Saturday, January 29, 2011

onward ho.

Hey kids,

I've been a little lazy about announcing this on here (for those who don't know), but I've been seeing another blog for almost a month now.

My new one is here -- I've been hesitant to post it because I'm not sure whether the army of spambots that have infected this domain are going to follow me there. Damn spambots. But I realize there are some people who read this who I don't know (hi!) so I'm linking just in case.

And thanks for reading this, ya'll. It's not terribly refined or well-thought-out stuff, but it's nice to know people are interested in your thoughts regardless.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

today's moment of Zen...

...The giant football player with "Assassins" across the front of his uniform, who approached the cafe counter to order, in a mild voice, a latte.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

rock me mama like a southbound train.

Itemized, because there is too much and no opportune organizational method:

1) Yes, I am still alive.

2) I have not updated because, I think, I have generally been avoiding reflection. I have been needing it, thirsting for it, and avoiding it. I've also been feeling out of place existentially and not knowing how to deal with it.

3) Done with the library job, and now have a job in a bourgeois "marketcafe" where the owners are nice, until it becomes stressful, when they yell at you for no reason. As this is my first week, I have been rather sensitive...

4) ...which isn't helped by the fact that my car has been broken into for the second time in two months to steal my CD player, and this time they shattered a window. Excellent. I love humanity.

5) F. and I are broken up--I think. I say I think because we are still in a lot of contact, and our "where is the state of our relationship" conversations end up, somehow, always deeply ambiguous. I cried a lot and instigated a break over him not paying enough attention to me when his sister was here, clearly distressing him. Our "Okay, break is over" conversation ended up with him exhausted and crying over being overly busy and not wanting to hurt me. I said okay. Since then it's been lots of messages from him and two meetings involving him bringing me printing pictures he'd taken of happy times over the summer and him buying me dessert and saying he wasn't sure if his newfound embrace of being alone was all that smart. So, I don't know. I know he is not someone I cannot live without. I also know that I'm drawn to him, comfortable with him, and seem to understand him--his need to be considered successful, same as mine; his appreciation for solitude; his need to keep everything together and organized or somehow, everything falls apart. His constantly feeling foreign in a place he struggles to know. But I am not a priority, and I know that, too. (I did, after all, convince him into a six-month relationship after he kissed me and immediately announced, as a preliminary warning, "I would not be a good boyfriend.") And I don't know if that's okay.

6) Some things, though, are okay. Tonight I went to the birthday party of someone I had never met with some friends. I had peanut butter pie and drank hot cider and rum. The evening descended into folk songs on ukulele and guitar. I sang. It canceled out some of the feelings I had from my shattered car window, and still more job rejections added to the pile (growing taller and taller) -- that it is the world in one corner, and me in the other.

I don't feel like I'm comfortable right now, on a deep level. The foundation feels shaky. I don't know if that's internal or external. I guess I'll have to work on that. I'm thinking of making a new blog -- tried the other day, but alas, my name was taken. Soon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

umm, what?

I wrote this text to F. this afternoon:

"Boring boring workday. Are you driving to the grand canyon? Is it beautiful?"

This was his response:

"Dear! On the baghdad cafe spot! No americans gross and everything, beautiful landscapes, pictures all the time and the road route 66 on a sunny day!"

......? Anyone want to decode that?

Friday, August 13, 2010

OK, OK's an update.

I have been in ever-shifting moods the past month, but thankfully, I've been phasing out (mostly) the aimless crying and intensive stress re:jobs/life/omgwhatamIdoing. Things have not changed drastically in an actual, tangible way, but my plans for the future shift frequently enough that it feels like I'm playing a casino card game with my life.

The options I've toyed with:

--Find something in Chicago and stay here (currently applying for an unpaid internship, which means I'd have to find another job). This is dependent on finding a job within the next month.
--Go to Boulder and soak in the sun and mountain air, possibly picking up a menial job while I applied for work back East. This is wonderful in terms of social stimulation and mental health, but would probably isolate me a bit from what I'm trying to do.
--Go home and apply for jobs without having to pay rent/for food.
--Go to Wash, D.C. and more aggressively pursue the international orgs that have been ignoring my applications (or declining me sans interview).

...and then there's the Wild Card, in the form of a friend from high school (do you still read this, Cat? Hi!) who has an editorial position in New York City, and seems to think with a high degree of seriousness that she could help me secure something.

The past week has been an explosion of the Wild Card option in my mind, as it just presented itself like a mirage in the desert. And if it's true--if something comes out of this--it would be such an opportunity. NYC must be the capital of publishing in the U.S., and her contacts' companies are big-name players. I would experience the world of language in a new and direct way. I would have a steady income. I would have a tiny apartment with many varieties of tea in the cupboard. I would go out to coffee shops on Saturday mornings and sip something warm and caffeinated in a mug while pouring over the New Yorker or the New York Times with a new-found, local perspective. Then I would go to a park, or a record shop, or one of seven trillion bookshops, or do anything I wanted because it would be New York City. Where I've never been.


Few options involve me staying in Chicago, which means leaving the boy is almost an inevitability. This is made all the more poignant by the fact that we have so little time together now. He's been in Oregon since Tuesday, and tomorrow evening I pick him up at the airport. We get exactly one night together before his parents fly in from France on Sunday and stay at his place for two weeks. One of these weeks they'll be exploring the U.S., and after that F. goes home to France for another week. He's finally back here the second week of September. If I'm still jobless, I'll be here until September 18th--otherwise, I'll probably be gone. Which means all I know is we have tomorrow together. And not even the day.

