31 Aug


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Not drowning, facing down a fear & learning to live

30 Aug

I don’t know how to swim.  Put me in water over my head and there’s a pretty good chance I’ll drown.

Don’t ask my why because I don’t have an answer. The closest thing to a swimming lesson I ever had came at the age of 12 when my mother enrolled me in a beginner’s swimming class filled with 6 to 8 year olds. I was embarrassed and angry and frustrated that the pool officials wouldn’t put me in the teen swimming class even if I was a year too young and I was even more angry that my mother thought a swimming class with 6 to 8 year olds was what I meant when I said I wanted to learn how to swim. The class served only to solidify my hatred for putting my head under water and fueled my passion for writing angry teen poetry.

Prior to age 12, various stepfathers and a stepbrother spent time threatening to throw me into a body of water where I would surely figure it out. They were convinced my survival instincts would kick in and just like that I’d be a swimming machine. It’s a small miracle that I survived.

At 16 I got my first set of contact lenses.  I became convinced that, if I let water splash my face, I would lose a contact lens, get turned around while out in the ocean and mistake the horizon for the shore. The ocean would pull be out to sea and I’d either drown or get eaten by whales.

So here I am: 26, unable to swim and pretty much terrified of any water that’s more than 5 feet deep.  

Every time I go to the beach it’s the same thing. My friends go out in the ocean and show off their stupid swimming skills while I splash around on the shore acting like I’m totally content to take pictures and hunt for sea shells. They yell for me to get in the fucking ocean already and every time I squawk back about how I’m busy and fine and don’t want to get in the water because it’s cold and wet and oceany so leave me the fuck alone you swimming assholes.

This time I wanted it to be different. I was determined. With my laser-corrected eyes I knew I wasn’t going to end up losing a lens and swimming out to sea to be eaten by whales. I still couldn’t swim, but I desperately wanted to get in the water. And I did. Someone brought a boogie board and I took it out to sea with me. Instead of freaking out and yelling at everyone to leave me alone, I listened. I went.

The ocean floor dropped out from beneath me and I kept going. Andrew and the boys were there. My breath kept getting caught in my throat and I screamed every single time the board shifted and I felt like I would sink to the bottom, but I was okay. I didn’t drown.

The boys kept asking if I was joking with my pathetic feet kicking and terrified screams. I assured them that no, I wasn’t. At 26, I’d never been out that far before. I’d never not been able to touch the ocean floor. I’d never been that brave.

There’s some sort of hidden meaning here, I’m sure. Some sort of message from the Universe. Something to do with my need for control and firm footing and how sometimes it’s okay to let go and let the world hold you up. I’m taking it as what I know it to be: a fist in the face of fear.

The Atlantic Ocean, some teenage shenanigans and a much needed trip.

26 Aug

In May I saw the Pacific Ocean. I haven’t seen the Atlantic Ocean, the one that’s closest to me and the one I’ve spent the most time in, since last October. I’ve been close. Less than a mile close, but there were trees in the way and things to do and a drive back home to get to and anyway, I was wearing combat boots and a uniform and couldn’t have enjoyed it had I been able to see it. I miss it. Enormously.

Tomorrow, Andrew and I, together with a group of our friends, are going to Ocean City, MD. I went, years ago, with a friend. We were in high school. We were all about the debauchery and the ridiculousness.

Stupid shit I did the last time I went to Ocean City, Maryland back when I was 15:

// Played spin the bottle with a group of college students.
// Told everyone I was 17 when I was actually 15.
// Stole beer from my friend’s mom.
// Told everyone my friend and I were sisters.
// Almost lost my bikini top to the ocean.
// Had fun. Stupid fun. Underage, teenager fun.

To say I’m looking forward to going back again is an understatement. I desperately need some ocean time. I need to get in the water, to try out playing in the waves now that I don’t have to worry about losing a contact lens. I want to come back with sand still stuck to my toes and with my hair smelling like the ocean. I want to spend some time reading a book on the beach. I want to laugh with my friends. I want to go out for drinks and celebrate life in a city that’s not my own. I want to drink white wine spritzers on the beach. I want to have fun.

