Wednesday, December 30, 2009

you talk too much

Everywhere I go, people tell me things about themselves. Which I enjoy, for the most part. And although I’m usually a fairly private person (believe it or not), I will occasionally give too much information to someone that I don’t know. I think sometimes, there are certain people that make us feel like we have to explain ourselves.

I hope I am not one of those people. I would prefer to think that others confide in me because I am always honestly interested in other people, and because I have compassion and empathy… Not because they think that they have to justify their actions to me.

But either way, I can relate. Parking in a lot by a bar I asked the attendant if I could leave my truck overnight, if need be. I would have left it at that… But he made wiggled eyebrows at me! Lest he think that I’m a whore of Babylon (or even of downtown Portland), I felt compelled to tack on, “I mean in case I drink (as if there’s any doubt) tonight.”

But it’s really none of his business. And why do I care what he thinks? I don’t care, actually. But it’s that knee-jerk reaction to one raised eyebrow (I can do that too) or a strange look and an awkward pause that always gets me talking.

This week I stopped by a store one afternoon after going to my chiropractor to pick up a couple of things. Apparently, not even our groceries are sacred, or at least not to the guy who accosted me in the booze aisle. “You’re buying sushi… and bourbon?” Again, with the wiggled eyebrows!

And once more, I felt compelled to explain myself, for fear that this complete and total stranger might think I’m a boozehound: “It’s for later.” That just netted me a confused look, so I scampered off to pay, fawn over the cashier (he carded me!) and accept compliments about my faux fur.

I think the reason we feel like we have to give out explanations to random people (who surely don’t really care and probably aren’t even really listening) has something to do with our own moral checks and balances.

I probably shouldn’t be contemplating drinking so much that I won’t want to drive home at the very onset of an evening out with friends. And maybe I shouldn’t be buying a bottle of Basil Hayden’s in the middle of the day.

Or maybe I should just shut up.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

laughing on the inside

From time to time there are things that are happening in my life that I would love to talk about here. But sometimes, the things I would like to share the most are also the things that have the highest possibility of harming other people. And sometimes, I can’t share things here because I haven’t told anyone else. Not a dear friend, not a beloved family member. The residual pain that talking about it would cause wouldn’t help them. Wouldn’t help me. So what’s the point?

I have no qualms about supporting my many friends who have decided to get sober, get into therapy and get on medication. I think everyone has to be responsible for themselves and has to do what’s right for their personal situations. And it’s not up to me to tell them otherwise. I’m not medically, clinically or otherwise endowed enough to tell them anything different.

And I don’t feel a strong need to get into therapy. Get sober, stop taking pills or start taking pills, attend a meeting or anything else. For the most part, I’m doing just fine.

But every once in a while, when everything starts piling up; when things come to a head; when I feel like I’m going to take my scanner and shove it in the microwave and turn it on “broil,” I have to wonder what the rest of us are supposed to do. Those of us who don’t have a prescription, an appointment or a “group.”

And I do have friends. I have amazing friends. Heart friends, the kind that would bail you out of jail and never ask why you were in. Friends that I can tell… just about anything to. I adore my family, too. But there are some things I can’t talk about. With any of them. For some of it, the pain goes too deep, and the rest of it, well, I can’t imagine telling them because it will just make them hurt, too. Or worry about me, which is infinitely worse.

I always think that it’s funny, when people tell me “Woah… You really put it all out there.” Because I don’t. I really don’t. You think you know me? You have no idea.

I’ve always promised to be honest with you, and I try. I really try. About the one thing I ever try to do really well is to just tell the truth. But there are some things you’ll never read about. Some matters will be kept to myself.

Because if I don’t talk about the things that matter with the people that I love most, how can I talk about them with you?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

the Christmas letter

Dear friends and family,

Well another year has passed and I have so, so much to tell you about what’s going on in my life now. I know, I know, another Christmas letter. But I figured, with holiday form letters filling up my mailbox daily, why not add mine to the mix?