It's made especially more poignant in that we've had such a nice couple of months together, driving around town and going on a picnic and listening to music and watching movies and talking. And kissing and laughing and growing to understand each other better. There's an animal comfort you get when you wake up in someone's bed day after day, when their bed is your bed, and after five months this is where we are. Now, more than likely, I just have to drop the comfort and abandon it. I should be happy for what I've experienced, and I am, but... this is hard to face.

The dreamy mirage of New York, and the social net of Boulder, helps. A great job and a big city or family, friends and mountains. Going home would be infinitely depressing, and I can't afford D.C. right now.

You know what I'm imagining? That glittery, multi-colored wheel on The Price is Right. Except that wheel hasn't stopped spinning, it just keeps on spinning. Homey Chicago + Boyfriend? Great job + great city (jackpot)? Refreshing Boulder + menial work?

Spinning, spinning, spinning...

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I am now taking the following vitamins/supplements:

--Women's One-a-Day multivitamin;
--Vitamin C;
--Stress Vitamin B Complex;
--"Heart and Stress Defense" Fish Oil;


I am so ready for combat. I have a general multivitamin, two extra-strength, anti-stress vitamins, lysine to destroy my cold sore & prevent future ones from forming (maybe?), and Vit-C for a further boost to the immune system. I should have an enhanced mood, glowing skin, a healthy heart, and maximized energy.

Maybe it's a placebo effect, but I do feel lighter.

Though yesterday (before purchasing half of these wonderdrugs!) I was feeling pretty crappy. F. and I drove to Niles to look at a car he's thinking of buying (a tiny, barely used convertible) and as he was looking at it my mother called to unload her usual load: health problems, marital problems, job woes, financial issues, and do I have a job yet? It was depressing, as usual. And it had the usual effect of making me feel clueless and irresponsible. F. picked it up on the drive back (he sniffs out my bad moods immediately and then pounces relentlessly, like a bloodhound). When he asked what was wrong I explained, and he made me feel better by pointing out two things:

1) "Honestly, most of those things are your mother's problems--not yours."


2) "You're doing what you need to be doing. You're doing it right. And you're only 22--this is too much stress for 22."

And then he helped me formulate an afternoon plan (write 2 cover letters) and I calmed down. And realized that it's true--I need to both become more combative and motivated, and less wracked with despair and stress, as per my age. I am going to stop thinking of time as my enemy and try to get more creative (informational interviews, more investigation, looking for contacts in the alum network, etc.) -- and look for ways of staying involved and interested in my free time. And I'm going to stop being so alarmed and paralyzed.

And I'm going to take my vitamins.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

this is not eustress.

I decided to do nothing involving job applications today.

I made this decision because the stress of all this stuff has been utterly palpable lately. I have been grinding my teeth, and clenching my jaw tightly enough and for long enough that it feels consistently sore. I have been generally unpleasant and whiny to an obnoxious degree. And Monday morning, a cold sore appeared on my upper lip.

I am not a particularly vain person, but getting a cold sore, about the one time a year it happens (curiously, I have come to realize, once every July for the past three years), makes me utterly miserable. It is an aesthetic wake-up call. I can think about almost nothing else. When I speak to others, I envision myself reflected as not a human with a cold sore, but as a leper, a bleeding, oozing, warty, oily, physical manifestation of disease and horror. Yes; it is actually almost this dramatic. I stay inside as much as possible and avoid human contact. I apply miracle goop hourly. Right now that's Abreva, which promises to speed healing time and claims a median healing time of 4.1 days (key word median and not average). It seems to actually be working. Tomorrow is Day 3.

I am the sort of person, I have realized, who is less stressed by actual, stressful, targeted events than by much grander, more complicated things. For example, I can handle having two midterms within a week. It will create manageable stress. I can handle the first day of an internship, the first date, the awkward family reunion. I might be a little sweaty and uncomfortable, but I know the parameters.

But the state of my life right now? Few stressful scenarios, but plenty of omnipresent, existentially torturous stress.

Let's take an inventory:

-Just graduated from an excellent university, with honors, but jobless.
-Although not completely jobless. I have the extension of my unimpressive, tedious library job throughout the summer. I do one of the same, like, seven repetitive tasks every day. I look at the clock frequently and end the day exhausted. This job expires at the end of the summer.
-With my remaining time, despite being exhausted, have tried to work on resume and cover letters and have been edited and edited and edited. Feel paralyzed in my approach to any job. Motivation feels beyond my capability right now.
-Lease ends September 1. No concrete plan for a living situation after this.
-Unstable, casual relationship with adorable Frenchman. (Usually, a drain on stress. Unless we have a fight because he tells me I "move a lot" at night which disrupts his precious sleep, which prompts me to ask "Do you even want me in your bed? Why are you even dating me?" and crawl out of his bed and prepare to leave while he says, looking perplexed, "I think this is a misunderstanding...")

I have no idea what I'm doing. It's like I'm navigating my way through a dark hallway and doing everything wrong. I want to apply for jobs but it's unbelievably time-consuming, and I can barely pull together a decent phrasing to prevent my poor, beleaguered application materials from being thrown in the trash.

Mostly, though, I see discrepancies between who I am and who I want to be. I am uninspired, terrified, apparently talentless, somewhat spineless, and without a plan. Clearly without confidence. I am unrecognizable to myself. I am envisioning a future unfolding, a future of jobs I don't care about, jobs I would take anyway because they would have me. Jobs like the one I have now, where I would spend all my time looking at the clock, contributing in pointless and tedious ways to something I ultimately don't really care about. Being a cog in a machine: always replaceable.

This is the great, horrific existential stress weighing on me. It is literally my future. And it is here. I am paralyzed in the headlights of my future.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Haiku for Kinko's

the glacially slow scanner
drains money from me

copy machine hums
piled-up papers convince me
I am productive

giant on the screen:
my story in PDF
false professional?

