I’m romantic, ho

Many of you are familiar with my complete aversion to online dating – It gives me the screaming heebie jeebies. Nevertheless, having utterly failed to meet any single people who seemed like Dating Material, I decided to enter that particular fray One. More. Time.

Once more unto the breach…

[Incidentally, if you haven’t seen Brannagh’s “Henry V,” fucking do it. Possibly the best Shakespeare film ever.]

There was an approximately zero percent chance I would ever give OkCupid another go – that site is a good idea that turned into a complete shitshow. It’s a nightmare for all genders, an onslaught of both information and assholes. The whole thing is awful. When I first moved out here, I got onto OKC (as the hep cats call it) for about a minute and a half in the hopes of meeting people to ride with or possibly date. Silly, silly me.

I met with one guy as a potential riding buddy (nooooo dating potential at all there,) but he was only interested in dating. That, and shoving information about every detail of his (actually really shitty) old WRX at me. Fine, there’s the door. No, really – go away. No, it’s not the ratty car – it’s your ratty personality. Fuck. Off. Off you shall fuck!

I met a second guy, who is actually wonderful, but who is also 20 years my junior and a fair distance away. He’s perfect for someone, but not for me – we still chat online, and have hung out a couple of times platonically. He’s a fucking phenomenal author, incredibly woke, and just generally super cool. I’ll put that one into the “win” column in terms of meeting someone interesting, even though dating isn’t an option.

A couple of women I know here in San Diego recommended Bumble, an app driven entirely by women — only women can initiate a conversation if both people indicate interest. This cuts down on the volume of dick pics and random assholes by orders of magnitude. The profiles have only a tiny amount of space to try to catch someone’s eye, which has its pros and cons.

However.

I am profoundly outclassed. The devs apparently front-load a new user’s experience with the wealthiest, most classically beautiful people in the fucking world. I joked on Facebook the other day that this is how I typically compare with what seemed to be the “average” Bumble user:

Their profile: “CEO of $THING, singlehandedly funded $PHILANTHROPIC-THING. Clean-eating. Passionate and fun. Here is a photo of me holding a perfect Crow Pose on my yacht in Tahiti – notice my 72 abs. President Obama came to me for advice. Fit, athletic, motivated, spiritual, deep thinker. Love dogs. Invented powdered sugar. I organically grow my own cars. Award-winning National Geographic photographer. Working on a cure for Alzheimer’s. Here’s another photo of me being genuinely happy and quirky in the company of many beautiful people. Work out 18 days a week. Seeking a partner with all these same attributes and more. Ego plus quam perfectum, et ego in æternum vive.”

What I would have to say to such a person: “So… I went to Mexico on my motorcycle once. I’m really bad at yoga, but I do like powdered sugar. I make terrible financial decisions, and I can’t take a good photo to save my life – Chandler Syndrome, ha ha. Wait, you never watched ‘Friends?’ You found it trite and boring? Ok, ok. Anyhow, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. What’s that? Yes, I am 47 years old. What’s that face about? I listen to NPR… I stand up for other people, and I … sorry, I got distracted thinking about powdered sugar. Oh hey, you speak French!!

Par example:

Hi Doctor – 

space cadet nerd atheist,,, awkward dull chubby maybe fun numbers go here… born and raised, um, literally in the middle of a cornfield… traveled also. I traveled to the store just this afternoon, in fact, and also went to the bank. Obviously, I’m going to need a nap after all of that activity. I do not like children. @jupiter (also a planet!) semi-adventurer,like the idea of being an activist but bad at it,animal lover too! I also love spaces after punctuation, so I have to stop that nonsense immediately. Luv 2eat pudding say things breathe sleep watch shows while on edibles… and here I am, talking to you and seeing! Hey, by the way, I have this growth thing right on the front of my face – what might that be? It’s about 6 inches in diameter and smells terrible. OK THANKS HAVE A NICE DAY HEY TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PENIS.

(The penis thing comes in a bit later.)

Those who didn’t sound like completely pretentious tools seemed to be far too conventionally attractive and down to Earth to even give me a second glance (not that I would want them to:)

Hi David –

Jesus fuck, are those your actual arms, or did you have bear arms surgically grafted onto your body? I, too, know some words. Here are some now:

mittens
poodle
swim trunks (is that too suggestive?)
stoichiometry (I IZ SMARTS!)
egg
faucet

I’ve heard people say that I am super awkward and they do tend to stare when I dance, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. But who knows, maybe they were just… no, they were right, I’m a terrible dancer. I have made a series of unfortunate financial and career choices, so I will be working literally until the day I die. WRITE ME BACK OK THANKS BYE.

Hi James, 54!

Born in the middle of nowhere. Lived elsewhere for quite a few years. Ran my own business for 6 years and then gave it away for free to my best friends back home. I, too, am Single, though not really into the sportsball – but I fucking love watching hockey and MMA. Couldn’t tell you a damn thing about who’s competing these days, mind you, because who has that kind of time? Manhattan is terrible. Uniformly. Oh wait, we’re just saying words now! This seems to be a popular pastime on Bumble. Bees, Doritos, tabletop, roof tiles, appetizer! Looking for… you know what? Never mind. You are not at all what I’m after.

