Wow, I gave you guys a heck of a break there, didn’t I? It was really unfortunate timing, too, because I introduced to you the idea of there being a guy in my life, insisted I was going to continue with the Project anyway, and then quite suddenly I stopped blogging. I appear another unfortunate sacrifice to the Co-Dependency Gods. “She was all gung-ho about being more independent… until she didn’t have to be anymore.”
The truth is that my independence has been undermined, but not by any relationship. Well, not any relationship with a man, that is. Back in early September, when the school year started, my custody arrangement with my kids changed. I went from having them week on-week off, to having them all the time except every other weekend. My free-time to do not only my writing but my laundry, my dishes, even shaving my damn legs, has been cut down to nothing. When I DO have time off from them, I use it catching up with those poor cast aside souls that are unfortunate enough to call me their friend (“Do I know you? You look vaguely familiar. I think you used to answer my texts some ages ago?”). I’m in a constant state of running from work to hockey practice to the dishwasher and back to work and it is exhausting. If I do ever get those spare moments all alone, I haven’t the mental capacity to write. My life has wrung me dry of all inspiration.
But here I am, finally insistent on putting words to the page. They must be somewhat spare, and hurried, but at least they will exist.
October 1st I made my trek to Portland. It’s a four hour drive from where I live and I made it with no music. The purpose of this wasn’t just to do it alone, it was to learn to enjoy my own company. If I stuffed earbuds in it would be the equivalent of forcing your kid to go play outside, but then letting him take his Gameboy. Besides, at that point I had a lot on my plate, a lot on my mind, and I needed the time to let my thoughts meander through some sort of unconscious resolution process. It took about an hour before my brain turned off mindless chatter mode. You know, that squirrel-like internal conversation that only gets as deep as “I wonder if I turned off the stove, when I get back I need to remember to wash my work slacks, I wonder if I need to take the cat to the vet?” An irritating buzz of useless words. I forced some deep breaths, I steadied my mind on a point ahead on the road, and I focused on the nothing.
I remember distinctly the first thought that spilled out of my brain when I allowed it free reign again. It won’t surprise you at all. It was, “See how broken you are? You’re so fucked up you have to force yourself through painstaking effort to be even somewhat normal. You’re driving 4 hours, alone, just to accomplish something everyone else can do without even trying. The moment you let your guard down, you’ll be back to nothing again.” I remember tightening my grip on the steering wheel, grinding my teeth a little, and saying aloud with a sigh: “Awesome.” There’s just something about knowing you have 7 more hours of grueling self hatred ahead of you that makes you want to drive into oncoming traffic, yanno?
I left the house feeling empowered and hopeful, but by the time I reached Portland I had been knocked down a few pegs by my internal dialog. I was quiet as I rolled into town and found a place to park. Half my mind was laying quietly in the corner, fatigued from the struggle and beaten into submission. The other half stood tall, a sinister smile on its face, the smoke from its cigar covering my brain in a haze of sadness I couldn’t seem to escape.
I so much want to tell you that I walked the beautiful city, and that the second half of the game brought the underdog of my happiness back from defeat and that I stood triumphant upon my return home. I want to tell you that, but I can’t. I walked that beautiful city for about 4 hours on a cloudy day. I had some locally made ice cream, I had seafood pasta for lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, I had some VooDoo Donuts. What I didn’t have was an epiphany that I was a-okay just the way I am. The drive home was long and arduous and when I pulled into my driveway I felt no greater than when I had set out. I didn’t mourn the time alone, I never felt lonely, so in that way it was a victory. I just felt… like a fuck up.
How do I explain this? Let’s try it this way: When I was pregnant, I gained 60 pounds with each of my kids. I had hovered at a size 10 and about 140 pounds since I was 18, but I ballooned to a size 22, weighing about 210. When my youngest was 6 months old, I hit the gym and starting watching what I ate and exercised portion control and it took me about 9 months to get back down to 150 pounds (which is where I hovered until my break up with Ben in April). I lost 60 pounds in 9 months, which sounds amazing, and it IS amazing. I earned being healthy and attractive, and that’s great. But at about month 4, when I had lost roughly 30 lbs but was still 30 lbs overweight? I was getting there, but I was still fat. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw the progress, but I still saw something I didn’t like. I was still unhealthy. My trip to Portland felt like a reminder that while I’m making great progress, and I’ve come a long way, I’m still a fuck up. I have to fix something, because it’s broken. I’m broken.
