I know you don't all know about this movie so I'll give you some brief context:

So the thing is that Charlyne doesn't believe in love. But everyone else in the whole world, obviously, does. Clearly though, she starts dating Michael Cera and as an audience we're thinking that this relationship will change her thoughts on the love situation. But she maintains that she's not in love with him. He makes her happy. She misses him when he's away. She feels sad when he leaves on semi-uncomfortable terms. He loves her. And yet she maintains that she does not love him. And, I have to tell you, it's not presented in a hostile sort of way. She almost seems apologetic about it. She seems sorry that she can't give him what he wants--which is to be alone with her and for her to just love him.
Most of me thinks that the only reason that Charlyne doesn't "love" Michael is because she's always said for so long that she wouldn't love anyone that now that push comes to shove, she's just being stubborn. I mean--they're clearly in a very happy relationship.
Throughout, she goes and talks to lots of people about love and what it is for them--it seemed like everyone had something different to say. Some people were high school sweethearts, others just like hot wings.

But I'm just wondering, RE your personal definition and in this romantic relation context:

1. What's love, even?
2. Is there a difference between loving someone and being in love with them?
3. Is the being "in love" part pivotal to a happy, maintaining relationship?
4. Have you ever been "in love"? How many times?
5. How did you know?
6. Are you in love now? Would you like to be?

You go first. I'll go in a minute.

So, it's Father's Day.

"Your stitches are all out but your scars are healing wrong."

Okay it's officially, undeniably Father's Day. I've been able to ignore it for the better part of a decade until today. I'm not ordinarily sentimental. I'm not the type to set aside time on specific days and focus on "my loss". I can't say that he doesn't cross my mind, even now, about six thousand times a day but I can't dwell on it. I can't live that way. I don't intentionally avoid it--I just haven't been faced with Father's Day in a really long time. I've been living in my very own, isolated, little bubble for the past decade and haven't been all that forced to look at other people. But I work at WalMart now and all I saw were daddies and little girls and balloons. And, for the most part (about 89%) I felt really good for them that they got to hang out today.

I took a psychology class my senior year and we spent a really long time discussing grief and how to deal with it. Professor Waddle talked about how often times we work hard to push it behind us. But the problem with that is that inevitably you will be faced with something (a memory, an obligation, a conversation) and it pops out and you're caught off guard and maybe take a sick-day or three to pull yourself together.
You can't live with it at the forefront of your mind, either because that becomes your identity and you become a weirdo. I knew a person who, after the death of an immediate family member, completely identified herself by her loss. It was one of the first things that she would tell people when she met them. All of her profile pictures in various interweb venues are photographs of her and her late loved-one. I'm not saying that her grief isn't real or is, perhaps, dramatized. I believe that she lives with cutting, aching pain everyday. And that is unfortunate. I remember when I first started to feel guilty about getting on with my life after my dad died, I honestly was afraid that if I kept going, then I'd forget about him. But so far that hasn't happened.
Apparently the "healthy" way to deal with grief is to take it with you but not to let it define you. If it's next to me--if I let the idea of my dad walk around with me (rather than pushing it to the back or keeping it way ahead of me), then when it seems to come on really strong, it's not so scary.

And I guess I say that, but we all have our moments, right? I mean, we can't all practice perfection one hundred percent of the time. In light of that, let me take you back to this Friday. So I woke up, showered, Facebooked, dressed and then went to the coffee shop before work. I like this one girl who works behind the counter--I don't know what her name is but her amaretto lattes have this healing quality about them. I was hoping for her but instead got Chippy McChipperson. I wasn't going to take my chances with her skills so I just ordered a very big regular coffee that I could ruin all by myself.
Before Chippy rang up my order she said, "Sunday is Father's Day!!"
"If you haven't gotten a great card yet, we have a great selection. I can wait to ring you up until you've picked out a card, if you want."
"I'm okay."
"Are you sure?? Have you bought a Father's Day card yet?" Her chipperness was intensifying with every statement.
"Uh, no. But it'll just be the coffee for me, today." She started to swipe my card.
"Well, if you don't want to be a good daughter..." She said with a wink and a nudge.
At this point, I was no longer in control of my responses to her. My eyes started to well and I just stared at her until the first tear fell and then I just sort of whispered, "he died" and then I couldn't stop it. I was openly and awkwardly weeping in public.
Her eyes got huge and she said "I'm sorry" about forty-five times.
I tried to be convincing but saying, "It's really not a big deal, it was nine years ago" through sobs just doesn't drive home the truth of the matter. The truth being that it really isn't a big deal. I'm used to people just assuming that I have a dad but usually they don't push so hard.

She just caught me on the right kind of a morning, in the right sort of mood to make me the saddest that I could possibly be. And it's not like I was suddenly sad that Dad wasn't alive anymore. I was mad that she wouldn't let up and that I knew that once she found out, she was going to feel absolutely horrible. And that frustration is sometimes way too much to handle. I still don't know how to tell people that my dad died. I try to avoid telling them for as long as possible because it just makes everyone feel weird for some reason.