Many of these ostensibly “perfect” men and women put literally nothing in their profiles – they rely solely upon their (admittedly fantastic, yet wholly unappealing to me) photos to sell themselves. Who reaches out to someone like this, knowing literally nothing about him?

I’ll show you who – Tamara, who relies on a similar tactic, and is…. oh. Oh my…

Um. Gawrsh.

Gosh, Tamara –

Blush. Stumble. Um. So, live around here often?

A few have interesting profiles, but what the hell would I say to someone like this?

Hi Alexandre –

I’m Erin (nope, just plain ol’ E-r-i-n.) While I have never danced on a kitchen, per se, I have danced in a kitchen – and I broke three toes doing it because there was a fucking table in the middle of the floor. I, too, enjoy eating delicious things in places (it looks like you enjoy seeing lists of places, so here you go: City, country, plains, ocean floor, that bench by the sell-your-plasma lab.) I most definitely cannot afford to purchase an airline ticket to anywhere on the spur of the moment “just cuz,” unless that ticket was to, like, Bakersfield, and who the hell wants to go there at all, let alone pay for the displeasure? I have only one layer to my personality. I WILL NEVER OPEN TO ANYONE MY HEART IS DEAD INSIDE. 

Hi Ken –

DON’T WORRY ABOUT WASTING MY TIME, I DO A GREAT JOB OF THAT ALL ON MY OWN. 🙂 Deal breakers: People who can’t punctuate or spell properly, Labradoodle owners (Labradoodle is a ridiculous word, right? Fuck those dogs!! Figuratively, I mean, obviously.) (j/k – I love dogs, all of them.) POT IS A DRUG?!?!!?!? Fucking hell, thank goodness you were here to elucidate me on that one. Phew. I am lighting all of my weed on fire (though I admit it will be in very small amounts at one time.) I am very kind, and I am also active – just now, I, in fact, walked downstairs to the mailbox. I mean… I used the elevator, but there was movement involved both before and after that. Being transparent must be rather difficult! Due to your disability, I assume I can’t see you in your photo above, and that you are in between the two guys on the left. Have you ever thought about wearing clothes so you could be seen by other people? Just a thought. You do you! I’m totally not trying to smother or change you right now, ha ha ha. You’re still using “I’m” when listing things like “outdoors” (I am indoors myself,) “live music” (maybe this explains why you are transparent – you are music, not a person?) and so on. You’re touching 6′ of what? That sounds a little risque. I can totally solve the math problem at the end!!! If you just need one, subtract 2 from 3, and there you! Magic! Lastly, I notice you mention “fit” in your description. I still fit into most of my clothes – does that count? OK THANKS HAVE A NICE DAY.

After pummeling my self-esteem into the ground, the next day they began to show me people of a slightly different caliber: Those covered in prison tatts. Seriously, teardrops, the whole nine yards. Everyone makes mistakes, and being a felon doesn’t necessarily immediately disqualify someone, but we went from literal millionaires to felons in a heartbeat.

My friends encouraged me to “just get out there!” so I sent a few half-hearted introductions, and holy shit… well, I’ll just let you see for yourselves here in a moment.

On the plus side, just as I was getting ready to give up, I met Someone Awesome. Totally super cool. We went out the next day (which was last night,) and had a great time. We’re having dinner tonight, too. So, thank you, Bumble, after all. You rocked it just as I was about to bid you adieu.

Without further ado, behold – I’m probably going to keep the app around purely for the comedic value. I’ll start you out with the whinging I did on Facebook, and select helpful answers:

Some actual conversations with people I matched with largely no hope of having anything in common – this is where the penis thing comes into play:

#UnMatch

#UnMatch

This one… this one realllllllly made me question what the hell I was doing on the app:

No, wait! David! Come back! I llllllllooooooovvvvvve youuuuuuuuuuuuu – I take it all back, Baby! How could I possibly resist your charms?!?!?!

Sigh. #UnMatch

This poor guy had the app cut him off at a truly unfortunate place, and his prize is winning the title of this blog post:

I sent him a quick note letting him know he might want to proofread his profile.

I don’t even know what to say about this one:

Pros:

  • I know what his bangs look like UP CLOSE.
  • He’s either terribly honest or a halfway-decent troll

Cons:

  • Well. I mean… yeah.

Bumble can be used to meet same-sex partners, too. I picked both genders, even though the likelihood of meeting an interesting girl would be far lower than a dude. Of the approximately 1839 women the app showed me, exactly 3 were interested in women. The rest apparently tapped the wrong button. They were nearly all, however, astonishingly beautiful, incredibly successful, and generally superior to me in every quantifiable way. Whee!

Bumble can also be used to meet…. clowns.