So let’s recap:

No. I am “still” not married. And I have to say, questions about “when” and “why” just get better and better every time every time I hear them. I can’t think of anything more personal that all of you cheerful well-wishers might ask me, unless it’s a blow-by-blow of my last physical. “No, the stirrups don’t bother me at all. But his hands are always so cold!”

And no, before you ask, I am not currently in a relationship. I went through a very painful, protracted break-up this year that seemed to go on for months and at this point, there is some possibility that I am just dropping out of the dating game. Forever.

Getting ready to mark my five-year anniversary for being self employed in spring, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support. The 2pm Monday afternoon phone calls where you always manage to ask (in hushed tones), “Did I wake you?” exemplify your ongoing commitment to and understanding of my work ethic and it is so, so appreciated.

As for my health and well-being, well, I feel every year of my age this month. And while “the big one” is still about 10 months out, my helpful friends have already started referring to me as being 40. As in “Did you ever think it would be this way when we reached our 40s?” Thanks. That’s really, really helpful and I appreciate the shove into middle age.

It wouldn’t be a Christmas letter without writing about what I resolve to do in 2010 and what my Big Plans are for the New Year. It’s been a crazy year and in case you haven’t been reading, I still don’t seem to know where I am going, what I am doing or who I might be doing it with. Mostly, I just try to reflect the principles of Taoism and let myself go with the flow to find my happiness. Because any planning that I do always seems to end up misfiring, backfiring or otherwise just not working out.

And after everything, I still believe in Christmas.


Best Wishes in the Holiday Season. I hope wherever you are, you are safe, healthy, happy and loved.

Lisa

Sunday, December 20, 2009

county fair


The smells of the county fair bring it all back; it’s the oil burning in the air from the demolition derby and the grease puffing the elephant ears before they get puffed with sugar and the heat, the heat makes the animals less nervous about being there, on the block, ready to go to the highest bidder because who cares when every time you move sawdust sticks in your fur and the water has been sitting there all day you could boil an egg or at least coddle it in that water and so go ahead and stick your finger in the cage or buy me/hog-tie me and throw me in the back of the truck, mebbe there’s water where we’re goin’ and then again maybe you’ll just put me out of my misery and either way, I just don’t care.

Surprised to see her there, somehow, surprised she would be there with the baby in the stroller, surprised like when I ran into my doctor at the store and found out, almost cruelly, that he eats frozen lasagna, the good kind from Stouffer’s, but still, just out of character/as wrong as the rubber wheel catching on the stone in the dry dirt and twisting, as she twisted around to stare hard at me through flinty eyes, greeted me with “Hey, howya doin’?” and my throat closed up right then.

The garage door at the mill always starts slowly then bangs shut with a thump on the ground always right before you can get a see inside/that mill/like a ghost town except during the shift change and then you get a glimpse but not inside/just the deck chair and the casual flip of a hand, or two, as you slow to drive over the tracks. Her throat closes just like that last “whump,” when the door clicks just as it shuts down, and then she almost shuts down too but she takes a deep breath and says, “How are you?”

Smells of the fair bring back warm summer nights when we played ball in the park and Kevin kept hitting them out of reach so we’d have to stop, pile into the car and run to the store, grocery store open all night and bleary-eyed, beer in Styrofoam cups, cigarettes dangling we’d wander the aisles til we found the display at the end of the “outdoor/grill supplies” section and carefully choose the next plastic pink bat and ball, all the while ribbing him for losing yet another one, but laughing too as we made our way back to the car, back to the park and Kathy swung lazily from the swing set, laughing so hard it hurt/hurts still hurting/ begging for a chance to hit the ball before he lost it again/ smiling triumphantly, no grinning really he took position as we crouched in the outfield, close to the woods and away from the sleeping houses to look up at the stars and watch the ball arc quickly out of reach/ no one was anyone’s girlfriend it wasn’t like that it was just fun and I couldn’t stop laughing and fell down into the grass already misted with dew like a damp bath towel enough to jump up again quickly, cursing softly and then still laughing, yes I remember-

