I’m Like a Bird

October 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

I am sick (again) with no voice. But I am working on the whining thing, so today I’m not going to complain about being sick. Instead, I am going to tell you about something that happened a few weeks ago. I had just picked up my daughter from her preschool and we were walking home. And she was running ahead of me, flapping her arms and pretending to be a bird, a crow to be exact.

“Mommy, be a crow with me! Caw caw!”

I eek out a few meager caws, still just walking, still lagging behind her, still mostly in my own world, not yet thoroughly transitioned from my morning of solitude to my afternoon of being with my kid.

“No, flap your arms and do it!”

I look at my 4 year-old and can see that, to her, this is a totally reasonable request. To her, picking a dandelion for someone is a thoughtful gesture. To her, getting a sticker is exciting, even if it’s at the grocery store and it’s the same sticker they always give her, some ugly and sad-looking Christmas bear. To her, we are rich because we have a big jar of money (pennies and nickels) on the shelf. There is no reconciling our perspectives. No way to explain.

“Not right now, honey. I’m not feeling well.”

Always this. “I’m not feeling well.” I’ve come to rely on it as my old standby, my excuse for why I can’t participate, the reason I need to lie down for a while. “I’m not feeling well.” Go ahead. Try to refute it. You can’t. No one can. Ah, the beauty of not feeling well.

Now I am often, in fact, not feeling well. It’s not that it’s untrue. I do have some ailments that I struggle with. I do need to rest and recuperate sometimes. But– it bothers me that this should be part of my daughter’s “normal”. That Mommy isn’t feeling well. Gotta catch Mommy in one of her rare moments of feeling well, that’s when she’s really fun! The rest of the time… Mommy kind of sucks.

I was tired that day, sure. I was a little down. But were my legs working? Could I breathe okay? Would I most likely make it out of the experience alive, and not at all worse for the wear?

My daughter didn’t push. Already accustomed to me not bending on the not-feeling-well thing, I guess she gave up. She kept on caw-ing and flapping all by herself up ahead of me on the sidewalk. I surveyed the scene. I was seriously considering this thing now. Could I caw a little louder? Could I flap my arms? Could I run alongside my daughter down this not-entirely-deserted city block? Okay, there was a massive construction project happening across the street. Cars passing. Some dog-walkers way up in the distance. What would people think if they saw me? They might think I was a crazy hippie free-spirit type who didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought about her. That could either inspire or annoy. The other alternative was that they could think that I was TRYING to be perceived as such, but was actually NOT so carefree; maybe they would detect self-consciousness in my tentative gait or in the height of my arm-flaps. They might pity me for that, for being so desperate for attention and yet so transparently insecure. I reasoned that those were the two main possibilities. I guess a third could be just, “Oh, PORTLAND…”

But none of the possibilities were really that bad. None were really incriminating. A person might decide that I’m not their taste. That already happens all the time anyway.

I don’t know. I had a FUCK IT moment.

“Caw! Caw!” and it was me this time, and I was flapping my arms and doing some kind of leaping/galloping thing that I’m sure looked ridiculous but FELT LIKE FLYING. I mean, maybe it’s just been too long since I’ve really jumped up into the air, but I was really leaving the ground for what seemed like a pretty long time before touching it again, and when I did touch it again it was just to spring up again into the air! I felt so light. I know my arms are just arms, but I really felt like flapping them was helping me get higher. It was such an unbelievable feeling. Me and my girl, side by side, just being crows.

We passed people. I tried to stay focused on my leaping. I had a really nice rhythm going. I wondered if people were marveling at how much air I was catching. Because I sure was. And I am someone who is typically very hesitant to leave the ground. I don’t even like to lean back in chairs. I have more than once completely killed the mood on a guy who was just trying to be cute and lift me off the ground. PUT ME DOWN SERIOUSLY PUT ME DOWN SERIOUSLY I AM BEING TOTALLY SERIOUS RIGHT NOW thank you sorry I have a thing about that sorry. But here I was. Same me, different station. Different everything.