Monday, July 12, 2010

sweet frustration.

Writing a resume and then showing it to different people is like decorating a room and then asking all your friends' opinions.

Friend 1: "It's nice, but couldn't you paint it a lighter color? It would open it up more."
Friend 2: "Nice idea, but maybe a few shades darker."
Friend 3: "Too much art on the walls."
Friend 4: "Maybe you should paint it all white and then just paint that one there as an accent wall."
Friend 5: "The whole thing kind of... doesn't go together."
Friend 6: "You need more art on the walls."
Friend 7: "It's too well-balanced, maybe add some new elements."
Friend 8: .....need I go on?

I have been "working on my resume" for hours and hours these past couple weeks, in what feels like a sort of deeply unfun, fruitless abandon. Changed the font, the formatting, the lines in bold, the verbs, the amount of writing, the information. Changed it again. And again. Showed people. Problems brought to my attention. Incorporated changes. Showed people. More problems brought to my attention. Finally the critiques are starting to wind down, and it's admittedly looking a lot better. But my confidence in my ability to put together anything professional? Well... I sort of feel like I should really be applying to Subway and 7/11, at this point.

I'm like an unbroken dog. I keep peeing on the carpet, and then my nose is whacked and I am brought outside and made to look at the grass. But then I come inside and pee on the carpet again.

I don't get it. Nothing about applying for jobs is intuitive to me. Other things are not intuitive to me either: playing the drums, break dancing, interacting with someone whose parent has just died. But applying for jobs? That's something I need to GET. It's my next step. It's muh bread and muh butter.

But everyone has a strongly informed and different idea of What's Good and What's Terrible, as does every person hiring. I have looked at some sample resumes that strike me as atrocious. I have seen graceful phrasing scrapped for greasier, inflated phrasing. All this exercise is really telling me is how dizzyingly subjective the whole process is. It's a big crap shoot, based partially on the emotional flarings that occur in the brain of the boss when she scans my resume, partially on my actual experience, and largely, I think, on whether and how well I know her cousin.

It is a little frustrating. A little chaotic. A little enlightening. A little nauseating.

Very "Real World."

Monday, July 05, 2010


It turns out that when F. has extra time, he likes to spend it with me. As in, I have spent the last four nights and most of the past five days with him. The boy is a Boyfriend, with a capital-B. He's in the lab, he's out of the lab, he's in my bed, he's back in the lab, he's kissing me in the kitchen, he's back in the lab, we're in a park, we're at a party, there's another bed, he's in the lab, he's texting me, we're eating dinner, we're eating breakfast, we're brushing our teeth, he's kissing me in his kitchen.

Three months into the relationship, with a generous two-three week break, and this has somehow become a dizzy world of inseparability. He texts for dinner and I welcome him. He emails in the morning and shows up in the night. The lab separates us and we're back together, wherever. It's not passionate enough for this, and so I don't really know what we're doing. What I do know is I have trouble saying no. And so tonight--dinner at his place with his lab friend and her amiable Swedish couchsurfer--I was determined to lay down the law and say, "I'm sleeping at my place tonight, dear." I would have control!

So imagine my frustration when, as we're driving to his place, he gently says, "If it's okay, I think I'd like to sleep alone tonight. I really need the sleep."

That was MY LINE.

This was said as a sort of churning illness was coming upon me, one of those no-food-all-day-but-lots-of-coffee toxic stomach things. And so I was becoming literally sick to my stomach, irritated that I couldn't even take control because he beat me to the chase, and was stumbling into a situation with him and his friends. It became too much. I wanted to be alone. I curled in a ball on his couch as he made crepes in the kitchen. I looked dazed. I got up for water and curled back up. Nausea. Nausea. Effing coffee.

He checked on me every so often. "What's wrong?" he plied, touching the back of my neck gently. "Is this because I said I wanted to sleep alone tonight?" He asked this softly, with concern. Well, sort of, darling, but only because I wanted the upper hand. And the coffee, aaugh, the coffee. Remind me never to drink coffee again.

Eventually the friends came, I ate half a crepe, and because he wouldn't let me drive home in my moaning, nauseous state, I took to his room and lay in his bed, miserable. Every so often the door cracked open and in he came, feeling my forehead, searching for non-stomach-related issues, saying, at one point, "You can sleep here tonight if you want."

"No," I said. "I want my own bed." (HA!)

And so he submitted to driving me back, sweetly, without complaint, dipping into theatrical French as we approached the apartment. "Pauvre petite.." he cooed, "Trop de cafe! Oh la la."

And dropped off, alone, sighing in relief, I took a cold shower and came to where I am now -- lying in front of the fan, gratefully in solitude, still feeling toxic but basking in relief on my soft, familiar, wonderful, greenish-gray bedding.

Too much. Too much oxytocin, too much dopamine, too much kissing and compromising on dinner and waking up early while he sleeps on and watching the Mel Brooks-related Youtube videos I Simply Must See. Holy crap. This is an overdose. The girl needs a break.

We have worlds, our own worlds. We'll never lose them. But we have to tend to them.

Mom's First Text Message

(After convincing her somehow to get us Android phones with her Verizon credits.)

"Hi b aby, I am sending you my very first text : )this new phone is incredible,,,a little supercomputer, email,google at your fingertips. I am tetermined to lrarn all of the features.I have 2oo msg a month, you have unlimited to -eri."


"Verizon people only and 3oo to other carriers. I love u. Mom"

Thursday, July 01, 2010

finding yourself in the stacks.

Good decision, I think: taking Fridays off (for applying for jobs, I tell myself).

