Goodbye Stranger

Goodbye stranger, it’s been nice. I hope you find your paradise…hope your dreams will all come true.

I have a flair for being a bit…melodramatic. Perhaps “overemotional” is a better word, which I’m sure will make some of you gentle readers furrow your brows in confusion, especially those who know me personally. How can a woman such as me be overemotional when I hardly ever express myself verbally? How the fuck does that work? I am as perplexed as you all are, but trust me: I am one moody bitch. I can be perfectly fine and relaxed one minute, and the next, want to fly into a murderous rage at something trivial.

As I’ve gotten older, this has gotten worse. I never used to cry at commercials on TV or at movies, and would always make fun of my mother for doing so. Lady, it’s a Hallmark Channel movie. It’s predictable and cliche, but here you are losing your stuff over Candice Cameron-Bure falling for the lovable oaf of a man–most likely the rugged, handsome small town handyman or carpenter or some shit– just like she did in the other twelve made-for-tv movies she’s in. Stop.

But here I am, a little over a month shy of turning 37 years old, and I cry. Often. The show “This Is Us”? Out of the two seasons, I haven’t cried at maybe two episodes and that’s being generous. And we’re not talking a tear slipping down my chubby cheeks crying, we’re talking a proper tear fest, with some episodes leaving me sobbing, gasping for breath, ugly crying. It’s the goddamnedest thing. I was driving back from the gas station up the road just a bit ago and as I was coming down the road to turn into my subdivision, I saw an elderly couple walking together and they were holding hands. Tears.

I’ve always had a problem with crying. For whatever reason, I had it pounded into my head that crying should be done privately. I’m embarrassed as hell whenever I cry in front of other people. Whenever I feel my eyes start to sting and my bottom lip start to tremble, I clench my jaws and try to fight it. I don’t know why I’m like this. Growing up, we were a fairly emotional family, I think. As I mentioned, my mother would unabashedly cry at anything. My father was more of the stereotypical dude and I don’t ever really remember seeing him cry when I was a child, but in his later years, he was far more open and expressive about it. Truth be told, it would make me uncomfortable. What happened to this guy that he’s suddenly Mr. Openly Crying? To make matters worse for me, once he was like that, he’d press harder for me to be that way, as well. That was obviously met with much opposition and stubbornness. Weird, right?

The shit of it is, I actually greatly admire people who cry freely like that. I want to be like that, too. I don’t see it as a sign of weakness in anyone but myself. For me, when I dare let myself slip and shed tears around others, I’m honestly mortified and silently berate myself for letting my guard down. I hate that I’m that way and would like to be able to just let the tears rip and not be concerned about what others think of me for doing so, but I just can’t shake it. I think I’ve gotten a teensy bit better about it over the last few years, but not much.

Having said all that, the last month has been in a word: fucked. Regular gentle readers remember someone I hold dear just moved away and my emotional rollercoaster has been stuck going around in a loop for the last four weeks. Thinking about him leaving gets me. Certain songs gets me. Thinking about how he’s no longer in the same city, zip code, state, time zone gets me. Thinking about all the things I regret not doing or saying while he was here gets me. Thinking that I no longer have a solid, reliable, always willing to help me with anything I asked for person (when I wasn’t being a stubborn cow and actually swallowed my pride and asked for help, that is) gets me. Thinking that I no longer feel like I belong here or safe in a town I’ve called home for over fifteen years gets me. Thinking how he’s going to slowly distance himself from me and we lose all contact gets me. Thinking if he has had the same kinds of thoughts about me and if he’s broken down over it like I have gets to me. I doubt he has; he’s always been the more levelheaded of the two of us. Thinking that I should have talked more to him, that I should have reached out more to him whenever I was feeling sad or lonely or just wanted someone to sit with me and how I never did because I didn’t want to bother him or be annoying gets me. Thinking that I have greatly elevated my role in his life far more than it really was and I’m just a delusional asshole gets me…in fact, that one gets me the most.

As you can see, my brain is having a hay day with this and I’m letting it. It’s a hoot. I love it.

But let me also say this: there have been three days in my life when something happened and the next day, the entire world seemed different and indifferent to what happened, which tends to throw a gal into an existential crisis, which is also hoot-a-rific.

  1. The day I got back from an impromptu trip to Idaho after my marriage had officially hit the skids. Unbeknownst to me, my ex-husband had moved out while I was gone. That day has a shitshow anyway due to hours long delayed flights thanks to thunderstorms preventing landing at the airport and the final flight home having to be rerouted to Kansas City after circling the Omaha airport for an hour. I was to have gotten home early afternoon, but instead didn’t arrive until midnight. It was a Saturday night and a friend of mine had moved in a few months prior to help defray rent and other such costs and he was at our regular karaoke haunt and I met him there when I got back into town. He had a cold beer waiting for me and then had the most awkward task of telling me that my ex had moved while I was gone. Returning to the home we had shared for over two years and almost ten years together and seeing half of my life suddenly gone was indescribable. The day after when reality hit me harder was a daze.
  2. The day my father died. He died shortly after midnight and none of us got to sleep until the early morning hours, thanks to having to wait for the sheriff and funeral home to come remove his body, but once having woken up from a brief nap, the entire world felt different. My family and I had to tend to business surrounding the funeral and arrange for him to be transported for cremation and while we were gone, I kept thinking to myself, we have to get home so we can get Dad his pain medication. Oh. Wait. Not anymore. Those days of getting up every three hours to make sure he was comfortable were gone and I felt so useless and helpless.
  3. Yesterday was the third day. I found it very rude that the sun rose and was shining and it was a beautiful day here in eastern Nebraska. Didn’t the world get the memo life was suddenly different again? Didn’t it know it wasn’t supposed to go about things as if nothing happened the day before? Apparently not, because the sun was shining brightly, the birds sang their usual tunes, and it was business as usual for everyone else. Bastards.

See? Overdramatic and emotional. I’m acting like the guy died–which it kind of feels that way (I did it again!)–but he moved. People move every day and don’t feel like their entire universe imploded on itself. He’s still very much alive, most likely extremely tired and stressed the fuck out about all he has to accomplish in a few days, but he’s just a few states away. Chill out, Erin. This isn’t the end of the world, but yet, I can’t help but feel it is (and again!).

I had lunch with one of my best friends and her mother yesterday afternoon and her mother commented that “it’s time to reinvent yourself!” Because it’s me, I’m thinking full-tilt boogie drastic life changes, like fuckin’ moving to Idaho finally to appease my brother’s annoying harassment to do so. The thing with me is I tend to also have a flair for going from zero to sixty in two seconds. It’s ovaries to the wall with me sometimes, as I’m also an impatient person. If I want to do something, I want to do it NOW and tend to make rash decisions. I swear I have some sort of undiagnosed frontal lobe brain damage to the area responsible for decision making and impulsivity control because Jesus Christ on a cross.

On that note, I decided I had to see my mom who lives three hours away late yesterday afternoon, so I hopped into my vehicle and drove to see her, knowing she goes to bed early for work and I’d be arriving at the time she usually goes to bed and I wouldn’t get to spend much time with her, but off I went anyway. As I was crying into her shoulder, getting her shirt wet with snot, I said I just don’t know what to do with myself anymore. She agreed I needed to do something, but her suggestions were far more rational and small, like start walking every day or read a goddamn book. Those are much more appealing to me and far more easy to accomplish. I decided on riding my neglected bike, which incidentally brought about another meltdown because the tires are flat and I can’t figure out the hitch bike rack I have and cue the waterworks again because normally, I’d have shot a text to him asking for his help with both the bike and rack, but I can’t. Well, I could, but it would annoy him and I don’t want to bother him. I am the worst. 

I also mentioned that this hurts worse than when my ex-husband left, which she made an exceptional point and I knew this too, but it was nice to hear it said out loud instead of me saying it to myself: my marriage was so fucked towards the end that him leaving was almost a relief. It still hurt but for far different reasons than now.