For all my tedious analysis, the whole thing lasted like two blocks. We ended up at home, which was, after all, our destination, and it was just like any other day. It didn’t seem to make that much of a difference to my daughter that I had done what I did. She was happy, but she didn’t throw her arms around me and say that I was the best mom ever or anything. And as fun as it was,  I’m not going to do it every time. It’s not going to become, like, my thing. But there is something that I can’t stop thinking about– the way it felt to leap like that, and for a moment experience the tiniest bit of flying. It sounds so silly, but it was just so different for me, so fresh and new, and at my age I guess I do not expect to feel fresh and new things anymore. Another thing that I noticed is that it’s getting easier and easier to let go of caring what other people think, especially when the danger is just that they could find me “different”.

Today I am sick so I am actually, legitimately “not feeling well”. But I’m going to try not to be a total waste of human flesh about it. I am not going to vacate the premises. I am not going to opt out of the day. There is always something I can do. Even if it’s just sitting with my daughter and dosing off while she watches a movie. I’m going to be here.

Busted

June 17, 2013 § 1 Comment

I was eleven years old the first (and only) time somebody called me a ball-buster. It was an older boy, an XXXL boy, tall and obese and acned, named Raul. I had just shot down a stupid idea he had. We were in a youth group together at the Y, and the object at hand was the planning of a fundraiser– a Car and Dog Wash to be exact. I don’t remember his idea, or what I said, or how the facilitator responded, or if anyone actually brought their dog to the Car and Dog Wash, but I never forgot being called a ball-buster.

At the time, I only vaguely understood what balls even were. (And now that I know more about them, I do think that the word “balls” is a little misleading.) But there I was, being told by this tough, giant-like kid that whatever I had just said was like the equivalent of punching him in the balls. And that that’s my way, apparently. To do that to guys. Like, on a regular basis.

“You’re a reeeeeeal ball-buster, aren’t you?” is what he said to me.

I was a thoughtful kid. I analyzed this for weeks. Was it true? Did i have a habit of doing this, especially to guys? And doing WHAT, exactly? Disagreeing? Being blunt? Being condescending? Was he being unreasonable, out of resentment that I was younger and so obviously smarter than him and on top of that a girl? Or did he have a point, and was there something I was supposed to learn from him?

This was perhaps the first of many experiences that would suggest to me that, as a female, I needed to add something sugar-and-spicy when presenting my thoughts. It wasn’t enough just to say them. My ideas, straight from the brain out my mouth, could bother people if I wasn’t careful. I could express myself, but I needed to be more tentative about it. Apologetic even.  Be sweet first, smart second.

Maybe you don’t like that Raul called me a ball-buster, but you’re still kind of wondering if maybe I deserved it. If whatever I said was really rude and mean. It could have been. I’m a little doubtful because I do remember being pretty intimidated by Raul’s physical presence. And I was generally a pretty quiet and nerdy kid. But I could also be snarky; I could be a little cruel. I picked on my little sister. I got into fights on the bus. Who knows what came out of me at that moment? I’m not saying it was something nice. But the thing is… whatever it was… would I have gotten the same reaction if I were a boy?

I learned that, as a girl, you couldn’t seem too confident. My mom bragged about my good grades and achievements every chance she got, but in private would accuse me of thinking I was superior to others. It was important to succeed,  but essential to always keep an appropriate attitude of self-doubt. She didn’t enjoy talking to my sister and me about “academic” subjects (current events and movies were included in that if we got too abstract with the analysis) because we would get really excited and drive our points home and not back down. She warned us that doing this was “unattractive”.

