“She is lonely most of the time” ~Sarah Barielles

Two weeks after returning from my 40th birthday solo travel adventure, I was laid off. Not surprised. A few of us felt the squeeze over the course of the last year with the arrival of fresh corrupt middle management slowly poisoning the well. The Commander contacted me weeks later to say he was shocked, upset and could he provide me a Letter of Appreciation. I told him “Of course” and no hard feelings because this blackball was rolling long before he showed up late last year. No one should gain or lose a job due to nepotism in modern times but it happens, particularly in my field where women struggle to compete against the Good Ol’ Boys and I never knew how to just “shut up and color”. I was increasingly stressed and miserable and could find nothing redeeming about my work anymore. The end was coming; Others jumped and I waited to get pushed. Strangely, my announcement was met by fewer condolences than congratulations. Even my autistic brother sent me a message: “Mom said u lose ur job. That’s great!”  I had hoped to hold onto the job through the holidays but in truth, even that would have been a challenge because seeing the end near, I enrolled in a Masters program at last. My VA Vocational Counselor has tried for the last two years to convince me to get out of this line of work but whenever I suggested an alternate career path, she would say “No, you’ll take that job home with you too”. Finally, she said something that made me reconsider my entire outlook on jobs “You’ve already had the jobs you were passionate about, Now maybe it’s time to find a stable, flexible boring job that pays well, that you can do anywhere, roll over your retirement points, and focus your energy and passion on things that don’t keep you up at night.”

I know people, including my former roommate-for-a-minute who only work as much or as hard as they need to because they enjoy their downtime. It’s not about constantly upgrading, buying more “stuff” and then upgrading again. One of my favorite sayings is “To have more, want less”. I want a peaceful, happy life. I want to love and be loved in return. Is that really so difficult to attain?

So in my first week “off”, I ordered textbooks, finished orientation, rolled over my 401k into an IRA and insisted to the financial consultants that damn the tax-consequences, I’m not going to starve during my sabbatical. And that’s what this is. It’s not just about trading a paycheck for 40 hours of homework, it’s about sleeping when my body needs rest, taking my dog to the park every day, dancing more because I no longer have an 8pm bedtime, and taking advantage of cheap airfare to pay friends across the country visits for a  few days here and there. Maybe even head back to the Caribbean to hike the hills in Jamaica or the Virgin Islands. But not alone. I’m over vacationing alone. Oh, and I was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer. How is that for proof that that place was affecting my physical as well as emotional health? Oh, the irony. Call it a parting gift…

And the scale is moving at last. The day before I left for Scotland, I had a follow up with one of my doctors who reassured me that endocrine issues take time. “Six – 12 months. I don’t know where you got 5-8 weeks from.” The internet, I admitted.  I weighed the exact same amount after 9 days of hiking the Highlands as the day I left. But three weeks later, I was now only 35lbs overweight instead of 50. He noticed too without me fishing for it. I sent him a few pictures of an Aerial Silks class that I tried and his response was “You look thin”.  No, I’m not thin but I am getting stronger and my bones no longer hurt, thank G-d. It still takes me longer to recover than it did before I got sick but I am getting better, I think. I squeezed into one of my black swing dresses last night. Still a squeeze but it went over my hips so that counts. It was the first time in many months that I didn’t hate how Iooked and felt and it made a difference in my attitude. Until later that night when he’d had a few drinks and decided to tell me about another woman who picked him up at the bar. This is now the third time that I’ve had to remind him to save those conversations for his guy friends because I don’t particularly want to hear about his game. He kept up until I finally said “Do you just like fucking with me? You know how  feel about you”.  He even sent a picture. There were a group of them at the bar but he was leaning in close to a young brunette. Whenever I don’t hear from him in the evening, I assume it’s because he’s found someone new to occupy his time (and he knows I don’t want to hear about it). I figure he only keeps in touch as much as he does because he’s lonely in a new town. I wasnt really joking when I remarked that he’d soon forget me amidst his new friends in the tiny dog club.  Six inches shorter, 20 years younger, and 80 pounds lighter and I might have had a chance with him.

