On Love and Unwanted Advances

[Hey there, hi there!  This is my potential trigger warning for survivors of sexual assault.  Nothing too graphic, but it is still discussed.  Take care of you.]

“So,” Lorelai* started, “I got a little too drunk last week.  The kind of drunk where you really don’t realize it until the next morning?”  She ended on a question, leading us to nod in understanding.

“Great.” I thought.  “What jackass did what stupid ass thing with what lame ass excuse this time?”

“There were these guys at the bar…” she continued.

I had to control myself from spitting a premature and disgusted “ugh” across the table at her.  This was, after all, only our third friend-date and I’d like to keep her, if I could.  She was talking through a smile, nodding and gesturing towards her phone, calming my defenses.  I loosened my grip on my pepper spray and tuned back in.

“They were very kind and polite and we had a great time.” She finished, shrugging and looking at her nachos.  “Too bad I don’t live in Memphis!”

My jaw just about fell into my salsa.  They were what?  To who?  When?  Here?  In the USA?

You have just got to be shitting me!

Lorelai had casually gone out to the bar with her friends, and met the white whale.  The mythical flying pig.  The gay republican, so to speak.

Except that he wasn’t gay.  He was 100% interested in her, and demonstrated this through casual conversation, a respectful goodbye hug, and a polite follow up text** the next day.

We immediately dove into conversations about the rarity of this event, running a quick, informal, unwanted-sexual-advances-litmus test on Lorelai to see what her “base” for sexual harassment might be.
It was normal.
She really had met a polite, respectful man at the bar.  And what’s more, his friends were polite and respectful as well.

I am disgusted that this was my reaction.  I am horrified that the “normal” ending to that story, the ending I was expecting, the ending I was prepared to drive to Memphis to vilify through a stream of my pepper spray, was a Harry Weinstein story.  An ending with my friend in tears, or worse, assaulted.

Weeks ago I texted my writing guru, Valerie***, and I told her that I was struggling to write any new blog posts.  I whined that every time I picked up my laptop to write a snarky piece on bridesmaids dresses (stay tuned) I felt crushed.  How could I possibly use the f-word 19 times to make a joke about Whole 30 diets while people were being murdered by semi-automatic weapons and scrounging for basic supplies post hurricane?  How could I laugh through cat memes that describe the process of writing a wedding toast when white supremacy is building momentum and women are announcing their sexual assault through “me too” in waves?

Valerie told me that I should write about my anger.  Write about the fact that I couldn’t write.  Which I tried, of course, because Valerie knows best, but I couldn’t.  I was so INCREDIBLY angry, that I just couldn’t.  I’m not eloquent.  I can’t wax poetic about systematic injustices.  Try as I might, I fumble with verbiage, and leave at least 1-3 of my privileges unchecked every time.

So I took a walk to clear my head.  I tied Bernadette Peters (the dog) to a leash, and took to the trails, Adele blaring in my headphones, shoulders back, head held high…for about a mile.  Until I tripped on a rock, and stumbled a few steps, jostling an earbud from my ear.  Music muted, I heard a branch crack behind me, and leaves rustle.  I spun quickly, finding no one there.  My mind flashed to the man who had pulled into the trail parking lot at the same time as me.  He was tall, but was he taller than I could handle?  What if he came at me?  Where was my whistle?  Should I have brought pepper spray?  Why didn’t I have a bigger dog?

I continued walking, leaving one earbud hanging from the cord across my now-zipped sweatshirt.  There wasn’t any point in tempting fate with a low cut tank top.

I continued for about another half mile before I started thinking about my new favorite podcast, “My Favorite Murder“.  They have the best advice on how not to get murdered.  Number one being: STAY. OUT. OF. THE. FOREST.

Image result for my favorite murder stay out of the woods

So here I was, walking alone in the forest, with a nation affected by sexual assault on the brain, and a Hostess Cupcake for a guard dog.  I turned on a dime and headed back to the parking lot, stumbling over rocks and turning over my shoulder every few minutes.

I live in Virginia.  There are plenty of things I should be scared of (bears, steep cliffs, white supremacists) without having to worry about a rapist, or worse, our President, crossing my path on the trail.  “Prepared to hike” should mean I was armed with an ample water supply and a first aid kit, not pepper spray and a follow up exam complete with STD screening.

There is nothing worse in the world than feeling vulnerable.  I have sat on the bed of women, and men, waking up in the hospital after an assault.  I have disappeared into crowds to ward off unwanted advances.  I have held hands with friends as we recovered from torrents of verbal assault.  Vulnerability is raw, burning, and terrifying.  We feel it every day in bars, in the woods, in our homes.  Celebrity scandals call notice, viral hashtags empower survivors, but we can’t stop there.

We can’t stop until we feel comfortable allowing our daughters, nieces, sisters to clear their heads with a walk in the woods.  Until we are no longer surprised by polite men in bars.  Until “be safe walking home” no longer means “zip your sweatshirt”.

*Names were changed (not to protect the innocent, since it turns out all involved were adorably innocent) but because whenever possible, I like to pretend I’m on an episode of Gilmore Girls.

**It should be noted that in real life, this gentleman followed up with a SnapChat the next day, not a text.  I changed it to a text because what the actual hell is anyone doing following up with a SnapChat?  Lorelai agreed, but says this is the new normal, and that the SnapChat WAS clean and appropriate.

***Valerie’s name has not been changed due to the fact that I’m unabashedly using her for likes.  

On Love and Mountains

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“The mountains are calling and I must go.”  

This phrase has been flooding everyone’s Pinterest and Instagram, since…well…the dawn of Pinterest and Instagram.  I, myself, have probably pinned it 3-7 times during those dark twisty periods when I felt like running away from all my problems would be fun and/or feasible.  It is the kind of phrase that seems adventurous, and mystical.  Like something Charles Dickens would write if he were alive today and was a hipster.  (He’d be one of those hipsters that wears cowboy boots when they skate board.  You know he would.)

I really like the graphic images that go along with the phrase too, always perfectly filtered with matching badass typography.  A few times I’ve almost printed it out and hung it on my wall, but then I never did.  And there are a number of reasons this phrase hasn’t made it’s way past a pin for me, but really just two that stand out.

First, I don’t know the first thing about mountains.  I know they are pretty.  I know they are tall.  But beyond that, I think I pretty much just have no idea about mountains.  You could have pushed me over (the cliff of a mountain) with a feather the other day when a coworker told me her wife hit a bear with her car.
A bear.
(There are bears in Virginia?  Where am I?)

So you see…I just really have no idea about mountains.  If you’re still unconvinced, and are unfamiliar with my previous mountain/volcano climbs, you can read about that disaster here.

The second reason this little phrase hasn’t made it farther than a screen grab, is I feel like it’s incomplete.  “The mountains are calling and I must go…”

Go where?

Go potty?  Go shopping?  Go out for BOGO tacos?  I mean presumably, to the mountains of course, I’m not an idiot, but the lack of punctuation and subtext means you can’t really be sure that is how the phrase ends, now can you?

