Today, while going through a box of old college papers and pitching about 75% of them, I ran across my folder of poetry. Now, this folder is generally something I don’t know what to do with. It is where I stash all types of pieces of paper on which I have written anything even vaguely poetic in case it might some day inspire a great American masterpiece. So far all it has done is grow. In fact, I don’t think I have actually ever looked through and read all of this gobble-de-gook. I just keep adding to it. I must be saving up for something big.

When I opened the folder, I did feel a certain pang from those days when I wrote prolifically and had all types of friends nearby to be excited about it. They didn’t even have to read what I was writing — they were just excited that I was writing, the same type of excitement that my boyfriend expresses when I tell him I’m working on something, which isn’t too often these days.

As 2007 is drawing to a close, I’m thinking about doing some sort of 2007 wrap-up on le blog, which will be a synopsis of my top 5 greatest movies, books, TV shows, etc. to see if they’ve changed at all through the course of the year. When I started thinking about the books, I had to smack myself. I’ve been such a bad reader this year, and, consequently, a bad writer. This blog conflicts me a little. While it is good that I am practicing the discipline of writing every day (and believe me, having an audience helps, so thanks! I appreciate you all!), I am not practicing the discipline of re-writing. I sort of just type what I’m thinking and hit publish, only going back in to clarify or fix the punctuation. That, my friends, is not writing. It is drivel. Now, it may be enjoyable drivel, but it is still drivel.

Which brings me to a funny story. About three years ago, I had the honor of living with a house full of awesome girls during our senior year of college (and HK was a grad student). We were all sitting around the living room one afternoon working on homework, but HK was looking at a book her sister had left at our house after we threw the sister a Book Shower for her birthday. Book Showers are very popular birthday parties in my camp of things. Each guest that comes to the party must bring the birthday girl/boy a book as a gift. It can be used, new, whatever. It just has to be a book. I think we had three or four Book Showers in that house for various people the year that we lived there. Anyway, the book was given as a joke to HK’s sister, and the title was something like, How to Be a Good Christian. Now, I am a Christian and have nothing against Christianity as a religion. But I hate, hate, hate it when supposed Christian big-shots pretend like you can have a step-by-step guidebook on how to live a successful Christian life. It’s so trite and cliche and revolting. But all that is a post for another day.

I had the good fortune of living with other Christian women who believe the same as I do about how sad it is that these Christian big-shots shoot up their fellow believers with a bunch of jargon that has nothing to do with making the tough decisions. HK was looking at the book when I walked in, and all I heard was my other roommate A saying, “…why are you reading that Christian drivel?”

“What Christian drivel?” I asked.

A looked at me, smirked, and said, “Your diary.”

That was just another highlight of 616 Maple Street. We got our kicks at 616.

Anyway, back on the topic of my poetry folder… I found a sheet of paper full of lists. At the time that I wrote the lists, I’m pretty sure I was reading a chapter from The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, which is quite the brilliant little manuscript. In it, Shonagon writes these fantastic, concrete descriptions. Amazon.com’s summary of the book says, “The Pillow Book is a collection of anecdotes, memories of court and religious ceremonies, character sketches, lists of things the author enjoyed or loathed, places that interested her, diary entries, descriptions of nature, pilgrimages, conversations, poetry exchanges–indeed, almost everything that made up daily life for the upper classes in Japan during the Heian period. Her style is so eloquent, her observations so skillfully chosen, and her wit so sharp that even the smallest detail she records can attract and hold the attention of any modern reader.” Some of the lines will make you laugh out loud. Others will strike you in such a way that you will never forget them. The description is that precise.

When I was reading this book, I attempted to write lists of things similar to Shonogans’. Mine are certainly not as poignant as hers, but just the same, here they are:

Things the people with whom I grew up consider scandalous:

Theft
– Lashing out at other people
– Spending large amounts of money on frivolous things
– Pornography
– Murder
– Abuse
– Racial prejudice
– Benny Hinn

Pathetic Things:

The way a woman opens her mouth when she is putting on mascara
– A dead fish floating in a tank
– The accidental sight of a stranger’s naked body
– The uncontrol of what one eats
– Vomiting

Things of which I am afraid:

Dead things
– Grasshoppers and centipedes
– Being attacked by a crocodile
– Suffocation (in the forms of drowning or being buried alive)
– Heights
– Organized sports
– My own indifference and apathy
– The deaths of those close to me
– Leering men
– Small talk

Things I dislike but will endure to be polite:

