Someone Else’s Life

“Isn’t it strange you always wake up as yourself? Not even one day somebody else.”

Someone ElseThat is the opening line in one of my favorite episodes of HBO’s show Enlightened. The show stars Laura Dern as Amy — an enthusiastic but broken woman turned whistleblower trapped in a less-than-satisfying-sometimes-tragic-and-chaotic life in corporate America. I’ve actually written about it before and for anyone interested, you can find that post here.

The show is about to enter into it’s second season this weekend, therefore the previews and reruns have been rampant. Not that I mind. I loved it the first time and have been anxiously awaiting this moment for over a year. While waiting I’ve been refreshing my memory by watching the reruns and last night was reminded of the line I quoted at the beginning.

I was struck the first time I heard her character utter those words: Isn’t it strange you always wake up as yourself? Because I remember, vividly, as a child often pondering the very same thing. It must have been some sort of phase having to do with self-realization, self-awareness or some other sort of psycho-babble. But I’ve never shared those thoughts aloud until now. Apparently, I thought it would be fun to tell about 200+ readers instead of say, a close friend, parent or sibling.

I distinctly remember a time, early in elementary school when I would sit around my room, looking in the mirror or down at my hands, legs or feet and reflect on the notion that I was always, only ever going to look at the world through THESE eyes. As me. And NEVER anyone else. And honestly, I was a little bit disappointed. Mostly I was in awe of the fact that of all the people I’d witnessed coming and going at school, on the television, at church, at the bank or the grocery store… I would never be anyone else.

I couldn’t help but feel a teensy bit cheated by that reality. I mean, it wasn’t like life had dealt me a bad hand or anything. I had a good life. I was and am healthy. I had and continue to have wonderful parents, a sister who seemed to tolerate me THEN and is NOW a friend, a nice home, friends, pets, toys and lots and lots of love and laughter.

But I believe there was something in me that wanted desperately to know what life might be like through a different set of eyes. Call me adventurous or perhaps insane… I think back then, I just didn’t want to get bored. An entire lifetime, to me, seemed a very long time to spend inside the same body. Notice I said back then. Because as adults I think it is quite common to wonder what life looks like on the other side of the proverbial fence. We wonder what if

What if I had studied something else in school? What if I made twice what I’m making now? What if I had two children or six? (depending on what you may or may not already have) What if I stuck that out? (insert whatever your “that” is here) What if I lived in Fiji and sold t-shirts on the beach or was a SCUBA instructor with a killer tan and chiseled body? (OK, maybe that’s just mine.) But I think you get the idea…

This is it. This IS life. And this is all we get. ONE of them, experienced through ONE pair of eyes for as many days as we’ve been uniquely given. And I guess I can pout all I want to when I look in the mirror… wishing I were taller with a willowy frame, or that I’d been an attorney or a SCUBA instructor. But I think the point is to live THIS out the best that I can. Making the most of the highs, gaining perspective from the lows.

I just love the way Amy says—with childlike honesty—something we’ve probably all considered at one time or another during this thing that we only get to do ONCE. This thing called Life… Isn’t it strange you always wake up as yourself? Not even one day somebody else.

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Silence Isn’t Golden… It’s Diamond

diamond ringsI’m not a very quiet person. I realize this may come as a shock to some, but I like to talk. Oh, who am I kidding? I LOVE to talk. I REALLY LOVE to talk. I can talk all day, everyday about anything, everything and nothing. I am basically a good person, but my one downfall (if I had to admit to one)… the ONE thing that has consistently gotten me into trouble is my talking. I opened my mouth in pre-school to talk about who knows what—probably Play-Doh or Barbies or Captain Kangaroo—and I haven’t closed it since.

Which is why it was not surprising when yesterday evening during dinner I got the sneeking suspicion that Lee (being as polite as one could be after a long, hard day at work) wanted me to shut the hell up. He was eating peacefully and there I was yammering on about something I’d read on Facebook, various job leads, the bank account, bridal gown shopping and a web design class I thought I should register for.

