Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Brownie Bath

"If ONLY this sink was a bubble bath...of vodka."
image courtesy of thegooddrswife

My Mom called me this afternoon on my walk home from school- a walk that was done in a literal and figurative black cloud.

"How was your day Melly?" she asked sweetly.

"Well. I peed on my scarf."

"Oh. So, bad then? One time I peed all over my underwear by accident and had to rip them off my body!" She then chirped: "You can even put that on your blog, if you'd like."

My day got marginally better after that.

The day, in truth, wasn't spectacular but it wasn't especially difficult either. I could not pinpoint the lingering feeling of listlessness that nestled in my gut like really bad deli food. (But I'll keep coming back EZ deli. I love you.) I tried to shake it, but couldn't. It was unfamiliar and haunting and I'd like to thank its bony fingers for steering me home toward brownies and not, as originally planned, to the gym. One hour after my pee conversation with my mother I sat in the bath, brownie and New Yorker in hand, and stewed.

Not figuratively.

I think people are afraid to make friends with their different moods and entertain them in a bubble bath. I mean, seriously. Think about the last time you were sad, or angry, or felt hopeless...you tried to shake it off, right? (like I had done earlier, but no pee jokes could pry me from this stranger's clutches.) We are trained to Pollyanna-ize our lives. (I made up that word! I'm a genius! And if you don't get the pop culture reference...I'm old!) We are taught it is bad to entertain feelings that are anything shy of complete rapture. Don't worry, be happy! Smile! Don't have a pity party!

Well, I had a pity party. I even invited it. I would have made monogrammed invitations to it if I could:
"Miserable afternoon musings. Please bring bubble bath clothes, chocolate, and OBVIOUSLY wine. RSVP now."

I entertained this bad mood and sat with it until my toes began to wrinkle and my brownie crumbled in the water and I had read the entire New Yorker....'s cartoon section.

I tried to get comfortable with my feelings instead of shoving them down deep inside. I'm tired of doing that. It's not being gentle to me, and by extension it is not being gentle to the people in my life. This was me putting on my big girl pants and dealing with whatever my hormones and my life were throwing my way. Except I wasn't wearing pants. I told you I was in the bath.

SO, the big reveal once I sat with my weird self for an hour or so was that I am completely lonely. I'm sad, I'm in the valley of this "wife experiment", I'm hearing so much noise from so many different people about 'how I should be handling this separation," and it caused me to bend a little bit today. Not break, bend.

And I made friends with that loneliness. And we sat there, split a brownie, (or I ate the whole thing very quickly,) and we got to know one another. And once he felt like I could come to terms with him, and even embrace him momentarily...he left.

And hope and happiness took his place.

So, it was a good day. Yes, I peed on my scarf, but now it seems funny and not so disgustingly tragic. (How does one pee on a scarf? That is around one's neck? I wish I could tell you, but I just...don't know.) What I do know is that, once and awhile, it is okay to settle in to your feelings and honor them for what they are, at that moment, for a little while. (Unless you are feeling homicidal...and if you are, you should maybe read a different blog.)

We should present this life with our very best side, but how can we ever know and embrace that side fully without making friends with all of the other parts of us? In order for me to love me completely, I have to love all aspects. The serious side. The angry side. The beer-drinking-through-a-straw-contest-winner-in-Mexico side. They are all there. They are all me.

And I'm happy with me, again.

Who can't be happy after a brownie bath?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I'm blind...but...Pretty? No. Just blind.

image from lifeatthebecks.blogspot.com

Today I ate lunch in a courtyard at school. It was a healthy lunch- all organic, lots of fruits and veggies, all 4 food groups recognized equally. I nibbled on it while drinking a 5 dollar coffee and wearing a really expensive designer wool coat to keep out the 66 degree chill of the day. While doing this I was also feeling very, very sorry for myself.

I had gotten an unsettling email that morning from a family member and I was letting it seep its poison into every action of my existence. Maybe this explains why I maintained this foul mood while eating my lunch as a homeless man rummaged for left over food next to me. I hate to admit that I was so wrapped up in my own agenda that I didn't even notice him.

And then the blind girl walked by.

