Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Glutton for Punishment

I'm not sure why I continue to give you all such deeply private information that you can one day use to incriminate me but for some reason, I do.

While I was on Orcas, my friend Harreld and I were talking about my deepest desires. I discovered that I'm a lot more transparent than I thought I was.

Apparently, Harreld was trying to explain the Society for Creative Anachronism to our mutual friend, Gabe. He was struggling to describe the tournaments of men in cardboard armor wrapped in duct tape, the kingdoms with their complex rules, and the fictional heraldry. Gabe just wasn't getting it.

So, he asked, "Is it something Rebecca would like?"

Thanks.

To this, Harreld responded, "No."

See, Harreld's a true friend.

Then, he finished his statement, "But I can see why you would think so."

Traitor.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Note to the Gentlemen

I'm terribly exhausted from the red-eye flight home from Washington and the full emotional weekend and the full mental week. I'm trying to figure out what to tell you while simulataneously trying to figure out how to keep my forehead from striking the keyboard. Hard. Until then, check out this Note to the Gentlemen that I think you'll enjoy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Elaine

Please pray for my friend Elaine. She recently moved to a senior facility and when I went there last night, she wouldn't let me see her. She called the phone number I left in a note and said she didn't want me to come today either.

I can't imagine how hard it must be to grow old and infirm with one's mind mostly intact. It's like the pain of childbirth; it is an experience that cannot be explained but can only be lived through to fully understand. I am sad that her life is so hard that she would turn me away rather than show it to me. Please pray for her.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Legacy

I'm such a dork.

I'm in Washington right now at the headquarters of my company for some training. I'm doing new employee orientation so I'm with a lot of different people who have jobs doing everything from payroll to tech support to advocacy in Washington DC. So, they do informational overviews of the main projects in all sectors of the company.

My dad used to run a program that was affiliated with the company that I work for. They know this in the location where I work and I get some street cred for this but nobody really knows him in headquarters, so I get no special treatment for having a cool dad.

However, we were watching a short video on the program that I work with and while my site was being featured, lo and behold, there was my dad! In the movie!

Here's the part where I'm a big dork:

I was so excited that I yelped, "Hey, that's my dad!"

Then, I clapped my hands in excitement.

Big dork.

If that weren't bad enough, the camera panned him again a little while later and when he made a goofy face at the camera, everyone in the room knew that he was my dad.

That didn't stop me from clapping my hands in flurried excitement yet again.

The presenter gave me a copy of the tape to take home with me.

Big dork.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Necessary Communication

I've said this before, but soon after my husband left me, as I was looking into the seeming abyss of my future, there was really only one thing that I knew I wanted for myself now that I wasn't going to spend the rest of my life with him: I did not want to be one of those bitter women that referred to her ex-husband as, "The Asshole." Everything else about myself and my life was up in the air.

So, I worked really hard to forgive him and to give my feelings of betrayal and hurt and anger productive venting. Did I cry? Yes. Did I yell? Absolutely. Did I yell and scream at him? Again, absolutely. Did I have to warn him not to put his arm around me at one point because I knew I'd hit him if he did? You better believe it. But I fought all urges to take any kind of vengeance, even though there was quite a bit of power to do that in my hands. I knew that if I did not treat him the way I would want to be treated, I would regret it in whatever future I eventually created. Hell, I divided the Star Wars figures equitably, letting him keep the cool-ass green tentacle-head Jedi since I remembered that I had given it to him specifically as a gift and so, technically, it did belong to him.

Boy, did I want to keep it, though. Just to show him.

But I think my decision has worked. (I guess that Jesus guy knew what he was talking about.) My heart is more peaceful than it would be if I had kept black thoughts about him close to that heart for the last two years. I tell people that ask me about the island that I was so broken when I got there and I feel like a whole and new person now. It is because after the first few months of being in such a fertile place and being so consistently loved by people, I started losing even my urges to make his life harder and I didn't have to struggle quite so much to do what I knew was best for me. Being away from things that reminded me of our life together helped, as well. It was like life stopped picking at my scabs and I got a chance to let the scrapes heal.

