Is it the whimsical melody? Those lyrics? (If you don’t want me, baby, I’ll find another, another love) Is it the fact that this song, beloved since I discovered Alice Smith a year or so ago, now takes on a personal poignancy that I’d rather not elaborate on at this moment? Sigh. But I will elaborate in another post. Maybe tomorrow. Until then, enjoy Alice and her voice and this song.
Never mind that it’s November 1. I meant to post my final entry for Blogtober yesterday, but life. Let’s pretend it’s yesterday.
Thank you for supporting this year’s bloggery effort despite the 16-day wifi-related snafu that occurred in the middle. Thank you for everyone that liked a post, followed my little blog this month, left comments. Thank you for reading my travel-themed posts about a journey that I’m still thinking about and ruminating over.
Because he’s right, you know. Bourdain captured exactly what I felt during my two weeks away. (And really, for every time I’ve boarded a plane toward a new experience, a new adventure.) I experienced moments this past trip that no camera captured. Moments when I was so stressed out that I wanted to shed tears. Moments that had me scratching my head and poised to scratch out a few pair of eyes. There were times when I wanted to find a ticket and just go back home. Times when my mind and soul ached for the warmth of my comfort zone.
But you know what I’ll next say: all of it, the good, the bad, the weird, left those marks on my memory, my consciousness, and my body. And I’ll take them all. I’ll accept learning more about my myself. I’ll accept understanding that I have personal boundaries that not even I will cross. I’ll accept that when I travel again, some things will be done differently and some things will stay absolutely the same. Yeah, my heart was broken during this trip. But my heart also sang. So I regret nothing. Not a thing.
Here’s to the next adventure, the next Blogtober, and everything in between.
When your Square Peg was a precocious tween, I used to walk around the house with a book on my head like the photo to your left. But it had nothing to do with posture. It was just the excitement of getting from one side of the room to the other without dropping the thing while my siblings cheered me on. In other words, posture? What?
I’ve been slouching since I woke up one morning and finally understood why my mom had banned me from wearing my beloved All This and Brains Too t-shirt. (The “This” part was incurring the kind of attention no mother wanted for her 11 year-old daughter. Yep, you get it.) It was almost immediate: I began to hunch over like some kind of creature. Some of it was the literal pressure on my back, some of it was the emotional confusion that came with development, some of it was the desire to hide what was suddenly the only thing people seemed to notice about me. By the time I reached college, I was basically Quasi Modo. And now? Well, I wish I could tell you that your Square Peg sits straighter, walks straighter, and no longer slouches. All lies. Those would be lies.
I have the worst posture. It doesn’t help that I sit in front of a computer all day, that sometimes I lean forward to even see the screen because I’m apparently 85 and can see nothing, that I contort my body in the kind of horrible ways that would make an aerialist from Cirque de Soleil shake her head pitiably. Throw in the fact that I was in a car accident some years ago and you have someone who does not sit or stand well.
So the other day, my mother saw me standing in kitchen, my neck in its typical hunched over position, and nearly screamed.
Ma: Why are you standing like that?
Me: Like what?
Ma: Like that. It makes you look sickly, especially with your weight loss. You look frail. Straighten up.
Of course, I knew I didn’t look frail (the absence of rice from my life has convinced my African mother that I’ve become sort sort of 80-pound weakling; we’ll discuss that in another post), but I looked at myself in the mirror and certainly agreed that my stance was terrible. And yes, with the weight loss, I did take on a kind of starving imp from Les Misérables quality. It’s surreal, isn’t it? You recognize things about yourself, you know yourself, but to turn towards a mirror and really look at these things is an entirely different animal. After all these years of telling myself to straighten up, it was kind of interesting to see the need to do so before my own eyes.
Won’t happen overnight; I’ve slouched and de-slouched about five times while writing this post. We’ll get there, though. Confidence isn’t necessarily in the shape of your back, but it helps. Onwards!
