Waiting on a Sign

A month after we moved here, I volunteered at an underground dinner party, drank an alarming amount of wine, and had a tarot reading under the stars. I don’t remember what we talked about in the reading, or what my intention was going into the reading, but I clearly remember the smell of the fire and the sense of the world sparkling around me in the deep velvet fall evening.

I don’t put much stock into such things, though I can certainly see the ways that I am a super Capricorn and how I am different from my Gemini crew here, but I’ve been feeling the urge to get another reading, though I don’t know how to seek that out. The tarot came to me once, dug out from the piles of Steven Link’s stuff in our attic. I would like it to find me again – but in the interim, Rob Brezsny will have to do.

Rob Brezsny’s Astrology Newsletter – February 29, 2012

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): The Oxford English Dictionary, an authority on the state of the English language, adds an average of two new words every day. In the coming weeks, Capricorn, I’d like to see you expand your capacity for self-expression with equal vigor. According to my reading of the astrological omens, you’re due for an upgrade in your vocabulary, your clarity, and your communication skills. Here’s one of the OED’s fresh terms, which would be a good addition to your repertoire: “bouncebackability,” the ability to recover from a setback or to rebound from a loss of momentum.

And this:

Fortune dated 02/07/2012

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Say you’d follow me anywhere.

Say you'd follow me anywhere.

Photo by merlinmann, all rights reserved.

I was looking through my bookmarks just now to find something for work, and instead came across this post, which also reminded me of the above photo. I barely knew her but agree with the post author when he said that Leslie “made everyone who knew her better“. I’m so thankful to have people in my life like that – both past and present. So thank you, friends, for you.

“And besides, feelings are totally full of shit.”

I woke up last Sunday adorned with the previous night’s glow sticks and feeling like someone had dropped a load of bricks on my chest. Such is the weight and effect of running into one’s own unhappiness.

The last two months have been endlessly stressful: holidays, moving to Chicago, moving out of our apartment, moving into my Unnamed Hippie House (which I’ve decided is its name, by the way), my uncle’s death, drunk people drama, sickness, job hunting, job interviews, the beginning of the semester, winding down a job, and living apart. It’s all fucking hard! Hard, hard, hard.

I’m a person who thrives in chaos, so times like these usually see me rising to the occasion. Five years ago, we launched Moodle at the beginning of the semester while I was also a full time doctoral student and a new gyne instructor – so I was essentially working two very demanding full-time jobs while taking on an emotionally and physically challenging part-time job while also maintaining a relationship and starting to focus on losing weight after four months away from the gym (and my bike) with a broken arm. Literally the day before Shane moved to DC, I had unexpected minor surgery after receiving scary lab results from an abnormal Pap and also got an estimate of $2400 to make the necessary repairs to my car so that I could move to join him – while also gearing up for the beginning of the semester and actively job-hunting. I’m not alone in my experience of shit stacking up in impossible ways, or of being able to put my head down and knock through it all to come out on the other side smarter and stronger.

But in and around the stress and stressors of the last two months, I’ve had a lot of time to think. The time and space and distance have allowed issues to rise to the surface that I’ve been ignoring or just haven’t been brave enough to face. And one of those is my unhappiness, a thread of pain through so many aspects of my life.

It’s no secret that I’ve been profoundly unhappy in my career in the last few years. In job interviews, I’ve spun it as “a series of right turns” – from instructional technology support at Illinois to reference librarianship at GW to web development at UM. From a position of authority and trust to the bottom rung of a soul-deadening bureaucracy to manual labor, working in a call center, finding ways of stretching 5-8 hours of work to fill 40, and then ending up in a position where I’m challenged and respected, but which is still tangential to any of the goals I can loosely define for myself.

I’ve been tremendously lonely in my relationships. I’ve focused my energies on my marriage to the detriment of my relationships with others – perhaps appropriately so, but still a stark thing to realize. I’ve been trying to change this in the last few months, but I know I have a long way to go.

I’ve tried to direct this loneliness and frustration into positive channels: running, the garden, cooking, blogging, teaching, and connecting with friends online. What I haven’t realized until recently is the extent to which my loneliness and frustration has been self-reinforcing. I’m lonely, so I go running alone. I like running alone, so I opt to continue with this solitary activity, even though it could be a great opportunity to meet other people and build relationships around running. Shane is often busy with hobbies or friends, and I respond by soaking up the much-desired solo time, which then leads me to support (rather than complain about) more time dedicated to hobbies, which then leads to more time alone.

Which leads me to this place: waking up on a Sunday morning feeling crippled by sadness. Grinding away on the track to meet a training goal but also to focus my mind on something other than the intractability of my feelings. Struggling to remember happiness, or to picture what happiness might look like. Knowing that the easy answer is more meds, or changing the meds, but being unwilling to accept that as an answer YET AGAIN.

I want to be happy.
I don’t know how to be happy.
I don’t know what has to change in my life for me to be happy.
I’m afraid of my own unhappiness.

Bourbon and Pants

That’s what I’m giving up for Lent: bourbon and pants.

