Let’s get after it already, shall we?

I suppose I come with a few warning labels. It really depends on the context of our meeting to determine which one gets assigned. Even then, those labels can change. Don’t you wish that you could get an introduction to something before making a commitment to it? Or having the option to find out what some of the warning labels are before you dive in too far?

This is an introduction to the story that is my life, but with it come some warning labels. I talk about God here and faith. I also use profanity and sarcasm liberally. I believe that life is meant to be experienced, not just survived. Nobody makes it out alive anyways. We all have a story, and this is mine. Won’t you share yours with me?

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#readybutnotsoready

It’s the first of the month, and I found my reflection from the journal I work in to be “what’s next?” The prospect of a new month and new possibilities are always exciting, with the promise of something being just around the corner.

The problem is that this particular month has been rather tumultuous historically for me. Sure there have been pretty great things that have happened like the birth of my first nephew and soon to be birth of my first niece, as well as my sister and brother-in-law’s wedding. Growing up, the month of July meant FYC summer camp, followed up with church revivals (that was basically just the continuation of summer camp with the same kids except we had air conditioning and no forced-sports-participation). It meant that Pop pulled out the snowcone machine and there were late night everybody-pile-into-the-truck trips to the icecream shop in our pajamas. It meant that we’d get to go to the racetrack to watch the dragsters on the weekends because there was no school or homework to worry about.

College years meant that July was a time to meet the boyfriend’s family, being invited for the holiday weekend and a great great grandma’s birthday shenanigans. J253 grew up in a rural yet affluent family, with brothers and cousins all around. I was the “city girl” who didn’t understand why they pulled out their high powered guns to shoot at targets off in neighboring fields. [As a side thought: what is/was it with me and the country boys who liked to shoot things? Reference my Australian experiences for all of that.] This was the first experience I had with very right-spectrum conservative families and while I’m not as free-wielding hippy now as I was then—the memories still stick pretty firmly in my brain. I left with a sure feeling that they didn’t really like me that much but also the realization that I could in fact stand up for what I believed [reference: the time I argued with my college boyfriend’s dad about handgun usage while standing in a field in the middle of Illinois. The short of it was that I refused to handle the gun and he basically called me an idiot for my opinions. Fun times.]

The beginning of July also brings memories of the start of other relationships—real and otherwise. I met and began a foolish flirtation with the one regret in my life (and considering all of the stupid things that I’ve done, that HE is my one regret? That’s saying something!). We sat on the tailgate of my car after work, discussing politics and religion (apparently things that you’re not supposed to talk about on a first date, but we did it anyway). We talked addictions and recovery and life stories. I told him early on about my brother, which at the time was a big deal for me (that vulnerability). It was the promise of something new and exciting, and I really really wanted something new and exciting! You know how T428’s relationship went, and how we were not healthy for each other.. but that moment at the beginning of July was extra sweet (and now foreboding, as I look back).

Last year, I had the whatever-it-was with R262 at the beginning of July. [See post “#asshole” for reference]. Because of this, do you see why July is a mixed bag for me? The end of the month, well—you know how that goes. The grief is still present but as the years past, it wanes a little more.

So, July? What’s next? What do you bring for me? Despite the trepidation, I still feel the glimmer of excitement for whatever lays in the future. I’ll take a deep breath and be ready in just a moment.

#stillanasshole

My day seemed to consist of not-real stories, not-real food, and not-real people (and let’s not forget not-real vacation).

I made the mistake a few days ago to begin a new series on Netflix. I am, what you might call, a snob for good writing. If handed a book, you have half of the first chapter to draw me in–otherwise, I move on quickly and without regrets. If I watch a show, I look for a decent storyline with characters who have a little depth. I enjoy something that makes me think or causes me to emote. I forget sometimes that I would much rather be a robot, and instead live vicariously through these characters played out in front of me. I have never been much for the teen dramas (Dawson’s Creek, Pretty Little Liars, One Tree Hill, etc), even though I’ve given them each a try. I give it my old college best, if you will. I figured that I would put the latest show into this designation of “well, I tried but it didn’t last..” Oh man, was I wrong in that assumption. It’s taken me two days, but I finished the first season. Looking back, some of the storylines are ridiculous (okay, most of it was ridiculous). I am drawn to a grief story though. A handsome red headed boy who is lost tragically by his family? Well, sign me up. Needless to say, I did a lot of paperwork and responding to work emails while sitting on my couch over the last couple days. The fact that the outside temperature is a gross 103 degrees doesn’t hurt either. But, as I sit here, after the last episode rolled–I realized I’m not any better or any worse for watching the show. It held my attention but it benefitted me none. Empty emotional calories, if you want to call it that.