Some people do a fairly decent job of self-description, and then go one bridge too far:

It’s not easy for the dudes, either, I’m sure. More than a few said things like, “I’m X’Y” tall, because apparently that matters a lot here,” and some seem to have just Given Up Entirely:


Hi Mark!

I did actually read that, but I’m honestly more alarmed by your apparent state of entanglement with what I can only assume is some sort of human fishing rig.  Do you require assistance? Please send exact geographic coordinates, approximate speed, heading, bearing, and color of attire, and I’ll see what I can do to help. 

DAVID –

WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING TO THAT POOR ALIEN DOG?!?! You are squeezing her so hard with your … anaconda arms… that she’s about to explode, eyes-first. Stop it. Also, RE: This photo:

I am really sorry you got kicked in the nuts so hard, or that you see someone eating the sandwich you left in the fridge for lunch.

Nurse Cody – 

Fucking hell, you can sure jump high. Not to brag, but I, myself, can jump almost three full inches into the air, unaided. So, did you ever find your way out of the desert? 

Some images defy explanation. Others can be explained by the next image in the series:

Dear Marty –

The hell are you doing to that tiny car? Oh – you are going to crush it into the ball we see in the next photo. Got it.

Like many other men here in Bumble World, you seem to have an interest in fitness and…. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS, MARTY?!!?

Marty, I don’t even know what to say anymore. I was just starting to feel safe with you, despite your car-crushing robot arms, and then you go and pull this shit? Don’t get me wrong – I, too, watched “Magnum, PI” a thousand years ago. HOWEVER. I do not recall Tom Selleck running around in junk-hugging … Speedo… short… things. I’m not sure I can get past this, even though things were going so well between us (well, between your previous photos and me, I should say.) Is there anything you can say in your defense?

Dawwwwwwww. Marty, I’ve never seen this side of you! You’re so fucking sweet, despite your egregious random apostrophe for no reason. Wait, though – you’re a bloody attorney and you can’t figure out an apostrophe? What kind of law do you practice, anyhow? And who are you to make demands on me already, like “court your significant other?” I don’t even know who she is – would I like her? You know me so well, Marty… I mean, there was the whole Porn ‘Stash Selleck Thing awhile ago, but we’re past that, right? This is a whole photo later – entire seconds have passed now. Ohhh no…. country music. And here I was already planning a surprise grammar class for you to improve your skills and to therefore be a more suitable mate for me. Goodbye forever, Marty – it just was never meant to be. Shhh now, no tears.

Hi Michael –

We are so ill-matched, but I just wanted to warn you that your shirt seems to have begun annexing the table next to you. Watch out – who knows where it will strike next.

WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU POINTING AT, DAVE, 52?! Do you realize we, your audience, cannot see it? Oh wait, is this some kind of bad Saturday Night Fever parody?

Robert –

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but that photo is fucking terrible. I mean, unless you are really proud of auditioning for the voice of Phlegm in an upcoming Nyquil commercial, you really might want to pick something else here. You’re 63, man – time could be short. 

Dear Kamran, 

I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!?

Lastly, I leave you with… um…Robert.

Robert –

I am having tremendous difficulty reconciling these two images. You are either the second coming of George Peppard or you are in talks to act/direct/write/exec-produce/produce “Sheldon! The Retirement Years.” We get it, you’re versatile!  Either way, I’m not sure if you realize this, but Bumble isn’t a place to get acting gigs.

I feel like this guy hit “match” accidentally on my profile. Call me utterly shallow and judgmental about appearances, but I can’t imagine ever being comfortable in his presence with my lumpy self, even though he said, “good things come in all shapes and colors, right?” You look nice, Scott – best of luck to you, bud. And can we just talk for a minute about your fucking obliques? SHIT, SON.

 

So, I have once again discovered that online dating is fatiguing. Exhausting. Depressing. Horrible in every conceivable way.

I am spent.

And yet… I did find someone super flippin’ cool. 🙂 Counting no chickens, but it’s nice.

"I just kept swiping until I found the nerd girl!"

“I just kept swiping until I found the nerd girl!”

 

Dear Daywalkers

Dear Daywalkers,

I apologize.
I apologize for my entire species of second- and third-shift workers. I know it must be irritating to hear the scrape of my snow shovel going across the sidewalks at 2am in the morning, when you are long abed, snuggled under your covers and sound asleep.
Always mindful of your slumber, I try to be as silent as possible while removing the foot and a half of snow from the sidewalks and driveway. I am not always successful, however, and a needle of guilt slinks into my heart. “Shit; I’m going to wake someone up.”
Then it occurs to me – my schedule, while less populated, is no less valid than yours.
Do you enjoy having 24-hour tech support? Doctors and nurses in the hospitals in the middle of the night? Grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants open whenever you need them?
Then thank us, the off-schedule night creepers. We’re here for you.
We are what makes those things possible.
So as I labor in the dark, snow and wind blowing into my eyes, try not to be angry with me. Perhaps notice I also shoveled your walk as best and as quietly as I could. When you awaken and leave for work, perhaps don’t slam the car door quite so loudly, or yell to someone still in the house, for those are my hours of rest.
I don’t expect you to think of this, for why would you; I am just the weirdo neighbor girl who comes and goes at odd hours, and has friends over until nearly dawn. Surely, this must be of my own doing.
Some of us work these shifts by choice; others are relegated here because they have no say.
But we make the night world run. Your infrastructure is cared for night and day because of people like me and my friends. Your roads are plowed, your city streets patrolled, your packages transported. You rely upon us, even though you may not know it.
We forgive you your impatience with us, if it exists; we do.  We understand. Even though your world forgets us – banks, educational institutions, business offices – we’ll be here.

