The Terrible Thing is Coming, So Be Here Now

One of the reasons I was happy being single was that I did not have to worry about future heartbreak.  Someone once told me that the best case scenario for romantic relationships is staying together until one of you dies, and my risk-avoidant brain immediately decided it would be preferable to just stay by myself, thanks.  How annoying to find myself dating someone five years older than me, so that even if we hit upon the best case scenario, odds are I’ll be the one burying her.

Yes, I am aware of my morbidity!  I regularly kiss my cat’s head and tell him how sad I will be when he dies.  I once sat outside and enjoyed the brisk autumn breeze by wondering how it would feel if I were a corpse and it could get to my bones.

Best case scenarios are not the only option, however.  Opening myself up to loving someone and being loved in return means also opening myself up to the possibility of that love disappearing.  Here I find it very unhelpful to have a counseling background.  I don’t have the luxury of blind belief in our relationship being special.  I know we will lose the honeymoon desperation and affection.  I know that if we replace that with a deeper, committed love, we are likely to fall into the ten year pit that sinks a huge proportion of relationships.  And I know that if we choose to stay together through that, there’s still a chance we will be physically together but emotionally separate.

Is now a good time to mention that we have been together for less than six months?  In addition to my morbidity, I am also aware of my anxious overthinking.  My tendency to plan and sub-plan will always be with me, and honestly, I’m grateful for it.  My knowledge of potential future outcomes makes me eager to set up our relationship for success by having hard conversations early and establishing habits of communication and affection that will see us through rough patches.  But sometimes I get stuck anticipating and preparing for the terrible thing, and it becomes all I can see.

“The terrible thing is coming, so be here now.”  I heard that in a podcast referring to job failure, and it illuminated my problem.  The terrible thing is coming, whether that terrible thing is breakup now or later, death now or later, dissatisfaction now or later.  But the solution to the terrible thing coming is not to look over my shoulder and around every corner so that I can catch a glimpse of it.  The solution is to be here now.

Something terrible will happen in my relationship with Rachel.  That’s the inevitability of life.  So because of that, I want to be with her, fully and in deep appreciation for what we now have.  I want to laugh with her, dream with her, hold her and listen to her affirm me.  What we have is good.  It’s so good.  When I spend my time anticipating the terrible thing, I miss what’s happening right now.

And that’s a terrible thing in itself.

A Truly Terrible Day of Traveling

When I say I had a terrible day of traveling, I mean it on the level of absolutely rotten, throw it away forever, because this hell had multiple levels.

For starters, I was leaving a reunion in Greece that caused me to realize that I had quite a lot of unresolved grief surrounding the abrupt end of my time living there. This left me randomly weeping as I walked through the Athens airport remembering all the times I’d been through the place and sat there with that person on that trip. Emotionally raw was a set up for added physical agony.

I was also only one day clear of a bout of flu that had knocked me unconscious for two days straight. I wasn’t feverish anymore, but I still had the sort of head cold that made my eyes randomly weep from sinus pressure when not already producing fluid due to aforementioned sadness. That’s not so bad, but liquid also leaked from my nose quite often, and I spent most of my time trying to cover all this up so that the people around me would not worry that I was most definitely spreading the plague.

Added to all this was a total lack of sleep. My flight left Athens at 6:00 am, which meant I was supposed to wake up at 3:00. I went to bed at 10:00 the night previous, then promptly did not sleep as my brain was terrified that I wouldn’t make it to the airport. You see, the flu I had so recently come out of was now happily residing in the people who controlled my transit. They had already downgraded from driving to the airport to driving me to the bus stop out of a fear of not being able to stay awake, and I laid in bed for five hours doing nothing helpful to the situation. I was very tired going into 19 hours of travel.

On the first flight I had the dreaded sinus head implosion that drags all the mucus in your body to the surface of your face, as though gravity wants to pull it from you through each individual pore. It also feels as though your teeth are slowly being peeled from their gums, and I had to keep running my tongue around to ensure they remained in place. As I privately groaned and snotted and contemplated face-removal, the young couple next to me laughed together and kissed noisily in Greek, the monsters.