“Does he make you feel good about yourself? Do you feel better after having communicated with him?” The answer is still No and no.

But I’m still dancing. I’m smiling. Sometimes it’s even sincere. My once-lifelong bachelor friend and his new bride canceled their honeymoon because she’s 14 weeks pregnant. And now I really don’t have a single close friend locally who doesn’t have children or a significant other.

I need a nap. Well, what I REALLY need is someone to put their hands and mouth on me but since that isn’t an option, a nap will have to do.

Advertisements

​“I wanted everything I never had…” ~  ‘Alive’ by Sia

They played that song in my ballet class and I began crying. Softly, in the corner so perhaps no one noticed. Even now, just thinking about it…”I’m still breathing…” yes, but is breathing enough? Existence, survival…

“I saw my life in a stranger’s face…”   Is this akin to seeing your future in another’s eyes? Connecting so primally, at least for me, and you can only pray it’s mutual. I found myself asking “How soon is too soon to know?” To know in your bones that you want to nest under the skin of the one who crept in on their own, your heart like a dark, unlocked bedroom and they slip quietly under the covers and make you the ‘little spoon’. And you want to stay like that.

Or is it a reference to happening upon our Mirrors? Not our literal mirrors but a stranger who reminds us of ourselves. Recognizing ourselves in strangers? I saw a woman days ago who was built like I am right now. And I still thought she was beautiful, which is a thought I don’t apply to myself. And evidentially, from her body language –tugging at her shirt, shoulders hunched as if to hide her generous breasts—‘beautiful’ was a thought she did not apply to herself either.  

“You’re taught to cry in your pillow…”   Have I mentioned that sometimes I cry after I orgasm? Don’t worry guys, it’s only after sex-with-myself. It’s at that peak when you open your eyes and know that the person you just ‘used’ is not and will not be yours. That ecstatic moment which you fantasized about, possibly repeatedly, has never and likely never will happen. At the peak of orgasm, I feel acutely alone.

I’m leaving for my bucket-list trip to hike the Highlands for my 40th birthday this weekend. Note to self: Don’t get shit-faced at a pub on your bday. Not a foreign woman traveling solo, celebrating a milestone without anyone accountable to her, no ‘wingman’…could be a bad idea. I joked to my former roommate (still don’t know what to call him) “How do you say ‘Put on a condom’ in Gaelic?”

“No.” was his response.

I thought it was funny. He’s neutered so aside from swapping body fluids and risking the spread of STDs, he doesn’t use one.

Eight days alone, trekking and biking countless miles (I wonder if there is an app I can download on my phone to track my distance. Just out of curiosity). What is there to be worried about? “Are there bears in Scotland?” someone asked me. I said “I don’t think so. But there are sheep. Possibly rabid, blood-thirsty sheep. But I have a set of hiking poles which can double as Kali sticks. Yeah, I’ll just go Muy Thai on some sheep ass!”

“But I survived.”

“I’d die for you…A bullet for everybody in this room” ~ 21 Pilots

May the alterna-rock g-ds gasp and strike me down but I’m not a 21 pilots fan (nor Strokes or Kings of Leon for that matter but that’s another blog). When one of their songs comes on, I usually flip to another channel but this morning I sat through the song “Ride” and the lyrics struck me. Maybe it’s the timing, maybe it’s just my sentimentality. They aren’t profoundly poetic but he makes a point that I can relate to when he says that it is easier to take a bullet for someone than to live for them. Perhaps that isn’t exactly what he meant but that’s how I choose to understand it.

I sent the lyrics to him. He likes 21 Pilots. He text me pictures of furniture that he purchased for his new apartment. Oh, he’s committed now. Can’t pack his entire life into the bed of a truck and run away anymore. He said he didn’t know if he was running away or starting over. I said it doesn’t matter which one it is. Fear and Excitement are the same emotion; the only difference is how you interpret them.

Desiderata…

I give it a week, to stop hearing from him. By then, his abusive ex, their mutual acquaintances and a handful of new friends will have his attention again and I’ll be forgotten. He treats me like a “stop gap”, someone to talk to when no one else he prefers more is available for whatever reason.