But, I think my husband struggles with his decision to leave and with the conditions of his life that caused him to make that choice. When he first left, I would have told you that nothing could hurt more than that. But, as we were adjusting ourselves to our new dynamic, he did some things that did hurt more, including, ultimately, refusing to talk to me. I think he did these things out of self-defence, but knowing that it wasn't personal almost made it hurt more.

So, yesterday, I had my first conversation with my ex-husband in over a year. Picture the following scene:

I'm standing in the cafeteria of a high school that has a giant speech tournament this weekend. I'm walking with my best friend Susan, who has driven to Chicago to be with me for every significant encounter that I've had with Dennis post-divorce, including going to court with me for the divorce. She spots him across the room and holds my shoulders so I don't turn around and surprise myself. We joke a little to relieve the tension and I ask her if I can just flick him off across the room and be done with it. It's a rediculous concept because I have very consciously not exposed either my students or his to the discord between us and I'm certainly not about to do it now. So we laugh and she hugs me and we set off to go wherever we were going.

Maybe half an hour later, we're finishing up our wander around the school back in the cafeteria, heading to the judge's lounge. We are walking along the hall and leaning up against the wall ahead of us, with his back to us, is a speech coach with giant Steve Harvey-style shoulders in an equally Steve Harvey-style purple suit. I recognize the guy and laugh to myself about him and keep walking toward him as Susan drops back behind me so we can edge by. As I pull up even with the Purple Pie Man, the angle is right that I can see who has been blocked and is leaning up against the wall on the other side, talking to him.

It's Dennis.

I'm still walking, so remember, we're talking split-second responses here.

He pulls his head up and said, "Hey."

I pulled my head up and said, "Hey."

Then I gave him the finger.

Fifteen seconds later, Susan and I were in the judge's lounge and I'm shaking and smiling, almost laughing. I need Susan to hug me and I shake a little while longer and cry a little bit. She tells me that the best part for her was a: it happened so fast and b: after it happened, she heard someone say softly, "Whoa." The best part for me was that I greeted him first.

pause for cheering laughter

Now, I know that I just said a lot of things about forgiveness and the golden rule and being fair. But really, if he wanted to talk, he's had over a year and a half to return my phone calls. I mean, exactly how was that conversation going to play out? Can you imagine? I've come too far to stand around and make public pleasantries with a man who refuses to acknowledge with either his words or his actions that we once had something really special.

So I communicated the only thing left that I needed to say that I could not have communicated while I was still broken. Now that the cracks in my soul are tiny, I'm less worried that the blackness will pour in.

It almost makes up for the Kit Fisto toy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Guys?

My roommates haven't spoken to me for days.

Oh, I get a smile and a, "Hey, how are you?" in passing but both of them are completely absorbed in something right now so my evenings in the apartment this week have been very solitary. They have the big rooms, so they can close their doors without getting claustraphobic. And shut them they do. I, on the other hand, would probably putter around the common areas even if I didn't have the tiny room. I guess I've always only used my room for sleeping and dressing.

So, with no one to ask me how my day was with time to really listen, I'm a little lonely. But since none of the thoughts that I've had are really urgent or insightful, just conversation thoughts, I don't really have the urge to call anyone either.

So, I putter.

I need to fill up this time with something, anything.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

