Monthly Archives: March 2009

How to end a quarter-life crisis in four years or less.

For my first apartment living alone, I chose a four-unit building in Uptown, just a couple minutes north of the large skyscrapers of the city I moved to upon graduating from college.  My 1920s building is the only original building remaining on the whole block, completely surrounded by Mediterranean-revival luxury condos that were hastily constructed and hastily bought during the housing boom.  In spite of all the “luxury,” however, it’s not the safest of neighborhoods.  There’s a city park just a few blocks over at which countless violences occur, drug deals and rape and gang fights.  There’s a cracked-out man who wanders down the sidewalks in broad daylight, shouting loudly at–who knows?  Himself?  There’s the homeless who dig through the dumpsters.  And the thugs who smashed in Cautionary Husband’s passenger side window when it was parked on my street and stole his belongings right out of his car.

Perhaps comforted by the sight of all those Land Rovers parked nearby or perhaps simply used to the area, however, my neighbors prefer to keep the front door of our building open.  At first it made me feel exposed and unsafe, the plywood front door to my apartment a decidedly INTERIOR door while my downstairs neighbors have sturdy, metal, break-in-proof doors.  When I moved in in the middle of winter, I shut the front door as much as possible in an effort to conserve heat, but I stopped paying attention once the weather became much more bearable.  Last week a brick appeared as a doorstop, and I gave up the closed-door battle.  One of my downstairs neighbors, a thirtysomething woman who always laments her lack of openable windows with exceptional soreness, leaves the front door to her apartment open during the day as well as the front door to the building in hopes that a clean breeze might find its way into her apartment.  And I don’t begrudge her that.  I’ve been in her apartment; it really, really needs a clean breeze.

However, leaving the front door to the building open causes tiny inconveniences–leaves get blown in, for example, and they have more than once caused me to trip on the already treacherous narrow stairs leading to my apartment.  Everything finds a way in somehow.  Bugs.  Dirt.  Water.  Possums.  Last week, in the midst of a week-long rainstorm, while taking Cautionary Dog outside,  he stopped on the way down the stairs to sniff at a slug that had made a heroic effort to reach the top of the stairs before it dried up about 3/4 of the way, forever cemented to the stairs in its failure like a war memorial.

Over the weekend, a bird made a similar, much more successful effort, seeing as how it has wings and doesn’t require excessive moisture to get around.  It did not, however, possess the necessary intellect to get itself out of the situation it so adeptly found its way into.  When I happened upon it, it was flapping wildly against the window at the top of the stairs, tricked by the daylight coming through the glass into thinking that the window was its best way out.  I watched it flap as hard as it could, and then, after a minute, collapse onto the windowsill, its tiny chest heaving with breath, its face mashed up against the glass, contorting its neck in such a way that it appeared broken.  Dried shit streaked the window.  This bird had been there for a while.

A bird dog by nature, Cautionary Dog lunged at it, and I corralled him back inside the apartment while I tried to figure out what to do.  I finally decided I would try to coax the bird into a plastic shopping bag (or pin it against the window and grab it, whichever) and then take it outside to release it.  The bird, of course, did not like this idea very much, but it worked.  I  brought my fluttery little package outside, placed it on the ground, opened the top, and the bird flew right out with a small tweet of gratitude.

Cautionary Dog didn’t see the release of the bird back into the wild since he was inside my apartment throwing himself against the front door, and now every time we go into the hallway, he walks over to the window and sniffs at it for a bit, checking to see if there might be any birds.  I always tell him, the birdie’s not there.  The birdie flew away.  I rescued the birdie.

This May marks four years that I’ve been in this city.  I picked it upon graduation because of its perfect combination of nearness to and distance from my hometown, and its strong job market.  Sure, upon moving here I knew only a handful of people, and sure, when I moved here it was the second most violent city in the country, ranking behind only, like, Detroit.  I’ve worked hard to make it my home, learning how to drive like the locals (which is to say MANIACS) and carving out sections of the city to conquer and call my own.  One day last December, I caught myself driving to the Crate and Barrel outlet without having to look up any directions, and I knew that I had officially made this once scary, strange city my home.

It’s also been the primary site of my quarter-life crisis, which began pretty much the day I moved here, May 15, 2005.  In four years, I’ve lived in five different places and worked for three different companies.  In that time I also managed to move here with a boyfriend, get engaged to said boyfriend, marry said fiance, and then have an affair and separate from said husband.  And make and lose several friends along the way.