Knowing how much food is given on transatlantic flights, I had not considered my four hour layover and how hungry it would make me. I spent each hour debating whether it was worth using an ATM to get a few euro for a snack, always choosing no and then regretting it. It was at this point that I realized one final thing: I had started my period early, and in an incredibly uncharacteristic move, I was unprepared. I haven’t been without a spare tampon or pad in my purse in over a decade, and I paced the Amsterdam airport in an anxious fugue, still wheezing and dripping from the nose, but also begging feminine supplies off strangers. One woman looked at me in pity, saying, “Oh honey, I haven’t had to worry about that in years.” Several simply said no or avoided my sick-addled English question, made unhelpfully more awkward when I added gestures to the question. Finally, one heroic soul, after saying she didn’t have a tampon, watched me sadly mouth-breathe at the bathroom door, waiting for a new victim to enter my lair. She paused, then clarified, “I might have a pad.” She properly dug into her carry-on suitcase, opening it fully and rifling through her life possessions in pursuit of the Spare Pad that no responsible adult woman goes without. When she gave it to me, I nearly cried, from relief or from sinuses, or both.

I could tell you how the nine hour flight from Amsterdam to Vancouver slowly turned the experience around, how a very kind stewardess searched both the back and the front storage areas to surreptitiously hand me three more pads that could have been made of gold for how much I valued them. I could tell you how I made eye contact with the man standing beside me as I accepted them and stuck them up my shirt, daring him to comment on my personal hell. I could then mention that the food was truly excellent and the seating comfortable enough that I quadruple checked my ticket and seat out of a fear I’d accidentally upgraded myself to business class. And I could tell you that my sinuses dried up and I spent the majority of the flight sleeping whilst breathing through my nose, deeply satisfied with the simple pleasures of my body finally working properly.

But mostly I will just tell you: I have never wanted so deeply and so desperately to fall through my apartment door, to hug my newly reunited cat, and to be as gross as I needed to be without anyone else around to notice.

A Canadian Update (4 Months in)

I’ve been living in Vancouver for about four months now, and I’ve been experiencing all of the usual Moving to a New Place things: excitement, loneliness, expansiveness, depression, and at weird times, normalcy.  But the last couple weeks have been pretty good, and I thought I’d share a few things that made it so!

  1.  I moved into my own apartment!  I have my own place, and I LOVE IT.  I moved into my coworkers’ old place, so I had three months to visit and mentally map out what I needed to buy and how I wanted to arrange things.  That helped me space out some big purchases (the couch that Luciana and Giorgos own, the chair that all my Greek cat friends own, all of my possessions are sentimental, etc) before finding out that my awesome coworker/family gave me several of the pricey-but-not-personal things like a TV, refrigerator, kitchen supplies, bed, and dining room table.

    IMG_0806IMG_0807

    GUYS.  This is the first time in 30 years that I have furnished my own place with actual furniture that did not come from a second-hand store.  When I was in Peoria in the summer of 2017, I started to feel a creeping Old Person desire for security and possessions and a HOME.  And I have one now!  I LOVE IT.  It’s decorated with just the right balance of “I bought those pillow covers in Cappadocia” and “Why yes, there IS a color scheme.”

  2. I’m once more very into the World Cup!  Now that I’ve got my own place with my own television, I’ve been watching every game since the quarter finals.  This built to a very fun moment when I invited Abi, my English coworker, and her husband over to mine to watch the England/Croatia game.  This was especially monumental because, as I am no longer living in a safe house, I could invite a man into my home!  England lost, but I have FRIENDS, so it was a win for me.
  3. My one true goal for living in Vancouver was accomplished:  I joined a Dungeons and Dragons group!  I politely yelled my desire into a Meetup online, found some other women who were interested in a beginner’s group, and after waiting MONTHS with only one meeting over drinks to establish we aren’t creeps, we FINALLY PLAYED.  I’m over the moon about this.  It was everything I wanted.  I played as a criminal halfling who is loyal to no one but her friends (“Sounds like you were playing by our street life” said one participant when I told her.  “Oh my God, I WAS,” I said). The DM had a similar sense of humor as me, so she let me pick up snake eggs and put them in potions while my quest-mates were rolling their eyes because we had a poisoned victim to save.  However, I won them over with Rory and wine, so everyone left four hours later very happy and willing to play again.  I hope very much this becomes a regular occurrence!!
  4. I started doing Story Times at program.  We’ve realized that our women, while very good at caring for their children, don’t really know how to play with them (since they mostly did not have a childhood that included play themselves).  Somehow it took me weeks of conversations about finding a volunteer to teach them how to sing with their kids before I remembered, “I was a children’s librarian for two years.”  So now on Friday afternoons I bring a bunch of books from the library, print out sheets with songs and rhymes, and we all sit in a circle and I read stories (that put one participant to sleep because “Your voice is just so peaceful”) and we sing songs, and one baby in particular leans forward and looks at me with wondering eyes.  I REALLY enjoyed it, and I’m delighted to find one more way in which I can use my past experiences to strengthen my present.