She made me notice everything, mainly because she didn't notice anything. I watched her for, (I'm cringing admitting this,) about 20 minutes as she obviously searched for something. I thought about stepping up and asking if she needed help, but I don't know the rules about this sort of thing. Are you supposed to? She had a seeing eye dog. I smelled like ham. Should I go up and ask if she needed help? I smelled like ham. I just ate ham. Don't dogs love ham? Maybe I shouldn't say anything. Her stick swung close to me as she traversed this uncharted path and I actually shrank back.

Yeah. I'm ashamed of myself too.

Luckily, a good Samaritan, (A.K.A. anyone but me) stepped in and asked if they could help her find something.


Let's just say my next meal was humble pie.

I'd like to think that this lesson was absorbed and carried throughout my day. I'd like to tell you that I went home and paid particular attention to those less fortunate and put the kibosh on my pity party.

Let me tell you what happened instead.

I went home and continued to pout, blind girl gone from my inner vision. (No pun intended. Ok, maybe. But only because it works.) I went home to my beautiful, warm apartment and opened up my nice computer and found an e-mail from a friend who is actually going through kidney failure.

As I was writing him a reply I got a text from my personal trainer, (a.k.a Satan. Or Venus Williams,) who asked if I ever intended on showing up for my (paid! because I am very lucky to afford it!) training session. And I groaned. And then I actually whined aloud to myself: "God. My life sucks."


Granted, my trainer is a sadistic psycho and makes me do inhumane things to keep my body in the impeccable shape it is in, (that was sarcasm folks,) and granted, my husband lives 374982374984 miles away and I make out more with my toothbrush than him...but who...exactly...do I think I am?

A blind girl searched for a trash can with a smile on her face the entire time I sat near her munching ham and worrying about what my family thought of me. I was able to go to the gym and work out while my friend has bigger things to worry about...like his KIDNEY for Christ sake. How do I eat an expensive lunch in the presence of a man who is digging through garbage?

When did I feel so entitled and so self centered?

When did I lose sight of what really matters in life?

A friend came over later for cheese. (Cheese was literally the main course.) And we talked about our lives, our frustrations, our loves, our dreams. And I remembered to savor every second of it because I was freshly showered, healthy, alive, well, with a beating, (albeit selfish,) heart.

Yes. Brett lives far away. YES, I devoted a whole blog to how I feel about it. I am often selfish, I often lose sight of what really matters and how lucky I am.

The next time someone appears a little bit lost around me, I'm going to offer my limited view to help. Because God knows I am lost so much myself.

And it would be lovely to have someone look up from their ham...and help a blind girl (like me,) out.

We only get this go around once, folks. Let's make it beautiful.

And not just for ourselves.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


image courtesy of flippflopp.nu

"You're a really good writer." My mom said to me on the phone today. I paused from the weight of that compliment and smiled into the phone.

"Thanks, mom...that means so much to me."

"It's true." She said emphatically. "I mean, you could write those fortunes in those Chinese cookies."


Tonight I was thinking about compliments. And about the fact that now that I live husband-less, I'm not exactly raking them in on a daily basis. I've turned into that girl that is so entranced when a compliment slips her way that she tries to cling on to it like a slippery anchovy. And anchovies are small, so picture that. While clinging to my anchovy compliment, I am also, at the same time, repulsed by it. It's an anchovy after all. Gross. So, when a compliment comes my way this is how I usually react:

A real live conversation with a friend today over lunch.

Sweet friend: "Melissa! I've never noticed that you have freckles on your face! They are so cute!"

Me, weirdly hopeful. My anchovy has slipped my way!: "Really? That is so nice of you to say!"

Sweet friend: "Really! I would die for freckles!"

Me, now being weird and acting like a total anchovy-fearing maniac: "Oh God. I forgot I'm not wearing make-up! Gross. Don't look at me."

I am, in short, troubled.

I'm not trying to say that we all need constant verbal validation, but I am trying to say we live in a society where compliments are looked down on and doling them out (or wanting them,) is considered gauche. The other day I complimented a friend and she turned to me with wide eyes and told me that I was the only friend she had that actually complimented her. THAT IS INSANE TO ME BECAUSE SHE HAS LONG ANGEL HAIR AND PEOPLE SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT IT ALL OF THE TIME. But she's also smart. A businesswoman. (she does this: www.lightsplash.com) And she fences. I mean, c'mon people.