In short, it’s been a time of unrest.

No one really prepares you for what’s to come after graduating from college.  The most preparation I ever got was the damning reassurance that college would be the best four years of my life, and I should enjoy them to the fullest.  I remember looking around in college and thinking, really?  This is as good as it gets?  It should be noted that I attended a small, private Christian university that banned basically everything fun, including drinking, sex, drugs, smoking and dancing.  Yes, dancing.  But still.  As good as it gets?  Really?

But the day I graduated, I thought these people must’ve been right.  I began missing college immediately.  It’s such an exposed, raw feeling to walk across a stage and collect a degree while possessing the simultaneous knowledge that you don’t know anything about anything, and that everything you do know is going to change starting NOW.  And good luck keeping it together, asshole.  Here’s eighteen grand in student loans to help start a little fire under your butt.

I took a job as an account coordinator at a tiny ad agency, wasting away behind a desk by day and drinking toxic amounts of liquor while flirting with our male clients by night.  While my nighttime duties were unofficially part of my job description, I was informed that they were far more important than my daytime duties.  I began blogging, mostly about my Peter Pan Complex and my quarter-life crisis.  The world wasn’t so scary, but, also, it was.  I felt propelled with each new day toward a life I didn’t want to live, a life I didn’t choose, but had to accept.  A life of sitting on my ass all day.  A life of getting off work after the sun has already set.  A life of endless bills.  A life of predictability.  A life of a stale job, a stale marriage, then children, then death.  Adulthood looked like one thing and one thing only, and I had to be an adult now.

At the outset, I was crying in my car in the parking lot while listening to Rufus Wainwright’s “In a Graveyard” and wondering where the hell my youth had gone.  Within two years I had hit what I now see as the depths, during which I was watching i heart huckabees every day (not an exaggeration) hoping that it might give me some clarity on what the fuck I’m supposed to do.  I asked, “How am I not myself?”  I drew cubes on my chalkboard.  I told myself that everything I can ever want or be I already have and am.  I tried to see the interconnectedness of things, because if I didn’t feel interconnected to everything, I felt connected to nothing, floating out into the vast vacuum of space, alone.  During this time I was also falling in love with a married man via e-mail.

The affair cracked everything open.  I was no longer being propelled toward a life I didn’t want or floating off into space.  I had completely stopped the momentum of my life.  I stopped making future plans and started focusing all of my energy on making it through just one single day.  I didn’t want the life that was being shoved down my throat, so I threw it up.  And then burned it, for good measure.  I failed at being an adult in a big way.  And I suppose I realized that failing’s really not that terrible if it allows us to step back and look at the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into, ask ourselves why that mess happened, and then begin the long process of cleaning up the mess, hopefully having learned something.

And I have learned something.  It’s taken me all this time, all these mistakes, to learn that, actually, no, adulthood doesn’t have to look like one thing and one thing only.  It can look like whatever the hell I want it to look like.  Getting older isn’t propelling me toward a life I don’t want; getting older means I have more resources to go out and find the life I do want.  More experience and knowledge and wisdom and money and confidence and connections.  Less caring about what others think.

In short, my quarter-life crisis has finally come to a close.

As I rescued the bird, I knew exactly how it felt, flying against the glass that seemed like its only escape, in complete denial as to how futile the effort really was.  Trying the glass again and again, hoping that one of these times it would work.  Trapped.  Afraid.  Exhausted.  Frantic.  Confused.  Without any sort of knowledge that in a few hours a lady with a calm voice and a plastic bag would show up and be its savior.  But interconnectedness has taught me that I am also the lady.  And the plastic bag that carried it to freedom.  And the glass it banged against.  And the sky it flew into.  And the dog who lunged at it, trying to eat it, who keeps returning to the window in case the bird is still there.  I can still feel the fear of what’s to come fluttering inside of me, but I’m also the one telling myself that the birdie that I’ve known for so many years isn’t there anymore.  The birdie flew away.  I rescued the birdie.

And I’m also the one flying away, tweeting with gratitude.

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In (un)related news.

Cautionary Dog ate my Bible today.

Well, not the WHOLE thing, but most of the Pentateuch.

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On self-service.

For my 26th birthday, I bought myself a vibrator.

