Pus Eye

April 14, 2010

For the past few days, my boss Laura has been calling me “Pus Eye”.

Before you go calling the authorities for Employee Mistreatment, let me note that one conversation we had today went something like this:

Laura: I wish I didn’t look like I was 14 today. I’m wearing flats, and I look like I’m 4-foot-nothing.
Ann: Well, if it makes you feel any better, I haven’t showered for 3 days.
Cristina (chimes in): Really? Three days?
Ann: Yes. I’m conserving water. [Pauses]. Actually, that’s a lie. I’m really lazy.

That story was to illustrate that we have good, honest comraderie in my office. We don’t call one another Pus Eye and expect each other to cry about it.

But I did cry about it. Involuntarily.

Because my Pus Eye is also watering.

I think I have an infected tear duct, and the pus has filled the tear duct to the point that it will not drain my tears. Someone ought to create a product to fix this and call it Drano: For Eyes. Only that might not sell very well, so… forget that. Heh.

While my eye has been feeling (and looking) better today, the last few days have been rather tedious. Monday night was the worst. I won’t go into detail, but every-so-often, I’d have to wipe my eye of a substance similar to mucous. It was itchy and hurt a little and all red.

Before you ask if I have pink eye, the answer is no, I do not have pink eye, and that’s disgusting. I most certainly would not be sharing on my blog if I had pink eye, and if you know what pink eye really is, you know why.

It happened a lot to farm kids in rural Minnesota where I grew up.

After they had fertilized the fields, if you know what I mean.

No, I believe Pus Eye is the result of a dangerous liaison. Instead of combining prescription drugs and alcohol, I combined mascara and sleep. For this problem, there ought to be preventative commercials featuring breakfast food.

This is your eye. This is your eye on old mascara.

Anyway, that’s not the point. I do have a point. But first, here is something else that is not the point:

Pus Eye has actually been kind of fun because I get to simulate crying at random moments. For example:

“Do you know Jessie?”
Eye fills up and tear rolls down cheek: “You don’t know how much I wish I could.”

“What are you doing?”
Eye fills up and tear rolls down cheek: “I am eating Cheerios. Grandpa used to eat Cheerios.”

“How is work going?”
Eye fills up and tear rolls down cheek: “They are calling me Pus Eye.”

The point is that the whole thing is making me think about that passage in the Bible where Jesus tells people not to try to pick the spec out of someone else’s eye without first removing the plank from our own.

There is a lot of gross stuff coming out of my eye. People see it and call tell there’s something wrong. It’s pretty easy for this intuitive brain to make a connection between my current physical ailments and my spiritual ailments. What would someone think if I walked up to her and told her that her eyeshadow is a terrible color while my eye is covered with pus?

Gross.

There’s a Rock In My Belly.

December 29, 2009

In typical worst-case-scenario fashion, I have been wondering for a while when my minor or major medical catastrophe would hit.  So many friends and family members have already had theirs – Cousin Jeremy had gallstones, Uncle Marvin had a heart attack, this kid I once took care of in day care had a swollen spleen, there was that girl in college with appendicitis, and we mustn’t forget various strokes among the elderly. Relatively speaking (because we were just speaking of my relatives… bwa, ha, ha, ha), I have always been healthy as the proverbial horse. It seemed that I was health insurance’s exception. They should have been clamoring to insure this girl… nary a broken bone, nary a trip to the emergency room, nary an illness that required more than a bath, sleep, liquids, and over-the-counter medication.

It seems, however, that my day has come. As we speak, an 8mm kidney stone rests in the confines of my belly, waiting to be birthed. I am completely comfortable, but drinking lots of pure, unfiltered apple juice and water.

“If you are completely comfortable, how did you discover this kidney stone?” you may ask. That is a good question. Thank you for your inquiry. I will tell you.

I took a long vacation from work for the holidays because I’ve been working like an ant on drugs for the last three months. I came home to Minnesota to visit my family, and, while getting ready to head downstairs to help my parents clean for the impending family gathering, I noticed a pain in my right side. Being a female used to various stomach pains, due to elements that make child-bearing possible, I thought little of it. A few hours later, however, the pain had spread to my lower back on the right side, and I took some ibuprofen and laid down, hoping the feeling would pass. Mom came in to check on me, and while speaking to my mother has never made me nauseous before, this time I had to jump up and high-tail it to the bathroom, where I promptly vomited. “What did you vomit, you may ask?” I will tell you. I vomited up tomato soup and crackers, of course. Thank you for asking.