I moved to the mountains a week ago today.  I don’t think they were calling me or anything, but it’s difficult to say because I have been so busy the last few months I haven’t really given due diligence to checking my voicemail for any rouge mountain calls.  I’m pretty sure it was just the one job offer call I got, but in any case, I was inspired to pack up my little Honda Fit and a shit ton of spaghetti, and move to Virginia.  I don’t know why I specifically packed spaghetti, except maybe that I really like it and I thought it would make me feel comforted in Virginia.  I have of course now realized that they do sell spaghetti, of many kinds, in Virginia.

But I started a new job, which was overwhelming, and I’m couch surfing at an Air BnB, which is distressing (I really don’t like using stranger’s dishes).   I’m also going to be 30, like…really soon.  So with all of that going on, you can definitely assume that I am struggling with some anxieties.  Always the rationalist, however, I had planned for these exact anxieties, and had a regimented exercise plan laid out for myself even before I arrived.  It has mainly consisted of wiggling into my workout leggings (which is a workout in itself #amiright) and crossing town to a trail.  I mistakenly called it a “hike” recently, and it turns out that no, it’s not really a hike, because it’s “just kind of a walk through the woods”.

All the same, this “walk” was aggressive.  It certainly isn’t my first time in the woods, but I quickly found out that people aren’t kidding around when they say that Ohio is “flat” (quite fittingly, autocorrect changed “flat” to “fat”).  Despite the sweat, and feeling like a 100 year old woman trying scale Mt. Everest, I have “walked” daily.  It has been good for my brain, and my soul, and definitely my ego.

So this weekend, I had convinced myself that I was now a tuned athlete, and assumed the burning in my calves was the same thing as “runner’s high” because they hurt less if I kept going and that felt significant.  Also, I had done the 1.5 mile trail loop in the city park four times already, and I wasn’t sweating through my socks anymore.  So naturally, I had the idea that I should show off my skills on a 4 mile hike, because I am now a seasoned hiker.  But the thing is, I am not.

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Neat-ure. Isn’t that neat?

But I did some hiking, and I saw some nature.  There were trees, and then more trees, and there were, naturally, even more trees, all of which had names, all of which I have now forgotten.

I also hiked past rocks.  There were big rocks, and little rocks, and there were rocks that looked like they might fall on you and crush you to death if you sneezed at them the wrong way.  I didn’t take a picture of those rocks, because, of course, the camera flash might have caused an avalanche and I wasn’t in the mood.

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Don’t let those stone steps fool you, this is the only part of the hike that looked like a zoo.

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A butterfly playing twinsies with my shoe!

I hiked and I hiked and I hiked, and I made it up to the top where there is this really lovely waterfall.  There are stones all around that make wading easy, and the falls mist you ever so gently.  It’s the kind of place where people probably go to work on their novel, or to have picnics with the love of their life.  Aside from the signs that warn you if you swim in the pool you could die a horrible, awful death, it’s actually one of the most peaceful places I have been in a long time.

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Standing at the top of the climb, sweating, and catching my breath, I let the sprinkles of the waterfall hit my face.  I felt like I had run a marathon, and won.  I felt tired and excited and hungry all at once.  I knew how far I had come, and I knew that I could make it back, and that felt good.  And it was then, there in the mist, on the cool mossy rocks, with the whole world half a mountain below me, that I realized how to finish the phrase.

“The mountains are calling…and I must go…”

Home.

I must go home.

And eat a sandwich.

And take a nap.

Because hiking is hard, and I like sandwiches.

On Love and the Virginia Mary

“What about Kyle?”

This is anywhere from the first through third question people have asked me when I have told them I am taking a job in Virginia.  It makes sense.  Kyle is the most fantastic man to have ever loved me, soooooo… yea.  What about Kyle?  But also, can we…can we just…can we just “What about Mary?” for a minute?

Sometimes “What about Kyle?” comes from an excited place of interest, ears perked with anticipation and hope that maybe we are secretly engaged and building a house in the mountains of Virginia together.  Other times, there is a hint of concern, “What about Kyle?  Mary, did you forget about Kyle….again?”  Sometimes there are horror stories about how we might not survive the distance, or how lonely I’ll be without my man-friend.

I have spent years navigating the world of education to find a job that suits my passions and strengths.  Some of those years have been spent needlessly and/or happily putting my hopes on the back burner for others.  I have worked hard, and secured two graduate degrees, all while working over 50 hours a week.  I have struggled, and fought and studied, and argued my way to this position.  I have interviewed for countless jobs so far above, and so far below my pay grade that I’m not actually so sure what my pay grade even is anymore.  And I got it.  I got a thing that is exactly what I was working for.

So I’m moving to Virginia.

And there should be pages and pages of blogs to post about those feelings, except that I’m Mary and I’m not really interested in “exploring feelings”.  Not today anyhow.  (Stayed tuned for the binge watching of “Sex and the City” and crying into my spaghetti blog post scheduled for next weekend).

What I am interested in is drawing a firm line between what I want, and the nuclear wife machine the world expects me (and women in general) to be.  It is possible for a woman to get what she wants, while also loving someone, and supporting their career.  It is also possible for said woman, to know that a decision is positive for her future, even if it could put a strain on her relationships.  Ideally, love should be able to withstand all anyhow, right?

Women are smart enough to make decisions for themselves.  They are also smart enough to recognize that the decisions they are making could delay or eliminate the possibility of children or families.  They know that moving from city to city for their career might mean that they will struggle to keep a steady relationship.  They understand how buying a house on their own (read: without a man) “might look”.  They know all of these things, and also know they are fully capable of navigating this world on their own.

I promise you.  It’s not that we don’t give a shit about these things.  These choices are hard.  It’s just that we don’t give a shit what you think about these things for us.

Soooooo what about Mary?

Mary is going to Virginia for a fantastic job, at a great university, where she will use her brain pieces and her smart bits to make thoughtful and fulfilling decisions for her life, with the support, input, and consideration of her loving boyfriend, friends, and family.  But Mary is going to Virginia.  And the consequences of this bold and wonderful choice won’t look any different for me, than for a man making the same choices.

I also promise you that I (and Kyle) have talked through “What about Kyle?”  We’ve talked it to exhaustion, and I’m happy to say that Kyle, God love him, always ends the debate with, “But…what about Mary?”

Because, of course he does.

On Love and It Gets Better

I remember being somewhere in the middle of high school and lying under the pool table at my friend Elli’s house.  We were, of course, having the time of our lives, laughing and eating the worst pancakes I’ve ever had (sorry Elli).  We talked about college, and our various trips to D.C., France, Ireland, and Russia over cups of milk and left over barbecue potato chips.  We were the perfect image of privilege and naivety.  But somehow, in that moment, I knew to say “I don’t want this to change, I don’t want to grow up.”

