Friday, August 28, 2009

Still fighting it...

Driving home from work today, I was hit with a melancholy mood. It was more than the rain. It was more than just the perpetual state of gray South Jersey always seems to be surrounded by. It was more than the end of a long day at the end of long week in which patients vomited on me twice. It was the song playing on my car stereo.

As I felt tears sting my eyes and wondered why, I became suddenly conscious that I was singing along to Ben Folds' "Gracie," perhaps one of the most touching father-to-daughter songs ever written. The reason it was making me sad was that when I was still in communication with my ex-boyfriend, I told him to listen to it, because it reminded me of him and his daughter, Addison.

Now it always reminds me of them.

I don't really miss my ex much anymore. We had some good times, but just as many bad times, and whether it was bad timing or an age difference or just crappy circumstances, we weren't right for each other. I can pretty much honestly say I'm over all the hurt and the ugly stuff that went down at the end of that relationship and choose to remember the good times fondly and try not to dwell on the negative crap. It barely even feels like getting punched in the gut anymore when I run into him at work. (Oh yes, we work at the same place. Probably not the smartest choice of places to find a boyfriend, but you live and learn.)

You live and learn, and eventually you hurt less, you miss the person less, you face your broken heart, and you get over it. But you don't get over a child. I'm learning that. Addi was only about 6 months old when I started dating Alex, and I had huge reservations about getting involved with someone with a child, especially a baby. Would I resent her? Would I get tired of spending most of my time taking care of someone else's kid? Would she get in the way of our spending time together? It never occured to me that I would fall madly in love with her and view her as the most important part of my life. That never occured to me. It just happened. It happened the first time I saw her. As an adult, I have never really been a make-a-big-fuss-over-babies person. And I never really believed in love at first sight. Until Addi.

Over the three months that I dated Alex, Addi and I formed a bond unlike anything I've ever experienced with another person. When she allowed me to hold her the first time I met her, even though she was in her "stranger shy" stage at the time, I melted. And the more time I spent with her, the more I melted. I felt so priviledged to watch her growing, to care for her, to feed her, bathe her, make her laugh. Making Addison laugh could make an entire day worthwhile. I had never been so entirely filled with joy, but at the same time, I had never been so completely terrified. I didn't know how I could handle it if I lost her. After all, she wasn't my child, as much as I couldn't have loved her more if she were.

For months after the relationship ended, I dreamt of Addi every night. I looked at pictures of her all the time. I imagined what she would be doing at whatever age she was at. Was she walking yet? Saying her first words? Feeding herself? Occasionally, Alex would send pictures -- Addi on her christening day, Addi on Santa's lap, Addi wearing a shirt I bought for her that read My Dad Rocks. He meant well, but I eventually had to tell him to stop, because it hurt too much. When he offered to send me pictures of her first birthday party, I declined.

At first, I was really angry and upset. After all, I loved her more than I've ever loved another human being, and chances are, she'll never know I existed. At most, she may come across a picture of the two of us one day and ask who I was and get the reply, "Daddy's friend." I dwelled on this, and it tore me apart. I had decided during our relationship that it was meant to be, because I wasn't sure I could even have children or if I wanted them. But Addi had made me realize how much I did want them, and maybe if I couldn't have children, I was meant to be with someone who did. I never fancied myself to be her mother; she has a wonderful mother. But I felt blessed every day that I got to be part of her life. When that priviledge was taken away, I was angry. It seemed like nothing meant anything. It seemed like it had all been for nothing, and all I was left with was pain.

Today, driving home, listening to that song, and thinking how I used to sing "Still Fighting It" -- another Ben Folds song, ironically -- to Addison when she cried, I realized I have been looking at it all wrong. Being in Addi's life was a blessing, even if I did hurt and will always hurt on some level for losing her. Because it doesn't matter if she never knows who I was. It matters that I knew her, that I remember her. Because she changed my life. Addison opened my heart, softened me, made me realize that I could be selfless, made me see the joy in small things, and showed me a capacity for love that I never knew I possessed. And that is what matters.