Forgive me if I’m repeating myself here (memory of a goldfish, remember? Nope.) but I made a list about 3 years ago detailing what I was looking for in a man. Long before Oprah began pushing her “Vision Boards” with more glitter and glue than a kindergarten project, the Millionaire Matchmaker suggested a physical written list of the “non-negotiables” of a relationship. To keep things in perspective in the crush-phase, you must remember exactly what your deal-breakers are. I have a fine list, I think, and someday I may post it here but as an exercise in reality, I compare those I develop strong feelings for to this list to see how they measure up and most of them fall quite short. And if it seems that every other blog I write is about some heartache I’m experiencing, consider the dates, and you will see that there is a good year or more between them. Because I don’t meet many men who get under my skin. Or maybe I just let the broken ones in.

But I digress. So I compared my former roommate, friend? I don’t even know what to call him, to “The List” and he failed on every point. That’s not to say that he doesn’t exhibit those qualities at all, but he doesn’t for me. Integrity, steadfastness, loyalty, kinky… there is evidence to support the assumption that he has those traits but they are reserved for those he cares about. And if they do not apply to me, then they are moot.

He teases me. Flirts. He doesn’t need to add the details that he’s naked AND horny to our textual conversations but I’m an easy target, (sexually frustrated is a gross understatement) and he cant resist. Even though he gives no indication that there is or ever was a mutual physical attraction. Maybe he just likes the attention or knowledge that someone out there wants him. Chemistry is #1 on my list, by the way. But the caveat is “mutual, enduring chemistry”.

Over time, however, I came to realize that my friend, nice as he is, prizes extreme beauty above all the other desiderata that one might seek in a partner.

— Adelle Waldman, “‘A First-Rate Girl’: The Problem of Female Beauty,” The New Yorker, October 2, 2013

I also did a walk-in at the VA hospital last Friday morning, based on my mother’s advice. The ironic thing is, I had my bi-annual check up with Mental Health less than a month ago and after a half hour chat, the doctor says “Well, you are in a good place so want to catch up in a year?” Sure, see you in a year. Or three weeks, crying uncontrollably in your nurses’ office. With chronic exhaustion still lingering post-op, what anti-anxiety or sleep medication won’t turn me comatose? She prescribed a mild sedative for sleep and told me she wanted me to consider going back on Wellbutron. I chose to come off it last September because I felt I could cope fine without it. She said “The nightmares and anxiety could be the depression coming back and I think we need to nip that in the bud”. You don’t have to stay on it long-term, the nurse told me. It takes weeks to build up in the body and weeks to ween your body off it so at the shortest, I’m looking at 3 months back on medication.

Listen, I don’t judge anyone on Xanax or anti-depressants but the military judges ME. On one hand, the military urges it’s members to seek help when needed while quietly destroying the careers of those that do. At least, that is my impression. No, we do not have to disclose any form of counseling unless it concerns the intent to harm others but we are expected to disclose our medications during routine and annual physicals. And that is where you could end up in a never-ending “waiver” battle to keep your job and your security clearance because many fields in the military are deemed “incompatible” for those on psychotropic medication. Although last I read, as much as 80% of our military is medicated. It’s inevitable when people are faced with decades of violence. Consider everything you see on TV and remember the Military, law enforcement, and medics may be living and reliving it.

I ASKed my bestest friend (who happens to be an asshole) to suggest an “uplifting” movie since I was in a bit of a funk. He suggested Reese Witherspoon in “Wild” since I am gearing up for a 10 day solo hike through the Highlands for my (gulp…) 40th. Half-way through the movie, I text him to say “WTF.” His response “Well, she doesn’t die.” I did enjoy watching Reese get railed but hey, I’m a bit of sicko in the sexual fantasy department.

