Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Long time, no see!

I feel like the girl who moved to Utah and was never heard from again.


Darren and I moved to Utah at the beginning of June and lived happily ever after. The end.

Wouldn't life be boring if that were how life actually worked out? I mean, if it did, I wouldn't complain about it being boring, but that is never how it happens.

When we first moved to Utah, we moved to a part of Salt Lake City (which is very spread out, kind of like St. Louis, with different sections, just as Soulard, Delmar, and St. Charles are all considered St. Louis) called West Valley.

When we first came out to Utah in April to find a place to live, West Valley was pretty much all we could afford. We, like many generations before us, were moving in hope of a better life and more economic opportunities. So, even though people told us that West Valley was a little sketchy, we figured, hey, it's Utah, how sketch can it be?

Pretty sketch, as it turns out. There were always police in the parking lot of our apartment complex. Nobody was friendly, and every time we got home and our balcony furniture was still there, I was shocked. We later found out that there is a lot of gang activity there. Super.

There do seem to be many jobs in Salt Lake City advertised, but the competition is also fierce. That wasn't the most challenging part of the move though. I had often wondered whether living in small towns since I was 11 would impact my ability to live in a city. It turns out the answer was yes.

The traffic alone is overwhelming. And every time we wanted to go anywhere, it meant at least twenty minutes in the car one way, if we were lucky. My mother was in an assisted living facility about a half hour drive away, so when we went to see her, it took an hour round trip just to drive. Not only was the traffic maddening and overwhelming, but we had to fill up the car constantly.

It wasn't just the traffic though. We didn't feel safe walking anywhere in West Valley-- not that there were many sidewalks to walk on. We used to take walks every day in Kirksville, and always felt safe. We began to entertain the idea of getting a gun. I found out that one of my best friends from college carries one in her purse. So, even though I never felt directly in danger, I didn't feel safe either, and that is an exhausting feeling. You have to be constantly on alert, and the first thing we did when we got back to our apartment was bolt the door.

We had found a church in Salt Lake City that we were excited about when we visited in April. But our excitement turned to frustration. It wasn't really a church, it turns out, so much as a group of people gathering every week to listen to one person talk about the scriptures. We had hoped to be able to be part of a ministry, because we had believed before coming to Utah that this was an active ministry. But we were mistaken, and our offers to volunteer to help with ministry were met with bewilderment and almost derision. It was a severe disappointment because we are not really mainstream Christians. We struggle with finding a congregation we feel comfortable in because we are pretty politically liberal. The Episcopalian Church in Kirksville was probably one of the most liberal we have found.

I have already been pretty gun-shy about organized religion because of my experiences growing up in the LDS church. And I have been kind of hit in the face with it here in Utah (shocking, right?) as I struggle to be true to my beliefs and not alienate every member of my extended family. For many years after I left the LDS church, I went "scorched earth" and rejected God and religion wholeheartedly. But I have believed in God since I was very young-- since before I started school. So, then I started to explore religions extensively, reading primarily about Orthodoxy Christianity and Conservative Judaism (which means you try to keep kosher and like the services to be in Hebrew, not that you are politically conservative). I wanted to start back at the beginnings of Western religion-- but not paganism. I have a pretty large collection of Orthodox icons, and crosses from my travels. My friend Liza took my icons down to the Orthodox church with her and they were blessed on the altar there.

When I began studying Judaism, someone remarked to me that I'd have to take down all those crosses and icons, and I balked right then and there.

I never found a "true" church in my searches. My search consumed me for a couple of years, and then I just sort of woke up one morning and didn't care anymore. So, my spirituality went completely dormant.

Having grown up in academia and having tried many times to enter the academic world wholeheartedly with college teaching and never quite making it past being an adjunct, I was happy to let intellectual vanity put to bed any spiritual leanings. I could never embrace atheism, but I pretty much stopped thinking about God at all.

I laugh now when I think that with all the searching and reading I did, I never once picked up a Bible.

When I met Darren, he told me right away that he was a Christian-- in fact, right before I gave him my phone number. At the time, I didn't think it really mattered, even though I had had a pretty strict no-Christians dating policy up to that point. But the previous year, I had stopped dating altogether, and there was something I liked about Darren from talking to him for several months before we started dating. So, I kind of brushed off the fact that he was reading about Christianity and had an, "Isn't that cute that you're a Christian" attitude toward it. I told him immediately about my own issues with religion and spirituality, specifically Mormonism, and he laughed and said he had his own issues. I didn't know at the time that he had his own story about Mormonism.

So, we started dating, and immediately I pulled Darren into my den of iniquity that involved some pretty heavy drinking. But it was a world that I had been trying to figure out my way out of, and when I realized that I was sucking Darren into it with me, I realized there was a good chance that we'd be sitting there ten years from now, drinking wine, and going nowhere with our lives. So, we sat down and had a long talk. And we both decided to try stopping drinking. That was in early January.