About 60 days or so ago, I did a greentox. It was interesting, to say the least; I learned a lot about myself and my habits to be honest. I realized my dependence on food, having always scoffed at people who have the “eat to live” mentality rather than the “live to eat” mentality. Through taking a 30 day reset, I was attempting to suss out a contributor to the migraines that I get. I figured that they must be environmentally caused, ignoring the possible biological causes. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say I learned a few key things. First, I eat a ton of not-real food. It’s been processed so much or are just empty calories/carbs that don’t benefit me at all. Secondly, I eat more dairy than my body knows what to do with, often contributing to a bloated, gross overall feeling. Thirdly, it’s a wonder that my kidneys haven’t abandoned me by now with how much water I don’t actually drink in a day. Fourth, I eat a lot later than I should–often due to boredom rather than actual hunger. When I began paying attention to these things, I started noticing a change to how I felt. My sleeping patterns adjusted, the beginning being alittle rough at first. Without the constant drip of caffeine flowing through my veins, I began to feel tired at “normal” times. Then, once I adjusted–I began having more restful sleep. The increased water helped restore my energy, besides making me pee 8700 times a day. The real food (I followed Whole 30 regimen for meal planning) gave me a fuller feeling without needing to supplement with the extra not-real stuff. I generally felt….. healthy. Like, my body thrived. My headaches continued, and even though that was annoying–it helped me see that biology is something to still pay attention to as healing your whole. The search for the solution to the headaches continue, but all in all–it was a great greentox. After the last month of eating crud again–I’m ready to go back on it, honestly. Maybe not 100% stringent but definitely adopting some of those main take always back in.

Earlier today, I was checking the social medias (as one does while wasting their life away with technology well at hand), and I saw an old work friend post a video at a hospital. Curious, because earlier in the week, that same friend reached out to me about having cervical cancer. Whoa, serious prognosis. So then when I see that she’s in the hospital? I’m a little concerned, you could say. So, I text her & she says I need to come visit her. She says that she is scheduled for surgery and that I need to come visit her. I promptly do. I’m concerned over the fact that this is seemingly the first that I’ve heard about the cancer diagnosis, and I’m concerned because she doesn’t seem to have anyone there with her. Once I get to the hospital and she tells me what’s going on, I find myself sitting in a dark hospital room with her while she is facetiming with her girlfriend. Then she calls a friend. Then she calls her mom. She didn’t need me at all. I also questioned why I thought she would, sitting there wondering why I even went. What was my ulterior motive? That’s a question for someone with advanced degrees in psychotherapy to figure out and tell me, if you ask me. I have no idea, but still–I sat with her.. because there was something seriously lonely about being alone in a hospital room (even if you are on the phone). There’s something comforting in a person being present.

After an hour of this, I was reminded why this friend and I drifted apart. I am, dear reader–if you had not already figured out–a rule follower. Always. I have moments of craziness but ultimately at heart, I follow rules. My anxiety gets too high and I just cannot stop myself. Wild ‘n crazy gal, I know. Anyway, with this particular friend–I felt always at odds with my rule following ways. She wanted to break them. All the time. Drive the wrong way on a one way street? Yep. Be loud and crass in a family friendly location? You bet. Climb over the fence to break into the giraffe exhibit in the Memphis zoo so that you can pet your soulmate? Yes, that definitely happened as well. The entire time, I’m the one on the edges saying in a small voice: “Um, guys? I think this might be bad… I think we should go…” But I was always drawn to this friend’s deep conversations. She always seemed to want to know more. She wanted to climb inside your brain within 5 minutes of meeting you which, honestly, was super intense. I wasn’t used to this, so I didn’t see it as a problem at first. Her manic behavior began to wear me down though, and I was continually exhausted by the energy expended with just trying to talk as much as she needed/wanted me to. She called me her “spiritual” friend, and would seem to heed my warnings at times about certain behaviors she was exhibiting. I found, though, that the more we talked, the less spiritual we would talk and the more gossipy it would become. I found myself saying more hateful things and I really didn’t like myself for it. It was difficult: being her friend. I wanted her to like me, because I heard regularly what she said about people she didn’t like.

As time bore on, I drifted away. Changing jobs honestly helped a lot, but also drifting out of the circle of friends that she and I both traveled in helped as well. Today, as I sat in the courtyard of the non-smoking campus hospital (there were signs posted EVERYWHERE–and we were approached about it several times), I snuck her outside for a cigarette. As she face timed with her girlfriend and I melted in the severe heat, I text my best friend to question my sanity. Over a course of replies, BFF told me that I was essentially being used. That’s what this person does–she’s a user. Actually, BFF called her a sociopath but that’s neither here nor there. Ultimately, I was providing the emotional energy that this user fed off of, and I gave it foolishly. Dear reader, THIS is why I would rather be a robot. I feel like the robot brain would recognize the vampiric actions of others and would reason that enough was enough.