To sweep the room with a glance

So, I've been thinking about my apartment. I was thinking about it as I was preparing it for a vistor. I folded the mound of blankets on the couch that all three of us just exchange time sliding under without really disturbing the unique peaks and valleys formed in the last couple of weeks. I put away the laundry that was sitting in two baskets on the floor of my room and finally put away the rest of the Christmas presents that were sitting in a shopping bag on the floor. I folded all of the various clothing draped on the few pieces of furniture in my room and put them in their respective drawers. I swept up the gross bits that I discovered on the floor that were combined with the plaster dust still there from when I screwed lots of shit from IKEA into the walls when I first moved in. While I was at it, I swept the gross bits that were sweepable from the bathroom floor. I took out the full garbage. Actually, I just moved it to the back porch since it was already dark out. I did the few dishes that were in the sink. I finally threw out the pile of newspapers that have been sitting on the living room table for almost as long as I've lived here. But, then I was done. I did not wipe down the bathroom. I did not organize the clutter on my desk and dresser. Once I threw out the useless paper on the table, I simply made neat piles of everything that was left instead of finding homes for them. I did not find a place for the towel and iron in the living room, nor did the boxes lining the wall find niches to be hidden in. I put a lot of miscellaneous junk behind my bedroom door. I didn't make the bed.

And I'm really comfortable with that.

This is different from the island where I never entertained guests other than Jeff and especially from my suburban life when I entertained a lot. My suburban apartments and my house were certainly not pristine, but things had places and I made sure that the house was presentable (beds made, bathroom sanitized, clutter put away) whenever people were coming over. I feel like my hands always smelled like bleach when there were people other than myself and my husband in the house. Along with this need for presentability, I had a persistent sense of guilt that the house wasn't cleaner or that it wasn't clean and picked up more often. The guilt wasn't strong enough that I actually did anything about it, but it was there. The best thing I did in those situations was to just go ahead and spend the money on a cleaning lady. I would justify it by denying myself something else that I wanted and had been planning on spending a similar amount of money, so I think the act adequately blended the legacy that I've inherited from both of my parents individually. Comfort and Calvinism. Perfect.

The other difference between my suburban homes and this apartment is that there was much more stuff in those apartments and so much of that stuff matched. I mean, seriously. Actually, some of the matchng stuff has survived in my yellow, red, blueberry and sky blue fairy bedroom. But all the blue stuff? Gone. I'm not paiting myself out to be crazy-suburban-decorator-lady. I mean, nothing in the house was sage or seafoam green. However, I had a certain whimsical flair for decorating. I liked it. And I don't think it's bad that I had picture frames that matched the coffee table. That's who I was then and I can see being that person again.

But right now, I've lost the urge to shop and since I've given away so much of what I had, this apartment has a much more bohemian, sparse flair. There are walls bare of decoration and floors without cute little area rugs that match the couch and quilt. But this is a domestic stage that I missed when I got married right out of college and got to decorate with two salaries at my disposal. I never had bookshelves made of bricks and boards. I guess that I still don't (mostly because my brother and my mom have expensive tastes, too, and contribute to some overall luxury) but it's closer to that stage than I've ever been and it's good to go back and play here for a little while. Maybe a long while.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Oooh, how ARE you?

I had an odd experience at church yesterday.

I knew a ton of people.

How is this possible? I just moved here. I'm a little anti-social, especially at this church. I've been stuck in the apartment, socially paralysed and watching West Wing.

But here is a list of the people I hugged: Karen, a volunteer from work who is teaching me to be angry like a black woman (it involves some neck swiveling); Princess, another woman from work who was just hired as a pastor of the church; Vanessa, the woman from work who first recommended this church to me; Amber, another woman from work and her husband; the pastor that I went out to dinner with at the beginning of the week; the music minister that I also spent time with earlier in the week; Angela, a girl that I saw all the time as a kid because our parents are friends; and her brother Andrew. That's 9 people! There were only 12 people total in my last church. I've been to this church four times and already I can say "Hi" to 9 people?

Now, I think all those women from work were there because it was a big day for Princess. But that still leaves 4 people who normally go to this church who I knew well enough to spend some time standing around and chit-chatting. Weird.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

You can be a winner at the game of Life!

Well, I probably owe you guys an update. Life has been a little full, which is really really good for me. The less time I have to sit and watch the West Wing, the better I tend to feel. I don't know if writing unhappiness/discontent/longing on that piece of paper at New Year's church as the thing I had to let die before I could actually be who God wants me to be helped, but I've been better. It wasn't immediate, though; I do still have the mopes in me from time to time.

