Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bane Ban

This morning, on my walk back from retrieving RJ's Sunday NYTimes (we live in a top floor condo so getting the paper is a bit more involved than stepping out the front door on to the driveway), I had  a tinge of my usual weekly uneasiness: a part of me craving to be out and about (oooh! Sun on my skin!), and a part of me looking forward to the "nothingless" of staying in (it is not exactly nothingless — deeply soulfully satisfactory activities await the introvert).

Just then, the light breeze carried upon me the aroma of some neighbor's cooking, a delightful blend of spices, not acrid but remarkably sweet, fragrant and inviting. I envisioned a happy family sitting down at breakfast. I felt the happiness, and took it in. I thought, how lucky it is, to be alive and to have the olfactory sense fully functioning. How lucky it is, to be living in a community where one is often greeted with such warm, delectable scents. I felt utterly content. I felt happy.

And it dawned on me that I hadn't had one of these moments in a while. Not since I took on this job where responsibilities have grown alongside the number on my paycheck. It is a good thing, growing up for the first time, in my 40's, as I coin it. For the first time, I have money to put away toward retirement (better late than never!) But, as I'd always known, the very reason I had refused to grow up for as long as I could put it off in the first place, growing up has a price. As far as I could tell, grown-ups are seldom happy. With responsibilities come pressure, angst and worries. Those can wear you out and bring you down.

Not today. Even the thought of Monday being right around the corner did not dampen my spirit. I don't completely understand how my mind works. It was so much easier when I could chalk it up to being bipolar. Now it's become this "the more I know, the more I don't know" phenomenon. I've given up on labeling things and people, including myself. That just gets nowhere and is exhausting.

Now I just am. And see where life takes us. Maybe being grown-up is not so bad after all. But then again, it could be the distillery trip of gin-agave-whiskey tasting yesterday that is still spinning me giddy. Who knows. Having money left over for fun takes the bitterness out of work. Can't dispute that. Having had a taste of financial independence doesn't hurt, either. Don't burst my bubble.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Niceties

Sutra* broke up with me today.

I had been wanting to rid of her. I have never been good at breaking up. So I let it drag on until I just couldn't. Then I ghosted, and got what I wanted.

Still a firm believer in the Law of Attraction, I have to wonder why, when it comes to gf's, I always wind up with losers *cough* I mean people with issues. Have I been willing myself subconsciously?

On the surface, Sutra and I got along great. But I didn't want someone just to get along with. I want more. Ultimately, why do people break up? You seek something the other is not delivering.

As in all other breakups, once I had my mind made up, there was nothing left to say. Too exhausting to even explain.

Online, when I am inclined to comment "No words", sometimes I find it absurd. To express this thought, simply do not leave a comment.

Sutra, true to herself, wrote me an 18-paragraph letter to list her grievances. Which I haven't read because, you know, life is short. I am not surprised. This is her pattern. She's done this with plenty of friends and employers. It is always the other party's fault. She reminds me of my ex Hulmes. This is a chilling and jarring revelation.

If people keep leaving you, stop and wonder. Perhaps you are the problem.

I am upset. I am usually the explainer. It hurts that she thinks I have wronged her. I can't even.

When I was dating, I used to say that hopefully every new person is an upgrade. In hindsight, that certainly wasn't always the case. I am just so grateful that I am with RJ, someone who just lets me be me. EVERY relationship should be this easy. Sadly most are the opposite.

If being in the presence of someone brings negativity, why put yourself through it over and over? Living in the past is not my thing, either. Sutra's golden years were her 20's and it is like she has had nothing to talk about since. We are talkin' 20 years since her heyday. That is sad if one does not examine one's life and raise questions. And she is entitled, not in touch with reality, and just not very interesting. There's gotta be more to life than makeup and food and reminiscing? She drains me.

Surely it is not unrealistic to need a friend to be my intellectual equal, has mentally grown since the 9th grade, and remembers at least some of the things we have discussed in the past? I simply cannot be with someone I do not respect/relate to/have zero symbiosis with.

When I was getting closer to Sherry back in the day, my best male friend then, Derek II, flat out said, "V, you deserve cooler gf's." Remarkably incidentally both Derek and Riley who I thought were my real friends turned out to be not.

Having been best friends with Sherry makes me realize that I have been searching for broken souls still ever since. I can't do that anymore.

My coworker friend, Joya**, has advised in the beginning of my friendship with Sutra that perhaps I was expecting too much in a friendship. "Not everyone is going to be your soul mate, or should be," Joya said.