Do you have especially neurotic days? Like, days where you actually feel crazy for a while? Like you pull back the burlap flap of your mind (or the dangling hippie beads, Choose Your Own Metaphor) and enter a territory completely out of touch with your everyday existence? I think this is supposed to be a state one can enter in meditation, but if you work in a job that requires no advanced thought, lots of solitude, and a willingness to engage solely in mindless tedium, you sometimes crawl into this mindspace.

And crawl I did, today. I got so stressed out, I considered the possibility that I might actually have (diagnosable) anxiety. I have thought about this more over the last few years; last year I went through a period over the summer of experiencing an uncontrollable rapid heartbeat, but I figured it was the coffee and it ended when I cut that out. (Odd, because I only stopped for a while and then picked it right back up again, but haven't had the rapid-heartbeat issue. Placebo effect?)

Mostly, it's because I have such intense physical reactions tied to my emotional state. I wonder sometimes if my body is not, in fact, physically oversensitive. Speaking in class, for example, will usually turn my fair-toned face an almost frightening shade of deep red. I get seriously nervous before first dates, even coffee with a new friend, and it sometimes impacts my speech (speaking too fast, mixing words). Along with the red face, of course. My face will turn red at any provocation. A presentation in front of the class--or (my worst nightmare) a skit in a foreign language--will kill me. I will be visibly terrified, and visibly trying not to be so.

There are two really frustrating aspects to my body's quick descent into anxiety.

One: much of this is a psychological condition that feeds into itself. My body thinks: this is a stressful, high-stakes situation. OMG, you know what would make it worse? If you completely forgot what you were doing. If you just went blank. Can you imagine how bad that would be? And then, there I am, staring, stunned, actually distracted by the thought that it would be a horrible time to lose my train of thought. Seriously. I cannot tell you how many times I lose track of what I am doing by becoming literally self-conscious. Suddenly only aware of the fact that I am thinking, breathing, existing. Like the concept of being is so weighty it takes up all the space in my brain for a bit. The knowledge of what there is to lose causes me to compulsively lose it. It's like if you point at a doorway and tell my brain, everything falls apart if you go through that doorway. Then I have to go through it.

(Another especially alarming thought: What words could I scream in this scenario that could completely change this situation and ruin my life? For example, you're in an interview and you say "Penis" or yell "FORKS" or say, quietly and in response to nothing in particular, "Yes." And you are almost certainly immediately not going to get the job. Your ability to damage everything--job prospects, social prospects--is that easily accessible. One word, even whispered. How frightening is that?)

The truth is, this happens a lot, even in situations that are not inherently stressful or give me much to lose, like spending down time with an old friend. I will suddenly shift into a zone of being hyper self-conscious, able to think about nothing except for the fact that I'm thinking about nothing. It's like being the outermost Russian doll, unable to access the stuff inside. Does this happen to anyone else? I would be interested in strategies for either understanding it or defeating it, preferably both.

Two: I never used to be like this. I actually adored being the center of attention as a child, being called on in class, speaking in public, putting myself on the line. And not only was I cool and calm, I was reasonably articulate, even occasionally in off-the-cuff situations. This began to falter slightly in high school, but I really lost this aspect of myself and let anxiety take over in college.

I have seen the comfortable and self-assured part of myself come through on occasion, when I seem to have a mysterious grasp on a relaxed perspective--when I can manage to care about the material far more than the superficial appearance of a situation (to which I am unusually sensitive: long, awkward silences feel painful, and I will deliberately take a different route to avoid interacting with the girl standing in front of the library who wants my credit card info to support gay rights).

For this reason, I don't necessarily think I have diagnosable anxiety. I can somehow access the part of myself that is not anxious, the part that is even a bit risky and attention-seeking. I am the baby of the family: I am naturally attention-seeking. That is not to say I hope to be completely obnoxious, but I long for a consistent comfort in high-stakes situations again.


In my crazy state, it became necessary to find scrap paper and a golf pencil and document the figments of thought that fluttered through my head, half-developed, and then escaped out the door. These are the couple of things I wrote over a period of about an hour, if you can follow in any way:

  • "spread love like you're in the last throes of life"
  • "hamster + food pellet"
  • "holding in my head two conflicting scenarios"
  • "no security"
  • "do one thing every day that in no way resembles what you did the day before"
Understand? Yeah, there was a lot of synaptic firing in between each statement. Another thought I had at one point, is that maybe my brain is actually (by virtue of modern life and its accessories) losing the ability for sustained, deep thought. Instead it's thought-thought-thought-thought-thought, a rosary of random thoughts strung together, each only examined as long as another thought doesn't push it out of the way.

For example, the following might be a typical "train" of thought for me:

1. Mn, my contact hurts.
2. Could wear glasses.
3. Feel ugly in glasses.
4. What does this mean, that I feel ugly in glasses? Is it so important, am I that vain?
5. God, I'm vain. I only care about the way I look.
6. But doesn't everybody, kind of? Is this a big secret, is everyone equally vain? Is vanity related to actual, qualitative beauty? Would I be more vain if I were more attractive? Or is it more determined by your personality?
7. To what degree are we able to control our vanity, etc. through perspective? To what degree are we all wired the same?
8. Does wearing glasses make you a cyborg?

And on. And on. I have thoughts, but I don't sufficiently explore any of them. It feels like a fast-flowing river, as opposed to a deep one. This post only serves as an example.

And so, if we're friends, and you happen to notice that I'm being wildly inarticulate, or that I space out momentarily, here's what's going on in my brain.