The pain in my side became increasingly worse, and even though we were experiencing the first phase of the epic blizzard that swept the nation, Mom and Dad took me to the emergency room, where a doctor rudely pounded on my lower back, which forced me to vomit once more. I got my first-ever IV, my first ever dose of amazing pain medication, and my first-ever experience having a nurse insert dye into my rectum to determine through X-Ray whether or not my pain was caused by a faulty appendix. Did I mention that the only X-Ray nurse on duty was a guy, my age, who used to think I was cute in high school? Also, the other 2 nurses on duty were present the day I was born, so my mother says. Afterward, I called this dashing young man that I’m dating (yes, I’m dating someone), told him the story, and said, “THIS IS WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU GREW UP IN A SMALL TOWN!” It was my most embarrassing experience since the Great Speculum Incident of 2006, which shall remain off the blog.

A few urine and blood samples later, the doctor came in and announced that we would not have to depart in this crazy weather to the big hospital in the next town to remove my appendix – the X-Rays had confirmed that I had a kidney stone stuck right between my kidney and bladder.

The doc loaded me up with a few prescriptions of really strong pain medication, and I went home, but since the escapade in the ER, I have felt very little pain, even without the medication. I wondered if the stone was still there, but a trip to the clinic to get another opinion from a different doctor confirmed that the stone is still in there, just hanging out, rent-free.

The docs seemed to want me to try something invasive pretty soon if the stone hasn’t passed, but I’m not one to jump to expensive, invasive procedures right away. I’ve never been a girl who likes to take medications. I’m often skeptical about their true effects on the body, and I have this theory that doctors often prescribe things because patients want an immediate answer, an immediate practice they can do to feel like they’re working against an ailment, even if that practice isn’t really helping.  I am young and healthy, so, in most cases of sickness, I find that my body knows what it’s doing. If I have a bout with vomiting or diarrhea (I have become pretty open about these since traveling in India), it means that my body is trying to expel something that doesn’t belong there. As long as it doesn’t become chronic, I’m not going to take something to stop the process. It’s natural and important. I don’t believe in taking medication to stop a runny nose or divert a menstrual cycle. If the nose-running becomes chronic, then let’s talk about what we can do medically. If it’s just a normal runny nose, then let’s let my body use its own crowd control.

At this point, I have no signs of infections, and all bodily functions are normal. I’m not in any pain. So, I’m trying a more organic, natural approach to birthing this stone.

Many people have offered their advice on kidney stone expulsion, but my Aunt Marge sent me a very specific recipe. She says that this potion has worked every time for her, and I’m inclined to believe her. She writes, “Here is the remedy that has worked good here at our house and one I have given to many others. I passed a stone as big as a small hen’s egg one time. It looked like light green plaster of paris.” (I love the way elderly people write.)

So, I am on Day 3 of the process, and it’s pretty simple thus far. The gross stuff comes later. Here is the secret, magical concoction, for those of you who are interested:

–       For seven days, drink at least one quart daily of unfiltered, unsweetened apple juice. Continue to eat regular meals, but eat lighter, preferably mostly fruit and vegetables and no red meat.

–       On the evening of the 7th day, at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., dissolve 2 Teaspoons Epsom salts in 8 oz. of warm water and drink quickly.

–       At 10 p.m., squeeze ½ cup lemon juice and shake into ½ cup pure olive oil. Drink down quickly. (Here’s Aunt Marge’s note… it cracked me up: “Loren chugs his down like candy but I have a hard time making myself drink it. I say that you deserve to get well if you can drink that stuff.”)

–       Go immediately to bed and lie on your right side for at least 30 minutes.

–       Kidney stones should pass painlessly

Besides the small hen’s egg, she says she has painlessly passed several more that “looked like jelly beans.”

I’m hoping this works. It would be a shame to drink lemon juice mixed with olive oil for nothing.

Men must’ve been walking on the roof, and I said as much. “What are they doing up there?” I asked when the building moved.

The night before the earthquake D and I were driving back up to L.A. from Newport Beach after spending Sunday and Monday in the O.C. with best friend L and her boyfriend JT. Saturday night offered a birthday party at D’s house up in the Hollywood hills for a roommate; spending the night at JT’s aunt’s home — a big-whig CBS person; a Sunday brunch with JT’s sister and brother-in-law — a studying architect and a cinematographer; a Sunday afternoon lounging on JT’s grandma’s deck in the Newport Bay while watching JT windsurf; a Sunday night snuggling on the couch to the romantic-est of romantic movies, American Psycho; a Monday driving around Newport in a 1970s convertible Volkswagen, license plate similar to but not exactly THE THING, with a surf board sticking out the back; and a Sunday early evening watching JT, L, and D surf (and attempt to surf) in our very own little section of the ocean.