And that’s the long and short of it. I feel crazy and lost, which neither are unusual for me,  especially the crazy part, but I have dialed it up to eleven. H O O T.

I just want this to work for him. I want him to have a job he’s content with and for him to make more money and for him to live the life I know he’s capable of. I’m scared and nervous for him and worrying about if he’s gotten enough sleep or if he’s eaten recently. I’m not his friend, I’m his Jewish grandmother. Oy!

I guess there is a positive spin to all this, and that cocksucker A.A. Milne said it best via that equally cocksucker-y bear Winnie the Pooh: how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. 

It’s the truth, too. But seriously, fuck A.A. Milne, that cocksucker.

Goodbye stranger, it’s been nice. Hope you find your paradise. Tried to see your point of view, hope your dreams will all come true*.

*Fuck Supertramp, too.

As always, thank you for reading.

Erin

 

 

May The Force Be With You

Nights like tonight remind me of my father. A thundershower is rolling through at the moment and brief flashes of lightning are followed by rumbles of thunder. Somewhere, Garth Brooks smiles to himself and nods knowingly. Dad would always open up the windows of the house whenever it rained, letting the cooler air flow through the house. He liked the sound of the rain falling and would almost always remark afterwards, look how green everything is now; we sure needed the moisture. He usually talked about the weather and it’s a thing I poke gentle fun of now, because it’s one of those small talk topics people rely on when the conversation lags. Whenever he called me, or if I was around when he’d talk to my brother on the phone, the weather would come up. “What’s the weather doing out there, son?”

The weather a few days before Dad died two years ago was somewhat unusual for Nebraska in late April-early May. The last day of April 2016 was unseasonably cold. I remember sitting on the front porch of Dad’s house with my able-bodied family and we were all huddled in sweatshirts and borrowed coats of Dad’s as none of us were prepared for the chill in the air. A day later, it was sunny and warm. A week prior to that when my brother and sister-in-law arrived to Nebraska from Idaho, there were thunderstorms and tornados. Being a northwest US gal all her life, my sister-in-law was terrified of what was happening around her and how the sky turned the sickly shade of pea soup green that signals some bad shit on the horizon. She was in a panic and I could just hear my brother and father laughing at her. Welcome to Nebraska, lady! We all sit outside on the front porch and get into our vehicles and follow this shit around! Nary a Nebraskan doesn’t have some sort of storm-chasing story to tell. “So, I was driving on Highway 136 towards Superior and off to the north near Nelson was a funnel cloud that was coming my way…”

I used to be petrified of storms when I was a kid. I hated the lightning and the sonic booms of thunder. The large window in our living room would make this bizarre humming/buzzing sound whenever the wind would pick up and I taught myself to become anxious whenever I heard that sound. While my dad was standing on the front deck looking at the clouds and enjoying the light show, I’d be in my room gathering my most prized possessions as surely this was going to be the day I died in a tornado. I would shove stuffed animals and books into my book bag and head down into the musty basement and try to drown out the sound of Dad’s scanner screeching over the thunder. He tried to get me to watch the storms with him, but I declined to retreat to the basement. Admittedly, I’m still a little iffy on the storm thing, but I have graduated to being able to stand in awe and morbid fascination at the clouds above me swirling and turning green and cursing any hail that falls, automatically thinking of the damage it could cause to my vehicle. Being an adult is odd sometimes.

I also picked up other quirks from my father and my mother over the years, and apparently my brother has, as well. I was talking to Nate and Margo the other day and we were reminiscing about our youth and for whatever reason, the topic of how Mom and Dad would always, always, always walk around the house bare-ass naked came up. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but it did, and it’s true. Growing up, my parents were naked half the time, and in the very least, would walk around without pants on. Their exhibitionism didn’t bother me until I reached the age where I became acutely aware of what being naked meant and then it would fill me with so much discomfort and try to avoid eye contact with any anatomical parts.

Dad also found it hilarious to rip his underwear–which were tighty-whiteys, of course. Whenever a pair had seen better days and developed holes, Dad would rip the hole and basically Hulk Hogan rip his underpants, which would cause him to break into hysterical laughter, a loud, throaty guffaw that is similar to my own throaty chuckle. I remember Dad told me once his mother would get upset whenever he would laugh too loudly like that and scold him for doing so, which is so goddamn sad if you think about it. Laughter is often music and to want to shush someone when they’re laughing is tragic. To paraphrase the words of Buddy the Elf: “I love laughing. It’s my favorite.”

Back to the naked thing (sorry). Because my parents went buff most of the time, I then decided to always be clothed. My modesty knew no bounds and it wasn’t until the last year that I started to think “eh, fuck it” and started sleeping naked myself and I’m almost 37 years old. It really does offer better sleep, which I’m still kind of blown away by but it’s science and you can’t argue science. And, I had my reasons–I have always lived with other people and it was more of a courtesy thing. No one wants to see this stark nekkid in the morning, so cover it up I did. But now I’m living by myself, it’s not a chance for an extremely awkward situation, so off comes the clothes.

Another trait I’ve picked up from my father is swaying. Allow me explain this: Dad would sway back and forth whenever he was standing still. He was like a human metronome. Slowly and steadily back and forth, back and forth, his arms behind his back and hands clasped. I do this, too. It’s oddly soothing to do it. Maybe it’s a womb thing and mimics being a fetus, I dunno. Whatever the reason, I sway now, as well.

If you’re wondering why I’m writing so much about my father tonight, it’s because the second anniversary of his death is in two days, on May 4th. I was foolishly hoping this year would be easier than the last, but no such luck. I’ve perhaps had a misconception about post-traumatic stress and how it is a diagnosis reserved solely for combat veterans, or other members of the military or those who have witness truly horrific and traumatizing violent crimes, but it can apply to any traumatic event. Dad’s death was traumatizing to me. Every now and again, I’ll catch flashes of his last few weeks alive and just sit in disbelief that my mind would have the audacity to make me think of these things again.

The day I noticed his legs were bruised and the most strenuous thing he had been doing was sleeping. I had been staying with him that weekend as I often did towards the end and not being a bashful man as made evident by the always donning his birthday suit thing I mentioned earlier, he would go to the bathroom and leave the door wide open every time. I think he had needed something from me that day and called me to the bathroom and at first, I thought it was the light coming in at an odd angle from the window onto his legs, but when I got in there with him and got a closer look, it was definitely bruising all up and down his now skinny legs. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was to head back home in a few hours, but seeing him like that caused me to panic, so I put a call out to one of the hospice nurses and she said she’d come over to look. Dad sat in his oversized recliner, tired and eyelids drooping from the medication I had just given him, and the nurse was taking vital signs and giving him the once-over.

“He’s transitioning,” she said quietly and matter-of-factly. He’s what? Is he dying from cancer or turning into a goddamn butterfly, lady? Transitioning is hospice lingo for they’ve scheduled an appointment with Death and he’s on his way. Awesome. Can’t wait to meet the guy I’ve heard so much about recently. I’ll make sure to have some snacks ready.

Another memory that kicks me hard is the morning before he died. We had brought in a hospital bed into his house and parked it in the dining room next to the wall as per Dad’s wishes. This guy wasn’t about to spend his last days in a hospital, no sir. He was going to die at home, and by golly, give the man what he wants. My favorite hospice nurse was visiting us that morning and doing her daily routine with him. Dad had been on a severely rapid decline over the last 24 hours and went from being able to slowly shuffle walk around to needing one of us to help him to being unable to get up at all and was sentenced to lay in the bed. She was looking him over and he mumbled he was hot, so I took the blanket off of him and made the mistake of looking at his feet. They were marbled a deep, dark eggplant purple color. I audibly gasped and quickly covered his feet back up. I knew that when someone is near death that their extremities start shunting all the blood flow to the abdomen and chest in an effort to maintain function for the vital organs, so that sudden loss of blood means the skin turns colors. I knew this. I was not prepared to see this firsthand, though. The image of what looked like him having just walked barefoot through grass littered with mulberries and had stained his feet with the deep purple color is something I will never forget, try as I might.