(I like to theorize, generously, that it's actually going much faster than I can keep up with.)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


OK, so all that stuff, about keeping perspective and pushing the boy away and being the Ice Queen Girlfriend? Yeah, I've realized over the course of yesterday evening through this morning that this is going to be difficult. What with him teaching me about rugby and earnestly announcing he wants to go to yoga with me (HA), and what with him grabbing me and pulling me into an extremely impassioned embrace in his sleep (no; this seriously happened), and what with the paltry attempts at French back-and-forth.

He left this morning and I was stupid with dopamine. Just really, dumbly happy. This has happened a few times since our recent shimmy (collapse?) back into a relationship. We're together and he leaves me in a pocket of chemical-laden Happy, not the truly dangerous euphoria-Happy, but the kind that sends you off to a horrifically tedious job in a swell mood. A mood in which you might employ a word like "swell."

I remain in my pocket for a couple of hours, happily working and drinking my iced coffee and occasionally replaying the more adorable moments of our interaction. And then I start to crawl out of the pocket. And the Happy comes into contact with the Fear, which gives it a finger-wagging and recounts the recent nearness of the Sad, which, while now vacationing in Iceland, could still return from its holiday any second, bringing souvenirs.

And then I am not really too Happy, because I am nervous. But I am not really Sad, because I don't have to be yet. What I am is slightly frenetic, bouncing from hits of isolated joy to stark realism, taking refuge in knowing the names of the chemicals invoked.

I'm still not in love. I live in the present, I am surrounded in activity I create for myself, I see the end like the lookouts on the Titanic didn't see the iceberg.

I'm just managing dopamine.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


June is thick with thunderstorms and heatwaves. My legs are covered in bug bites, which I seem to acquire while sleeping.

I am falling in love with iced coffee. I am following the World Cup with an unusual degree of interest. I am working my way through seasons of Weeds. I am staving off indescribable boredom at work through the use of intriguing audiobooks and podcasts (relistening to old Radiolabs, All Songs Considered, episodes of Real Time with Bill Maher, "Happiness" by Matthieu Ricard). I am reading things about applying for jobs, and cleaning up my resume, if not yet quite actually applying for jobs.

I am also spending large amounts of spontaneous time with F., something which happened when I got back from Michigan and has continued unabated. First it was conversations about our relationship and the nature of it. And about past relationships, which we'd never talked about with each other before. And then it was conversations about everything. Our interactions have been fundamentally different. With nothing to lose, I have been cavalier, more comfortable and more myself. With his classes and the play done, he has had more time and less stress, and has been more interested in spending it with me. Wednesday we wrote together (separately). Thursday he helped me reformat my resume. Friday we shared a pizza, talked, and watched a movie. Yesterday was his birthday and we went out for dinner, which he paid for while I was in the bathroom. Today we sat in the park and read together.

Full disclosure: starting from last night, we are dating again.

I know. I know you just made the look. The disapproving look. The cringe, maybe. And I understand. I, too, would cringe if I were you. Or I might be like my mom on the phone, who at the prospect of my even spending time with F. again, declared breathlessly: "He's just using you for sex." (Which is sort of hilarious, and only demonstrates how little she understands about our relationship.) You are probably worried about my dignity, or my self-respect, or something. I get it.

And you might be right.

But, well, I don't care very much. I can't ask him to be madly in love with me, when I am not madly in love with him. I can ask for, and he has consistently provided, spare honesty. (He and Lady Love Glimmer, for the record, are not in contact, at his request.) I can ask for friendship and respect, and I have that too.

The difference is I'd like to try going into this more self-consciously aware of what's going on. Being in a relationship gives you a feeling of being fundamentally buttressed, as though you are always a part of two people, instead of one person. Hence the physical crush of the break-up. I want to be one person, this time--one distinctly separate person, essentially alone. I'm not sure if I have the perspective for it. But I have been reminding myself that I could be single any moment. I want to spend more time with my friends. I want to spend more time doing things I want to do. I want to continue being cavalier.

And I want to do what I want to do, regardless of other people's opinions, even if it's stupid or naughty or whatever else. Things are sort of messy, I guess. I don't know how they're working better while they've also been dirtied. I think it has to do with my loosening up, his lack of stress, and the new value of openness.

June: hot and stormy, and a decent background.

Friday, June 11, 2010

confronting things.

Today was the Baccalaureate service, the descending of my family and friends on my taped-together and not-quite-celebratory current existence, the slightly-more-celebratory-after-two-Greek-beers dinner, and the sort of woozily-celebratory-after-a-champagne-flute nighttime reception at the Museum of Science and Industry.

It was also the first day I didn't sob. It was also the night I received, while in a happy, post-three-drinks state, a text message from F. Saying he's sorry he hasn't given news the past few days (this confuses me, I admit; don't you typically leave people alone when you break up with them?) but if I'm not angry he's on campus tonight (brilliantly put--it neither implies that he wants to see me, nor that I want to see him). I texted back, basically, "I will get in touch with you in a while, hang on."

Then, at 10pm, back at my apartment and with everyone tucked in bed, I grabbed my bag and (clandestinely?) slipped out the door to go meet him down the block. (This is the part where, if you're watching a movie, you scream "NO!" at the heroine and wave your hands frantically to stop her.)

But fear not, fair observer of my life--this didn't end with intense apologies and begging, or sex and the status quo.

Here's the great thing about meeting him tonight, though: I looked good. Nice dress, haircut, new earrings. And he noticed. This is far preferable to yesterday, when my eyes were raw and my body was crumply and exhausted. Today I am tired, but I was three-drinks bubbly and ready to see where our conversation would go. I was protected and enlivened by my Shield of Tipsiness, ready to have our first talk with a syringe-full of not-so-nice Reality injected.