It might seem strange to think that I would remember this moment so clearly, 15 years later.  But in addition to the distinctive and horrifying breakfast spread, there is was a moment that morning that burned the memory on my brain.  “I don’t want this to change,” I had said, “I don’t want to grow up.”  And Valerie looked me dead in the eye and said, “Of course you don’t Mary, you’ve always been this way.”

At the time, what solidified the memory was that I was offended.  I thought she was criticizing me or saying I was immature.  I thought I had to figure out how to enjoy the idea of growing up, of things changing, in order to fit in.  I did my best, buying things for my college dorm, and dating a guy for awhile that believed in marriage and wanted children, always remembering that moment that I felt meant I needed to catch up, to grow up, to give up.

Eventually I grew up, as all children do.  I learned to like driving, and living on my own.  I liked getting my first job, buying myself a car.  I was even overjoyed at the tiny humans that began appearing from the wombs of my friends and family, always eating off my plate and napping in my bed like little slobbery puppies.  I grew up and found out that being an adult isn’t so bad.  That is until it is.

Being an adult means suffering through hard choices for your children like surgeries, and diets, and deciding if you’re loving them too hard, or not enough.  Being an adult is expensive, and being the friend of adults choosing to be adults together forever can be even more expensive.  Being an adult means coming to term with all the shit you did, and had done to you, as a kid.  Adults have to figure out how their body works, what makes it sick, what makes it better.  Words like blood pressure, sodium, hormone levels, and ovulation begin to create a dreadful feeling liken to hearing “lima beans” as a child.  Being an adult means losing people, finding people, and trying to figure out if you really even know people.

It turns out 14 year old Mary lying under the pool table knew exactly what she was talking about.  Being an adult is terrible.  But Valerie was also right.  “I’ve always been this way.”  And I will always be “this way.”  Which means that while I may have caught up and grown up, I will never give up.  I will hold onto whatever that magic was that made pancakes and barbecue potato chips feel magical when mixed with milk, and I will insist on everyone else participating in whatever weird combination of eccentricities brings them joy.

This week hasn’t been kind to many of the adults in my Rolodex.  It certainly hasn’t been kind to me, either.  Which made me wonder if this gets easier, if this gets better, this stupid “adult” thing that everyone seemed so excited about in high school, that freaked me out and made me want to cling to that pool table in Elli’s basement.

Being a librarian’s daughter, I figured maybe the answer would be revealed through a little research, so I looked.  I looked for friends that had gone to hell and made it back.  I looked for friends that had great losses, and found great solace.  And I found them.  I found them among the adults in our lives, quietly keeping pace and staying strong despite life’s cruel humor and affinity for tragic plot twists.  I found them finding love in new places, and love in themselves.  I found them modestly sharing the successes that grew from their failures, as though they were trying to show the world “it gets better.”  Which means I can now say with certainty that the research shows, it really does get better.

So when the walls can barely keep you standing, just know it gets better.  When moving boxes, and rent prices, and balancing a new budget starts to get scary, know it gets better.  When Adele hits that sweet spot and you crumple to the floor, know it gets better when you stand up.  When your pain is strong, and your exhaustion at a max, know it gets better.  When the clock seems too fast, know that there is still time for it to get better.  When you’re out of words, out of faith, and out of fucks, know that it gets better.  I know because I did the research for you.  I know because I grew up but I refuse to give up.  I believe it will get better and I will help it get better.

I know it gets better.

And until it gets better, know that I will lie with you under a pool table and eat pancakes and barbecue chips, and talk about world travels, Cole Porter, Heath Ledger and your favorite books, anytime that you need, and it just doesn’t get better than that.

On Love and What’s Next?

In the next few months I could be moving out of state, or just moving down the road.  I could take a job in Chicago, or find something stable here in Dayton.  There is absolutely no script for whatever happens next.  This doesn’t make a lot of sense, really, because I am everyone’s favorite cruise-directing, list-making, plan-demanding, family-loving, friend-following, safe-living, creature of habit, girl.  I will travel about as far as a plane will take me, but generally only as long as it will take me back home.  I love going out and trying new things, but only if we’re going to Trolley Stop afterwards.

I told a good friend of mine today that I was moving (to nowhere in particular really), because I didn’t know where I would be in the next few months, and I wanted my house to be in the good hands of my brother.  I was surprised, and oh so terribly grateful, that the first thing she asked was “Are you okay?”  ‘Cause let’s all be honest here and take a minute to recognize that hell no, I am not okay.  It’s terrifying not to know what’s next.  It’s even more terrifying when you’re someone who has extreme anxiety when they don’t know what’s for dinner, let alone where they will be living/working/hanging out in the coming months.

But I do know that I will be okay, because I have people like her to make sure.  So since I’m so good at lists I’ll make the best one I can:
–I know that in six months I’ll be standing up while my best friend marries the love of his life, in some god damn gorgeous heels. (Note: I did not say anything about walking)
–I know that in five months I’ll be turning 30.
–I know that in four months I’ll be handed my third, and my most favorite, degree.
–I know that in three months (Mother Nature willing) I’ll be floating on the river in my kayak.
–I know that in two months I’ll be exploring Havana with my favorite muppet of a man.
–And I know that in one month I’ll be moving my pillow into the room next to Juliet’s.

Those are the only things I can say for certain.

Oh wait, that and I have a freaking amazing sister that is willing to let Bernie and me crash her home while I try to decide what to do, despite the fact that her home is already brimming with 5 people and a dog.
I have a pretty cool brother that only requires I paint his future bedroom “not pink” and will treat my house like the video-game castle it’s always dreamed of being.
I have amazing friends that offer part-time bed space, 900 square foot attics, whiskey, and “vacation” whenever I need it (I’m looking at you Val).
I have parents who, despite being terrified of their daughter moving more than an inch further from her childhood bedroom, scope out the job market and send me any and all jobs that they thinks I might like, at any and all locations (within reason).
I have a boyfriend who tells me, whenever I need to hear it, “We can do anything for a year!”
And I have a whole gaggle of people who encourage me each and every day to think about “what’s next”.

 

 

So THAT ridiculously cheesy, silly, and pointless gobble-dee-gook out of the way.  Please know that for the next month you can find me in the following places:

–In a pile of moving boxes
–In a sea of tears because I found something that is somehow tangential to living with Joshua.
–In a bottle of whiskey.
–In denial.

Also, please know that I will be keeping a running list of things that I am giving away and/or selling on a blog post.  I’m pretty much the most stylish and adorable human slash home decorator too so you know I have some good shit.

