Alone again

Seems like I can never be happy on this blog, can I? I think it’s because I use it when I’m feeling down. Writing out my feelings makes me feel better, so I end up blogging at low points.

My boyfriend is gone, and I am alone again. Being in a long distance relationship is hard, especially going back into one after a months-long paradise of being together practically every day.

I’ve improved, mentally, so much since last time. Since mid-January when he headed off to Mexico. I’ve improved 100-fold. I no longer feel devastated, lost, isolated. I have my family, however weakly-held together it is, and I have my friends. If I open my mind, I have plenty to do and plenty of people to do it with. I will get crafty, I will knit to my heart’s content, I will clean every corner of the house, I will learn to use a curling iron and learn to crochet and learn to bake bread. I will learn every song in my ukulele book. I will write fiction, I will write articles, I will update my blog more and more.

I will be okay. But now, so soon after he’s gone, so soon after the summer has ended, I feel alone. Not lonely, because of all I’ve already said. Just alone.

In the car, when I was driving away though everything in me wanted to stay, I could still feel the imprint of his lips, the weight of his hands,  the tenseness in my neck from resting it on his shoulder. It’s impossible to think I won’t see him again until Christmas. It hurt me to type that. It hurts me to think that way. So I won’t. I just won’t.

It’s  not bottling: it’s feeling, accepting, and tossing out. I cried long and loud and messy, on the drive home, and now I’m done. I’m done with that feeling. I can do this. It won’t be so hard this time, it won’t be so hard this time, I will chant that like a mantra until even I believe it.

But for now…before I move on, before it becomes easy, before we find our rhythm of when to text, call, Skype, while I can still imagine his voice with clarity, I’m allowed to feel alone. And I do feel alone.

I’m an introvert, I like being alone. I guess it’s a different kind of alone. It’s not a quick aloneness. It’s both longer and shorter than it seems. I’ll be away from him for awhile, but I’ll be with others soon. They will patch the hole.

I will be okay. We will be okay.

I am okay.

Infodump: The Musical

I love the sound strawberries make when you cut off their top. You can hear their hollowness. They’re so rubbery.

I’m eating strawberries as I write this, for the full picture. I think visuals are important, especially in a musical. I’m calling this post a musical because it’s going to be like one of those montage musical numbers, when they build the barn or train for battle or Simba grows up while walking across a log or whatever.

Hi. I know it’s been awhile, so, hi. What have I been up to, during this summer of non-blogging? I’ve been working, writing for a local paper. I’ve been cooking a lot, I’ve been getting better at ukulele, I’ve been DM’ing a Dungeons and Dragons campaign for my friends from high school, I’ve been playing Pokemon Go, I’ve been enjoying these rare months being in the same state as my boyfriend, and, somehow, I’ve been writing fiction in between. I’ve also been knitting, sewing, crafting, reading. I’m reading Lord of the Flies now since I never did in school and, my, it’s (unsurprisingly) amazing.

I leave for the Netherlands in three weeks. I’ll be travellouging a bit on here I’m sure, as I said I would. I’m thinking of also doing a separate travellouge for my family. I’m also also thinking of doing a travellouge in the voice of Bojack Horseman.

The Netflix series Bojack Horseman is one of my absolute favorite shows of all time, and I thought it might be fun and soul-searchy to write a blog as if I were Bojack. I made a little Bojack doll out of old shirts. We’ll see what happens.

What else? I went to Newport Folk Festival, what a wonderful time. I got into wearing sunhats.I feel like every sentence I write could have been a blogpost, so this musical idea kinda works.

I missed venting to the internet.

As for my head, I’ve been managing myself alright. I’m nervous about having to make new friends overseas, but I’ll manage. Somehow, I’ll manage.

For now, I just have to say goodbye to my boyfriend (again…again) and pack, and in three weeks I can worry about the “friend” business.

The strawberries are gone. The music fades, just like summer.

Hi. This is Introvert Playground!

On Waiting

The worst part about having something to look forward to is how long you have to wait for it.

