How to be an Old Man

I’m in the middle of a couple of unpleasant things right now, but after writing this out in an email, I decided its better to be able to laugh about things than to wallow. So here’s a funny little anecdote for you (and apologies to those who have already heard it, but this is quickly becoming one of my favorite Stories)
 
So my leg was in shooting pain and my foot numb for a couple of days last week. No triggering incident, mind you – I just started having shooting pain in my leg, a swollen ankle, and numbness in my foot. My PCP referred me to an orthopedist, and in the interim, I was taking pain relievers and basically elevating my foot all night while at home. Not exactly state of the art care, mind you, but I was trying my darndest!
 
So on Saturday morning, I was hobbling about my apartment, puttering if you will, but mostly sitting on the couch taking in some Netflix and trying not to make things worse until I saw my orthopedist. Doc figured it is related to my back, given the fact that I have a history of back problems from my car accident years ago.
 
So anyway, coming back from the bathroom, I spot a squirrel on the fire escape …
 
Now, this is noteworthy for two reasons. The first is simply – what the actual fuck is a squirrel doing on my fire escape? That’s not a tree! There’s no snacks to sniggle from here! City life is weird. I think a rat would have surprised me less.
 
The second, though – I have some delightful fire escape herbs now. Parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, chives, and basil. The basil and parsley are both growing incredibly tall already, but I have noticed that the basil has been looking a little chewed on and ragged.
 
So as I walk back to the couch, squirrel makes his way towards outside my kitchen window. I head into the kitchen incensed, years of deer eating my mom’s azalea bushes outside our front window coming back to me. So I head to the kitchen window, and that little fucker is sitting there with his face in my GD basil! So I tap on the glass, he stops and looks at me, and I mumble some kind of curse at him. He just continues to stare at me. So, I open the window, and he moves off a bit.
 
At this point, I obviously need to have some kind of final threat, so I lean out the window, watching the little bastard head down the stairs and run like a coward. What should have happened next was something ominous, like “Yeah, you BETTER run Mr. Squirrel! And you tell all your squirrelly friends –  I AM WATCHING YOU!”
 
… instead, I leaned out the window and HOLYMOTHERFUCKINGSWEEBABYJEBUS! My back!
 
So, backing out an a 45 degree angle from my waist to my head, I proceed to hobble around the apartment in excruciating pain in my back, my foot numb and my leg experiencing shooting pain. When I was finally able to sit, it was a long time before I was able to get up again.
 
But did the squirrel really win?
 
After all, he totally got off my lawn.

I just need to write this down

The thing I lost was my own little family. A wife and a dog and a cat. Maybe that’s why I became so close with my parents, my siblings, my nieces when it all came down.

This weekend taught me that I adore my family. I need them. They need me.

This weekend also made me feel like I am part of a community here, and I am loved as much as I love. I have such an extended group of amazing people. I am never alone.

This weekend I realized that the only family I have is somewhere else, and life doesn’t really seem likely to provide my own little family again. Not here.

And maybe I don’t want my own little family again. I wasn’t very good at it to begin with.

I just needed to write this down. I miss my family more and more. That’s not the same as being alone.

A Life, Alone

A few years back, when I first moved to DC, I was living alone for the first time in my life. To look back on it, I can admit it was incredibly frightening, and sad to me. I didn’t like it. I had been rejected and spurned, and I felt rather useless to other people. I felt like being alone was a punishment.

As I was going through the pics on my camera, I realized that I take a lot of pictures by myself. I do a lot of things by myself. I do a lot of things to entertain me, and only me. See, e.g., Unicorn Mask and Unicorn Cat. I am glad other people can find enjoyment from it, truly. But looking at this ridiculous mess of selfies and other things of interest of only to me, it occurs to me: I really like my life. I really have found a way to enjoy the time I spend alone.

So … these pics are of no interest to anyone. Its incredibly mockworthy and egomaniacal to post a bunch of selfies and think anyone will care.