So I perfected the art of keeping a lid on myself. It was, and is, a lot of work. But as a kid I got so good at it that I actually won the “Quietest” award on multiple occasions, when other people were getting “Best Eyes” and “Class Flirt”. My motto was something like: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, and people will think you are quiet and sweet, and they will not be terribly passionate about you but at least they won’t think anything bad about you either. There is, perhaps, a way that some women learn to talk that is assertive without being aggressive, not necessarily sweet but definitely not rude… I never developed this skill. In conversation I am endlessly malleable. “That’s a good point!” “I never thought of it that way!” “Wow, interesting!” I am so utterly bland. It’s so boring, and worse, unnecessary. Keeping everything bottled up so tightly also results in occasional explosions. On the rare occasions when I am at ease, the people closest to me get my pent-up “spirit” in large doses. An ex once said, “You’re so mean when you’re happy.”

I’m trying to work on it. I have a pair of underwear that says “Be Yourself” on the butt. It’s a struggle to comply.

If this all seems a bit dramatic, fuck you. Haha, just kidding. Only kind of though.

I need to reclaim some power and dignity for myself. I need to not be afraid to disagree with people or (gasp!) call them on their shit. People need to start knowing that I’m not actually all that sweet. I have a lot of hate and bitterness inside, dammit. And I AM smarter than a large percentage of the population… if all those dummies can go around sharing their ideas freely, why shouldn’t I? Above all, I need to not worry about some idiot potentially dealing me some archaic sexist insult… especially now that I think I would actually sort of enjoy the opportunity to verbally SCHOOL their ass and then write a blog post about it.

Old Lady + Grocery Bags = Anecdote

April 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

A while ago I was on a rare solitary walk, and on my way home I came across an old woman who was having trouble carrying her groceries from her car up the steps to her home. I offered to help her, being the nice Girl Scout that I am, and she was very grateful. She said she had recently injured her hip and was in a lot of pain. She went ahead of me up to the door, slowly, gripping the banister, and I followed her with the grocery bags. While she opened the door, I ran down and got the remaining ones out of her car.

When I came back up, I stepped just inside the door, and was immediately hit with the smell of… old soup? Thanksgiving leftovers from the 70’s? It was a savory, homey, oniony smell gone horribly bad, like something that was originally delicious but was now decomposing. The inside of her house was quite dark, but in the patches of incoming daylight I could see that this was a place unlike anywhere I had been before. It was a total and devastating mess. There was just STUFF. EVERYWHERE. I couldn’t even see the floor. There appeared to be couches and a table, but I could not actually see them either– I just guessed they were there because the stuff reached higher peaks in those spots. Everything looked dusty, like it had been sitting there for a very long time, but as I looked more (stealing quick glances so she wouldn’t be offended), I noticed that there was a unifying color scheme of red, green, silver, and gold. It was CHRISTMAS stuff. Cookie tins, Santa statues, wreaths, garlands, reindeer, angels, stockings, paper napkins, oh my god, it was all just sitting there, stacked up and acquiring dirt in this smelly little house. What was this lady’s DEAL?!? I pretended so hard not to notice at all. I stood there holding the bags until she said I could put them down where I was.

She thanked me for helping her, and said that life had become much more difficult since her injury and since her daughter had grown up and left home. Her daughter was deaf, she said, and she had raised her on her own, becoming an activist for deaf rights in the process of advocating for her daughter at every turn. She was also a real estate agent, but said that the market was dead right now, so she wasn’t really working anymore. She jokingly asked me if I wanted to buy a house. Or sell a house. I said no. And I said sorry. I am always saying sorry.

I didn’t ask her about the Christmas stuff. The weird thing was, she herself did not look around at it once while I was there. When people come over to my house, I always look around to see what it looks like through their eyes– usually it’s messier than I feel like it should be so I apologize for how messy it is in an attempt to convince them that it is usually in some other, better state, which is totally not the case– it is usually way WAY worse and I have usually scrambled around before the person came over just to make it presentable and then once they are here I realize that it is still pretty bad, oh well. But my worst mess is nothing compared to this woman’s surroundings, yet she seemed entirely unconcerned with it. It was like she couldn’t even see it.