What ensued was two hours of remarkably therapeutic talking. In which we both came to understand the current situation of the other, the reasons for our reactions to the relationship's ending, and each other's historical relationship landscape. We went from the bakery to the lab to, memorably, two empty chairs in a sea of many thousand on the quad, in preparation for graduation. Here we sat and talked the longest, alone and emotive in the midst of what will be tomorrow's massive spectacle.

And, wonderfully, for the first time during or after our two-and-a-half-month relationship, I felt able to communicate. I talked and talked, without the self-conscious and rather idiotic editor floating above, and was able to feel finally articulate and open and freely expressive. It happened the way conversations are supposed to happen, the way thoughts are supposed to just appear on the air, not stifled or confused or disappearing on the way out. Perhaps the pressure of our relationship was gone and I could access something that was a bit too nervous before. Perhaps the excessive pressure of my emotions and the added confidence boost of the evening alcohol triplicate (although understand: I wasn't sloppy or seeing in film slides) had given me what I needed. Or maybe it was a combination of the two. The stars aligned and I am proud of the way I spoke tonight about how I felt and what I think. It was radically honest.

He explained himself and spent a fair amount of time taking me in. His story goes like this: he met someone and felt a sudden glimmer of falling in love, but come to find she has a boyfriend and is leaving town. He broke up with me following the realization. Now he doesn't have the girl, or me, or know what he thinks about the love glimmer, which he had learned in his youth, perhaps wisely, not to believe in. He just feels like a big mess.

I made it clear that he better appreciate that while I haven't had a love glimmer in years, our relationship was no less substantial and left me a similarly big mess. And that love glimmers aren't always the be-all-end-all. I explained my long and painful journey of following a love glimmer, which was only about 1/44968ths joy and left me with the cold realization after many years that this guy after whom I had pined was wildly self-involved, totally disinterested in me and frankly, not that great.

I didn't ask him to reconsider our relationship. Because being told that you're jello and he's just tried creme brulee (to borrow a metaphor from My Best Friend's Wedding) is hardly an aphrodisiac.

But after some long string of something that sounded a lot more like what I might write than say, he looked at me for a long time and said, "You know I don't not like you, right?"

To which I replied, "Yeah. I mean, I don't think you dislike me."

And he said, "No. I mean, I don't not like you. I mean--the way I felt about you before, I still feel that way now."

Which caused me to stare into space for a while. It wasn't an invitation. It was information.

"The nature of our relationship--as humans--is now completely different," I pointed out. Because it was, after this conversation, this conversation following two months of our greatest moments of intimacy being uncommunicative. After knowing that I'm jello and he's tasted creme brulee. After discovering that our relationship histories are the inverse of each other, even up to this moment (a climax after which a kind of denouement will necessarily ensue).

Here's what's going to happen: he's going to take some time and dig in to his emotional Stuff, analyze it and figure out what he wants to think about it. I'm going to take some time and consider why I may have reacted so strongly to the break-up, and what I want and expect from a relationship. We will reconvene, and update. But I don't particularly want to be someone's jello, and I don't think he wants to go from creme brulee back to jello.

But here's the interesting thing: he wasn't my creme brulee either.
The nice thing? We heard each other out, and we were honest and kind.

- - - - -

At one point I said, like the words had been whispered to me, "I think there are different ways to reach love, whether by falling or crawling."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

the damage.

I'm taking this physically.

Here's an account of the damages: my heart is still floating somewhere up in my throat, making talking difficult if I'm not well-distracted; my appetite is non-existent: yesterday I subsisted on a croissant, handfuls of dry Cheerios, a pear, and, at 9pm, a few bites of some fettuccine Alfredo I ordered, while today I've had a bowl of Cheerios (with someone else's milk I'd pilfered), a bar of chocolate Pex brought me, and a few more bites of the same pasta (the same leftovers might stretch over for days, which is at least easy on my budget); and my body is downright exhausted, as if I've been exercising or awake for two days straight.

And the tears. It's been great waves of sobbing, until I'm wrung out, followed by a chemical stupor of calm in which I read or make calls I have to make while stable or fact-check an article. Then I last usually a couple hours before another thunderous wave comes crashing from out of nowhere--when I think about my toothbrush in his bathroom cabinet, or the movies waiting in our Netflix queue.

I feel a massive clusterfuck of emotions; eroded self-esteem topped with depression glossed over with a heavy veneer of shame and humiliation. The thing I keep saying to my friends, over and over, is It's Ridiculous, like I don't get to be this upset and I'm violating a deal I had with myself wherein I got to have a fun little fling type of relationship with an attractive Frenchman on the condition that I would not get too emotionally involved. Or, I was cavalier about the effects of that involvement, because goddammit I was going to have a relationship and going to experience all these things you're supposed to experience--heartbreak, large or small, didn't seem like a legitimate concern. Didn't even cross my mind. Because I hadn't sobbed before.

I am not inconsolable; I am casting about for healing mechanisms. I bought "Eat, Pray, Love" on a magnificent impulse with a sort of extraordinary need. I need things that metaphorically rub my back and bring me tea, things that tell me not to be ashamed, things that start making little repairs. (The phone conversation with my mother, the manhater, didn't particularly help: "Well really, I think all men are bastards.")

Meanwhile I am taking a reprieve from replying to his follow-up apologetic email which was basically the French version of "It's not you, it's me." I know he means well; he's not a malicious guy. But what I want him to see of me is not a human puddle of emotions. We didn't even exchange talk of love, and we kept a steady and consistent emotional distance, in speech. But I was burying a lot in him, silently. I was building up capital. I was preparing to love him.