But I actually think, looking at these … I think I actually have found some kind of happiness in being alone. Which is a complete disservice to all the people I have the honor of spending my life with. But I think I am doing really alright.

And also, I make me laugh.

 

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On a Time Now Passed

Ended up down a gchat rabbit hole tonight. Made a yeast starter. Needed to kill time. Somehow, this lead to an iTunes playlist of all 2002-2004 hits.

I am a nostalgic, sentimental moron. Acknowledged.

But I played some Postal Service, some Flaming Lips “In the Morning of the Magicians,” some Wrens “Ex-Girl Collection.” And I sang along to my cat, sitting in the chair next to my computer, staring at me.

And every time I leaned in to sing a harmony to her, she rubbed her face against mine.

Some part of me thinks she wishes she was there when we were that thing.

Another part of me just appreciates the non-judgmental affection for the staleness of my heart.

Are you eating chips?

On vanity

I reopened the OKC account last night right as I was going to bed. By the time I woke up this morning, I had 16 new visitors and 11 new “they choo-choo-choose you” notifications. And it felt good.

I am not even interested in meeting anyone right now. That’s the truth. Between just coping with life, trying very hard to get over a romantic entanglement very short-lived but incredibly intense (and leading to me being rejected)[and why do I keep getting thus entangled](and why does it still sting to think about it?), some part of me needs the superficial validation.

There’s this scene in Soapdish where Sally Fields, an aging soap opera star, goes to the mall “in disguise,” gets recognized, and is suddenly stormed for autographs and photos. Its done as a way to remind herself that she is still a star, that her fans still love her. It is completely feigned and affected and self-serving and deceitful. And it makes her feel good.

Four messages so far today, and that’s just from the pre-work and lunch rushes. Most of the time, these things happen in the 5-6 hour and then after 10, when people are drunk and lonely and start recklessly sending messages out to strangers who look attractive … or attractive enough when you’re drunk and lonely and its 10:00 and you have no plans for the weekend.

I have no interest in dating right now.

But the validation of feeling attractive to another human being …

Sometimes, at 10:00 on a weeknight, when you’re drunk and lonely … sometimes that feels good.

Sage Advice

I was just having a lengthy conversation with a Jewish friend of mine in which she analogized a recent dating failure in my life to the excitement of Christmas throughout all of December, followed by the reality that Christmas has come and gone, and all you have left is a bunch of toys whose brilliance and luster fade every day. Yes, she is Jewish, but I think she clearly knows about Christmas.

And yes, in this analogy, Christmas was the excitement of someone else meeting me for the first time. Sigh.

We bantered back and forth about these sorts of things, coming to the conclusion that I may have misread a situation, but I also may have read it completely correctly, and there was no way to know now. It reminded me of a little tidbit I learned one time while getting dumped.

I now say that, even if we’re all using English, some people text and chat in a different language than others. The last young lady I fell into whatever-emotion-it-is-that’s-not-love-because-I-am-a-robot with started out strong right out of the gate, because we were texting, I made a fairly dubious reference, and she latched on right away. We spoke the same language, and everything was easy and fun (until it wasn’t).

All the way on the other end of the spectrum, I was once dumped because a text joke I made was not read as a text joke, but instead as snark, which lead to awkwardness. When I finally explained myself, and what the joke was, and how we were both being silly, she told me this: “Even if that’s true, look how confusing the whole thing was. It shouldn’t be this hard so early on.”

Stung like all hell, but she was right.

So I started thinking about some of the things I have learned over the last couple of years of dating, breaking up and getting dumped. And while much of this might seem trite, or obvious, its the difference between lessons learned and lessons earned.

These were lessons earned, each a permanent mark upon my sleeve.