Months later, today Joya concedes, "You're better off. Glad this happened. Should have happened sooner!" I laughed hard. Out of relief, perhaps.

See, I don't need any Joe Blow (or Jane Mundane) to dine out with or kill time any other way with. I am perfectly happy with my own company and that of a select few. I choose quality over quantity.

For years since my divorce I thought I needed more friends (or, some would be nice). Says who? Maybe I had just been conditioned by society to believe so. Often in a group is when I feel the most lonely and misunderstood.

When I was little, my mother noticed my loner ways and would reprimand my nature. "People are supposed to be gregarious," she'd say. I didn't have the vocabulary then to rebut.

I am an INFJ. Perhaps this lifestyle (or lack thereof) is what I am destined to have, and it is exactly what I need. There is peace and liberation in that.


*Not her real name.
**Not her real name.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

La La Land

Because everybody is a film critic (and a food critic) these days.

(Spoiler alert: don't read on if you haven't seen La La Land and intend to.)

I've heard that there is speculation that La La Land may win Best Picture.

No.

It is a pretty film. It is a cute film. It is unique. And refreshing. I applaud the courage of the producers and writers and cast and crew for creating something that could have been easily dismissed as unpopular.

Did I like the film? Yes. I even teared up at times. That's what it caters to do. It is a chick flick. I'm a chick. (I categorically detest rom-com, though.) Actually, it's a chick and gay dick flick. My apologies for the stereotype. Heard it on the radio. Not in so many words. I'm sure there are those who fit the demographics but don't love musicals. I'm sure you exist.

But Best Picture? No. (I am not saying it won't win. Because it's a white industry. I am saying it doesn't deserve to win.)

I can see that Ryan Gosling is charming. I can understand why women swoon over him. Props to him for learning the piano in merely three months. He pulled it off impressively. And the recent speech at the Golden Globes thanking his wife Eva Mendes? Genuine and sweet as heck. But I have not been attracted to Ryan Gosling. Not even in The Notebook. There. I've said it. Blasphemy, I'm sure.

But the sadness of Ryan Gosling's character at the end of La La Land got me. That's right. I'm attracted to sadness. Always have been. Of course it had to be a sad ending. Sad endings make for the best love stories. If Gosling's Seb would've married Emma Stone's Mia, that would have been boring. The parallel universe of what could've been (or should've been, if you're that kind of a romantic) was perfect because it was bittersweet. And that knowing nod and smile - that IS the perfect ending. Thanks for comin'. It doesn't matter what happens for the rest of their respective lives.

You can tell that the actors literally just took dance lessons. Great effort and heartfelt performance, but there is better on Dancing with the Stars (and I don't even watch that show). The rise and fall as they waltz is totally lacking. (There is some grace.) The tapping is barely adequate. Mad skills they are not. If you've seen Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers... I am sorry but their contemporary counterparts don't even come close. But they are pretty and young and easy on the eyes. And they are trying. And I do find the acting to be quite good, especially Stone's.

Then there is the scene of the lovers' first fight. The way the dialog escalates is unbelievable to me, it feels so staged. Also the fact that the argument takes less than five minutes, and all of a sudden the bird in the oven is burnt beyond recognition, triggering the smoke alarm? They literally just sat down at the table! So the bird would've burnt anyway. Seb took all his time planning this surprise dinner, and the bird would've overcooked within minutes of Mia walking in? Nah. Don't buy. That is poor writing.

The cinematography is... nice. You get to see L.A., and L.A. is always nice to look at. Big blue sky, palm trees, landmarks... they all stir nostalgia and sentiments of adventure. Shots at the Griffith Observatory are visually pleasing. But no one scene is particularly breathtaking or groundbreaking.

When I think Best Picture, I think life-changing, a film that compels you to reevaluate your perspectives of the world, challenges your values, makes you a better person even. Is that too much to ask? La La Land, while highly enjoyable, is not even a believable love story. We see a white guy hook up with a white girl, we don't question. What do they have in common? Examine the broken pieces, and you will conclude: no wonder they didn't work out.

All this said, boy, Ryan Gosling really rocks a dark suit with a skinny tie. And I still have no desire to fuck him.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Trimmin's & Fixin's

I have a handful of fond childhood memories with my mother. Don't get me wrong. I had a happy childhood, one that is envy-worthy even. I have tons of happy memories of the four of us: my parents, my brother W and me. But involving solely my mother and me, those are far fewer.