In the car, on the drive home, we were tired. And satisfied. We love our friends. In the quiet satisfaction of the drive, I sang aloud the song that has been stuck in my head for days and days now, Natalie Merchant’s “San Andreas Fault,” a song I put on a mix CD for D before we started dating. It is off the album Tiger Lily, an album that has been somewhere in my head since I was 14. I know every lyric on it. When I was 14, I almost wished I had a broken heart so the song “Seven Years” could be true of me. It was that lovely and tragic, and I was that masochistic. Still, “San Andreas Fault” is my favorite on the album:

Go west
Paradise is there
You’ll have all that you can eat
Of milk and honey over there

You’ll be the brightest star
The world has ever seen
Sun-baked slender heroine
Of film and magazine

Go west
Paradise is there
You’ll have all that you can eat
Of milk and honey over there

You’ll be the brightest light
The world has ever seen
The dizzy height of a jet-set life
You could never dream

Your pale blue eyes
Strawberry hair
Lips so sweet
Skin so fair

Your future bright
Beyond compare
It’s rags to riches
Over there

San Andreas Fault
Moved its fingers
Through the ground
Earth divided
Plates collided
Such an awful sound

San Andreas Fault
Moved its fingers
Through the ground
Terra cotta shattered
And the walls came
Tumbling down

O, promised land
O, wicked ground
Build a dream
Tear it down

O, promised land
What a wicked ground
Build a dream
Watch it all fall down

For as long as we’ve known it, the West has beckoned people with dreams; first those literal gold-diggers with their shovels and pans, those unsinkable Molly Browns. Then Hollywood boasted gold, a Golden Era where riches dwelt not in rocks but in pictures. It is that gold that people come with their pick-axes to claim now-days. There are so many people here, so many, many people who are fighting for that gold, like Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester in A Star is Born. One must wonder if this role resonated a little too deeply with Frances Ethel Gumm/Judy Garland when she played it. Like me, she was born in Minnesota. She crossed the fault line into Hollywood. Perhaps she wouldn’t have died of a drug overdose or attempted all those suicides without all those insecurities about her appearance, exacerbated by studio execs pushing her to be a skinny woman. She might’ve had a long and happy life in Minnesota. Perhaps there really is no place like home.

Sad songs are always the best songs, and I never really understood “San Andreas Fault” until I moved to the wrong side of the actual one. At 14 I didn’t know much about youth even though I possessed it in abundance. Now that youth is ticking away, it has become a precious commodity, more precious than the number in any bank account — even William Randolph Hearst, circa 1928. I moved here not for a dream of wealth, but for a dream of youth. I came here to spend my years of sweet lips and fair skin in a land of water and seemingly endless sun.

You would think that a City of Dreams would offer its residents lovely neighbors, that the opportunities would abound like the pigeons, and all the people would drown in gold and get grills for their teeth. But maybe L.A. is called the City of Dreams and not the City of Successes because so may come here with a dream and leave without it. It doesn’t slip through just any old crack. It slips in the San Andreas Fault. That’s why we have earthquakes: All those orphan dreams are rolling around down there.

When the earthquake happened I stood up. Others I know dove to the floor. Apparently the plastic electrical plates burst off the walls in office buildings close to the origin of the quake. D’s sister E had an awkward moment with her boss under a desk. In my office, we stood in the hallway, each in a respective doorway, watching the juice our company manufactures slosh in the bottles to see if the building was still swaying and that it wasn’t just our scared little knees. A California-native hugged me. This was my first quake, wasn’t it? Was I scared?

Scared? No. So thrilled I felt it through my whole body? Yes.

It isn’t really the San Andreas Fault that scares me, even though my new homeland will supposedly someday fall into the ocean. My own faults scare me much more… faults like financial irresponsibility, worrying so much about my life that I fail to live it, the ways that I take my anger out on the people I love, the inability to figure out what I’m really doing with my life, my tendency toward depression. Meanwhile, youth ticks away. My birthday is next month. My twenties are more than halfway over.

The earthquake didn’t really scare me because the ground did not jump or shake here like I expected it to. I expected it to shake us like pennies in a jar. Instead it moved like the L.A. traffic does when you watch it from the Hollywood Hills at night. All those lights snake up the hills, in a choreography of curves and different sounds. Sometimes when I’m driving home I listen to the classical music station because its like we’re in an orchestra. Enter Ford F150 with your booming tympani; come gently little old Volkswagen Beetle with your flighty piccolo; El Diablo, bring your classical guitar; don’t forget your French Horn, Mercedes Benz. When you’re in it, it can feel jerky and unpracticed — some people play the wrong notes. But when you look above and see it happen with a different perspective, all of it works together. You see the beginning, and you see the end and all the lights and buildings and hills in between.