But you know. He never called me beautiful. I want to be with someone who not only thinks I'm beautiful, but tells me so... at least once.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010



Newly single. I feel humiliated, stupid, and deeply uninteresting. I don't want to leave my room. I knew this was inevitable; so why am I so upset? It was two months. I wasn't in love with him.

Why is the whole world descending on me this weekend? Why is RIGHT NOW the time for intense simulated joy?!


Tuesday, June 08, 2010


Some interesting things happened but today all I feel is meh. A descendant mood. A malaise.

Rain, a headache, an out-of-contact boy after a strange and fragile conversation spelling (at least in my head) doom, a long movie about humans not connecting, a cap and gown to buy, upcoming celebrations when mostly I feel like decompressing.

(This, in favor of writing something.)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Summer Reading.*

Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself - (Conversations between) David Foster Wallace and David Lipsky [almost finished]

The Color of Magic - Terry Pratchett**

And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie**

The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow

Freedom - Jonathon Franzen

Fortress of Solitude - Jonathon Lethem

* * *

I've also been eyeing DFW's "Infinite Jest," but that would take serious dedication. Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" is a possibility. I have some intense Russians on my shelf, but just now doesn't seem like the time for that. Could work on my Updike by moving onto "Rabbit is Rich." Thinking about maybe a Marquez too.

If anyone has recommendations, I'll take them.

*Subject to (many) additions and alterations
**As recommended (insisted upon?) by F.

cupcakes and skinny-dipping.

In the few days of school being over, things are not exactly crystallizing, but are growing into a strange and comfortable chaos, an absurd kind of closure.

Last night I went to three separate parties, and talked at all of them with great enthusiasm to people I had either just met or barely knew. I greeted acquaintances with disproportionate excitement and joy. I had two beers at the first party, a potluck; a cupcake at the next, a bonfire at The Point; and some small vodka-cranberry thing at the third, a cast party for the play F. is in. Even he was a bit wilder than normal, drinking and introducing me to the cast and disappearing and orbiting people he seemed to find very exciting. Around 1:30AM I realized he was still glowing with energy and said I'd leave, only to find myself sitting downstairs on the porch talking with an old friend and then suddenly joining a mass exodus of fourth years back to The Point for skinny-dipping. And here's the thing--honest to God, I wasn't even drunk. I am this aimless right now.

Everyone is loopy from the sudden, warm June, and so The Point was far from deserted, even at 1AM. I almost held back, but seeing everyone else stripping I realized it was unlikely that I'll have this sort of opportunity again for a long time, and that the last time I went skinny-dipping in Lake Michigan (at 17? 18?) on the opposite side of the lake was unforgettable. I thought of F. and decided to maintain a shred of propriety (seriously) by keeping my underthings on. Not sure how that validated my faithfulness; he didn't seem shaken when I texted him moments later in a sort of "HA!" fashion (i.e. "HA! Your girlfriend is insane! You thought I went home to bed but really I jumped into the lake in my underwear!") -- shoulda just gone Full Monty.

Water was warm, surprisingly so; scene was bright with public lighting and full of reactions of hilarity and approval from a big group of African American neighborhood folk--they seemed to enjoy our ridiculous and irreverent display of public indecency. You'd think 30 naked white asses in the moonlight would be more of a shock to the system, but the thing is, nudity is not terribly offensive. There's nothing violent or violating about it; a naked-assed college kid in the moonlight is as silly and vulnerable as a kitten.

The police eventually drove through the park, as they are wont to do, and caused us to retreat, but they were harmless enough and didn't even get out of the vehicle or yell at us; their goal was to get people out of the park--which closes at 11pm. In fact, they didn't even seem to care about the obvious skinny-dipping. While the audience cried, "Hurry up and getcha clothes on!" in anxious anticipation as the cops slow-mo'ed toward us with a big beam of light, we ended up dressing and leaving without even a minor incident. The world is gentle, sometimes.

Picked up F. and we went back to his place and slept to the sound of rain pattering on the window. It's alright, this being-alive thing.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Dive dive down.

Today was my first free day, and a mixed bag of emotions. I worked cheerfully for four hours, still euphoric from last night; got a haircut on the North Side at an Aveda salon called "Blueberry Moon," based solely on the name, and felt increasingly self-conscious as I was made to stare for an hour at my baggy-eyed, lopsided, awkward mug (why can't I look at a painting while my hair is being cut? I trust the hairdresser!); bought a plum-colored camera + couple of necessary cheapo accessories and felt the money draining out of my account like blood from my veins; watched a few funny and poignant episodes from the first season of Weeds on my new Netflix account; lay with my head on the boy's lap on a bench in the sun, before we parted ways for him to act (and die) on-stage in front of an audience and me to go home and scrub the bathtub and toilet with bleach; sifted through and acquired some of C's wardrobe castoffs; did 40-60ish crunches; and felt, appropriately, aimless.

I am down and up, simultaneously full of dread and hopeful. For so many months I have been in the state of dreading. Dreading the end of my undergrad and the nearness of finding a job--having my worth determined in a way even more disconnected from me than through grading (cover letters, interviews, the slick veneer of being the Professional Everybody). Meeting F., kissing him, and feeling an hourglass flip over somewhere.. dreading the quick and inevitable end to what is, in many ways, my first real relationship. Dreading the slow dissolution of college friendships. Dreading socialization with primarily people I want to kick in the eye. Oh, the dread.

But then... the promise of a life is open to me, too. Piles of books I will have time to read. Goals I can pin on a wall and work through. It's not as if the world has ended--I am still young, still curious, still want to do XY&Z. Who's to say things won't be better than I expect? But it seems only fair to expect the dismal. No one starts out wanting to sell insurance or stand in an assembly line or be a receptionist.

These are the thoughts of first-day freedom.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Help, I'm Alive.