On a lighter note, I danced quite a bit this weekend. My stamina isn’t what it was 18 months ago but I did manage to swing dance for nearly 2 straight hours without passing out and/or vomiting. I hang primarily with a group of seniors because the group that is closer to my age-range is “The Scene” and very clique-y (F*ck those guys). We took a picture of our filthy legs and feet when it was over. Then they suggested that I follow them to a nearby brewery to continue the dancing with another live band. I was still panting and thinking incredulously, “So this is what it’s come to: I can’t even keep up with the 60 year olds…” (PS: that’s my foot with the yellow mosquito coil around the dirt blackened ankle)

I also returned to ballet and combatives classes. I’m the fat girl in the ballet class, surrounded by waifs and mirrors. And coincidentally, I’m the only one without a diamond on my left hand. As for the combatives class, it’s led by a coworker of mine; a retired Green Beret. He personifies what it means to be a Green Beret. Perhaps it’s partly generational bias but our Army’s best-of-the-best suffers from “they just don’t make ’em like they used to”. To quote another older G.B. that I work with, “What a bunch of fucking girls”. As a “girl” myself, should I take offense to my gender being one of the worst derogatory slurs one can bestow on another human being? If I did, I wouldn’t survive in this environment.

PS x 2: , “ohhh woah woah ohhh woah woah I’m falling, and taking my time on the riiiiiiyeee eyeee eyeeed eyeee eyeee eyeeed”

“I’m not alone cuz the TV’s on yeah…” Jimmy Eat World

I helped him pack out and he left at 3am. But he said “Goodbye” so that makes it okay. And maybe in a few weeks, months, I’ll really be okay with it, not take it so hard, so personally. Because my rational mind says it’s not at all personal but my heart aches for the friend that could have been. I wanted to help him, to hold him, to erase and shield him from all the hateful, hurtful abuse he’s suffered over the months from a poor emotional investment and in doing so, heal myself. Those who know and love me best have told that both my greatest strength and weakness is my heart.
I woke up alone in the house 7 hours later with the intention to keep to my usually peaceful weekend morning routine starting with good coffee and a breakfast. But the skillet sits cold on the stove because I’m not hungry. And coffee right now would only aggravate my anxiety, I tell myself. Because I am feeling anything but peaceful. I’m just feeling alone. And sad.
So I turn on the TV LOUD and give my dog a hug.

“My tears dry on their own” Amy Winehouse

I quit the swing scene several months ago because it had gotten too Scene-y. Young men wanted to dance with girls their own age and men my age-ish wanted to dance with the young girls. If you stood us all in a line, it doesn’t matter who is the better dancer. It matters who is young and thin and cute. I’m pretty. But I’m also in my late thirties and covered in tattoos which can be a little intimidating I realize. I’m more of a pussy cat than a kat von D. Maybe that’s not entirely true either but I AM very nice.

But tonight was a big dance and I decided to go. I was having an “okay” time until a guy…lemme preface to say this guy hit me up on Match.com 18mos ago. He is a swing dancer, recognized me, a high school teacher,  a crossfit stud and looks damned fine in a kilt. He asked ME out. But for whatever reason, he changed his mind. Backed out. Made an excuse. But I still saw him at dances, sometimes alone, sometimes with an age- inappropriate female. I asked him once if he brought one of his students to dance. Har dee Har har. Yes he’s part of the Scene. Still, we would dance, joke, chat casually. Tonight he shows up, gives me a hug and introduces me to his fiance.
What. The. Fuck.

Again, it’s not like he’s the love of my life. It’s just what it represents. What was wrong with me? I’m looking at his fiance and wondering this. Like When Harry Met Sally: it’s not that he’s getting married, it’s that he didn’t want me.

I left early. The place was stupid crowded and smelled like a high school gym full of unwashed jock straps.

I’ve replaced Swing with Salsa and bachata anyway which I’m doing fairly well at and so far, the other dancers are more accepting and personable. If there is a Scene, I’ve been invited to be part of it.

On another note, have you ever heard that the grocery store is a great place to meet someone? With this in the back of my mind, I’ll drive out of my hood to what I refer to as the Fancy Publix. I’ll stop after work when I’m in heels and a pencil skirt. Likewise, I see men in slacks and collars recently unbuttoned. None pay me or my salad and hagen daaz any mind.
As I’m unloading my groceries into the trunk, a blacked out sedan rolls up and the window rolls down. Dred locks and a grill like Lil Wayne, he asks me if I could use a friend. I have a lot of friends already, I say. How about a Loving friend? I have one of those too, I lied. But I smile and say thank you anyway and have a nice evening.