He didn’t SAY anything, mind you. But I could tell. I’d seen the body language before in my father, my mother, my sister, my co-workers, the teller at the bank, the clerk at the grocery store, the optician fitting me for new glasses and the poor, helplessly-captive phlebotomist drawing my blood at the Red Cross. Once that needle’s in… she’s committed baby! I’ve got an audience for at LEAST a pint — which CAN be awhile if you fail to squeeze the squishy ball hard enough.

I don’t know how else to describe it. But it’s something that can be read in the resigned slump of the shoulders, the “please shut up” roll of the eyes and naturally the “oh $#@! here we go again” nodding-while-avoiding-direct-eye-contact thingy. I guess it’s just something one must experience in order to recognize. But… I digress.

Anyhoo, immediately upon detection of this behavior from Lee that he did, indeed, want me to shut the hell up… I sighed a heavy sigh, pet the cat and said to Lee: “Well, I should probably just be quiet now and let you enjoy your meal.” An observation that he, of course, did NOT deny. But he DID un-slump his shoulders, make eye contact with me and smile. He finished chewing what was in his mouth, used and re-folded his napkin, then turned toward me to speak.

“I just find it interesting that you’ve been talking to me this whole time while we are eating and yet…” He paused for a drink of his Diet Dr. Pepper. “… you sat silently on the couch for over an hour when I got home this afternoon, glued to those ring catalogs that I gave you to look at.”

For a rare moment I was speechless. My gaze immediately darted from him toward the living room, landing on the carefully-stacked diamond catalogs sitting innocently on the edge of the coffee table. He had brought them home only hours earlier for me to “take my time” perusing in search of a potential wedding band and light blue sticky notes were already jutting out from the edges of several pages. I looked back at him sheepishly and silently… my face turning fifty shades of pink… my diamond lust having been found out and now grossly on display beneath the revealing yellow light of the dining room.

“I guess I know how to shut you up then.” He said, half-teasing and partially serious. Apparently… for me… silence never was golden. But it just might be diamond.

What’s In a Year?

holding handsKisses were exchanged as the clock struck midnight and one by one the couples announced their plans for 2013.

“We’re gonna pop out a kid, honey!” Said the couple excitedly expecting their first child in the spring.

“We did a pretty cool thing in 2012 and it looks like we’ve got an exciting year ahead of us.” Proclaimed the pair of newly-minted parents whose baby girl arrived the previous fall.

“Here’s to the first year in our new home.” One of the two newlyweds seated on the couch replied to the other.

Looking out across the snowy landscape in the wee hours of a brand new year, we couldn’t help but consider what 2013 might hold for us. “2013.” Lee said as he navigated the snow-covered roads back to our house at the conclusion of the party. “Twenty years ago…” We began to say at the exact same time. Twenty years ago we graduated high school together before heading off in two very different directions. “It’s just so hard to believe.” One of us exclaimed… preaching to the proverbial choir.

We will get married this summer. That much we know. The planning has begun and as a picture of our wedding day emerges, our excitement grows for the anticipated date. But beyond that, it is unclear where we will go and what life will look like. We have a home and friends and belong to a community. He has a real job and I am hoping that the new year brings permanent employment (beyond contract work) my way. But for the most part, we are settled. Much of our picture is already colored in.

“So I suppose they’ll have their own little club once they all have babies.” I announced over lunch today while referring to the growing enclave of which we are not a part. “There’s no one else like us, you know.” I muttered with a mouthful of food while considering what the words “like us” meant exactly. I decided I was referring to couples in their late 30’s who don’t have children and aren’t sure they want any. I suppose it is as simple as that.

“I like us.” Lee stated very matter-of-factly as he shrugged his shoulders in a perfunctory but decided sort of way.

And I was reminded—all over again—why I love him as much as I do.