So, if by chance, Addi, when you are a teenager and surfing the internet, you stumble upon this blog: Thank you. I will always love you, even if you don't know who I am.

"There will always be a part of me that nobody else is ever gonna see but you and me, my little girl." Ben Folds, "Gracie"

Monday, August 17, 2009

Under tire pressure...

For those among us who are more mechanically inclined than I am, here is a list of things that I would like to see invented:

1) Air hoses at gas stations that you can stop and start like a gas pump so that while you're using the tire pressure gauge to make sure you haven't overfilled your tire to the point of impending explosion, the air hose is not sitting next to you hissing away like a lame snake, and wasting what is left of your precious fifty cents (speaking of which, why do we tolerate being charged money for air? Is tire air different from regular, old in-through-the-nose-out-through-the-mouth air

...or, barring invention #1...

2) air hoses with a built-in tire pressure gauge so that you can actually see what your tire's pressure is while you are filling it with air.

These seem like common sense inventions to me. So why don't we have them? And if we do, why are they not in use in gas stations? At least, not in South Jersey. I know that the kind-hearted man at the gas station who told me a few months ago that my tire was low was able to eyeball the pressure when he filled it with air, but I lack that capability. I consider myself to be a pretty capable chick. I figured out how to use my tire pressure gauge today (and felt really stupid that I couldn't figure it out before). I know how to hang stuff. I have changed my own headlight bulbs. From my five some odd years working part time in a lumber yard, I know all about plywood, sheetrock, deck screws, pressure treated wood, stud finders, levels...but I can't eyeball the pressure on a tire. So if someone could please invent something to make putting air in your tires easier for a pale faced blonde chick who is squatting on the asphalt in a skirt in 90 degree heat trying not to get grease on her dress clothes, that would totally rule. (Although I don't really mind getting grease on my hands. It makes me feel bad ass.)

I think I have a complete aversion to all things tire-related subsequent to a traumatic incident whereby I rode over a nail doing homecare in Camden, went to Pep Boys and had it patched only to find it practically flat the next morning, and then returned to Pep Boys and spent the next five hours in their filthy, overcrowded waiting area with the television blaring some daytime talk show trash of the Jerry Springer variety above my head while two employees whom I can only assume were the missing links in the evolution chain went back and forth deciding what to do about my car. The end result was two new tires, a really big bill, and a vow never to go back to Pep Boys in Cinnaminson, NJ.

Since then, I don't pay much attention to my tire pressure. I don't want to know. I figure if it's flat, I'll notice; otherwise, I can still drive. That's not the greatest logic, and that is why today, I'm grateful for the man in front of me on Route 130 on my way to work this morning who scared the hell out of me by rolling down his window and yelling at me. It took almost the whole red light for me to realize he wasn't some crazy man with road rage; he was trying to tell me that my tire was low. Isn't it sad that we live in a society where if strangers talk to us, we automatically assume their intentions are bad? So thanks to that guy, who took time out of his busy commute to help a girl in tire denial. Sir, you may have saved me a blow out on I-295. You probably won't ever read this, but I'm sending you good thoughts, and I believe they will reach you in some form or another.

I'm also grateful for my mom, who called Firestone for me to find out what my tire warranty is, because I was too busy at work to do it myself.

I was beginning to feel like the universe was giving me a big, old emotional bitch slap today in the form of the hassles of low tire pressure and a patient's parent who made some pretty nasty complaints about me, none of which were true. But I choose to see the positive. It's always there. Sometimes you just have to look a little harder for it, but there is always some positive to balance out the negatives. Balance in all things. Including tires.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Announcing 33Y

So this is my first blog post. Wow. Friends have been telling me I should blog for years, but I've never gotten around to it. And now, here I am. Subjecting all of you people to my random thoughts and meanderings. But if you don't like it, you don't have to read it. That is the beauty of blogs. And if you want to blame someone, blame Jason Mraz.