His friends did not like me because I wasn't a Christian and because I taught college. There is such a high skepticism of intelligence and education among Christians that it's really off-putting. But it is certainly true that a lot of people who start getting a college education leave their childhood faith behind. And that's not a bad thing. I am glad that I had a chance to completely re-evaluate my spirituality as an adult and that I have experienced both living with and without it, and I can consciously choose which life I prefer, and in which life I am happier.

But I still wasn't a Christian, nor very interested in it at all.

One evening, Darren and I were talking to his parents, and he was very frustrated with Christianity and God and told them that he was giving up and that he was just going to chuck it all.

When we got into the car, I told him I thought it was a mistake to give up on something that was very important to him and that was part of who he is. And I suggested that we start praying together. That night, for the first time, we did. I prayed, and he looked kind of shocked that I knew how to do it, which I thought was pretty funny. I am pretty sure anyone who went to high school with me and had to endure my constant proselytizing about Mormonism would find that funny too.

I thought it was surprising myself that I felt this way, because in many ways, it would certainly have been convenient to drag Darren into my world. I was not sure at the time why I encouraged him that night not to put away his faith. But I am now.

After a bit, we started reading the scriptures together. I think it started because I was writing our wedding ceremony, and I wanted to include some things about the nature of love from the Bible, in part because of Darren's faith and his parents' faith, because I wanted to combine us in the ceremony. But I was pretty unfamiliar with the New Testament, because the Book of Mormon had always been emphasized over the Bible when I was raised. So we started looking things up and sort of following cross references, and I thought it was very interesting. So, we started at the beginning of the New Testament and started to read it together.

At some point along the way, I realized that I believe it. I believe Jesus is God. I read Cold-Case Christianity, and kept reading the New Testament. And I am comfortable saying that Jesus is my Savior and that I believe through His sacrifice, we are saved. Through grace, not works. And I am happier with this faith than I have been since I was a very young adult.

Right now, Darren is struggling with his own faith. I am sort of leading the charge with nightly prayer and scripture study. He is re-visiting Eckhart Tolle and The Power of Now. We are talking about exploring some meditation.

Both of us struggle with the label of Christian. There are so many Christians who practice hate, who are so closed-minded, that it is embarrassing sometimes to stand up and say I am one. I am acutely aware of the damage that has been done in the world in the name of Christianity. But I also believe Jesus is God. So, there you have it. Maybe I'll start calling myself a Nazarene.

I have to stop for now and go to work, but this is just the beginning of our adventures in Utah. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015


In the interest of extending an olive branch, I decided to remove a post I wrote earlier this week. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

This Is What Jen in Love Looks Like

Eric at work told Whitney, "Jen seems so happy. She is smiling so much more."

Today my friend Will said to me, "You look younger every time I see you."

I said, "This is what Jen in love looks like."

I remarked to someone recently that we had been dating almost two weeks, and she seemed visibly surprised that we had been publicly canoodling in the balcony of Baldwin Hall at a recent Lyceum event.

I suppose it might seem sudden from the outside. But I have dated a lot since my second marriage ended. And then I stopped dating for a long time. So, I have been very, very single for two years, and completely date-free/celibate for 11 months of that time.

I've known for a very long time that unless I met someone with whom I could have at least as interesting conversations as I have with my small circle of friends, it wasn't going to have long-term potential. Most of those friends have openly said to me that I was never going to find what I wanted online, and they were right. I wasn't wrong about guys who go online to date pursuing sex-- I was just not meeting any of the guys who aren't motivated by sex because they don't go online. Or maybe those guys are really as rare as they seem, because Darren is definitely a first.

But back to conversations: We talk for hours. The first Saturday night we hung out, we talked from six p.m. to midnight without pausing much except to show each other videos and play songs for each other.

I was going to write about meeting Darren's parents for the first time. Except that sentence is misleading, because, as it turns out, it wasn't the first time. I went over to meet them on Thanksgiving before I went to work. I walked into the living room and saw Darren's dad and sort of squealed, "Hi!!!" and turned to Darren and said, "Darren, I LOVE your parents!" And I hugged his dad and then hugged his mom. They worked as para professionals in the junior high when I taught special ed (and far beyond me). I always loved and appreciated how kind they were to the kids and also to me. They personified helpfulness. I remember when Darren's dad told me about a particularly difficult kid, "If you need ANYTHING, you just call me."

So, we sat in their living room and caught up on all of the kids we knew and where they had ended up while Darren sat and watched us like a tennis match. It was love.