In 2001, I had a nervous breakdown. No need to sugarcoat it. I lost it. I was 22 years old, a receiver of news that changed my entire life–I couldn’t breathe. I was wild-eyed and crazed. All that said, while sitting placidly at work one day, I went on a travel site and booked a 4-day trip to San Diego. Just like that. I chose San Diego simply because I’d always wanted to go to CA as an adult (we went to San Francisco and San Jose when I was a kid) and had no desire to go to LA. I had heard lovely things about San Diego, so it seemed like the place to go.
My parents were naturally shocked and incensed that I was about to travel to a place I’d never been, unaccompanied and alone, while in the midst of a mental meltdown. But what could they do? Their eldest child was a determined one, even when trapped in such a dark place. Plus I was drowning. Deep down, I think my parents knew that if I didn’t escape, even for a mere four days, I would be consumed. A good friend drove me to the airport; I got on the plane; slept the whole way; and finally arrived in the most beautiful place I had ever seen.
I’ll tell you something: the sky in San Diego looks like a blue Fabergé egg. It just does. It’s like every combination of blue you can imagine, that sky, from powder blue to cerulean. I spent many days looking up at that sky.
I took a trolley tour and explored this lovely city.
I asked strangers to take my photo (pre-selfie days.)
I went to La Jolla and died from how incredibly magnificent it was.
I walked with myself. Down sidewalks, in the mall, on the beach.
I went to Hotel del Coronado and marveled.
I stuck my toes into the Pacific Ocean.
It’s amazing how being in a place can re-wire your mind. Maybe it was the sky, the temperate breeze, being one with my myself, deep in prayer–whatever it was, San Diego saved my life. It just did. A few years later, I went back on my second solo trip to SD, although I was far less tortured than I was the first time in the city.
But that first trip. Indescribable.
I’m of the mind that every woman should travel alone, at least once. Not necessarily to ease the suffering of a mental breakdown, but to just be alone with herself. You learn a lot.
First, hi. Second, yep, it’s been several weeks. Third, yep, we’re in an entirely different year than we were in my last post. Hope you’re loving 2015 so far. Me? I’m trying to make it through the day without passing out within inches of my co-workers.
During the past week, I was felled by a vicious attack of the Influenza Monster (IM). Perhaps this was the IM’s revenge for the several years I refused to allow a portion of it to be injected into my bloodstream? I don’t know. Perhaps it heard me talking to friend after friend about how powerful it supposedly was this winter and decided to force me to speak from experience?
Don’t know. Punishment for my devil-may-care lifestyle where I don’t wash my hands 100 times a day and/or pour Purel all over myself and still hug my friends? Who knows. The point is that it was hardcore, you people. It was hardcore. My entire body ached. Even my eyeballs hurt. I learned what a cougheeze™ is, which is when your body produces a violent cough and a violent sneeze all at the same time. Unrelenting and painful. (Shout out to my mom for her enduring patience and taking care of This Square Peg.) The IM basically stole my essence. Now, as I sit before this computer, I have the energy of an orange. Not the healthy part of an orange, but let’s say an orange had to go to the grocery store and go shopping. Well, that would be me: just completely unable. I have little to no energy. Yesterday while waiting for the train to take me home, I nearly fell to the ground voluntarily, just to get off my feet. Sigh. Hoping to be back to the “100 percent” of my former self, which is still an orange, but perhaps an orange who isn’t walking through the hallways at the OK Corral as if she’s 75 years old.
May 2015 find you IM free, wherever you are. I also hope that all your dreams come true and you get to meet Lupita Nyong’o. Oh, wait. That’s me.
I wrote the following essay last year and submitted it to HelloGiggles. Wasn’t published, but such is life. I’m proud of it all the same. Check it out below. Feel free to let me know what you think.
The Value of Tough, Ouch-y Love
Deep down, I knew it was coming.
