my LORD, it is hot out here. currently, my face is dripping with sweat. i've never been a dripper, honestly. all my life i have done nothing but glisten, even in the sauna. but today? today, antiperspirant is merely a euphemism for "well, at least my sweaty pits don't smell like crayons".
at sunset, as i type from the patio, beer by my side, it is still 99 degrees outside. (feel free to convert that into 30something degrees celsius, you brits...) my car nearly overheated as i drove myself over to urban outfitters to partake of their massive sale. thankfully, we made it. for i was able to buy a fantastic pair of new sneakers for $10. that's right, folks: diez dolares.
i will be officially styling when my feet touch ground in nashville. because i am cool. my shoes say so.
meanwhile, have i mentioned that i am perspiring like drippy men at the gym? and i'm just sitting here, imbibing carbs and alcohol.
another thing about the climate: desperate mosquitos. one just landed on the citronella candle. what does that tell you about our culture?
you can decide.
and locusts. locusts? in june? where am i? back in erie, pa, the sound of singing locusts meant one thing: back to school sales at penney's. in texas, here they are, summoning the hot hot summer ahead.
i cannot express the joy i felt while studying the weekend forecast for nashville. it's not supposed to be warmer than 90, and there is a chance for rain. thunderstorms even. scattered ones. here in texas, we have not seen a drop of rain in 30 days.
i just realized that i get to be away from work for FOUR whole days. that's right boys and girls; i am on a minibreak. and believe me, it is well-deserved. this week proved to be the most problematic (thus far) in all the years i've been a working girl. i won't go into details, but this gist is this: i got stuck in the middle of political bullshit, and it was not pretty. it was a form of he-said-she-said-no-one-told-me sabotage.
i am, by nature, non-confrontational. when it comes to making waves, i tend to float quietly along until the storm subsides. however, in this particular instance, i was not at fault. and wagging fingers pointed at me. so. i called a meeting with my supervisor and a mediator yesterday. i dealt with the issue "professionally". i stood up for myself, and made known my feelings quite plainly. and the waters have calmed, because i told them to.
ok, i did cry in the meeting, but only because it was emotionally charged, and we were three women in a small office, with a bowl of hershey's kisses between us, and i thought it inappropriate to touch them in the midst of our heated "dialogue".
anyway. today, i feel more assertive. empowered. and whatever the political outcome may be, i know that i stood tall for myself.
now, i am going to pack, while parading around in my new shoes.
so. i booked a flight to nashville for the weekend. i'll be around town from friday through monday. anyone home?
i preface this story by saying that it is a gorgeous saturday. i woke up in a lovely, calm mood. helen and i french pressed some coffee before she headed off to work, and i began to loaf about the house.
i put on a tank top and some comfy cotton (walgreens special) pants. lalala i caught up on blogs, read the week, and bathed an unenthusiastic charley. we listened to snow patrol and sufjan stevens, an abc order shuffle.
a little while ago, i decided that it was time i get on with my day. there are errands to be run and words to be written out of doors. i checked myself out in the bathroom mirror, and miraculously, today is a skinny day: no double chin, an adequately flat tummy under my shirt, and twinkly eyes to boot. i was fit for duty.
and so, with fear and trepidation, fueled with skinny day confidence, i approached the closet, wherein lurk the jeans of truth.
a formerly comfortable pair of size sixes, there are hand-me-downs from helen, who no longer fits into them. i emphasize the word "formerly", because, since a. quitting starbucks and b. my sprained ankle debacle, they've grown progressively tighter and tighter.
surely, they would fit today.
i stepped one foot in, then the other, and pulled. everything was going well until the jeans approached my womanly hips, where they got stuck. however, i would not be deterred. i began to yank. they wouldn't budge. i lay down on the bed, and did the inch worm squirm, as charley tried to lick my head. success! they buttoned! i sat up. they came undone. i repeated the process until i was able to button and zip them.
i waddled stiffly into the bathroom, and sized myself up in the mirror. what had happened to my adequately flat belly from an hour before? was it the granola bar? somehow, a new belly had taken over my person; i was now the proud owner of a fat tire hanging capriciously over the jeans. furthermore, i couldn't breathe. my eyes lost their twinkle.
needless to say, i peeled off the hideous pants, and hung them in the far back of the closet, where they belong. i put on a bigger sized pair, but they too are tighter than usual. i conceded the battle; i'm wearing them anyway.