After the second round of smokes, I couldn’t bear the rule breaking anymore [also, reference why I would make a terrible spy] and needed to leave. Guilt was setting in, and I found myself talking hatefully like I once did. Old habits die hard, you could say. I made my exit and now hours later, wonder what the purpose of that visit. Was it to bring comfort to an old friend? Well, that was the initial purpose. I left feeling sick though, feeling used, feeling exhausted.

The moral of today’s story, dear reader, is that for me–for the health of my soul–I need to stick to the real stuff. I’m merely wasting valuable time with everything else. What’s the point of this great beautiful life, if I’m just going to waste it on this not-real stuff?

Afternote: I wrote this a year ago this month but the feelings are still the same.

#goddamnClassyLady

Fact: apparently, slips are a “relic of the past” and “nobody bothers [with] them anymore.” This is a direct quote from a salesperson that I asked for assistance in locating something tonight. 

As you may or may not know, I am not a person who loves to shop for clothes. I can spend days in a bookstore, hours in a good grocery store, and even long wandering periods of time in a decent liquor store [Dear Reader, if you haven’t been to Apple Jack Liquor Store in Denver, CO—you need to go. Clarification: if you’re of legal drinking age—get yourselves to Applejack’s.]. I cannot fathom wasting any more time than necessary shopping for clothes though. Let me be clear, tonight was torturous. The purpose of my shopping trip was because I was in search of a clothing item that would in turn make another clothing item more comfortable to wear. All right, I’ll stop dancing around the subject. I was looking for a slip. I have this sun dress that I really like, and it’s super comfortable when it’s a thousand degrees of wet hot blanket outside [see: St. Louis Summer & its Humidity, “It’s not hot. It’s the humidity!”]. The problem with this particular dress is that while it’s cute, it’s also a bit see-through when the sun hits. I can either make it a vampire dress (meaning, I only wear it when the sun goes down) or I can wear the appropriate undergarments. Here’s the problem that I found out tonight: the appropriate undergarments are effing impossible to find. I mean, if you were to be forward thinking and have time to order it online and wait for the shipping—sure! I’m sure you could find one. I, Dear Reader, am not. I am as you might guess, less patient and more spontaneous.

So, flash forward to tonight’s shopping trip. I’d already exhausted Target, Walmart, and various small brick & mortar clothing stores when I opted to head to the mall. Normally, I opt to stay clear of the mall, feeling that I had enough of it when I was working retail for a decade. Alas, tonight I found myself on pointed missions to the different shops’ intimates sections. I’ve ceased getting embarrassed by shopping in the intimates departments and stores because after being as old as I am, it’s just a fact of life. I roll my eyes at the dudes who stand outside shops like Victoria’s Secret because they’re too embarrassed to go in. Whatever. Are they afraid of being deemed pervy? Or are they legitimately embarrassed by a few bits of material? Geez.. I digress. 

Let’s talk about this notion for a moment though. I was raised in a pretty conservative, Midwestern family that was strongly influenced through the 1980s (my childhood years) by “good Christian morals” and Jesus Culture. My parents both came from good Catholic families (one side Irish, one side Italian) and they were the end of the baby boomer generation. Sure— they barely survived the 1970s with their long hair, war protests and various other extra curricular activities, but as their family grew—they ended up voting for Reagan and buying a house in the suburbs. It’s no wonder that they embraced “Purity Culture” as mom joined a church, dragging us kids with her, and entering into the private school system. Gone were mom’s daisy duke shorts and in their place were the long denim skirts and covered shoulders. I was raised in a place where guys could wear anything they wanted but girls would get severe lectures about modesty if their fingertips hung lower than the hem to their shorts. We were taught that a woman’s place is obedient to her husband, a child was seen but not heard, and a man was the sole breadwinner of the family. [Clarification: I do believe that people need to be obedient to their significant others but it’s a two-way street, built with trust and love. I’m also not saying that the other two are terrible notions, but how they were achieved in my experience were more destructive than beneficial to the family units.]

A friend of mine calls this my “Footloose” days [ref: Kevin Bacon’s version of Footloose]. There are so many other facts that weigh in here, that I won’t bore you with all at once.. Just leave it to be said that I grew up with a strained body image that I battle every day. Every. Damn. Day. 