Darren knows everything about me, or at least the most everything I've had the chance to share with him so far. And I know a lot about him. And some of what we know about each other isn't pretty or perfect or even nice. We have shared deeply humiliating things with each other, regrets, fears.

One of the things I've been really aware of is the ways in which I chose separateness in past relationships. Ways in which I realized that gaps were enlarging between us, but played love chicken and let it happen. Love chicken is when you wait to see if your partner will point out the distance, will point out the gaps, will point out the times you chose to stay up instead of going to bed at the same time.

I am also guilty of having believed in the past that some behaviors or ideologies would change, in spite of the fact that there was never any indication apart from my hope that this would happen. I can't blame people for being who they are if I never fully accepted them that way and always hoped that they would change. That isn't fair to anyone.

I have learned over the years that I like being single. But right now, I am radiating happiness. Having someone I can say anything to and talk about teaching, grant writing, JC Penney, the Mormon Church, leaving the Mormon Church, religion, death, life, disappointment, grief, brokenness, strength, meditation, hope, hopelessness, giving up, despair, The Killers, The Cure, John-5, Go Down, Moses, God's Debris, love, sex, heartbreak, God, grace, our parents, our siblings, Tosh, Sting, friendship, integrity, acceptance-- I mean, everything. There isn't anything I can't say to him. I have said everything to him. We have cried in front of each other. I grip his beard in both hands and ask him sometimes, "Are you really real?" I am forty-six. I know how rare this is.

He goes to the hardware store with Chris. He goes out for breakfast with Sam. I slept in til 9 a.m. on Saturday morning and when I got up, he was cleaning the kitchen. "Do you mind if I help you with the cleaning?" he  had asked me a few days before, when I confessed that I was a nonconvertible slob.

"Are you kidding?" I said.

*          *          *          *           *          *            *             *             *          *          *          *          *

I know I'm gushing. According to Marsha at the JCP jewelry counter, I'm glowing. And I don't even care, I am unabashadly gushing. There has been so little romance in my history that I really stopped believing in it. That was hard to let go of, but then, after awhile, I was able to embrace my life without it. And I think it is really essential to be able to do that. Because it makes you so rock solid that it doesn't rock any of the foundations of who you are to be able to say, "I found someone who flips my heart inside out, and that's so rare, and I'm so lucky."

If I am actually in a coma, please make sure Christian is taking care of his blood sugars.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

How on earth I met him

"How on earth did you meet this guy?" my friend Lynn Carter asked me just now.
I said, "It's a cute story and I am going to blog about it. :-) "

This guy is Darren Pinkerton. He has been encouraging me to start blogging again. "You could even write about our relationship if you wanted to, if you need material."

It is true that he is most of the material I have lately. Otherwise, my life for the past eleven months has pretty much been Criminal Minds, JC Penney, and teaching one creative writing class.

I have had two online dating profiles for awhile now. Since 2012. I have deactivated them at times and reactivated them. But I have not dated, until now, since New Year's. And no, it is not because I have not been asked. I was just tired of not meeting anyone of substance who actually wanted to know ME and wanted to spend time with me outside of the sack. So, I just didn't date. And it was great. To boot, my doctor upped my Prozac in the winter, which completely killed my sex drive. So, I just went through a long period of slumber in which I would half-interestedly peruse each dating site for about thirty seconds a day before signing out again.

My friend Whitney at work has been encouraging me to take those profiles down for a long time now. I took them down this summer, actually, but they had been back up for a couple of months, maybe.

In the meantime, in the early summer, I bought a bicycle with a basket and began riding it to work. I had a thermos I used to take to work filled with coffee, but the thermos was too heavy for my basket. So, I started stopping at Casey's for a part cappucino/mostly regular coffee cocktail that I would put into my basket and ride to JC Penney. The Casey's by my house is farther than the one on Baltimore, and I have a tendency to spill coffee on a longer ride. So, I started going to they Casey's on Baltimore. And after I had been going there nearly every morning for the summer, in August or so, a new cashier was hired. And I thought he was cute. I could tell by my interactions with him that he was smart. And he was always really friendly. Some of his co-workers are delightfully quirky and I enjoy my exchanges with them, but Darren was always more like a peer, someone I could kind of talk to easily. And that was something I sort of tucked away. But since I began dating again after my second divorce, I always said I wouldn't date in Kirksville. And that it would take someone really extraordinary for me to do it. And I couldn't really imagine finding someone in Kirksville I wanted to date-- because I certainly hadn't had any luck with that regard to date. (See what I did there?)