So, since then, I've been to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the Logan Square Theater with my roommate Paige, randomly on a weeknight. Before we went, I had nachos with Paige and a friend of two of my brothers, Jonathan. We walked to the theater and it was surprisingly like The Glen, the cheapo movie theater in the town where I grew up. We used to pay for our movies with quarters from the washer and dryer at my parents' apartment building because movies were only a dollar and a half. Then, on the weekend, I went over to Daniel's friend's house on Friday night and we watched Lawrence of Arabia and ate middle eastern food. I contributed a 12-pack of water for the desert epic. On Saturday night, I went to dinner and a play at Steppenwolf with my friend Dan, who reads the same things I do, wonder of wonders. I went to the same church that I'd been to before on Sunday, then met with the pastor on Monday evening for dinner, getting very confused on the busses that I had to take to get there, which meant I got on and off at lot. In my very good conversation with the pastor, his candor about the growing pains of this church made me comfortable enough to commit to attending for a little while, even if, to quote Don Miller, it's a little like going to church at the Gap. Tuesday, I met with the pastor again and the music minister to talk about the state of music at the church, my involvement in it and about a zillion other things. Last night I went out to see my mom and my dog and to do a little laundry. Tonight, I met my best friend from high school and her beautiful 3-week-old baby for very good dinner. She was great. She just handed him over to me and didn't need him back except to feed him. Just what I needed. It was nice to see her, too. We have a long history. Somewhere in there, I decided that I'm giving up trying to get over to the Curves to exercie while it's still cold. But the trade-off for that is that I had to sign up for a yoga class. That starts at the beginning of February and I'm very excited.

So, making sure that I leave work after I've worked my eight hours to make room for a life is finally paying off. I've been out every night this week and that feels quite good. I am having a life to put into that time.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Stamps and silliness

When I was preparing the supplementary envelope for my online grad school application with my transcripts and my letters of recommendation, I used my Muppet stamps as totems for good luck. I placed the Jim Henson picture in the upper right-hand corner, then put the Swedish Chef stamp to its left, since he is my current favorite Muppet. Next, I stuck on the Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker stamp, since they are the smartest of the Muppets. I peeled the Animal stamp off the sheet and was halfway to positioning it when I realized with a little horror that none of the actual Muppets that I had used were actually intelligible! If I was hoping that their Manitou-like spirits were going to influence my acceptance into grad school, it was possible that they might not actually be able to freaking talk with the spirits in charge of admissions to a really smart school. Wasn't I trying to communicate in my application that I was hyper-intelligent and thus, should be accepted into their program? What would Animal be able to contribute to that image, besides "Likes books. Likes books."? I slowly realized that just because he was my traditional favorite Muppet, he was not necessarily the best choice for my final totem. I put Animal back on the sheet with Miss Piggy, Kermit and Sam the Eagle, I chose Rowlf the Dog and stuck him on my envelope. Now, my mom has painted a whole room the color of Rowlf the dog and his rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" can bring me to tears, so this choice was by no means a step down, simply a lateral move away from the most appealing manifestations of chaos that the Muppets provide. So, now it's time to light a little sagebrush, and chant a couple of repetitions of "It's time to play the music; it's time to light the lights; it's time to get things started, dah dah duh duh duh duh-dah," under my breath.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Thanks a lot

Occasionally, very occasionally, my little brother will report back to me that someone he knows said, "Dude, your sister's hot," or something of that nature. I'm not sure what his motivation in doing this is. I would ordinarily attribute it to his freaky level of sensitivity toward my state of mind and explain that he is trying to boost my self-esteem, especially since he was pretty deliberate about doing this when I was first dating again after the divorce. Ordinarily, I would say this. However, every time he brings it up in conversation that this guy he knows thinks I'm hot or cool or some form of attractive, he follows it up with, "I told him to shut up because he's a perv," or a loser or on the rebound. (No, Mom, I'm sure he doesn't actually say, "Shut up.")