And if you were at all made squeamish by this first sentence, I recommend not making the jump. And if you’re at all turned on by this first sentence, please do not make the jump. Continue reading

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There art thou happy.

Whenever I’m feeling down, I turn to Shakespearean tragedy.

No, not really. But there is this great scene in Romeo & Juliet, in which Romeo, in the middle of a complete and utter shitstorm, having fallen in love with Juliet and married her, then killed her cousin and got himself sentenced to banishment before he was able to consummate the marriage, gets told my Friar Lawrence for being too whiny.

What, rouse thee, man! Thy Juliet is alive,
For whose dear sake thou wast but lately dead.
There art thou happy. Tybalt would kill thee,
But thou slewest Tybalt. There art thou happy too.
The law, that threat’ned death, becomes thy friend
And turns it to exile. There art thou happy.
A pack of blessings light upon thy back;
Happiness courts thee in her best array;
But, like a misbehaved and sullen wench,
Thou pout’st upon thy fortune and thy love.
Take heed, take heed, for such die miserable.

A good friend who’s currently fighting in Iraq asked me today how I’m doing. I said okay, which is my honest answer, and he asked me why I’m not excellent. He said that recently he decided that he wasn’t letting himself be excellent, but he made the decision to quit that, and now he is.

I told him I see how that would work under most circumstances, except the facts of my situation are so depressing that the only times I’m able to feel any happiness at all is when I completely ignore the Big Terrible Things going on in my life. He said that “big” is relative. And jump-started me with a Big Wonderful Thing that should make me happy: I am free.

Taking my friend’s and Friar Lawrence’s advice, I walked down to a nearby museum at lunch, lay down on a concrete balustrade in the sunshine, thought about all the “there art thou happy”s in my life, and thanked God for them one by one.

My friend was right. There are a lot of them. And today, I am struck by the mere fact that I’ve been blessed enough to be on this earth for 25 full years and have begun to start on a 26th. Most days this fact seems small. A burden some days, even. But not today. Today I took heed. Today I won’t die miserable.

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Oh, yeah, and I’m 26 today.

Another unexpected part of living alone is that there’s no one around to dote on you immediately upon waking up on your birthday.

I got over it pretty quickly, though.

‘Cause PAR-TAY!

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Living-alone success and FAIL.

A few weeks ago I was sitting at my pub table in my breakfast nook when a yellow jacket flew in through the open window. The screens have long ago disappeared from these 80-year-old windows, and it’s kind of a miracle I can open any windows at all. Whenever my neighbors come over, they always express jealousy at my open windows. And whenever I visit my neighbors’ smelly, stuffy apartments, I thank the Lord that I got The One With Windows That Open.

I’ve got this intense fear of flying, stinging insects. I’ve got an intense fear of all insects, really, but mainly the kind that look really gross (spiders) and the kind that can and will hurt me for no reason at all. The kind that can hurt me, look really gross, and fly in unpredictable patterns are pretty much the trump card of Things I’m Afraid Of. They always fly right at me. They can sense my fear. My fear is unacceptable to them, and they let me know it.

I fled to my bedroom, where I stood whimpering for a while. Then I came to the terrible realization that I would have to take care of the situation myself.

The role of Insect Killer was one of Cautionary Husband’s most important roles. I would huddle in a ball on the other side of the house and yell “Don’t kill it!” He would, of course, quietly kill it and dispose of it, and then he’d come get me and tell me that he got it outside without having to kill it, and I’d pretend to believe him. Because while I hate insects, I don’t believe that they should have to die simply because they had the terrible misfortune of finding their way into my presence. They just need to, you know, LEAVE.

The yellow jacket would likely not leave of its own accord, so I picked up a flip-flop and crept back into the breakfast nook. It was crawling around on the stool, in and out of the slats that make up the seat. Its wings were jagged. After I stood there for a while whining to Cautionary Dog about how much I DID NOT WANT TO DO THIS, the yellow jacket crawled up through a slat, perched on a solid spot on the stool, and I thwacked it two or twenty times until I was sure it was dead. And then I told it I was sorry and gave it a burial out the window it flew in.

A few nights ago I had just turned out the light and was beginning the long process of unloading my restless mind so that I could find sleep at a halfway-decent hour when I heard an odd popping sound. Like plastic bouncing against plastic. I got up to investigate. I thought it was the a/c somehow blowing the plastic ends of the blind cord against the blinds in the bathroom, but they were still. I realized the sound was coming from my kitchen, and when I turned around the corner and flipped on the light, there, in the middle of my kitchen, was a possum. He (I’m assuming it’s a he) looked at me for a few seconds, and then crept through a hole in the baseboards under the kitchen sink. His tail slid through the crack segment by segment until it disappeared from sight.