As I informed the bestie that my latest crush’s peripheral staring of me was indisputable proof that he shared my feelings—because we all want a declaration of mutual interest by way of side-eye—I recognized the palpable silence on the other end of the phone. Why was this silence so telling? Wasn’t she just listening, waiting for me to finish? No. Our conversations are mostly endless gab and laugh fests, where silence rarely comes in. If she is quiet, it usually means (1) she’s watching the latest antics of the Kardashians and held rapt by Kris Jenner’s, uh, mothering skills, or (2) she doesn’t buy a word of what I’m saying. Since she was in the car and Kardashian-free, it was obviously the latter. Not surprisingly, upon finishing my diatribe, the bestie proceeded to very firmly tell me that I was not in my right mind.
But this brief missive isn’t completely about the fact that in the end, I realized she was right. Peripheral staring by the crush (which happened, like, two times, to be honest) and the other non-events in my little infatuation dance with him were basically meaningless and not indicative of anything. Overall, we’re discussing the benefits of about tough love, folks. The truth is, we all need an emotional shakedown every now and again from a bestie/mom/sister/brother/crazy aunt who has your best interests at heart. If you should get a dose of tough love and you feel a bit bruised and/or ready to never speak to that person in your life again, here are a few things to consider:
1. Some of your favorite films are about tough love. Think about every rom-com you’ve loved and have secretly watched more times than you’d care to admit. Right before the epiphany, before the protagonist is running through the airport and breezing by security to declare his/her feelings to his/her true love, there’s always a good friend (or a neat musical montage) to straighten them out and tell them what we viewers have known all along and the protagonist is denying: it’s love, dummy.
However, a notable mention is My Best Friend’s Wedding, a film that, at its core, is about tough love: the efforts of George (Rupert Everett) to convince his friend Jules (Julia Roberts) that her plan to get Michael (Dermot Mulroney) back is useless. To me, tough love was captured in one heartbreakingly real exchange. Feel free to read and weep, or I’ll just weep, and you read:
George: Michael’s chasing Kimmy?
George: You’re chasing Michael?
George: Who’s chasing you? Nobody, get it?
Weeping? Or just me?
2. It’s very easy to only focus on the “tough” part. How can we not? It hurts. And when something hurts, it’s very easy to focus on the person administering the pain. But it’s not called tough I-couldn’t-care-less. It’s tough love. My bestie very plainly informed me to move on. She was unflinching and not really that sympathetic. But she also concluded by saying, “I do love you and want someone to see you for your amazing wit, creativity, and intelligence. Oh and beautiful eyes and lips!” (Word for word. I saved that text message and will never delete it.) Underneath the tough was her wish for me to realize that when The One comes, the Real One, I will know. So after the sting, the love part comes and you’re all warm and fuzzy and saving awesome text messages from your very best friend in the world. Seriously!
3. Tough love, like time, waits for no one. Think about it: eventually, we figure things out in life. That guy is no good for me; I should stop eating sushi because I really am allergic; changing my major three or four times is not cool in my junior year. With time, we get it. But tough love gets you there faster. Best to slap that sashimi out of your hands now instead of racing you to the ER later, right? In other words, experience can be a teacher, yes, but tough love is like the college advisor who will quickly tell you to grow up and stop avoiding the Math credit already. (True story.) Most of our perceptive loved ones and friends would rather us avoid the inevitable and/or frightening outcome of some of the endless and questionable paths we choose to take, and that’s where the snap-out-it-will-you comes in. Experience doesn’t always have to be a teacher. We need it, believe me.
In the end, I’m thankful for my bestie’s intervention and I told her as much. You know the saying: when one dose of tough love is given and applied, two karaoke bars are saved from weepy, alcohol-soaked performances of Taylor Swift’s Trouble. You’re welcome, future audiences.