But I sort of started thinking about dating again in the fall, and I started thinking about Darren as someone I might like to date. I liked the look of him. So, we started chatting more and more-- little tidbits about our day and what it was going to look like, or how many days we'd been on in a row if we had seen each other for several days in a row. When I would come in, even if he was heading to the employee break area, he would stop and ask me if I was going to be unloading a truck that day. And I'd embellish my answer with a description of how many hours the truck might be or tell him that we were clearancing or setting a sale. So, I started to think that the interest might must be mutual. But it was so subtle that I didn't even mention it to my friends. Until one Sunday when we were sitting around and I said, "Hey, I need to tell you guys about this guy I like because I'm trying to figure out how to give him my phone number." So, I told them what I just told you.

I had been trying to get Darren to come into JC Penney. "We are having a 25% off Friends and Family event," I said.

"We can use our discount with our friends this week," I said.

"I'll come in," he said to me the next morning, a Monday. And I was afraid he wouldn't.

That afternoon, I had to take my mother down to CoMo to see her rheumatologist. I needed gas and coffee, so I stopped at Darren's Casey's. When I went in he said, "Hey, are you on break?"

"No, I'm getting gas to take my mom down to Columbia."

"Oh, I thought maybe you came in to say, 'hi,'" he told me.

I held up the coupons I had brought in for him and his co-workers. "I did!" I told him. "I brought you guys coupons!"

I went and got bottled water and coffee and paid for my gas. While he was ringing me up, he asked, "So, what do you do in your off time?"

And I thought, "Gotcha!"

I said, "I watch a lot of TV," I said.

"What do you watch?"

"Criminal Minds."

"Good show," he said.

"What do you do in your off time?" I asked.

"I've been reading a lot lately," he said, and handed me my credit card receipt to sign. And my customer copy. Smooth as butter (completely uncharacteristic of me), I flipped that receipt over and wrote down my name and phone number and said, "Let me know if you want to hang out sometime."

"Really?" he said.  He beamed. I later told Chris (and then him),

"He looked like he had won the lottery."

He held up my number and said, "I'll call you."

I pointed at him and said, "Text me."

And smiled all the way to CoMo.

He texted me when I was driving back home. We made plans for him to come over that evening around 7:30. We talked for a long time. Then he was saying he had told a friend about me, so I asked if he wanted to take a pic of me to send him. Then I said, "No, I will take a selfie and send it to you."

He said, "Want to take a selfie of both of us?"

And he came over and sat by me and I snapped a pic of us (my current Facebook profile pic). He started to say something about whether or not I was comfortable with him sitting next to me, and I kissed him.

And then he kissed me.

And he was a gentleman and didn't even try to do anything else. And he wanted to see me again. He left before 10 p.m. and we made plans to meet the following evening. And we did.

There are more things I need to tell you, but I am still adjusting to my bifocals, so I'll just make a few notes here to entice you to come back for more.

Meeting his parents.

The talks.

The friends.

Sherri and Stella.



Friday, January 23, 2015

Thoughts on Online Dating

Online dating requires strict vigilance. It is time-consuming, disappointing, frustrating, and maddening. Occasionally, it's worth it. But really, being on dating sites at this point is more a form of entertainment than anything else. I keep my profiles active just in case. Just in case of what, I'm not sure because I don't think the man of my dreams is going to pluck me from a dating site so we can live happily ever after. But considering that I rarely go anywhere but my house, my mom's house, the grocery store, work, and work, the chances of my meeting a new person are fairly slim.

So, every once in awhile, someone who isn't a complete creep will send me a message and ask if we can email or chat and get to know each other. Sometimes I am willing to do this, sometimes not. It's based on a number of factors. Does this person have a picture up? Do they sound intelligent in their profile? Did they mention anything specific to me in their message, not just send me the same message they just sent 100 other women?

There are other variables. And one is dumb, but there it is. I will not date an Aquarius. Not ever again. Sorry. But I really do think that Aquariuses tend to be bad for me. And some of the ones I've met on the dating scene have actually frightened me. I think about one situation in particular when I was still very green and naive, and wow, there was a guy who was so insidious and dishonest that I still cringe when I think about it. He called me every night and talked for hours and always sent me little gifts and presents, but there were hints all along the way that something wasn't right. Fortunately, it was from a distance so I never actually met him, but it still alarmed me. I had friends who saw what was going on before I did, but I listened and ended it swiftly. So, no more.

But yesterday an Aquarius wanted to chat. [I am wildly consistent. I know.] I considered it and thought that there was no harm in chatting, because I realize that my behavior about this is irrational (even though, in my limited experience, completely warranted). So, we exchanged email addresses. He wanted us to chat right away. I told him that I was at work and had to finish a project. So, he asked if I could "just tell him something" about me. Now, this pisses me off for three reasons: 1) I have a long profile. Read it. 2) That profile links to this blog. Read that too. 3) I just said I am at *work.* So, if you have so much time, you tell me about you.

