i fall apart when no one’s watching

In a store, I discover,

a hole in my ear

And everything is leaking out onto the floor.


My inside thoughts are seeping their way outside in a slowlavaooze  and I’m staring down in alarm and this liquiddark stain is spreading like molasses in a snuff film.

It doesn’t hurt and world, in a muffle, dances on down a loooong foreshortened hallway past my hollow numb sockets.

I’m staring at this stain,

and at my ear,

and at this stain,

and one is growing and the other is shrinking and I just kind of rest my hands at my sides palms outward.

suspended in solution,

slow-motion leak,

deadened head underwater.

Rasping air pressing past a pressure narrowed pathway,

and on and on, that viscous trickle,


because the seam gave way.


Things To Avoid When You’re Socially Inept

Oh why??  Why did I do it?  What was I thinking?!  How could I have forgotten and ignored the basic traits in myself that will surely make this endeavor a total disaster?  What if the people suck?  Or are weird?  Or figure out that I’m strange?

Well, I’ve gone and done it.  I’ve dug myself a hole from which there’s no escape.  In my scramble to find ways to enjoy my time here in this Mexican bordertown, I inadvertently and heedlessly hurled myself into a puddle of stress, anxiety and self-doubt.

Upon moving here, I immediately checked MeetUp.com for groups involving things that I enjoy: Hiking, yoga, exercise, trail running, knitting, writing, reading, drinking.  There was NOTHING.  I looked again with different keywords: backpacking, pilates, fitness, jogging, crocheting, books.  Still nothing.

With the summer rapidly approaching, I kept going over and over and over the same lament: I wish I had friends here.  I wished for D to go hiking with.  I wished for Blondie to clean with.  I wished for M to have beers with.  I wished for K to people-watch with.  It started to form into a bona fide funk, and I needed to do something about it.

So I planned a hike.

But I didn’t stop there.  Oh no.  I kept going.

There have to be other hikers here right?  Out of the tens of thousands of people in these three “cities”, there has got to be one or two that are funny and sarcastic and awesome like D, right?  RIGHT?!

And so, on a whim, I paid $36 and started my own MeetUp group called Hiking For Dummies.  I described my goals for hiking this summer and posted the first trip to Palouse Falls that day.  (Which was, incidentally, Friday, the day before the hike itself….I wasn’t lying, I got a wild burr up my ass and three minutes later, I was the organizer and founding member of this group now open to anyone to join.)

I don’t really know why I did it.  I wanted a hiking buddy, for sure; the Old Man humors me and goes when he has no other choice, but deep down, he really doesn’t like it.  It’d be nice to have someone who likes it like I do.  I wanted to meet other people.  Find things to do here.  Discover ways of forming relationships that doesn’t include the bar–which, I fear, I’m rapidly outgrowing.

For a few hours, it felt good.  I was proactive.  The pipedreams of what COULD be kept playing on repeat.  My summer previewed and it was packed with trips and pictures and summits and waterfalls and fields of wildflowers.

And then came the sugar crash.

Mostly, if you met me, you’d never believe me if I told you that I’m generally uncomfortable in new situations and around new people.  But I’m a fake-it-till-you-make-it kinda girl.  I do my best with small talk and smiles and silently pray for a reprieve from someone else.  Until I get comfortable, I’m happiest standing in the back, checking shit out, letting someone else take the lead.  (After that, look out, I’ll charge to the front, but that’s a whole other post on a whole other personality!)

Expectedly, people started signing up.  I had actual MEMBERS who were excited that FINALLY there was a group like this.  I had the type of people that, on paper, were exactly the type of people I was looking for.  Varied hiking experience, varied ages, varied backgrounds.  And it was all of a sudden, REAL.

End honeymoon phase.

It wasn’t long before I realized that it was me who was the organizer of this group.  Me who was going to have to do all the greeting and introducing.  Me that was going to have to take the lead.  Me that was going to have to make the small talk until everyone started picking up on their own.  Me that was going to have to diffuse the awkward moments (the MOST scary because I am usually the CAUSE of the awkward pause…).