I have never been a “skinny girl” and while I have been more athletic and health minded during specific seasons of my life, my body shape has never been that of the thin variety. This strained body image has impacted me throughout my life, making me do stupid things to attempt to achieve something that I feel is more “normal” or acceptable. I’ve also done some pretty smart things to achieve those things, so I won’t travel down that blogging rabbit hole either. Maybe another day? For right now, this is my take away from the last 35 years: I was created perfectly. Exactly who I am and every step along the way to get here. 

Psalm 139

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!

If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave,[a] you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me! O God, if only you would destroy the wicked! Get out of my life, you murderers! They blaspheme you; your enemies misuse your name. O Lord, shouldn’t I hate those who hate you? Shouldn’t I despise those who oppose you? Yes, I hate them with total hatred, for your enemies are my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

So tonight, I took some words to heart that I shouldn’t have. I took the slight about the slip personally, turning the words SLIP to point towards myself instead. I felt like she was calling me a relic, with my skewed modesty as being awkward and out of date. It hurt my feelings, and I got my feathers ruffled as a response. I argued in my head that maybe I DIDN’T want to wear see through dresses and maybe THAT’S what’s wrong with today’s fashion standards (believe me, I jumped off the deep end in my head). Thankfully, all of these thoughts staid inside as I grouched around from store to store to search for the accursed piece of clothing. I even text my friends to argue that I was essentially ‘in the right.’ They concluded that I was, after some banter about being classy and whatnot. All that hot air that was blown while trying to justify wearing something so that I didn’t feel worse about myself. Dear Reader, I’m exhausted just thinking about it. 

Whether you agree with the purity culture’s view on modesty or want to discuss my somewhat ridiculous actions of the evening, please understand what the realization that hit me through all of this was. David’s words in Psalms weren’t specifically about himself. They weren’t specifically about me—but they were. Me in the broad sense to mean all of us. Each of us have been created to be exactly who we are now. The same attention that was put into creating the stars was put into creating your eyes and toes. The same color scheme that influenced the fall foliage was used to compile the shades and tones in your hair color. You were fearfully and wonderfully made. 

I think that the voice that says I was a mistake or that I’m a mess is stronger some days than others, and the struggle to rise above the anxiety that says that I don’t matter is real. But, I have to come back to the truth of what David said—that I matter… and so do you.

This past week has been pretty full of stories of folks who have lost that fight against feeling like they matter. It’s been hard to hear that some of the people who I respect greatly felt so very lost. It’s reminded me that we’re in this together though, and we leave imprints on each other.

“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt..” (AB)

Every single mark matters. They might hurt like hell, but keep going. You were created for this… so keep going. 

————

Postscript: sometimes classy ladies wear appropriate clothing and sometimes classy ladies use a bit too much profanity. Either way, this classy lady is fine with who she’s turning out to be. And yes, I DID end up finding a slip.

#theatrejunkie

I remember the first time that I heard Colm Wilkinson’s Jean Valjean’s voice sing out his prayer, the sound quality of the library-loaned double stack cd on the tiny middle schooler’s boom box crackling. The boom box was blocky and sat awkwardly on the bedside table in my friend’s white doily covered room. There were statues of horses on the dresser top, and my friend told me that I just HAD to listen to something and that I would just LOVE it. She was a friend from school, and our lives were pretty different. Still though, she ended up being 100% correct on that music choice. I DID love it, and ended up having a *mild* obsession (yes THAT’S what we’re deeming it, Dear Reader—mild. If mild constitutes as memorizing every word of every song in the musical Les Miserables and contemplating transferring schools just so that I could learn French instead of Spanish for the required foreign language).

Similarly I remember the first time that I heard Jonathan Groff’s King George cheekily bait that his subjects would return. I was sitting at the desk in the nearly sterile, white countered repair room at my (then) job, and one of my managers was telling me AGAIN how wonderful his last trip to New York was and AGAIN how wonderful it was to see new shows brand new to Broadway. He produced a thumb drive (oh what a long way we came from that old square boombox, folks) and said that while it wasn’t EXACTLY the G-rated music that we were allowed to play in the repair room, that I simply HAD to listen to it. At first I was laughing at the first song that he played, and then I promised to listen more.

Full shifts back in the repair room were soon switched to Musical Nights, when certain techs who would often sing along with the musical theatre shows were stationed back there with me — and I quickly learned that the show was written by a guy that I’d already sort of heard of. I’d been a fan of IN THE HEIGHTS for a while, and this new show came out of nowhere for me to latch on to.