I stood there breathing in this gross smell, hoping it wasn’t attaching itself to my hair and clothes, and trying not to stare at the insanity around me while she told me the medical details of her hip problem and the level of financial fuckedness she was currently facing (my wording, not hers. Although that would have been awesome). I made sympathetic facial expressions but I felt like there should be more. I wanted to offer something. I had the urge to blurt out that I would come by one afternoon a week and help her with stuff, and/or do her shopping for her, and/or help her out with home organization. I thought that maybe I could lie and say that I happened to be kind of an expert at organizing and that it was one of my hobbies, to make her feel like she was doing ME a favor by letting me tackle such an exciting project… say, “I couldn’t help but notice your fabulous collection of Christmas decorations! I would just ADORE sorting through it all and working out a way for it to be displayed so you could really SEE all the great stuff you HAVE here!” Bullshit like that.

But I didn’t. For a few reasons I guess. 1. I have no time. I am with my daughter almost constantly, and I would not want to bring a three year-old into that home with me. No way no how. 2. I’m not actually an expert at organizing. I am actually kind of an expert at disorganizing. I am fascinated by hoarders partly because I recognize something of myself in them. I worry that I would not really be able to help her, and that maybe her hoarding behaviors would rub off on me and I would become a crazy Christmas lady too. Crazy Christmas Lady (TM). From the makers of Crazy Cat Lady (TM) and Crazy Lady Who Gets A Hyper-Realistic Baby Doll and Treats it Like a Real Baby (TM). 3. I’m afraid of becoming entangled. Enmeshed. In other people’s lives. Afraid of making things MY problem. Because I can’t do that for everyone. I happened to come across this particular lady, and my heart kind of went out to her, but I can’t go around constantly volunteering myself to every needy person I encounter. Right? So I have to choose none. It’s only fair. I’m not Mother Theresa or Jesus. There are limits to my capacity for loving kindness. I wish there weren’t, but actually there kind of have to be. Right? Boundaries and whatnot? I have to be reasonable. I have to say “NO”. I have to walk home knowing that that was my one glimpse into the house of the Crazy Christmas Lady (TM) and I will never get another. I helped her with her groceries, I could try to muster up some self-congratulations for that, right? But I can’t. Because I feel like I should have done more. She’s going to need to go grocery shopping again in the near future I’m sure, and what if no one is walking by when she needs help getting the bags into her house? And what about all the other stuff she needs to do on a daily basis that is painful or hard for her, plus the loneliness. She seemed incredibly lonely to me. Is it really fine of me to reduce her to a little anecdote on my blog and get on with my life?

The weirdest thing is, I have tried to find her house again, and I don’t know where it is. I thought I knew at the time what street I was on, but when I go back there I can’t find any houses that have the steps and door that I remember. What would I do if I did find it? Stop by for a visit? Leave her a note with my phone number? Maybe it’s better that I can’t find it. Maybe my subconscious is purposely hiding the information from me to protect me from getting too bizarre with my life. But I can’t help feeling like, by sheltering myself from entanglements, I get only anecdotes where I could have had novels.

Birthday Coupons

October 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Every year for my dude’s birthday, I have this hilarious and sweet custom of making him a book of homemade coupons for special favors that he can redeem from me at any time during the year. He loves it!

Actually I have never done this, ever. But I am doing it now, because, well… I kind of forgot that his birthday was today, and we have a pile of Chinook books here that we need to sell for my daughter’s school, and I got to thinking… Those homemade coupons that people give each other… no one ever actually redeems those, right? I mean, that would feel so preposterously weird and formal. This is a gift where it truly is the thought that counts… you never actually have to do any of the stuff you put down. BEST GIFT EVER.

So here are the coupons I’m giving my sweetie:

1. Super Duper Sweater Saver!: I will de-pill a sweater of your choice, handpicking off every single little nub. (Stipulation: I get to watch anything I want on TV while I do it).