Compliments should take on other forms as well. I love when Brett tells me that I make a good point, or that I was right about putting stuffing into sandwiches, or the book I recommended was the best book in all of the land. These verbal affirmations are treasured. They make me feel proud and happy and softer towards everyone around me. Compliments catch on. My cashier today told he liked my choice in pasta, (and then he also hit on me, but that is beside the point,) and then I later found myself smiling creepily at the crossing guard, telling her that she was doing a great job. Not that she cared. OR MAYBE SHE DID.

I once babysat for this little girl and before my first shift the mother pulled me aside and told me that they didn't "do" compliments in their house. "We find it will encourage her to only find worth based on verbal cues. So, if anything, tell her that she is good at math."

I'm not joking.

Later that evening the little girl toddled over to me in a princess costume and fur snow boots wearing rubber kitchen gloves. She shyly twirled for me, and I exclaimed: "You look so...good at math." It killed me. I wanted to tell her she was clever, and very good at putting a look together, and unique, and yes, adorable. To me, there was nothing wrong with that affirmation. There was nothing wrong with reminding a little girl that she was beautiful inside and out.

We don't have to run around and tell each other how gorgeous we all are all of the time, but we should slip in little verbal love notes whenever we can. I miss Brett remarking about my amazing "faerie hair" when I first wake up. I miss telling him that I love the way he does a food dance whenever he is eating something he really likes. These are the little pieces of life, little moments only for me that I will carry around for the rest of my days.

And one day I hope to look at my daughter and applaud her for her individuality and amazing fashion sense. And her incredible skill at math.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Holy Crap I've Been Gone For 75 Years.

"They do THAT now?! There is SO MUCH I am missing out on in life! I always thought mayonnaise was a sandwich


Brett's back in Pittsburgh. After a month of being here with me. SO NATURALLY the afternoon he left I was back in my original-Brett-is-gone state. Which meant I was on the couch working my way through a bag of stale white chocolate and catching up on 'The United States of Tara.' I guess you could say I was coping with our situation in a healthy manner.

Or you could not say that.

You could say the opposite, really.

I started classes on Tuesday and showed up to class sweaty, frantic, confused, and a little bit depressed. A friend noticed my frothy state and offered to escort me to my next class. Maybe it was because I had written my schedule down on the back of an old banking slip from 2007, but whatever it was he sweetly left class with me, made sure I was caffinated, and then started the walk with me to my next location. As we roamed the campus I made the casual remark that I had never been to this part of the grounds before. It dawned on me then that I had lived in a pretty tight circle and always took classes in the same buildings. This new class ON MARS APPARENTLY was causing me a lot of anxiety. He stopped in his tracks and looked at me.

"You mean to say that you have never been on this side of campus before?"

I was hot and cranky and wanting a shower and a burrito and I might have snapped at him. "Yes. That is what I am saying. Now, where are we? Where is this stupid class of mine?"

He just flipped his gaze over me before literally spinning on his heel and plowing forward. I panted behind like a fat little puppy.

"WHERE ARE WE GOING?" I practically barked at his back (again with the fat puppy comparison.)

"You'll see." He replied, and then took in the glory of my sweaty companionship with an exasperated eye. "Just wait."

Seconds later found us in this cool, lovely, enchanted-forest looking place that was drenched in dappled sunlight and overgrown threads of branches that stretched out against the blue sky. The scent of pine, a scent I literally ache for as a New England girl, was thick in the air. And, in the middle of it all was a simple bench.

"Let's sit." He said.

I couldn't believe this perfect spot was right on campus- a place I spend so much of my waking hours. I couldn't believe how close it was to my normal walk: a triangle path that I carved my first week at Berkeley and followed every day. I tried to swallow this as I sat next to my friend, breathing in the amazing pine and feeling so utterly alone in the best possible way. Like I was the only person that existed...the city was far behind me...and I was the only heart beating for miles.

Except my friend's heart, or course. And the heart of the crazy fucking squirrel that watched us the whole time on the bench and eventually charged us, prompting our quick, messy, and terrified exit from nirvana.