Tornado

Since the first time I saw “The Wizard of Oz,” when I was but a wee lass, I have had fascinating nightmares about tornadoes.

Then, in college, I became one.

I didn’t realize until someone whom I greatly respected (and somewhat feared) told me I was a catalyst as we were demolishing his garage. That I made otherwise slow or unlikely things occur by my mere presence and influence.

It was a profound statement that stopped me in my tracks.

He was right, of course – I do.

Later that day, the garage toppled over on his thigh, trapping him. In a fit of panic, I picked up the garage and extricated him. Adrenaline is fun.

Since that time in my mid-twenties, I’ve rolled his words around in my head often, especially when I have stampeded, bull-in-a-china-shop style, through someone’s life and when that stampede has had Consequences for the other person.

Most recently, I’ve been thinking about having been a ravaging force in Mike’s life. Did any good come to him from our relationship, or was he just swept up in my current and dragged along until I released him from my grasp? Did he learn any valuable lessons (other than, “well, don’t marry her again?”) Was the net balance positive or negative? Was it worth it for him?

I’m fairly certain I don’t like the answers those questions.

And yet, the vortex must be fed. At times, with my own blood – usually with others’, sucking the life essences in, violently thrashing them around, and then flinging them away.

The nightmares, incidentally, continue. We can conjure all manner of symbolism for the tornadoes which rumble on the horizon and inevitably come for me: Change, chaos, the unknown, the uncontrollable, time, fear… you name it and I can mold it to fit.

It doesn’t really matter. What matters is whether I can overcome its destructive forces. Thus far:

Forces: ~ 4,786
Me: 3

To be entirely honest, though… I take some measure of pride in my catalytic nature. After all, I make shit happen. Quite often, that shit needs to get done.

I rather enjoy that part.

A bit of temperance would be nice. Some sort of conscious restraint, so as to not throw casual passers-by (or worse, people I truly care about) under my own personal bus.

In the meantime, stuff will get done, blood will spill, I will spin.

Barefooted

These feet are not the soft, well-groomed appendages of a delicate flower. My feet have walked the earth for decades, these callouses testament to the miles, the corn fields, the beaches, the cities.

Ridged toenails from bruises and slights, crooked toes from cruel ballet shoes, scars from punctures, stubbly hair.

I walk barefoot whenever I am able – skin to earth.

The dirt, the moisture, seeps into cracks and pores – picked up and carried on to be brushed or rinsed off elsewhere, another step on the journey.

Each stone on the path touched, experienced – some smooth and round, others jagged, hungry.

I leave cells, impressions, blood, as I move.

We were all born amongst the stars – what staggering odds to leave remnants of my erstwhile celestial self right here, as this form, in this place.

I glimpsed the starlight girl for a few moments once, long ago, listening to His Holiness offer his wisdom. His presence flowed across the rows of other eager souls, reached into my heart, opened a floodgate of vision. Those moments will remain seared in my heart eternally, for I do not honor the places from whence I have come.

But I step.

I step.

Barefooted, I walk.

 

Love; Changes.

On Tuesday, I filed divorce papers. A week prior, my husband posted a very eloquent note on Facebook; it was poignant, fair, and painful to read. I read it several times, astounded at his newfound writing talent, heartbroken for causing him so much pain, but glad to see him reaching out for help from his friends, who of course responded warmly and generously.

He wrote about how, when he took off his wedding band, the skin underneath it cracked and bled, and used this as an analogy for how our marriage had protected him from various aspects of life as the ring had protected his finger from the elements. He’s working to overcome those obstacles, and I see him posting about going out with friends and socializing more, which heartens me. I am sad not to be a part of it, and I miss him, but these are the choices I have made.

Reading his post got me thinking about writing down my own thoughts, as I’ve mostly just been processing things subconsciously, and answering questions when I get them as honestly as I could.

I used to be a writer. I stifled those processes somewhere in the last few years.

It pains me to see how much Mike is suffering. It pains me to deliberately avoid talking to him, lest I accidentally tear open a fragile wound. However, as much as I love him (and I do love him,) I know we are not going to be happy together. We will both grow and move on, and I hope at some point he’ll be able to talk to me again. I am certain he’ll find someone who makes him deliriously happy, rather than settling for someone he can put up with. At the very least, he won’t be dragged down by our relationship.