2. Step on your Balls!: I will step on your balls with a high-heeled shoe on. I heard that some guys pay prostitutes big money for this service. If you ever want to try it, but don’t want to break the bank, well, now you have a coupon.

3. Delicious Dinner!: I will make you a dinner from the list of stuff I usually tend to make for dinner. But this time I will make it delicious.

4. Watch out for those Bees!: If bees are swarming you in an attack, I will say, “Watch out for those bees!” (Coupon must be redeemed at least one (1) but no more than three (3) hours prior to attack).

5. You Get the Bigger Half!: I will, if we are splitting something, give you the bigger half. (Coupon only valid on things that I like less than you do).

6. Just Say No!: This coupon entitles you to refuse to lift something heavy for me or reach something that is up too high for me to reach. (Warning: use of this coupon may result in heavy boxes remaining where they don’t belong, and stuff that’s up high remaining not gotten. So…  Give it some real thought. I mean, how much skin is it off your teeth, honestly? To take one more box down to the basement? To get me the olive oil? Not much. I mean, you have plenty. Of skin on your teeth. You could spare quite a bit. Ew. What is up with that anyway? Why do you have skin on  your teeth? I’ve been meaning to ask you about that.)

7. Halloween Homies!: I will dress up in a companion costume with you for Halloween. We can go as anything you want. No seriously, anything. The sky’s the limit. Let your imagination run wild. (Some restrictions apply: No visual puns. No food items. No blackface. No adult babies.)

8. Rise and Shine!: Use this coupon on a morning when you need to get up early. I will wake you up by being as perky as humanly possible, ripping the covers off you, and shoving you out of bed. (I will then go back to sleep.)

9. Eat a Banana!: I will eat a banana in front of you. Very slowly. Enjoying every minute of it. (You must supply the banana. Also, a pot of chocolate fondue. Banana should be pre-sliced and arranged on a plate with some strawberries and small cubes of pound cake.)

10. What’s So Funny?!: This coupon can be used once. At the time it is presented, I must tell you exactly what is so funny about what I just read in whatever book or article I am reading. I must explain it in as much depth as is needed for you to fully appreciate the humor, even if it takes going all the way back to the beginning of the story to fill you in on who the characters are and the particular nuances of their relationships. 

 

FYI

October 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Since I quit Facebook, there is nowhere for my status updates to go. My brain has almost stopped creating them. Not entirely, though. Here are some thoughts I’ve had lately that are so interesting that they’ve made me consider opening my account again, just so I would have a way to share them with the world. I’m sharing them here, so that I will not give in to that impulse.

1. Pho is the shit.

2. I FARKING LOVE READING!!!!!

3. My 3 year-old asked for a piece of ham by simply saying, “Ham me,” and holding out her hand.

4. FUUUUUUCK STREET FAIRS!!!!

5. I’m making kale chips, baby. “In the oven or in the dehydrator?” you ask. BOTH! Snap. I borrowed a dehydrator and I am comparing which works better. I’LL LET YOU KNOW!!!!

6. WTF???!!!! MY TEA’S GONE COLD????!!!! I’m wondering why I got out of bed at all. Seriously, WHAT IS THE FUCKING POINT????!!!! If I can’t count on my tea to stay hot indefinitely, I don’t want to live anymore.

7. Almost got hit by a car. A lot of people say that when it was not that close to happening. This was seriously close to happening. I was in a crosswalk, this guy was making a left turn and didn’t see me. He was going too fast to stop so he swerved to avoid me and ended up all spun around in the intersection. And when he looked at me, I mouthed the word, “Sorry”. Instead of the word, “Asshole”. Fucking patriarchal social conditioning.

 

Unfriending Facebook

September 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

I am not who the internet says I am. I am not who the internet says I am. I am not…

I quit Facebook and felt relieved. One less appearance to keep up. Perhaps a bit of dignity restored. I thought my days would expand with beautiful new hours for projects and cleaning and coffee dates with the real-life friends I would suddenly make.