Fast forward to tonight. I love the theatre, musical or otherwise. I am fascinated by the idea of shrugging off who you are as if slipping out of one coat to step into another. The stories can be painted with elaborate backgrounds or bare bones sets, building a world that we get to eavesdrop on for just a short period of time. Still, twenty years after I saw Les Mis for the first time on stage at the Fabulous Fox Theatre (and several times after that), I get choked up during the production. It’ll always be a favorite. I’ve seen cast members come and go but the story pulls me in the same. Tonight, I had the amazing opportunity to win the lottery and see Hamilton: An American Musical. I’ll be honest, I was nervous. Would it hold up? Would it keep me enthralled as it’s soundtrack has done for several years now? Would the expectation be so great that no matter how well the actors played their roles, it just wouldn’t be the same as what I pictured from listening to it for so long.

It was more. I’m still in awe of what I watched tonight, and all I can say is that it was more than I expected… and I was so lucky to have been “in the room where it happened.”

I couldn’t help myself.

But, seriously though, it was amazing. Truly lovely, and I look forward to decades of loving it as much as my other “old favorites.”

#atalossforwords

What do you say when you find yourself at a loss for words? What is your default/fall-back that you find yourself muttering as your brain does a data skip {ERROR message} moment?

Mine is “I’m sorry.” I say it entirely too much, often assuming the guilt of whatever is needing to be apologized for. Whether or not I accurately deserve that guilt is another question entirely.

#pieshopdreamer

There is an old gas station, shuttered and empty, sitting on a corner with clear access to the highway and good neighborhoods. The parking lot is crumbling but spacious, and it sits across from a long established high school. Ideally, the location is prime real estate.

The other night as I drove past it, as I usually do on my way to my parents’ house, I considered it for my pie shop. The ever-elusive, someday-maybe life goal “pie shop.” It would need some work of course, but what would it look like? If we gave it the “Olio” treatment and carved out the inside to make a diner setting and re-styled it to be that “old filling station” appearance. White subway tiles on the walls, a classy rounded short bar with the shiny round high stools. The overhang where once you would pull to fill up your gas would hold tables for outside seating for the nice weather days, and it would serve as an all night community space that only a handful of restaurants and diners claim to be in our entire city. Gold filigree on the window and an “always open” neon sign to draw in the lonely traveler. Damn fine coffee and pie…

I took a deep breath and kept driving… oh pie shop dreams, you pop up at the oddest times.

#asshole

So, like the other singles of our current day, I dabble in the world of online dating. It’s been more of a social experiment for the last couple of years, with the unintentional side effects. For my thoughts on the social experiment known as online dating, see a previous post–this is not the one to dive into that rabbit hole. THIS post is about R262 and the lessons that I’m currently trying to learn from him.

[In an effort to protect identity–which, at this point is laughable, but you’ll understand soon why–I’m giving him a substitute name. On one hand, it’s a real dick move if I were to actually use his name in the re-telling of this story. On the other hand, it’s a real dick move what happened at the end of this story. One could make the argument that it was warranted, but there is so much in question right now. Ultimately, dear reader, you will learn as to why I should have the warning label of ASSHOLE. of course, this isn’t the only reason nor will it be the last reason–but be warned: I am an asshole.]

Hey. -he said

Hey. -I responded.

This is how our conversation began. It’s thrilling, I know. Unfortunately, we live in an age where language has been lazily knocked down to syllables and people endeavor to get to know each other by demonstrating the least amount of effort. I was at the point, at the beginning of the conversation with R262, of being tired of non-conversations and feeling as though I was pulling teeth just to get to know someone outside my circle of friends. [See alternate post: I am an introvert.]

Chit chat is not my forte but when R262 asked me how my day was going, I was feeling generous. Not in the magnanimous way, but more in the ‘I’m about to delete my online dating profiles and live alone in a house full of cats because I’ve given up on intelligent conversation” kind of way. I responded in some manner along the lines that my day was busy, the job that I have is fulfilling but keeps me on my toes, that I’m currently working on home improvements, etc. Something along those lines. I am not entirely sure, to be honest. Our conversations started slow–obviously. I reciprocated the question and he explained that he was busy with work, was looking for someone to talk to, was essentially interested in my profile because I seemed like a happy person. Newsflash, I am not a particularly happy person but I do have my moments of positivity. He went on to ask what I do for work, which I answered in a vague yet exact way: I work in a school–but I am not a superhero of a teacher. I’m the kind of paranoid that doesn’t want to tell exactly where I am at all times of day, you know–because privacy and all. Also, people be crazy. Again, I reciprocate the work question to him about work, and he tells me that he is an engineer. Ooh–now we’re getting somewhere. Engineering has always interested me, in the sense that the people who do it are generally very smart and logic based. I enjoy them.