As we fled from the rabid (probably) squirrel, that moment of new experience made me start to tap into all of the things I have never done or experienced. I turned to my friend and blurted out: "I've never had a Bloody Mary!"

He looked at me, confused. "Well...that's unfortunate."

"I've never had Guinness, either."

"Are you saying you want a drink?"


And then we talked about Jurassic Park.


This brief little moment in my day had shown me how safe I play this game of life and how very, very much I am missing out on. I'm NOT saying I need to do ecstasy at Burning Man or jump out of a plane or eat Paula Deen's cooking. I just need to...explore a little bit. Knock down that third wall and see what's behind it. It doesn't have to be extravagant or mind blowing- it can simply be a walk in the woods.

So, what is on my exploration list? Well...I'd like to start small. Try new restaurants in Berkeley. Go for a hike somewhere completely unknown. Take a dance class. Go to a poetry reading. Maybe sing in public at open mic and NOT WHEN I AM TOTALLY DRUNK AND TRYING TO SING ALL JOURNEY SONGS.

And then I will branch out. Learn how to sail. Make my own pasta. Write a book. Have a kid or something. Learn how to speak a language that makes me sound really cute when I speak it. Adopt? Garden. Grow. Learn. Laugh. Live.

And then maybe eat some Paula Deen cooking. As a celebration, you know. That woman knows her way around a jar of mayonnaise.

In all seriousness- I hope you all live. Because I certainly intend to.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sensible heels.


Brett leaves in 6 days, so we've been trying to savor our "healthy" California time as much as possible. By "healthy" California time I mean time spent together where I am not slightly intoxicated with his cousins while doing the worm at 2am in a beach house while Brett sleeps peacefully upstairs.

Maybe I should explain.

We went away this past weekend for a peaceful family reunion on the shore. Seafood, cold white wine, warm family conversations by the fire...it was great. But not conducive to important-husband-wife bonding. Especially because (it has been said,) Brett is a pretty low key, quiet, normal individual and I am...not. I get a little rowdy. I sneak a beer up my coat sleeve during a family hike (which actually makes me pretty popular with the above 21 set, just saying,) I challenge cousins to scrabble tournaments, dance offs, sing offs, catwalk offs...I sort of become a little obnoxious and go to bed hours after Brett succumbs to healthy sleep at 9pm. We always end up having a good time, but not together. When you are in a house with 15 other people and there is an endless supply of wine and things covered in chocolate it is easy to not connect with your partner and actually not even see them for the duration of your stay. He took bike rides along the coast, I took walks with 6 dogs to the local dog-friendly distillery that also happened to be haunted. You make choices.

But my incredible execution of the worm is not a choice. It's a gift really. A gift that simply needs to be shared.

So, this morning as I was drinking coffee in bed and Brett was working (I swear I am not a lazy human being. I am on vacation, and I take that very seriously,) Brett asked me if I'd like to go to the city for the day. When we were dating, San Francisco was our playground. We went there for mini dates and vacations all of the time. Even though it was only 30 minutes away it felt like a place where we could be together that was separate from the world. I readily agreed. I felt like we needed something and this was it.

And then he laid a bomb on me.

"I thought we could finally shop for a suit for you...for interviews. The interviews you need to start applying to get."

Suddenly real life was in my face. And somehow turning in to bile in the back of my throat. And weirdly coiling up in a hot little ball in the pit of my stomach. I looked over at him and tried not to show any emotion. "Do I have to try them on? Or, touch them?"

He looked baffled. "I'm asking you to go shopping with me in the city to buy expensive things. And you don't want to go? Are you sick?"

One hour later found me in Nordstrom's in what I kept calling the "Adult Woman Department." Brett was noticeably exasperated. He finally marched up to a saleswoman and asked her to help us find a suit.

"My wife is soon going to be doing rounds of interviews and needs a few suits. Can you point us in the right direction?"

"Maybe we'll just look for ourselves!" I blurted out, sweating and nauseous and leaning against a very expensively-clad mannequin.

They both looked over at me in barely concealed concern before the sweet saleswoman pointed out a few suits to Brett while I nervously played with a blouse 7 feet away. "Your wife would look great in this cut," she cooed before turning to me. "Would you like to try it on?"