“I like us, too.” I said and reached for another slice of pizza.

In Sickness

sick coupleThere’s nothing quite so lovely or nearly as romantic as being sick with the one you love. Ahh yes, gazing softly and tenderly across the kleenex-and-blister-pack-strewn room… peering pathetically into one another’s deeply-sunken, dead-grey eyes and affectionately eeking out the phrase: “My dear, will you please pass the Mucinex?”

If you haven’t experienced this blissful coupled journey already, I can promise that someday you will. And on that day you will come to realize that indeed, the honeymoon is over. When you’re too tired to take a shower or work a comb through your hair and you’re incapable of remembering exactly which day last week the sweatshirt and pair of pajama pants you’re currently wearing emerged from the third dresser drawer — it isn’t a pretty sight.

Nor is it for the faint of heart. No Ma’am. You’ve gotta be 100% committed to this $#!*. Because instead of discussing where to meet up with your friends for drinks on Friday night, what new restaurant you might check out on Saturday or a possible weekend road trip… you’re reading aloud to one another absolutely riveting passages from the dosing instructions and possible side-effects portions of various OTC and prescription drug leaflets and packages.

Yes, “The Crud” has hit our home and hit it hard. And based upon my constant perusal of various social media outlets — it has been descending upon many other households as well. Fortunately (for me I suppose) I have not fallen as ill as Lee. Unfortunately (for him) he has really gotten slammed. And I do hope that he will be on the mend soon.

Quite miraculously it has worked out that (over the course of seven days — give or take) when one of us has been really down, the other has seemed a bit stronger. Initially, out of sympathy, this spurs a kind of trading of roles from patient to caregiver. However, this turn of events can oftentimes trigger a wonderfully entertaining and hearty bout of the game of One-Up-Manship that I like to call: “Who’s Sicker?” a.k.a. “Who Should Be The One To Go Out and Retrieve More Medicince and Comfort Food?”

Slinging phrases such as “My head is really pounding” or “My throat is really sore, I sure could use a slushie from Sonic” or “I’m so weak I need to lie down for awhile” or “I’m pretty sure I’m going to hack up a lung if not a kidney here pretty soon” usually helps in determining the game’s winner. Thus far, I have only emerged the victor on one occasion.

Hopefully, our walk through the wilderness of disease and pestilence will come to an end — soon. Until then I guess we’re stuck with each other — in all of our sniffly, stuffy, coughy, achy, short-fused, wild-haired, week-old-pajama glory. Neither one of us has run screaming toward the hills just yet. So the way I see it, that’s either a sign of true love… or we’re just too worn out to make the trip.

That Picture of Us

To say that a picture is worth a thousand words is true I suppose. But only if you’re counting all the ones that are left unsaid. The things it failed to capture and yet, were present all the same.

That picture of us that sits atop my second shelf only captured a moment. It is a mere sliver in time when you were smiling and I was smiling because the photographer told us to.

It does not tell of weathered hearts and dusty dreams… of successes or of failures… Nor promises kept and promises broken. It gives no hint toward the future or revelation of the past.

That time I made you laugh so hard you nearly choked to death is nowhere to be seen. The scar on my left wrist I got while running after you is just outside the frame.

Weekends on the water, midnight rides and long, late nights of talking are written behind our eyes but no one would ever know it — were they to pick it up and hold it. Should they ever really, really study it…

That time when you were smiling and I was smiling because the photographer told us to.

Do you remember? That image on my second shelf? It is the one collecting dust. That picture of us.

Virtually Dumped

Due to the rise and surge of social media, our personal lives have changed so dramatically in the last five years that it is difficult to remember what life was like pre-Facebook, Twitter or in this instance, WordPress and the blogosphere. Ahh, the unique joys and sorrows of virtual friendships… So easy to make and even easier to break.