And remember when we used to go fishing behind the mill in the Big river and again laughing quietly but wildly, late at night and the river didn’t keep the beer cold at all but it was better than nothin’, in fact it was damn near to perfect and he parked his truck right at the bank and we turned around for something close to a minute and it was gone, swallowed by the river and they had to get someone to come and pull it out, drained it and cleaned it and it looked fine but he sold the truck he loved on the following Tuesday because no matter what they did, and everyone said it was fine, but no matter what they did he couldn’t shake the smell of that dirty old river/I wondered when it got hot would the new owner, a young woman, would she smell Budweiser in a can and fish that had to be thrown back because they can’t swim in the glove box, can’t feed on the dashboard, can only swim upstream through the seatbelts?

Everything comes flooding back/I am drowning in the memory of him and how every bristle on his face looked/and how his sister was afterwards, she was so, so sad and instead of congratulating me in the yearbook or scribbling the usual, party hard/Van Halen rocks/School Sucks, she wrote, “Be careful.” The loopy cursive handwriting scrawled across the inside of the first page, down at the bottom in the middle, where everyone would see it and years later at a party/drunk on homemade plum wine and maybe drunk with remembering, too we laughed over our high school photos and how we all looked back then and then Cheryl said, “Be careful?”

Monday, December 14, 2009

the simple life

A while ago, I wrote about dating someone who wasn’t…exactly an intellectual, who didn’t really…challenge me, but who was just fun. Really fun, in the way that I’m fun, laughing and silly and crazy and fun. That isn’t me all the time, but it is definitely a part of who I am.


I was amazed by how my friends felt that the whole relationship was a big waste of my time. As if everyone I date is in contention for some sort of relationship title. That if I don’t remain focused, on whatever it is that I am supposed to be looking for, I’m going to end up unhappy, unfulfilled and ultimately, alone.


And it’s not that I want to waste my time or anyone else’s time by hanging out with someone whom I know won’t be around for the long haul. I am, in fact, a long-term relationship person, someone who is most comfortable being with someone that I love, trust and who I feel honored to be with- and who feels the same about me. It’s just that sometimes, I don’t want more from a relationship.


I want less.


Relationships take time. They take work. They take effort. They involve discussing feelings. Communicating. Thinking about how your actions will affect someone else and ultimately, changing the way in which you live your life to ensure that whatever it is that you are doing at any given time doesn’t negatively impact that other person.


As someone who veers from being entirely social to entirely alone (often not answering my phone for weeks on end, then moving into a never-ending stream of text messages, parties and happy hours), I have often been (rightfully) accused of breaking any one of 1,000 relationship rules. And the whole process wears me down sometimes. Even thinking about starting a new relationship depresses me. Sometimes, I just can’t face starting over.


I don’t know why or how it is that every relationship ultimately seems to deteriorate into a complete breakdown in communication. It amazes me how months and months into a relationship I can look at someone and feel like I don’t know them at all. Like I never knew them, really.


And the funny thing is, I know I’ve been duped before. I have been in the middle of a long-term relationship and sat bewildered, listening to my significant other tell me, “Well I lied about that. I wanted you to go out with me so I just made it up.”


I mean, how could I have not seen that one coming? And what am I supposed to do a year into it all, when I find about a lie? At that point, I’m too invested to just walk.


I have to wonder if, like my friends would tell you, I’m not doing enough research to find the right person before the relationship begins. I should be staying focused and manifesting what I want from this other person. Because you would think, if I knew everything going in, that I might be a little smarter about whom I love. About whom I allow into my life.