"Oh, no thanks." I tried to reply breezily, but still probably looking like I had mad cow disease. "Maybe next time." Thankfully Brett seemed to pick up on the fact that I was positively dying and politely excused us from formal wear. As he thanked the woman and steered me toward the escalator he nonchalantly asked if I was ready to look at shoes.

"WHY ARE YOU PRESSURING ME SO MUCH?!" I actually yelled.

He was obviously taken aback, but he kept his calm and let me wander around a book store until I had found a normal breathing pattern again. And then we sat down and I tried using my big girl words to match the big girl outfit I would soon own.

I told him it was a lot to take in and a lot of change looming on my horizon that I was not sure I was ready for. "I don't feel ready for that suit. I feel like it's taunting me in a way- reminding me of all of the things I'm not good at- all of the things I am failing in. I don't know how I am going to fill it."

He reminded me that these things come up in our life whether we are ready or not, and we just have to rise and meet them. And seeing him be so honest and patient with me made the real problem come out. "You wanted me to pick out a shoe." I practically cried. "A sensible heel." Maybe he didn't understand, but to me that was essentially a death sentence. 4 days ago I was showing Brett's 65 year old Aunt my Beyonce dance moves at 2am. A sensible heel was not on my mind. Or my radar.

But maybe it needs to be.

Then Brett did an amazing and lovely thing. He escorted me out of the mall. We stopped at the deli and bought wine. And then we came home, ate curry and drank wine, and worked on my resume. It was the exact marriage of spicy and smart. Adult and worm-dancing-girl, a realization that maybe...just maybe I could be it all.

Sure, he didn't let me put things on my resume that I really wanted. (Like, "invented facebook," and "best friends with those guys from google,") but he reminded me of the facts and let me put my own flair on them.

It was like the sensible heel...but in red.

Too often in life I feel like I need to commit to the one side of myself that I am comfortable with without letting the other sides out to breathe. Yes, I am the girl that is totally obnoxious and thinks she is the life of the party...but I can also slip on those red sensible heels and have one hell of a career. I think it's time to stop sweating the changes in life that are going to come whether I'm staring them down in Nordstrom's or not. No matter what happens I will grow, I will move forward, I will change and probably drive a Volvo and have 2.5 kids and be in the P.T.A and get upset with my neighbors for not mowing their lawn.

And I'll still do the worm at 2am...just not on a school night. And not in that expensive suit.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Away From The Tepee.

Tonight Brett and I sat across from each other at my favorite burger joint (read: any burger joint,) and ended up on the topic of my blog. After we had discussed the general quality of meat in Berkeley, the homeless epidemic, what charities we would donate to the upcoming year, and my fear of balding...it only seemed natural to end up on my blog and what to do with it going forward. I told him that it had been harder to write recently. We have been going through a really, really rough time and trying to put a positive spin on it was proving to be daunting. And, sometimes, you can't take a piece of crap and paint it pink and throw glitter on it...and not have people see that it is still a piece of crap.

Not saying our union is a piece of crap. But the situation sometimes is.

I feel like when I committed to this experiment, I really wanted to be authentic the whole way through. I wanted to document the lows: (me living on my couch in the dark covered in cheese dust the whole first month,) and the highs: (making friends, changing light bulbs without injury, learning to take showers without planning escape routes in case of burglary.) I did it for a while...and then things got real. And hard. And sharp and unnatural and scary. And I chose not to share all of that with the world and my 17 readers mainly made up of Brett's family. So, I blogged about my Mom and my problem with public urination.

Which was totally helpful.

Brett agreed tonight that it wasn't exactly wise to air our dirty laundry out on the Internet, but he encouraged my authenticity. "Sometimes...this is really hard." He told me. "But you owe it to yourself to put that out there. Someone always has it harder than you...and people need to know that it is ok...it is ok to go through a rough time...and not always know the answer. We don't always know what we're doing. And that is ok."