And when those faults do act up as they inevitably do — the Angelinos have been expecting The Big One for years now and are relieved this small one came to relieve some pressure — perhaps it truly is the best idea to run to the first doorway and stand in it until the swaying stops, and on scared little knees, take a new step.

This post was supposed to be about my own abyss of staggering, suctioning desolation. It was supposed to be about my struggle with anxiety, including dripping references to Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath and how all great writers eventually asphyxiate themselves.

This post was supposed to be gushing and emotive and altogether moving; a post in which everything the heroine says or does resonates within the reader, until the reader bursts out shouting: “Yes, dear writer, your plight has been my plight, and your life, my life! I love you for brilliantly expressing what I, as a mere reader, cannot express! You are the voice of humanity and all that is poetry!”

While writing said post, I had a fit of writing-hating: hating myself via hating my writing. I called Best Friend L in San Francisco and gushed to her about all my irrational fears and my struggle with anxiety these past few days and how I have no idea what I’m doing with my life, and (sob) I miss Francis the Cat.

Then L told me that when she was in Peru a few weeks ago, she got sick one day and vomited, and right after she vomited there was an 6.5 earthquake while she was naked.

And lo, I laughed. L laughed too; she said, “I’m so glad you reacted that way. No one laughs when I tell them.”

“What, do they say, ‘Oh no, you threw up, I’m so sorry?’”

“Yes, but I wish they would laugh. It’s really funny.”

And lo, lo, I laughed, heartily.

And then I told her… I told her all the irrational things I’ve been anxious about… virgin pregnancy being the forerunner.

“See?! See how irrational it is?” I asked. “I’ve never even had sex, but suddenly I gain weight and my breasts get swollen from PMS, and I’m all panicked that I’m giving birth to a deity and asking D if he’s had any prophetic dreams lately.” I didn’t tell her about the fears that the bank is stealing all my money (“This girl has $2000 in her checking account and $30,000 in school debt… she looks like she wouldn’t notice if we took a grand here and there…”); or my fears about my feet growing really, really wide; or my fears about my eyelashes falling out. You laugh. You just go ahead and laugh, but seriously, guys…

What if this happened?

And then I told her about how D and I were kissing the other day, glorious, healthy kissing in the purest way possible, and I actually started crying. Not because the moment was so romantic and emotive and meaningful that I couldn’t help myself. I started crying because I imagined what it would be like if we broke up. And suddenly, that Worst Case Scenario became my reality instead of the real reality – the attractive young man beside me who likes me so much that he lets me place my mushy, saliva-covered lips on his.

And then L said, “Give yourself a break!” She named off all the tough things I’ve done lately, dating all the way back to the moment of the big move to California in December. “Seriously,” she said. “Give yourself a break. We need to start making this our mantra whenever anything is scary: ‘At least I’m not pregnant.’”

And that was just what I needed to hear, just what writing a million gushing posts could not cure. Well, it was what L said AND D’s earlier affirmation that the bank is not stealing my money, and even if they were stealing my money, I would not die.

That’s the nice thing about having so little money. There isn’t a whole lot to lose. And really, the best thing about all of it is that even if the bank were stealing my money, the bank could not make me pregnant…

…right?

A couple of weekends ago these hands touched a public payphone for the first time since, oh, probably the summer of ’03 when I went to London and Ireland for five weeks. Now, London and Northern Ireland, because they both belong to the UK, have cool payphones, payphones which are so asthetically pleasing that one can almost forget the germs festering on the handle and buttons and the advertising for naughty massages papering the inside.

 

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Since the summer of ’04, I’ve been a mobile-r and have joined the throngs of distracted multi-taskers who will likely develop brain tumors in our seventies because of constantly cuddling an electronic device to the sides of our heads. Next year California is supposedly banning drivers from using cell phones without hands-free devices, and who can blame them? According to the journal Quarterly Factors, “Cell phone distraction causes 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States every year.” My cell phone has caused headaches, neck aches, facial break outs, and cost a total of approximately $2,380 since its acquisition in May of ’04. Not to mention the panic… when dropped. This past winter I dropped the beloved cell phone (let’s call her Bess, shall we?) from a high table bar stool in a restaurant. She crashed to the floor, and her battery shot out, sliding across the linoleum to land underneath some lady’s foot. Thankfully, she did not step down and crush the battery. Because of this instance, I was forced to exclaim a near explitive in front of a room full of elderly people getting their afternoon coffee at the podunk cafe; spring lithely from my seat and rush to kneel on the floor where I scooped up Bess’s parts; and crawl on my knees on a restaurant floor, underneath a table, with my rear sticking up like a stretching cat in front of all, just to retrieve a stupid battery.  