Two weeks later – it was a completely different story. On October 15th I made my way to Seattle, to Century Link field, and watched the Seattle Sounders FC defeat the San Jose Earthquakes in goalie Kasey Keller’s last regular season football match. I arrived well ahead of the game time at Occidental Park to walk with the hundreds of other people to the field. I indulged in all sorts of free goodies, including t-shirts and arm bands. I won a gift certificate to the team store and got a t-shirt and jacket to go with my scarves. When I got to my seat (it was a great seat, only 3 rows back from the field, just one section down from the Brougham End), I asked someone to take my picture. They were happy to oblige but asked if I was alone and why. I can’t remember if I really told them why or if I gave them a line about my boyfriend dumping me. All I know is I got a beer out of it.
It was a record crowd that night. Almost 65,000 people made it to the field to watch Kasey make one astounding save after another, and to watch our boys come back from a sure defeat to a win in the last 20 minutes of the match. I credit Rosales. Drew Carey was there. I miss when he was fat.
Everyone was sucked into the excitement of the match. Screaming, jumping, chanting. I didn’t feel alone there, because I was just part of a collective voice that rang deafeningly through the stadium. I didn’t come with a date, but I felt for a little while like it was okay because I was a part of a whole.
I parked under the Alaskan Way viaduct, and if you know anything about Seattle then you know that place is creeptastic after dark. You might as well just wear a mug me sign if you’re going to be down there alone. I walked by a few bars, with people flooding in and out of their doors. Just before I would turn the corner to begin my trek under the viaduct, I stopped and spoke to 2 large, burly gentlemen waiting to get into one of them. They seemed jovial enough. They were smiling and seemed pretty harmless. I asked if they would be so kind as to walk me to my car. I admit I felt odd, but they agreed without skipping a beat. “Yah, absolutely!” they said and we began on our way. We exchanged names, where we were from, talked about how incredible the game had been, how glad we were to be a part of Kasey’s tribute. As we approached my car, I pointed it out from a distance and one of them said, “Oh, I’m glad we walked you down.” when they saw the creepy homeless guy camped out not 10 feet from it. They walked me right to the door and didn’t step foot away until I had buckled up and started the engine. I thanked them tremendously and was safely on my way.
A hardcore, independent feminist might see what I did as weakness. I’m not being independent, I’m still relying on a man, right? I disagree. Those men were resources, weapons if you will. It was a boulder that I was physically unable to move on my own. Those men were the stick, and the fulcrum; the tools I needed to get the job done considering my very real limitations. I didn’t need to be in a relationship to be safe, I just needed to be smart about it. Not being in a relationship, after all, doesn’t mean being entirely alone. We still have family, and friends. We still have support systems. I enjoyed being put in a situation in which I had to take what I was given – a single ticket to a football game – and turn it into fun night without that socially lubricating alcohol that is known as a date. I’m not Bear Grylls, dropped in the middle of nowhere with but a pair of hiking shoes and a penchant for eating grubs. I am similar though. I was dropped in the middle of an inherently social situation with but a green and blue scarf and a penchant for drawing people in – a gift of gab if you will.
There’s something to be said for the confidence it gives you to know you can take what you are given and make something great with it. The Italians call it “l’arte d’arrangiarsi”: the art of making something out of nothing. I’ll remember that I walked into that night with nothing, and from the nothing I made something worth remembering. That’s what the Project is about, right? Taking a life that can sometimes feel empty, and without that ingredient of “love”, making it full, making it substantial, making it a life that was worth living.
Two weeks after that game, Chris came to visit for the first time. After 10 days, he went back home. We are in love, definitely. However, he is still (for now) 5,000 miles away. The Project continues. I have more to post. I will return.