Bourbon should be pretty straight-forward. I like it. I like it a lot. Bourbon and I got back together in 2011 after several years of separation and brutal hangovers. In previous years, the bourbon hangover tended to hit me about 16 hours after the actual consumption of bourbon, and felt a bit like someone is performing trepanation on my head. This past year, however, bourbon has come back into my life, particularly in the form of manhattans, and it has been my welcome companion at many a happy hour or party, particularly in the last few months. When I posted on Facebook that I’d be giving bourbon up for Lent, I was accused of contributing to the mass of lies already on the internet. I was also told that I was SO BRAVE. Regardless of your stance on this matter, I will be deprived of bourbon for 40 long days and nights.*

Prescription Julep
Miss you, Prescription Julep

Pants, on the other hand, might be the tougher challenge. Let me clarify that this means pants in the American sense, not the British sense. My stance on those pants is none of your business. My desire to give up pants is twofold. First, I have an awful lot of vintage dresses and skirts and knee socks and tights that I really should wear even more often. Second, I have a hell of a time buying pants, and the ones I do own no longer fit. I possess a body made for 40s house dresses, not for 21st century pants. I’m tall, which means that most pants are too short. I have runners’ legs, which means I can’t buy skinny jeans. I have a butt and a proportionally small waist, which means that pants that fit the former don’t fit the latter, and pants that would fit the latter won’t pull up over the former. I’ve resorted to adding extra buttons to my jeans, but even then, my pants are all doing this:

Dire pants situation
I’m not pregnant, and I’ll punch anyone who suggests that I might be.

The pants pictured above are freshly washed in hot water and dried, and yet I still have 1-2 inches of space between my waist and the waistband. My jeans are even worse. So to some extent, giving up pants is a no-brainer. They don’t fit. I live in Michigan, though, and walk most places, including the 3/4 mile to work every day. This sacrifice may require some sartorial creativity. If nothing else, it will guarantee that I finish out my time in my current job without ever having worn jeans to work. And that in and of itself is a success.**

So: bourbon and pants. I’ll miss you, but that will just make April all the more sweet.

* I haven’t yet decided if I’ll also be giving up rye, scotch, or other forms of whiskey. It seems like I should.
** Exemptions will be granted to pants necessary for exercise, so yoga pants and running tights are still OK. But, like leggings, they aren’t really pants that should be work in public anyway.

2011 in meme (better late than never?)

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
Ran two half marathons and a ten miler. Wrote a eulogy. Said goodbye to a close family member. Got a tattoo. Participated in a worldwide Secret Santa gift exchange. Ate bone marrow. Did a push-up. Taught a graduate course.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Mostly, and yes.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Not as many babies as in 2010 (good lord), but yes.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
We lost my grandpa in September.

5. What countries (or new places) did you visit?
I ran to Canada and back – does that count? Other than that, no new countries or cities.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
More real mail and more nights on the dance floor.

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
We lost Grandpa on September 18.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Are you tired of hearing about running yet? Because the two halves were a really big deal for me. My first semester of teaching was also effing hard, but really good.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I basically always wish I could’ve been more prepared for the first (and all subsequent) days of class.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I was sick most of May, and took this awful antibiotic that made my mouth taste like metal for weeks. Other than that, no significant illness or injury.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My newest Queen Bee bag is thus far my favorite of all of the QB bags I’ve purchased in the last five years. And that’s saying something. Also my crinolines and vintage dresses.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My sister is great – great person, great sister, great wife, great mom. I’m so proud of the woman she’s become.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Basically everything done by our government was appalling and depressing with the exception of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Apart from the normal expenses: food, drink, travel, and running.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Moving to Chicago. Getting back together with bourbon and Neo.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
We’ve already established that I mostly listened to old music in 2011.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
A draw? The last month has been hard.

ii. thinner or fatter?
Thinner and, more importantly, stronger.

iii. richer or poorer?
Richer, I guess?

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Drinking and dancing.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Drinking.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
In Rockford with the family, a welcome respite from the endless move.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?
With Chicago, yes.

22. How many one-night stands?
I left my heart on the dance floor a few times.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
New: Sherlock. Old: Fringe. Always: Law & Order.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Nope.

25. What was the best book you read?
Netherland

26. What was your greatest musical (re)discovery?
The Radio 1 Essential Mix

27. What did you want and get?
Strength and good health. New friends, and time with old friends. A decent amount of travel. A new, much better job with a really great boss and big boss.

28. What did you want and not get?
A productive garden devoid of mosquitos.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
Nothing to report here, actually, and that makes me sad.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
My 31st birthday was sandwiched between a tough (but ultimately successful) job interview and the first day of my first semester of teaching. Shane tried to surprise me with dinner at Eve, which turned out to be a huge disappointment. We hopped over to Vinology and had a totally lovely evening.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Air conditioning in the summer.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
Vintage day dresses.

33. What kept you sane?
Running.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Daniel Craig.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
I’m not all that pleased to admit that I spent most of 2011 checked out as far as politics are concerned.

36. Who did you miss?
Chicago and DC friendos, my sister.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
I met Michael, the Black Pipes, and a lot of fun MPub people – and Kristen, who I’d known online but met in real life for the first time. I got to know the ladies of the A2BC, who I will miss now that we’re somewhat disbanded. Also Max is much more of a person than he was this time last year, and that’s awesome.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
I can’t point to specific factors that resulted in this epiphany, but around October I realized that I’ve spent the last two years – possibly longer – turning inward, avoiding connection, enabling my introversion rather than reaching out into the world. I’m trying to change that.