Holy exploding Jesus in my brain, I just completed my undergraduate education.

I have no homework. I have no exams. I have no non-joyful readings.

I have no anticipation of any of these things in the near-future.

I am liberated. I am being swept toward the cage of mirthless adulthood. Please do not say the words "resume" or "cover letter" to me for a few days. I am going to exist in a suspended reality with things I want to do, like attack the bathtub with bleach, and pin up on my wall the giant list I wrote during class of summer goals and motivations, and kiss my boyfriend, and buy a camera, and get a haircut.

I'll get back to reality... soon enough.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


Something is telling me to record June.

It is summer in Chicago. Little insects are finding their way into my room and buzzing around my arms. Gangs of cockroaches patrol the sidewalks, bathed in streetlights. Walks home at night are comfortable. Gone are the chilly gusts that haunt Chicago three-quarters of the year. Nights are too hot to crawl under anything but the lavender afghan and mornings begin showing their face at 4am, if you happen to toss and turn and look out the window. A greater compulsion to shave my legs. Everyone walking a dog.

And that general unease with it all, partially as a result of still being in school (for one more day), partially because I'll never do this again. This is my first summer that hasn't been bookended by another school year... since I was four. It is at once freeing and confusing and panic-inducing. It is a break from the comfortable, static hum of my education--like a refrigerator hum--constantly filling the background. The hum is shut off. It is a question mark. And frighteningly, it is the commencement of the next stage of my life, in which so many lay down their subversive ideas and surrender themselves to American Idol.

Hopefully I can carry through the summer. I have a lot to record.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lost in translation.

Can you really say anything about a nationality, in this modern, globalized age? Everyone watches American movies and listens to American music, we all eat watered-down Chinese food, are familiar with various Japanese anime, retain traces of French and German from our high school courses, have private obsessions with the KGB or the Bay of Pigs or some other historical niche. So how am I really American? What little tics distinguish me?

F. and I end up spending a lot of time discussing culture--French and American, up against each other. He's fiercely proud of la France and grumpily critical of American culture, making for lots of long conversational deconstruction, in which I attempt to explain why we do this-or-that, frequently when I'm not even sure myself. Why are we so fat, why, why? He's deeply perturbed, as most intelligent people are, by the average amount of television-watching. I give him what I think is the answer--well, you see, people work so hard here, spend so much soul-crushing time at work, that they're just too tired when they get home and there's not often a lot to do in small towns so they just collapse in front of the television, eat their dinner, and get up and do it again the next day. And then on the weekends they have a little time and money so they buy cheap plastic shit.

But then he looks so depressed and the question morphs into how? How? How can people live like that? Why don't they just KILL themselves? Which is so dramatic (and, as I think in my head, French) I have to laugh.

Then he tells a story of quintessential American culture. He takes the stairs to the third floor while a colleague takes the elevator--he arrives a few minutes later and the colleague notes, "You're making me look lazy!" This he laughs off but privately takes as a deep and meaningful example of the American mentality. The colleague doesn't make himself look lazy, he is only lazy in the context of F.

Of course, F. doesn't constantly walk around bemoaning the state of American culture, or he wouldn't be terribly fun to be around. And he's happy to try new things and accept the things he likes. Like Johnny Cash. And s'mores. But if the topic of culture comes up and I ask, he's happy to share his opinion, which is often touched with despondency.

Last night it was the French and the Germans, and we pseudo-playfully traded barbs on both sides. I asked what the French thought of the Germans. The Germans are bureaucratic and narrow-minded, he explained, while the French are resourceful. The French are stuck-up, I pointed out. He thought about this for a moment, and then agreed. The rest of the night, after making a statement, I qualified it with, but then again, I'm narrow-minded.

It was an odd conversation, not particularly bitter but leaving both of us feeling a little off. Today he sent an apology for his remarks, saying he was feeling sad, tired, and missing home.

It had seemed fun to compare culture before, but now it seems a bit tired. It seems we're all equally products of our own culture and the ones we seek out for ourselves--I am American but academic, nerdy, a rural-to-urban transplant, a hundred nuanced things. He is modern, and so he's the same.

Though I love his distinguishing flourishes. His complete security in his masculinity, without the need for a box of testosterone-fueled cultural supports. His unshakable sense of responsibility.

Still, he's not French and I'm not American, we're individuals, he's a guy and I'm a girl, he makes sound effects and I pull lint off his shirts.

We'll let it rest for a while.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

springtime sickness


Monday afternoon I caught something. I felt it settling down in me at work, where I suddenly got very tired, very achy, very hot. I pressed through my intern meeting and my Global Warming lab, went for hot & spicy Korean soup with A., and finally got home around 8, where I fell into a sleep until getting a message from F. who wanted to come over for "tea & cuddling", which is one of the few activities we have time for during the week (barf if you want, I won't hold it against you). My desire to see him trumped my desire to sleep, but I did finally go to bed around 11. I woke up the next morning still tired, my throat raw and swollen, coughing, difficult to swallow, but mostly just in pain. It feels like the same epically shitty throat stuff I had during mono. And remember how I hated the mono? God, I hated the mono.

Technically it's Thursday (5am and I'm on my third lozenge) and I'm still dealing with this, having missed classes and work since Tuesday. Two days of sleep and finishing my book, of Facebook and Hulu, of lozenges and hot tea. People have stayed away and that's probably better, as I'm probably contagious and smelly. Definitely unwashed.

I think I've really put in my time with sickness. For a while, every day after mono I was sending out vibes of gratitude that I was healthy again, letting the universe know I was thankful. But then I stopped. Maybe that's why I got sick again? Is Karma putting me in my place?

A little bit harsh, Karma.