Monthly Archives: July 2009

Announcing.

My friend C and I have started a new blog that consists of our hilarious gchat conversations that we have during the long work day. We mostly wanted a place to archive our favorite ones, but we also thought other people might think they’re hilarious too.

We could be wrong, of course, and we don’t really care, because we still think we’re hilarious.

You can check us out at partners in perfection.

And there’s also a link over there to the right ——>

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On being awake.

To be alive is the biggest fear humans have. Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are.  Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of humans.”-Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

At the age of seven, I went to sleep. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly the where and why of it, and maybe also the who and the what and the when and the how, but I’ve come to suspect it had something to do with my parents’ separation. When I was in second grade, my dad sat my family down at the kitchen table, maybe our first “family meeting” ever, and explained to my three siblings and me that he was moving out. None of us spoke or asked questions. We didn’t meet each other’s eyes. Only my little brother, who was four, cried.

My dad left and we didn’t see him very often, but I told myself it was okay, because we never really saw him that often when he lived with us, either. My mom read us books with titles like Why Doesn’t Daddy Live Here Anymore? and asked us about our feelings. My little brother would cry some more. I would tell her I didn’t want to talk, and to stop making such a big deal about it.

I have many memories from ages 2-6, and more memories than I know what to do with from age 13 on, but there’s a wide gap between the ages of 7-13. Some spotty memories, but not many. My next-door-neighbor friends asking me in the third grade where my dad was. Twirling in my driveway singing “A Whole New World” in the fourth grade. My fifth grade teacher asking me why I was crying after art class. The popular girls who sat by me in sixth grade wearing their Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers perfume and digging around in their Clinique makeup bags gossiping about various Spencers and Scotts. I quit ballet, which I loved, because I simply didn’t want to go to practice. I played softball, which I HATED, for years because my friend Courtney played it. I accepted Christianity because my mom believed it. I didn’t try out for cheerleading in fifth grade because I was too afraid.

Some of my clearest memories from this time come from the books I was reading. I was always reading, living through other people’s words and experiences. I tried to write a little too. In fifth grade I wrote a short story about a girl named Molly Thatcher who gets to fulfill her dream of meeting Jackie Kennedy Onassis. I self-published it by gluing cardboard to the front and back pages and stapling the whole thing together. I illustrated it myself and gave it to my reading teacher, who had told me once that she loved the Kennedys. I’m not sure if she ever read it–she used to sleep during class and tell us she was resting her eyes.

At the age of 13 boys seemed to develop an interest in me, there were suddenly boys and their boy eyes everywhere, and my eyes opened to theirs. I woke up slightly. My first vivid memory after the six-year blackout period is of me riding my bike around my old elementary school the summer after seventh grade and hearing Tony, a boy I went to elementary school with, who was skateboarding there with some of his friends, say, “That’s [CG]? Wow.” Quickly cascading after that were those first few tentative games of Truth or Dare, my love of the movie That Thing You Do!, and my first French kiss. I began to care about the brand of clothes I wore and the way I styled my hair. I began shaving my legs and reading my sister’s old issues of Seventeen that were stacked in piles in our garage, studying how to apply makeup and how to flirt. I began to live for the affection of the opposite sex because that’s what made me feel awake.

But I stayed asleep for the most part. I jumped from boy to boy, dating guys not because I was interested in them but because they were interested in me. I broke a few hearts and didn’t really care. When I was fifteen, a boy told me he loved me, and I didn’t reciprocate until a year later, but by then he was too hurt by my apparently hard heart and didn’t want anything to do with me. I kept on dating other boys but for some reason I thought I would marry him. But then he married someone else the summer after my sophomore year of college, so I began dating someone who I thought would want to marry me. And, eventually, he did.

It worked for a little while because we were both asleep. My New Year’s resolution a few years in a row was inspired by Henry David Thoreau; I resolved year after year to live deliberately. And every year I failed and never really knew why. But then someone came along who I was very much interested in, had been interested in for years, and he seemed interested in me too. He showed me beautiful things about myself. He listened to me and asked me about my feelings. He understood the things I said. Both the love I felt for him and the resulting pain that he wasn’t mine were too keen. I couldn’t stay asleep any longer.

I woke up and only then did I realize I had been sleeping all that time.

The affair didn’t wake me up all the way, of course, or I wouldn’t’ve had it. It would’ve been too painful, and I would’ve seen the situation for what it was: that Cautionary Lover did not want to be with me. After I ended the affair and told Cautionary Husband about it, I’d go back to sleep for a few weeks again and then jerk myself awake again. Over time I’d catch myself before I fell asleep and would struggle to keep my eyes open like a child fighting sleep at bedtime. Only recently am I realizing how truly difficult it is– to be awake, alive, conscious, aware, and to stay that way. It can be painful, which is why, I suspect, I went to sleep in the first place. But the alternative isn’t really much of an alternative at all. Certain books I’ve read recently, Brave New World and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, have affirmed this.