I've always loved his music, but had the pleasure of seeing him perform last Sunday at the Festival Pier at Penn's Landing. Despite the fact that the show was held up thanks to an electrical storm and my back hurt from standing in one small spot on the asphalt for five hours, it was a moving experience. I've always heard people talk about artists or albums that changed their lives. My friend Bill said it about The Smiths. My friend Chris says it about Depeche Mode. I've never really been able to identify, except for when I was in college and T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" inspired me to change my major to English. Which did, in a lot of large ways, change my life. But I've never been able to say that about music or a musician. Until Jason Mraz. I've followed him since he put out Waiting for My Rocket to Come, but I never really knew much about him except that his music made me happy and he made me want to shake my ass. Then I saw his show on Sunday. Holy sweet goddamn. He positively emanates positivity (to be purposefully redundant), and I was so inspired by the show that I looked around on his web site later and started reading his blogs. I'm addicted. Mraz is funny, fresh, and unapologetically original. He has no agenda other than to spread positivity and share his thoughts, and that made me think, why can't I do that? Granted, it is doubtful that thousands of people will actually read my thoughts, but whatever.

When I was in my second master's in creative writing program (and the second one I would drop out of), a professor led this huge class debate after reading Oscar Wilde about whether art is art if no one sees it. I don't remember much of the conversation, except that I was bored. I was bored with all these people professing themselves to be artists and claiming that your art isn't art until it has an audience. If the ultimate goal of creation is an audience, when why create at all? If you are not enough of an audience, and the fulfillment you get from the very act of creating isn't its own reward, then I think something's wrong. Maybe you need to get your ass to a yoga class. Or a museum. Or a park. Or wherever you can be and just be and be happy to be doing your thing for the immediate joy it brings you instead of worrying about the possible rewards or ramifications it might bring. Do what you love, and the necessary resources will follow. I read that in a fortune cookie, and I saved it. It is pinned above my desk in work.

So to get back to the point, Jason Mraz has changed my life. Or at least inspired me to change it -- to live for the now (because that is really all you have), to choose to be positive, and to do the best I can with the light I've been given.

My good friend, Jose recently started his own personal journey, which he titled 28Y. It is a journey of personal betterment in which he plans to take several positive actions to better himself and his life. I like his idea so much I am stealing it (with his blessing). But since that bastard is five years younger than I am, I am re-naming it 33Y. Jose has lists, sub-plans, outlines, notes, contingency plans, and enforcers -- people he can call to kick him in the ass if he starts to stray from the plan. I have this blog. I can keep track of my progress on 33Y on here, and the good people of cyberspace can hold me responsible. And if no one out there reads this, Jose will hold me responsible. And he will. Big time.

So, without further ado, here is my list for 33Y (a.k.a. Things I Plan to Accomplish or at Least Be Well on the Way to Accomplishing by my 33rd Birthday):

1) I will write every day, for at least a half an hour.
2) I will submit work for publication at least 1-2x per month.
3) I will sleep in my bed instead of falling asleep on the sofa with the television on.
4) I will turn the television OFF.
5) I will earn my yoga instructor's certification.
6) I will move to (or at least begin the process of moving to) a place with culture (i.e. I will no longer be a constant slave to my car, and I will be able to do things OUTSIDE instead of being stuck in my balcony-less apartment that overlooks a parking lot, and I will be surrounded by more than strip malls and divided highways, which I am convinced are polluting my soul.)
7) I will organize my life and become more disciplined. (This one has sub-points, so buckle your seat belts).
a) I will pay bills on time.
b) I will put shit away.
c) I will stop letting laundry pile up.
d) I will exercise at least 4x per week, with at least 2 of those times being yoga.
e) I will meditate every day, preferably twice a day.
8) I will allow myself to be human, i.e. I will no longer mentally kick the shit out of myself for every mistake that I make, but instead understand that there are no mistakes, only opportunities to learn.
9) I will stop holding on to useless anger.
10) I will be the change I want to see in the world.

There you have it. If nothing else, having the list on this blog will make me responsible. Wish me luck.

Namaste. Much love.