Love, tragically, does not conquer all – at least not in and of itself. With Love there must come Work. Effort. A lack of Apathy.

If Apathy prevails for too long, the hole to climb out of becomes deeper and deeper, very very gradually. Once in awhile, we stopped and noticed the equivalent of, “Wow, we’re in a pretty deep hole here; we should probably do something about that.”

And didn’t.

It wasn’t hellish, it wasn’t horrible, it wasn’t “bad.” It was mostly comfortable. So, we let it continue.

This went on until I realized I could no longer even see anything that wasn’t the hole. We couldn’t dig ourselves out together, so I started digging my own way up… and I left Mike behind.

It was not without soul-wracking guilt. In many ways, Mike saved me – Financially, emotionally, professionally. I hate to repay him with… this. He was always there for me in the most pragmatic ways – for he is a pragmatic man – and amazed me continually with new feats of engineering and ingenuity.

We had a good life on paper. Logically, we are a great match. We had a good life in other ways, too, but I am an impulsive person, a spontaneous person. Mike is very much the opposite: He is methodical, considered, meticulous – things I wish I were better with. Too, he wished for some of my spontaneity.

Instead of balancing each other out, as would be ideal, our instincts fought and clashed. Very seldom did we ourselves actually fight, or even argue, but we approach life very differently, and neither of us was compromising. Our descent into the big hole was smooth and gentle. A very professional veneer coated us, insulating us from truly connecting with each other.

A decade ago, I bought a wonderful set of wind chimes when I was shopping in Olympia with Mark and Wendy. The sounds they create in a gentle wind resonate deeply in my soul and make me happy. I don’t remember why I didn’t have them hanging outside at our house, but they weren’t – for years. They lay in a box, still and silent. I would see them occasionally and feel a pang of regret, but still didn’t hang them.

Several months before I left, Mike found them and hung them up in the family room one night. I was in the kitchen, and he moved the clapper slightly so the chimes toned, and then carefully watched my face. I remember being so surprised and touched at his thoughtfulness – but I can’t remember whether I let that expression show on my face. I was emotionally locked down. He did something so sweet to make me happy, and I’m not even sure I let him know he had succeeded.

Later, when I reflected upon this and realized what had probably happened (not showing happiness,) the first stirrings began of needing something else. I thought back to how our relationship started.

I came at Mike like a Mack truck, blind-sided him with the full force and intensity of which I am capable. He frantically waved his arms and tried to get me to back up a bit, but my mind was made up, and I am stubborn. I didn’t know who he was or what he was about – I just remember so vividly the profound gravitational pull Mike exerted on me the day we met, and how I was convinced we were destined to be together. And we were – for awhile.

I can’t help but feel, however, that my decision to leave will ultimately serve us both better in the long run. The breaking point for me was becoming friends with two people who are so clearly meant for each other – witnessing their connection jolted me into the reality of our situation. We would never have that, regardless of how much work we might do, and what we did have was making us both miserable.

We both deserve to be happy. We cannot be happy together. Therefore, I had to leave, because I knew he wouldn’t – he is too good a man.

I started staying out late after work more nights than not, socializing with friends from work until four or five in the morning. I didn’t want to go home; I didn’t want to face the awkwardness. I was going to say “oppressiveness,” but that implies it was Mike doing the oppressing, and he was not. It was the situation in its entirety – the too-big house, the too-deep hole, the too-prevalent lack of joy.

I wanted him to be asleep when I got home, so I could just curl up next to him and be close without being confronted with all of the Issues. Cuddling up at night was the best part of my day, despite everything. The love was there and it was easy when we didn’t have to try to communicate. We fit together so naturally, wrapped up in the same position every night without even thinking about it, literally all the way from our fingers to our toes. It was warm and comforting.

Looking at the big picture, each of us is to blame for the course our relationship took, but I am acutely aware of my guilt for the abrupt ending. I could have done it better, but this is the first time I’ve been through the end of a marriage – I fumbled my way through. I could have made better choices, I could have been more communicative. We didn’t know how to talk to each other at all about simple things – how could we talk about this?

I was in an untenable mental state – held almost motionless and emotionless by the gelatin of the relationship surrounding us. Mike was right there, right next to me, but the distance between us (even cuddled up with each other at night) was a chasm. We could not reach each other. This was not his fault; it was what it was.

Many nights, as I was fighting my daily battle with insomnia, I would have this fantasy that inevitably made me cry: I envisioned myself trapped inside a nearly lifeless body; depressed, scared, dark – suspended in black space. Another being I thought of as Mike was there, radiating this brilliant, warm, yellow light. Waiting patiently, watching, trying to gently help but unable to rescue me from my prison. He was patient, knowing I was trapped and that I would eventually find my way out. He did not leave me.

At some point, though, he succeeded in coaxing my true self out of the prison, and my own glowing light burst through the shell and spilled into the darkness. We are both deliriously happy, and I say to him, “you saved me. You stayed, you waited; you saved me. Thank you.” We go on to live an exuberantly happy, vivid life, alive and together, experiencing everything with a new intensity.