One of those memories is my mother clipping my nails. I would feel so pampered. She was meticulous about it. Truth is it was rare when I felt she was poring over me, focusing on just me. She was a career woman and I needed more attention than she had time. These moments are much cherished.

The best part is toenails. The sensation of her digging into the corners attempting to get all the crud out - if that isn't love, I don't know what is. It was guilty pleasure too, just borderline erotic and as close to incest as one gets without actually committing.

Years later, one summer my Mom is visiting at W's, and we're all hanging out in the living room. Elsie is clipping OC's toenails. Tirelessly, just as my mother did. OC just sits back and takes it all in. In fact he is so relaxed he appears to be sliding off the sofa any minute. I reflect on a mother's love and how I could not fathom the depth and vastness of that selflessness.

My mother then comments along the same line, that it was so special Elsie was doing this. Taken aback, I blurt, "You used to do the same for me. Don't you remember?"

The smile freezes on her face. Awkward. She doesn't remember. And she admits so.

Mom is sensitive about the subject of forgetfulness as she ages. So I drop it. But I can't help but feel hurt. This act of bonding - did it not mean as much to her as it did me? Obviously not, right? Then anger sinks in. I already have so few mother-daughter memories. By not remembering, she has taken one away from me. It is as if it never happened.

This line of thinking is illogical, of course. And it can't be always about me, now can it?

Few more years go by. Another summer, my mother is diagnosed with lymphoma. We are an ocean apart.

It was a difficult time. Difficult for my mother as she (and her side of the family) are notorious worrywarts and negative thinkers (who happen to have a long family history of cancer - a little correlation there?) When she can't relax, she can't relax. She thinks of the absolute worst. When I come home a little late, she doesn't just wonder. She envisions gang rape, torture, and my mangled body tossed off a cliff. She can't help it. When she hasn't heard from someone in a while, death is the first thing on her mind. Not because she is in her late 70's now and of course death is on her mind. This goes way back.

And difficult for my father, her sole caretaker who is older than she. Even before she became ill, he cooked and cleaned and did all the dirty work around the house. I found out just recently that, before my late grandmother, my mother's mother, promised my mother to my Dad, she sat him down to have a talk. It went something like this according to my Dad:

My grandmother:
Look, K (my mother's name) ain't ever gonna cook. She ain't lifting a finger. You understand? If you won't accept this, I can't let you have her.

My father, crazy in love, agreed. And he has kept his word ever since.

They have had only each other in their empty nest for decades now. I shudder to imagine the fear of losing the one person you see day in and day out, depend on, the only one you have loved all your life.

Between September and November, my mother had 3 rounds of chemo. All things considered, she did well. There were inevitable effects. Could be worse.

Not being able to be there for her was the most difficult part. She assured us it was for the best. Her doctor had advised against visitors at all costs to avoid infection and complications, since her immune system was so compromised.

A strong, independent, whip-smart woman all her life (except for the little things like not being able to make real food and asking about a kettle "How can I tell when the water is boiling?"), my mother would comfort us during this time. We did try to comfort her as best we knew how. Not sure it made a difference. My mother is not easy to convince. She would say things like, "What if the 3 rounds are not enough?" I reminded her to focus on one step at a time, and to view the treatment sessions as milestones. The concept of living in the present is foreign to the woman. She's a planner. This went against every grain of her nature.

But she did it. She conquered. She retested and is now cancer-free.

When I visited during the holidays, she hadn't had that last consultation yet. Nobody knew if she was in the clear or not. She felt fragile, apprehensive. But I could see that glimpse of hope, her allowing herself to entertain the better what-if's. I tried to stay positive for her. I refused to think too far ahead. What's the point? I argued.

One evening during my visit, I find my parents having one of their little squabbles in the dining room. My mother is trimming her fingernails. Her fingertips have gone numb from the chemo, apparently a common side effect. It can take months for the sensations to return. This makes it challenging to trim one's own nails, we find out. Doesn't help that her hands are - she still is - weak in recovery.

My mother reaches out to my Dad for assistance. My Dad is reluctant at first. "I'll miss and cut your flesh..." My Mom insists that it is unlikely, that it is child's play. My Dad acquiesces, but gingerly.

"You are not getting close enough!" My mother criticizes.

"I'll cut you if I try to get closer..." My Dad repeats. This goes on.

"Let me give it a shot," I volunteer.

