Monday, January 28, 2013

Sometimes, Life takes a turn for the Unpleasant.

It just does. Sometimes it's even my decision to instigate unpleasant situations. And things get uncomfortable, and I feel shaky and unsure and occasionally incredibly guilt-ridden. And I descend into the depths of obsessive coping strategies.* Sometimes you work thirteen hour shifts and it is hard to keep standing up and keep smiling at rude customers and keep going even though you forget the filter in the coffee and your boss gives you a hideous look of disgust and some extremely passive aggressive comments, and then the thing overflows, because I didn't look stupid enough. (By the way, the overflowing was totally not my fault. My image at work is irredeemable, so I have to post the facts on here and hope that the Internets will offer some form of vindication. It could be a long wait, I know, like modem slow. But my job is teaching me patience and self-control. Bring it on.)

The point is, crap sucks. Sometimes. Only for short lived periods. At least the intensity ebbs out. Example time: Today was bad. My brain is "a dangerous neighborhood that you should not go into alone!" Last night was one of those times I stay up late and pay obsessive attention to incredibly insignificant details in order to keep from losing my mind. (and also to do laundry cause I got called in to work and was woefully unprepared in regard to my uniform.) I slept short and got up early and went to work for a hugely long period of time where I made a complete fool of myself in person and through accidental and horrifically timed text messages.  But it's okay, cause my sister hugged me and affirmed all my life choices before she went to bed and I went to crazy town. And my dear caring brother drove me to work this morning cause I was freaked out about my tires, and he told me I was being brave. And my boss was only passive aggressive. She could have been straight-up aggressive. And then Monica (the other boss who hired me who is my favorite person I met in North Carolina) came and made me feel comfortable again and drove me home cause we live close and gave me my long-forgotten and belated Christmas gift which I love and told me hilarious and unbelievable stories about her honeymoon. And I got home and the children were awake and they promptly dragged me upstairs to show me the roses my family put in my room. And I laid on the kitchen floor and had story time with my siblings before our almost nightly ritual of British Television before bed. ("Downton, anyone?") And then I talked to my best friend in all the world who lovingly threw my own advice back in my face (as he has a special ability to do) and told me to pray and that everything will be alright.

And suddenly I feel I can wake up tomorrow and buy new tires and go to work all over again and fold all the laundry which is currently all over my bed (which, let's be honest, is the reason I am blogging instead of dead to the world and horizontal.) I can come home and make dinner and through sheer effort, I can be awake. And I can do it and be cheerful even if I don't feel very much kinship with any sort of ray of sunshine. It's fine, cause I have the best smelling roses you ever smelled and a big heart picture that my Libby gave me along with a hug and a fairly large amount of enthusiasm.

That's worth a lot. And life takes turns for the unpleasant, but not the impossible.

* For example. I once got the worst news I've ever gotten in my life. And all I could think to do was to clean my fish bowl, an impulse which worried and bewildered my sister standing by. My mom told her not to worry because methodical cleaning is how I deal with stress. This is true, and routines of perfectionism and organization seem to help. Erin has this theory about how I get extra clean and orderly in phases as if to compensate for the times when I am an emotional mess. I think she's on to something, and I feel to develop this observation into an addition of my collection of Life Theories.  Perhaps The Tucking Theory. Hm.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Things about my Life, Part 2

- My hair is an awesome mixture of hat hair and humidity poof. Guaranteed it's the most attractive I've ever looked, barring the Fanny costume, cause that was hot.

- I finally figured out all the freeway stuff. I'm an expert, and I haven't gotten lost in forever. Also, I figured out why I sucked at it so much. Back in Utah, you can always retrace your way back on the freeway cause you can see where you are going. Here, it is misty and full of foliage and you would never know that freeway was there unless you used Google maps, cause here in the south we just lose things in all the trees.

- I tasted Gumbo today. All southern like.

- Libby called me a whale today. All self esteem boosting like.