Sometimes, I admit, I’ve even had the thought, “Why doesn’t Grandma just get a cell phone? It would be so much easier to text her this question!” Grandma just turned 82 in January. Heaven forbid that I should actually have to call my grandmother on her land line and have an actual conversation with her.

No matter how much grief this small, red device has caused me, my cell-love never manifests itself until the sans-cell phone situation emerges. A few weekends ago, D treated me to some lovely date-time, in which we decided to go see a movie. We drove separately from my apartment so he could leave to go back to his place from the mall. It wasn’t until we were about to enter the parking garage for the mall that the horrific truth arose:  I had forgotten Bess at home.

Mall parking on a Sunday in LA is never easy. One will rarely find a parking spot in the garage next to one’s party. One must simply hit the gas and zoom toward the closest spot available, whether it be on the second floor or the tenth. On this particular occassion, that special spot meant for me was on the seventh floor. By the time I parked Mable the Sable and hopped the elevator, D was nowhere to be found. Well, my naive small-town self said, I’ll just wait until D rides the elevator down, and we’ll meet at the bottom.

Half an hour later, I finally figured out that there are several entrances to the parking garage. I took a few loops around the area, paying specific attention to the movie theater. No D. Maybe I should go wait for him in the philosophy section of Barnes and Noble, my romantic side whispered. I made a comment to D a few weeks ago that I’d like to know how much time we’ve spent in the philsophy section of Barnes and Noble in the course of our relationship. A pay phone loomed in the corner of the courtyard where I waited, but two problems reared their ugly heads:

1.) No change. What savvy city girl goes anywhere without quarters? Give me a break. I grew up in population-4,000 town in Southern Minnesota, where paying for parking is merely a legend and you could more easily walk to someone’s house than dial their number.

2.) No phone number. Yes folks, now is the time to sheepishly admit that D and I have been dating for nearly 20 months, and neither of us know one anothers’ phone numbers.

My mission became clear in an instant. Find quarters. Call any number I have memorized that might know D’s number. Call D.

Finding quarters seemed like it would be easy in a mall. Except that California mall clerks don’t have the wholesome helpfulness that Minnesota or Arkansas clerks do. D and I went to a high-end mall called The Grove. The thing has its own trolley tinkling its little bell through the cobblestone streets. The only remotely lower-class store I could find was J. Crew. I went in to get some change and ended up having to purchase a $6 plastic barette so the cashier could open the cash drawer.  It was the cheapest thing I could find. I had previously recoiled when picking up a $26 coin purse.

The accrual of change brought me to the next step: Calling someone I knew to find D’s number. The deposit of four quarters affords a pay phone patron a mere 4 minutes of conversation. First, I called my friend A in Arkansas. She got her cell phone back when I didn’t have a cell phone and still memorized people’s phone numbers. I got her voicemail and left a frantic message. “Hi, A. I know I haven’t talked to you in a long time, but I need you to do something for me if you get this in the next few minutes. I’m going to call back in five minutes. I’m on a payphone in a mall in California, and I need D’s phone number. I thought you might have it somewhere, and you’re the only friend I have that I actually know your number. So, please pick up when I call back.” I called back three times. No avail. My parents weren’t home — they were spending the afternoon at my brother’s house, but I figured it was worth a shot. Mom is one of the most prepared people I know… the type who will carry wadded up plastic bags in her purse, just in case. I thought I might know her cell phone number. I dialed. It was dad’s.

“Hi, Dad. It’s Ann. I’m calling from a payphone in a mall in L.A., and I need your help. Does Mom have D’s phone number?’

“You don’t know his number?”

“I don’t. You’ve got to hurry. I’ve only got four minutes until I need to deposit another dollar.”

“I’ll ask her.”

Muffled voices in the background. “She’s checking,” Dad said.

“She has G’s number.” (G is D’s twin brother.)

I pause. “Why does she have G’s number?”

“I don’t know. I’ll ask her.”

“No, it’s okay. G’s number is good. Give me that for now in case we get cut off before she finds D’s number.”

We got cut off before I had a chance to say goodbye. Mom didn’t have D’s number, but for some reason she had G’s. So, I called G.

“Hi, G. It’s Ann. I’m calling from a payphone at the Grove. I need D’s phone number.”

“You don’t know his number? You’ve been dating how long?”

“I know, I know. I only have four minutes. You’ve got to give me the number. You’ve just got to!”

G hooked me up with the digits I needed, and my triumphant “Hi!” to D when I finally heard his voice on the line an hour and fifteen minutes after we parked our cars was enough to turn the heads of several by-standers. We met in front of the movie theater. “I’ve been walking around this whole area,” he said when I hugged him. “I guess we just missed each other. I thought about going into the philosophy section of Barnes and Noble.”