Count the days a thousand times, divide it into multiples of five and ten, calculate the weeks, number the Mondays…it doesn’t matter. No matter how you dice it, you have to live every day in between, and nothing can make a day shorter.

We wait so much we have entire rooms for it in hospitals and airports. We despise it but we do it all the time. How many hours have I spent in a line?

The months ahead seem unbearable, but I can always manage ten more minutes, and then ten more. Things are only boring, or painful, or long, or terrible when I admit that they are. Complaining, swearing, crying. They’re all cathartic, but only temporarily. It would be better if the day to day wasn’t so bad…then again, it probably isn’t.

Ah. Always waiting. I’ve recently gotten into Fullmetal Alchemist, and one of the main characters’ friends asked if there was anything she could do to help, besides wait for them to need her. Well…no. Sometimes the best thing to do is wait. Sometimes, it’s the only thing to do.

Maybe this is just me, being an introvert and not wanting to bother other people with my troubles. My introversion is certainly why I avoid confrontation, perhaps it’s making me avoid comfort, as well. Waiting isn’t so bad when there’s someone to talk to.

Whatever the cause may be, I’ve realized that I’ve got to stop living for the future, for some pre-determined event, and focus on the present. To live mindfully, even if being mindful hurts sometimes.

It’s a little change, but I’ve taken to crossing off the date on the calendar at the end of the day instead of the beginning, as if to tell myself: the day has just begun. The next step is turning that phrase into a positive thing.

Changing backward

I realized that I accidentally published U yesterday instead of today! Oh well. Today will just be a personal blog then, since I’m a day ahead of the alphabet.

I can’t believe we’re in the final stretch of April. I guess my timeline was so set on Colin returning and my internship not ending until June that I kind of forgot about class. It was easy to forget class, this year. It was such a minimal part of my life. I’m so glad I went through with the American Sign Language class, it was one of the most fun classes I’ve ever taken, and it makes me want to keep learning it someday. Maybe be an interpreter.

Once I finish an essay on McTeague (wonderful book, highly recommended), I’ll be done with this school year! It’s crazy how both long and short the school year was.

Now I will spend my time pretty casually, working the last nine weeks at the Globe, doing some freelance work on the side, and then spending the nights either riding my bike or learning German. Probably a mix of both.

And oh, faithful readers are probably wondering how my time with Colin went. Well, after three months apart I was a bit worried that we wouldn’t click back in place, but it really was as if he had never left.  Seeing him appear from the terminal, all smiles, made every sucky, lonely moment of the last three months worth it.

Before my next personal blog post I’ll have moved back home for the summer. Strange. It’s always weird moving back home. Much like the end of a period of separation in a long distance relationship, moving back home after months away is both disorienting and startlingly normal. I’m going to miss my friends here, but I’m sure I’ll fall right back into my old routines. After all, I miss my family too, and it will be great to have a break from classes.

I suppose changing backwards is easier than changing forwards. Well, like all things, it’s only temporary.

A to R: Riley

Michelle held her baby at arms length as it screamed at her. She wrinkled her nose. The earplugs weren’t doing much to block out the noise. It was so red, so squirming. Why? I’m trying to help you, why do you wriggle so much? Do you want me to drop you?

Riley, they had named him. Riley had spent about ninety percent of his short life crying. Michelle had aged ten years in two weeks. Craig was away for business.

Riley, Riley. She was beginning to hate the name. It was the source of all her headaches, of every stretch mark, of every sore back and every aching shoulder, every bleeding nipple and sleepless night. Riley. She was beginning to hate not only the name but the baby, the baby she swore she would love more than life itself. As soon as this thing is out of me, she used to think when it kicked her ribs and made her sick, it will all be worth it.

No. Cry-ley, she had taken to calling him under her breath. It was not worth it. She was prepared for nine months of torture, not eighteen years. And Craig…so ridiculous. That’s what she gets for marrying an actor. She was prepared to be poor, not well-off but abandoned while Craig travelled the country caked in makeup and drinking whiskey. She was forced to stay in the city for her own job, which was on hiatus. She survived on their shared bank account, guiltiness flooding her veins with every withdrawal.