I need a distraction. Desperately. Dear G-d and a wish on the waxing moon, please please please… I don’t want to be a sexual camel anymore!

Unhappy Birthday

I awoke at dawn today. Got up, made coffee in an old, chipped Japanese dragon mug, and sat down at my computer. The Facebook ‘birthday wishes’ were already pages long. Acquaintances come out of the woodwork when they get that reminder and if they take a moment to write on my wall to wish me a happy day, I appreciate the thought all the same.
But within an hour, I was sobbing uncontrollably. I shed no tears for 30 years until I hit a wall and now Im the most dehydrated person I know.
I could handle coming home to a house full of cockroaches and ants and which reeked of cat urine. I cleaned for 10 hours. Even the backed up garbage disposal and broken dryer, I could handle it. My car which had not been driven in months sat with a dead battery. Fine. The yard looked like jungle so I mowed. But when I woke up this morning and the toilet handle broken off in my hand, I put on my shoes and added a note to the laundry list of chores: Home Depot; fix toilet. That’s when I lost it.
I dont want to be here. I look at my clock still set for Kabul time: nearly 5pm there. Everyone would be headed to dinner soon. Friday night was “Surf n Turf” or what I deemed “Suck and Suck”. I could have anything I wanted for my birthday dinner tonight but I wanted nothing more than to be sitting amongst the people I just left behind in that smelly, hot chow hall.

Prepare for the trail to grow cold, my friend Z warned me. It was the first thing I read upon landing back in Tampa and the last thing I could handle. The closer I got to home, the heavier my heart. Prepare to be forgotten.

I am not proud to lean on the crutch of Xanax but considering I can milk a one month supply for 18 months, I am by no means dependent. Still, there is a nibble of shame that comes when I split the pill in half and swallow. I just need help getting the emotions under control at times like this.

In the nights before I left, we spent hours talking. Aware that time was running short, there was a sense of desperation, a need to ‘get it all out there’. He saw a strength in me that I havent felt in years and I didnt want to correct him. No, I didnt want to disappoint him. Even now. It would be easy to slip ito a drug-induced coma and crawl back into bed but that is not what strong people do.

My mother asked what I wanted for my birthday and I replied “The American Lie”. She looked at me quizzically. “Oh it’s okay, mom,” I shrugged lightly, “There’s always Santa.”
It doesnt help that my friend is in a full-on panic mode because her husband is in Iraq and unable to come home to participate in the next round of in-vitro. It’s hard to stomach because she is three years younger than I am and married. If her odds are bad, then mine are infinitely worse.

I fell in love with a married man once before. In 2007, in Iraq. It was another one of thse “Stay together for the kids” types of marriages. Still, we didnt touch each other until the night before he got on the plane to leave, he kissed me. I cried hard alone in my room afterwards. My question to G-d is, what was His intention? Was it a test for us both? Did I pass in 2007 and fail in 2014? It feels no different. Loss is loss. And was it ‘wrong’ for Bryan to leave his wife of 20+ years in order to marry my friend Leah? Was their marriage not sanctioned or blessed because of that? I have a hard time believing that. Bryan’s first wife did not abide by her duties as a wife; didnt keep up her end of the bargain. I have read that G-d abhors divorce but in certain circumstances, will allow it.

For months, I kept him at arms length. I knew I couldnt keep him as he was never mine so the heartache was an inevitability that I eventually accepted. But better to ache for what I can’t keep than regret what I missed. For a few days, we were happy.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a toilet to fix.

Captain America

Before this latest trip to the ‘Stan, I watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier in theatres with my family. I come from a family of nerds although my Nerd-dom is firmly rooted in Sci-fi and High Fantasy (a-la Firefly and Game of Thrones, for instance) with a smattering of Benedict Cumberbatch because what fem-nerd doesnt love her some Benedict Cumberbatch?

