“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.

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“Caring is Creepy” ~ The Shins

“Cardinals mate for life”, I recall him saying as I smile and watch the feathery couple bounce across my backyard, my dog and cat mutually disinterested.
And that is the word for him: Disinterested.
I thanked G-d for him too, literally. Just a few months ago, I thanked G-d for bringing a someone into my home who would be a friend, assist me with chores made difficult by my wavering health, he even said he would dance with me. I didnt ask, he offered. He set my expectations so how can I be at fault for believing? Innocent until proven guilty, truth until proven false. I especially trusted him because he also served and veterans generally dont fuck over other veterans. Be patient, my mother advised me. He was going through a divorce and a rough rebound. His head isnt screwed on straight, we agreed. Still, he disappeared for 2 months. Not a word to ask how I felt, how the latest surgery went. Nothing. I finally text him to ask “Do you still live here?” If I were a landlord, his shit would have been in the street. But I wanted a friend, not a tenant. He knew that.
He apologized, said I was “right about everything” and he would make it up to me, we would be friends. The first week, he did make an effort. We hung out, watched movies, talked, laughed, drank wine… but then he disappeared. Into his room without explanation. For two days, I hear his phone, text and email alerts, going off every few minutes at all hours. It’s maddening. As an empath (I dont know how to shut off the “give a fuck” no matter how often I read tips on Shielding) I continued to knock on his door and ask how he was, try to coax him out. He eventually got frustrated and “I’ll be out of here in 15 minutes” he announced as I stood there stunned. Later, he text to ask if he could stay through the month and be out in August. I”m not an asshole so I agreed although it’s difficult for me to share my pesonal safe space with someone who is not my friend, and I told him that.
Today he announced he’s moving to Atlanta, his apartment will be ready Monday. Total abandonment and a few months rent-free storage. He realizes it but just as my “Give a Fuck” wont turn off, his wont turn back on. So I wished him well and said if he regained his humanity later, to feel free to look me back up and re-friend me on Facebook. I’ll probably never hear from him again.
Less than 2 weeks between (what appeared to be a sincere, determined) “We WILL be friends” and “I’m leaving”.
I had a nightmare last Sunday night too. THe worst I’ve had in over a year. I went to bed happy after a dance and woke up 5 hours later screaming into my pillow, wishing to G-d I had someone to hold me. He was being reclusive in his room and I tried to coax him out. Of course, I’m too proud to call a friend or ask for help but here was this “friend” 10 steps away and I wanted him to come out. Hang out. Talk to me. Watch a movie, have a glass of wine and laugh like we did two nights earlier. A friendly distraction. But he only got irritated and left the house.
So I pushed him out. The “needy roomate” has a bad dream and wants a hug but I’m not on his short-list of people he cares about. But his phone goes off every few minutes with an incoming text or email to which he readily responds. That nightmare clung to me for two days. I hovered on the verge of a panic attack and was late to work, distracted, irritable, kept disappearing to the bathroom to cry. Granted, I’m surrounded by cohorts with some degree of PTSD but what do you say when they catch you red-eyed? I had a nightmare.
I feel so stupid. To be this upset, to feel so rejected and abandoned by someone who I hardly knew, even after 5 years of social media acquaintance and the shared venn diagram of social circles. Not “as advertised” certainly. But I was emotionally invested. Hey Empaths, how do YOU shut off your “give a fuck”? Can you? I’m not asking G-d to make me different in this sense, but some control would be nice. Like faucet valves, adjusting to a comfortable emotional temperature rather than being scalded or numb. Balance? Shielding? Advice?

Popular advice is to surround yourself with only positive people, cut negativity out of your life entirely. Isn’t that selfish? Everyone can’t be “up” all the time. Mother Teresa had bad days, years in fact. Would you cut a good person out of your life to save yourself? But because of this thought, I tell myself “Don’t call for help. Don’t bring anyone down with you.” So I hold it in (or spill it here, to an anonymous audience of none). Is that healthy? Somehow, I think not…

Hey but the good news is, I can return to walking around the house naked.

“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.