A good friend of mine asked me on Saturday how long I think I’ve been consistently awake now. It’s hard to say, but I know it’s been about a month or so. When I made the decision to move back in with CH, I realized that I couldn’t force myself to do it–I was too afraid that I would go back to sleep, indefinitely this time. I took this to mean we should get a divorce, and I told him as much a week ago. But then something incredible happened–he seemed to wake up also with the painful shock of facing a divorce, and last Wednesday we had what felt like our first honest, authentic conversation ever.

I’m beginning to understand that perhaps CL and I can’t be together for a reason. Perhaps he was supposed to wake me up because it was always through romantic love that I felt the most awake. And, if I were with him, it would be easy for me to expect him to keep me awake. But maybe I’m supposed to learn how to keep myself awake. Or maybe CH and I are supposed to learn it from each other.

To this end, I decided to get a tattoo to remind me to never, ever, under any circumstances, let myself go to sleep again.

lotus

It’s a lotus flower. According to wikpedia, “Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. The growth of its pure beauty from the mud of its origin holds a benign spiritual promise.”

God, there has been a lot of mud in my life, especially lately. When I read Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood in May, I was furious that she awoke so effortlessly, at such a young age, and managed to maintain her consciousness. Why couldn’t I do that? Why couldn’t it be that way for me? But I acknowledge that out of all of this mud has grown something of incredible, unblemished beauty. Just this past week I read Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, which I quoted at the top of this entry, in which the author says he didn’t wake up until much, much later in his life, after a traumatic car accident. I suppose people just wake up when they’re ready, and I’m later than some and earlier than others. Maybe earlier than most, who knows.

But I do know that I will not be going back to sleep.

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Though I’m not yet gone, I’m still not here.

After making love for the last time on the last day, we were sitting on the bed, naked, our legs intertwined, our arms around each other. My left cheek was on his left shoulder. My breath was slowing. My hair was on my face. My eyes were closed.

As the orgasmic euphoria wore off, I realized that he was going to leave me. He was going to pull himself from my arms. He was going to put on his clothes. He was going to bring me mine. He was going to hug me and kiss me and say goodbye to me. And the next day he was going to get in his car and drive back home. To his children. To his wife. To his life, which he had decided to go on living apart from me.

I had just given him all of me, and now he was leaving me.

My breath caught in my throat with the pain of this realization. My shoulders shook, and I began to sob.  And with every sob, I gave even more of myself away to him. More of my inner life that no one had before seen was his. I hated him for this, and I loved him for this. I hated myself for giving it to him, and I loved myself for giving it to him.

Neither of us spoke. There was no need. He tried to pull away, but I said, “No,” and clung more tightly to him. I watched my tears get tangled in his chest hairs.

When the worst of it was over, he lay back, and I settled in beside him, my left arm draped over his stomach. I rested my right cheek on his chest and timed my breaths with his.

He said, “Usually, when my daughters cry, when they hurt themselves or feel scared, I tell them, ‘Oh, it’s not as bad as all that.'”

I looked up at him.

He continued, “But this really is as bad as all that.”

I agreed that it really was.

And then he really did leave.

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Five (Six) (Seven) Books That Changed Things for Me

I totally stole this post idea from Mighty Girl. In commenting on her post yesterday, I found myself thinking that I should share this list with all my readers too.  Plus, here I get to add explanations on what things exactly these books changed for me.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

This book had been on my book list since 2004 or so, but I bought it and read it completely coincidentally last September.  I say “coincidentally” because this book centers around the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks without being, I dunno, overtly racist or patriotic or political.  It’s the fictional tale of a boy whose father died in the World Trade Center, and it artfully intertwines the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima in its narrative, examining the weighty concepts of love and war through a child’s eyes.  Stream-of-consciousness usually drives me crazy, but it works here, since the narrator is a child.  This book changed the way I write.  It broke my heart, over and over, with every page, and it taught me what true vulnerability is, not only in writing, but also in reading.  And in living.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

In my comment on Mighty Girl’s post, I actually listed Traveling Mercies instead of Bird by Bird, and both have changed things for me, but in very different ways.  It’s difficult to say which one has played a more significant role in my life, since these are both books that I read over and over for different reasons.  I read TM when I need to be fed spiritually, when I need to be reminded of what a truly authentic faith is, and I read BBB when I need to be reminded that I can actually be a writer if I want to, and how to go about that.  I highly recommend both to everyone.  But BBB edges TM out slightly because it is the book that made me finally admit to myself that, yes, I want to be a writer, and, yes, I can make that happen if I want to.  And that’s changed everything for me.

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

I read FAZ for the first time in college, and I’ve since read it several times.  It’s a very quick read, but it has so much incredible insight packed in so few pages.  In short, this book taught me that I’m serving God by doing exactly what I was created to do, even if I’m not overtly serving God by being a missionary or working for a church.  It’s given me the courage I need to be the fullest expression of myself, to lead the life I was created to live, rather than someone else’s preconceived notions of how a Christian should live (something I obviously struggle with a lot).