i would like to think that i've grown more comfortable with my body, or at least diplomatic. and i can be, momentarily anyway. but. i am far from capable of an intimate, unconditional love relationship. my belly and i are sisters who don't like each other very much. i get panicky, she decides to get nauseous. i get bold under the delusion of a skinny day, she decides that she'd rather not fit into the jeans of truth. she is a bitch, really.
have you ever tried to saddle up an obstinate horse? dakota would always stand there nonchalantly, and let me do my thing. i'd pull the strap tight, give the saddle a test tug: perfect. however, my horse would have puffed out his belly, only letting out the air with a long sigh as soon as i put my foot in the stirrup to mount. the saddle would slide sideways, and i'd end up on my ass.
my belly is a stubborn mare.
even now, she is staring up at me from underneath my tanktop, and i don't appreciate the face she's making. such contempt.
well, whether she likes it or not, we've got things to do today, and i can't wear my walmart specials forever. so there.
lunch time by the dammed river.
i'm sitting in the shade at a picnic table. though the water is murky and green today, i can still see the minnows, vying at my feet for a piece of my bagel.
a muslim couple is watching the water. she is wearing a neatly wrapped white scarf, and bootcut jeans. he's in cargo shorts and a tshirt. they're giggling. she's tying his sneaker. to my right sits an asian woman at her laptop. she's got a carrier on her table, in which a tiger striped cat with bright green eyes is watching the swooping grackles. i wonder if she brings her cat here often? or is this just a stop on the way to/from the vet?
and so this is my hour-long respite from the constant demands of work.
deadlines deadlines deadlines and it's friday. everyone needs something, and they need it now.
really, i straddle every day between utter boredom (salon only updates so many times in one day) and near-burnout. there is no balance, and it's not because i procrastinate, either. seriously. (ok, well maybe when it comes to filing...)
in the midst of this 8-5 grind, i've been dealing with the utter unpredictability of panic attacks. there is no rhyme or reason to them. yesterday, i was enjoying my lunch, and then came the deluge and i couldn't breathe. i hid out in the bathroom awhile, and talked to marlei. or more accurately, she talked to me. soothed me when i was speechless. she's had way too much practice doing that.
(oh look, a big turtle--tino's uncle most likely--is floating by. if only i hadn't eaten all my bagel. we could have shared a meal.)
i know that this anxiety has much to do with my strange brain chemistry (though tom cruise would disagree, i'm sure), and so it's probably a matter of balancing this drug with that, and at x dosage, but that is still no comfort when i'm in the midst of it all.
i tell my stories here on this little blog because i want to connect with the daily miracles of my life. cats and turtles and tea and water. docked boats rocking. grackles grackling. it's all right here and alive. in her genesis trilogy, madeleine l'engle breaks down the meaning of disaster: dis-aster--to be separated from the stars. to me, stars are God's constancy. this is my Gospel. so much so that two blue stars are forever inked into my shoulders.
such separation--dis-aster, if you will--is in my head, quite literally. i am writing myself into belief, into hope. because this is the sharpest tool i have with which to work. words, and the ability to effectively communicate them, are my hope in dark days.
yes, yes, there is acid in my belly. (i swallow the mint tea.) but there is this constant humming of life around me. it's the proverbial thorn in the flesh: can i live mindfully, grab hold of peace, when my body is constantly falling into panic? can i keep getting up?
i did today.
i'm here today. meeting deadlines and writing.
i pray that is enough.
the following is a tale of epic proportions. unfortunately, my capacity to relay anything "epic" is severely diminished by a hangover. (ooo foreshadowing.)
ah yesterday. yesterday was the beginning of summer. it was also the day we secured a lawyer, who will be, from here on in, referred to as "uncle mark". uncle mark is going to help helen in her quest for justice against the disk in the bikelane.
naturally, we celebrated with happy hour beer at the ginger man. helen proceeded to kick my ass four times at pool. i blame this humiliation on the fact that i was distracted by the jukebox. dj bananie paid three dollars for tunes by patty griffin, madeleine peyroux, blackalicious, nick drake, and jolie holland. so, in my mind, i am a winner.