Another is the plastic bag hanging off the side of the bed to hold his urine since he wasn’t able to get up and walk the 15 feet to the bathroom anymore, so he had been catheterized. I watched during the day as the liquid in the bag progressively got darker and darker to tinged with red to suddenly being a thick pinkish material. His nurse looked at it and sadness washed over her face as she whispered to me that the cancer must be have gotten into his bladder, as well as pretty much everywhere else in his abdominal cavity.

These things haunt me still and I’m guessing they will for a long time to come, just like how his loss at a relatively young age will claw away at me. He was only 65–which is humorous to say. When you’re in your teens and twenties, being 60 sounds like you’re nearing being ancient, but the older you get, being in your sixties is suddenly young still. We say it all the time whenever we find out someone has died: “oh gosh, only 65? He was so young still!” If I had my way, the guy would have made like his mother and lived to the ripe old age of 92, may they both rest in peace, but cancer had other plans for him and here we are, two years later, and I’m writing about him instead of having a boring conversation over the phone with him about the weather.

He chose to die on May 4th, which nerds united will know this is a special day for us, as it was dubbed Star Wars Day, as someone decided that “May the 4th be with you” sounds like someone with a speech impediment saying “may the force be with you.” Us nerds, man; we’re a clever bunch. When Dad realized, as he so eloquently and always tear-inducing put it–the final leaves off his tree were falling, he wanted to live to see May 7th, as that’s the day his wife died (not my mother–she’s very much alive and kicking. DVH was a rascal and my mom was his second marriage and after they divorced in 2003, he remarried), but instead, he kicked his bucket on May 4, 2016, which is symbolic in the way that our family was/is a Star Wars family. Dad used to run the movie projector at our local movie theatre back in the ’70s/80s and would boast he was able to see all three Star Wars films several hundred times because of that. He would often drag my older brother along with him, which ignited his love of the movies, and not wanting to be left out, I adopted the love, as well. In fact, one of the last coherent activities my brother, nephew, and I did with Dad was watch Star Wars one night a few weeks before he died. That was a good night.

This time of year gets to me now for obvious reasons. The last few weeks of April and the first few days of May bring out a flood of memories–good and bad–and I become an emotional mess of a person. Facebook doesn’t help as “On This Day” reminds me of this time, too. Thanks, Zuckerberg, you identity-stealing fuck. I mean, the death of a someone so close never really goes away or gets easier, but the time of year they died suddenly gets worse.

Compound the fact that the guy I’ve been writing about lately is moving during this same time? Sweet fancy Moses. To say I am a jumble of wild emotions is wildly understated. This guy sometimes reminds me of Dad–in all the good ways, not any of the typical daddy issues way most of us end up having with our fathers–and my god. It feels like this person is also somehow dying in my mind and let me tell ya what, that’s been a trip and a half. I’m just not a fan of this time of year anymore. I used to love mid-to-late spring but now, it’s forever going to be associated with heartache and loss. And when you throw in that my grandma, a woman I loved and admired and who also is responsible for some of my characteristics died a day after Dad did? Yeah, May 2016 was not a good month and now will forever be sullied. Thanks, MAY.

And here I sit, letting the cool breeze after the rain waft through the house, that “just clean” smell filling my nostrils, and half crying/half laughing at the whole “we sure needed the moisture” thing. A small shrine to my dad is on my right on top of the bookcases in my dining room, and listening to songs that remind me of the guy playing as I write (at a respectable level, thank you very much, GAIL), I’m struck with sadness but also thousands of happy memories and a few not so happy ones, but that’s life, baby. It isn’t always good. I’m so goddamn lucky and grateful I have had people in my life that makes their loss feel so gut-wrenching.

Lucky and grateful for their love and everything they’ve done for me and the holes they leave in my heart are vast and will never be filled.

As always, thanks for reading.

EH

April 29, 2018

I’m not going to beat around the bush here, so let’s get right at it.

In a post earlier this week, I wrote about someone close to me moving away and how well I’m not taking this. I’m the opposite of taking it well.

I am also not taking my not taking this well well. Confused? Me, too. I’ll try to explain…

I feel selfish about it. I feel like I’m being overly dramatic. I’ve never been that great with dealing my emotions, so this past week has been a gas in that regard. I’ve been ignoring this person I claim to care so much about,  but also passive aggressively trying to reach out to them via songs I post to Facebook. What am I, 12? I guess I’m 12. Hey look at me, everyone! I’m 12! Weeeeee!! Look at the freakishly large and over-developed 12 year old woman-child!!

Today has already been a fucking disaster of a day and it’s noon. I would very much like to get shitfaced drunk because my coping skills are top notch, but I have homework to do which I am procrastinating because of all the wacky horseshit that’s gone on already today. Let me tell you all about it, gentle readers.

First of all, since Dude is moving away, he’s obviously unable to attend the concerts we had been slated for, one being in Chicago at the end of May. I don’t want to go alone and don’t want anyone else to go with me because I’m a selfish bitch like that, so in lieu of going to the concert, I instead decided to go visit my brother and sister-in-law that weekend. It’ll be a quick trip and I decided to fly this time around because I just can’t hack driving that far for that short of amount of time anymore. I’m old. I’m almost 37. My shit isn’t cool with driving 18 hours straight anymore. I have to stop midway and sleep now, but given the timeframe, I’d get to Idaho and have only a day to spend with them before I’m all, “okay bye!” and have to drive 18 hours back. Fuck that noise. Flying it is.

My sister-in-law sent me a link to Expedia to book my flight, which I tried 4 fucking times and kept getting waylaid by jackassery. Flight sold out; flight unable to be processed, please try again. By the fourth time I tried, I then got a text and email from my bank questioning some suspicious activity. Oh goody gumdrops. It should be noted I’ve had issues twice before with my bank detecting fraud on my account and shutting my debit card off, once without my knowledge, so that was fun. The second time, I destroyed the wrong goddamn debit card and had to have two new ones which caused the massive headache of having to go through all the accounts I online bill pay and change my information before the charges got declined, which I didn’t catch all of them in time and ended up happening anyway. So, I quickly log on to my account and see at least 10 different charges via Expedia–three flights to Seattle goddamn Washington and a slew of weird-ass charges. Come on, man. Seattle? I was trying to get to Idaho, you dumb fucks. I called the number on the back of my card–which I should probably have memorized by now since I’ve had to use it so goddamn often lately–and my card was then shut off. Again. For a third fucking time in six months.

Annoyed doesn’t even begin to cover it. We got it hashed out, so it’s fine, whatever. Breathe, Erin. It got handled.

Next, I have homework due today and need to schedule an online exam for my midterm in anatomy. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, right? Oh, of course not. I couldn’t get goddamn registered for the exam because of stupid user error on my part, so had to get into an online chat with the site support and they figured out what was wrong. Cool. Thanks. I then discovered I have to pay $20 to take a fuckin’ test. Annoyance level back up. Don’t go to school, y’all. It’s stupidly expensive and dumb and a waste of time. I have decided I am perfectly fine making $16/hour for the rest of my life. But again, got it figured out, paid the goddamn fee, and all is well.

However, thanks to all this shit, I’m sitting here pissed off and all I want to do is drink heavily but I can’t and shouldn’t because I’m trying to not be a total fuck-up and I have shit to do today, like homework and being drunk while attempting that isn’t a good idea. Believe me, I’ve tried doing drunken homework once. It didn’t go well for me.