On Love and 2*16

I recently obtained some incredibly insightful advice from one of those Facebook reposts that has been copied and edited so many times it’s a little blurry and sort of looks like it came from the mid-90’s.  This is, of course, where I get all my good advice, and is maybe why my life closely resembles a victim of a robbery.  Anyway, this unidentified guru of the data tubes told me to stop apologizing for things, and start being thankful instead.  For example, when I’m 68 minutes late for dinner (and yes I counted) with two of the greatest people on earth and their charming and hilarious 16 year old, instead of saying “I’m soooooo sorry I’m late” 13-74 times during the course of the evening, I should say “Thank you for waiting for me”, “Thank you for understanding”.  Or if I make a really terribly inappropriate joke in front of one of my friend’s toddler-sized children, instead of saying “I’m sorry I’m such a twat” I should say “Thank you for loving me, even though I’m such a twat.”  Of course there is definitely a time and a place for apologizing, but in general, I definitely think I want to try this new positive way of being.  So here I go, trying my hand at showering TIME Magazine’s Worst Calendar Year in History, with a little bit of thanks.

Dear 2016,

Thank you for a perfect year with my boyfriend (man friend?  life partner?  significantly consistent human?) that literally loves every single bit of me, even when I think we had our first fight in the history of ever and then it turns out he just raised his voice a little while disagreeing and then I hid in a chair until he came and got me with a hot toddy and laughed that I was so silly.  I really am thankful that he thinks I’m hilarious instead of annoying, mostly because even though I am ridiculous, it truly is kinda hilarious sometimes and I’m glad that isn’t lost on him.  He even loves the part of me that leaves cups and wine glasses all over my bedroom.  And the part that doesn’t like being hugged in the kitchen.  And really, let’s be honest, the part that has very specific rules about hugging in general.  He’s basically just a saint, liken to Dorothy Mantooth, and thank you 2016 for making sure he still thinks I’m the bees knees.

Thank you for the marriages.  All of the marriages.  All of the glorious, wonderful, amazing marriages that I got to witness and/or be a part of this year.  And honestly, congratulations peeps.  I’m so happy for all of you in a way that wedding cards and and bird feeders, and fire extinguishers can never really show.  Also, props to life partners.  I love them so much they have surpassed the definition of people who “married in”.

Thank you for Chicago.  When I wanted to be safe, warm, entertained, and perfectly distracted from you, 2016, Chicago was there for me with it’s endless supply of things that people used to own and now want me to own, and its own little vacation spot on the corner of “used to be a really cool thrift store but then it burned down” and “we’re kinda, almost, just a little further, to Val’s house”.  Also the toast.  Thank you for the toast.

Thank you for Chris Carper.  I missed his little squishy face with the fire of a thousand suns, and if 2016 decided it can handle us together again, I accept, with the warning that this could quite actually end up being one giant hilarious, emotional, Pinterest-fail disaster after another, but I accept.

Thank you for the safe, quick, birth for my girl Lindsay and her little man, Joey [aka Lil Wheezey].  2017 didn’t want him, so you graciously decided he could come early and safely.  He’s perfect, and tiny, and poops a ton.  He just absolutely stole my heart at first wheeze.

Thank you for my new sense of feminism.  Prior to the barrage of p*ssy grabbing, and heinous prohibitive laws, and women running for president, I really was just a human with a vagina.  But I get how awesome that is now, and I have my sites set on the ceiling.  We might have some trouble breaking through in the next couple years, but damned if we don’t pick at it until it looks like god damn Waterford Crystal.

Thank you for the puzzles.  Thank you for the drinks.

Thank you for the dancing, and the forties, and so much pizza.  Thank you for the weekend trips, and 1,034 pictures of my nieces and nephews.  Thank you for all the times my friend’s have cooked me dinner, and all the times they acted surprised when I cooked them zucchini-something-or-other in return.

In the end, 2016, I think we can sum this diatribe up by simply saying thank you for all the love, all the fun, and all the food.

I’ve had a really bitchin year.  Thank you.

Murs

On Love and Puzzles

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Years ago, we were all crowded around my grandparent’s dull-gray folding table, working on this puzzle.  Maybe not this exact puzzle, of course.  This one I found at Second and Charles, a discount store that happens to sell, of all things, used puzzles.  God knows why anyone in their right mind would buy a used puzzle, except maybe a masochist that gets their kicks from incomplete puzzles.  And…well, me of course.

I remember sitting on grandpas blue leather couch, trying not to let it eat me alive.  It was one of those impossible, squishy, slippery, couches that insists on you lounging, not just on it, but almost inside of it.  It smelled like my grandpa’s cigars and there were always cookie crumbs in the folds.  It was Christmas, and my grandma’s tree was lit, with pink in all the places that traditions insist should be red.  Pink poinsettias, pink ornaments, pink garland.

I remember thinking it was a completely lame puzzle that no one would ever want to hang up in their house.  My aunts and uncles would slide by, maybe pick up a piece or two and try to make it fit.  They’d quickly get bored and move on, but my grandpa and I were relentless when it came to puzzles.  We did the border first, and then I started piecing together the horses and the parts with the letters on them.  Grandpa told me that was cheating.  I laughed and told him that he was just jealous of my puzzling prowess.  At that point, bowled over by my fancy use of alliteration and the complete adoration of his grandchildren, I imagine Grandpa conceded and split some peanut brittle with me.

It may have been the only time we actually finished a puzzle on Christmas Day.  Our family tradition of present opening was epic in those days.  Even when we started drawing names as the family grew bigger, there was still a pile of presents that dwarfed the tree and took all day to open.  We’re that family that opens our presents one at a time.  Everyone has to watch, and make approving noises before we can move onto the next present, my dad secretly cleaning up the wrapping paper we threw on the floor (per tradition).  The present opening sometimes took so long that we had to take a lunch break in between, even though we’d all had breakfast together and had been eating cookies all morning.

But somehow, this Christmas, we finished the puzzle.  We were watching “Oklahoma!” on TV, and everyone was complaining but no one was bothered enough to change the channel.  My grandma was reminded everyone that I danced to “Surry With the Fringe on Top” in my first recital and then promptly added how embarrassing it was for her when I refused to dance in what should have been my first recital.  There were bits of peanut brittle stuck to some of the puzzle pieces, and  coffee rings on the table.

It was late when we made it to the end of the puzzle and it was exhausting to discover a piece was missing.  It was right near the white door and the flower box on the left of the house.  My grandpa decided to march down to Meijer and get a new puzzle to find the missing piece, so we could finish the puzzle.  Mayhem ensued, Grandpa looking for his hat that was already on his head while my grandma told him it was an absurd waste of time since we weren’t going to frame the puzzle.  As he was leaving she yelled after him not to buy anything sweet.  After returning with a whole new puzzle (and a box of doughnuts), we spent the next half hour searching through the pieces until we found the one we needed.  Unfortunately, it didn’t quite match up and my Grandpa had to whittle it with his knife to make it fit.  It stuck out on the edges and the cardboard was torn from trying to force it into a place it didn’t belong, but we were proud all the same.

In the end, this story isn’t one of those memories that you’ve told and retold so many times your pharmacist knows it.  It’s not a particularly good story.  There isn’t a punch line or some epic ending.   I think in the end we just crumbled it up and put it back in the box like my grandma had predicted.  It wasn’t a memory worth retelling.  I wouldn’t have thought it was even a memory worth keeping.  But the minute I saw the horses, and the white doors with the flower boxes, I knew it was a memory worth repeating.

