Category Archives: lessons

when she bars the door and strikes a match

I am speechless. I have no idea how to express to all of you the realization I’ve now come to about myself: I am insane. I am honest to goodness loco, people. And all it took for me to see that was an empty 1-liter bottle of Mountain Dew.

Said bottle was labeled in black Sharpie, “Matt’s from the first day we met—6/12/04, Rivertown Crossings Mall.” This empty soda bottle was from the first day I met my second boyfriend, in 2004!

This was not the extent of my unearthed crazy however. I had an entire box filled with notes, greeting cards, ticket stubs, Pizza Hut placemats, crispy roses, wrapping paper bits, USED BIRTHDAY CANDLES IN A LABELED ZIPLOC BAG. This was just one relationship of five, so you can imagine how the memorabilia adds up over time.

I swear I paced around my bedroom for 10 minutes after discovering this trove, wondering aloud how I could’ve thought these things were worth saving. The sad part is, these items mean nothing to me now. I remember almost nothing about the events associated with these mementos. The things I do remember don’t require bits of paper and plastic and extensive cataloging to stick in my memory. Though I will say I’m happy to have found my hand-painted “My First LAN” T-shirt. THAT I will wear again. =)

Even as I scoffed at my hoarding, some of the items also gave me pause. It occurred to me how my memories of people, places and events do not always accurately convey the reality. I remember this boyfriend and the surrounding circumstances a certain way, but those items revealed a different reality. And maybe what drove the reality was silly and stupid, but it’s just so strange to realize how little I recall now of the emotions and exchanges and actual relationship. What I remember are the really bad times, the hurt, the confusion and the stupidity (mine). I remember the time spent on the road, the stress I felt over the circumstances, the cold water. But there was something good in all that—there had to have been, I suppose, or we wouldn’t have been in the middle of it. It’s just so hard to see through the shroud of negativity I’ve placed on the situation now. It has nothing to do with the person himself, but everything to do with the situation and the timing. And me.

I just can’t believe what I’ve found in these past two days. I spent years collecting bits and pieces of memories, most of which were other people’s. I have programs from plays/concerts I wasn’t in, yearbooks in which my picture did not appear, photos taken from afar. What were these items meant to remind me of? The fact that I never truly lived and instead chose to live through the feelings brought on by others? That’s all I can think of now when I reflect on these yellowed, tattered remnants of bygone years.

What I note as I look back is that my best memories (those that are truly mine) have almost no physical manifestation today. There are a few snapshots scattered throughout my boxes, but what remains are the mental flickerings of middle school and high school with Mandy and Carla. College with the former. Even the days of pursuing unrequited love.

I’ve cried and laughed several times as I’ve looked through all these pieces of my life, amassed in the basement of my mother’s house. And, even more often, I’ve sneezed. But the lesson I’ve come away with is that these things aren’t me. They are things I want to remember, things that helped shape my personality along the way. But they do not define who I’ve become. I am so much more than these dusty boxes, empty soda bottles and coupons that expired in 1988. I am ready to rise from this rubble and start the next phase of my life. AND NOT KEEP ANOTHER DAMN THING, NO MATTER HOW SPECIAL THE EVENT. Good grief.

mountainDew

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Filed under dating, home, lessons, moving, thoughts

sometimes you just have to laugh

When you get out to your car, preparing to head off for an appointment for which you’re already late, and notice your gas tank is almost empty.

Then remember that, the other day, you hit a post outside a sketchy supermarket and there’s a big crushed area on your back bumper.

Your therapist thinks you’re going to commit suicide.

You can’t, for the life of you, decide where you want to live or what you want to do for a living or who you ARE.

You spend way too much of your time thinking about other people—for the good and the bad—and losing track of yourself.

You thought your boyfriend wanted to break up with you, then found out he’s been overwhelmed & stressed, totally unaware of what’s been running through your head.

You have spent the past several days in the deepest funk you’ve experienced since high school, when you tried to suffocate yourself.