next, we whisked ourselves across the street to a swanky gay bar called rain. remixes by madonna and everything but the girl pumped through the speakers. the bar was lit neon. bartender matthew served me up a sassy cosmopolitan, as helen learned to play poker from another bartender. apparently, there was to be a tournament later on. i hope that business picked up. there were seven bodies in the building, counting the bartenders and us.
so, onward we went to the clay pit, an upscale indian restaurant, where we stuffed our faces full of nan. one more beer for me. an "arabian night" for helen. (read: gin and tonic, but mostly gin.)
and then we came home to the biggest harvest moon i've seen in a long time. blurry and red and full, it stood unblinkinging in a cloudless sky. what better way to enjoy such wonder than by a night swim? and why wear a suit for a swim in the dark?
our neighbors thought so too. as soon as we got in the pool, there were kenny and rachel and patrick and jordan, the golden retriever, all ready to join us.
"we'll be taking off our clothes to sing," my friend sarah sings, and that's just what we did. building 12 is now, officially a late night nudist colony (which is perfect, because don't really even have to see each other's nude selves). so we swam and swam until we were pruny and cold and the moon had gone behind the trees.
i fell into bed exhausted, and woke up this morning with my typically fabulous hair sticking straight up in all the wrong places. and i woke up with a beer/vodka/chlorine hangover. too much summer enjoyment for one night, i suppose. i only had 5 drinks over the course of 6 hours. i must be headed into that phase of life when you say, "i remember back when i could drink that much and not get sick. now i barely sip an o'douls and i get the worst headache. honey, could you pass me the absorbine, junior?"
ah, but despite the cost of the evening, and a day spent in a fog afterward, i have no regrets. after all, getting to see your neighbor's bright white ass under a harvest moon is absolutely priceless.
it is probably bizarre for relief to come after the weekend, upon my return to 8-5 in a swivel chair. but it's true. here is my monday list of things for which to be thankful:
1. today was breezy, and the heat was not so stifling.
2. i was able to talk myself down from a random panic attack on my lunch hour.
3. i came home to a new book in my mailbox.
4. i am no longer dogsitting.
5. my work contract has been extended for another 6 to 8 weeks, which means continued constant income for the rest of the summer.
6. my bank account has not been overdrawn for a long time now.
7. we went swimming tonight under a full moon.
8. i found a pudding cup in the refrigerator after i thought i'd eaten them all. (now, there are officially all gone.)
9. while sitting on the patio writing this, crickets are singing, and i am not sweating.
10. helen is healing.
bloggers, unite: i dare you to make your own list of 10 things you are thankful for as you read this. go on, you can do it...
(we don't need turkeys and pumpkin pie to remember...)
today is lazy and the parking lot is already steaming. we're dogsitting for our neighbor, patrick, and so there is a clumsy golden retriever named jordan bumbling around the house. her head is too small for her body. just over a year old, she stumbles around like two men in a horse suit.
well, there go the cds. with the thwap of her tail, stacks of everything tumble like jericho. the crash scares the shit out of her and she trips over my legs. puppies. they're about as graceful as i am.
my friend susan sent me a recently-recorded mp3 the other night. "guess who the other singer is?" she wrote. i took one listen to the song, which has long been a favorite, and knew who it was immediately. and i started to cry. this "other singer" has been a muse of mine for half my life.
i don't think i'm allowed yet to say who it is, but suffice it to say, this particular singer is very well-known and loved. and she complements susan's music with amazing grace. (how sweet the sound.)
when two worlds collide, even a degree or two removed, it wakes you up to wonder. my dear friend is spending the summer with one of my favorite artists of all time. how is this possible? i am utterly proud of susan, because i know that her current opportunities are hardwon and deserved. she's relocated from northern ireland to new york, and she busts her ass to get her music heard. she knows that she is living the life she was born to live.
susan is capable and responsible to her gifts.
and she takes risks.
and she wakes me up.
bring on the song
i've pushed you down deep
in my soul
for too long
what would happen if i chose to risk like susan risks? because i feel like i am about to burst with the desire to live more mindfully of my time and vocation. i want my words to sing.
frederick buechner's definition of vocation: where your deep gladness meets the world's great hunger.
i am on the verge of life-change with the imminent end of my job contract. what then?
i really believe that i am being called to get off my spiritual ass these days. with susan's priceless encouragement this week, i feel a little more brave. and capable.
good evening from sticky austin, texass.