She wanted a finish line, but the only one in sight was when Riley finally grew up, but he was still so small he couldn’t lift his head. No finish line, unless either she or her husband quit their jobs but stayed married. No finish line, just a slow continuance of this soreness, of constant crying.

Riley, Riley, Riley. She wanted a girl, not a boy. Her arms were getting tired, holding the stupid, heavy baby out so far, so she placed the thing in its crib and sat in the corner of the nursery, sinking to the floor and resting her forehead on her knees, rocking her head back and forth. The crying permeated the air and infected her ears.

“Shut up!” she yelled, and the baby paused for a second, then went on crying. It was so stupid it didn’t know that eating solved hunger, that sleep solved tiredness, that it was supposed to love its mother and let her sleep. Michelle crawled across the carpet and shook the crib bars, all rattling plastic and soft metal. She roared at the child. The streetlight lit up the baby in gray strips. Michelle hit the bars with her forearm, resulting in louder crying from Riley. She rolled her eyes and went to her bedroom, closing the two doors between her and the baby.

She pulled out her earplugs and called Craig. Somehow he answered—he never answered.

“Can’t you come home?” Michelle asked the second he heard his voice.

“Honey,” he started with the boiling impatience of a pep talk. “I’m in California. We talked about this, didn’t we? One more week, then I’m home for the weekend.”

“Just the weekend,” Michelle whined, slowly rolling onto her bed. Crying still seeped through the door and the laughs and chimes of a cocktail party came muffled through the phone; Michelle struggled to tune out both.

“Yes, just the weekend, but I’m on tour,” he said, another word, like “Riley,” which Michelle couldn’t help but hate. “I have to keep on tour, it’s my job. How’s Riley? You doing okay?”

“No.”

“Is he sleeping?”

“Far from it. Honey, I miss you.”

“Well, I miss you too. And Riley, but that doesn’t mean I can just come home whenever I want to.”

“Why not?”

“Michelle, I’m not having this childish conversation with you. I have to go.”

“Fine.” Michelle hung up on him and instantly fell into a fit of hysterical crying, louder than her baby, heaving breaths and coughs and tremors, This was it. Craig would be home, a finish line, but then gone again, another starting line. Why was happiness the only temporary thing? Why was the only thing she seemed to see of her husband was his back as he headed out the door?

She didn’t remember falling asleep, but she woke up at about eight, the latest Riley had let her sleep since before he was born. Her heart froze, she leapt out of bed and ran down the hall, rushing into the nursery. There he was, in the center of his crib, sleeping soundly.

For a moment, Michelle watched her silent baby sleep, his lips twitching. Was he dreaming of her? She shut the door quietly and brewed a cup of coffee. The house was so quiet.

“Riley,” she whispered in the empty kitchen. She then sipped the too-hot coffee and burned her tongue.

The final moments

My boyfriend is currently on the flight back to Boston. In two hours I’ll see him for the first time since mid January–three months, he’s been in Mexico! I have butterflies in my stomach.

These last few hours are going to last a lifetime. Waiting for things is so silly. It’s fun to be excited, but it slows down time. I just want it to be six! This is probably the first Sunday ever that I am begging to go by faster.

I have some American candy for him, like Sour Patch Kids and Hershey’s chocolate, as well as some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream–obviously, Americone Dream. I’ve got on a new dress, and I’m headed to the airport in about an hour. My gosh, it’s the day I’ve been anticipating since he applied for the study abroad around a year ago. I’m so excited.

Welcome home, honey:)

Flowers and wine

Today is my birthday! Yay! And tomorrow is Easter! Happy Easter, if you celebrate!

I’m running around crazy this weekend so I asked my boyfriend Colin to write another guest post, since his post last week got great feedback. He’s planning on starting his blog, Voices Walking, at the beginning of April. He’ll start along with the A-Z Challenge (which I’m also doing), so these guest posts are his way of testing the water of the blogosphere before diving in.