Every time you think you’ve found a new place to live, you come up with at least two dozen reasons why you shouldn’t move at all.

You’re trying to plan three separate trips at the same time.

You miss your best friends like crazy. One of them is having her first baby in June. You are 700+ miles away.

There’s a huge dollop of bird shit on your windshield, smack in the middle of your line of sight.

Your bar trivia team got 4th place out of 4 teams in last night’s competition, and you kicked yourself all night for providing a wrong answer that lost you 6 points. All night. 6 points. BAR TRIVIA.

You made your therapist laugh when you told her you fear picking restaurants and movies when out with others because you feel solely responsible for the outcome and the well being of your companions. Will you ruin their lives if you take them to a bad pizza place? MAYBE.

You’re getting up a few minutes later every morning until, this morning, you got up at 7:10, giving yourself 50 minutes to get ready and get to the office. It usually takes you 90 minutes to accomplish this. You did not make it on time (though you were only 10 minutes late).

You haven’t done laundry in about three weeks and the only pair of clean underwear remaining in your closet is a striped thong. Your only thong. There’s a reason you own only one thong.

You’re drinking a soda with the word PHENYLKETONURICS on the label. You theorize that this means your insides are rotting more and more with each sip. You’re probably right.

You realized today that your mom made you totally anal about money, and until you realize that there’s a gray area between miserly hoarding and 10 maxed-out credit cards, you’re never going to be happy.

And you have to laugh.

Because, really, what else are you going to do? Once you’ve reached the end of that list and tacked on a few footnotes of crazy, the only option that remains is to smirk, then smile, then tilt your head back and guffaw. Not like a crazy person, really, though you may be perceived as such. But as a person who is learning to let go of the unmanageable weight on her mind/shoulders.

I’m about to call the doctor and set up an appointment to talk about medication. I think the cloud that’s been hanging over me this week is lifting, which says I’m healing faster than I did in high school and college. Friends help. So do siblings. Boyfriends and parents too. Thanks guys.

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Filed under depression, lessons, therapy, thoughts

charity: water

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Filed under generosity, health, lessons, web

I kept my beer tear free

After some indecision at work today, the aforementioned coworker and I decided to go to trivia at the bar instead of the Grizzlies game. We did glance up from time to time to see the score, and, now that I look it up, I see the Grizz did beat the Wiz (haha), but oh well. We needed to boost our team’s record before the semi-finals!

Background: For just over a month, some of my coworkers and I have been participating in bar trivia. (When I say “some” coworkers, what I mean is that the first week, we had four people total. Then I missed two weeks with pneumonia. Then went once with three total and twice now with just the one other guy. We are die hard.) Memphis has a citywide trivia league that parallels those of Birmingham (Dennis participates there) Knoxville, Chattanooga, etc. They hold it every night of the week at bars all over. This particular coworker also participates with another team on Thursday nights in Midtown. The emcees aren’t the same, nor are the questions, so you could compete every night if you so desired. The topics are varied (though tonight’s seemed to focus a bit too much on royalty and presidents for my liking) as are the difficulty levels of the questions.

Now, last time we went the gruesome-twosome route, we kicked ass. We ended up in a strong second place behind only the team that cheats relentlessly by looking up answers on their smartphones. Lame. It’s bar trivia, people. Grow some balls and try to get them right on your own. I? I know almost nothing. And yet we continue to place in the top three every time with fewer people and no cheating. Funny how that works.

Anyway, between this other guy and me, we pulled out some crazy right (and wrong) answers last time. And tonight was no different, though we didn’t do quite as well and ended up in third. However, “Spinal Tappin’ That Ass” is a worthy opposing team and they took a solid second place, something with which we were fine. But “Boats ‘N Hoes”? They need to fall off a cliff. Again, they ended up with an inexplicably strong lead, right at the end. I hate cheaters. BUT we got some really random answers right, some stupid ones wrong, etc. It was a great time as always.