And THEN that makes me mad at myself that I want to drown my sorrows in alcohol. Really, Hoffmeyer? Really? What will that solve? Nothing. Do I still want to get drunk later? Absolutely.

And to top it all off, the second anniversary of my dad’s death is coming up and obviously it’s been on the back of my mind for the last few weeks, so this time of year isn’t the best for me and to add the Dude moving away on top of it, I would like to set the end of April and first few weeks of May on fire and strike them from the record so no one ever has to deal with them ever again, and it also proves the point that everyone you love goes away and that it’s pointless to let people get close to you because they leave.

As you can see, I’m not having the best go of things today and I wish to whomever or whatever to make me calm the fuck down and relax and not be so goddamn melodramatic about shit, but it’s me and it’s impossible.

Two more things adding to my surly attitude are the fact I have a smoke detector that’s beeping at me from somewhere in the house and I have no idea which one it is and it isn’t beeping consistently so it scares the fuck out of me every time, and as I type this on my computer, I keep getting notified of emails and the alert tone is making me angry and I want to throw the fucking thing out the second story window.

I detest feeling like this. I loathe it. It’s exhausting. I’m sad and angry and those two emotions do not make good bedfellows. I’m distracted as fuck, as case in point, I’m writing this instead of doing homework.

And there you have it. I also hate whining about this shit because it always annoys me when other people throw pity parties for themselves, but I’m also a hypocritical asshole, another dazzling combo.

It’ll be ok. I’ll chill out and get my stuff done. On the plus side, I got all my laundry done, so that’s neat. Will it get folded and put away? No, but it’s clean and that’s all I can muster at this point and that’s good enough for me.

Thank you for letting me bitch and be a bitch. And as always, thank you for reading.

E

 

The Code Talker

Image result for the life aquatic this is going to hurt

As the line from my favorite movies says, “this is gonna hurt.”

Have you ever met someone and something about them just clicks with you? I can’t describe it, as it isn’t just a physical thing, but rather a little voice in your head that elbows you in the side of your temporal bone (I’m taking anatomy now; let me use my fancy learnin’ words) and whispers, “pay attention to this one. This one’s special.”

So you do. You spend time with them, you learn their quirks and idiosyncrasies, their likes and dislikes, their favorite songs and movies, laugh at all their burps and farts as rotten as they are, try to dig deeper and get under the surface but find out quickly they’re also bullheaded and immovable with letting people burrow their way in, but bless their heart anyway because sometimes the guards at the entry gates have to sneak away to take a piss break and leave a small gap for you to quickly shove a toe in and what a success that always is!

It’s like when you’re a kid and are snooping around for Christmas presents in your parents’ bedroom closet and find a bag hidden by your mother waaaaaay back in the corner and she was just sure it was well-concealed enough that no way could you find it, but your keen kid eyes are finely honed to such things and like a pig trained to hunt for truffles, you snort that thing out. In other words: it’s magnificent. But then you hear your mom coming up the stairs and shit! you shut the door and scramble out of their room and try to act cool. Oh hey, Mom! Me? Oh, I was just um, looking for the vacuum…my room seems a little unkempt. Okay bye!

But damn your mother! She knows better, she gave birth to you, she has this built-in sense of knowing things about the child she carried for nine months, and she knows you were looking where you shouldn’t, so she switches her hiding spots, reassured she has foiled you this time. Try and find it now, you little cuss! And damn her again, she hid it really, really well this time and you can’t find it this time, but the sweet high of discovering it like you did before keeps you on the chase, so you don’t give up and keep looking, knowing that eventually you’ll be rewarded again.

The point being, they’re guarded. Too guarded. The Fort Knox of human beings, they say. They are very proud of this fact, and often boast about it like a villain in a superhero movie. Ha ha ha! You think you can get by ME?! Fort Knox Man?! Fool! The last person who tried doing that now has to eat their food all pureed up in a blender and shoved down a hose that goes into their asshole! In other words: don’t even try. Oh, you can try, but you won’t succeed. Those times you thought you got in? Nope. I was just being nice and letting you think you got in, but trust me, you didn’t get in. The closest you can get is the gift shop to buy a souvenir shirt that says “I Tried To Break Into Fort Knox And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.” It’s one of my favorite shirts.

I’d be remiss to mention that as a pot, I am calling the kettle black. I try to be guarded, too. Past hurts over the years have built up a lovely retaining wall and I’m not too jazzed to be the dreaded V word (vulnerable, that is), and I am a pro at withholding information and keeping my feelings and emotions to myself because again, the past has taught me the terrible lesson of “if you never share what’s rattling around in your skull with anyone, you can’t get hurt.” The logic is airtight! Or even better yet, I pull this kind of horseshit and openly and freely write about it instead of being a normal adult and opening my mouth and expressing myself verbally. My only excuse for this is “well, at least I’m getting it out somehow!” I should get a few bonus points for that, I think.

I should also interject now and mention this post is going to be all over the place. My mind is heavy and my heart aches and I’ve been trying to write this over the course of the last four days and the continuity is probably going to be fucked up, but if you’re a regular reader of my posts, you know that’s typical of me. Sorry

I recently found out the person who was my Click Moment is moving out of the state. I simply do not have the words to properly express the emotions I am feeling about this, but they range from being proud of them for doing this because when an opportunity arises, you meet it, to feeling like my other half has suddenly fallen off and went crashing into the turbulent waves of the ocean below. This move needs to happen for them in so many ways, and I know it’s going to be the best decision, but I can’t help but also feel absolutely crushed and heartbroken, as selfish as that is.

I don’t know if I’ve ever told them this–I know I’ve definitely thought about telling them over the last five years–but when I was living in Texas and not having a good time of it, they helped keep me sane. They were also part of the determining factor of moving back to Nebraska. I knew I wasn’t cut out for the Lone Star State because fuck Texas, and was having my usual internal struggle with where I should go next? Return to my roots and the family I deeply missed in The Good Life? Head to Idaho to finally shut my brother up about moving out there? What to do, what to do…

I chose Nebraska again. They helped make that decision easy. I had left rather rudely and abruptly and without telling them–something I’ve regretted ever since–so for them to not only be willing to keep in contact with me while I was gone, but to want to continue doing so after I moved back was tremendous. They absolutely did not have to do that, but they did. They could have told me to fuck off, or just ignored me altogether, but they didn’t and I’m forever grateful for that second chance, as it’s a testament of their enormous heart. The first time I saw them again after being gone six months will forever be engrained in my mind: a bunch of our mutual friends decided to meet up for dinner and when they saw me again, the words out of their mouth were, “holy shit” followed by a much needed embrace. Welcome home, indeed.

Over the last six years, I’ve been the one to leave for various reasons. Surgeries, unemployment…I’ve left Lincoln several times for a few months at a time and they’ve always welcomed me back. Now, it’s their turn to leave, but there’s no promise of return. I’m not taking this very well. Today, five days after I was informed of the change, I feel somewhat at peace with it as it’s the first day I feel somewhat normal, but I remind myself this isn’t going to be the case in three weeks when they leave for good, and the flood of emotions comes pouring back.

Again, I need to reiterate that this move is needed and deserved. It’s a chance to make more money, it’s a chance to be closer to their family, it’s just a chance to make life better. To have the guts and courage to accept this is tremendous and again, it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person. My heart is full for them and for the chance to elevate themselves. Not everyone is capable of taking such a risk and those who realize they’re stagnant in their current situation and are able to make it better are to be applauded and praised for their courage.

And then the selfishness comes in. I have thought to myself over and over again over the last several days, what about me? What’s going to happen next? As I mentioned before, I feel so lost now and they haven’t even left yet. With them being a determining factor of returning to Nebraska and now they aren’t going to be here anymore, I find myself questioning what to do now. I already feel lonely and out of sorts. I’ve been unusually quiet at work the last few days to the point where several coworkers have made mention of it and have asked what’s wrong, but typical me just forced a smile and said, “oh, nothing…just quiet, I guess.” Horseshit, Erin.