“Really?! Me too! This is our plan if this ever happens again. We’ll meet in the philosophy section of Barnes and Noble.”

And so, we went, hand-in-hand into the movie theater to purchase our overpriced confections and find our seats.

About seven minutes before the end of the movie, entitled Definitely Maybe, we got evacuated from the movie theater. But that, my friends, is a story for tomorrow.

That’s Quite a Shiner.

February 24, 2008

Yesterday D gave me a black eye. When I text messaged him this morning to let him know he had done so, he wrote back, “Are you serious? I’m so sorry,” and after I told him he did indeed, and that it doesn’t hurt (much) — it just looks bad — I’m sure he went off to tell his friends that he gave his girlfriend a black eye.

Never one to get into fights as a young child, I have only had a black eye two other times in my life. Once, as a little girl, I fell off my bike, and I think I hit the handle or something. This is only a vague remembrance. My brother, incidentally, had a similar accident the same week, and Mom refused to take us anywhere because she was afraid people would think she was abusive.

Also, as my only act of rebellion in my entire life, I got my eyebrow pierced my freshman year of college. I had a black eye from that for about a week. And it really wasn’t an act of rebellion or anything that serious or sinister. I just wanted one.

This black eye was a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I went down to D’s place yesterday to spend my Saturday with him, and we were cuddling. He reached down to the floor to grab something — maybe his phone? I don’t remember — and when he sat back up, his elbow was out, and it hit my eye. I said, “Ouch,” because it hurt, and he apologized and asked if I was okay, and I said, “Oh, it’s fine,” but then I woke up this morning with a huge eye booger in the corner of my eye. Apparently the injury caused my tear duct to work overtime. The mirror shows an angry, red eyeball and a small purplish bruise beneath my eye. You can’t really tell unless you look at it closely, but that will probably change tomorrow. If it looks any shinier, I promise to post pictures.

I’m going to tell everyone that I got it defending my boyfriend’s honor.

More Trafficking…

February 13, 2008

Los Angeles traffic is everything people say it is and then some. My place of employment, thankfully, has provided me with the option of coming in at 8 a.m. instead of the usual 9 a.m. work time so I can miss traffic in the morning; taking a 1/2-hour lunch break; and leaving at 4:30. For the most part, I forgo the craziness of the traffic. The first week I arrived I realized that learning to drive in Minnesota has prepared me at least somewhat for the wonky city traffic: Driving with L.A. drivers is like driving during a blizzard.

It is a rare occurrence when I don’t see an accident on the road in the course of a day (Mom, don’t panic). Over and over again, the audacity of my fellow-drivers on the bright roadways of this sunshine-y state baffle and perplex me, while, so far, providing more cause for laughter than for bitterness. Take yesterday for example:

I am driving home from work and stop at a red light, which promptly turns green. I begin to proceed across the intersection when a white Lexus SUV sitting on the intersecting street guns it to make a right turn in front of me. I repeat, I have the green light. So, I honk. Honking is just what people do around here. Then big sunglasses lady inside tells me I’m #1… but with the wrong finger. And not only does she extend said finger in the rear view mirror, but she also shakes it… a good strong shake, not a dead-fish shake.

Los Angeles may be the only place on earth where other drivers get pissed at you when they make traffic violations.

*EDIT*

I forgot to tell y’all that it’s only a month until I get to see these beloved little people!!! (My brother and sister-in-law and their two kids are coming to visit next month. Disneyland, here we come!):

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Niece Lydia

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Nephew Ezra, and yes he is holding a bust of Elvis.

Living In a Movie

February 11, 2008

On the way home from work today, I was waiting at a green light for a homeless woman to cross the street so I could make a left turn. She stopped in the middle of the street, reached down, and picked up something, while I was waiting for her with a line of cars behind me, unsure if I should just go around her, lest she decide to run right in front of me. I figured she must’ve stopped to pick up some change, but I realized I was wrong when a thunk hit my roof, and I looked up to find her waving her hand dismissively and glaring at me. All I was doing was waiting to make a left turn. I didn’t even honk. There’s a reason Los Angeles’ largest industry is film: More often than not, living here feels like living in a movie.

Yesterday D’s roommate B returned to The Astounding House of Six Men Who Rule the World From Three Bedrooms, so I decided to go home early for the first night in a week. D, B, and I were playing Boggle at the table when I realized that D and I have been spending time together every day and evening this past week, and geez, I hadn’t had any significant alone time in over two weeks, and man, D must need some guy-time now that his roommates are coming back from the break. So, I says, “D, I’m going home,” and he says, “What for? Are you okay?” and I says, “I’m fine, but you need to spend some time with your friends.”

I went to bed at 9:30.