But even if I were smarter. Even if I did the research and went into a new relationship wide-eyed, intent on what I want and prepared for anything:


Can I choose love? Or will it still choose me?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

fine, thanks

A friend of mine used to say that people don't want or expect an answer when they ask "How are you?" They say it automatically, because it's what you do, after all, when you run into someone you know. But most of the time, people have too much on their minds to really listen to your response.

I conducted an experiment* a while ago, just giving random answers when asked how I was doing. It was funny; no matter what I would say, I could tell by their responses that people really weren't listening to me.


I don’t know whether to be put off by this or not. We lead busy lives; we’re constantly under attack, receiving information from far too many sources. We might be, in fact, what many people refer to as “overconnected.” Between Facebook updates, Twitter blasts, emails and yes, this blog, I rely on not talking to people in order to update them on my life.


How screwed up is that?


In thinking once again that I want to break my Crackberry addiction and move on to something new, I’ve been looking at phones that offer even more options- for texting and emailing. Because really, that’s mostly what I do. These forms of communication far surpass any phone conversations I’ve had in recent months and I can’t even remember the last time I sat down and wrote someone a letter.


When a friend is in trouble or hurting, I write them an email to let them know they have my support. Send little text messages just so they know, they’re on my mind. When I can’t connect with my sisters by phone, they too receive texts, which seem to grow ever more and more shorthanded, as we all lost the time to type out proper messages: “ask him say yes pick up Aug 4?” (response from sis: “he is a yes but l8r, like 7”).


Even at the blushing beginning of a new romance, I’m hard-pressed to pick up a phone. Why bother to call when a text can do all the talking for me? And when it comes right down to it, I’m a writer. I know how to write a (really good) text, IM or an email to someone I care about. So naturally, writing will be my first choice for emotional expression. For saying things I don’t know how to say in person. Frisky flirting, heartfelt promises and a whole lot more, all happening in just 160 characters or less.



How am I doing? I’ll send you an email.



*Sample responses I gave when asked how I was doing:

"OK. I just got treated for my STD and I think I can start having sex with random guys again." "That's great, Lisa!"

"Not too bad, since I started using a straight-edge razor to get rid of the stress." "Awesome! Hope to see you out this weekend!"

Friday, December 11, 2009

the anniversary party

Over the past year, a lot of things have happened.


We had a 20-year blizzard. Seeing Portland residents skiing downtown is a sight I’ll never forget.


In Scotland, I found a resurgence of civic pride in Glasgow and was charmed by lovely Edinburgh.


I was also charmed by the Blazers’ sixth man, missed my old friends, blinded by love and sad about a break up. And I moved, to beautiful Lake Oswego.


I also moved, lock stock and barrel, from MySpace to Facebook…and Twitter. Despite being overconnected and hyperconnected, I continue to find myself in the middle of a number of confusing miscommunications.


December 11th is the three-year anniversary of the rose city journal.


Thanks for sticking by me, dear readers. It’s been a crazy year and I’ve loved sharing it with you.


I’m ready to fall headfirst into winter and full-length into the snow. Care to join me?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

the whitewash

Looking back at our trip to the Big Island, I fondly remember the soft blue water pushed up against the sharpness of the sun in the early morning. Long walks on private beaches, stumbling in and out of bars that were just shacks, really, drinking funny umbrella drinks that I’d normally eschew for a beer; the memories I have of that time and that place are beautiful.

Throughout every thread of every memory, I remember him, with some sadness now, and how sweet he was when I got sick on the last day. How much fun we had eating the strange, exotic fish and how much we laughed at the old man who ran the B&B. How my hand felt pushed up against the tree and the exact rose-blue blushing pink inside the purple flower above me.

And yet…and yet. If I think about it all a little more, I remember something else, too.

I could be wrong, but I’m fairly certain, that we fought our way up every mountain, snapped at each other at the rim of the volcano and went off in a dither at the hotel buffet. That at one point, lost in a rainforest and listening to a litany of complaints about how everything was MY fault, I very seriously considered leaving him to fend for himself.