I feel the flesh of my mother's fingertips with my left hand, and guide the nail clipper along. I ask questions. Am I too close? Doesn't hurt, right? Is this short enough?

She always wants shorter. "See? This is easy. I told you," my mother quips, addressing my Dad.

Secretly I was filled with love and pride in this act of reciprocating the favors she did me decades ago. Oh, the circle of life! And pleasantly surprised I didn't suck at this nurturing task even though I had never been anyone's caretaker in my life.

"Are you sure you want shorter?" I ask one more time. "This is pretty short already."

"Yes, shorter." My mother replies. "Next time I'll be on my own again."

She didn't mean to, but my heart broke a little.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Always Rings Twice (Or More)

Since I moved to my place, I've been getting a lot of marketing mail. Realtors, housekeeping services (both understandably), and school-age-children-related propaganda.

Every week I clean out my junk mail. Trained to be paranoid, I tear out my name and address, shred that portion, and recycle the rest. There is more the following week. There is more, and more still. I feel inundated, annoyed by the inconvenience.

These days, I'm plain seething. How DARE they target me based on my age and gender. To lump me in a specific demographic group implies assumptions. I am a certain age. I MUST have children. Never mind my disposition, preferences, conviction, let alone my individuality or identity.

To this day some find it hard to believe that some of us may choose not to have children. As if everybody must. Because that's the norm? What nature intended? To me, the reasons NOT to have children are numerous and obvious. Every time I run into parents and/or children in public situations, or when I listen while a friend or a family member recounts the challenges of parenting, I say to myself, "THIS is why." And I'm glad. Mentally high-fiving myself even.

I've been asked to list my reasons. (There are probably at least 5 bullet points.) I used to oblige. After a while, I think I don't owe anybody an explanation. It is as if this decision (if they can believe it's a conscious, calculated decision) is so unfathomable that it is my duty to justify it to strangers' satisfaction. Frankly, I'm tired of the burden of proof.

No doubt, I can imagine that the rewards of being a parent must be unparalleled. My unwillingness to go down that path is not a statement against those who do take the plunge. There is no need to preach the benefits. I did my own thinking (imagine that!) and outweighed them. Pure logic. Case closed.

All this said, what outrages me the most is putting myself in someone else's shoes, someone who didn't choose to be childless, and is constantly getting bombarded by cruel reminders of his/her very state, a state that might be considered failure, or reason to feel a void in life. Every piece of mail inviting your nonexistent child to pre-school, suggesting the best place to buy art supplies, or on after-school programs that vie for your attention. That must be fucking exhausting.

Heartless. Inconsiderate. Oblivious. Go away.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Glaced

I hope Denisse doesn't read this. I have no intention of causing distress. I still need to write as if nobody is reading. This is my last haven.

Yesterday Denisse and I went out for drinks. It'd been ages. We have so many fond memories of meeting for happy hour, getting really happy, bonding over a drink, or two, or four if we're out dancing at clubs. What good times we've had! They feel brief now in hindsight. But I wouldn't trade them for anything.

We went to this hip and happening strip that we'd been to many times. I used to be able to pretend that I belonged. For some time, it felt like that we did, be it a chilly Saturday night or a warm Sunday afternoon. I'd be so charged, I could skip.

We weren't as carefree on this day. But I did enjoy being outside and the people-watching. We'd joked over lunch, "Who cares about food? The ultimate goal is the drinking." Denisse had laughed. And she'd lamented that, if drinks were two hours away, it was too long.

At last, after strolling past many stores whose goods we couldn't afford, we settled at a cool, open-air bar. We selected our cocktails. They were artisanal and delicious. Our bartenders were friendly and cute. I savored each mouthful, careful not to oversip. I looked around at this beautiful place and stared out at the glaring sun. I was happy.

Denisse wasn't talking. Our "usual" was that we'd open up after a few sips and bitch about whatever had been bugging us, or be sharing silly anecdotes. We'd get giddy. We'd giggle.

But Denisse stayed quiet. I wasn't sure: did the alcohol bring her down? Or was I just now noticing -

Well, I did get giddy. After telling Denisse that my parents had been up to something, hiding the true reason they hadn't been around for our weekly Skype calls, I noticed our reflections on the chrome surface of a beer tap right in front of us. Full funhouse effect. I took a photo and laughed. I promised I'd post it later.