- After a while, you can't feel the 80% humidity. And sometimes, the poofy hair is absolutely a fair tradeoff for all the tree silhouettes out my window. Cause  even when it gets dark the air is white, and it is gorgeous. I miss  mountains, but I'll miss this just as much when I leave.

- I have been super clumsy lately, which is a problem at work, cause that gives Ana more material and she isn't shy about laughing in your face anyhow. I spilled soup yesterday and macaroni and cheese today. And I thought it was just physical, but apparently my brain is a little off too  cause Megan asked me today if the gumbo had dairy in it and I responded promptly, "Yeah, it's gluten free." And then I realized that was a really stupid non-answer. And then there was this awkward pause where Megan and Garret both debated about how to tell me I don't know what gluten is. I really do know, I just say stupid things.  Awesome.

- Ben and Erin and I have been watching Downton Abbey after the wee ones are asleep.  (Cause that's what I moved here for. So Erin and I could distract Ben from his Doctorate program. It's not like that's a big deal or anything.) Also, Maggie Smith is a champion.

- Sometimes, people make me angry.  "Indignation has been stirred!" And I want to write scathing emails but then I decide that such a response will only make me angrier. Aka I just got done talking about how I get into scrapes like L.M. Montgomery characters and I just know I would hit the send button. Some horrifying circumstance would occur if I let myself go to the angry place, right?  Of course right.

- Emma and Libby are so amusing I could die. 

- The other day, Libby used the word regurgitate. I have high, high hopes for the girl's vocabulary.

- I have a serious neurotic problem about the floor of my car. There are only so many times you can shuffle all the cars around to use the vacuum in the garage, but the carpet is driving me distracted. Erin thinks I'm a little weird about the cleanliness of my car, but it's better than the alternative, right? (Right?)

*This edition of Narcissism Celebrated brought to you by contributions from the Mark Trent Advising Firm. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Words to Live by

I am historically good at living by words. In fact, I live or die by them. They bring me certainty through concepts and configuration. Lit Analysis classes are sort of an adrenaline rush, because I get to analyze and pick out the meaning of innocent phrases and the subtle satire of an Irishman making fun of the old snobby Englishman *. Even our old roundabout  Lewis Carrol argument that "language is too unstable to mean anything. All it can do it be beautiful" doesn't carry much of a threat. Because sometimes all it needs to do is be beautiful, and it generally rises to the occasion if you know where to look. In honor of this gift of language, I am a fan of themes to live my life by. Although not always, there have been times when I was so posessed by a simple phrase that I chose to live and die by it on purpose to figure out wether it was just beautiful, or if it meant anything.

This happened last February when I was trying hard to decide about whether I should move across the country, and what on earth I would do there if I did. And I decided to, not exactly out of a desire to leave but more of some unmistakable voice telling me it was imperative that I muster the courage to pick up and get out. And somewhere around the time I made this decision and felt all decided and half terrified out of my wits, I stumbled upon this gem of wisdom and decided to take hold of it almost as a sign, certainly a confirmation, and most definitely something to be chanted in my brain ad nauseum in the coming months while I attempted to muster the courage.

From our good friend Tenessee Williams:

"There is a time for departure, even when there's no certain place to go."

I was talking with my sister tonight about all the plans and desires she had for me when I came to live here. She was saying that I kept changing my plans and giving her entirely different timelines, which is true. The only thing I was ever certain about was that I was coming. Everything else has been planned ten thousand times, and the reality didn't turn out to look anything like a single one of those plans and timelines I prattled on about. I have struggled with that. I generally thrive on frantic activity and sleep deprivation. I'm not happy without some deep struggle or project to master, and it has been rough on my already tender insecurities to be here working and not tackling a whole lot else besides playing hard with some really adorable people. But at the same time, I've never been able to regret or second guess the decision to come, and while I wasn't aware before that there were things that needed such deep fixing, the simple act of being here far away is fixing them as I go. I couldn't even articulate completely what the purpose is, but I am comforted by the fact that I made myself depart. And I know now that while I had such lofty original plans for a palace, it's alright that I've adjusted down, and even that I may not stay long. My palace turned into a nice cozy cottage, one I don't want to leave. As I said to Erin, "I'm sorry I didn't live your dream, but I lived mine!" Even if I was never sure what that would look like, it worked out somehow.