I said no, repeated that I have to work. So, I expected his next email to be something to the effect of "Well, how come you have time to email and not chat?" or some such bullying nonsense. There are subtle ways you can tell if a guy is controlling. For example, if someone gets irritated or angry with you for not responding to them fast enough, you just block them and move on. Or, if someone persists in asking you to chat, skype, send a pic, have a phone call-- if someone you haven't met cannot respect a polite "Not right now," then you have a lot of information right there about why you shouldn't not meet them.  Instead, he wrote me a short paragraph about how he loves family and friends, is fun, and is looking for someone to marry. Yawn. Boring. And his profile also goes on at length about what he wants from his next relationship. He has it all planned out. Now he just needs to insert a live woman into the formula.

Honestly, I was surprised that he wanted to chat. He must not have read my profile at all. If he had, he would know that if he is a Christian, he won't like me. That if he wants to marry again, he will not like me. So, I just wrote back a short message saying that I think we are looking for different things. We'll see what he responds with. It doesn't matter because I am not going to date him, but it's entertainment.
After dating online for a few years now, I have picked up a few things that I didn't know at first, usually after a few blunders.

1) If the guy asks you what you are doing right now, he probably wants to video chat. He's looking for cyber sex.

2) If he asks you if you Skype, he's looking for cyber sex.

3) If he tells me I'm beautiful, he has copied and pasted this to hundreds of other women.

4) If he flatters my writing, he is much more likely to get a positive response from me. BUT, this is also tricky, because sometimes they'll figure out that flattering women about anything the woman professes an interest in will probably get them a response. But they will be vague, flowery, and not talk about anything specific that I've written, nor respond to anything. Just, "Wow, you're a really good writer." This is a little more dangerous than, "You're beautiful," because it requires a little more thought on their part, and used to make me let my guard down. Now, I'm always skeptical because

5) Even the guys with whom I can write for a few weeks without meeting, have good rapport with, and like? Just want to have sex. And if I have sex with them, they will vanish. So, now I feel stupid for sleeping with them, AND I have lost a new friend. And on the rare occasions that they turn out to be someone I date, eventually they'll admit that they did all that writing so they could fuck me-- which is different from wanting to date me.

6) If they don't have a picture on their profile, they're married. But boy will they come up with some interesting reasons for why they don't have one up there: They don't want their co-workers/employer to know they are on a dating site. They can't get the phone app to work. They can't get the computer app to work. They can't get the pics off their phone, but they could text me a pic, and hey, it could even be of their penis if I'd like.

I so would NOT like.

I am not going to go into all of the details now about how I figured all this stuff out, but let's say that these things weren't always immediately obvious, and I got red-faced and cursed a lot.

So, one thing I ask myself a lot is this: Why not revert back to going out more and trying to meet people in person? Well, if I'm in the room with someone attractive and they're pulling this crap on me, I'm going to be even more susceptible to it than I am on the screen! At least from behind the computer, it's a little easier to cut through the bullshit. But it does raise the question of whether having a real relationship with someone you "meet" on a dating site is even possible.

I have a theory: Single men are worried about one thing. Will they ever have sex again? When? With whom? You'd think this means they want one steady woman. You'd be wrong. It just means that they will do anything in their power to get you to sleep with them, and then the next day, they will start all over again. See, they don't necessarily want a relationship, especially if they can convince women to sleep with them on a regular basis. The ones who have gone a really really long time without sex are even worse, though. Some of them do want a real relationship because they don't want to risk going for long stretches without sex. But then you run into the Aquariuses who want to get married. And the fact of getting married is more important than the actual person they are getting married to.

Fall of 2013, I was dating someone. We got together twice a month (I usually drove two hours to see him), and called each other boyfriend and girlfriend and were exclusive. He told me I was beautiful and amazing and for awhile it was good. But then I began to realize that "because of our short time together," that we were just spending all of our time in the sack. Though, he did appreciate "that you're intelligent and fun to talk to, too." But I thought that that would translate into more conversation during the week. Gradually I realized that he was interested in saying hi every day and telling me I was sexy, but he really didn't care about who I was or my daily life.

I wasn't pretty in high school. The only guys who called me were the ones who sat in the hallway and called me horseface and whinnied at me in the hall. So, I am more susceptible than I should be to being told I'm pretty. One of my dirty little secrets is that I don't actually know if I'm pretty or whether people think I'm pretty (and don't you say it, because now I won't believe you)-- but I'm too afraid to ask anyone because of course, anyone is going to say, "Of course you're pretty!" and I still won't know what to think. So, I do like it when men tell me I'm pretty, even if they're creepy liars and maybe I only like it for a second. At any rate, it took me awhile to figure out that this fellow wasn't at all interested in all the fucking work I've put into becoming an interesting, intelligent person whom *I* want to spend time with-- he was only interested me sexually.