An Autumn Lesson, or, learning how to not be such a spaz.

24 Aug

School starts back up on Thursday. Three classes. Nine credits. The heaviest course loaded I’ve ever attempted while being employed full-time. In the past week, I’ve felt myself get tense. I keep catching my shoulders inching up toward my ears and my foot tap-tapping away. I am jittery and jumpy.

I spent the summer joking about what an asshole I was going to be once fall rolled back around and school started back up. Throw in a few nervous laughs for good measure, and it’s pretty clear I’ve been worried about this semester since I signed up for it back in April. I’d scale back a class, except that I know I can do this. My nerves hit before starting last semester. And the semester before that. But everything was fine. My GPA continued to inch up and my head failed to explode. Plus, if I get through this semester, I’ll be just 21 credits away from my degree. That’s 7 classes. Spring, Summer, Fall. If I keep it up, this time next year I could be entering my final semester of undergraduate work.

In order to stay sane this Autumn, I’m setting out on an additional learning adventure:

I want to:

// learn to be still.
// relax.
// let the bulk of the stress and anxiety go.

I don’t want to:

// spend the next three months stressed out, throwing snippy remarks around and stomping around the house.

SO, I’m going to:

// try new things.
// remember to breathe.
// exercise more.
// be still for a few minutes each day.
// squeeze the things bothering me really tight and then just let them go.
// remind myself that I’m lucky to have something like college and a secure job to get stressed and anxious about.
// enjoy a few mini-vacations.

By the end of the season, I hope to:

// have found something that helps me let go and relax.
// be a few steps forward on the path toward being less of a high-strung asshole.

When life gets to be too much, what helps you unwind? Do you have a hard time letting things go, or are you more of a mellow mushroom? What keeps you grounded?

Vegan for a weekend, it feels good to laugh & the stupid things that used to matter.

23 Aug

The weekend brought two of my favorite friends from high school to Richmond.

One of my most favorite parts of getting together with old friends, especially old high school friends who knew me at my most ridiculous, is the part where we sit down, drink too much wine, and laugh at ourselves. Everything in high school felt like a matter of life and death. Relationships, strange breezes, grades, car rides. Every little thing was a GREAT BIG THING back then. I was latched on tight to a silly, immature boy, spent a lot of time writing really awful poetry and cried more than I smiled. It was ridiculous.

I realize now, with some distance between then-me and now-me that it was all true. Everything any one said about being a teenager was true. It does get better. It’s not the end of the world. You really don’t know anything. You really do have a lot to learn. He’s a douche. You can do better. Fact. All of it.

I still sweat more of the small stuff than I should. I think it’s just how I’m wired. I worry. It’s my thing. But I realize now that the world is much, much bigger than I ever could have imagined. There are more important things than elected positions in Drama Club and boys with bad hair who smell like feet.

Saturday we broke out the yearbooks. It hasn’t even been a decade yet, but already our yearbook pictures look like silly versions of ourselves. There were so many things, so many moments worth laughing about now. I laughed so hard my abs hurt, my throat closed up, and tears sprang from my eyes.

Before my friends arrived, back when I made my to-do list of the month, I made the decision to go vegan for the weekend they were here. I’ve talked about contemplating vegetarianism about 1,000 times already and while going vegan isn’t really an option for me, I figured going vegan for the weekend my two vegan friends are in town wouldn’t be too much of stretch.

It was…different. We had vegetable kebabs, garlic fries and a grain salad Friday night for dinner that was right in line with food we normally eat. Saturday morning my friend cooked vegan “sausage and eggs” that tasted surprising good even if the texture was a bit off. Dinner Saturday we had tofu-dogs on the grill, corn on the cob and salad.  I was unimpressed with the tofu-dogs. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I didn’t like about them though. Sunday morning we brunch at Strange Matter where I ate some absolutely delicious vegan french toast. My friend had vegan biscuits and gravy that was killer delicious. I was impressed.

You know it was good night when you wake up to a dining room table that looks like this:

Yes, that’s a board game, a bottle of vodka, a few empty beer bottles, 4 empty bottles of wine and a vegan chocolate cake.