Our conversations over the first few days were haltingly pleasant, as we both were rather involved with work and only chatted occasionally. He was polite. I think that was the draw for me. R262 would greet me and ask how my day was–every time we chatted. It was novel, and I enjoyed it. Over the course of our chats, we moved from the online dating site that we had met to an instant message platform that I’d never used before: KIK. (This is neither an endorsement or a discouragement for that platform–just an explanation as to our messaging system.) I’m hesitant to give out things like my phone number, because–again–people be crazy.

We went from occasionally chatting to chatting all throughout the day pretty quickly. He became the last text I would see at night, and the good morning message I would see the next day. We talked about our lives, our childhoods, our favorite foods, our religions. I supposed this was how you’d get to know someone.

Little things would come up in our conversations that would make me question, but often I would just brush it aside with the argument that maybe I shouldn’t be so skeptical. Little things regarding his current job–he was out of the country when we first began speaking, on an international project in Mexico. I knew he was an engineer, but I didn’t really know what kind. Instead, I knew that he took the contract so as to change his environment, to try to get over the death of his fiancé. Little turns of phrases would be said that I would need to explain, or he would ask in different ways. After probably a week of chatting, I learned English wasn’t his first language and that he was actually from the Netherlands. Little things would pop into our conversation that I would just rationalize and move on. Why? Because he was kind to me. Apparently, I’m a sucker for a kind word.

We began to talk about relationships and what we were looking for in that world, and he asked me pretty soon if I would close my account on the dating site. He explained that I was the one he was looking for, so he was doing the same. Well, sure–I mean, I was already ready to do it when I met him. So, why not? I talked to him about my anxiety with dating, explaining bits of my past and being honest about the state of my heart. [Refer to alternate post: Hello My Old Heart]

We exchanged photos and phone numbers, and even talked on the phone. He asked why I was shy on the phone and I tried to explain that speaking in real time had no delete button, that the anxiety was running high, and that I was afraid of sounding stupid. He reminded me that I was the one he was looking for, and that I needed to trust him. At one point, I asked him if he was real. Actually, I’m pretty sure I asked a few different times. It was the kindness; it wasn’t what I was used to.

Our conversations were innocent and joking, serious and flirty. I told him about my best friend’s wedding (which was in full swing during our chat times) and he told me about his weekend adventures with boats and beaches in the ever so sunny Mexico. He let me cry when I lost a friend and tried to be present for my grieving loved ones. We had good chats. His project was coming to an end and he was due to come back to town, and I was finishing with large stress projects and school was due to end. We both seemed genuinely excited to get to meet for real. All of this chatting —ALL OF IT— took place in a 2-3 week timespan.

The weekend of the Fourth of July holiday, he had trouble with his contract. The Mexican government (his client, technically) had delayed the project, delaying the inspection and ultimately his return to the US. He explained that he couldn’t leave until the project was inspected. Fair, I understood. He asked me if I could pick him up from the airport on the 4th, because “(mine) was the first face he wanted to see.” [Insert cheesy gag noises here. Sure sure, I mock… BUT I admit, I liked it.] I agreed, and we decided that as soon as he had flight info–he would forward so I knew when to be at the airport.

There were other things discussed, much to my own discomfort. I add this, dear reader, so that you might understand where I am coming from. I am an independent woman, with strong opinions and terrible self-confidence. It traces backwards pretty deep with me, and it will be something that I struggle with my entire life most likely. I am uncomfortable when people pay me compliments, most often because I don’t feel that I deserve them. Honestly. Refer back to my warning labels–these explain plainly why I don’t deserve them. There are far better people in the world than I–and it makes me uncomfortable when people try to get me to see that I’m not one of those outspoken warning labels. Slowly but surely, with a lot of prayer and counseling (and often whiskey) I am becoming more comfortable with myself. I say this because I am trying to explain why R262 seemed to become important to me in such a short time. I mean, I personally think that a month is a short time–don’t you?

So, the day before the holiday is oddly quiet from R262. The last we spoke, he was going to pack and get his plane tickets together. That was in the morning. I didn’t hear from him for the rest of the day. Normally, if I don’t text with my friends for an entire day–nothing bothers me about it. I go a week at times without talking to my best friends or my family. No big deal. I had been talking to R262 NON-STOP for a few weeks though, and radio silence made me worry. I reached out to my best friends and explained my worry, asking them to talk me down from it. They had, at this point, already heard me talk about him and were accustomed to my chatting with him. They told me not to worry. Then, Fourth of July came–and still no word from him.

