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Some spinsters have cats; I have books in cute nooks.

“What a great thing, to be loved. What a greater thing still, to love! The heart becomes heroic through passion…if no one loved, the sun would go out.” – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

THE WHOLE DAMN SUN WOULD GO OUT. So dramatic, and yet feels so accurate.

Disclaimer: This post may get wallowy. If inspiration is what you need right now, consider passing it by. Take care of you.

I know the world is a rabid hyena frolicking in a trash heap right now. I feel selfish for even noticing the comparably small things going on with me. But not dealing with them doesn’t make them go away; it just makes them mad at being ignored and keeps me from focusing or getting anything else done. So fine, here’s your attention, you nagging asshats (feelings).

The loneliness is so strong this month. It’s like a whole other person by itself. And it’s hard to talk about because, while people who know me and what might help can just express sympathy, there’s occasionally a well-meaning person who is only trying to be helpful who comes across with “You’ll find someone,” or “I know there’s someone for you” or “of course it’s going to happen someday” or “I’ll be praying for you” or some other drivel meant to be encouraging that’s just not. So I try to bottle it up and that makes it worse so I need to talk about it and I’m between therapists so here we are.

Hi.

There is no evidence that everyone gets to find love. I know this. I know it’s an unreasonable expectation. A lot of amazing people who deserve to be loved and chosen never get to be. And I think that if I can just accept that I’m probably one of those people – that this is just how life is going to be always – I could maybe get unstuck a little.

I just…really hate the idea that that’s probably true. Like…physically, violently, hopelessly hate. it.

And this is also not me fishing for compliments. My social issues are anxiety-based, not esteem-based. I experience self-doubt just like everyone else, but overall? I have self-esteem to spare. Like, for three other people, at least. I sometimes have to pause after someone gives me a compliment not because I don’t believe it but because it takes me a moment to remember that the appropriate response is “Thank you” and not “I know.”

Of course, I have a long list of things I’m working on – I love learning and growing – but I also think I’m pretty amazing already. And if my friendships and past relationships are any indication, I’d be an amazing partner. I get a good dose of the benefit of living with me every single day. And I’m always alone, so I’ve had PLENTY of time to truly bask in my amazingness.

The vital characteristic I seem to be missing, though, is that one where you fall in love with someone and they fall in love with you, too. Don’t know how that works, really. Everyone I’ve loved, even if they considered it for a little while and gave it a shot, soon found someone else they’d rather be with. My most successful achievement thus far in a romantic relationship has been placeholder. That’s another thing I’m amazing at. Apparently.

An obvious solution is just to add “loves me madly” to my list of things I’m drawn to in a partner. I mean, it’s now on my list of things I require to agree to actually be in an exclusive relationship with someone, because it’s only fun if it’s mutual. Which is why there’s currently no relationship to speak of. But drawn-to doesn’t always wait around on choose-to. Those are different animals.

I don’t know – can other people control who they fall in love with? I don’t know how to do that. The list of adjectives I’m drawn to – kind, thoughtful, loyal, smart, funny, passionate, creative, interesting, etc. – is a result of observing the common characteristics of people I’ve loved. It’s not like I sit down with a checklist and make sure they match up to it and THEN allow myself to feel things. Feelings have a mind of their own, and once mine show up, they move in and bring their grandma’s furniture with them because they know they’re gonna sit for a spell. They are hard to get rid of. They’re the rude party guest who doesn’t get the hint that it’s time to go even after I’ve turned out all the lights and opened the door to make it super easy for them to walk out.

I suspect other people cannot control this either. How else do you explain the motley collection of humans who have expressed having feelings for me? They don’t fit my list at all. They’re drawn to the things in me that I am actively trying to correct or change for the better. They’re either dull, or complacent, or mean, or aggressively conservative (this is the most baffling. Have we even met? How in the world could a person with their priorities even be drawn to, much less want to partner with, the person I am or the person I am becoming?).

I’m not asking for answers or a solution or sympathy. Just needed to get it out of my head a little. Let’s see if I can find a tidy ending. Um…I guess if you’re feeling the same way…you’re not alone?

Except…you are. We both are. Maybe forever. Sorry, friend. I know. It really sucks. *hugs*

Welp. So much for tidy.

Things Worth Doing

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My first small, imperfect peaches of the season. 

My word for the year is “alive.” The universe is hilarious.

I had a few thoughts about how this would go. There were a lot of lofty quotes that came to mind and many goals I made that I thought would contribute to a more vibrant existence. I had no idea how often I would have to fight to actively choose living over becoming stagnant or something else.