I enjoy big screen comics when does well and Captain America was done VERY well. “Steve” was was the anti Tony Stark: all humility and old-fashioned naivete encased in the body of a demi-god. Even Thor doesnt compare. And then enters Black Widow. First, Scarlett Johansson is my lady-crush. She even bumped Monica Bellucci who had been my ultimate sex goddess for two decades. I wasnt overly keen of her flat-ironed washed out red hair in this movie but I desperately wanted to see her teach good ol’ Steve a lesson in chemistry. And she could have if she wanted to. He was ready although a faint protest of “Wait, shouldnt we get married first?” might escape his lips as she straddled his thighs.

As a whole, that movie affected me. I wandered out of it with the nagging though that ‘back in the day’, I could have done the splits in a painted-on black pleather body suit. A decade ago, I could have landed Captain America if I wanted him. What would it take to get back there, physically? Is it even possible?

And last night, as I was squirming self-consciously with Hottie McHottie next to me during a meeting, it hit me: He was my Captain America. Physical perfection, charm and wit. I can’t recall when or if I’ve ever wanted someone so badly. But I’m no Black Widow. Not anymore. And that thought made me very sad.

I passed a note to one of my coworkers “Crossfit 0630?” He nodded and mouthed “You coming?”. I nodded back. I was ready. Diet, exercise, whatever it takes to get my game back. I havent done any physical activity in months. Being in a neckbrace, I was forbidden to do anything for three months post-op. Then once I got to the ‘Stan, I figured I would need a couple weeks to adjust to the time change. Seven weeks later, I’m still exhausted from long hours at work but no more excuses. Crossfit would only short me 90 minutes of sleep. I need this more than I need sleep, I told myself.

I must have been anxious because I was wide awake by the time my alarm went off this morning. On the way to the gym, the guys high-fived me and congratulated me on joining the club.

My buzz was short-lived.

The warm-up was push-ups (which I had to do on my knees), pull-ups (which I couldnt do at all), squats (okay, got those), and a 400 meter dash. The dash did it. My throat closed up, my chest tightened and I realized too late that I had forgotten my inhaler. As the group moved on to overhead chest presses, I couldnt lift the bar. Just the bar, no weights added. And that was what they would be doing for the entire duration of the class. Something I could not physically do. I looked around for hand weights. In what world does the instructor NOT offer some exercise alternative for those who can’t keep up? Not in Crossfit world, apparently. I was embarrassed, feelng like a fool standing there wheezing. Defeated, I gathered up my belongings and wandered out of the gym.

Once back in my room, I sucked on my inhaler and wondered what do I do now? I need to lose weight. I need to get back in shape. I also need someone to stand nexty to me in the chow hall line and tell me to put down the potatoes. Or maybe just to utter the magic word–Captain America– when my motivation falters.

So not crossfit. But something else. It’s time.”

Smile and say “Penis!”

“Look at him. He’s actually very artistic.”

Me: “All he ever does is draw dicks and flash them at me during meetings.”

“Yeah, but he’s the Rembrandt of dick drawers.”

No, it’s not an out-take from “Superbad” but a real conversation I had at work.  It’s true though. Every man in here doodles dicks but this one in particular “further pushed the boundaries of this program by implementing new accessories to his phallic images such as butterfly wings, gym equipment, and aircraft parts.” (That last part will go on his plaque. Or his NCOER).

Thank g-d I have a girlfriend on this deployment. We meet for dinner at the chow hall most nights and talk about girl stuff. Like dicks.

My friend gives me advice on how to ‘hook up’ since I can count on one hand how many times Ive had sex in the last decade. And it’s MY own fault, she points out, for not ‘putting it out there.’

“If you got him alone and took off your clothes…you are a warm, willing vagina in shitty Afghanistan. He won’t turn you down.”

“But what if he does?”

“Then he’s gay and you move on to someone else. Someone hotter…”

My friend makes it sound fool-proof. Like all I have to do is walk up to Captain America and say, “My vagina is open for business. Now get on your knees.”

Actually, that sounds kind of hot.

But no, I won’t do that.

Maybe in 30 pounds.

I think I’m going to start doodling vaginas and flash them at co-workers at meetings.