After trivia ended and we collected our $10 gift certificate for the third-place finish, the coworker and I discussed life, love, psychology—things we’ve discussed before and I’ve been mulling over for the past several weeks. I probably should just stop mulling before I drive myself crazy about it. But I love getting other perspectives and hearing about people’s lives. What does it mean to him to be married? What’s it like having been together 10 years? How do you maintain a strong level of trust for the other person? What does love mean to you? Fascinating.

Sadly, this intense discussion meant I missed Dennis’ goodnight call, so I’m bummed about that. But I’ll be packing tomorrow night in preparation for my Mighty Return to Birmingham on Friday!! Even though he was just here, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing him again. We will be rooting for opposing teams in one of Saturday’s games, so that should be highly entertaining. And we have a lot of real-estate browsing to do, since he’s in the market for a house. I’m excited. =)

And did I mention? Our trivia team’s name is “Bigger, Badder, Bushier.” You can decide if, in proper bar-trivia fashion, that name is supposed to be a political reference, a sexual reference, or both. Goodnight!

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Filed under fun, happiness, lessons, love, recap, thoughts

uh, scratch that

I returned to the gym tonight, which means my first workout in a month AND my first weigh-in in the same month. Appears I was wrong about the not-losing-weight thing. My apologies to any and all coworkers who read this blog (none) who were offended by my incredulity at their suggestions that I was skinnier. Apparently I lost ~7-10 lbs. over the past month. Now, granted, most of that is muscle mass. But I now weigh 186, a number I haven’t seen—well, ever, because I didn’t weigh myself when I was in the fifth grade. Seriously, though, it’s astonishing.

As I’ve written here before, numbers don’t mean a lot. I know I’m less healthy because I haven’t been getting my heart pumping on a regular basis. But I also see this as a bit of an opportunity, a chance to stay slim instead of beefing up, as I seemed to have been doing in the past. I’m going to do what I was told before and stick to the low-weight/lots-of-reps circuit, and focus mostly on cardio, something I did before anyway.

For my triumphant return, I went easy on myself with a 47-minute stint on the elliptical, 6.33 miles, 555 calories burned.^ It felt really good to be back there, though, even if it hurt a little. I made a half-assed effort at jogging around the lake at work yesterday, so my hamstrings were still a little sore from not stretching thoroughly for that. I laugh when I think how I was sweating and had to slow to a walk after two minutes of running, whereas I can keep up a decent pace on the elliptical for five times that long. Just goes to show exactly how much mass I’m carrying around and how incapable I am of heaving it in one direction with any speed without the aid of machinery.

And now I’m going to tell you about my trip to the grocery store, because blogosphere? I missed you. I missed your embrace of the mundane details of my day-to-day life. Plus? I bought one of those giant sandwiches from the supermarket deli (which I failed to photograph—sorry) which always have looked a bit sketchy but really aren’t bad at all. $5.99 for roast beef, cheese, lettuce and bread (I’m not a condiment kinda gal anyway) on a massive scale. I also found another four bags of BBQ-flavored Quakes rice snacks, which, my friends, are DELICIOUS. If you can find them on sale for 99 cents, buy them. All of them. And then mail some to me. In the end, I spent $22 for the following: big-ass sandwich, 4 grab-size bags of Quakes, 2 half-gallons of skim milk (which were on sale for 65 cents, but why? April 4 expiration? I hope I don’t die.) 2 big bottles of Bolthouse Farms juice (Green Goodness & Berry … something) and a 3-lb. bag of navel oranges. Mmm, mmm! I feel like that was a successful shopping trip. And that sandwich? It will last me the rest of the week.

Just another lesson from the cheapskate midwesterner who found herself in the overpriced Mid-South. Write it down, kids!

^I don’t believe the machine. You shouldn’t either.