And here I sit.  ready for battle once again with my own, probably very mild, case of social anxiety.  Joining a group like this would mean that I could attend when I wanted and bow out if I didn’t.  I could choose who I talked to and who I pursued a relationship with.  As the organizer, it must be equal opportunity to all who join.  Because that’s the type of environment I want to foster.  On the one hand, I’ve taken steps to create a situation that I’ve been searching for.  On the other, I never meant to sign up for the responsibility that goes with it.

My next MeetUp is this Saturday.  I just posted it, and there’s already one person who’s RSVP’d.  Here’s hoping she’s not a serial killer or close talker…..

Pft…Everything’s (not) OK

The Prompt:

What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead? (Author: Kate Inglis)

Oh! to be the girl with the forever smile; to rid myself of the deep wrinkles between my eyebrows and greet the world daily with composure and grace….  Everything, you see, is decidedly NOT okay in my world.  My default face is consternation and my stomach? A mass of knots and bile.  I’m the first born, an Aries, weighed down in reality and anchored by responsibility.  For every third person professing that “things will just work out” there is one of me, toiling behind the scenes, knowing that IT WILL NOT! and pulling the strings to avert disaster.

I KNOW, to my very base fiber, that it is best to expect the worst and to be prepared for the next shower of bullets.  I am a naysayer, a doomsday portent, a harbinger of reckoning.  For every small beauty, for every sigh of pleasure and each belly laugh, there are scores of needling sorrows raining down to remind of the natural balance.  I know this empirically, with the certainty of experience.  I have a closet full of the “other shoes” and a face full of contusions from their rapid descent.

“Alright” is a relative term, you see.  It’s Above Ground, Still Breathing, Possessed of All My Fingers and Toes.  To be any other way would be completely foreign.  Foreign, but completely longed for.  I am consistently amazed by people who are able to keep to the sunny side: My brother N, who, while paratrooping his way through Afghanistan can maintain that we are all a part of the fabric of time, that the universe has a plan and that plan is right and purposeful.  My girlfriend M, who, though mucking her way through a divorce and other painful decisions is devoted to her smile with a buoyancy that’s terribly rare.  Even CV, who has recently defriended me, never ceased to amaze me with her ability to remain civil in situations that would have me in jail for assault.

I am simply not that person.  I am wed to the Truth (big T) and prefer cold, hard FACT to wishful thinking.  I know that the winds will change direction if I get too comfortable.  I feel, so heavily, that somehow, my life is a crux on which teeters a scale of good and bad.  To feel differently, or to change my attitude, is to tempt fate and laugh at the Furies.  Because it is so, I feel more acutely the joys of success and the pains of failure.  I am keenly cognizant that good is only so because of its counterpart, bad.

So, you see, I am not acquainted with that sigh of relief,  that notion that, wow, things are finally on an upswing.  I know only to breathe in those winsome moments, and breathe through the terrifying.  All are fleeting, and each makes way for the next.


The Prompt:

What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Author: Leoni Allan)

And there it is.  It’s the question that I’ve been waiting for/dreading since the beginning of this challenge.  Listen, I’m Italian, I was raised Catholic and I’m a girl.  These three things alone lead me to synthesize just about everything in my life with a larger than normal degree of guilt.  I couldn’t, even with the promise of a million dollars or the threat of a bullet through my cranium, give you an example of the last moment I enjoyed without at least a small degree of guilt.  It’s who I am.  You see?  Even here, I’m beginning with a manner of apology in advance.

That said, I want to write this post with guilt locked in a closet.  I’ve told much of my past year’s story already, and I think I’ve made clear that I understand the “wrongness” of some of my actions.  As such, I’m going to tell this part of the story without (further) apology.  Mistake me not: this experience was RIDDLED with a guilty conscience, (and rightfully so!), but it is a story that merits its day in the sun.  Everything in life is multi-faceted, complicated…bedeviled.  But what follows is true; it was part of my year, it’s the answer to this prompt, and it deserves to be told.