Tomorrow I’m doing one of those chain blog post question things, but regular Playground posting will resume on Monday. Without further ado, Colin’s post about his trek through the Mexican jungle, Flowers and Wine:

 

Last summer I watched a documentary called “Somme,” about new sommeliers training for their exam by testing each other’s palates and aptitude at describing the flavors hidden within each wine. Watching these people with seemingly superhuman aptitudes to taste and smell, I was inspired: I wanted to be like them, something about the sheer depth of knowledge and carefully honed senses made me tremble with envy. How could one possibly embark on a journey like this? When I can barely taste the difference between a red and a white, how could I cultivate a palate to match the excitement that sparkled in the sommeliers’ eyes for their craft?

I recently met someone else with that same joy, that sparkle in the eyes and the inability to sit still and not explore a new flavor. While in a botany class, hiking through the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, I felt an immediate desire to learn how to savor each and every plant around me, thanks to the bright-eyed excitement of our professor. Having that joy in your work, coupled with the skill of knowing deeply every secret in a fern’s leaves, is deeply infectious to me. It makes me want to learn, to have that same passion. Watching him identify a plant was just like watching a master savor a taste of wine. He would look the plant up and down, drinking in the intricacies of the shape and texture through his hand lens. Next, he would tear up a leaf and smell deeply whatever odor it excreted, and bite into the stalk with the same tentativeness of a sommelier moving on from the swirl to the first delicate sip. The sommelier lists the characteristics and pinpoints the exact variety of wine. The botanist does the same.

How do you develop this precision, this deep understanding of your craft? Luckily, I was blessed with an insight into the process, that was the point of this class after all, and my professor pushed us hard to understand the work behind such a passion. We had to understand the structure of plants, how they grow and reproduce. After that we had to know all the characteristics plants could keep, in order to differentiate between different groups and families. From there, we got to start our business in the cloud forests of Oaxaca, armed with a basic understanding of how plants work. We used all our senses to identify these plants, learning more families as we went on. We used broad stokes at first, but with time we got more precise, learning a few genera and species by the end. But in general, we were learning to taste a Merlot, but we weren’t pinpointing flavors, nor were we learning to taste the manufacturer or the region of production. Nevertheless, I loved learning, even on such a surface level, the skills required to place a plant in the Solanaceae or the Cucurbitaceae, the nightshade and squash families, respectively. It felt as though I was gaining a skill! And because of that I continue to find the specifics immensely beautiful, the small things people spend so much time honing their skills to identify out of sheer passion.

When I turn off the documentary or return from the forest, however… Those passions seem to fade. I study geography and global studies, two very open ending subjects in the all-too-often unspecific social sciences. Too few of my compatriots spend time to learn things. My school professes to teach students how to “think,” but how can one think when you aren’t required to know the details behind your hypothesis? The sommelier has his wine and the botanist his plants, but what do I have? One day I hope to find the specific thing that I can push myself to study and know inside and out. I’ll keep on looking, studying how the world works, and praying that one day I will be drawn to a subject less wide, but as deep as the sea.

Comforting Moon (Guest Post)

My boyfriend Colin is on a study abroad program in Oaxaca, Mexico. An introvert himself, he wrote this guest post about how being in Mexico gave him the confidence and drive to connect with people he normally wouldn’t have.

If you like this guest post, please leave a comment or email Colin at crugg129@gmail.com. He’s thinking about starting his own blog, so any feedback will be welcome. Enjoy!

Comforting Moon

When you look at the stars you can forget where you are. You can look up past the stars into the darkness, the same midnight blue around the world, and be comforted. That is, until the little differences start to build up, the new constellations or the angle of the moon, and again you feel alone.

In Oaxaca, Mexico, the moon waxes vertically, so that all I can see is an ever-thickening canoe, distinct from the classic DreamWorks chair. The people here eat chapulines (grasshoppers), put ketchup in their beer, and consistently arrive at least a half-hour late for any scheduled meeting. The worst cultural quirk one has to overcome is the infuriating habit people here have, upon being asked for directions, of instructing you on an imaginary pathway when they have never heard of the place you are seeking, all for the purpose of being polite. These are the small differences that weigh on you. Nothing revolutionary, but enough to weigh you down and make you question why you came: culture shock.