Today I read Joy the Baker’s post on turning 39, and so much of it resonated with me. I can list the accomplishments I’m proud of and many things I do well, but most days I can’t help but feel that I, too, have been left behind – that I missed a turn somewhere that would have taken me down the path toward those Big Life Goals™ that I just assumed would come along as soon I was ready for them. I also love her curiosity and her intention to set aside the small life story in exchange for embracing the things that sparkle – to “do them badly, then less badly, then maybe almost well.”

When our church decided to start meeting remotely, we didn’t hesitate or put it off a few weeks to figure it out. Our pastor told council, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” He didn’t mean, of course, that doing a bad job at online services should be the goal. Only that it needn’t wait until we had all the information to do it expertly.

As you can imagine, this is not my modus operandi. I am all for jumping off the cliff (metaphorically); I just want to be armed with a gigantic parachute of relevant knowledge before I do.

But I started the year with a commitment to come alive, so whether I know what I’m doing or not, here I am, doing it badly but consistently. This looks like a lot of different things:

To bake and eat the cake that I’ve been craving for a month rather than just think about making it.

To dance, enjoying the way my body – this body, the one I have right now – feels when it moves.

To choose to spend money in a way that actually makes a difference in my life and the lives of others rather than contributing to the greed of entities that exist to homogenize us.

To play Chopin. And also Joplin. And also brand new things that no one but me has ever heard.

To sing, even when there’s no one to carry the harmony.

To eat my veggies and stay hydrated.

To seek out the people who love me well and stop worrying about those who don’t.

To discover how much time I have when I cut out all the things that don’t really matter.

To discover exactly which things do matter so, so much.

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My desk in my home office has become the place where I both work and play. Not at the same time, of course.

I’m eight days away from being home for two months. I have enjoyed parts of it. Other parts of it? Not so much. But I have made some changes.

  1. Becoming infinitely pickier about the people I take advice from. This pandemic has rekindled an old inclination that I had almost forgotten. I am all for free speech. But while everyone may have a right to their opinion, as easy as credible sources are to come by, there’s really few legitimate excuses for not using them, and failure to do so will likely earn my disdain. Therefore, not everyone’s opinion matters to me. If someone really wants me to hear them out, I will probably listen. But they have to earn my trust and belief, two things I no longer give out easily.
  2. Spending less time on Facebook. My Instagram feed is pretty well-curated to include only things I enjoy and people I love and want to keep up with. My Facebook feed is a hot mess. It only takes a couple of swipes to run into some sort of foolishness I absolutely cannot abide. Yes, I could unfriend them or snooze them, or I could engage with the posts by posting my opposing opinion civilly. But is that really a productive use of my time? I don’t think it is. I am keeping Facebook for my groups, the pages I run, happy birthday messages, and maybe a couple of quick feed perusals a day, just to see if there’s anything worthwhile in those first few seconds before I hit a wall of dumb. So if you’re seeing fewer likes from me than usual, don’t fret. It’s probably not you. It’s probably all those other assholes.
  3. Cursing more. Arbitrary language etiquette is ridiculous, and I just don’t fucking care anymore. You’re welcome. [I’ll try to hold back if there are children afoot. But that’s it.] [I reserve the right to look back on this in the future as a phase. Language choice is important. I do believe that in general. But currently? See note above re: I don’t fucking care.]
  4. Supporting local businesses more. When given the choice, I already tend to favor local businesses over chains. They make Denton what I want it to be, and I am a big fan of voting with my dollar. I’ve gone a bit into overdrive lately, though. Every Sunday (and beyond – I actually have plans for the next three weeks already), I list at least three businesses I want to remember to support that week. Monday and Friday nights are designated as potential takeout nights. The majority of my groceries have been purchased from local farms or businesses that are offering curbside or delivery as one of their temporary services (although I would be fully on board with this becoming a forever thing. It’s fantastic. Note to self: find a great co-op to support.). Both wine and fancy cheese are being delivered to my doorstep on a regular basis. This summer, I want to add more greenery with houseplants and maybe tomatoes from local stores and nurseries. If you’re local and you need a suggestion for something, I probably have one.
  5. Taking better care of myself. When I started doing my temporary work-from-home thing, I was like, “Hey, I’ll go walking more.” I have not gone walking more. Walking alone is dull, and Texas is hot. Instead, I have been keeping active with some modified (because my floors are hard and my knees are old) Pilates classes, living room dance parties for one, and a strengthening challenge (although that, too, quickly exceeded my ability to keep up with it. With one exception. Two-minute plank? I got you. It took a year and a half of regular Pilates practice, but I got you.). And because I’ve been intentionally focusing my financial support on local places, I have had no fast food in two months and have been cooking more (because omg so many vegetables in a farm box). I have been dealing with my regular stomach problems and allergies and anxiety (and some days are worse than others. Looking at you, today. You jerk.), but other than that, I feel amazing.