What healed me this year were the attentions of a man who is not my husband.

He was taller than me, and dark; dark lashes closing over green eyes that were olive when they looked through me.  He drank whiskey and looked like he should, dark tattoos extending over powerful forearms in macabre faces of black and grey.  He was perhaps the hardest man I’d ever met, and I had trouble not staring in curiosity.  I was unabashedly attracted by the way we looked standing next to one another; a wolf and a lamb.  He was, without trying, everything that I fake–his hard edges were earned, while mine are finely crafted to have an artifice of tough.  I immediately wanted to goad him–to see the flash of anger that surely resided in his workingman’s hands.  I wanted to cut my teeth on him, to tempt fate.  I wanted to look into that abyss, to lure it out.

We met innocently enough over drinks with mutual friends.  I was in his town for a long weekend with a girlfriend, and enjoying a night out in belated celebration of my birthday.  It was, of course, small talk at first: the weather, what I thought of Wilmington, when I’d gotten in and the like.  But as the evening progressed, so did the conversation, running into books and politics and my job.  That night stands out to me as the night that recalled an older, younger (it makes sense, I swear!) version of myself.  I remembered, that evening, what it was like to meet new people, to have unforced, meaningful conversation, and to be engaged on intelligent topics, intelligently.

Over the next few months, and upon my return home, those conversations would continue.  He and I became fast friends.  I discovered in him, a rather kindred spirit.  We had (loosely) similar experiences as children and struggled with the same sort of social anxieties.  looking back on it, I can’t point to one specific thing that made me feel so connected to him, but connected I was.  I was in the middle of one of the most stressful periods of my life, and my chats with him were little oases of relief where I found myself smiling at the considerably NOT small joy of relating to another human being.

As each of my days seemed to get significantly worse and the stress increasingly difficult to handle, I began to count on these conversations and the reprieve they provided.  They helped me to breathe easier, and not choke on the unease and disquiet that was slowly smothering me.  I was getting things in those hours that I’d forgotten I needed.  Attention.  Interest.  Care.  I was using my brain and having a fabulous time talking about things I’d read and what I thought about them.  He was holding me together.

After a few weeks, the conversations drifted past simple friendship.  He wrote me beautiful words that made my stomach leap in that way it does when you’ve met someone new.  When he talked to me, it was poetry and my brain leapt along with my stomach.  I furnished my dreams with his words, and decorated their walls with his images.  “I think you are so beautiful” he said to me, and I blushed.  Each exchange sent a thrill through the center of my body, and I was careful of what I said, lest my running mouth shattered the world he’d created with his image of me.

When I went back to Wilmington over the summer, I spent quite a bit of time with him.  Our conversations continued, and the bond increased.  Not touching was, admittedly, a Herculean effort.  His proximity, at times, was nerve-racking, if our arms were placed too close together in a cab, or at a bar, the hair on mine would stand up, fairly screaming for that touch.  There was no faking my way out of it with a smart remark or a raised eyebrow, I was attracted.

We spent a couple of full days together, and he introduced me to his life and friends, showing me what he termed, endearingly, “a large time.”  I allowed myself to get lost in those feelings, and reveled in remembering what it was like to be paid attention to, heeded, laughed with and smiled at across a crowded room.

I left his city and continued my summer journey much mended from the cracking shell that I’d become.  I left knowing what I had to do in order to repair my life.  I left with a recharged battery.  I left feeling appreciated, and knowing that I deserved it.  We don’t talk much anymore and have since amended our relationship to a strictly platonic level, but there is no doubt that that experience healed me.  It resuscitated my life at a time when I needed it most.  It’s a plain truth, and unvarnished. It’s hard to admit to because it involved less than admirable actions on my part; but life is untidy, we make of it what we can and carry those lessons with us.


The Prompt:

Appreciate What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)

I am sitting here laughing to myself because I was *this close* to answering this question by saying: Regular Bowel Movements.  Constipation is no joke.  For real.  It’s a case of not knowing what you have until it’s gone.  I eat fairly healthfully and exercise regularly, taking general good care of my body.  It wasn’t until this year that I discovered the way stress adversely affects my corporeal being and its functionality.  It wasn’t a fun ride, and, let me mention, I hate prunes.