If you’re active at all in social media, you’ll know to what I referring when I mention getting dumped virtually. Although the one-sided, electronic break up is bound to happen from time to time—not unlike a real break up—it stings a bit when it does occur. You wake up one day without a care in the world, log on to your social media site of choice and voila! You realize you’ve one less “friend” or “follower” than you had the night before.

In the case of Facebook, I’ve learned to no longer care if and when this happens. I don’t tweet, so I can’t speak to the Twitterverse arena of the issue, but I DO blog and I think it is safe to say that in the world of blogging, losing a virtual follower can often leave a bit of virtual mark. It is especially ouchy if the ex-follower in question at one time featured you and your blog on their personal page.

Sad to say, I was dumped from a fellow writer’s blogroll a week ago. And being the neurotic, obsessive person that I am… I took to Google to see if there were any articles floating around in cyberspace devoted to the matter. There were not. Perhaps I, clearly the MOST neurotic, narcissistic, obsessive blogger IN THE WORLD, should be the one to write one, lest another pathetic dumpee similar to myself takes to Google in search of some e-comfort?

What I DID find, was a general article on “getting dumped” — you know, like in REAL LIFE. To be fair to the writer of that article and the inspiration for this post, here is the address: http://fearlessmen.com/getting-dumped/. After reading it, I realized that perhaps there are some similarities between the REAL and the VIRTUAL types of dumping. Thus, the following are the reasons given in the article for why a person may have been dumped in the real world, accompanied by a few “personal thoughts” pertaining to the cyber realm.

1. BoredomOK, so maybe my posts don’t scratch where you itch. I am who I am. Deal with it. Well, I guess you did. You dumped me. I’m sorry if I didn’t sufficiently entertain you.

2. Too Needy / Too ClingyUmmm… Perhaps my creation of this post is enough to illustrate this one? I hope you don’t mind that I wrote it. I really wish I knew how you felt about this one. Maybe I shouldn’t even post it? What do you think? I miss you.

3. Too JealousWhy do you always comment on THEIR stuff and not mine!? You NEVER comment on my stuff! You must think they are cooler/hipper/smarter/prettier/skinnier/wittier/more interesting than me! Why am I not good enough for you!?!?

4. Trying too hard too soon OR not trying hard enoughAre my comments and observations too lengthy or too short? Are there too many or too few? I soooo wish I knew so I could change and make this all better. Then again, sometimes I don’t really care what you think.

5. Lost Interest / Ran out of infatuation / Honeymoon is overPerhaps you’re tired of what you initially thought were extremely astute, brilliant and hilarious observations… and have now grown weary of repetitive entries about Spanx, wrinkles, alarm clocks, ill-fitting clothing, aggressive driving, rude people and a freakishly-abnormal fear of insects. Is that it? Was that the one that put you over the edge?

7. Chemistry / Different Directions / It isn’t what you or he/she thought it wasAlright, so maaaaybe I wasn’t what you expected me to be. But please don’t give me the “It’s not you, it’s me” bit because I know, baby, it was me. Otherwise I wouldn’t be the one sitting here in sweats and a dirty t-shirt with the remote and a wad of Kleenex in my lap, watching Beaches and putting my thighs in serious jeopardy with this quart of Ben and Jerry’s.

Remembering…

Admittedly, I had another post all set to publish this morning. And I suppose you could attribute that to the fact that September 11, 2001 is drifting further and further away from us as the calendar pages fly. Increasingly, today feels like any other day. I’m not sure if that is a sign of healing or complacency… a good thing or a bad one. But as I woke and listened to the news and was reminded of the gruesome reality and continued significance of this day — I could not help but feel the need to pay homage to those lost on that Tuesday morning that was “just like every other morning.”