Have you made (intentionally or not) any changes recently?

 

Wanting

Take your courage and go.

Round up all the things you hide behind.

You can stash them under the couch and forget where you put them.

The explanation. The exposition. The justification.

The smoothed edge. The softened thought.

None of these things are necessary here.

You are simply wanted, naked of everything you’ve ever been told you had to wear to be desirable.

I want you.

5 Things About Me

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I’m participating in Susannah Conway’s April Love challenge on Instagram, and today’s prompt is “five things about me.” So here goes:

  1. I have a sister who is one of my favorite people. She lives in a state of delight, getting excited about every joy. It’s captivating. I did not always want a sister, though. The whole time my mom was pregnant, I kept saying I was having a brother. I talked about it, prayed for it, dreamed about it. When a sister was born, I was flummoxed. It didn’t make sense to me. Our family already had a girl (me) so we needed a boy to make everything balance out. Gender roles were a big deal and part of my raising, so I figured a brother would have the necessary skills and traits to complement my own. So obviously I thought a mistake had been made and I wanted to speak to the manager. Offended at the audacity of God to deny my request and armed with a supreme practicality (even at the age of three), I set out to find ways to remedy this situation. I called her Tommy for the first three weeks of her life, perhaps hoping it would catch on. MeMaw told me that, if she kissed her elbow, she would turn into a boy. Excellent. Finally, an actual solution! I often snuck into her room to talk her into doing it herself. When she did not comply, I tried to help (don’t worry – no little sisters were actually harmed in the making of this story. I didn’t want to hurt her. Also, her crying would have alerted Mom to my subterfuge, so…not prudent.). But at some point, I discovered how rich life can be with a sister, and I’ve been pleased to call her mine (and also by her actual name) ever since.
  2. I grew up in a small town in the panhandle of Texas, and my parents still live on the farm there. When you grow up in an environment with a lot of narrow, rigid rules and expectations where compliance is valued over authenticity, you learn a few key skills, particularly if you do not naturally fit within those rules/expectations. I learned to pretend that I did by only revealing the aspects of my person that were deemed acceptable. As a result, to this day, it’s pretty difficult to get to know me because I walk into every social situation trying to figure out which parts of me are acceptable there. I’m getting better, but I’m still trying to work out how to turn that off. On the upside, I can get along with just about anybody. I can cheat the system.
  3. A better upside to growing up where you don’t belong is that, to make room for all that I couldn’t reveal, I developed a pretty large, pretty spectacular inner world. I have this world to thank for all the characters I’ve created and every story I’ve ever written. When I have a big decision to make, it’s a great place to walk through various potential outcomes. All my best decisions have been made there. It taught me the pleasure of my own company. It’s not a suitable substitute for actual intimacy, but it’s coming in really handy right now in the isolation
  4. Talk to me for even five minutes, and you’ll probably hear about something I’m reading.  I’ll suddenly get really animated and bouncy about it. I love books. I have a large collection, and I read 4-5 books at a time. I like choices, and this allows me to choose the one that most fits my mood or is in an audio format that allows me to knit or doodle at the same time. In addition to the books we’re discussing at my various (four…maybe five if I finish in time to join the discussion for the daytime book club at church) book clubs this month, I’m currently reading my Isabel Allende collection in the order she wrote them. I’ve read some of them before, but I’m excited about re-reading each of them when it’s their turn.
  5. I have so much yarn. On the one hand, I’m glad. I’ve been able to share some of it and also I am in zero danger of running out of things to knit (Keep Denton Warm is gonna be chock full of blankets, scarves, and hats this year. If that’s a thing we get to do. Someone, somewhere will need them. Surely.). But I thought I had it all organized last year and I just found another bag this week. *sigh* I come from a long line of yarn hoarders.

 

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Sweet note on the dry erase board in the office this week

We are finally working from home. The students no longer are answering the telephone. We are having our first Zoom meeting tomorrow morning to check in. Denton’s stay-at-home order kicks in tomorrow night. I have plenty to do here to keep me busy, as my apartment looks like a tornado hit it (yes, ’tis the season, but in this case, just a simile) and thus is in desperate need of some attention.

Also I have books. Hundreds of books.