No, I don't get flattered when men tell me they are interested in me sexually. That is downright commonplace. And frankly, it just means that any other woman would do-- they are just talking to me at that particular moment. I remember blocking somebody who was trying to get me to tell him how it felt to know that he was hot for me. Because I just really felt bored by it. I don't give a shit. That's how I feel.

So, pretty is good, but only if you like my brain better, and sexy is lame. Got that?

The end came when, at Christmas time last year, I spent a lot of time thinking about what he might need or could use and got him some simple gifts. He said, "I got you something too," and got up and came back with a scented candle in a paper bag. No card. Nothing. And he had apparently forgotten that the previous month he had told me about finding these candles and how he was going to get them for everyone. Something easy and scented that he didn't have to put any thought into. Like me! Between that and him being a little dodgy after about getting together a few times, I just ended it. He asked me to explain, but I did not because I didn't want him to try to protest that he actually IS interested in me. Because he wasn't. And that meant that he didn't actually value me as a human being-- just as a sex partner. Sorry, but that right there is going to kill the sex for me. And bad/boring sex is worse than no sex.

I know men who would disagree.


The thing is, I'm really lucky because I have great conversations every single day. Whether I'm with my kids, my friends, or at work, I am surrounded by interesting, intelligent, funny people. I work, I shop, I cook, I relax, I take care of my kids and my mom. I do not really have enough time to read the book I started earlier this week (on ennui day). Dating is ridiculous. It is going to take someone very, very special for me to try to carve out some time for them. And right now, it's just not a pressing need. I hug my boys and pet my animals-- I'm not suffering from lack of conversation or lack of touch. Very lucky that way. It allows me to be pickier than I have sometimes been in the past. But I think also, as I have grown older, I have just come to realize that I don't know if I have space in my personal space for someone intimate. For one thing, where would we hang out? I don't have time to travel somewhere. And I have no privacy for someone to travel here. It's a thing.

In the meantime, I am about as sexually active as I want to be. Right now, that's about nil. This winter has almost completely killed my sex drive. It's such a relief, LOL. However, I do realize that I tend to be less depressed when I am actively engaged in flirting or trying to dress nicely, keep fit-- just in case I want to date, just in case I meet someone. When I am not in dating mode, I tend to stop curling my hair, stop wearing makeup, and eventually stop really caring what I'm wearing. It's not good for anyone. I become like Liz Claiborne, and just stop trying.

Anyway, these are some of the things I think about. It has been interesting to go from being a woman who was a romantic and wanted True Love and a Kindred Spirit or Soulmate to one who values my independence and privacy. I make the rules for my household. And nobody's word holds more weight than mine. That is heady stuff, and I don't feel like sharing. I am not afraid of "being alone" at the moment, because I am almost never alone. That may change one day. But I can only take one day at a time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Off to a great start

Happy New Year, rah rah rah. I know I fell off the blogging planet very suddenly, but things just conspired in such a way that I just couldn't blog for awhile. Even though I am a fan of blogging honestly and openly about a number of topics, there are just times when you can't write about what is going on. At least not publicly, and if that is the case, I avoid putting thoughts to paper altogether.

I used to spend a lot of time deliberating about whether or not there are some things one can't blog about, either because it's too painful, too fresh, too invasive of someone else's privacy. As an "artist," I wondered about integrity and firmly believed that self-censure was to be avoided. Now that I am an "adult," I realize that my youthful attitude was based on the fact that nothing of consequence or importance had happened to me yet when I thought that. I've now changed my mind.

So, anyway. Back. Still here. But I'm not even sure why I started writing this, because I'm so bored. I don't feel like I'm depressed, but I could be wrong. I do these little checklists: When was the last time you had fun/felt happy? (yesterday) Can you have fun/feel happy? (yes) Are you sleeping too much because you feel like hiding? (sometimes, but not this week) Is there anything you're interested in/looking forward to? (I'm enjoying watching The Killing, want to see Season 2 of Broadchurch, other tv shows, and I have some books I am looking forward to reading).

But interested in is sort of a misnomer, because what I mostly feel these days is boredom. I was reading my friend Bibi's blog yesterday. Bibi is 31, has four children under the age of 10 (including one-year-old twins), but she is brimming with energy and buzzing with projects she wants to tackle. All this while also staying at home with her kids and breastfeeding twins. I envy her *interest* in things! Where is my interest in things? Why does everything sound so boring? Even skydiving, which my friend Nicola does, just seems mildly dangerous and terrifying, but not really exhilarating or interesting. I'm sick to death of cooking and food. Baking doesn't really sound interesting, and I'm trying to lose the cookie baby I've been growing.