I can’t wait to actually have my own friends here. I mean, I love D’s friends, but I also need my own. You know, like, girls.

Perhaps I will sign up for a church small group at Mosaic. It’s nice that some church services meet in the evening, so even if I find a morning church somewhere else, I can be involved in both.

What else can I really say today? I’ve been applying for more jobs. I updated my resume on Monster today. I’ve been searching Craigslist daily. The newspaper has been the subject of my consistent perusal, and I’m keeping my ears and eyes open. I’m almost afraid to get excited about finally being in California because I don’t have a job yet; therefore, I don’t know how long I’ll be staying. I like a sense of permanence just as Emily Dickinson likes “a look of agony/ because I know ‘tis true.” Yesterday it finally stopped raining, raining, raining, and while it is still chilly for Southern California, my goodness, this weather is fantastic.

And then there is the boy. Yesterday we were driving to the train station to pick up B, and I admitted to D that I’ve been mad at him for the past day or so. Well, first I admitted that I was mad at him right then because of something he did. He said, “I’m sorry,” and I said, “Well, you should be. Apology accepted,” and then we both started laughing. If it had been a sitcom, our laughing faces would have freeze framed at that moment, only to be the background for the scrolling credits.

And then, amid our laughter, I told him the dark and sickly truth: “Actually, I think I’ve been mad at you for the past several days.”

“Really? Why?”

“Yes, really. But I don’t think I realized it until last night. I’ve been mad at you because I don’t have a job yet.”

It’s funny how my attitude about seeing D has changed now that we are seeing one another on a regular basis. I don’t have the sense of gratefulness that I had on vacations of seeing him, or the sense of urgency to spend loads of meaningful time with him. We’ve watched a bunch of movies. We’ve sat at Barnes and Noble and done literary things. We’ve hung out with his brother and friends. We’ve gone to church. I taught him and his brother how to air up the tire of his car. We’ve played with kittens.

Yesterday I realized that I have already gotten so comfortable with him that I’m taking him for granted in a way that I never did when we were long-distance. Before, I missed him, all the time, every day. It wasn’t a pathetic sort of pining way of missing him. It was just constantly with me as I lived my life and did the daily things. It wasn’t really pining, but wishing: I wish D could come out with me and my friends tonight. If D were here, I wouldn’t have to go to church alone. It would be nice to go out to lunch with D today. One great thing that we both acknowledged about our long-distance relationship was that we never took one another for granted.

For the past week, his roommates have been either gone or out of the house most of the time, and my future roommate has yet to arrive. I don’t have many friends yet, and I’ve been depending on D quite a bit to learn where I’m going. My world has a pretty small radius right now: my house, D’s house, Panera, Starbucks, and the real stretch is the Chick-Fil-A (Top 5 Quick Service Restaurants: 1. Chick-Fil-A, 2. In and Out Burger, 3. Subway, 4. Jack In the Box, 5. Wendy’s) in La Habra that I hunted down my first day here. I have driven to Hollywood a few times but have yet to do it on my own. This is a new feeling for me – the sense of dependency that I have not really experienced since I left for college in 2001. And it annoys the shins out of me.

That is why I have been mad at D. My sense of dependence on him has robbed me of my independence. So, while he is all helping me adapt and taking care of me and being so wonderfully protective (do you know just how romantic it is to have a strong, sexy boy usher you through a crowd of crazy Hollywood people? Whew. It’s hot.), I am resenting him because of my own failure to take steps of my own. Or because none of the places of employment that I have applied to have responded yet. In a few ways, I have been taking steps. I just need patience… and trust that God has me here for a purpose.

Yesterday D asked me if we’d been spending too much time together. I was hesitant to answer even though I know the answer is, “Yes.” The hesitancy comes from how comfortable it is to depend on him. While the dependency is aggravating because it’s not really how I operate, it’s also safe. I am the kind of girl who has a few close friends rather than a network of distant ones. Those close friendships are hard to build. They take time and effort and a dollop of vulnerability. At the same time, I know that missing D has always been a vital component to our relationship, and now, even though I’m currently living just a few blocks from him, I need to let myself miss him again, so I can come to him at the end of the day excited to tell him about all the great or discouraging things that happened to me, on my own, in this new life.

Today’s installment is going to have to be quick because I’m a sick-y, and my head is pounding. Who knew that so much mucous could come out of one so polite and genteel as I? The illness gods have not granted my wish for that one really, really good nose-blow where everything comes out from deep inside, and afterward you can’t help but peek in the kleenex and say, “Yesssssss.”

Thankfully we had no fruit orders to go out today, so my co-workers and I didn’t have to work. Mom went shopping and asked if I wanted to come along, but I decided to spend the afternoon in my pajamas on the couch with the dog. It has proven to be a fantastic decision except that every time I get up to re-medicate, the dog has stolen my place on the couch.