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Although these are two very different books, I think they actually have very similar themes.  I just finished reading BNW for the second time, and I read LCL a few months ago for the first time.  Both of these novels examine what a life unconsciously lived looks like.  LCL’s Connie Chatterley is oppressed by societal expectations and the responsibilities that come with being a Lady, and BNW’s Bernard Marx and Lenina Crowne are oppressed by a supposedly Utopian society, where fake “happiness,” induced through conditioning and consistent medication, is the ultimate goal.  Both describe what happens when one decides to break free of these oppressions and live an authentic life.  And both of these novels changed the way I view my life and my purpose for existence.

Key passage from BNW:

“It was the sort of idea that might easily decondition the more unsettled minds among the higher castes–make them lose their faith in happiness as the Sovereign Good and take to believing, instead, that the goal was somewhere beyond, somewhere outside the present human sphere; that the purpose of life was not the maintenance of well-being, but some intensification and refining of consciousness, some enlargement of knowledge.”

Key passage from LCL (specifically, Lawrence’s essay “A Propos of Lady Chatterley’s Lover“):

“Never was an age more sentimental, more devoid of real feeling, more exaggerated in false feeling, than our own. Sentimentality and counterfeit feeling have become a sort of game, everybody trying to outdo his neighbour. The radio and the film are more counterfeit emotion all the time, the current press and literature the same. People wallow in emotion: counterfeit emotion. They lap it up: they live in it and on it. They ooze with it.

And at times, they seem to get on very well with it all. And then, more and more, they break down. They go to pieces. You can fool yourself for a long time about your own feelings. But not forever. The body itself hits back at you, and hits back remorselessly, in the end.

As for other people–you can fool most people all the time, and all people most of the time, but not all people all the time, with false feelings. A young couple fall in counterfeit love, and fool themselves and each other completely. But alas, counterfeit love is good cake but bad bread. It produces a fearful emotional indigestion. Then you get a modern marriage, and a still more modern separation.”

Love Without Conditions by Paul Ferrini

Cautionary Therapist lent me this book about a year ago, and I had no idea at the time I read it that it would impact my worldview the way it has.  But it’s stuck with me, and these concepts have come to mind again and again over the last year.  It taught me that each of us deserves love regardless of our behavior, what we do, right or wrong.  And that people will come into our lives who love us.  Sometimes they can stay forever, but, most often, they can’t stay for as long as we’d like them to, and the way we can best love them is by letting them go.  The way we can each live the life we were created to live is by doing the three things Jesus told us to do: love God, love ourselves, and love others.  And leave the rest up to him.

What books have changed things for you?

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It’s been hard to be strong with all of this goin’ on.

So. It’s been over a week since I’ve updated.

And, let’s be honest, that one didn’t really count, anyway.

I’ve considered never blogging again.

But here I am, writing aimlessly, though I’m not sure why.

Lots to say, but no energy with which to say it.

Don’t take it personally; I’ve also been avoiding my mother.

Really, I’m sick of explaining myself.

Feeling like I have to defend my choices.

Of trying to stick with decisions I’ve made even though they’re not what I want just because I’ve blogged about them.

And coming off as indecisive and flaky.

Of never writing the full truth, even here, on my password-protected anonymous blog.

I need more people in my life who tell me they support me no matter what.

Some of you do this, and I am grateful for it.

But others will be disappointed if I choose a life different from the one they’ve decided I should choose.

And I’m not ready to explain myself to those people yet.

Except to say that I  believe it’s possible for me to doff my “Cautionary” modifier without staying married.

And just be a girl again.

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If you need a recommendation, I’ve got one.

Tonight I’m writing a check for all of Cautionary Husband’s individual counseling sessions, my individual counseling sessions, and our couples counseling sessions since last November. $930.00 total.

Y’all, it was worth every penny.

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He said yes.

Y’all.  Thanks for the support.  You guys are just wonderful.

I’m so fucking scared.

Big changes ahead.  I’ll be moving in with Cautionary Husband as soon as I can figure out the terms of my lease agreement, which ends officially on the fifteenth of this month.  We’re hiring movers this time.  Praise be.  There was no effing way I was going to move in 105-degree weather.

Then I’ll be making some big career changes.  It’s become clear that in order to be the kind of wife I want to be to Cautionary Husband, to be the kind of person I want to be period, I need to find fulfillment within myself.  “Fulfillment” for me involves writing more than just a couple rambling paragraphs a few times a week, maybe trying to publish a little, and taking some French and GRE courses with the aim of entering a linguistics grad program in the fall of 2010.  And all of this involves me quitting my current job in the next couple of months.

So scared.  I’m scared not to be financially independent.  I’m scared to give up my apartment, my easy out.  I’m scared that CH and I won’t be able to find the kind of intimacy we need to have to make our marriage work.  I’m scared that I’ll be too scared to leave if we don’t find a way to make it work.  How’s that?  Scared to be scared.  Metascared.

But, in spite of all the fear, I know that this is good.

And I’m very, very excited about the future.  Our future.

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