I know that my boredom is my responsibility. I admire and respect people who say they never get bored. But I'm not bored *this minute*-- I'm engaged in my writing. I read. I have engaging conversations. I have moments of non-boredom. I am existentially bored. Sometimes being in a small town for so long means that I have no idea of the interesting and exciting options that might be out there-- I don't even know what to google. I wish something would come along that I found utterly engaging. And right now I'm too tired and bored to make it happen for myself. I care, but not enough to do anything about it. It used to happen, with crocheting or knitting projects or deep exploration of every religion I could read about. But it's been so long that I can't really even remember what that excitement feels like. I wish I could remember what it feels like to fall in love or to be excited about something or someone, something besides coffee and cigarettes that could make me get out of my bed a little faster in the morning.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mercury in Retrograde

The universe is continually devising innovative and unexpected ways of humiliating me. Last week, it hit my car with a bus while I was in it (school bus; grazed me) and knocked off my license plate and scratched the hell out of my bumper, but the car is drivable. And I need to call my insurance team and schedule an appointment for repairs.

The same morning that I got hit by the bus, I went home and collected myself for the length of two or three cigarettes, and my friend Chris was late to work to come over and sit with me for a few minutes. I had been on my way to Department Store to start a 7:15 a.m. shift, which I began, instead, at 8:20. I think when I was a younger woman with fewer callouses and fewer experiences with the metaphorical rug being pulled out, I would have been more shaken up-- perhaps would not have gone to work that morning. Now? It's just one more thing.

The same morning that I got hit by the bus, my son texted me while I was at Department Store and I read (during my break) that the electric company had shut off our power and posted a hot-pink sign on the door alerting us to that fact. So, I took a chance that a check would bounce and went and got cash, drove to the grocery store in my poor bald car, paid my electric bill, and it was restored within the hour. I was standing in my kitchen when I saw the utility truck stop in the alley behind my house. I could hear the guy humming as he opened the fence and walked into my back yard like he had a right to (which, I guess he does). I ducked past the windows. For some reason, I didn't want him to know I was at home. Probably because he knew my power had been turned off, and that's embarrassing. But he came around and rang the doorbell to tell me that the power was back on, so hiding turned out to be useless after all. And shame on me for hiding in my own house.

The same morning that I got hit by the bus, my mother's siblings and three of their spouses were in town visiting. So, that night at dinner, they asked me how my day was. I told them about the bus. They asked if my day got better after that. So, I told them about the power being shut off. Hiding it or not owning it doesn't make it less humiliating.

This leads me to sunny point c in my ritual humiliation by the universe (is this because Scorpios have birthdays right now?): This morning, I was working at Department Store. We have a new employee, a young woman, and we were talking to her this morning while we were unpacking all of the boxes and de-trashing merchandise, sizing and colorizing it to take to the floor. We have a close-knit team. We all really get along well and like and respect each other, so it's a really great gig. We all laugh a lot and harass each other and tell stories about dumb things we've done. I have done a lot of dumb things, so we laugh about that a lot. So, I said something about how Department Store has a generous policy about hiring dumb people like me, and my team leader said, "She isn't dumb. She has a master's degree, and I have to look up half the things she says. Only, I can't spell them, so I am sitting there saying them into my phone: 'Rogue... Ohhhhh.'"

Then A said, "We should all go to Jen's class sometime. I think we might learn something." She was laughing as she said it, but seriously, it would be fun to have them visit my class.

I said, "Can you please come tell my students that?"

So, our new employee (okay, forgive me, but I am just going to have to call her the new girl, because at Department Store, that's the vernacular) says, "Oh, do you teach the WACT class?"

My eyebrows nearly shot off my head. Before I could ask her how she knew and why she was calling it "the" WACT class, she continued with, "My sister's in your class."

The only thing that could have been higher on the Richter humiliation scale would be if one of my students actually got a job there and was working side by side with me. But actually, I can be bossier there than I can in class, so that might actually be fun. Kidding.

So, I said, "Who is your sister?"

Guess who her sister is? Yep. I said, "Oh, she's the one I called a Nazi!" and her sister replied, "That's not the first time she's gotten that."