Those are some of the highlights from my life right now!  It’s still overwhelming, and I still get lonely for a bunch of people, but this week at least, I felt really happy.

My Reasons Why

my-reasons-why

Rules are as follows:

  • Mention the person who nominated you
  • List 13 reasons why you keep going/living (This is borrowed from the book but I’m taking it the opposite direction).
  • Nominate 10 or more people to give their reasons why.
  • Use the picture that I created in your post. I’m sorry that I’m a bit bad a making these things… But I tried.

Thank you, Merlin’s Musings, for tagging me in this!  It’s always good to have to think through what exactly are the things that keep me moving forward in life.  Although I generally feel as though I have lived a rich, full life that I would be proud to call entire if I died tomorrow, I’m also happy for it to keep going.  So here are My Reasons Why I keep going/living, both the mundane and the profound:

1) My To Be Read/To Be Watched Lists

There are so many amazing things to read and watch in this world!  We’re living in a time of creative abundance, and I don’t want to die before watching the sequel to Avengers: Infinity War or missing out on Noelle Stevenson’s newest project.

2) My Cat

Rory deserves to live the rest of his life in spoiled bliss, and since I’ve just taken him 2,000 miles away from the only other people who will cater to his every whim appropriately, I’ve got to stick around to make sure he’s okay.

3) My Faith

When I get morose and philosophical, literally the only thing that keeps me from despair is the belief that God is invested in equipping people to change the world for the better, one person and one day at a time.  “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

4) My Work

My faith leads directly into my work.  I think God has uniquely equipped me to be an emotional safe space for people in pain.  I’m also hella organized, and it’s been such a joy the last couple years to have found a profession that allows me to wake up each day and think, “I was made for this.”

5) New Travel Opportunities

I’m not allowed to die until I see Japan and Iceland AT LEAST.  Hear that, God?  You respond well to arrogant demands, right?

6) My Friends

There are very special people all over the planet who I love very deeply, and I love looking forward to our next reunions.

7) Future Friends

One of my favorite things about moving is the knowledge that I have potential kindred spirits all over the place.  It’s exciting to think that I might run into a new one at any time!

8) Food

Chocolate and wine and Korean BBQ and good coffee…there is so much joy to be had in eating and drinking good things.  I’m not tired of it yet.

9) Writing

I always wanted to be a writer when I was growing up, and while it’s no longer quite the driving force it once was, I do think I’ve got a project in me somewhere.  I’d like to make it a reality before I die.

10) My Podcast Queue

There are way more podcasts in my subscription list than I can ever get through, and yet I keep adding to it!  If I’m not allowed to go until I get through them all, I’ll never die.

11) There is Always More to Learn

I am already mildly entertaining the idea of taking Japanese classes this summer, and even if that doesn’t happen, I know I’ll find some reason to get back into an educational setting.  I love to learn new things, and the world is vast, so I’ll never run out of new interests.

12) Make an IRL Friend out of Someone I’ve Met Online

I’m very late to party when it comes to being an active participant in online fandom, and now that I’m making friends who share my obsessive interests, I’d love to meet some of them in person.

13) I Want to Pet a Cheetah

Can’t die until this happens.  MAYBE a lion would be an acceptable alternative.  But mostly it’s got to be a (healthy, happy) cheetah who maybe jumps into my jeep while I’m on a safari.


I don’t actually follow a lot of bloggers, but I definitely tag Wild Ginger Blog.  What are your 13 Reasons Why you keep going and living?