But I also need a little structure to maintain even a little bit of a sense of well-being. I can’t be alone in my house for weeks (months?) on end with no structure.

My goal checklist that I’ve been using this year to track the progress of my resolutions has thus far been extremely helpful for helping remain calm(ish). Every day I’m home all day, I make sure I’m:

  • drinking enough water
  • practicing Spanish, either through the Duolingo app or by reading a book in Spanish while keeping the dictionary close
  • dancing, whether for just a 10-minute break or a Zumba video or an online dance class (the tap classes Chloe Arnold is hosting through Instagram? Very cathartic. Highly recommend.)
  • exercising with Pilates on demand or with something that helps me stretch/strengthen
  • playing the keyboard (currently brushing up on some theory)
  • doing at least one thing to rest or pamper myself (e.g., relaxing foot soak, face mask, nap, etc.)
  • working on a crafty/creative project (e.g., knitting, poetry, coloring, etc.)
  • picking a different small area of the apartment to clean each day
  • taking a walk (weather permitting)
  • finishing the daily to-do list (e.g., keeping up with bills, checking in with friends, etc.)

I’m also taking the free Yale course, “The Science of Well-Being”. I’m just in the introduction, but I can already tell I’m going to like it.

I knew this weekend that I needed to go ahead and put these things in place now. I had a whole weekend at home. Normally, this would delight me. A whole free weekend? Paradise. But I spent a lot of the time overwhelmed and anxious and terribly lonely, despite the fact that I had a lot of interaction online. I thought when this started that this experience would be a good test of whether or not I could really work from home, but I may need reminders that this is a whole other animal. It’s not going to give me an accurate picture of what working from home would really be like.

What adjustments are you making to make this phase of life work?

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It’s the International Day of Happiness. This week has been w.e.i.r.d., to say the least. I’ve had a few panic attacks, and I’m still at work as we try to accommodate students who have nowhere else to go and figure out what in the world we’re going to do next (I would welcome faster decisions here…I’m just sayin’.). But there’s also been so many opportunities for joy. Just in my little corner of humanity, there is so much goodness. There are also so many fun things online. Here’s a list for times when you’re feeling more anxious than happy or just want something hopeful.

  1. Italians singing from their balconies.
  2. Lots of love happening on the ‘gram. Nikki Mayeaux is posting a daily creative prompt called Poem Passwords. The pictures on #seeninquarantine are spectacular. Between her early start for April Love and purrs from her sweet cat, Susannah Conway is soothing my soul. Julia Turshen is posting daily foodie prompts. I love this list from worn_ware of people offering yoga, meditations, etc.
  3. Tessera Arts Collective in Philadelphia closed the gallery for now, but they are still on for installing a street art campaign throughout the city this Sunday.
  4. Local businesses that can’t afford to shut down completely are making the best of it with delivery and curbside pickup. The Dentonite is keeping a running list. I love watching local business owners figure out how to take care of their employees by offering alternate earning opportunities and giving devoted patrons the ability to still tip their baristas/servers (*cough* support Golden Boy *cough*). Also…Golden Boy has key lime and coconut pie right now, which are in my top three favorite pies (blueberry is the third, if you’re wondering).
  5. Aid Network Denton and the city of Lake Dallas are keeping up a list of ways to get help or get involved if you can give help.
  6. Nature is delightful. The canals are clear and the swans are back in Venice. And penguins at the Shedd Aquarium enjoy a tour of the zoo.
  7. Since you can’t go in person, many field trip locations and entertainment venues are coming to you. You may also be able to watch the stage production of your favorite musical online. The Metropolitan Opera is streaming. Andrew Lloyd Webber tweeted himself playing “All I Ask of You”, and Lin Manuel Miranda responded with his performance of “Everything’s Alright”. Yale is offering their course on The Science of Well-Being for free (audit only).
  8. For artists whose income is impacted by all the cancellations, here’s a list of places that may be able to offer support.
  9. Books resources! I didn’t know how much I needed Betty White reading Harry the Dirty Dog in my life until this week. In fact, many children’s authors are reading their books online this week. And one that made me salivate – download from a selection of over 300,000 books for free from the New York Public Library through their reader app!!!
  10. Debbie Allen is teaching online dance classes! So is Chloe Arnold!
  11. Joy the Baker is just a delight. As usual.
  12. People are putting their Christmas lights back up to spread joy.
  13. All the Julia Child is streaming!!
  14. What am I doing this weekend? I’m so glad you asked! 24in48’s Social Distancing Readathon!

I’m sure there’s more. What are your favorite things people are doing right now?

 

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