They Know Too Much

Those hawk-eyed soothsayers over at Stuff White People Like are really starting to annoy me. I like to think of myself as a little avant-garde, a little outrageous, but the culture vultures have cut me down to average yet again.

Back when I thought I was cool because I still listened to the Roots, I stumbled - dismayed – upon this site, and since then, I haven't been able to tear myself away.

Damn them and their intimate knowledge of my tendencies.

Bangs? Check.

Mad Men? Love it.

Scarves? I'm not exaggerating when I say I wear one every day. Every Day. Today it’s white and orange gingham, yesterday it was white silk with bold chartreuse streaks, tomorrow it’ll be purple Pashmina, Friday something big and wrappy to wear on the plane. Dammit.

Moleskine "legendary notebooks"? Actually, I hate those pretentious little books. Carrying one is like wearing a sign that says, "I'm a sucker who hates my money and fancies my every thought so important that its needs writing down.”

Taking a year off? HA! They're wrong again! I didn't take one year off - I took three!

Coffee? Come on, EVERYBODY likes coffee. Just look at the Turks!

Facebook? Over 600 friends!

Self-aware hiphop references? Ok, this I do not do.

Grammar? Don’t get me started.

Free healthcare? If I had a nickel for every time I’ve proposed socialism, I’d be rich enough to buy non-generic meds.

David Sedaris, Not Having a TV, Arrested Development, Dogs, Juno, Living By The Water (I don’t, but I’d love to)…the list goes on and on.

But really, that's ok, because it's that transparency that enables you (and strangers who run an eerily accurate website) to know me so well, and to know how to help me out of a blue time.

Thank you for your insightful comments, phone calls and emails after my sad post a week or so ago. Such a tremendous outpouring of love—I feel so lucky.

And just like that, everything feels ok again. As soon as I took an honest look at what makes me happy (now - what makes me happy now, not what made me happy 5 years ago or 3 years ago or last year), all the stress—of climbing or not climbing, of skiing or not skiing—melted away. Instead of feeling directionless and overwhelmed, I was able to approach the world with some perspective.

So where do I go from here? I probably won’t revisit the therapist I saw a couple weeks ago, the woman who, after listening to me for a while, asked, “Why don’t you and your husband take up snowshoeing*? That might be a nice way to spend time together in the winter!”

I stared at her, unable to speak, because she just didn’t get it, and with 45 minutes left in my session – a fucking eternity – I suddenly felt exhausted. I missed the therapist I saw in college, Patti, who knew how to say, “try something new” without making me want to scratch my eyeballs out.

The thing is, though, I’ve been trying new things my whole life, preferring the novelty of change to the head-down-dedication of perfecting one sport or hobby. Yes, that spontaneity has allowed me to do myriad wonderful things, but I often wonder where I’d be if I'd ever truly stuck to something.

Oh. Wait ...

There's Arnie, all sprawled out with his paw flung across my foot.

I stuck to him.

When I got him five years ago, my life was at its most frenetic. I was barely hanging on financially and my emotions were completely unmanageable. So, naturally, because I couldn't deal with myself, I decided to throw another living thing into the mix. (WTF?)

But somehow - even with my roommate admonishing me for being so irresponsible - I knew it would work. I could fail myself - continually - without it mattering enough to change my behavior, but after smacking eyes on Arnie for the first time, I knew I could never, ever fail the fuzzy golden baby animal who was depending on me for food and love and shelter and walks and pets and companionship. He deserved all the compassion in the world, and in caring for him, I started to address the matters in my own life.

Hm. I never thought about that before. No wonder I love Arnie so much.

No wonder I didn't meet Brad until after I got Arnie. I wasn't ready to meet him any sooner.

Obviously, I have bad memories of high school. I had a lovely childhood, so it goes without saying that I spent my teen years looking for an enemy to battle, finding no one but myself, and taking it out on my parents.

I grew up with the sense of entitlement that comes from living in a house where the TV is turned off for dinner and my main chores were finishing my homework, writing thank you notes and practicing the piano. Chores finished, I spent most Friday and Saturday nights like the rest of my suburban American generation - at the local mall.

Juggling Aunt Annie’s pretzels and sugar-free lemonades, my friends and I trolled the sale racks at The Gap and pretended to ignore any classmates we saw. It's mostly a blur now, the drama and dialogue that seemed so paramount, the standing around that I used to beg an extra hour of curfew for. But one moment remains clear. My friend Janice and I were looking at purses at Kauffmanns, a regional department store now part of the Macy's family. Rather than fawning over the Liz Clairborne "Triangle Bag," which most of our peers paraded up and down the halls at school, Janice pointed to a locked glass case that held what looked to me like boring but expensive "Mom" purses.

"Someday I'm going to buy myself a Coach bag," she said.

I know, I know. These are the words of spoiled brats and little girls with no ambition. But Janice didn't say, "I want that," or "My dad is buying me that bag," or even, "I'm going to ask my parents for one of those." She said that she was going to buy one for herself, and that's what stuck with me, even after 15 years and numerous fancy bags (though no Coach...still not my style).

Figuring it out for yourself, whatever it is, matters.

Yes, plenty of people told me that I was on a path of destruction, but until I saw for myself how my actions could negatively affect little Arnie, I ignored all the static and ground noise and continued digging my own grave. Just as Janice, whose parents probably would have given her a Coach bag for her birthday or graduation or whatever, realized that earning it on her own would make carrying it feel all the better.

Just like my figuring out, over these past few weeks, what my priorities are right now, validates them - makes them mine.

* Snowshoeing? Just, NO.


Kate said...

You know, I think anyone who loved high school is probably an asshole as an adult.

But besides that - great post! Shaking off anyone else's ideas of what your priorities should be or could be and making them your own instead...for me this feels like a daily process. When you've spent a lot of time reinventing, seeking, constantly changing, it's hard to break free and be still with your choices.

Snowshoeing? Sounds like it's time for a new therapist!

Cindy said...

Wow--that's a brain dump onto the keyboard. I've got to think you're going in the right directions though: you seem to know what's important and have things prioritized.

You see Jen this weekend, right? Give her a hug for me. You will love her laugh.

Have a safe trip, and take care of yourself.