Oh, George. (Rupert Everett, My Best Friend’s Wedding)
Photo Credit: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/george%20downes
From my early twenties till the end of that interesting decade, I wore a girdle almost every day. The main reason why: I didn’t (and don’t) have a flat stomach. That said, I felt an almost compulsive need to contain it, smooth it out, hide it, etc. I was ashamed of my fleshy, weird -looking stomach and wanted to change that. Certainly not the belly love I heartily enjoy these days. So I purchased a girdle one day and began my intriguing journey with that particular undergarment. What can I say? In the beginning, it was nice looking in the mirror and seeing that smooth mid-section. Sure, at the end of the day, I had indentations in my skin, but did that really matter? Not really. I was content. Things came to a head when I went on a trip to Savannah, GA, with some friends and my brother. One morning, I was convinced that the Spanx I wore underneath my outfit was slowly killing me. I couldn’t breathe. I had to hold on to my friend for support as the girdle steadily attempted to steal my oxygen. It was squeezing the life out of me. At the end of the day, I pulled that mess off and stared at it with all the contempt I could muster. The beginning of the end.
By 30, I was done with my stretchy master. Can I just say that everything changed in my life at 30? Everything. What I wanted for myself, how I felt about myself, everything. Swimming in a Decade of Epiphanies. It’s kind of indescribable. Anyway, short of throwing on some stretchy shorts underneath my bridesmaids gown for cousin’s lovely wedding last year, I stay away from anything resembling shapewear. I want my belly to breathe, to dance when she wants to, to love handle if she wants to, whatever she wants. I don’t care about looking smooth. If you love your shapewear, good for you. I applaud your love. I just can’t do it anymore, Captain.
Brought to you by deep, unencumbered sighs of relief.
You’ve been warned.
I should tell you that I was going to talk about positive things today: the lovely cool weather I met this morning, the fall leaves changing, all that. Instead, I’d like to discuss why women are rude to other women. We need to figure out why, lest I’m arrested for placing my hands around the lovely neck of the next woman that decides to be intolerably rude to me. I’ll start with what occurred earlier this morning: as I waited in line at the cafe at the OK Corral, I saw that one of the cafe employees was taking orders before we reach the register, in an effort to make the line go faster.
When it was my turn, I smiled at her.
She didn’t smile back.
I said good morning.
She replied by asking if she could help me.
I requested my muffin and paid, prepared to ignore this moment and chalk it up to the woman having a stressful, bad morning. I relate. I’ve been in both cafe/food service/customer service: it stinks. She simply didn’t feel like engaging me in morning niceties. Fine.
As I walked away from the register, I heard her cheerfully greet the gentleman behind me with a good morning (taking the initiative before he said a thing) and ask whether she could help him.
I stalked toward the elevator with steam rising from my collar. I was heated. She had the capacity to be nice. Polite. Courteous. Not cold. But she chose not to. Needless to say, my chalking up of her behavior to stress/customer service/bad day flew out of the window.
I would like to say that Madam Muffin’s behavior was an isolated incident. But it’s not. At least once a day, I deal with the rudeness of other women, particularly if a service is being rendered. Whether it’s a sourpuss behind a counter, a cold glance on the metro, so on and so unfortunately forth, I am daily baffled by the occasional (mostly facial) unkindness of strangers. It makes no sense to me. I don’t understand why another woman has to look you up and down as if the two of you are moments from heading into battle. Like I said before, in trying to reason away Madam Muffin’s rudeness, we all have bad days as women. I’ve talked about that. But what is the purpose of unsolicited glares in my direction? Or refusing to greet people? I won’t call myself the most polite person on the earth (there are a few maddening co-workers that, up until my recent adjust-your-attitude speech to myself, would hear crickets when greeting me in the morning), but I do try to be kind to people in the customer service industry, especially fellow women. A smile goes a long way when you’re surrounded by swells of people and their requests.
The question remains: why??
Let me know when you find the answer. Hopefully, it’ll come before I’m taken into police custody. Until then, if I should again cross paths with Madam Muffin, I’ll remain courteous and perhaps suggest that she run outside and take in some of that sweet autumn air. Goodness.
Everything about Henry David Thoreau has fascinated me since I was 14 years old. Everything.