She threw in a muffin and I ate it on my way to work but my makeup was officially ruined and I had red-nose all day. Thanks, coffee shop girl. I think she probably learned a valuable lesson about pitching a sale that day, though. So that's good.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sometimes I wonder if all of the awesome stuff that I would have written, given enough time for it to occur to me, has already been done.

Anne Lamott on the importance of a likable narrator:
"Now, a person's faults are largely what make him or her likable. I like for narrators to be like the kind of people I choose for friends, which is to say that they have a lot of the same flaws as I. Preoccupation with self is good, as is a tendency toward procrastination, self-delusion, darkness, jealousy, groveling, greediness, addictiveness."

She goes on to cite an example from a short story by Abigail Thomas:
My mother's first criterion for a man is that he be interesting. What this really means is that he be able to appreciate my mother, whose jokes hinge on some grammatical subtlety or a working knowledge of higher mathematics. You get the picture. Robbie is about as interesting as a pair of red high-top Converse sneakers. But Robbie points to the mattress on the floor. He grins, slowly unbuckling is belt, drops his jeans. "Lie down," says Robbie.
This is interesting enough for me.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I found this journal tonight. I started it close enough to exactly a year ago that it feels a little too bizarre that it just so happened to drop out of my bookshelf tonight. Here's what I was thinking a year ago...

June 8, 2009
Jamie and JD got married tonight!
It was gorgeous. At the most spectacular time of day. Everyone looked great. Even I looked great (luckily my dress covered my massive bruising well) [it should be noted that I was in a car accident two days before]. It was, however, in a park in Lawrence. And I stepped in a heaping, steaming pile of dog shit. Oh well, you work with what you've got. What I had was a stick, some handi wipes and an unrelenting paranoia that everyone knew it was me. Also I ran into [...] and all I could think about was where I'd like to place my newly acquired shit stick.
It was short. That was nice. They wrote their vows. I didn't cry until Jamie told him that since day one, she'd never had to fabricate any piece of him to fit her. That's what got me. He is honestly and truthfully himself and she is honestly and truthfully herself and I am excited--nay, honored, to be a character in their story. I'm particularly excited that JD is my friend, too, instead of just a snuffleupagus. God, they are good people.

[And then some stuff that probably, would be of considerable interest to you but I can't just go revealing everything, now can I? Leave something for the book deal.]

June 9, 2009
It's raining this morning and while many others see it as, at least, a terrible inconvenience, I take it as a good sign [boy, I sure to love a good comma, huh?]. I'm glad that I left the window open and I can smell that dirty, wet smell.
Last night I was feeling so small and uncertain. I was 98% sure I did the wrong thing. I promptly called Gina so that she would tell me that I was doing the right thing. And she did. And she told me that she's proud of me and that it will hurt and suck but that it will pass and that good things will come. I think she's right. [She was right.]
It's moving day. I'm moving to McPherson, KS. Sarah is going to drive to Olathe today. I will pack the car and then in the morning--she and Alyssa and I will take my stuff to its various destinations.
Last night Jamie and JD seemed pretty sad to see me leave. Especially when we all realized that I won't see them until they get back from Korea. JD hugged me hard and made me feel special. Jamie cried and her makeup ran and I cried--it's been an insane week, it was high time that I wail publicly. How can I go from living with these people so intimately to not seeing them again for at least a year--maybe two? Who knows? Our bond is different than I've ever had with anyone before. I can't explain it but I know why it is the way that it is... it's about survival. It's about jumping in feet-first into a dark and scary pit [everyone has a different pit that pit was South Dakota for us] and we were met with cold and spiders and goo and we all came out okay with mild residue and lessons learned and friendship and inside jokes.

June 18, 2009
Much has transpired in these past ten days. I am officially couch-surfing at Adam and Arryn's. Tomorrow = day one of my job at the deli. I hope it goes well. I hope I'm as eager and motivated to work as I was while I was in Olathe. There, I lived for working. I loved it. I hated days off because it meant just sitting around, staring at Alyssa and her staring back at me--equally bored. We talked about her baby. What ever did we talk about before Jeremiah happened?? Now, if I don't work, I'll walk to the library with Genesis or hold Amos while Arryn does the laundry. I feel useful here. But I am anxious about working. Excited to get a life that is different from A&A's. Excited about having friends. I should really start showering and wearing makeup. That's another thing that will change when I get my own place. I will have mine own space and freedom to move at my pace, on my own time, and not feel so in-the-way.

[Some more of that stuff that we're pretending you wouldn't be interested in.]

July 12, 2009 [I used to keep a journal so regularly but my upset in routine sure threw a kink in that]
I'm at church right now. This is the second time I've visited. Right now I feel the same way about church as I do about boys (... guys... men... what do you call them at my age?) : "Don't hurt me. Don't hurt me. Don't hurt me." I know that I won't get hurt if I don't get invested but if I don't get invested, then I'm just wasting my time. I know I'm just wasting my time.

And that's where it ended.