So we talked about the rough stuff. And then we went to the bar next door and ordered 4 different scotches and tried to sound fancy as we broke them down. ("This one is especially oaky...and burn-y. Like, my lungs are on fire. Ok, and now my stomach. Oh...yum?") And we listened to a jazz band and came home and had an intimate moment. And the intimate moment went like this:

Brett: " You got your period? Good. Because it has been really fun living with you."
Me: (probably a little sarcastic.) "You're a stud. I love you."
Brett: "Do you know in ancient Native American tradition..."
Me: "Brett."
Brett: "They thought periods meant the women were possessed with evil spirits...?"
Me: "Brett."
Brett: "And they would banish the women...?"
Me: Brett.
Brett: "And make them sit in a hole for a week or something...?"
Me: "Brett."
Brett: "....."
(whispered a moment later to himself:)
Brett: "I just really feel like they were on to something."

Perhaps they were. But since Berkeley is running shockingly low on period ditches, I will have to remain here...with him...for the time being. But I dug my ditch away from our tribe in a different way. I let him fall asleep in the tiny twin bed first, so I can crawl in later and not disturb him so he has the best possible head start on sleep. And I offered to take the couch shift at 1 am when we become tired of pushing one another on the floor in a sleepy battle for space.

Maybe we have some adjustments to make during this new phase of life, and maybe we don't always have the answers or know exactly how to proceed. Maybe it is easier to drink scotch and listen to jazz and tell stories from our dating days. Maybe...in a way...it is digging a ditch away from the tepee...but it works for us right now and it makes us feel secure and safe and it helps us remember who we are.

And maybe who we want to be.

Which for me, right now, is not an ovulating woman.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Husband Is Living With Me Again and I Don't Know What To Do.

Just kidding.

I do know what to do. Eat the food offerings he has made me on a daily, wonderful, culinary basis.

So, basically this living situation has made me gain a bed partner and about 5.7 pounds.

As you can probably tell from that very slick into, Brett is back in the Bay Area and we have been like a married couple trying to get to know one another again. And by "married couple" I mean a married couple that was set up in an arranged marriage at 4 and now is thrust upon each other at 16 and has no idea what to do. This means we take a lot of walks where we bump hands, we're shy about bathroom time and things like running out of toilet paper, and we're either intensely sweet to one another or extremely bratty. It's give and take. And always entertaining.

There are moments like today where I spent an exorbitant amount of time making Brett a sandwich. Usually my idea of sandwich making is slapping together meat and cheese and handing it to the lucky recipient between two slices of over mayonnaised bread. I just can't be bothered with the details of it all. With each added ingredient I grow more weary. Lettuce? Ugh. That means washing. A tomato? OH MY GOD. WASHING AND CUTTING. YOU WANT AN ONION NOW, TOO? I HATE YOU.

So, you see how nice and loving it was of me to spend more than 5 seconds in the kitchen constructing a sandwich that had about 6- yes, 6 toppings on top of it. When I proudly plopped it on the table in front of him (with some cut up apples as well,) he looked up at me warily and said: "Oh no. Oh no...what is going on? Oh My God. Are you ok?"

He was serious.

So, as a wife, I probably have work to do.

Brett is truly the chef in the family and I have happily claimed ignorance in the kitchen in order to be fed properly. In reality, I can actually cook a little. Like, I won't poison you or anything and I usually put enough butter into things so that you can interpret them as good. (When I originally wrote that last sentence, auto-correct changed "good" into "food" and I feel like that was hilariously more appropriate. Oh, word.) Anyway, the language that we have constructed in the echoing silence of our separation has been all food related. It's been our unique way of feeling one another out...rediscovering who we are...and trying to figure who we want to be.

I want to be someone who is more patient in life...who can spend more than 2 seconds putting together a sandwich. A person who can lose herself in the lulling moments of cutting, slicing, creating, constructing. A person maybe not so focused on the end result, but more on the journey.

When Brett cooked tonight, he seemed to relax more while I was opening 75 different wines and making him taste them all. He wasn't so regimented in the process. He relaxed in the moment, didn't think about tomorrow as he poured a good red into his glass, and served me the most perfect fillet of fish I have ever tasted.

Life is always and so often in the details. And these details we miss when we become wrapped up in our own ego and agendas and beliefs. Sometimes the purest form of love is slicing up a damn onion for the one you love.

It can be that simple.

At least sometimes.