  • No matter how much you believe someone is The One, the sheer fact that they do not believe the same makes it true: they are not The One.
  • It does not matter how shitty someone is being to you. Even if they fully acknowledge how shitty they are being to you. You do not get to put words into their mouth as to why.
  • Waning interest is in fact the surest sign that you are not actually interested at all. Sometimes you need to take the old dog out behind the barn.
  • The Fadeaway is a tried-and-true method for ending a relationship – just stop contacting them, and maybe they’ll take the hint. It is a terrible way to treat another human being, a coward’s way out. It is probably the most commonly used method of all.
  • Your bullshit is your own bullshit and no one knows what it is unless you tell them. You don’t get to decide how someone else is going to react to it, and you deprive them of any real chance of being anything other than what you predicted by not letting them see it all.
  • It is incredibly easy to take a seemingly innocuous thing that someone did, turn it into a big deal, and use it as grounds for dumping them. Especially if you were already going to dump them and were looking for the right way to explain how you actually felt.
  • Do not drink and text. No one wins.
  • Some people are looking for someone special. Other people are just looking to play. Each group is not particularly sensitive to the needs and desires of the other.
  • Sometimes the thrill of the chase is significantly more fun than the reality of how messy another person actually is.
  • When you go on a first date with someone, you’re not just going on a date with them: you’re going on a date with everyone they’ve ever dated, and everyone you’ve ever dated, and probably your parents as well. Its only fair to expect people to be human.

Its tough out there. Rejection at 34 feels exactly like rejection at 17, and years of accomplishments and tough life lessons in between do nothing to make the hurt any lessened.  And sometimes, you don’t even realize that you’re the one doing the hurting. You’re the one rejecting someone else. And its not an enviable place to be either.

One friend, coaching me through the first time I had to break up with someone in my life (yes, in my 30’s and yes, I felt pathetic) explained that, in an absolute truth, when you go out on a date with someone, unless they are actually the one with whom you’ll spend the rest of your life, someone is going to get hurt. Maybe they like you and you don’t like them. Maybe you date for 3 weeks and then meet someone new. Maybe you date for 3 months and then they decide this isn’t going anywhere. Maybe you date for 3 years and then you cheat on them. Point is, at some point, at least one of you is getting hurt. And you have to know this if you want to date, to find someone you can stand long enough to let them learn to stand you.

Its a dark view on dating. But I believe it is true. That which doesn’t kill us, and all that.

But I choose to look at it from a more positive perspective, which is to say this: even with all the hurt going around, even with the odds so stacked against me, even with the times where it feels a little bit like I don’t want to play anymore … I keep trying. Which means that I still believe in … I dunno? Fucking magic? Did Sisyphus ever get the boulder up the hill?

I do these things, and I learn from my failures and from my mistakes. And I am a better person for every lesson learned. The saddest day of all is the one when I decide I no longer wish to try to be a part of life, no longer think the risk is worth the reward.

But that’s not me. That which doesn’t kill me, and all that. And maybe I do still believe in magic.

On Mason

It is almost impossible to collect my thoughts here. Just as with Catherine, and with Marina, I don’t have any right to talk about a person who others knew and loved on a daily basis, who I only knew briefly. But christ … Mason.

I don’t write much on here recently. To be honest, a post I wrote 6 months ago lead to a breakup under circumstances I do not wish to discuss. But then I became gun shy. It was the first time something I wrote on here had anything other than a positive impact on my life and relationships. Dutto tells me I am incredibly in touch with my feelings, with my dark things. I like that. I think I just use this as a place to muse on my own life, and know that the people who read this already know what I am like, what I am capable of, and what they get when they become someone I love. Mostly, this is my safest place of all. Mostly.

Its funny – I was going to write something different tonight. Yesterday was a very hard day for me. It will probably be a long time before February 13th is not a hard day for me. It was our anniversary. It is probably the one day of the year anymore that I get despondent about my past. Unforgiving. Lonely. Incredibly lonely.

But I did what I know I need to do. I reached out. I told just a few people that I was having a really hard time. That I was sad. Not in need of a hug or a drink or anything. I just needed to admit that I was sad, and why, and not hide it from people. And I did. And I cried. And I felt better.