We’re going to work on this puzzle at Christmas this year.
If there is a missing piece, the doughnuts are on me.

On Love and Faith

My flight included cookies.
And pretzels.
And a Diet Coke.
Which sealed my fate as completely dumbfounded and eternally grateful for pretzels and cookies and Diet Coke and the immense amount of carry-on space that was clearly well planned for a flight this size meaning that no one had to put their carry on baggage in an area that can neither be described as carried or on the plane. These things are so rarely offered on cost cutting flights these days that it caused me to let out a contorted laugh as the stewardess handed me a packet of cookies.

I laughed the way you would laugh at a toddler’s joke which, unfortunately, is a mix of half paying attention and not being entirely sure where the comedy lies, which I imagine made the stewardess feel like her life was unrelated to her dreams. For that I am sorry, but I am not sorry about the cookies or my unbridled joy.

While this might all seem insignificant to the lady using more than 3/4 of my armrest and the slightly offended stewardess, I took this as a sign that finally, in a way that is almost unexplainable, I have made it. Of course it’s a bit weird to feel emotions such as “wildly successful” and “boastfully proud” because of some airline snacks but you feel it when you feel it and I felt it shoving pretzels into my cheeks stuffed into an airplane seat next to someone reading a romance novel and wearing Chanel No. 5.

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Four years ago I asked a woman who previously held the job that I want to have (Director of Community Engaged/Service Learning at a university) how I could make my resume look more like the kind of person she’d want to hire to replace herself (as Director of Community Engaged/Service Learning at a university). She gave me the usual line items, “varied experience”, “a more focused area of study”, “volunteering”, “life commitment”, “countless rejections”, “years of despair” etc., etc., etc., She also suggested that I work on getting published and perhaps present at a conference or two. The long and the short of it is, I chose the biggest conference I could find, with the most impressive name, and wrote a proposal and now I’m flying home from Albuquerque in my post-presentation haze and a rumpled blazer.

I’m still feeling a bit more verbose, however, and I have a two-hour layover that could either be spent at an airport bar with a glass of wine, or could be spent at an airport bar with a glass of wine and this blog post. The first option sounds like the end of a modern Virginia Woolf biopic. The second option sounds more romantic, like an Elizabeth Gilbert memoir, minus a guru, a Brazilian love affair and spaghetti. Spaghetti or no, I’m still going with Liz Gilbert. She’s kinda my guru anyway and I’m most definitely having a love affair with this glass of wine. It’s from Argentina though. That’s kinda like Brazil right?

In the longer version, I left the office of the person who previously held the job I want to have, with a list of qualifications she would want the person that would replace her to have.  I knew even before I sought her guidance that I would need a few years and probably some distinguishing marks (A gray hair? A worry line between my eyes?) before people would start to take me seriously for this kind of role. About a year or two post consultation, I was happily saving my one gray hair and I was well on my way to producing worry wrinkles on my round, freckled face. While I was waiting for more age and experience to join me, I decided to do everything and anything that I could to become perfect for the job of my dreams. This all seems to be a bit dramatic, I realize, but we’re talking about life goals and reaching for the stars so being lofty and Shakespearean and writing like the editor of a high school literary magazine seems appropriate.

When I hunkered down, and hunker I did, with my papers and planners and files in front of me trying to pinpoint the thing I knew the most about in the world of community engagement, I discovered something rather surprising about myself. I am significantly successful at building faith-based partnerships within our community.

Now, not to drag this mini novella out any longer than necessary, but it should be noted that while I spent a great deal of my childhood and adolescence following the regularly scheduled and somewhat rambunctious dictations of the Episcopalian church, my adult life has been spent generally dodging the majority of Christian conversations. Someone I love dearly once said to me, “People who introduce themselves as Christian, rarely are.” And this is how I felt about the friends, family and/or the previous boyfriends that suddenly began dusting off their bibles and joining Wednesday evening prayer groups curiously around the same time that their beer bongs were breaking and their Nintendo 64’s were starting to get fuzzy. I felt scared and abandoned and fiercely opposed to being recruited. I fought Christianity (and religion in general) like it was a disease.  In a world focused on equity, it seemed that those yelling the loudest oppositions were doing so in the name of God.  So I lumped “person of faith” and “bigot” into the same word bank, and I even half expected to find “see asshole” and “right wing” under the definition of “Christian” in the dictionary.

Words like “evangelism” and “Baptist” and “sins” quite literally put the fear of God in me. It’s just, in this instance, I actually feared God as an entity and a belief system, not fearing his wrath. So it was therefore quite a shock to my system that in my piles of projects and programs and support systems I had built around me at our small but mighty community school that I found my strength in partnership building lay in faith-based partnerships. I had somehow created an army of organizations, and the majority of my soldiers were carrying bibles.

I was confused to be experiencing these feelings of resistance towards those with strong faith, and I was ashamed to admit I had stereotyped on more than one occasion.  I was having a hard time identifying in a world that I had no interest being identified in.  Someone asked me once if it was hard being an Atheist and I angrily cried that I wasn’t one.  They retorted, and I retorted, and so on until I squelched the debate with a firm thought.  I do not practice with any identified or organized religion (unless you can count me floundering around on the floor with Stan and his knee pads in yoga class) and I am not currently seeking to participate in anything similar.  That being said, I cannot and will not identify as Atheist. To be Atheist would mean that I didn’t believe my dad was able to help ease my grandpa’s pain through prayer as he passed.  To be Atheist would mean that I don’t smile proudly when my niece sings “Amazing Grace” instead of “Stanky Leg”, knowing the roots of the magnificent and purposeful things her parents are teaching her.  To be Atheist would deny the goosebumps that formed on my arms while watching my childhood friend sing her favorite hymns during her wedding with the kind of grace and godliness that can only belong to a woman rooted in her beliefs. I have found an amazing family with the partners of faith at my school. I feel warmth when they pray for me or for the families in our community and I absolutely refuse to imply that their faith isn’t strong, honest and real.  With this realization, I then made it my mission to practice peace, acceptance and keep an open mind.

On a selfish level, I was dependent on the school’s partners of faith.  We are located in a predominantly residential area, and reaching out to big businesses is impractical if not impossible.  Our uniforms, mentors, volunteers and friends come overwhelmingly from the faith-based organizations in the area.  I’d like to say that my motives were educational at the root, but I know that partly, I just wanted everything I could grab onto for my students.  This strange little bay of “in-between” is how I ended up exactly where I am today.  I felt proud of my friends and family, but reluctant and uninterested to participate.  So I approached this exploration of faith like a less verbose Henry David Thoreau, with both immersion and seclusion simultaneously, stopping occasionally for a healthy bit of reflection.  I read a book about being Jesuit and attended the most terrifying church service I could imagine in a strongly Appalachian neighborhood.  I debated with zealots and organized prayer requests for families of multiple faiths.  I stopped for Asr and Maghrib during a home visit, gathered on Christmas Eve in the basement of a house church, watched a 2nd grader learn to read with the bible donated by her neighbor, and was thankful for the comfort and peace that same 2nd grader found in her readings when her teacher passed away unexpectedly.