For the most part, those who replied to the last post (and you can still reply if you’d like) said that they, too, believe that technology has made long-distance dating more rampant than it was twenty years ago. Some brought out the point, however, that times of war change the statistics. Quite logical. Perhaps one reason long-distance dating is more common today is because of the War In Iraq, all technology-speak aside. But World War II or World War I probably saw more situations of long-distance relationships just because so many more soldiers were involved.

The most difficult obstacle I’ve encountered in this whole D Dating Debacle is trust. Sure, it’s tough to go places without your boyfriend and to not know when you’ll see him again, but trust is a major hurdle. I have to trust that even though he hasn’t seen me in the past four months, he still likes me. I have to trust that he is, indeed, the good man that I think he is and that he won’t chase any skirts or capris (dear goodness, I hope not) or gaucho pants. It would be so easy for one of us to cheat, and no one would ever have to know about it.

I especially struggled with this in the beginning. Here I was dating this guy whom I had met only twice before he scooted off to California for his next year of school. When 9 p.m. rolled around and those free cell phone minutes began, I would often get worried if he didn’t call me. When 9:05 came, I would carry my phone around with me and start glancing at it every thirty seconds. 9:10 brought with it sweaty palms and glares of angst. 9:15 had me fuming. Why hasn’t he called yet? And then I would try to call him and get his voicemail, and the whole world would tumble, tumble, tumble: Who is he with? (My knees look particularly ugly today.) What is he doing? (I should probably consider working out a little more.) Where is he going? (I don’t just feel fat. I am fat. My hips are entirely too wide for the rest of my body.) WHY DOESN’T HE CALL? DOESN’T HE CARE ABOUT ME? AM I NOT A PRIORITY IN HIS LIFE? (He’s going to dump me because he thinks my thighs look like Dachshunds.)

dachshund.jpg

So, for a while, like a mother, I instated this spoken un-rule that we needed to check in with one another at 9 p.m. my time and 7 p.m. his time each evening. I used the excuse that I wanted to plan my evening around his call so I wouldn’t sit by the phone waiting for him, but I could still fit talking to him into my “busy” schedule. Yeah. My busy evening schedule of watching episodes of Mary Tyler Moore on DVD, snipping cute outfits out of magazines, and contributing to those sausage thighs with giant bowls of ice cream.

Now, on occasion, I would go out with L, or my roommate and friend AS, or friend AA for dinner or a movie or game-playing. On those nights, I was far less worried about what D was doing. In fact, 9 p.m. would roll around, and I wouldn’t even notice that we hadn’t checked in. Why? Because I was actually getting out and living my life.

Apparently I am a much more structured person than D is because the spoken un-rule started to drive him crazy. He called me on it, among other things, and we had a big fight of the worst kind: the Maybe We Should Break Up kind. So, I realized I needed to lighten up. If I had to speak to him each evening in order to feel like I could trust him, then I really didn’t trust him at all. I must note here that D has never done anything to make me doubt his trust. In fact, he is one of the most loyal people I know — loyal to his family and friends. All the worries resulted from my own inability to get beyond stuff that’s happened to me in the past. I have an abandonment complex which overpowered all the truth I knew about D. In my head I believed he would leave me, and if it was in my head, I was convinced it was how it was going to be.

I’m kind of dumb sometimes.

After D and I talked about all this, I knew that I had to let go. My fear of my own inadequacies was pushing him away from me. He felt like he had to choose between being with me and living his life. And if anyone starts feeling like that in a relationship, the wise thing to do is to contemplate whether or not you should be in it. I’ll never forget the beginning of that conversation, just how he said, “I feel like my needs aren’t being met,” and the four hours of talking/crying/yelling it out and the no-sleep-that-night that followed. The deep, hard sacrifices come with marriage and engagement. At this point, D shouldn’t have to choose me over his friends and his goals. I should come with his friends and with his goals. We are together at this point not because of need but because of choice. And sometimes perhaps there is more power in that logical, active choice than in a vulnerable, passive need. Any thoughts?

Those first few nights of not talking to him were agony. Thankfully L was visiting from San Francisco, and she and my other friends encouraged me and hugged me and helped me get over the little wounds in my heart. They also helped me stay busy because I’m such a homebody that my first tendency is to stay at home “reflecting” on situations when really what I am doing is drowning in the proverbial abyss of self-centeredness. Once I took time to be upset about it for a while I just needed to move on. I had to make the decision — the non-emotion-driven decision — to trust D. I had to list off all his fantastic characteristics and decide that they provided enough evidence for me to trust him. I had to stop taking my issues out on him. I had to let go of me.