It brings tears to my eyes now, just thinking about it – moreso because I didn’t stay or wait until we somehow managed to save each other. I cut bait, jumped ship, deserted. I left a man behind. I gave up. Mike was strong enough to carry me, but I wasn’t strong enough to do the same for him.

I left for me, I left for both of us, because I believe we’ll find happiness apart where we couldn’t have together.

Lastly, I am nearly certain this is the worst decision I have ever made, and I told him that the other day. Understandably, he was confused. It’s difficult to articulate how I could think that, and still make the choices I have. The reasons to stay were largely pragmatic – We had firewalled off a great deal of the emotional side of things long ago – and I am not a pragmatic person.

I hurt him, I hurt his family, I hurt my family, I hurt myself. I’ve probably created awkwardness with our wonderful mutual friends.

As difficult as this is, ultimately, I feel I made the right decision. Despite that, I miss him, I love him… and I do know I failed him.

There are many things each of us wishes we had said or done, but didn’t – something I hope we can both overcome in the future.

I hung the windchimes on my front porch this week. They are lovely and gentle, and they make me happy, though each time they start to chime, I see Mike Neir’s face as he rang them for me, and I wish I had told him.

Familiar Terrain

November 28, 2011

In the Long Distance Rider world, a realm in which people far greater than I ride motorcycles more than 2000 miles in 24 hours, or 11,000+ miles in 11 days, there are many iconic figures. Chief amongst them, in my mind, is Robert Higdon. Bob will say he doesn’t ride well or far, but these are untruths of modesty.

Bob is a lawyer – I can only imagine he is outstanding in this field – and some of the liability aspects of the Iron Butt Association and its now-copious members occasionally pulse his blood pressure.

It is one thing to ride a motorcycle fast and far on public roads; it is quite another (in terms of potential liabilities) to write about it upon public fora, email lists, and websites, particularly if the riding occurred during the course of an organized event. Thus, back in the day when the LDR email list was slightly more civilized, and contained more signal than noise, we did not discuss Specific Speeds. We had a code of sorts, and that code revolved around Bob Higdon and his forehead.

The most egregious recklessness was referred to as “triple-Higdon speeds,” referring to the number of veins one would observe popping out on Bob’s Higdon’s forehead, were he to read such an account.

I miss having a little Higdon in my world from time to time, but I carry him with me, and he continues to mentor from the comfort of an overstuffed leather chair in my brain on an almost weekly basis.

What does Bob Higdon have to do with today?

My everyday life has been, for the last few months, a combination of single- to double-Higdon stressors, with the occasional triple-veiner burst. I’ve been trying to simply abide, to muddle through as best I can, but I slipped too far down the slope with the addition of a job I loathe, and in trying to climb back up to the precipice’s edge, I lost my tenuous grip and tumbled far down into blackness.

I am upright, lucid, moving around, taking in stimuli, but I am essentially the walking dead. I don’t know where I am, internally, and worse, I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what used to make me happy, let alone would make me happy now.

Common sense tells me what I should do, but I can’t be arsed to do it. It’s like there is a line on the ground – I can see the line, and I know what it represents. To start down the road to recovery, all I have to do is to step across the damned line. That’s it.

But I can’t find the motivation to do it.

I can’t even really look at the line itself; I have to take it in with a furtive, sidelong glance.

People who have never been depressed, who have never suffered from a lack of motivation, will read that and say, quite correctly, “That is absurd. Walk across the fucking line, you incredibly silly person.”

It seems so easy to them, and it probably is. Except for those of us who can’t even look at the line, let alone interact with it or walk across it.

I maintain an uneasy awareness of the line, and its relative proximity. Some days, it’s right there and I feel ready to try … but balk at the last second after getting a good look at it from right up close. Other days, I sense it vaguely in the distance, a far-off brightness in the grey evening light where I have been living.

Being around other people is difficult at best, impossible at worst, but is of course part of what one must endure in day-to-day life. My job is to provide technical support (from home) to troubled, confused, angry, and frustrated customers over the phone, via support ticket, or in a live chat. The support ticket is the preferred method of communicating with customers, as it places no real-time pressure on a person. There is no opportunity for real-time abuse or desperation. Everything is held at arm’s length, and we like it that way.

However, some customers prefer to “talk voice” (as we used to say in the old days of the internet.) I’ve never been any good at distancing myself from my customers’ emotions, and this is especially true when they are on the phone with me. If the customer is polite with me, and civil, despite their broken technology, I take on their frustrations at a personal level. If they are friendly and sweet, this amplifies my take on their emotions.

The simple solution is, “don’t do that,” right? I’m a highly-sensitive person. I am empathic, sympathetic, wanting to make people happy. I literally do not know how to back away, how to put up healthy barriers, how to keep a person needing help out of my personal space.