Naughty children
– Eating tomatoes
– Hunger
– Bad poetry
– Gossip
– Bad coffee
– Teenage enthusiasm
– Discussions on politics
– Overt flirtatiousness
– Phone calls from acquaintances (I only like talking on the phone with people I know and trust. Otherwise, I loathe it. I’m one of those awkward phone people.)
– Exclamation point rampancy

Things I embrace:

– A good pen
– Hot baths
– A movie as a study break
– A good book on a rainy day (how trite)
– A creative project
– A deep conversation
– New shoes
– Old jeans
– Hard work
– 8 hours of sleep
– Physical affection
– Having friends over for dinner
– Theme parties
– Smiles from kind strangers
– A long email about nonsense
– Bare feet
– Mutts
– Old houses
– The smell of an extinguished candle

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.)

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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.

Thankful.

November 22, 2007

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The Extended Fam, Christmas 2005

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Mom and Me In New York, Summer 2006

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Dad, Christmas 2005

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Niece Lydia, November 2007 (Photo by sister-in-law Angela)

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Nephew Ezra, September 2007

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The Extended Fam Crammed Into Brother Alan’s Closet Office (Photo by Angela), October 2007

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Lydia and Her Mom, November 2007 (Photo from Angela)

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D and Me, the Floating Head, May 2007

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L and Me (June 2007)

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Friend AA and the Now Dearly Departed Kate, Faithful Dog and Loyal Friend, May 2007

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Friend AS At Her Birthday Party, April 2007

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Friends MW and MS

I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends and Family!

Far From Where I Started…

September 21, 2007

This was supposed to be self-centered. It was supposed to be about how my personality is left-handed in a world full of right-handers — how I am always going to be the one who has to overcome my personality in order to make in the American corporate world. I am an introvert. I am intuitive. I am a feeler. I am a procrastinator. But that is not what this is about.

This is about my cat and how she follows me. Before Francis wandered into my life as an eight-week-old fuzz-bucket who could fit inside a sock, I had no idea what cats were like. I mean, I’d held them, avoided their claws, watched them sleep, and heard them like screaming women outside my bedroom window. But, as in marriage I gather, you never really know about something until you live with it.

Now, dogs. Dogs I know. They are open and vulnerable and needy. My dog back home, Keai, can’t stand to be far away from people. When you are in the room with her, you are IN THE ROOM WITH HER. YOU MUST PET HER and PULL HER SLOBBERY BONE and TELL HER SHE’S THE BABY. I got used to the joyous adulation when I would return home, the tail-wagging, paw-tapping, body-wiggling happiness of I didn’t know you were coming back but then you came back so I didn’t eat for three days but now I can eat! FEED ME.

Cats are so not dogs. What really sold me on adopting Francis is that my co-worker Kathy gave her to me during lunch break at work, so I had the whole afternoon to love on her while trying to get my work done. Here is the day that I got Francis:

She fell asleep on my leg soon after this was taken, and even though I hadn’t admitted it to myself, she was mine. For the first week, she didn’t have a name. I called her Little One. And then suddenly, one day I was listening to Connie Francis, and the name Francis struck me. The perfect name for a cat. And for the first several months, I wondered if she even liked me. She enjoyed licking my eyelids and biting my toes, but did she really like me? Do cats like people?

It wasn’t until I moved into my own place that I realized how cats show their affection. Francis will never run up to me all gangly like a dog unless she wants to play. She won’t bark or lick. But when I come home from work, she is there, waiting at the door. And then she just looks at me. I go into the bathroom, and she hops up on the bathroom stool, ticking her tail, looking at me. In the kitchen, she lays down on the rug and looks at me. In my room, she lays on the end of the bed or in the doorway, and she looks at me. Cats have an uncanny way of moving their bodies without moving their eyes. She stands behind furniture to peek around and look at me. While I’m bathing, she sits by the tub so all I can see are her ears and eyes over the edge. When I am in the shower, she climbs onto the edge of the tub, between the shower curtain and the shower curtain liner, and she peeks around the edge. She will lay down, and she will sit up, but she will still look at me.

I’ve asked her before, aloud, “Why do you look at me like that?” Sometimes she just blinks. Sometimes she meows, which really sounds more like a squeak in a door: “Meep. Meep.”

And then there are the mornings. She knows that when the alarm goes off, my sleep is over, and as consistently as that alarm goes off every morning, she jumps up onto my bed and walks up to my face and watches me, waiting for me to touch her, and then it’s as if she’s says, “Oh, good. You’re alive.”