This photo was taken in February at the 9/11 memorial when we visited this year. The morning we wandered these sacred grounds was one of mixed emotion. On the one hand, I felt so fortunate to be able to take in this site with Lee… To have personally come full-circle by standing so near the void of those towers and taking in, with amazement, the wonder of how such a place of horror can be restored. Yet on the other hand, to wish—as I ran my gloved fingers over the names forever etched into history on the sobering black stone that surrounded each tower’s footprint—that this memorial need not to have been created in the first place.

Averse to Adversity

I had an epiphany the other day. I’m not talking about the kind where I suddenly figured out that my new nightly chocolate ritual was beginning to make my ass fat. But the kind that I honestly believe could be life-changing. Or rather…. it WOULD be if I chose to examine it, learn from it and make some adjustments.

Bet you can’t wait to know what it is? Unless, of course, you read the title or drew some sort of a conclusion from the super adorable picture that I just HAD to use to assist in illustrating my point — in which case, you probably already have your suspicions. Anyhoo, brilliant deductions, sneaking suspicions or not, I’ll fill you in. All of my life I have had trouble with… drumroll pleeeeze… Adversity.

There. I’ve put it out there for all the world to see. Or at least the 200 people (give or take) who regularly read this blog.

Websters defines Adversity as: 1. distress; affliction; hardship and 2. an unfortunate event or incident

I know what you’re thinking… Who doesn’t have “trouble” with distress, affliction or hardship? Right? But honestly… I mean seriously… I. Have. Trouble. With. Resistance. Of any kind. And I think in some cases, there is evidence to support the theory that I may actually MAKE trouble for myself.

<< As an aside for any potential, future employer(s) out there who may be reading this and who may or may NOT be considering me for some form of professional position — let it be known that I do NOT make trouble for other people… I actually play really well with others. You can ask any of my references or teachers. >>

I am purely masochistic about this. I only do it to myself. The primary problem being that I suspect I actually LOOK for it in my life. And this is really quite amazing given that I am someone who runs around all giggly and bubbly claiming to DESIRE happiness and merriment wherever I go and with whomever I choose to spend time.

Hello, my name is Joanna and I am EXPERTLY PROFICIENT at making mountains out of molehills.

All my life I have been told to develop a thicker skin. By everyone. By people I love, by people I never thought much of and (in hindsight) by people I have hated. That in and of itself should’ve shown me something. The sheer VOLUME of people telling me that I needed to grow a thicker skin, get over it, lighten up, stop being so serious all the time and to stop taking everything so damn personally SHOULD have had an effect by now. Shouldn’t it?

Yet, as I contemplate my 37 years on this earth—paying particular attention to the last 20 where I have supposedly been an “adult”—a pattern has begun to emerge. I don’t deal well with “distress, affliction or hardship” when it happens to me. If it is happening in someone else’s life I tend to step up to the plate. But when the trouble finds me… when adversity has knocked on my door… I really do take it personally. And oftentimes, I’m ashamed to admit… I freak out.

When things haven’t gone the way I planned… When someone is rude or addresses me in a harsh tone… When I don’t “click” with a person at the office… Whenever ANYTHING does not turn out the way that I think it shouldwhich, by the way, is nothing SHORT of sunshine and rosesI cave. I fold like a bad poker hand or I wither or melt. Choose your metaphor. There are plenty. And in this case they are all the same.

Who the hell do I think I am that difficulty should avoid me? It’s rather narcississtic when I really think about it. Perhaps if I can truly begin to recognize that I am not special in facing adversity and remember that everyone shoulders some form of hurt or disappointment in this lifetime, then maybe… just maybe I will learn to freak out less. And I will learn to remain on my feet, keeping my collective shit together while standing firm in my new and thicker skin.

Breaking Bread (or Beignets) in New Orleans

Technology has, undoubtedly, shrunken our world. Day after day, year after year our world grows smaller and smaller as the opportunity for simultaneous, spontaneous and continuous interaction grows larger and larger. It is no longer an accomplishment of note to be “in touch” with others all over the globe 24/7.