Whenever someone pulls radio silence with me, whether intentional or unintentional, my brain immediately thinks the worst. I can be a fatalist; this is just how it goes. I worried that he had had an accident, or that his phone had been stolen (and the only contact that we’d had was through an app & a few phone calls). I’d worried that maybe he decided that he didn’t want to meet me after all (yes, my brain went there). I’d worried that he was hospitalized and unconscious in a foreign land where he didn’t know anyone. My brain went into overdrive. Well, in the afternoon, he finally text to tell me that something was wrong.

He had tried to make his plane reservations and found out that his debit card was not working. He contacted his bank, to find that his information was suspended due to fraud concerns. He, understandably, went into panic mode. Because it was a holiday, his US-based bank was making it more difficult on him to prove his identity and he was at a loss for what to do. He still had to finish paying his workers, and he didn’t have a way to exit the country.

Do you see where this is going?

Dear readers, I wanted to believe him. With all of my heart, I wanted to believe him. I looked into emergency financial assistance through the embassy, researched different transportation out of country, and even thought through different scenarios that he could pay off workers. He shot down each of my suggestions. I tried to be an emotional calm for him during this time, explaining that there HAD to be a solution and that he would surely think of it. In the meantime, his texts are getting more and more manic, the panic almost tangible. He was worried for his life; his workers were upset and violent. He would text early early and all through the day still, and I was stuck not knowing what to say to comfort him. Then, almost 24 hours after he tells me of the problem, he asks for help financially. I, as you well know, have no money. This is one of those lean times where I am budgeting and scraping to pay my monthly bills–often negotiating to pay one bill one month and another a different month. Newsflash: I am not Dave Ramsey. I’m just stuck in a play where I am covering a lot of bases for a lot of things, and not being compensated for it. Well, back to this nightmare. I couldn’t respond to him. I didn’t know how to tell R262 that I had no financial support for him, that I myself have been borrowing just to stay afloat for the recent months. All the anxiety built up in me, and I was–as the kids say–a hot mess. Again, I consulted my wise friends.

Every one of my friends told me not to lend him money. Every. Single. Person. I knew this already, I told them. Even if I didn’t know this, there was no money to lend. I ended up telling him that exact thing, that I would help if I could–but there was no way that I could.

My heart was breaking and my conscious weighed heavy. I had lost any appetite that I had, the churning in my stomach doing well to make me want to vomit at all times of the day. I wasn’t sleeping well, often waking up to check my phone and be sad at the messages found there.

For the first time in two years, I had an honest conversation with God. I explained what I was feeling, even though I know God knew that already. I prayed for safety, even though I had this growing doubt of the truth in the situation. I prayed for peace. Oh, how I prayed for peace. This whole relationship with God that I’ve been having for the last couple years has been tremulous at best, all by my own doing. I am a petulant child, who receives grace for more things than I will ever realize. But, during this time, I was acutely aware of the gift of peace I was receiving. My stomachache began to lessen, my constant headache weakened, and random people would give me hugs when I least expected it. I prayed for peace, and I received it with open arms.

One of the early morning texts spoke of our building something strong together in a relationship–of a future. It also spoke of his despair at living. He said that he would rather die by his own hands than at the hands of an angry mob.

Now, here’s where I am going to pause the story. You know, dear readers, that I do not take suicide lightly. As a writer that I most recently read succinctly described himself, and ultimately me as well: I am an ex-suicide. “I had the option of being dead. I do what I do because I had the option not to. I’m what’s called an ex-suicide.” [Dan van Voorhis, “Monsters”. Go check it out.] I am also a suicide survivor, meaning that I carry the blame and guilt of someone else’s suicide on my soul. That’s a ghost that I will bear forever, and possibly not a story meant for the online format. Just know that I do not take suicide lightly.

So, when he said these words to me, part of my brain went into reaction mode of “I need to fix this.” Yep, that’s right. I said the F word that has been long banned by my counselor. The other part of my brain went numb though, with the constant peace that had been wrapping itself around me turning on full force. I wept. I wept because I didn’t want him to feel that way. I wept because I didn’t believe him. I wept because I couldn’t fix anything. I wept because I couldn’t trust myself anymore with him. I responded to him that he would find a way home, and that he needed to fight for himself. I responded that he shouldn’t give up hope–even though I was giving up the hope that he was real.

He continued to text me after that, knowing that I had gone back to work after the holiday and that work was extremely busy. He was oddly repeating himself from days prior, to the copy & paste effect from things he had said before in an effort to get me to crumble my resolve and help him.

He didn’t know that I had given up.