To compound matters, I hate computers. I’m not saying this to be funny – I truly hate them, and the feeling (as far as I can tell) is mutual. When I am near, computers sometimes behave in completely unpredictable ways. Incidents that might otherwise be written off as “flukes” or “once in a million” are fairly standard behavior when I am using them.

You, likely being a rational, sane person, read this and think, “that’s probably not quite the case, slightly-crazy lady; you are simply doing it wrong.” I used to think the same things when my mom reported bizarre computer problems I could not reproduce. However, the older I get, and the more quirks I see, the less I am able to dismiss the oddities that happen to me daily.

This is neither here nor there, really – the main point is, I am trapped in a job I loathe, and I am not skilled to do anything else.

This place where I am is not entirely unfamiliar – indeed, I know the landscape pretty well. Thanks to a series of piss-poor decisions in my first years of college, I opted out of the career path where I belonged (life sciences) and squandered most of my fairly expensive education (seven years at the University of Michigan, a place where I could have done great and wonderful things, had I chosen to avail myself of its resources and opportunities.) I could have done real and lasting good, I believe, had I not seen all the math and chemistry on this path and frantically fled in the opposite direction.

I landed in Information Technology, because it was there, it was easy, and I didn’t hate it yet. I have never been extraordinarily gifted with computers, but neither did I utterly fail with them, and I found work mostly in this field for a good fifteen years, right up to the present moment. Not being particularly interested in computers means a lot of the details do not stick with me. I am not compelled to discover how they work, or why they do not. I do what I need to do, and I provide excruciatingly good customer service as I do it.

Each phone call, each live chat, each ticket, takes a little piece of my soul because I hate it so much. Each failure stays with me, affects me for too long. Each triumph seems hollow and meaningless, apart from making someone happy (or at least less pissed-off.)

It is because I hate my job so much, because I am so disenchanted with my life, that I am writing this post from a very nice hotel on the beach of Lake Michigan. There is an absurdly large jacuzzi tub in the bedroom, a living room, a modest bathroom. A view of the canal leading to the lake. I will be here for two days.

Years ago, I would watch the movie “Switch” with some frequency. I loved Ellen Barkin’s portrayal of a man suddenly in a woman’s body. I may be mis-attributing the quote, but as I recall, Ellen Barkin is talking about a desire to get away from it all, and references Gaughan “chucking it and moving to Tahiti.” That line remains with me, and adequately sums up the feel I sometimes – a powerful urge to chuck it and go someplace new, start over. Have some drinks on the beach.

Tonight, I chucked it and came to St. Joseph, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The drive took over three hours, thanks to unholy traffic at the intersection of the two main highways I had to travel. It was raining, windy and cold, but my urge to flee was at least being sated, even at 5 miles per hour. I fled from my job, from my marriage, from my home – basically from my miserable life. A change of scenery to jolt the system, however temporarily.

Benton Harbor, the town next door to St. Joseph, is under political assault right now from our state’s Governor. The divide between the affluent, predominantly white St. Joseph and the poor, predominantly black Benton Harbor is a bridge that would take less than a minute to walk across on foot. I’ve driven through Benton Harbor twice this season, and each time I’ve thought, “this doesn’t look like a city that would be in the news.” It looks like a city that’s fallen on hard times, made worse by a series of events which culminated in the Governor removing the city council’s right to govern itself. . It looks like parts of Detroit back in the late eighties and early nineties. Benton Harbor is depressed and lost, and in those respects, we are alike. I might feel more comfortable over there, in fact, than in the touristy, upbeat, expensive-boutique-laden cove of Silver Beach in St. Joseph.

My hotel is nice, but not extravagant. They use compact fluorescent bulbs and other power-saving measures. They are environmentally conscious.

Still, as I stepped into the jacuzzi tub which I had filled with probably 150 gallons of hot water, I was Erin the Great Consumer of Resources. I wondered how many peoples’ thirst would be slaked by the water I was simply bathing in for pleasure. Unable to carry the water to them at the moment, I climbed in and did my level best to let the water jets soothe away the guilt. The tub’s enormous proportions made it impossible to get really comfortable. While I will normally enjoy a soak in the tub for a good two hours, I was out within 45 minutes, guilt not appeased and in fact made worse by the short duration of the water’s use. It drained away, taking a good fifteen to twenty minutes to do so, not taking my anxiety or lack of motivation with it.

The day after tomorrow, I will make the trek back home. The vividness of this trip will sustain me for a few days, maybe a week, and then I’ll be back in the gray lands of full-blown depression, trying to find the line, and then shying away from it.

I sometimes wish I were a wanderer, life able to be packed in a bag or two, no roots – free.

Free.

I don’t even know if freedom is attainable anymore.

I Woke Up

November 5, 2011

I woke up in my forties astride a Harley, and realized I had done everything wrong.

Every shred of potential I ever had, squandered. All the amazing people who cared for me over the years, systematically pushed away. Huge opportunities for personal growth, ignored.

