There Will Be Blood

Mercury reverses her course today, but before she does, my cookies are an utter disaster, and a lamp breaks spectacularly, flinging glass across my living room while I stand on a chair, hanging a lone string of Christmas lights. I swear loudly, and carefully climb down to attend to the damage. My right hand is cut in half a dozen places.

Ten years ago, I cleaned my kitchen while I awaited the arrival of my lover. While washing dishes in our deep porcelain sink, I shattered a drinking glass, cutting the knuckles of my right hand deeply enough that I still have noticeable scars. I wrapped my hand and went to the store to buy bandages, my blood soaking through the washcloth. When the bleeding wouldn’t stop, I went to immediate care, where they applied a salve to the wound and teased me at my carelessness. My blood, everywhere.

When I was 18, I broke a bottle in my right hand, drunk and stupid. When I was 26, I sliced off part of the tip of my left thumb in a commercial kitchen. I thought I would sleep with a new lover for the first time that night; instead I called the Ask a Nurse line because the bleeding wouldn’t stop. When I was 31, I skinned my knee on a night with many holes in it. No holes in my stockings and no blood on my dress, but a scrape deep enough to scar. A mystery. When I was 32, I skinned my shoulder and elbow and knee and ankle on the lakefront path. When asked if I was OK, I held up my arm, and immediately the line at the water fountain stepped aside so I could wash away the blood.

This week I will try again to get an IUD, but before that can happen, the doctor will do a pregnancy test because combining the two – a pregnancy and a device meant to prevent pregnancy – can be very, very dangerous. As I have prepared myself for this procedure, I’ve thought about the test that comes before it, and wondered what I would do if I found myself pregnant at this point in my life. I sat at my kitchen table with a friend whose body I have known intimately though not sexually, and we talked about the fear and wonder we feel about pregnancy, just as we once felt fear and wonder about menstruation. Once this thing felt so hard and strange, but now it is normal until it ceases to be so – or ceases to be.

I have sat waiting for the test. For me it has always been negative. And I have sat quietly with others when the test was not negative – on the linoleum floor in the kitchen where I bled, or at the other end of the phone on a beach 3,000 miles away, or in spaces in between while women I love have made unimaginable choices.

This is about love but it is also true for life, this life, the life that we’re choosing and making and enduring. “I learned what I had read in books but I never had actually believed: that love and suffering are the same thing and that the value of love is the sum of what you have to pay for it and anytime you get it cheap you have cheated yourself.”

This life doesn’t come cheap. It is marked on our bodies in scars and stretch marks, broken bones that ache with the weather, tattoos of the ghosts of who we once were, of the things we want to remember. The scar where I scraped myself the day I moved out of my house, a cut that wouldn’t have happened had I been wearing my wedding ring. The deep scars from a tiny cat who wouldn’t be held, and who left us too soon. The two channels through my ear pierced once, reminders of an infection and of my grandpa’s steady hand with the surgical wire. The scar tissue under my skin from too many bike accidents, and the scar tissue inside of me from the biopsies that found nothing. And all of the other things that leave no marks.

This is how we remember, even as our bodies move through their courses, even as our wounds are repaired, even as time heals. Our bodies remember. Our muscles remember. Our skin remembers. Our hearts remember.

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Where do you belong? I have no idea.

Rob Brezsny’s Astrology Newsletter – September 18, 2012

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Where do you belong? Not where you used to belong and not where you will belong in the future, but where do you belong right now? The answer to that question might have been murky lately, but the time is ripe to get clear. To identify your right and proper power spot, do these things: First, decide what experiences you will need in order to feel loved and nurtured between now and your birthday. Second, determine the two goals that are most important for you to accomplish between now and your birthday. And third, summon a specific vision of how you can best express your generosity between now and your birthday.

This has been in my inbox for just under two months, and my birthday is in a little over two months, and I’m still far from forming answers to any of these questions. I also don’t know what I want to do for my birthday, and would welcome your thoughts on all of the above.

Friend Feature: Natalie B.

There’s a scene in The English Patient where the nurse Hana tells Almásy of the arrival of the thief Caravaggio. She mentions that he’s Canadian, and Almásy wonders why that matters, why people are “always so happy to collide with someone from the same place”. Hana replies that during the war, where you come from becomes important.

In the last few months, I’ve become increasingly convinced of this. It’s not that there’s a war on – I mean, there are many wars, but few that touch my life directly – it’s that spending time in the same place gives you a shared vocabulary, a set of references, of people and places and things that provide context that can then go unspoken.

When people from junior high and high school started to turn up on Facebook a few years ago, I did the mass-friending, only to be reminded that I didn’t really like most of those people in high school, and so didn’t really have much interest in rekindling relationships that never really existed. I removed most of the high school people just as quickly as I added them – with the exception of those who seemed interested in actually being friends, not just performing friendship by friending.

My friend Natalie fell into the latter group. I’ve known Nat since the third grade, when her family moved to Illinois and her dad became principal at our school. With the exception of one week at camp, I don’t know that we were ever really friends in grade school and junior high – and then we went to different high schools, and the rest would be history if it weren’t for Facebook and P90X.

About two years ago, Nat started blogging about her path to fitness via P90X and running. Her posts were hilarious, honest, and motivational, and provided  a connection and a path to actual friendship. When she finished P90X and ran her first half marathon, I sent her a package including a BRING IT pin – I have the same pin on my backpack.