It occurred to me, though, that I was glad I've already talked in class about working at Department Store. It's not something I hide or am ashamed of. But what if I were a more private person or more given to genuine embarrassment? I have been embarrassed in the past about working at Department Store. I have felt badly for my former students as they see me working there and wonder about the value of the education they received from me. And if this is where I am, what does that say about their own futures? I have also hidden on occasion from people, because I was embarrassed. Seriously, I've seen a couple of people and told my co-workers that I was going to hide until that person left, and then headed back to the stockroom. I don't do that anymore. In fact, now I give those people coupons. But I have wondered from time to time about how my students feel about the fact that their professor works at Department Store. But I also set my chin (metaphorically) and think, "Tough shit!" That is the reality we all live in. There is no sense in whitewashing it. One of the basic premises that I grew up with, and I don't think I am alone in this, is that we generally attend college and graduate school and do all those extra papers so we don't have to work at jobs like Department Store that pay so little. But my education does nothing to make me more qualified to work at Department Store, actually. As I have said, my mistakes come up a LOT in conversation. I am just lucky that they have been benign mistakes, mostly limited to sizing things incorrectly and then bitching loud and long about what a mess these jeans are and proceeding to size them all wrong, without realizing it. All the while, my team was trying to figure out why the hell the jeans were always still sized wrong. Whoops. And I'm lucky and grateful that they tease me, but they don't make me feel stupid or incompetent. It's just funny. Nobody got hurt. It was dumb, yes, but honestly, sizing jeans just confuses the hell out of me sometimes. But I have had spouses who have been less forgiving of dumb mistakes than my team is at Department Store, so I lurve them. And I appreciate them not linking my mistakes to me as character flaws.

So yeah, those have been my primary reminders of my very small and unimportant place in the universe. But it's not all bad. As I said above, in passing, really, my mother's siblings all came to town last week! Except one, who missed a connecting flight and wasn't really feeling well to begin with. It was amazing to see them all in the same room together.

I haven't seen that since my father's funeral. And I try really hard not to dwell on the fact that I may never see it again. It's a really odd thing to go from teaching a college class to walking into a room filled with your childhood memories. They all got up to hug me as I walked into the room, and I felt loved. It's hard to live away from family all the time. I have my mom and my kids here and friends I love like family. But last night after work, I was walking around the grocery store and it occurred to me that I am very alone. I have always felt like I have a support system here, but it's grown smaller as people have moved, divorces happen, people grow apart. I have been in a hermit-like cocoon for so long that even though I have not made demands on people, I have not contributed anything either.

I used to get angry with my mother for not keeping things together more when I was a teenager. I let my kids see me upset and crying. I am always very specific about what I am upset about though-- they know quickly that it isn't them, that it is temporary, and that I'm okay, but I need to cry at that moment. My mother cried a lot and then when I asked her what was wrong, she said it was nothing. A little given to melodrama, that one. That only confused me and pissed me off, so I don't do it to my kids. I confuse and piss them off in different ways that I'm not aware of and wouldn't do if I could prevent it. But just as I used to get angry with my mother for not keeping it together more, I now get angry with myself for not handling grief and blows and life very well since Karl died in 2008. I am both present and not present. I smile, I joke, I laugh, I cook, I eat, I tease, I love, but the only moments in which I am truly, 100% engaged are rare. I usually feel like I am holding something back, and even though I am aware of it, I don't really know how to stop. Psychologically, I understand that because of some accumulated losses and events, I don't really ever feel truly happy in part because I can't deal anymore with the complete annihilation that comes with losing what you love. And I think in part, I keep myself from becoming too engaged or too attached by shutting down and either feeling like I need to nap or go do something else rather than sitting longer with a loved one or going out with friends. I won't be sad about dying if I never completely embrace my life. And dying is inevitable-- having a happy life is not.  There are a couple of people with whom I come pretty close to being fully present for. But even with my closest intimates, I will duck into my phone for a game. In some ways, it is a way to check out, to have some alone time, but it doesn't make my closest friends very happy. Rightly so. But I do a lot of things for a lot of other people, so I am selfishly refusing to give this form of rudeness up. Yes, it is rude. Simultaneously, it's helping keep me sane, and that takes priority. If I'm not rude this way, I'll be ruder more directly, because I will get irritated as time goes on. I need a lot of down and recovery time from three times and a lot of interaction out in the world. I have come to realize that I am an introvert, and I need alone time to recharge myself.

I berate myself, though, for stupid things like not getting family pictures done every year, not baking anything pumpkin this season, for not keeping a cleaner home. Somehow I feel like people who can not only survive but also engage happily in hobbies instead of becoming zombified like I do-- it feels like they're doing it better. Not that it's a contest. But they seem to be better at living life than I am.

I have been wanting to write since last week, but I have some pretty intense work deadlines that I need to return to. I have good intentions about writing in the evening, but by the time I sit down, I just want to drink red wine and watch TV and not have to think so damn hard about how to do what at which job.

There's more I want to write about, but not now, there isn't time. There really isn't even time to think about them. I want to write more about dating, about friendships, about the herbs and spices of existence that I don't have enough time to think about, but sometimes I still do. It is not lost on me that a populace that can't spend time thinking because it is too busy working for its basic survival, or too worn out when the work is done, is exactly what the 1% is going for. But just because I can see how I am being manipulated doesn't mean I can make it end.