This cottage home of mine, it was never certain. I didn't know I would love it here. I knew I would love being part of a family, but I didn't know I would fall in love with my little green room, or the fog you find when you get off the freeway at New Hope Church Road, or the scrapes I get into in this foreign land of freeways that aren't I-15. I love Ayr Mount and the walk between work and Duke Chapel, and I have been given a few good friends. Work is sometimes difficult, but I have bosses who will hug me before I leave and friends who will laugh hard with me even when the catering client is rude and people I can sing with. I can look out the window on a foggy day like today and see the woods against the sky in my backyard. I never ever thought I would have any of this anywhere but home, and the fact that this feels like home too is a gift. The cottage home which is, I suppose, a downgrade from the lofty dreams of finishing college and finding a whole group of best friends here and having a North Carolina castle, is also an upgrade. I like my little niche in my cottage in the woods here. I am satisfied and that is certainty enough.

So this is a shout out to Tenessee Williams, for giving me the vocabulary to express why I had to come here. The point was not perhaps the palace, but having the faith that I could be happy in a cottage somewhere else.

"It was worth it to move to North Carolina just for that!"

* Everybody read Dracula. Jonathan Harker somehow doubles as a nice guy and a schmuck you just want to hit. In a subtle, charming, way, of course.

Your Face!

Today I was playing with Emma, aka Erin and I were on my bed with Emma in between us, alternating between merciless tickling and dancing. In a transition between the two, Little Lemonade happened to make a dive bomb straight for my face which resulted in a bruise on her head and some bleeding in my mouth where a tooth sliced its way into my lip pretty far. We've been having some fun with this. Like when we were at Chick-fil-a and Erin told me that my obviously fat lip was now a bruised and purple lip. I hadn't noticed, but that sounded intriguing, so I was trying really hard to look at my own lip, right? That resulted in some awesome facial expressions from both of us.

Altogether, it was an interesting day. But the crowning glory came at home when Emma glommed me til I picked her up, and then she said with such concern in her little bird voice, "Let me see it, Pillow."  So I stuck out my lip and she touched it and frowned a bit before asking (as if she wasn't present during this accident) "What happened, Pillow?"

Completely innocently, I replied "Your face happened, silly girl."
And then I thought about that for a second.  I just said "Your face happened!" And it was applicable. For reals.  The best possible reply in this instance, and I did it on accident.  Boom Roasted!

Emma didn't really get why I was laughing.

(That was okay, though. Cause then she looked at me with those big beautiful eyes and with the most adorable possible little voice she asked, "S' it okay?" Honestly. I'm totally the luckiest maiden aunt in history.)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Scrape

Sometimes my life is boring, but today it took an upswing and landed somewhere between adventuresome and horrifying.

Backstory: You all know how I moved to North Carolina and suddenly couldn't turn my lights off or keep track of my keys? My merciful and loving Erin and Ben built me a car emergency kit for Christmas, which included a lot of good stuff but most importantly jumper cables and a hide a key thingy. So I moved it all in with Jed, drove around for a few days with the hide a key thingy to make sure it would stay there before I actually put my spare key in it, and felt better about my life in spite of my neurotic tendencies.