But I believe that no matter the amount of unbroken digital and virtual contact we may have at any given time — it will never replace the genuine sense of community and closeness that can only be derived from the good, old-fashioned practice that is the breaking of bread.

A little over a week ago I had the rare privilege of contacting someone who has—over the course of the last year—become a close virtual friend. I “met” Paige here on WordPress when we both began blogging around the same time last summer. Our stories almost mirrored one another in a way that only happens once in a great while… and a kinship was formed.

Lee and I made a rather snappy decision to head south to New Orleans one day and with my bag already hastily packed with the most humidity-friendly garments I could find… I was emailing her the very next. She called me when I was somewhere between Montgomery and Mobile and we made plans to meet for lunch in the French Quarter the day after next.

I was still absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of the very unique Crescent City when I heard a small voice behind me calling out my name. Pictures can only do so much to help identify a person and in a Sunday afternoon crowd in Jackson Square… it can be a little tricky to spot a pixelated pal. It was Paige and her boyfriend Caleb and although we had never before met in person, I felt like I already knew her.

We picked up our conversation wherever we’d left off when last communicating online but bits of disbelief lingered about the fact that we were actually, literally sitting across from one another and speaking rather than typing our thoughts. Although our afternoon together was too short, I was infinitely grateful that the stars had aligned just so for that brief period of time.

And I was reminded that yes, technology HAS made it possible to sit behind this computer of mine for hours on end and connect with wonderful people all over the world… But it is also possible to occasionally get out from behind my monitor and keyboard and hop in the car or board a plane and meet those same wonderful people face-to-face.

Thank you Paige and Caleb for showing us a wonderful time in your fabulous city!  You can check out her blog at: http://sideoftheleaf.wordpress.com/

Puttin’ On My Big Girl Pants

In my twenties, when I was as young and stupid as a brand new puppy dog, I had a co-worker who was a few years older. She was a new mother and I often asked her how things were going with the baby.

I’ll never forget her reply one time as it was as funny as it was true. She recounted to me a morning where her daughter (let’s call her Danielle) was sitting at the kitchen table in her high chair and just wailing. Nothing would pacify her, so her mother—as many new moms often do—was reaching the point of exasperation.

She heaved a heavy sigh, looked around the room (that was empty save for my friend and her daughter) and thought aloud to Danielle: “Oh how I wish your mommy could just swoop in and make things all better for you!” It was then that my friend realized that the “mommy” in this scenario—the only one around at the time to do the heavy lifting and the one to be the savior—was her.

As adults, how many of us have found ourselves in a similar situation? When faced with something that seems insurmountable, we look up, down and all around for someone who can save us from ourselves. Be it a knight in shining armor, a fairy godmother or a full-blown cavalry — we honestly hope (if only for a second) that there might actually be an easier way out. But often times this is not the case. Increasingly as we age the only one who can deliver us from the stiff challenges of adulthood is the very one who stands before us in the mirror.

In less than four months, my fiance has lost both his father and mother. And I have been unable to do anything but stand by and watch. Don’t get me wrong, I can lend a listening ear, fetch a sandwich or two and make the occasional phone call, but short of a miracle of biblical proportion, there is nothing else I can do but hold his hand and slog through the muck and the mire right along with him.

There have been numerous arrangements to be made and entire lifetimes of memories to be carefully sifted, sorted and packed away for safe-keeping. Not unlike my co-worker and her child in need of comfort—there is no one else around to do the heavy lifting. There is no knight in shining armor, fairy godmother or cavalry to swoop in and “make things all better” like when we were children. And similar to my friend in becoming a new parent… I’m certain there were no instructions in the handbook on how to do this.

This time there is only him and there is only me wandering aimlessly about in Grownupland. I can wish all I want for someone else to shoulder the burden and do the work. But at the end of the day I am met with the realization that adulthood in it’s purest form is when you’ve looked around and discovered there is nothing left to do but suck it up and put on those big girl pants — however reluctantly.