I’m writing this morning because last night I ventured into the woodlands of Hunting Valley with Gina. I can say Gina instead of “my friend Gina” now because I’ve spoken of her often enough on this blog that the nature of our relationship is understood. I also jokingly refer to her as my partner because we know each other so well and say I love you to each other all the time, which is how I aspire to be with all my close friends—partners in life, with whom there is no doubt about how we feel about each other and full transparency—we are free to speak our minds without fear of castigation. I digress.
Gina is house-sitting for friends of friends at the moment. When you’re in a beautiful home, furnished with beautiful things, like granite countertops, oriental rugs, filled bookshelves and artwork on the walls, the culmination of two lives, you start to wonder—how did these people get to where they are now? I find it nearly impossible to imagine owning a house like this, as I rarely have more than a thousand dollars in my bank account (more often it is closer to $200). I will probably close my savings account soon because at this point it is just silly—I need that money to pay bills and life expenses, like this $2.25 coffee I’m drinking now at Elixr while writing this. Always wanting to live beyond my means, never within them, as if I was deserving of a more luxurious life than I was given by my working-class parents, so ignorant and foolish!
I was looking at the couple in photos scattered about the house, and their expressions seemed relaxed, caught off guard, as if they shared a secret so sweet it perpetually lingers behind their lips. Gina shared a lovely story from her aunt’s wedding, where she met the couple. Her aunt asked them if they had advice for a lasting, fulfilling marriage. “Just don’t leave,” they said.
Gina starts work at a temporary homeless shelter next week. She’s working the overnight shift. I have so much respect for her—not an easy job, by any means, and so much real human impact. I think my most immediate obstacle is my own pride and egoism. My preoccupation with how I do things, what other people think of my work, keeps me from doing anything at all. Focusing on helping others may just be what I need to do, in whatever capacity I can—again, bringing me back to the caretaker—but if that is where I’m most comfortable, and where I can express myself best and feel appreciated, that might not be the worst thing. Perhaps my energy is not meant to be put in a book or a song but to touch other humans through conversation.
Janet Jackson is playing in the coffee shop right now and I am so pleased. Girl knew what was up.
I’m not a prude
I just want some respect
So close the door if you want me to respond
'Cause privacy is my middle name
My last name is Control
No my first name ain’t baby
Miss Jackson if you’re nasty
Nasty boys, don’t mean a thing
Oh you nasty boys
Nasty boys, don’t ever change
Oh you nasty boys
Did not plan that time, so be it. Anyway, I had a thought—I’d like to begin furnishing my inner world with ideas and things—a world I and all my iterations, or other people, don’t really inhabit. It contains my interests, fictions, pleasant fluff. A place I can go to as a visitor, without expectations. Yes, I’d like that very much.
Getting older isn’t easy. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll find your health, strength and zest for life take a downward spiral. Today I helped my mom put the deck furniture in the shed. She was taking on too much of a load and overexerting herself, and I told her as much. She started crying, but she wouldn’t tell me why. I insisted that she allow me to lift and move the furniture, though she would only let me do so much—she’d slightly shift the furniture, until it met her satisfaction—and eventually we finished the job. The loss of total independence that accompanies aging can be jarring and hard to accept—especially for someone who needs to be in control all of the time, like my mom. I speak frankly with my mom, though I know I should be more sensitive with her, and I have to remind myself of this constantly, and she complains sometimes that I act like I’m her mother. My mom surely isn’t prepared for this role reversal, and neither am I, really, but somehow I feel like I’ve been occupying this position my whole life, no matter what the situation—the caretaker—though I would love to let go of responsibility and be comforted by others. I’ve depended mostly on myself because I’ve been sorely disappointed in the past—divorced parents syndrome, I suppose—and I tend to hide my pain from others and deal privately, probably because that’s how I coped growing up.
Moments ago I was contemplating—have I grown into more of myself or less of myself since I’ve been home? I wanted to get to know myself better, spend less time out and more time alone, but I find myself restless, tired and unhappy most of the time. Will I simply continue a life of doing just enough to survive but not enough to feel satisfied? Will my desires always feel unequivocal to my skills and motivation? How do I get past my hangups and make a life I can be exhilarated by? I feel like my passivity is a brick wall.
Potential band name: Mist Opportunity.
In an effort to write more, I’m going to start posting once a day about something I’ve learned or experienced in the past 24 hours. I’ve never been good at keeping a diary, and I don’t really like to write about myself, but maybe centering my thoughts around something will help.
I met up with a coworker today for coffee this afternoon. It was my first friend date with someone from work. I can say sincerely that Whole Foods is a jovial place to work. Sure, everyone has their hangups, myself included, but no one is going to be mean to you or take out their aggression on you. Amazing how much that can really ease your day. This person was kind and appeared to be respectful, but a few of his attitudes really bothered me—he was self-centered, self-indulgent, arrogant, condescending, quick to jump to assumptions and ignorant about their negative impact. It seemed the person I was meeting now was much more mature than the person he was a few years ago, though that was little consolation. I was glad I could express to him honestly how I felt, and by the end of the conversation, it seemed he understood. But despite having a considerable number of common interests, do I really want to hang out with him again? Nope. One of my pet peeves is when a person spends an entire “conversation” with someone else talking about themselves, hardly stopping to ask a question or get to know the other person in a deeper way. Here’s some general advice: if you like someone and want to get closer to them, spend some time really getting to know them. Ask them questions about their experiences, their thoughts and feelings, really listen to what they’re saying (and give them time and space to express themselves instead of thinking of how you’re going to respond), and make an effort to get a sense of their whole person, not just how they react and relate to you.
Also I started reading this series today. I was just in Fort Greene a few days ago, so it felt especially palpable. My friend Gina shared some wisdom from a friend of hers not too long ago, which has stuck with me. He wrote to her in a letter, “I don’t have everything I want, but I have more than I need.” Some people hardly have that. The article drove my thoughts toward destiny—the life we’re born into, with certain advantages and disadvantages, and how we ultimately deal and form our own fates as we grow older and hopefully more self-empowered, but at the same time, the systems and policies in place that make doing so exceedingly difficult for many. How do we really address child poverty, rather than shrug it off as luck of the draw?
Final thought of the night—I deactivated my Facebook because I wanted to be less vaguely accessible to people and more intentional with my communication. I wanted to write for myself, not for feelings of affirmation or adoration. #don’t do it for the likes
Okay, actual final thought—Based On A True Story would be a hilarious name for a record.