Actual Story: Meanwhile, back before Christmas, I was called to be a ward missionary. Fast forward a few weeks, and the missionaries ask me to come teach this investigator with them. So there I was tonight, parked by the address they gave me which happened to be a pole near the road surrounded by a few thousand apartment buildings. I call them to ask which one and where I'm supposed to be going, right?
Here's where we do the Slightly Applicable Anecdote:
 Elder Fowkes asks "Are you parked on the main road next to the girl with the grocery bags who is crossing the street?"
 Slightly Creepy. OK. "Yes"
"She's going the right direction. Follow her. We're in the car with the bike rack."
And now I feel like I'm in a spy movie and I'm dropping a ransom package in the darkness. This makes me feel uninhibited and conspiratorial, so fine, I'm just gonna say it.
"Slightly Creepy. See you there."
Awkward silence from Elder Fowkes.
"Kay, bye."
Following this odd conversation, I decided to pretend that never happened, and in a rush of sudden decision making), I acted the way I always do in rushes of sudden decision making. I got overconfident and did something stupid. I stood up fast and slammed my door shut, turned purposefully towards the correct apartment building and realized at that exact moment that my keys were in the ignition.

Now, I know none of you have heard the residents of North Carolina extoll the virtues of Durham. That could be partly because the majority of you lovely readers live in the Midwest or Alaska, but it probably has more to do with the fact that the residents of North Carolina would never extoll the virtues of Durham so much as they tell you in vehement tones to never go there after dark. I've been told not to bother even in daylight occasionally, but the notion most generally perpetuated is that if you go to Durham after dark you will  be shot or robbed. It is for this exact reason that when I realized I had just locked my keys in my car in plain sight in the ignition, I felt not panic but rather the urge to heave a sigh of resignation to my foolish tendencies. Because I knew, right then, that I couldn't leave my keys in plain sight in the ignition if I wanted to have a non stolen non smashed car. I knew that with the missionaries waiting for me, (and maybe watching, who knows really, cause they are omniscient like a narrator) I was going to get down in the road and fish out my hide a key thingy in the dark right then so as to not leave the keys in plain sight in the ignition in crime-ridden Durham.

So there I was, laying in the road in the dark cause my flashlight is locked in the car and I can't remember exactly how far under I stuck the hide a key thingy, really hoping the omniscient missionaries couldn't see me. And I unlocked the car and got my keys and realized that I couldn't now put the hide a key thingy back, cause we're in Durham and that in unthinkable, I guess. So I took it with me and I went and met the missionaries (from where they were standing, I was in plain sight, but if they saw my foolish unflattering laying in the road act, they didn't say anything. What gentlemen!). And we taught our investigator and it was awesome. And when we were done, we made plans to teach again on Saturday, and we shook hands and I proceeded to my car where I once again fiddled with the hide a key thingy putting it back securely.* All was well, and I drove home where I was greeted enthusiastically with cries of "Milla's home!" and "Pillow!"** Best day ever right?

Buuuut then I sat down and they all asked in horror, "What happened to your face? What's wrong with your nose?"  "I don't know, what happened to my face?" "Did someone punch you?"


I hurried to the bathroom to inspect, trailed closely by my seven year old shadow who told me I look funny right as I see that I have car grease all over my face. Somehow it is only on a few tips of my fingers, but is actually smeared on my nose in such a manner that resembles a sick nasty bruise. I went back to the kitchen and told the family what happenned and Erin made that horrified Erin face at me before exclaiming, "Oh, it's all over your face. It's on your forehead and your chin, oh!"

So here's the sixty four thousand dollar question. Did this happen after the first or second encounter with the underside of my car and the hide a key thingy? More importantly, did I have car grease on my face the whole time I was with these people? The fact that I have no idea is a little much. It's horrifying but also so hilarious I can't be sad that happened.

Also, while I was at the sink trying to wipe the stuff off my face, Erin eyed me fondly and said, "It's just like Anne when she dyes her nose red and has no idea, and it makes me like you better!"

I think it's quite the perk that such a thing makes me like Anne. I do get in to scrapes just as Anne and Emily, and if I can have that, I'll take the possibility that I just went and taught the gospel with grease on my whole face.  I'll take it.

* Hey internets, I realize now that I just told you all about this and my hide a key thingy is compromised. But none of you know where I live or where I park, and besides, you're nice people, right? I choose to feel okay about it.

** Emma calls me Pillow. For reals. All the time. It's the cutest freaking thing I've ever experienced.