My job, and what I believe will be the continual focus of my career, is to gather morally sound Samaritans in an effort to create a loving and deep rooted support system between neighbors.  I hope to spend my days taking the things we already have, and connecting them like a puzzle to recreate or replace the things that are missing.  I would be remiss, and almost was, if I ignored one of the strongest layers in a community’s foundation.  It isn’t easy telling people that you don’t practice religion and it certainly doesn’t get any easier to then ask them to support your cause.  But I learned that having a fear of faith is almost as detrimental as forcing religion.  Choice in all things is ours to relish, and choice should always be celebrated.  Faith, I have learned, should be revered as a practice.  It should be held up as proof that someone is willing to dedicate their time and their energy to following their moral compass.  It is evidence of peace, good will and a myriad of other New Testament words that I’m sure I’ll misuse.   Faith brings people together; it comforts, strengthens and fills voids. And partners of faith, friends of faith, can be your strongest advocates when you trust them enough to join you.

So when I sat, with my Diet Coke, my pretzels, my cookies and my carry-on, tugging at my rumpled blazer and being thankful for the 50+ people that wanted to know how I created partnerships  with the faith based organizations surrounding my community public school, actively knowing the rules of separation of church and state, but hoping to find a way around “no”, I knew I had made it.  Or at least made it to mile marker one.  I had beaten my strongest prejudice.  I had made my weakness my strength and even stood up to encourage others to do the same.

As a partner once told me, “The best interactions happen life on life.”  I see your life, and raise you the life of one child in a struggling school, who thanks to the hundreds of loving, kind, generous, mindful (and yes, gracious me, even faithful) lives of our friends in East Dayton, will grow up with peace.

On Love and Redacted

“In the morning I’ll be with you
But it will be a different kind
I’ll be holding all the tickets
And you’ll be owning all the fines”

-Skinny Love

365 days sounds like half of the title of a terrible book.

“365 Days to Dental Health”
“365 Days to Find God”
“365 Days to a Better You”

You know, the kinds of books you’d find in a section called “Personal Growth” where Harry Burns stares at Sally before they fall madly in love.

In reality, 365 days is just a year.  Approximately the amount of time I gave myself to get my shit together.
And here we are.
365 days later, collecting my shit into neat little piles of regular human existence so that I can throw out the trash, donate some wisdom to Goodwill and feel a bit more like I have space inside myself to give and receive love.

The past 365 days have been better than I could have predicted.  In 365 days I have traveled by train, car, bus and plane to Dallas, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, DC, Baltimore, and somewhere in Pennsylvania in the middle of the woods.  Twice.  In the past 365 days I have painted my kitchen cabinets, cross-stitched rap lyrics, drank countless beers on patios, won 1 and 1/2 games of trivia, and watched two of my best friends get married.  I have grown a garden, made out in a canoe, gone to concerts and bought an expensive bra, just for me.  In 365 days I have acquired three nephews, two roommates, a step-dog and a handful of new friends.  I have booked plane tickets, booked it out of bad dates, and read too many books.  I have fallen asleep on the couch with my nieces, fallen down a flight of stairs, and fallen in love.

365 days and I have zero (plus one) regrets.

About 229 days ago, I wrote a letter to redacted                    and never sent it.  I wrote it because I was angry and broken hearted and jealous.  I actually almost sent it a few times; when I found out where he lived, when I got his change of address form unexpectedly (6 months after he’d moved out), when I had to pay my property taxes with a credit card because he never paid me back like we had talked about, when I’d watch too many RomComs or had a bottle of wine for dinner…but something always stopped me.

Possibly it’s because it’s poorly written and emotional.  Possibly because it’s long and probably wouldn’t be taken seriously.  But most likely because it’s vindictive and mean, and while I know how to load those emotions into the chamber, I rarely find the courage to fire them at my target.  I debated a long while what to do with this letter.  Send it?  Throw it away?  Email it?  Burn it?  Bury it?  Staple it to a flaming bag of shit and ding dong ditch him?  I couldn’t decide, because frankly I was terrified of it.

Then about a month ago, someone asked me why I never wrote about “personal things” on my blog.
“You’re a fucking ass.” I told them.  (Which isn’t true, but let’s pretend it sounded like that to set the stage.)
They then proceeded to tell me that it is, in fact, true.  “You write about how you feel, and you write about what makes life funny, but you never just tell the truth,” they told me.

So after thinking, and drinking, and walking, and thinking I decided to tell the truth.
And send the letter.
At the same time.

Fair warning, if you’d rather not see me in that light, if you’d rather imagine me kind and sweet, walking softly with a big stick, then you should stop here.  Because the only thing I regret is not saying the things that should have been said, and I didn’t say those things because I never wanted to regret pushing him away.  I never wanted to regret being callous.  But to hell with regrets? Right?

Sometime in March, 2015

Dear redacted      ,

I should preface this with the fact that I know it’s pretty normal for me to write you long emails and texts with lots of feels as I try to wrap my mind around something we aren’t talking about.  And it’s pretty normal for you to never write me back, so I understand that this letter will probably be read and tucked away under a pile of things you mean to do/read/change.  I also understand that after this, there might not be anything left to write again anyway.
I understand that I can say a million words, but it won’t change a thing.
We are who we are.
I write, you wander.

Before you read on, I need you to know that I am fine.  I read, I sleep, I function.  It turns out I’m just fine on my own.  I would almost say, “I don’t know what I was even afraid of”, except that I do know.  It’s the realization that it’s not that you didn’t want to spend the rest of your life with someone, it’s that you didn’t want to spend the rest of your life with me.  Which of course, creates the elusive question, what’s wrong with me?

I told you once in an email, “I respect your honesty that you cannot give me what I need.  But it takes two people to fight and I am almost out of dignity.  Without my dignity I don’t know what I am fighting for.  I’m sorry.”
You told me you couldn’t promise me anything.
I told you I would love you anyway.
You told me you couldn’t promise the same.
I told you I would love you anyway.
And so we went, back and forth until  it came to a head, me standing awkwardly with just a fraction of dignity left, and you with a hickey from a stripper on your neck because, as you so eloquently put it, “… sometimes being well fed and happy is enough.  But sometimes it isn’t.  Sometimes I find other things to distract me, and sometimes those other things aren’t you.  Sometimes those things hurt you.”

So why wasn’t I enough?  What’s wrong with me?

I went looking for the answer.  I looked back at all the things I had saved.  Emails, texts, voicemails, letters, cards.  Weirdly watching myself grow from a 21 year old girl to an adult with a job and a car payment, through fights and apologies, confessions and promises until I found my answer.  Through everything, through the whole mess, I never said anything.
Well, not anything of substance anyway.