The Lymond Chronicles and The Fleeting Fame of Twitter

I spent the first couple months of 2018 reading through The Lymond Chronicles, a six-book series of historical novels written by Dorothy Dunnett in the 1960s.  I picked up the first one, A Game of Kings, because a podcast I follow had recommended it.  When the first 50 pages proved to be VERY Scottish slang heavy, I tweeted the podcaster and asked for encouragement to keep going.  That interaction evolved into me live-tweeting my Intense Emotions and becoming Twitter famous.

IMG_0291

Let me be very honest.  By “Twitter famous,” I mean I gained about 50 followers who do not know me in real life, and I had a regular group of 5-10 people who would interact with me about these books, including a couple people who I started to consider friends.  An unexpected highlight was when the author of Flora Segunda (one of my favorite books, check out this review I wrote in 2013) liked and retweeted me because apparently she also loves Francis Crawford of Lymond.

IMG_0187

…And then I finished the series.  And two or three people stuck around to like my real life thoughts, but mostly it ended.  I no longer woke up to 20 notifications.  My fifteen minutes of fame were over.  And I could SEE how it had become an addiction for me, the likes and retweets firing dopamine hits to my brain that I didn’t know how to do without.

So I worked through it, dealt with my return to obscurity, and am now doing just fine!

HAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHA.

Just kidding.

IMG_0265

I bought Dorothy Dunnett’s eight-book House of Niccolo series because I feel so empty inside without regular validation from total strangers!!

The end, no personal growth, just the sad but relatable truth.

A Day in the Life

I decided not to post regularly about my time in Vancouver the way I did in Athens, because honestly, it began to feel like a burden as I succombed to my compulsion to impress people.  But I do want to share a little picture of what my life is like, so here’s a snapshot of my work experiences this past month!

I am the program manager of a recovery program for women with addictions who have been sexually exploited, which means that on paper, I’m responsible for making sure the facilitators deliver our classes effectively.  In actuality, every day is a new adventure.  I’m also co-house director of the second stage house, which means I share responsibility for the two women and one child currently in that house.  It is not a lot of responsibility until it is.  But nothing can really capture what a “typical” day looks like unless I give you a moment-by-moment breakdown.  Here’s a random day from a while ago:

I was woken up by my morning facilitator telling me she would be late to work.  When I got to the office, the woman who tested positive for opiates yesterday had solved the mystery by citing numerous examples of people testing positive for opiate use after eating a poppyseed bagel, which she had done.  I went in the bathroom with her to get a second urine test, which came back clean.  I wrote up an incident report, sent it to her social worker, and reiterated that so long as she kept testing clean this would be viewed as a bagel incident.

I led the AA devotionals by myself, then left the office with one participant to go downtown to Victim Services in the courthouse.  She filled out paperwork for a refund for medical expenses incurred when fleeing her pimp and confirmed the court date for her testifying against him.  We drove back to the office, and she made fun of me for not knowing a Justin Bieber song.  When I said I was behind on pop culture because I’d been in Greece for two years, she said the song was three years old.

Three people stopped me as I re-entered the office, and there was a note on my desk saying the women were out of coffee and “coffee whitener,” so I snagged the opportunity to drive to Safeway for a few minutes of peace and for a tea latte from the Starbucks in the grocery store.

Then two of my bosses pulled the participant with daughter problems (who skipped program yesterday without calling) into a meeting.  We all agreed that these temporary visits were more damaging than helpful, and that we would work toward her becoming healthy enough to bring her daughter into full-time care at a later date.  But that meant getting her daughter’s father involved, so we planned for a big meet up at a separate location on Thursday morning.  I was assigned babysitting duty at the house while that happens, thus wiping out my planned Thursday morning.

I went home and saw that my new housemate (who had said she was too sick to come in to program today) wasn’t there.  I texted, asking where she was, but by 10:00 she hadn’t come home or responded.  I conferred with my co-house director and my boss and texted her a final time to tell her we were setting the alarm and would see her tomorrow.  I went to bed worrying she had relapsed and wondering where she was.