But the reality is much more grim. I am still on the computer just as much as I was, but instead of looking at Facebook, I am looking at things that are MUCH LESS INTERESTING. Desperately. Boring myself into oblivion. Just to avoid doing anything real.

The thing is, I thought I would write letters. Longhand letters, on paper, with pencil, to mail in envelopes to friends all over the world. That was supposed to be my new thing. That and spending real, old-fashioned time with people. But I’m still at home with my 3 year-old most of the time. It’s not conducive to getting together with people and it’s not conducive to sitting and writing letters. (I’m still trying to figure out what it IS conducive to. I’m kind of stumped there.)

I did manage to write one letter. It was too whiny. I scrapped it and wrote another, slightly less whiny one. I sent it off to a friend from college. I haven’t heard back. The pace of this whole thing is quite slow, and in the most immediate future I am in dire need of some validation. Tell me I’m okay. Tell me I’m passing for normal. Throw me a “Like”, a comment if you’re feeling really generous. These things meant pathetically much to me when I was on there. Without them I feel a bit invisible.

Other problems include: Writing to men. Now that I’m older and in a committed relationship, it feels a little inappropriate. But in the letter-writing heyday of my youth (seriously, I was a wild kid), which I remember oh-so-fondly, most of my pen-pals were guys. I may or may not have had crushes on some of them. That’s part of what made it fun. Now, I’m not sure if it’s fun or just…

Whiny. Seriously. I am so fucking whiny. I sit down to write and by the third or fourth sentence I am whining. Who wants to receive a whiny letter? I used to be funny. I used to do things like squash mosquitos right onto the page and then draw circles around the dead mosquitos and say stuff about them. Give them names. Sounds kind of gross now that I think about it, which may be why so many of those crushes were one-sided. Now, all I have are played out stereotypical mommy-woes to talk about. And how interesting it is, being older like this. Isn’t it? Isn’t it fascinating how sadder life is now? This is crazy-talk to someone whose life is going swimmingly, thankyouverymuch. This is not the stuff of good letters.

I turn to the internet to find out who I am. Who am I, as far as everyone else is concerned? Who am I, according to the authority that is a Google search? That is really what matters, right? I mean, for all intents and purposes? My day-to-day reality is nothing anyone will ever really know about anyway, so a page on a screen might as well be me. If I search my name on Facebook now, I myself do not exist, although there are several others of me. They seem pretty good. One even lives in my town. We look about the same age; we’re both average-looking white ladies. So somebody could very well think she’s me. And maybe that’s for the best. She seems like a fine upstanding citizen. I trust her to keep us afloat. I amass a tiny quotient of followers, and immediately I am pouring my heart out all over their news-feeds. Obscenely over-sharing. Promptly deleting. Wanting to be caught falling, and then forgiven. But this other one, she mostly just posts pretty pictures of food.

Never Say of the Day

May 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Never say: “Oh my God, I mean, who DOES that?!?!”

Somebody does, apparently. The fact that this surprises you only makes me think that you don’t know enough people. Not only do you not know enough people, you also have never studied history, you don’t take in any media, and you don’t have much of an imagination.

I mean, have you not noticed in your however many years of life on this planet that PEOPLE ARE CAPABLE OF SOME DEEPLY DISTURBING SHIT? There really is not much that I would put past us. Imagine any deed, bizarre or horrific or just mildly inconsiderate, and I promise you that there are people who have done it. Don’t act so surprised.

Try this instead: “Oh, your date was sitting there picking his nose and eating it through the whole meal? Huh. Sounds about right. I mean, it’s gross and rude and everything, but you’ve got to expect that with so many people in the world and so many of them trying internet dating, you’re bound to at some point come into contact with this type of social deviance. Unpleasant, for sure, but hey. People are fucking weirdos.”