Nat was in town a few weeks ago to cheer her cousin on in the Chicago marathon, and we made a point of carving time out of the busy race weekend to meet up for brunch. I wasn’t sure what to expect – it was probably the first time we’d hung out apart from church functions since junior high – but instead of the likely awkward small talk between acquaintances, we had a lovely, rambling meal and talked about everything from our parents’ retirement to sex ed to running to our struggles to find a place to fit in (or out of) a church.

I don’t know how much of this friendship can be credited to where we come from – It’s not that Mr. Steely’s 8th grade science class provided a foundation for this friendship, or that it came up in our conversation at all. But it was there, as were all of the other artifacts of growing up in the same place at the same time around the same people and experiences. And perhaps that was just enough to ground what could have otherwise been an ephemeral Facebook friendship.

Either way, I’m thankful for Nat’s friendship, though I might feel differently by next October if we follow through with our hare-brained plan to run the marathon. I’m also thankful that no matter how rough we look when we cross the finish line, we’re almost certainly guaranteed to look better than we do here:

8th Grade Class Trip

A Good Mail Month

One of my resolutions for this year was to write more letters – at least one per week. If my spreadsheet is correct, I’ve actually written more than 150 letters and postcards so far this year, far exceeding my goal, and in doing so hopefully cementing new relationships, epistolary and otherwise. This was spurred along by a challenge issued in October by the South Side Letter Writing Club: 31 postcards in 31 days.

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=122138

So over the last month, I zipped off postcards to various points around the world. I sent postcards to strangers in my city, and to old friends in the midst of deployment. I sent birthday postcards and and RSVP postcards and playlist postcards and thank you postcards. I tamed my handwriting in order to fit a full-length letter onto the face of a small card. While I certainly sent more than I received, it was a fun project.

I was out of town for the last week, and came home yesterday to a GIANT PILE OF MAIL. A lot of it was junk, of course, but  amidst the political flyers and the open enrollment materials were the following:

  1. A giant package from Dubai containing a letter, random beauty products, a mix CD, yarn, and an absurd assortment of snacks.
  2. A smaller package from California containing a letter, random beauty products, and a sampling of odd Halloween candy (candy corn M&Ms!).
  3. Two postcards: “DC is the same – as douchey as ever. Be glad you left.”
  4. Two letters, one from a long time correspondent on the other side of the world, another from a new correspondent on the other side of the city.

So today I’m thankful for the mail, and for all the wonderful people who make my life happier by taking the time to put pen to paper.

Friend Feature: Tina P.

I don’t know about you, but it’s been hard for me to meet people since finishing school. When you’re in school, you have a common set of circumstances that structures your interactions with others while also giving you a lot of flexibility in who you meet and how you meet them. People come and go every year and your classes and interests shift, so you’re presented with a constantly changing cast of characters.

When you get out into the “real world” of a 9-to-5, that all changes. You see the same people and do the same things day in and day out. In some jobs, it takes a really long time to stop being “the new guy”. Outside of work, you have many of the same options for meeting people as you did when you were in school, but somehow it’s harder to make those casual connections that might turn into real friendships, particularly if you’re an introvert, and even moreso if you’re an introvert in a relationship.

I mention all of these things because five years ago, I came to DC on a job interview, and when I met Tina on my candidate lunch, I decided that I wanted to be her friend. We bonded over cats and Project Runway and Queen Bee bags. Tina was at the reference desk on my first day of work, and reintroduced herself, even though I definitely hadn’t forgotten her or any of the other cool people from my interview (including Abigail!).

C'est chic!

I really don’t think it’s possible to will a friendship into being – I’ve certainly tried and failed since – but I’m glad that the powers that be agreed that Tina and I should be friends. She made the days at Gelman a great deal more bearable, and I’m thankful our friendship persisted after I left that job.

Here are a bunch of things Tina and I have done together:
– picnicked and happy hour’d at Fort Reno and the Sculpture Garden and the Galaxy Hut
– rode bikes from Old Town to Georgetown and back
– knit for the troops at Buzz
got naked at Spa World
– saw Neko Case at the 930 Club
– ate a lot of latkes and cupcakes
– made plans for an alpaca farm where the stud alpacas will be named Brian Eno and David Byrne
– wrote a craft blog and also haikus about CVS
– high fived under the Kennedy Center
– wandered through “snow” on a film set in June in Ypsi
– ran a bunch of races as Team Helpful Paws and Team Astronaut Mike Dexter:

Team Helpful Paws
2009 Race for the Cure 5K, Washington, DC
Team Astronaut Mike Dexter!
2011 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, Washington, DC
Pre-Race Flexing
2011 Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon, Ann Arbor, MI
Team Astronaut Mike Dexter!
2012 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, Washington, DC

Here’s hoping for many more miles, and many more cupcakes, and many more stitches, and many more Talking Heads dance parties in the years to come!

Friend Feature: Abigail C.

In lieu of explaining how I know Abigail or of sharing any choice anecdotes from the handful of years that I’ve known her, I would like to share a conversation we had recently via IM:

AC: elizabeth!
AC: let’s always be friends
EB: yes please!
AC: so i will always have someone to send coco things to

Yes, Abigail. Let’s always be friends for Coco. And for Spa World and pre-race bathroom breaks and being catty on the internet.

Also here is Abgail happily regarding a latke:

Abigail