I have to wonder, given these competing memories, if over time we consciously- or unconsciously- decide to whitewash our past relationships.

Do we idealize our ex-loves?

I’ve been on the other end of this, too. My friends think I never go out with anyone new- I just continue to recycle my old boyfriends. Which strictly speaking, isn’t true. But they do seem to pop back up a lot. One of them called me last year.

I kept telling him on the phone, “No, I won’t have lunch with you.”

“Why?”

“Well, because what you always seem to forget is that you don’t like me very much.”

It sounds funny, but I think it’s true. Over time, as he saw his friends and family settle down and begin to raise their families, he realized that he wanted that, too. And as he flips through the rolodex, I’m sure I look pretty good…on paper. The word most people use to describe me is sweet. And about the only thing I ever try to do really well is to be honest. Those are qualities that, on paper, are just what someone might want for their future.

But the reality is that nothing ever looks as good as it does in the box. I’m sure that I have many moments that aren’t so sweet. I’ve also been told by more than one person that I’m quirky. ADD. And always, always writing- on the backs of paper bags, receipts, even my hand. These “quirks” can make trying to foster a relationship difficult. There isn’t a lot of time left to just be.

I want to move forward, without looking behind me. To acknowledge my missteps, laugh at my foibles and stand ready for whatever comes next. I don’t know what could be worse than repeating my past mistakes.

Unless it’s not getting the opportunity to repeat them again.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

the suitor-writer

While running around with my friend Diana this weekend, we started talking about our friends who are also writers. Diana is a (wonderful) writer, a great friend and is helping me with a new project I am working on, too. We feel lucky to know so many talented people and to have amassed a stockpile of free (signed!) books.

And we also commiserated about that most feared friend of a writer- the pseudo-intellectual slash poet slash writer. They inspire much fear in writers and over time, will be avoided and shunned by much of the writing community, who live in constant fear of being forced to come over for day old banana bread, peppermint tea and haiku ("Kitty! Get off the couch!").

But there’s something even worse, I explained to a happily married Diana. The suitor-writer.

Men, whom you want to get to know better, who want to read their attempts at writing to you, first…Before anything else. Typically, this seems to run along the lines of really bad poetry and songs but it has also included poorly written detective/murder mysteries and, on one memorable occasion, some really odd science fiction (accompanied by a diorama, complete with headless Barbie).


I don’t why, but as soon as I hear a prospective suitor read something out loud that’s really bad, every other feeling, action or impulse that I was considering pretty much goes out the window.


With me after it, ankles neatly clearing the sill.


Staring hard at the floor and trying not to laugh while one swain waxed on about his, um, prowess, stopping ever so often to arch a carefully tweezed (and possibly waxed) brow at me, I bit my lip so hard to keep from laughing, I still have a tiny scar.


Listening to another short-lived potential love interest shout about his abusive father, unpopularity in high school and love for his ex-fiancée poetry-slam style, I felt unnerved to the point where I finally made up an excuse and went home.

Another time, held captive over the phone while the soft, lulling voice of a would-be storyteller meandered through the Iowan farms he missed so much, I fell asleep.


And I feel bad for reacting this way. I, of all people, should understand what it means to share your writing with someone you like. It’s not something that I do very often. I don’t typically bring any of it to anyone’s attention. It’s more like I am just found out.


So I understand how it feels, standing in front of someone that you really like, and sharing your writing with them. It’s me saying: I want to elevate your opinion of me. I want you to know that I’m relevant, that I matter, that I’m something other than whatever it is that you think you know about me.


I’m going to try to keep this in mind, the next time I find myself considering love with an as-yet undiscovered writer…I will think back, remember how it felt to place my work in his hands and why, after all, it’s so scary to share our writing with our crushes.

I think it’s because when you read me, you’ll know everything that I don't know how to say.

Once you learn how to listen.