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Filed under exercise, food, fun, health, lessons, recap, shopping

day one. slow down

One of the major lessons I’ve learned from being sick is that I need to slow down. I am in a hurry about 98% of the time. I get impatient and antsy. I feel the need to complete tasks as quickly as possible (unless they really consume me and compel me to take my time) and get them off my plate. This hurry also manifests itself in the inability to relax and just be dormant—I can’t sit still for more than a few minutes at a time because my brain already has rushed off to the next destination.

But I haven’t been able to hurry the past several days. At first, I was still capable of moving quickly, after which I would pay with extreme pain and the need to catch my breath for a full minute afterward. Then I just couldn’t. I couldn’t turn over quickly, run down the stairs (I made that mistake earlier today – whew!), even stand up too fast. I suppose I could’ve if I’d tried, but my body was wholly against it.

I stood in line at the supermarket today behind an elderly woman with a handful of items, a prescription to fill and a request for a box of cigarettes located somewhere else in the store. Usual Emily would huff and puff, try to line jump over to the express lane (where she should’ve been in the first place, with just two containers of ice cream) and shake her fist at the lady. But Sick Emily, Tired Emily, Less-Stressed-Than-Yesterday Emily did none of those things. She waited patiently. She smiled. She browsed the tabloids by the conveyor belt. She considered buying a pack of Trident. It’s a small step toward not rushing, but a step nonetheless.

And in my conversation with Dennis last night, I was reminded of weekend one in Birmingham, where we walked to Nabeel’s, talked and laughed despite my random stomach ailment, couldn’t get enough of each other even when we were involved in ridiculously deep discussions that probably didn’t need to happen upon first meeting. It made me smile to think of that and our most recent weekend together, seeing the Memphis sights and sitting together in a little coffee shop while I tried to grasp chess. I don’t want to think I’m losing those times by hurrying through them, waiting for the next step, the next phase, the next thing that comes along to make or break our relationship. They can’t be a thing of the past: the earlier of the two happened only just over a month ago! To think I’ve rushed ahead enough to feel like it was so long ago… it makes me ill.

Rushing through life is toxic. While it’s a virtue to have the ability to act fast, there are so many times where slowness wins. I have spent my life rushing through not only singular tasks handed to me at work, books on my reading list, phone calls home, but also new relationships, pretty big decisions, life changes, giant chunks of my history I’ll never be able to redo.

It’s cliché to wish I could return to high school, apply for the editorship at The Bleu Print, spend a little more time in college, rethink those disastrous romantic relationships along the way. It’s not that I don’t wish that were possible every now and again, but what I wish for myself now is to make the most of today, no matter what it holds.

But wait. I have to stop for a second, to slow down. Because it is this very trap that gets me every time. I take too big a bite of life, or start planning too many changes or moves, and it gets overwhelming. Instead, let me start with what I have: friends, a boyfriend, family, a job, a new(-ish) city I’ve yet to explore, a chance to break into the social media world and bring DU along with me, renewed health (after this bout of pneumonia is passed), a bod I’m working on making killer (again, resuming post-pneumonia)… That’s more than enough to get started, I think.

It’s strange to feel like I’m 18 again, just starting out on a path in life, trying to make sense of it all. Maybe we all feel like that sometimes, regardless of our age or life situation. But I think the key to taming the beast that is future and unknown is to slow down, breathe and keep your eye on the moment—it’ll be gone before you know it.

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relax

Today has been a day of reflection for me—you know, whenever I wasn’t napping from sheer exhaustion or struggling to get comfortable in the recliner. There was a lot of those things too.

But today reminded me how much I need to relax. I am not skilled at being sick. Those people who know how to take full advantage of their sick days, catch up on their reading and revisit their dusty DVD collections? I am not one of them. I bury my fingernails in the armrests and worry about what I’m not doing, what I’m missing, how I’m failing or letting someone down. Forget doctor’s orders—I need to be at the office, darn it!

Then someone comes along and gives me a solid swat upside the head, and I realize that’s just not how it’s supposed to go. I need to take these next two days off. I need to read a book and take several naps and recover, so I can avoid having something this hellacious happen again.