I stood there for a bit with my head cocked, said, “huh,” turned off the light, and walked to my bedroom, where I called Cautionary Husband.

“I just found a, um, possum, in my kitchen.”
“A possum?” Are you sure it wasn’t a rat?”
“Yes.”
“Did it have a fat tail or a thin tail?”
“Thin? I don’t know. What kind of question is that?”
“Well, how do you know it wasn’t a rat?”
“It had a flat, white face and a black snout, and it looked right at me.”
pause
“You have to call your landlord. He has to kill it.”
“No! Why? Can’t he just cover up the little hole?”
“It’ll go to the neighbor’s apartment. He has to kill it. Come sleep here. You can’t sleep there.”
“No. I’ll take care of it.”

And I did take care of it. By putting a mug in front of the hole and hoping that I never wake up to a morning in which the mug is moved.

Hasn’t happened yet, anyway.

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Cautionary Dog strikes back; or, why I shouldn’t be allowed to have ovaries.

Cautionary Dog has been pretty chill lately, so I decided to try and cut back on the anti-anxiety meds, one pill instead of two.

And that sentence alone should tell you precisely where this post is headed.

On Monday I came home for lunch and found my pack of birth control on CD’s bed, entirely chewed up. After a quick tally, I found that he’d eaten four of the placebo pills and three of the active pills. I called the vet, who said he should be fine, but that I should call poison control so they could analyze the active ingredients in my birth control and tell me decisively if he would be okay. When I asked for the number, they put me on hold, where I sat for five minutes until I worked myself into such a frenzy that I hung up and called the emergency vet. They said pretty much the same thing, but gave me the poison control number without making me wait for it while my dog’s life possibly hung in the balance.

I called poison control and found that they would like to charge me a $60 consultation fee, and could I give them my credit card number, please? I said something to the extent of HELL NO and called his regular vet back and asked if I could take him in just for observation, since I had to go back to work. They said, eh, I could, but then they’d call poison control and would charge me the same $60, plus another $60 for a vet visit. I asked, really, no one there knows of the effects of large doses of estrogen on a male dog? She put me on hold again, and when she got back said, yeah, he should be fine, but, haha, that really sucks for you, that he ate your birth control.

Because obviously the kind of person who leaves birth control sitting out for her dog to eat is precisely the kind of person WHO SHOULD BE TAKING HER BIRTH CONTROL AS CAREFULLY AS POSSIBLE.

I hung up and drove CD to Cautionary Husband’s apartment so that he could watch him and make sure he didn’t experience any vomiting or seizures or, I don’t know, grow breasts or start menstruating. CD, it turns out, was fine. And I put the remaining birth control in the nightstand drawer.

Yesterday I came home at lunch to find some pink smudges on CD’s ear. “What did you get into today?” I asked as I walked back to my bedroom, where the bulk of the damage seems to be occurring. There, on his bed, I found a chewed-up bottle of Benadryl that I’d left SITTING ON MY NIGHTSTAND because I’ve been using it as a post-spring-forward sleep-aid. Clearly, “childproof” does NOT mean the same thing as “dogproof,” since dogs have very sharp teeth and are willing to sink them into anything, even rigid bottles of plastic. Clearly, I am not smart enough to realize this.

The pink pills were scattered everywhere. I counted them as I picked them up: 76 left, from a bottle of 100. I calculated in my head that I’d taken roughly six or seven in the past week. Which means my 60-pound dog had taken enough diphenhydramine to put me to sleep for about three days.

This time I bypassed all the frantic phone calls and instead checked out the ASPCA poison control website, where I did not find diphenhydramine listed as a human medication that is poisonous to dogs. After a bit of Googling and a phone call to Cautionary Husband, we concluded that he would probably be fine. But I dropped him off at CH’s apartment for more observation, which consisted of CH waking CD up every hour to throw a ball at him and judge his reaction to it. CH said that CD pretty consistently made some attempt to get the ball, but that when he threw two balls at him, CD had no idea what to do. Which told me that my stupid, dopey dog was just fine.

Now, we’ve got to figure out what to do about his stupid, dopey mother.

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