For as long as I could remember, I was a once-a-day-at-4:00-in-the-morning-and-sometimes-at-4:30-in-the-afternoon girl.  Then life hit me with some shit (har har), and what started out as random, every-once-in-a-while heartburn turned into serious gastro-intestinal distress.  Let me tell you something: pooping only once (and not fulfillingly) every three or more days will fuck your world up.  It makes you bloated and uncomfortable, which makes the fit of your jeans troublesome, which torpedos your self-esteem, which affects (adversely) your mood, which gets in the way of your relationships, which makes you more stressed out, which starts the whole cussing cycle over again.  (I just watched The Fantastic Mr Fox….can you tell?)

(You know what?  Fuck it.  This is the answer I’m sticking with.  The more I think about it, the more it’s the right one because in my head, I keep thinking:  “AND ANOTHER THING….!”  Besides, who doesn’t laugh at a little toilet humor?)

I’m pretty sure that I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t agree that there isn’t anything quite as satisfying as a good, solid, your-ass-only-requires-the-minimum-amount-of-wiping-afterwards poo.  (and if you disagree, please feel free to comment, I’d be interested in meeting such a person)  A satisfying BM leaves me with a feeling of general well-being: lighter, more svelte (Ladies out there….you KNOW you look at yourself in the mirror afterward just to see that your stomach really DOES look flatter) and less guilty about the half-pint of ice cream I’m about to consume in front of the television.

Doctors ask for stool samples right off the bat when diagnosing a mysterious ailment from the neck down.  They ask about size and water content, degree of flotation, frequency and smell.  Abnormal meadow muffins are a symptom in any number of ailments, indicating, (unscientifically) to me, that the poo is the first thing to turn bad and alert us that something’s wrong. Regular, respectable BMs tell me that I’m eating properly and taking good-ish care of myself, and that all is right with my world.  Throw a wrench into my machinery though, and my digestive tract goes haywire.

This year, I discovered that the size of the wrench is getting smaller as time wears on.  In my teens and 20s, it didn’t really matter what I ate or drank; my body regulated.  If I had a stressful final coming up, or if I lost one too many games of Sink The Ship, my body regulated.  My stomach and it’s co-workers took whatever I threw at them with a shrug of their proverbial shoulders, moving on with their lives as if nothing was particularly terrible about my diet of Sweet Tarts, Labatt Blue, poutine and pot.

Flash forward to 31, and it’s a whole different ballgame.  My body is as skittish as a kitten on rollerskates.  I could brush my teeth and take a shower in a different order one day, and my body will strike, citing dissatisfaction with company policy.  It’s not pleasant by any stretch of the imagination, so I try agree to its demands as much as possible: so much water everyday, easy on the sugar, lots of cruciferous vegetables, daily strenuous exercise, no stress, no caffeine, lots of sunshine….the list, I’m close to believing, IS, actually, endless.

It’s impossible to cover all those bases.  Just the stress of thinking about it stresses me out and, well, there goes tomorrow’s constitutional.  As a result, I was constipated on a large scale this past year.  It wasn’t enjoyable by any stretch of the excretory imagination.  That’s why, when scouring the shelves in my brain’s pantry for the answer to today’s prompt, I kept coming back to this basic and necessary bodily function.  It’s small, and base; really rather pivotal and sneakingly important.  Who woulda thunk it?

As far as gratitude goes, well, as I said, I thank my body everyday by trying to take care of it.  Good in, good out my Grandma Lou used to say.  And boy was she right.  I’m by no means extraordinarily granola;  I smoke cigarettes (until January 2….I swear it this time!) and drink to the occasional excess, but I also do take pains for a modicum of common sense care.  I like to hope that I’m going to have this organ oasis for many years to come, so it adds up that it and I take this time to listen to each other, to come to an agreement.