They are my person. They’re going to be missed by me more than they can fathom. Our relationship has always been a little quirky over the years, but aren’t they all? I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve been through so much together, from road trips to dealing with the deaths to this. They’ve seen me ugly cry, which not everyone gets to witness, and they’ve kept on being by my side. They’ve endured me constantly singing along to songs on trips and sometimes while I’ve pretended to be sleeping as we drove during early morning hours back from places, I’ve secretly listened to them sing, too.

We share a mutual fondness for F. Scott Fitzgerald and my second favorite quote of his is, “they slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered,” and I believe that’s true of us. They will never leave my heart or mind, probably much to their chagrin. Sorry again.

They joked with me that I’ll have good writing material over this and they weren’t wrong. I also know that writing about them causes discomfort, but they need to know how I feel, even if it’s the total cop-out way of writing instead of in person. I hope they understand and forgive me for this. Old habits die hard.

I think this is enough for now, so I’ll end this by repeating myself:

To you–you know who you are, and I’m sure you’ll have no trouble deciphering this: I am so proud of you. You deserve this chance and I’m happy you took it. Your happiness is all I ever want for you, and if this offers you the opportunity to have it, then you fucking take it.

I wish you all my luck, Captain.

Always,

Erin

Shattered Illusions

 

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Lawrence Krauss, Nebraska Wesleyan University, March 11, 2015; photo taken by yours truly.

Three years ago to the day, March 11, 2015, I and some close friends and fellow atheists sat in eager anticipation in the rapidly filling up auditorium at Nebraska Wesleyan University. Lawrence Krauss, theoretical physicist and professor at Arizona State University was in town to give a lecture to fellow nerds and freethinkers.

I recall that particular March evening: unseasonably warm and the sun was shining brightly, as if the cosmos themselves were aware Krauss was there and wished to carry favor to all of us eager to hear him fill our minds with his words.

I wasn’t there for the physics portion obviously, as that particular section of science is far beyond my comprehension. I mean, I attribute the wind blowing to trees sneezing still, but rather, I was there to witness one of atheism’s most noteworthy members.

Being a nonbeliever isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, if you can believe it, just in the way that we are often considered social pariahs for our audacity to claim disbelief in the god many of us were raised to believe exists. Outcasts, society’s modern-day lepers, if you will. To have Krauss here in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the heart of conservatism and Red State politics was like atheist Christmas.

He spoke passionately and eloquently, was charismatic and affable, and to my surprise, I followed along with his lecture well, only having a what the fuck is he even talking about moment once during his two hours on stage. I snapped the above picture from my phone near the end of his talk and it is one of my favorite pictures. I even have a print of it hanging proudly on my wall of photos greeting you as you climb up the stairs to the second floor of my home. Lawrence fuckin’ Krauss, man. It was an honor and treat to get to see him in person, and I have nothing but admiration for an incredibly intelligent man who isn’t afraid to be a vocal proponent of atheism. We don’t have many heroes, but Krauss is on our side and it’s a comforting fact.

Then, on February 22, 2018, nearly three years from the day he was in our town, an article first shared by BuzzFeed News was published, accusing Krauss of several instances of sexual misconduct. I saw the article notification on my phone and my heart sunk into my stomach. “Goddamn it…” I whispered to myself as I started to read. 2017 to present has brought forth so many stories of notable men behaving poorly, and it appears Mr. Krauss is not exempt from this.

As expected, several members of the atheist group I belong to shared the article and it has caused quite the stir among the group and causing controversy. Some demand he not be convicted by anyone based on the fact it was a BuzzFeed News article and their clout, lack of factual reporting standards, and inability to remain unbiased when reporting is in question. Some began attacking the veracity of the women’s claims based on the news source. Some straight up objected the claims at all, which is what I’d like to further address here in a moment. Others began attacking our own members for daring to be feminists and being outraged by these accusations against Krauss. I’ll also further expound on that, as well, because of course I will.

First, let me go off course a little bit and discuss sexual harassment and misconduct. If some haven’t noticed, the world is an ever-changing place. Things that were once tolerated and accepted without much fuss probably isn’t so much anymore. I mean, doctors, nurses, patients, and visitors could all smoke in hospitals and offices back in the ’80s, for chrissakes. Now, on nearly all hospital and clinic campuses, smoking is prohibited and if your doctor finds out you smoke, you get a stern lecture about the perils and health risks of it and are urged to quit.

Take a look at the machismo and quintessentially masculine figure of James Bond as another example. Suave, dashing, shaken martinis, owner of super cool gadgets, driver of shit-hot cars, and looooooved the ladies. A man like James Bond would be an HR nightmare and would have been fired years ago for telling Moneypenny he wanted to undo her bow and get to know her.

And not to be outrageous here, but I’m trying to really drive the point home, but um, slaves. At one point in our history, it was totally cool to own another person or several persons and last time I checked, that hasn’t been a thing–and rightly so–for a real long time because gosh, it turns out kidnapping folks, stuffing them into rickety old wooden ships in deplorable conditions and forcing them into servitude and routinely beating them wasn’t exactly a shining moment in our historical timeline.

Times have a pesky way of a-changin’.

Getting back to the James Bonds and Mad Men of the world. At one time, when the workplace was predominantly male-centric, a little office butt-slapping and comment-making on how nice that polyester dress accentuates Margaret’s curves was no biggie. In fact, it might have even appeared that the ladies enjoyed the attention and encouraged it. They never said anything about it, so obviously it was all harmless fun and a way to kick back and relax at the office while Janice did some document filing. Great job on making sure all those papers are organized, Janice. And great job on that ass today, too! Oh, Janice. Go fetch a snifter of brandy and a pack of Lucky Strikes like a good girl.

Then, the ’70s happened and women got the crazy notion that they can be empowered and “anything you can do, I can do, too” came about. More women were leaving their homes for the workplace. Janice suddenly became an office manager and get your own goddamn booze and smokes, you big galoot, and touch my ass one more time and I’ll fuckin’ deck ya. Feminism was on the rise, my friends. Dig it.

And so were reports of sexual harassment on the job. Dave from Accounting made one too many lewd comments about Janice and well, we can’t abide by that anymore, Dave from Accounting. Pack up your calculator and turn in your name tag.

Let’s discuss feminism for a moment, shall we? And apologies for bouncing all over the place, but I get to thinking while I’m typing and yeah.

The dictionary defines feminism as such: (noun): the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. Simple enough concept, right? Barebones definition is “you treat me like a normal human being, and I’ll return that favor. Don’t behave differently around me or expect that you can display dominance over me just because I am a woman. K thnx.” But goddamned if that word strikes fear into some people’s hearts still. Images of unruly women ripping off and burning their brassieres in fits of rage and contempt for men. Fuck men! We hate men! The only thing men are good for is nothing because men are worthless, vile pigs! That, friends, is not feminism. That is a stereotype of feminism perpetuated by people who long for the days of pinching Janice on the behind and innocently shrugging their shoulders in a “what? What’s wrong with that?” way. Let me drop another definition on y’all because I’m in a definin’ mood, I guess. Misandry (noun): dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men (i.e., the male sex). Fun fact: feminism =/= misandry. Are some feminists also misandrists? Absolutely they are. Are all feminists misandrists? Absolutely no they are not. I’m not. I love men. I think most y’all are great, save a few exceptions, but there’s always a few bad apples in the fruit salad, isn’t there? From my opinion in reading some of the comments posted to our group about the Krauss debacle, some fellas can’t make that distinction and someone actually so eloquently referred to feminists as “feminutty,” and gosh dang, that tickled me to bits. Clever, dude. Very clever, indeed.