this weekend has been a picture of domesticity. paid bills. washed the cat, who found his way into the sooty fireplace. wrote awhile. and now it's beer and smokes and sticky legs on a wooden chair, here in the writing room. helen is grocery shopping. charley is asleep at my feets.
i have a niece, alyssa, who is 13. i don't know how she became 13, as i was 13 when she was born, but somehow, she is a teenager now, complete with crazy hormones, and a penchant for all things rock-and-roll. she even plays a glittery gold electric guitar. i should have been so cool at that age. instead, i had a perm, and made mixtapes from the radio.
as a belated birthday present, i put together a mix cd (ah, the evolution of technology). alyssa raves about greenday and blink182, so i obliged her, but added a bit of aunt anne sensibilities. i'm here to help her grow, right? without further ado, the playlist:
1. always - blink182
2. fix you - coldplay
3. middle of nowhere - hot hot heat
4. paranoid android- radiohead
5. strange & beautiful - aqualung
6. first day of my life - bright eyes
7. your love is the place... - teenage fanclub
8. girl you have no faith in medicine - white stripes
9. woohoo - the 5, 6, 7, 8s
10. all is full of love - death cab for cutie
11. telescope eyes - eisley
12. do you realize? - the flaming lips
13. wake me up when september ends - greenday
14. holiday - greenday
15. boulevard of broken dreams - more greenday
16. red morning light - kings of leon
17. helena - my chemical romance
18. such great heights - the postal service
19. somewhere a clock is ticking - snow patrol
20. are you gonna be my girl? - jet
i am sure that alyssa will have fun practicing her power chords with many of these tunes. i rocked it out for its first go yesterday, as two plumbers stood in the bathtub, fixing a sewer leak.
as for friday night, homestarrunner live was a bit of a letdown, honestly. the brothers chaps were front and center, and i was in the first row. they were funny and chappy, but quite subdued. they looked sleepy or stoned. who knows. i am, however, the proud owner of a the cheat voice box, er toilet paper roll. (watch the dvd if you have no idea what i'm talking about.)
i guess i was hoping for more strongbad, more never-before-seen goodies on the big screen. as it was, i did enjoy watching trogdor and other classics whilst drinking a guinness, as the brothers chaps chuckled at their own jokes and ate pizza from the stage.
i must end this entry now, as the humidity is REALLY getting to me. the pool is calling for a night swim.
this one is for jude. remember our first night of ministry? may something, 2002, somewhere in london:
*photo by curtis swartzentruber
this morning, i woke up still in the klonopin-induced haze from yesterday. but i pulled on my casual friday jeans, buttoned up a nice blue shirt, and again combed my fantastic hair.
helen, my own personal barista, brewed me a strong cup o joe, and off i drove to work, with coldplay blaring from my rumbling factory-installed cr-v speakers.
and so here i am at work. lunchtime. the office is empty today, which is item #2 of thankfulness. my workday is quiet, interrupted only by intermittent phonecalls.
i even received this email from a job applicant, whom i helped apply for a job using our online process:
I Just Want To Say Thank You Very Much For Your Help. To You It Might Have Been Nothing, But To Me It Means The World. I Wish You All The Luck In The World. I Need A Job Real Bad, Hopefully I May Get On With Yall. Thank's:i stood just outside the office door a moment ago, smoking a camel. the breeze blows cooler than yesterday, and i even had a nanosecond of gooseflesh. this is progress. yes?
in five hours, i can close the book of the workweek.
in nine hours, i will really, really be at homestar runner live.
i know that words have been darker than usual the past few days, but the fact that i'm writing at all would give my previous therapists much hope.
thank you to all my dear friends who have written kind words of encouragement to me.
i do continue to believe, somehow, that God is with me, even in days of suffocation.
and so, even though my body and brain still feel rather shitty, i choose to be a philippians kind of girl today.
tag: philippians 4:8
i thought this salon article was quite articulate and gracious.
for those gentle readers who are unacquainted with the world of firey anxiety attacks, let me tell you about the morning after.
it dawns with disbelief, with a vague sense of guilt from the palace lie that you did something wrong to have been in such a state at all. your limbs are achy, and your head fuzzy, like you've downed a bottle of whiskey the night before.
i woke up this morning with the earnest desire to push through that haze, to go to work like a good and responsible perfectionist. i even got dressed and combed my fantastic hair.