It’s all very spontaneous and requires an enormous amount of emotional intuition, but I am loving the challenges.  It’s incredibly draining sometimes, but my housemates respect my need to spend most of every night in my room with my cat, so it hasn’t yet been overwhelming.  However, the effort is more than worth it when I have moments like a woman comes into my office to share an emotional breakthrough she had with a genuine smile covering her face.

I love the women.  They’re so smart and funny and hurt and earnest.  It is INCREDIBLY wonderful to speak the same language and develop relationships that go beyond body language.  I genuinely like them all and enjoy spending my days with them.  Their commitment and their honesty about their failures is incredibly refreshing to me, and I wish everyone had the opportunity to know them the way I do.

So for anyone wondering:  that’s my life!

 

#Confirmed: My Heart is Episcopalian

I wrote this in August 2017 and didn’t post it.  Today I went to an Anglican church in Vancouver, and I sat there with tears in my eyes nearly the whole time because I felt excited about God in a way I haven’t in years.  I feel too raw to talk about today’s experience, but I loved it for many of the same reasons I loved what I wrote below.

To any other progressive old souls wondering if there’s a place for you in a spiritual community, TAKE HEART.


For about a year now, I’ve wanted to attend an Episcopalian church.  A couple of my friends who have been on similar spiritual journeys as myself left Baptist for Episcopalian churches, and they spoke glowingly of the freedom to doubt and discuss.  I wanted to see for myself, but I was scared that reality wouldn’t live up to the vision I’d built in my head.  When I did a Google search of Episcopal churches in the area and went to the first website, the very first thing this church wanted me to see was this:

“We believe that God’s love is always expanding and calling us to love one another in new and deeper ways. The love of Christ welcomes us all to fully participate in the life and leadership of the Church, regardless of gender identity, race, age, culture, ethnic background, sexual orientation, economic circumstances, family configuration, or difference of ability. Our community is made stronger by your unique presence.”

This was exactly the sort of openness that I was craving, but what if the website was a lie?  Finally, last Sunday, I drew up my courage and went on my own to a new church.

Y’all.  I found my people.

For starters, I’m apparently a medieval monk (no surprise), because the stone floors and wooden benches resonated with my soul.  There were only a few dozen (all elderly) people in the service I attended, singing rich hymns I didn’t know with warbling voices, and my soul ached with joy.  We said communal prayers and recited creeds, and the connection I felt toward Christians around the globe and throughout history was so comforting.  The leaders read Scripture passages from the Old Testament, the Epistles, and the New Testament, and then the reverend (a woman!) stood and TALKED ABOUT CHARLOTTESVILLE.  She spoke about the horror of seeing the continued racism of our nation.  She spoke about how, in every generation from Jesus to today, sin urges us to create hierarchies and divisions.  She preached a combination of Jesus and liberal politics and I WAS WITH MY PEOPLE.

I don’t know if I can explain how important this felt?  It reminded me of how I went to seminary as both a Christian and a feminist, nervously determined to see if at the end of three years I could make them fit together.  How, by the time I graduated, I had studied the topic so much that I could no longer remember how someone could be a Christian and NOT be a feminist, and I’d found a community that felt the same.

My beliefs have grown further away from my Baptist upbringing (three main differences that I see:  I believe in the ordination of women, I’m fine with drinking alcohol, and I support gay marriage), but I’ve always stayed in conservative Christian circles.  This only leads me to doubt whether I’m crazy to hold such seemingly disparate beliefs, even when my heart sings at their beauty.  And then I walked into a different building in the same city and…there were a bunch of people saying, “Uh, yeah, we believe those things too.  Where is the problem?”  I felt FREE.

But back to how an Episcopal service resonates so deeply with me.  The sermon isn’t the main point.  The high point of the service is when the leaders consecrate bread and wine, and then everyone fell to their knees at the altar and waited for the reverend to place bread in our hands, to help us drink from the communal glass of wine.  It was receiving Communion in such a childlike way that there was no possibility of believing I’d earned it.

The whole service was so rich and deep, like diving into the deep end of a pool.  Maybe that’s a little pretentious.  I don’t actually believe that there’s any inherent superiority to an Episcopalian or a Baptist service.  Some people worship through praise music and three point sermons, and some people worship through liturgy and repetition.  There’s nothing wrong with either, but wow does it feel good to be in a place that offers you your soul’s specific fast pass to God.