Now, let’s talk about sexual misconduct and/or harassment. I’m sure some of you have the same picture in your heads like I do when I think of sexual harassment. Any job you’ve ever had over the last several decades makes you watch a video on sexual harassment. Do not touch, make gross comments to, tell dumb sexist jokes, try to proposition, send dick pics, etc, or risk being fired. Basically, remove all thoughts of sex from your mind once you clock in for the day. You’re here to work, not get laid, unless you’re a sex worker, then yes, it is literally your job to get laid. Again–always exceptions. I’ve been fortunate enough in my profession to be in a mostly female-dominant work environment, so I’ve never had to deal with harassment at my job, at least not from my coworkers, lucky me. From gross old men who are patients of mine, however? Oh yes, that’s a different story. I recall checking the pacemaker of an elderly man and while I was placing the wand over his device, he said to me with a sly grin on his face, “I think you better check down here,” as he pointed to his crotch. Classy, sir.

And your job isn’t the only place us dames have to worry about inappropriate behavior towards us. The simple act of walking down the street creates a perfect storm. Catcalling, and in other instances, being attacked and raped are very real threats to us. Have you ever had to walk to your car at night with your keys spiked between your fingers as a makeshift weapon in case someone tries to attack you? I have. Or, with the boom of social media over the last decade or more, have you ever had a complete stranger message your Facebook inbox and send you a picture of their erect penis and then call you a fat bitch for denying their penis and for what I assumed was a request to rate said penis on a scale of 1 to 10 (“2, which I also assume is how long it is” doesn’t seem to be a very popular response with some fellas). A recent incident with myself is I had posted a picture on Instagram of me wearing a low-cut shirt. Some guy I have zero clue who the fuck he is somehow found my profile and sent me a private message of “can I fuck your tits?” Well, golly, Random Stranger! Sure! Fortunately for me, this doesn’t happen very often, but the fact it even happens at all is very telling of how some men just think behaving like this is totally acceptable. I don’t know if it’s some primal instinct kicking in or just plain ol’ stupidity, but the entitlement some men feel to assert themselves on women baffles my mind.

Speaking of, and I’m sorry to have to resort to anecdote here, but it helps with the topic, so please bear with me. Five years ago, I got involved with a man online via a dating site. Due to a series of questionable decisions on my part, after knowing this guy for a whopping 2 months, I decided to move to Austin, Texas to be closer to him. Again, questionable decisions, but I was dealing with my recent divorce and was wooed by this guy. Online and over instant messaging, he was a charmer and I got sucked into it. Desperate for attention, desperate for a change of scenery, desperate to make sense of the life that I didn’t ever think I’d be forced into living as a divorcee, I packed up and moved to Texas. Please keep in mind I had only seen this guy in person once while on a trip to Texas a few weeks prior to moving, so I had no idea what he was like face-to-face as compared to behind a computer screen, but boy howdy golly gee, did I ever find out the hard way! Turns out–and please, I hope you’re sitting down while reading this–get this: he was a completely different animal in real life. I know, right?! Who fuckin’ knew?! I mean!!!

When I moved, I was living with my best gal pal in her apartment, but I would spend a few days a week at his house. On one such day, we became intimate. It was mutually agreed upon to do so. While engaged in the act, he forcibly rolled me over to my side and tried to stick his dick into a place I wasn’t comfortable with. I recoiled in pain and asked him to stop. He pulled me towards him again and tried to do it another time, and I said to please stop, it hurts. He was close to my ear and whispered it would be ok, just to let him do it. Knowing he wasn’t listening to me even after two times of saying no, I caved in and let him do what he wanted to do. Luckily, it didn’t last long (neither did he, for that matter) and it was over quickly. I’m using this as an example. An example of how something consensual can turn into something not in the blink of an eye. Based on what I’ve read about the Krauss case, this appears to be the instance in one of the encounters. Everything was fine and good and then something happened to make it not anymore, but sometimes it’s hard to stop a train even when one of the passengers wants off.

And here’s also the thing: if you had asked me if I had been the victim of something like sexual abuse like that, I’d have denied it. Why? Because I was so confused by what happened, how it went from good to bad, but was it really bad or am I blowing it out of proportion? I has hurt and angry that he didn’t listen to me and ashamed that I wasn’t more forceful in my desire for him to quit. I was mad he didn’t ask me first before doing what he did and just assumed it was ok. I pushed that incident out of my mind and tried to forget about it because we had other matters to attend to in that tumultuous “relationship,” like the verbal abuse I’d suffer from him once he had a few too many drinks, and homeboy loved the sauce, so it was frequent. Within a month of having moved, we had broken up and gotten back together two times. The second time was it for me and I ended up ghosting the sonuvabitch and that is the only solid and good decision I made regarding him.

To those people who demand to know why victims of sexual assault and misconduct don’t immediately come forward and yell for justice regarding what was done to them, reread my last paragraph. Shame. Guilt. Denial. Anger. Fear. That’s why. But because of that, women are rarely believed and are making stories up for some sort of sick perversion they have. They want the attention. They’re sick individuals and need help before they ruin another man’s life with these false allegations. “Why, if that had happened to me, I’d have gone to the police and reported it immediately!” Ok. In some instances, yes, that does happen. In situations like mine, no, it doesn’t happen and won’t happen until years later when all the emotions I listed earlier consume so much of you that you can’t deny it happened any longer. Then, it’s a case of he said-she said and so often, the he said wins.

Look, I don’t want to believe Krauss is capable or guilty of any of the things he is. As I mentioned several hundred words ago, I admire the man. I respect the man and what he’s done for atheism. But I demand these charges be taken as seriously as possible and for men to quit doubting the women involved. I’m also not so naive to realize sometimes, accessions are false because there are twisted people out there. I get the skepticism but that just unearths a deeper problem that some men just refuse to accept women as equal human beings and show the same respect to them as they would another man.

I would also to see an end to the whole falsehood that just because one woman might not find issue with comments or playful touching construed as “harmless flirtation” doesn’t mean that all women feel that way. It’s a person-to-person basis, of course, and if you have tested the waters and a red flag pops up that signals to proceed with caution, heed that warning instead of ignoring it and later finding yourself scratching your head, saying, “wha happen?” Take this, for example, an alleged comment made by Krauss to a university employee he works with: “that he would buy her birth control ‘so I don’t get pregnant and inconvenience him.'” 

If I had been told that, I’d have laughed at the joke. It’s funny to me, but I also have a weird sense of humor, so take that as you will. But to others, that’s the opposite of funny and an inappropriate thing to say to someone. Just because I find it humorous does not mean all women will find it equally as funny and to make that assumption that all women would find the comedy in something like that is a dangerous one to make as a person who had a position of power (at the time of writing this, Krauss has been placed on unpaid leave by ASU).

One more thing, and I’ll try to wrap it up. A major cause of argument in my group was the reliability of BuzzFeed News as a credible news source. I can see being wary of articles published by the same organization who offers quizzes like “Everyone Has A Breakfast Item That Matches Their Soul–Here’s Yours” or “Plan Your Dream Wedding and We’ll Tell You How You’ll Die.” (actual, for real quizzes on their site, and for the record: black coffee and drowning in acid). Since then, however, a number of media outlets have also published articles, one being the New York Times, and they’re more known for their credibility and dark, dry editorial cartoons and lack of quizzes about breakfast foods and carry a heftier weight in the news world than BuzzFeed. I’m not arguing that just because the NYT published it that is automatically means it’s 100% true and real and hang Krauss from his testicles. No. I’m just citing more sources like a good little writer.

Honestly, I don’t know where I stand in all of this. As I read this morning on a post to Facebook, the hits keep comin’ at Krauss, and it doesn’t look good for him. Of course, we want to avoid being armchair judge, jury, and executioner and avoid trial by social media, and if Krauss can maintain his innocence in all of this and be cleared of any wrongdoing, well, so be it. If not, then he must hold himself accountable and do better. That goes for everyone.