It’s more than just being a good patient though. I am running on high at all times, even when I’m staying in one place. That anxiety creeps in about everything (am I being a good friend? a good girlfriend? calling my mom enough? writing enough e-mails? being social enough?) and it leaves me pretty exhausted at the end of the day… or, more to the point, every morning when I should be bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and in front of my computer at work. It needs to stop before I find myself in a downward spiral similar to those of 2004 and 2007, when I was so overwhelmed by a variety of factors that I crashed, shut down, boarded up my windows (so to speak) and felt like giving up.

I watched an episode of “Gilmore girls” on ABC Family this afternoon. It feels like an eternity since I’ve done that. The last time was in my condo in Ann Arbor in early ’08, so not that long really. But in watching this show that I own and have seen multiple times, one of the characters stood in a whole new light for me: one Paris Gellar. She is a total basket case in high school, with impossibly high expectations for herself (perhaps brought on by her parents; it’s never really made clear) and no hope of reaching them. She and Rory Gilmore end up in the same dorm suite at Yale, which was the episode I watched today. Paris finally had taken some control over her neuroses and hired a life coach to help keep her calm. Her “craft corner” became a permanent fixture in the girls’ living room, a therapeutic way for Paris to deal with her incessant need for productivity and industriousness. But every few minutes, the life coach had to rein her in and have her breathe to get through moments of difficulty and stress.

Even though I was curled up under a fleece blanket, completely incapacitated, while watching her struggle with her neuroses, I felt a little bit like Paris, unable to stop wringing my hands mentally about my shortcomings, other people’s failures, etc. And that all sort of came to a head this evening when I talked with Dennis and we discussed our usual two-hour chat-a-thons that stretch late into the night and consume what used to be his hang-with-the-roomies time. I finally saw some things about myself, and about our relationship, that I knew I didn’t like. Apparently I needed even those brief moments of relaxation today to realize what was wrong, with me, with him, with us. But I did. And we set about to figuring out a solution, which will take time, effort, patience and care. I think we can do it.

For those of you who know me well, you realize I’m the unlikeliest candidate for a long-distance relationship. I know that too. But I have a lot of hope for myself, mostly because I was starting to come apart at the seams, but also because I really like Dennis and want to do my part to make things work if I can. Through therapy and self-definition, I’m going to figure out what needs to change, who I am, what I want. In the end, maybe it won’t be Dennis. Maybe it won’t be Catholicism or working in Web design or living in the south. None of those things define me anyway, but they are major parts of my life today. So maybe I’ll step back and see that some or all of them don’t work for me anymore. I just want to be able to do that without anxiety. I know I’ll be OK without every single one, but it’s hard to want to be single again, to want to be unemployed or homeless or without faith. Those don’t sound like particularly enjoyable things. But maybe my future will just take those things in a slightly different direction. Maybe I’ll become renewed in Protestantism, take up residence in the Pacific Northwest, become a book editor and date a veterinarian named Dan. It could happen, right? And maybe I’d be just as happy.

Either way, I want to learn to make the most of what I have, smile about it every day, stop looking at what’s lacking and focus on how blessed I am with what I got. Walking around for the past several days with such pain, I am overcome with compassion for those in constant pain, physically, emotionally or otherwise. To be unable to breathe without discomfort is indescribable. It’s awful. To think that there are people in this world who deal with such conditions daily is… well, it’s beyond my comprehension. So for me to be incapable of embracing the relatively amazing life I do have and make the most of it? It’s ludicrous. What reason do I have to frown all the time? Why should I curse myself or others for shortcomings? Why should I do anything but smile when I think about Dennis and the next time we’ll talk or see each other? Why should I avoid phone calls or shut out the world more often than I let it in? I shouldn’t. I can’t. It’s not working for me anymore. It never did.

I’m done. I’m breathing. I’m learning to relax. If you have any tips for my journey, let me know.

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