and then i fell back onto the bed. i couldn't do it. my body wouldn't let me. let me tell you: the "normal" part of my brain said "get up, you're being ridiculous. nothing is wrong. you are loved. you love. you've got the new coldplay cd. you need to make money. you risk making things worse at work if you call off." the battle between the anxiety and reason gets tiresome really fast. reason wins most days, but after the disaster of yesterday, i simply couldn't do it.
i called off.
took a klonopin.
slept until 2 pm.
and here i am now, blogging on the patio, with charley and coldplay keeping me company. the fur and voice of comfort.
i know that i will be ok. i've got all the tools to climb up and out of this place.
it's just ridiculously scary. and it makes me long for the company of nashville and family.
i really don't think there is a better statement of hope than coldplay's "fix you" this afternoon.
it's lunchtime, and i'm sitting in stifling heat by the water with chris martin in my ears.
i look as happy as my dog in the photos i've posted this week, but underneath it all, i am struggling for air. things are not always as they seem, or as they feel, but things are rough over here in bananie world.
all signs are pointing toward job change again in three weeks' time. it's a simple matter of an ended contract, nothing more. so i'm a lame duck employee for the timebeing. and then, the question marks.
my employment is not the root of the anxiety attacks that have come back, but it does not help. at all.
did you know that panic feels like fire?
i breathed deeply this weekend,in all the wide-open silence of wilderness, but i returned to austin with spiritually constricted lungs. God help me, i'm slipping back into the place i fear.
i try not to hold grudges against my fragile synapses, but i'm having trouble willing them to spark.
life is just above my head. i know this well. i've been there.
klonopin is on the way, which will save the day. but. for now, i'm a bit lost. the breeze is blowing now on my skin. i want to feel it.
have you ever seen a happier dog than charley in a pasture?
[i apologize for the lack of quality. the photos are digital copies of 35mm at cvs. thank you very much.]
here's my reallyreally short hair after a weekend in the country, chasing dogs chasing jackrabbits. more on that later.
good morning boys and girls--it's saturday!
helen and i are about to drive out to the country for the weekend, to relax on the 700 acres of her family's ranch in mason county (yeehaw). the dogs will chase cows, and we'll sneak lonestar tallboys in cans down by the river.
again i say yeehaw.
i cut my hair yesterday. i cut it very short.
i am now. a. redhead.
over and out.
yesterday, rage overtook me on my drive home from work. thankfully, it wasn't road rage, and i didn't attack the stupid person in the stupid car in front of me with a baseball bat. i was just driving merrily along, enjoying sufjan stevens singing happy songs, and as i turned the corner from pleasant valley onto oltorf, i saw it.
anymore, i keep my eyes peeled for an upturned austin water works manhole cover at the pleasant valley/oltorf intersection, where helen crashed. have i mentioned that this was the culprit of her accident? some city worker had left it in the bike lane. a small rusty disk could have killed her.
i hate this disk.
twice, we have moved it out of the road, leaving it on a sewer near the curb. and twice it has been moved back into the bike lane, as the water works folks are doing some sort of water work in the neighborhood.
we've called the city to report this idiocy, only to be transferred and transferred. the resolution? "write a letter." and someone would make a phonecall to someone else, suggesting they be more careful with their utility work.
as for yesterday, the fucking disk was in the bike lane again. this time, helen and i took pictures: of the AWW manhole cover, the gaping hole in the road it is supposed to cover, the black-dried pool of helen's blood still on the sidewalk. we'll send the photos with our letter. wish you were here.
a night of wonderfalls, wine, and homemade chocolate chip cookies eased my anger a bit. i fell into bed exhausted. my dreams were photos. i was standing before a desk, and someone held up a photo of etty hillesum.
[if you're new to my blog, you need to know that etty has been the catalyst for an awakening of my faith, and my hope. all the world has of her now are words and photos, as she died at auschwitz, when she was only 29.]
i studied etty's face in black and white, frozen. i'd seen the picture before. but then she started moving within the confines of the frame; she was suddenly a silent movie. and my heart leapt--i've never seen etty hillesum move before. i've always wondered about her expressions, her demeanor. my eyes welled up as they do when i dream about my dad, who has been dead 8 years now. it felt like a homecoming. and i woke up longing for her like a family member.