Do better.

Thank you for allowing me to write about this topic, and as always, thank you for reading.

E

 

February 28, 2018

Well, hey there!

Let me preface this post with a few things:

  1. I consider myself a fairly intelligent woman. I do have moments of marked stupidity, however. Like, I can go into pretty lengthy detail about the intricacies of how a pacemaker functions and have an in-depth conversation about various topics, but I also don’t know what causes the wind. Sneezing trees seems to be the only acceptable answer to me. I also cop to thinking one time that a dead raccoon on the side of the road was the severed head of a buffalo…so…take that as you will.
  2. I am extremely defensive about certain things, one of which I will be writing about this evening.

Spring is in the air and that can only mean one thing: it’s time I declare myself sick of smoking and by golly, this time I’ll nip it in the bud! I’ve been writing about quitting smoking for the last nine years. I’ve lost track of how many posts I’ve made about quitting, or how many times I’ve tried to quit, for that matter. Four serious attempts for sure, and countless other times where I’ve cried “enough!!” only to light up again a day later. Nicotine is a motherfucker. Habits also fuck their mothers, as well as the behaviors behind them that cause a self-proclaimed smart person to smoke despite knowing full well the harms and dangers of doing so.

I got sick with influenza a little over a month ago (quick aside: get your flu shot. I did and still got sick, but you should still get the goddamn thing because I said so) and then a week or so after I was free of the flu, I got bronchitis and have been stuck with a pesky cough ever since. I can’t get rid of the damn thing. Phlegm will get caught in my throat and I’ll have to cough a few times to get it out and it’s annoying and disgusting and gosh, if I didn’t smoke, I’m sure this would be a different story, but I smoke and I’m dumb. I also get wildly short of breath walking upstairs to my bedroom and I’m congested and blow all sorts of vile snot out of my nose daily. Sexy as fuck, right? Right! I’ve had enough of this shit, or so I tell myself and yet, I had to pause my rambling to go to the garage and light one up.

I will give myself some credit where it is due: I still have the desire to quit, even after umpteen failed attempts at doing so. I haven’t given up, which is ironic considering I have always given up staying quit. My more serious tries have yielded somewhat favorable results: 6 months, 3 months, and most recently 2 months off the sticks, but then I fall face-first off the quittin’ wagon and start up again. I am getting real sick of that, figuratively and literally. Oh, you have a persistent cough, Erin? Weird! Whatever could be causing this, I wonder? Hmm. Oh well! 

I have tried most of what there is to try to quit: the patches. Gum. Using a vaporizer. Two different medications. Cold turkey. Immense guilt and self-hatred. If I may be open and candid, my addiction isn’t just to nicotine. My addiction is deeply rooted mentally and out of sheer habit. I know I’ve discussed this before, but let me go over it again.

First, some history. As wild as it may be, I was a Good Kid. I didn’t smoke, drink, do any drugs as a precocious teen, save a wine cooler or two on occasion and always under the supervision of my parents. My first dabble in smoking came when I was 20 and I realized, “hey, I’m more than legal to smoke. Let’s give it a whirl.” I was with my pal Corey and we decided to buy a pack of cigarettes to see what the fuss was all about. We bought Marlboro Reds–unfiltered, even, because we were so, so stupid–and I hated every goddamn second of it. I couldn’t figure out how to smoke. So…you inhale it? Then what? I would “inhale” by filling up my chubby cheeks with smoke then comically blowing out the smoke. After that little stunt, I didn’t smoke for years, save the rare occasion my ex-husband (an occasional smoker) and I would go out to the bars downtown and he’d start smoking, and I wanted to be a “cool kid” and bum a smoke off him. I’d smoke maybe 8 cigarettes in as many months, if even that. I remember thinking at some point, “man, I don’t see why people get addicted to this shit. It’s disgusting!” Oh, ho ho ho. Sweet, naive Erin.

I officially became a smoker in November 2009. My marriage had taken a shit on itself. I no longer loved my then-husband. I recall vividly standing on the front porch of the house we were renting, wondering where the fuck he was and smoking. He happened to come home while I was puffing away, stopped to stare at me and say, “…you smoke now?” in a condescending manner, eyeballing me up and down as I puffed away. “Yep,” I said as I exhaled. What I wanted to have happen versus what actually happened is why I then began to rely more heavily on smoking. Instead of what I wanted him to do, which was snatch the cigarette out of my hand, break it in half and throw it off the side of the porch, demand the rest of the pack and lighter so he could run the cigarettes under the sink to destroy them and throw the lighter in the trash can, for him to grab me by my shoulders giving me a stern shake and passionately yell, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL YOURSELF?!?” he instead shrugged me off and went inside to the basement and got high while playing video games. If devastation had a face, I’m sure I was making it at that moment. He didn’t give a good-goddamn about me or what I did and in that moment, I convinced myself that if my own husband didn’t give two shits about me or what I was doing, then no one else was going to, either. Sound logic, no?

The shit of it is, I do have people who give a fuck if I smoke. My mom hassles me often. My dad used to, as well. My companion does, too. Several friends care enough to express their desire for me to quit. Yet, here I am. Something has got to give, Erin.

A huge deterrent in not quitting–and please, please accept my apologies for this and I did mention this makes me defensive, but that’s hardly a valid excuse, but go with it for the sake of this post–is people saying “oh, you should quit.” Well no fucking shit. I know I should! Like I haven’t had that thought a million times over the last 9 years. I don’t sit around thinking, “wait, what? You can QUIT?! Holy fucking shit!” Telling a smoker they should quit is equivalent and useful as telling a heroin addict to quit doing heroin. We know it will kill us but goddamn if there isn’t something holding us back to quit. Telling a smoker they should quit is like telling someone who’s undergone a tragedy in their life “sending you my thoughts and prayers.” Both are equally useless. It’s an addiction, not a goddamned board game. Well look at the time! It’s late and I have to work in the morning, so I should quit playing. Okay bye! 

I did mention I get extremely defensive about this, right? Yes? Good.

If it was that easy peasy to quit, believe you me, I’d have chucked the smokes years ago but it isn’t that easy. And please understand I also see it from the other side, too. To have someone you love knowingly and willingly continue to do something to themselves that will kill them eventually but still engage in such a dangerous thing has got to be heartbreaking for many reasons. I love this person, why don’t they love themselves as much as I do and quit smoking? Don’t they love me if they keep doing this horrible thing? Are cigarettes more important to them than I am? Do they not care about me at all that they keep smoking?

I have no answers for any of those, aside from the addiction thing, which again, is hardly a valid excuse. Robert Palmer was addicted to love and he turned out okay-ish.

The last few days, I’ve been searching for ways to quit and I came across something that again proves my dumbness. Sure, smoking is the physical addiction and the habitualness of it, but it’s also deeper than that. It’s a behavioral thing. For instance, I smoke far more when I’m stressed and anxious, when I’m bored and feeling lonely, etc. I know smoking doesn’t relieve stress but rather increases it due to the physiological effects it has on you like increased blood pressure and acting a vasoconstrictor, but…it’s also a constant friend. Feeling bored? Smoke! Feeling anxious? Smoke! Feeling sad? Smoke! Yay!

In order for me to quit, I have to dig deep into my psyche and pull out some tricks that I have serious reservations I can muster anymore. One being confidence. I have to KNOW I can kick the habit because I’m fucking amazing and will tell smoking to fuck right off because I don’t need it to make me feel ok about myself or need it to help me cope. Get fucked, cigarettes. Willpower is also a tough one. I have a very odd relationship with the voice inside my head and in general, we get along well, but every now and then the cunt tells me shit and I believe what she says, much to my dismay. Knowing I can quit, that I will stay quit, and that I will be stronger than the urges to smoke truly fucking sucks for me. I like to give in to myself sometimes, as is apparent by the whole still smoking thing.