So, what is that?!? Only perverts and losers think I'm hot? What's he trying to say? These are guys that don't know any better?

There is a country-kitchy sign available in all of your fine catalogues-that-stock-decorative-items-made-from-resin-by-children-in-China that reads, "I smile because you're my sister, I laugh because there's nothing you can do about it."

Yeah.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The 2006 Bloggies

OK folks, even if you're a blurker (one who reads a blog regularly without ever making him or herself known to the writer), this is your chance to give a boost to Rebecca's sense of self-esteem. Check out this link and vote for me in as many categories as you think describes my blog.

I'll never know if you did or didn't, but you'll know.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Life comes from death

This morning, the pastor of the church that I attended gave a sermon on life coming from death. Basically, that death is necessary for life to occur. He gave examples of the food we eat and composting in gardens. He used Christ's example. Then, he asked us to sit quietly for a little while and think about what would have to die in our lives in order for us to more truly become ourselves. (He was using New Year's resolutions as a place to start from.) I have trouble with statements like these because I don't usually think that much in my life has to change. I have built up habits that are basically good, that are consistent with my beliefs for what is right and wrong. I fail to uphold my own standards on a case-by-case basis, but I don't generally have any big changes to make to follow Christ more closely, which is usually equivalent to becoming more truly myself.

As usual, though, as soon as I think something doesn't apply to me, God gives me a little nudge, looks pointedly at something, then leans his head to indicate that I should look, too. As I sat quietly, I realized that God was looking at my unhappiness. he was looking at my discontent and my longing. I had to get my journal out of my purse, write these three words down and put them in the little bowl by the communion elements alongside everyone else's toxins.

I use the word toxins, because that was what I was visualizing as I sat quietly. I went out last night for New Year's and had a few drinks with Daniel's girlfriend to celebrate. (The show was terrible, by the way. The guys on Sound Opinions put this band's album as the number 2 album of the year. That conclusion could not have been reached by watching these guys' stage show. Can we say unprofessional?) So, we came home a little tipsy, drank a bunch of water, then went to bed. I did not drink anywhere close to enough to pass out as soon as I hit the bed. I fell asleep naturally and proceeded to wake up every 3 hours or so because all of the fluids I had been drinking because I'm a little sick, combined with the fluids that I drank at the show, combined with the fluids that I drank when I got home to prevent a hangover and to consume some Emergen-C were catching up to me. The second time I woke up, I was at the point of inebriation when you feel sick and nauseous. I was sweating and dizzy and had to lay down quickly and nakedly to let my body rid itself of the toxins I had put in it by sweating or it would have rid itself of the toxins by puking. Do you know that kind of sweat I'm talking about? I sweat that way when I have food poisoning, too, when all my body wants to do it stretch itself out on the cool tile floor of the bathroom so that my skin comes into contact with as much floor as possible to relieve the heat of purification.

God nudged me to see that there were spiritual toxins in my body that I have to purge also. I don't know how to do that, yet, but I'm hoping my body will do it for me. Metaphorically make it so that all I want to do is lie down and let myself sweat. I have been meaning to write a post about my recent pattern of finally being able to admit to two or three people that I'm not real happy in the city. People are strangers, their habits are self-defensive and inconsiderate, it's dirty, I'm not surrounded by any beauty, the cold keeps me inside, work is just fine and only fine, I struggle to exercise as much as I should and I haven't made an effort to find a yoga teacher yet. I'm not happy and I miss the island. Jeff has come to visit and I was mean to him until I finally just exploded that I hated it, much like I once exploded that I wanted to go home when we were hiking. Breaking down that wall in the presence of his safety didn't exactly open the floodgates, but it has allowed me to be honest with people who ask, notably my extended family, who were just here for New Year's.

But God told me that I have to let that go. I have to let my unhappiness die, to let that toxin be sweat out. I don't know how to do that. I guess I have to try, though.