When we broke up, when you cheated on me, when you quit your job, when you quit school, when you quit being an adult.  When you told me you were just “lost”, when you lied to me, when you stumbled home smelling of liquor, when you left me alone at home in a panic, when you gave up, when you ignored me, when you took the long way home with a girl that wasn’t me…I never said anything.  I maybe told you that I was hurt, or cautioned you that I wouldn’t wait forever, but I never told you what I should have.

I never told you that I think you’re a fucking idiot.

I never told you to be a god damn man and keep your god damn pants on for the woman who loves you.  I never threatened to leave.  I never looked for revenge.  I never told you that I don’t think anyone will ever treat you with the same amount of respect and consideration that I did.  I never told you that out in the big world you can’t wait to be a part of are a bunch of trashy, bitchy women, waiting to tell you to be home by 9 who will never understand why you would want to go to Guatemala and farm coffee, or start a cooperative in an abandoned lot.  Women who expect rings on their fingers, and a short leash around your neck and a promise of children with a father home on Sunday nights.  I never told you that I was the best thing you could possibly dream of getting.  And I never told you that you are a fucking idiot for giving it up.

In a way, I think I did you an injustice.  I let you believe that women will love you when you treat them as an option.

I wanted so badly to believe that you leaving me was part of something bigger than us.  I wanted to believe that you leaving me actually was the hardest thing you ever had to do, not just the most inconvenient.  I wanted to think that it wasn’t just me, that I was perfect but you were destined for more important things than simply loving a girl in Ohio.  I clung to the idea that you leaving was about more than the fact that I came from a family with 401ks, or that I couldn’t talk for hours with you about the way it feels to take redacted     or that I was redacted                                    and you were redacted                                                        .

I wanted to think that you leaving was part of this great big thing that would make you breaking my heart and tearing apart our families worth it.  That you leaving would create a spark in the universe that would change the course of someone, or a lot of someones, lives.

I wanted to believe that in the end we wouldn’t just be a guy and a girl who shared a home for 5 years.
That I wouldn’t just be the girl that sometimes visits redacte and you wouldn’t just be that ex that owes me money.  But I’m having a hard time seeing that anymore.  I’m having a hard time seeing anything but a guy scared to leave and a girl too scared to let him.

And that, it turns out, is what was wrong with me.  No matter what you did I allowed you to continue to pull and cut and twist our lives in any direction you wanted.  I listened to you tell me that you were weak, lost, confused.  I arranged my afternoons, my paycheck, my vacations around what I thought would make you happy.  I held you up on a pedestal when you quit your job to go to school.  I took in, with great patience, that you had feelings for someone else.  I allowed you to confide in me that it scared you that you might need more than me.  I accepted your explanation of your return to restaurant life as a sacrifice for your future, for me, your mother and for your daughter.  I did all these things as an act of faith, in an attempt to show you how to create your own happiness.  In an attempt to show you how magnificent sharing a life could be.

In the end, regardless of what I did, or didn’t show you, I myself did learn one thing: To accept what you’ve been trying to tell me all along.  What’s hidden in all those “I’ll be late tonight” texts and un-returned emails.  It’s in the various excuses for leaving and lying; there are so many people in this world who want me more than you do.
And you knew that.
All along.
You knew since we were in Mexico.  You knew when I bought the house and we argued about the color of the fireplace mantle and you apologized and promised to be the greatest man and father.  You knew when I brought home Bernie.  You knew when we argued about you quitting school.  You knew when I offered to help support you so you didn’t have to work at a restaurant.  You knew when you wouldn’t let me bake your daughter a birthday cake.  You even knew when you chose to text the other woman in your life on the night that you had decided would be our last night together.

In the end, you left life with me to keep peddling through the same bullshit you’ve always been in, but without me.  Because when you can’t see past your own disillusionment and unhappiness, having Mary isn’t worth the reciprocation it would take to make her happy too.  Especially when a warm body will stroke your ego just fine.  So of course I wasn’t surprised when, redacted      , the great lone wander with lofty aspirations of “figuring himself out”, found someone new to spend his free time with.  Someone new to distract him from the great things he is going to do with his life.  Someone new to hide behind.  What’s even better is that with this new life you don’t have the the guilt of my roof over your mother, my arms around your daughter, my dreams invested in yours…you get to have your cake and continue to hide from the shit that is “preventing you” from realizing your dreams too.  You get to wallow in the cards you were dealt without the guilt of 5 years weighing down on you and your uncertainty.

I’m rarely mean, or callous…at least I try not to be, but I didn’t hold on so long, circling around your dreams to watch them go down the drain without saying a word.  I have bit my tongue for so long, possibly because I thought you might recognize how compliant I was with your non-commitment and that some how my compliance would make you love me.
I see now how impractical that was.

To look back on all of this, and know that in the end all you really wanted was to shed responsibility, is hard.  And although I am humiliated, I do not regret it, the time I spent.  I refuse to regret such a large portion of my life, but I have learned from it.
And I have learned, redacted           , that you are a fucking idiot.  

You once said that you couldn’t bear to let me love you more, and now I realize that that wasn’t some grand romantic statement.  It was just simply another version of you telling me you knew.  You knew that you phone was worth more to you than me.  You knew that a woman who loved your family wasn’t as exciting as leaning over a couple beers at the bar with a girl from a different part of town.  You knew that dreaming about a life you could have, was better than enjoying then life you had.
You knew that even if you got your shit together and finally made it to Guatemala, that you didn’t want me to go with you.  You knew that there were so many people in the world who want me more than you.

I let you think women will love you because you’re smart and different, and never taught you that men that are smart, and different, are respectful to women.

I’m at a precipice, now, redacted      .  One direction is the world that I created in order to retain value in the time I spent with you– the world in which you become something bigger than you were ever able to be with me.  A revolutionary, a father, a man who leads with his heart and his great big brain.  A man who I will tell people with great pride and sentimentality “I spent some of the best years of my life with that man.”

The other is a world in which I accept with great humiliation and sadness that there isn’t a man who wants to be a part of something bigger, there is just a man.

You get to decide the rest of your life, redacted  .  And for a short moment, with excitement and pride, I watched you relish that, taking care of the blessings that were handed to you.  You made a huge mistake letting that girl, redacted , a girl with the right words and the wrong home address, climb into your car and break the foundation of what you were trying to create for yourself.
You made another mistake not leaving me then.
And an even bigger mistake leaving me now.

You should really get your shit together before you drag more people through your mess.
You’re better than that.
I wouldn’t have tried so hard to make you love me if you weren’t.

With no regrets,

Mary

*Disclaimer: Red wine makes me curse like a sailor, apparently.  Or it’s the Ludacris I’m listening to while I’m writing.  Either way, I didn’t write this as a bedtime story, if you catch my drift.