This is going to take some serious work on my end. Am I willing to do it? I like to think so. I am worth the effort and fight even if some people failed to recognize that previously.

I can’t thank those who continue to support me during these times I cry wolf and try to quit. I can only imagine how annoying and infuriating it is to watch me say I’ll quit, do well for a bit, then crash and burn only to repeat the goddamn process over again and again and again and again. You’re the real protagonists in this tale. Your belief in me blows me away and please, keep doing so. I’ll keep fighting it if you keep fighting for me in the process.

And that’s it. Thank you. Thank you for reading, for thinking I’m worth the hassle, for all of it.

E

When You’re Dead.

I have always bought purses and bags from retail stores, never spending more than $40 for a bag. The people who can go out and spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for a purse baffle me. It seems like such a frivolous thing to do, especially knowing that these purses will be used for a while, then the owner will get tired of it, or demand the latest version to keep up with the ever-evolving world of fashion.

I, on the other hand, hold on to them for years. I’m not saying I don’t have several, because I do, but I often give them a rotation and use them until they are tattered, worn, and filthy and have seen far better days. I’m rough on my bags; they are with me every day and I stuff them to the gills with the odd assortment of items: at least four tubes of chapstick or lip balms (I have a problem); a small makeup bag with toothpaste and toothbrush and a small container of wax for my braces (when you have braces as an adult, you learn quickly to always carry this stuff with you); whatever book I’m pretending to read at the moment (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. I don’t like it much); and the usual suspects–billfold (or wallet or pocketbook or whatever your regional dialect prefers), a pen or two because you are never sure if you have a pen or not, so you toss one in just in case, and keys. Recently, I found a Fruit Roll-Up at the bottom of my bag. I am still unsure how that got in there, but it made me happy to discover it because hey, Fruit Roll-up.

These bags get tossed around and beaten up. The lining of the one I’m currently reusing is shot. The seams have all ripped open and anything that was once nestled safely in a pocket is now stuck in the purgatory that is between the liner and outer shell of the purse. Nothing makes you more crazy than absolutely knowing for a fact that you have a certain item with you but cannot find it and end up dumping the contents out on a table to rummage through it, angry and annoyed.

It’s a treat when I decide to exchange bags, as I always find something I had been looking for in it, couldn’t find it, so dubbed it missing without hope of return. So that’s where that went! Welcome back, old friend! Favorite shades of lipstick reunited, favorite pens found again. It’s heartwarming, really.

Lately, the bag I’ve been using has definitely seen better days. It’s faux-leather, and the edges around the opening and long shoulder strap are wearing out and the once lovely tan color is allowing the ugly fabric to show through. This particular bag in question is also the one that keeps eating my things into its belly. I decided I needed to get a new one when I reached into a pocket to retrieve something and instead of what I was looking for, came up with fingers covered in an odd black, grainy substance. There was glitter thrown in there, too. Again, I have no idea what this was or how it got there. Perhaps my bags are going out on adventures when I’m sleeping, like Toy Story, but with bags. Oh, the stories they could tell each other. Oh god, remember that time she stuffed her underwear in here and forgot about it until she got to work? Well, I do now, bag. Thanks.

Several weeks ago at a meeting, a guy I know was carrying an absolutely incredible leather briefcase but it also had the long crossbody strap I covet in all my bags. His bag was gorgeous. A dark caramel and just enough scuffing and blemishes on the grain to give it character. If that thing could talk, I imagine it would sound just like the actor Sam Elliott. Gruff but soothing, a deep baritone of a voice with a flowing cadence. I asked him where he got it and how much it set him back, because I knew that thing had to have been expensive. It reeked of leather. I put my nose close to it and took a deep inhale, the neurons in my brain completely freaking out at the surge of serotonin breathing that amazing scent in does to a person. The smell is your father’s trusty old leather work boots, tarnished and worn from years outside. It smells like general stores, which is kind of odd because you’re a 36 year old woman who has never set foot in a general store, unless the one inside Cracker Barrel counts, which it probably doesn’t. It’s a masculine smell, and soothing. I had to have one of my own.

A few days ago during a lull at work, I brought up the website and browsed the bags and the other items for sale. My hunch was also correct: the bag my friend has was $600. Mother Mary of God. Never in my life have I spent that kind of money for an accessory. My mind went to those women carrying Coach bags, and I was torn: buy it or no. Knowing my ability to hold onto these things for decades, I knew it would be a sound investment. I’d never have to buy another bag ever again! I say that because this company boasts a 100 year guarantee–if something you buy from them fails in any way, shape, or form, they’ll replace it, no questions asked. They mean business. I looked at various styles and sizes and opted for the satchel they were selling. The dimensions were exact to the bag I am using now, so I knew it would suit my purposes. The shoulder strap was long and there’s this nifty thing where you can convert the shoulder strap method to a backpack and well, gosh dang if that isn’t the neatest thing ever. I clicked the button to add it to my cart, my heart speeding up at the price tag–not $600, but still ten times more than I’ve ever spent on a bag. I shared my story to Facebook, and my trusty companion told me to take the plunge and buy it. I snorted to myself, still unsure of the spendy purchase. After mulling it over all afternoon, I finally hit the “checkout” button, entered my information in, and hit “submit.” If you don’t think I didn’t have a mini panic attack about it, brothers and sisters, you’re wrong and don’t know me at all.

It arrived today. I got the email earlier this afternoon from UPS saying my package had been dropped off on the front porch. Oh my goodness. Holy cow. I opened up the box and there it was, even more spectacular than I imagined. That deep golden brown color I love and bright silver buckles. They were not messing around making this and I want to thank the cow who sacrificed itself in order to become this beautiful specimen. Thank you, cow.

But then, I noticed a cardboard tag attached to the strap with a piece of twine. They’ll fight over it when you’re dead it says. They being your family and friends, when you’re dead because as I mentioned earlier, it’s guaranteed for a century.

For some reason, this got to me. It made me sad, in a way. As it stands, I am not a “typical woman,” and never had kids. Both medical reasons and personal ones prevented this from happening. I like kids enough; they can be a hoot when they aren’t throwing tantrums and ruining your lives. Kids say the darnedest things! But I don’t have any, so who in the fuck is going to get this bag when I shed this mortal coil? Is it just going to sit abandoned in my house until someone not related to me sees it and decides to keep it? Will whomever cleans my house when I die keep it for themselves? Will looters break into my place, see it sitting and take it and try to get money for it from a pawn shop?

This isn’t “oh gosh, I regret not having kids!” This is just a weird little thing I think about from time-to-time. As it stands, I’m The Last Hoffmeyer, as in I’m the only product of the union between my mother and father. My dad’s older brother never had kids…that we know of, at least…and my mom had my older brother already when our parents married, so I am literally it. It’s just me left that’s riddled with Hoffmeyer genes, like big noses, a mess of thick hair, a giant German head, a propensity for severe depression, and cancer. I never regret not having kids, trust me. I just regret not having someone else to carry on the Hoffmeyer name and legacy, which is really ridiculous because that would mean having kids. And that’s awfully egotistical of me, as well. What makes us so great we need to keep going for generations? Um…nothing? The greatest thing I’ve ever done was not laugh when I was at work at a gastroenterologist’s office helping perform a colonoscopy and the patient farted as the scope was violating their anus. That’s it. That’s my short list of accomplishments in 36 years. Here lies Erin Elizabeth Hoffmeyer, July 4, 1981. She didn’t laugh when someone ripped ass that one time. Rest In Peace.

It’s amazing to me what arbitrary things will send you on a tangent like that. It’s a bag, for crissakes. A bag. A really incredible, finely-crafted bag, but a bag nonetheless. I am not a failure for failing to spread my genetic code. Trust me; that’s a blessing.

I just hope whoever ends up with this thing enjoys it as much as I am going to.