How do you overcome it? For me it was the simple act of discussion. When you talk to a Oaxacan beyond the obligatory “tell me about Oaxaca,” they rarely discuss the subtleties of munching on a cricket or the need to throw toilet paper in a trashcan so as to not clog the toilet. These are things that they do, not things that they are, just as Americans are a bit more complex than cheese-whiz, to-go coffee, and a bizarre desire to flaunt red, white, and blue.

When you talk to a Oaxacan, they often cease to be a Oaxacan to become a person. My host mother in the city, Martha, likes to travel and loves to tell stories about her children. My Spanish teacher, Miguel, studied geology for a semester in Oregon, and when his girlfriend at the time broke up with him his roommate helped him to discover Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. When you look past all the little differences, the customs that mean hardly anything, the placement of the stars, you realize that we are all the same. The comfort of a familiar midnight blue is the comfort of a shared humanity.

So then why do we travel? Why did I go far from home, learn a new language, and waste money to talk to people who are deep down the same as people back home in the Northeastern United States? After much thought, it can be put simply: to gain new perspectives. When you have to learn a new language, you not only have to work hard to be understood, but you also have to talk to strangers. People you would never have spoken to otherwise. You have to look for that deep blue sky somewhere under the new words and alien accent, because you’ll never learn French by talking to a Frenchman. Only from a person who speaks French. So now, I, the same boy who never raised his hand in class and murmured awkwardly as classmates introduced themselves to me, have begun to initiate conversations with complete strangers. I can talk about myself, not for myself but to connect with someone else and feel the humanity that they share with me. I can only hope that upon returning to my English-speaking homeland that this new perspective holds. Everyone is more than just their title. A brief connection can help you forget the strange angle of the moon.

You don’t make me want to be alone

A bird uncaged, a chocolate cake, a tattooed anklebone

It might sound strange, but you don’t make me want to be alone.

An open book, a video, the photos from the sea

A single look, a Cheerio stuck under the TV

The little things, the way he sings, the way he plays along

Our long-gone flings and diamond rings, our weekend in Vermont.

You message me on whether you think I’m your counterpart

It holds my strings together when we have to be apart.

A little sigh, I’ll draw the line at one more pacifier:

A Shepherd’s pie, a glass of wine, our blanket by the fire.

Miles are long, miles to go until I hold your hand.

I know you’re gone, you know I know, it’s time I understand.

>70

Well, finally, there’s less than 70 days left until my boyfriend comes home from Mexico. I count the days in every way possible, fitting them into weeks, months, hours, sets of ten, sets of 12…Just trying desperately to put them in a form that makes it seem shorter. Today my focus is on dividing it into an improper fraction of months and days—two months and nine days. I can do nine days, and after nine days I’ll only have 2 months to go, and the day after that I’ll only have 1 month, 3 weeks, and 6 days.

January was hard, because I looked at the calendar and saw April 16 four months away. It gets closer every day, but the days pass so slowly. My semester will be two weeks away from being over. I’ll have been at the Globe for four months. My godson will be five months old. Lent and Easter will have come and passed. I’ll have my birthday. So much will happen in the next two months and nine days. But I don’t care. I would rather skip them all and go right to April 16.

My suitemate said he doesn’t like rushing through things, and I don’t either, really. But when the day to day is rather plain, and all I want to do is be with my boyfriend, I can’t help but wish I had that remote from Click. Fast forward, 2x.

I feel like I have things to do, but I don’t. The two-classes life, along with an 8 hr work day with less than 8 hrs of work leaves me with plenty of free time to count calendar days. It starts to look like a map. A quest, from February to April.

I know I shouldn’t dwell on it…but that’s hard to do. After all, I’m not the one trekking the rainforests of Oaxaca, I’m sitting in a cubicle all day.

We go to different colleges, so yes, we’ve been in a long distance relationship, so to speak, for awhile. It’s just that this distance is much greater, and there aren’t any visits in between. In many ways, it’s better, because he’s much happier there than in Vermont, and we do talk a bit every day. And it’s making us a stronger couple.

I’m asking my parents to send me abroad in the fall, but these hard months are one reason why, if they say no, it won’t be the end of the world…too much.