In the past year I’ve been collecting broken hearts like playing cards, though to be honest I don’t know where that saying comes from because I don’t know anyone (besides my grandparents) who have ever had an abundance of playing cards.  I think the saying should be “collecting _____ like plastic bags from Kroger” or “collecting _____ like those stupid key ring things that are supposed to hold a keychain but sometimes you get them when your oil is changed or you add a responsibility at work until you have fifteen different key rings each holding an individual key which you should consolidate but you just had your nails done and you sure don’t want to screw up that $20 splurge on a stupid key which you probably will never use anyway because you’ve never actually needed to get into the boiler room at work and you can’t think of a reason that anyone on this green earth would send you of all people into the boiler room and come to think of it, you don’t even know what a boiler room is for!  What are we boiling anyway and why do we need a whole room for it?  Should we be concerned?”, but that’s a little long so I guess “like playing cards” seems to be more energy efficient even if it’s not entirely relatable.

In any case, I have a plethora of broken hearts in my immediate reach.  I could write novels about the peculiar circumstances and unbalanced reasonings surrounding this mass exodus we (as a generation) seem to be experiencing away from monogamy and happy hand-holding, but it seems silly to spend all that energy without a book deal.  Also, statistically, based on the number of weddings I attended this summer, I think my data is skewed and heartbreak sings louder than love, or some shit.  This whole damn mess started small, with my own of course, and then ballooned into a parade of my friends standing awkwardly with their belongings in cardboard boxes outside of their homes and wondering why they didn’t put their names in their books.  It all happened so quickly, in fact, that by the time Fall rolled around, everyone was so overwhelmed with melancholy that we just sort of started piling up on abandoned corners and in bars, some even spilling into the unoccupied bedrooms at my house with their extra copies of “When Harry Met Sally” and the toilet paper and ketchup bottles stolen while moving out, because what better way to say “fuck you” to your ex than not leaving behind any toilet paper or condiments.

From what I can gather, humans reach a certain age where they feel the need to shit or get off the pot.  I could give you a millions reasons and 463 pages on the various excuses I’ve heard for someone leaving someone else, but mostly it can be boiled down to simply feeling the pressure to get off the pot (Maybe we should be boiling down breakup speeches in boiler rooms?  Seems much more useful than whatever we are really doing in there.)  But honestly, at this juncture I’ve spent so much time huddled over untouched pizza trying to decipher conversations that occurred between sobbing and sweater packing that I’m practically an expert on the subject and I’ve come to the conclusion that the thesis statement of all breakups sounds something like, “Blah blah blah…bullshit, bullshit.”  I’m not saying that every ex of every friend is a horrible human or, like, some weird younger version of Alan Rickman in “Love Actually” or anything, but generally speaking, no one has given a monologue worth re-reading or anything.  In general, it just simply seems that we have all simultaneously reached an age where it becomes painfully and uncomfortably acceptable to say “I just…love me more than you” or whatever bull cocky Samantha feeds Smith at the end of the first “Sex and the City” movie.  (My pop-culture references have taken an obvious and beautiful beating from all this heart mending, though honestly, there hasn’t been nearly enough Meg Ryan.  We need to fix that.)

Living with three other fully functioning adults going through similar relationship metamorphoses, I’ve found that 20 and 30 something breakups are relatively cyclical.  I guess because we have all “been there, done that” before, but also generally didn’t think we’d ever have to “go there, do that” again.  In any case, the typical symptoms of heartbreak according to my research and cross-referenced on WebMD are as follows:

Step One: It’s no one’s fault, we’re all adults here and this makes sense though I guess really I’m still completely blindsided and ….

Step Two: WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING AND HOW AM I EVER GOING TO BREATHE/EAT/MOVE FROM THIS BED THAT YOU SO CONVENIENTLY HAVE LAID ME DOWN IN WHILE IM SOBBING INTO MY HOT TODDY?  THANK YOU FOR BEING SUCH A GREAT FRIEND!!!!  IT’S JUST….I AM SUCH A NICE PERSON!  RIGHT?  AM I A NICE PERSON?  I MEAN, I DID EVERYTHING I COULD DO!  WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?  WHHHHHHY?

Step Three: I’m going to be fine, I’m going to be fine, I’m going to be fiiiiiiiiiiiine. (Coupled with aerobics, baking and strange hobbies involving beads, yarn and/or backpacking.)

Step Four: Well THAT was ridiculous…let’s pretend that never happened!

Step Five: Okay, well we clearly are all aware of the hot mess train that just rode through town, so instead of ignoring it, this is how I’m going to make sure I never feel that way ever again…

The hormone changes in this house are palpable and delightful, and generally mean that there is always ice-cream and whiskey at the ready so no one is complaining.  We have a bed in the living room, because with so many people and so many belongings in one space, there isn’t room for all of our coffee mugs, let alone our mattresses.  We cook a lot, and eat very little of it.  We sometimes watch movies that can only be classified as emotional cutting, and other times watch “The Birdcage” on repeat because breakups pretty much feel exactly like Robin Williams telling you you have to pretend to be Uncle Albert instead of “mom” for the weekend and not being properly prepared to calmly butter toast through such a strong identity crisis.

My favorite part of living in The Heartbreak Hotel, aside from the ice-cream and whiskey and being the closest thing to personally experiencing an episode of “Friends”, is that all of a sudden your crazy seems…normal.  It’s magnificent to be able to completely support someone acting like a combination of a twelve year old and a drugged out divorcee, while they in return are gently (and without judgement) reminding you that you haven’t showered in three days and you’re really not being emotionally available to your lovely new boyfriend.  It’s just a carousel of one romantically fucked friend following another, toasting to bitter one-liners from Maggie Smith and eating pizza crusts.  And while this might sound like a bad Drew Barrymore movie, it really is beautiful, you see, because there there is nothing like watching a broken and emotionally exhausted friend come to life like a tiny little Broken-hearted Buddha, while you, the supposedly well-adjusted one, are cocooned in a heated blanket watching football and having coffee for lunch because you’ve decided that today is too hard.  “Don’t forget that losing your wallet temporarily in your coat pocket, while stressful and definitely a hard thing to deal with, is not necessarily a reason to disappear for the weekend,” your Buddha says to you while pulling on real pants for the first time in weeks.  Or the ever helpful, “While, I too want to eliminate everyone who doesn’t properly pronounce the word “picture” from the planet, perhaps screaming at the neighbor’s dog while throwing Coke cans at their empty swimming pool and sobbing is a sign that you’re under more pressure than you realize this week.”  And of course the frequently necessary and ever appreciated, “Have you eaten anything besides cookies and wine today?  No?  Well how about more cookies then.”

In the end, all you really need is someone that understands that every once and awhile everything falls apart, but “the important thing is not to go to pieces when that happens”, and you’re pretty lucky when all those someones are all camped-out together in your living room.

“So what? The important thing to remember is not to go to pieces when that happens. You have to react like a man, calmly. You have to say to yourself, “Albert, you pierced the toast, so what? It’s not the end of your life.” –Armand, “The Birdcage”