"You're easy," said Denisse, referring to the effect of one single drink on me. I confessed that when I am out drinking, it doesn't take much. The last time I met up with Jean Henri, I had only two glasses of wine over the course of over two hours. I was so high, I had to be mindful taking a short trip to the restroom so as not to stumble. It was embarrassing. Also exhilarating.

My theory is that our mindset BEFORE the intake matters. (Not an original insight, I realize.) If you're already in a good mood, having a few sips can elevate that mood exponentially. If you're drinking to drown your sorrows, and I speak from experience, of course, ain't no magic potion gonna lift your spirit. Primo champagne is not gonna make you happy if you're not already happy.

Which reminds me of the sad fact that so many of us with an addiction circle back in search of that high. No substance can get you back there. Nothing beats sweet memories. Nothing will compare.

And so it hit me: Denisse wasn't happy.

I've known this for quite some time. She is not UNhappy. But she is definitely not happy by definition. Even though this pseudo-epiphany caused no consternation, it saddened me.

I told her that her drink was weak compared to mine (we'd tasted each others').

Comes to memory one of the nights early in my friendship with the now deceased Sherry (so many nights were a blur). I forget the context, but I said something to the effect of "You have to surrender and become susceptible to your poison", which made Sherry laugh her hearty laugh. It was a great memory, making my friend laugh.

Years ago, when I experienced heartbreak like I'd never experienced heartbreak before, I couldn't believe the pain. How EVERY second would hurt. There was no relief. I wanted to curl up in fetal position and rock myself to oblivion. I came across one of those quotes that seemed such pearls of wisdom. Little did I know that some time later they would be a dime a dozen on Pinterest and the like.

The quote was:
Everything is going to be okay in the end.
If it is not okay, it is not the end.

I was blown away. It offered solace, a respite from the unrelenting pain I was acutely feeling.

Now I chew on it. "The end". That's death, isn't it? So are we saying, in essence, we're all looking forward to "the end"? The end of our daily struggle, the end of not knowing what fucks you next, the end of suffering? The end of our last breath.

Buddha offers a path to end suffering while one is on this earth. But that's too much work. What works for me is knowing "This, too, shall pass." And when it all passes, it's the end of the road. We'll get there, all in good time.

I care for Denisse like a sister. It is unsettling, the knowledge of her unhappiness. But we are all unhappy one way or another (except those enlightened creatures amongst us). RJ is unhappy, I'm unhappy. I know my love can't fix unhappy. And I'm okay with that. But I am also happy, in my own way. You can be both. It's not contradictory. Human beings are complicated.

I just hope that Denisse, in her unhappiness, lives with happiness as well. Our time on earth is a constant battle. But what is the alternative? The end.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Dogeared

I hope, when I am not engaging, Alley knows that it is not her. It is me.

Alley is a good dog. So docile. Couldn't be more submissive. I reminisce the times she and I would run out the backyard on a hot summer night, both of us naked, and just run around like maniacs. I'd run, pretending that I could out run her. She'd get a kick out of it. I'd call out to her, and she'd come. Sometimes she got so excited she'd paw me and scratch up my thigh. Oh, good times.

We had a sizable backyard then. It was not ours. It was rented. But it was ours.

And now we're all cooped up in a condo. It affects all of us. RJ grew up in a rural area when he ran around exploring hills and streams all day, just like my father, a fisherman's son, did, growing up. RJ is a lot like my father in temperament. Go figure. You marry your parent of the opposite sex if you're hetero, right? Textbook.

Imagine the guilt. Going from that kind of openness to having to take the elevator all day just to walk the dog. None of the serenity. It's a fall from grace.

Dog's older now. She doesn't play catch anymore. I drive by the park in our old neighborhood once a week when I see my new acupuncturist. It is where we used to take Alley and send her off-leash. RJ threw the ball so far. She ran so fast you couldn't see her legs. She and her crazy eyes. There is this wonderful photo of her in which she's catching a ball in midair. She is closer to the photographer than RJ. It is as if she is levitating. She appears monstrous. A freak of nature.

These days I rally to take Alley somewhere where she can be set off-leash, at least once a week. But it doesn't always work out. And it's not the same. A dog needs to be off-leash, dammit. It's their nature. Freedom, however brief, is the least we can give her.

So many fond memories, the three of us. Those years at the house were the best times of my life. The way I'm taking a trip down memory lane now, you'd think she's dead. She is not. It'll be terrible when she dies.

I hope, when I am not engaging, Alley knows that it is not her. It is me.