These days, I power-down when I’m not around other people, but by the same token, being around others wears me out utterly.

I don’t know how to be a person.

When I’m sad or depressed, I cannot look people in the eye. I feel autistic, I can’t make myself do it, and I don’t know why. I haven’t looked at my husband in over a week. He notices.

There have been points in my life when I’ve been happy – they are typically fleeting. I didn’t grow up “a happy” child; I was “an excruciatingly self-critical” child. Hyper-aware of every move and expression, thanks to my mother’s exacting judgment.

At age 10, she taught me to start hating my body by encouraging me to bleach my arm hair when I became self-conscious about it. She could have simply reinforced a positive self-image, but she was too far gone down the rabbit hole of society’s expectations. She gleefully foisted those onto me.

When I was 12, she began forcing me to let her tweeze my eyebrows, lest they be too thick and unfeminine. Heaven forbid I end up “another Brooke Shields!”

In high school, she had me shove my C-cup breasts into minimizing bras.

She forbade me from wearing tucked-in shirts because they were unflattering to my high waist and oddly-shaped hips.

When I was a size 8 in high school, she wanted me to diet.

She made me hyper-conscious of every possible physical flaw – something I never outgrew.

These things, and so many more, crushed my young self-esteem and joy into coal, stopping short of diamond by fathoms.

But wait – I started out talking about the Harley. I bought that Harley after one test drive because of that moment of awakening. I was connected at a spiritual level with that machine… and I hoped it might make me feel alive and awake all the time.

I tried to prepare my husband for the purchase I had already made in my heart. Rather than buy it outright, I put down a deposit and made my case to him. He didn’t really seem to have strong feelings one way or the other, but wouldn’t commit to a “yes” or a “no.”

It was a futile gesture, really – I was going to buy it, regardless. And I did. One day he came home and it was parked in the garage. He was so livid, he stormed down to his office basement and called his mother. I didn’t realize this until I picked up the phone to use it myself and heard him speaking to her.

Rather than come to me and hash it out like an adult, he ran to his mom.

That is a theme unto itself, though – he and I cannot communicate. We just… don’t. We co-exist, we cuddle up at night, and we carry on with our dreary, frustrated lives.

Motorcycles break me out of that foggy existence. It is nearly impossible to be riding a motorcycle down a road and be dead inside. Two wheels and a twisty country road make my soul hum in tune with the engine.

He does not understand this at all. He resents me for riding, I think. I resent his resentment.

So it goes.

Now that I’ve had that moment, is my life going to be radically different? Changed forever?

Not yet. I’ve had the bike for several months, and while I’m Awake riding down the road, I am in twilight still at home. I’m not sure what catalyst I need to jolt me into full-time Humanness, but the Harley was just a stepping stone on the path.

But at least now, I can perceive there is a path.

Small Town

March 23, 2011

Everyone wanted to pretend our small town was perfect.

One supposes most small towns are like this – we want to maintain the illusion, the facade, the picture-perfect American Dream exterior. Like a Stephen King novel, however, darkness lies beneath in many forms.

Fathers raped their daughters, young children cut and burned themselves. There was abuse, neglect, sexual assault, hard drug use, teenage pregnancy, racism, homophobia, attempted murder. Underage students had sex with teachers, children endured brutal hardships at home no one knew about.

A fair amount of this occurred in my own family – mostly thanks to my great-grandfather. I did not find out about what an incredibly foul person he was until after he died, which is probably for the best; I might otherwise be in prison for murder myself.

Despite the horrible things going on behind closed, quaint doors, we all put on our brave faces for the public to keep up appearances. We showed up to the Friday night high school football games, bundled up in our team colors under the blue-green field lights, excited, flirtatious, with jocks in their varsity jackets, and those who could drive trying to be nonchalant about their cars in the parking lot. At one of those Friday night games, we received word one of us had been killed in a car accident. Alcohol was involved. The driver, also a student, was thoroughly and tragically ostracized. He did not move in my circles; we were not in the same grade, but I saw his isolation.

We managed to be kids and teenagers through it all.

Most of us likely thought we were alone in our trauma. Almost none of us were.

We muddled through, we survived.

Well, I should say, “most of us survived;” we lost a few along the way. Some to disease, some to accidents, some to suicide.

Now, here the rest of us are in our middle ages, many with kids of our own, all more our own real selves than we were when we all lived together in our nook of a town. Seeing the names and faces from twenty or more years ago is strange and fun and more than a little bizarre.

Most of us probably still envision each other as we were then, and it is a surprise when we see current photos and realize Age is coming for us all, despite always being the same age inside.

I hope we are all happier now than we were then – I would not go back to those times for anything in the world. I hope those of us with children are raising them differently, breaking the patterns, teaching them to communicate and to be free from perceived isolation.

Driving through my hometown now, especially at night, I hope the warm glow of lights from bedrooms is not as deceptive as it used to be, and that the dark windows shelter peacefully sleeping souls. I hope cries do not echo through the locker-rooms of the schools.