You see, dear reader, I gave up on us. On building that elusive “strong relationship” that he spoke of. My ever so gracious friends who tolerated my own weeping surrounded me with love, and did their own versions of background checking on him. Things that they found out and informed me:

⁃ he had only created a Facebook account a month before I started talking with him

⁃ The screenshots & pictures that he had sent me of things (he had screenshot his bank app & passport–all to which, I responded THAT was a bad idea) were oddly close to being legit but just a little bit off in their own ways

⁃ his company that he owned had no actual roots/groundwork

⁃ his background story had no real substance

⁃ He had no friends or family to speak of, really–I asked. He had no one.

⁃ Embassies have emergency protocols for losing your passport, losing your money, losing your safety–all of which he argued that they couldn’t help him.

The end of it: I had already deleted my online dating account, but I went forward to delete my KIK account. I pulled the plug, without even an explanation. I researched how to actually block someone on my phone, and went through with it. I also sobbed, the entire time. Me, who better identifies with dogs and robots, sobbed as I closed this chapter of my story. It was a super short chapter, I realize, but it cut pretty deeply. If he was real, this was a pretty sensational thing to have happened to him–and I abandoned him. If he was not real, this was a pretty sensational story that I fell for for a long time. I had built an intimacy with someone who I’d never seen face to face, and now I’m ending that intimacy. For someone who struggles with that sort of thing, do you now see why I was sobbing?

Warning Label (of the story): I am an asshole.

#easilyamused

Sometimes the kids would come to me to get bandaged up after a rough gym class or capture the flag session in the park… or you know, social studies.

“Ms. R! I got a hole in my leg!” She pointed at a scratch on her calf.

“Okay.. Do we need to amputate?” I ask, and then continue. “Because… I’ll be honest, I’m really bad at it. I guess I could practice alittle–here, give me your hand.”

That student didn’t come back to see me on a nurses’ pass again after that. I think she decided to try to grit it out.

——–

Overheard: Student to another student while going to Fun Friday hall party: “Stop singing! I like this song and your breath so hot it make the song stank!”

—-

8th grade graduation speech given by valedictorian: “I read a quote from the Internet…”

My thoughts: There are no authors anymore. It’s just “the internet.”

#sometimesbroken

For the first year and a half of my job working in the school, I was the ‘front office person.’ (Dear Reader, I’ve been there three years this month. It’s seemed like an eternity and yet a blink of an eye.) I saw the kids who were sick, I saw the kids who were tardy, I saw the kids who were in trouble. Often, I was the one who was calling to organize transportation for the kids to go home, or I was the one who retrieved them when their guardians showed up to pick them up. Sometimes there were days that I didn’t want to send the kids home though. I would walk them to their classroom (or locker) to retrieve their belongings–especially if they were being sent home for disciplinary reasons. Often they would have crocodile tears rolling out of their eyes. “Dead man walking” is the narration going through my head as we would head up the steps.

“It’s been a rough day, huh?” I would say to the tiny human who is silent as the grave, as they trudge one step at a time.

“Yeah.” A tear splashes on the steps.

“But tomorrow will be better, right?” I would try to encourage them. “Tomorrow’s always going to be better than today. It’s a new day.”

“You don’t know that.” This one child responded, looking at me solemnly and heading along. He retrieved his belongings and away he went with his mom. She wasn’t happy–we all knew this. I wish I could have helped, but I just didn’t know how. Two days later, he was sent home again. This time, his dad picked him up; this time there were no tears. At that point, I couldn’t shake the idea that he’d given up hope about there being a better tomorrow.

I went back to work the following Monday, knowing that there was a slim chance I’d see him there. He was in the final stages of discipline process in our school, and his parents had a real conversation the last time they were in. I wanted to have a real conversation with him, but I was not in that place to do it. I wanted to ask him why he’d been so angry, why he burst out with violence and words when there’s seemingly no cause. There was always a cause, I just didn’t know what was beneath the surface. I wanted to tell him that this intense rollercoaster of emotions would level out, that he was just at the beginning of it all. I wanted to remind him that tomorrow’s going to be a better day.

Two days after this interaction, another act of violence shook our country. A boy–a little older than the one I walked to his classroom that day–acted out in violence and words–shaking a community and injuring the world around him. The shooter’s name is not one that should go down in infamy, but sadly his legacy will be remembered for the devastation it brought. I read the news, I listened to the reports, and I thought of the kids in my school. My heart broke because I heard the conversation again that I had a few days previous: “Tomorrow’s always going to be better than today. It’s a new day.”

“You don’t know that.”

I don’t know that. So, I struggle with hope. All I can do is hope.

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