The amazing thing is, I texted my dad about it. He called me. We talked for a long time. He told me he does the same thing on both of his anniversaries, still to this day. He thinks about mistakes he made, a life that might have been. And he said its okay.

Did I ever tell you about my dad?

“We didn’t always get along” would be such a misrepresentation. I blamed him for a lot of things throughout my childhood and even my early 20’s. I resented him. I disagreed with him. I blamed him. I did not like him. We had a huge blowup and falling out. I said some things I am not proud of. I told him I did not want him in my life anymore, because he was terrible at being my father.

A month later, when Klimchi and I were planning our wedding BBQ, I wrote him an email. I laid out how I felt, what was wrong with us, and what I thought needed to change if he wanted to be in my life. I told him it was important to me that he be there, but that I did not know what our relationship could be. Maybe we could try to be friends. He came to the BBQ. We slowly started working on things.

The thing is, my dad actually changed. He did not know how I felt. He wanted me to know some things: that he was proud of me. That he respected me. That he loved me and who I had become as a man. It took a long time, but I learned a lot of things about my assumptions about the man and my place in his life. I learned I was wrong about my preconceived notions. I learned I was wrong. I learned humility.

When everything fell apart 3 years ago, Dad was there for me. More so than I even realized. I saw him all the time. He took care of me. He helped me … he helped me become the person I am now. He became one of my best friends.

When I was cooking dinner for the family on Xmas Eve at my dad’s house 2 years ago, I asked him where the wine opener was. He pointed me to a drawer. I opened it, and I found a printed copy of the email I had sent him so long ago. It was highlighted, with markings in the corners and notations. He keeps it, to this day. It was one of the most important things that ever happened in his life, and he took it so seriously. Because he loved me. Because he wanted to be a better person.

So there I was yesterday, feeling like things couldn’t be worse, and I texted my dad. And he called me. And he made everything feel okay.

And then today.

Its funny how petty our perception of the world can get. My plans with a lady dematerialized because I am bad at dating. I spent the day alone (second in a row) working from home. My guest who I thought might be coming tonight told me he isn’t coming until tomorrow. In all honesty, my failboat dating life was really bothering me, it being Valentine’s Day and all. I am terrible at all of it, though that is a post for another time (and with humor involved). But I was just sitting here, thinking about how this day couldn’t get any worse. Because poor little me, a gal I fancy doesn’t seem to fancy me after all. Life is hard, right?

Davis sent the message through Facebook, because it is certainly the best way to reach everyone these days, so scattered and out of touch. Its impossible to explain how it feels to read that someone you know, someone you loved, someone you completely neglected to keep in touch with … they’re gone. Just gone. Forever. You just know the feeling or you’re lucky enough not to. Its devastating. Its surreal. Its life, happening.

I only know two things about all of this.

The first is that Mason’s death … Mason’s suicide … this is a shock to us all. But the effect it has had – in the last few hours, I have been in touch with people I haven’t spoken to in years. People who were once the entirety of my universe. People who are coming together to grieve by sharing every tidbit of a memory that was so perfectly, intrinsically Mason. Mason, you brought us all back together, even if just for a fleeting moment. And for that, I sincerely thank you.

The second is this: I cannot continue to keep things from people. To hide because I think I am weak, and different, and a burden with my emotions. I am very proud of the fact that when I was hurting, I reached out. That my friends (sis, female Knate) and my dad were there for me when I needed someone to just hear me say “I am hurting. Life is hard sometimes.” I can’t help but wish that Mason had been able to do that. But I know how hard it is to feel alienated, to feel alone, to feel unable to express the things that need to be expressed.

I won’t talk any more about Mason here. He was a man I knew very briefly, and who I thought the world of. I am staggered by all of this. Its a grief held more profoundly by many many others.

Tell someone you love that you love them. And tell them why. I may be alone in my life, but, as K-Hoob said to me last night … I am never alone.

And Mason. Thank you for bringing the lot of us back together for a moment, even if for such a horrible, senseless reason.

I will miss you.

The world was so much better with you in it.