Back at it! Coffeeshop. Notebooks. Highlighters. Flat whites, cappuccinos, lattes, check. Oh, and this cinnamon roll for my health.
June 14, 2020. Ouch. Another unpublished draft of my rage is below. Reading these are therapeutic and a challenge for me to put some larger unhappiness to rest. As I’ve mentioned in my recent posts, I lost one of my best friends, and former partners, to cancer. I’m not feeling “Grab life by the horns” so much as “Pick yourself back up because no one else will.” It’s not a cry for pity, it’s a resolution.
“Not everything was a dumpster fire as 2020 slid into mid-winter. No really, there were some good moments, great moments… Personally speaking, it was supposed to be the year, when bad stuff stop happening long enough for me to get a decent grip on things and right the sinking ship that was my *cough *cough, early 40’s. That last part is still debatable, it may say that on my ID, but I mentally stopped maturing, aging, after 27. No one tells you this when you’re younger, that there’s a good chance you’ll fly through an entire decade and then some without realizing the numbers ticking by.
I realize I’m harping on this, but aren’t you? Taking whatever plans you had three months ago, the pieces of a life you may have been enjoying, and finding that square peg and round hole aren’t working. Right now my life looks like a 1,000 piece puzzle painted entiredly in black, and I’m only finding a few pieces a day that connect. Those connected pieces, however small, fill me with a purpose even if I can’t see the finished goal anymore. I understand many people are dealing with kids, wrecked plans for the year in addition to their own personal goals and I empathize. I am part of a secret society of people (mostly women), that are professionals at putting others first, ourselves last.
Now, in light of #BlackLivesMatter, COVID-19, all the destruction our President has enacted to destroy our relationships with other countries, our environment, our education, our bodies, I can go on- it certainly looks like a dumpster fire we can’t put out. I feel guilty wanting to put myself, my happiness, my goals, first. When you’re the only one that runs the business of your life, you have to. I want to know how to strike a balance. How to be more self aware, more sympathetic, to stand up for others, to enact change. I’ve spent a large part of my adult life doling out drinks at my bar, dealing with men’s lechery and idiocy when alcohol is added to the equation. Then the general ignorance of everyone who treats service-industry people as less than them- uneducated, someone to touch or speak to in any horrid manner.”
Wow, October of 2020 I wrote the passage below but never hit submit. Like all those texts we rant hard on, then in a fit of passion hit ‘send’…or delete. Why do we do that? Is it anxiety boiling over and we finally pay attention to the mess and proceed to cleanup? Perhaps, or maybe it’s knowing our words will fall on deaf ears, or encourage a fight. For the record, I still feel as passionately about my “restaurant rage” (angry late young-aged woman shakes fist at sky). I won’t cop to middle-aged, no no, not yet.
I’m angry for more selfish reasons (but are they selfish?) Restaurant work still pays my bills, albeit poorly, and I’m seething to get out (that’s 100% on me). I’m craving support from friends I’m not getting (but we’re all suffering from the loss of our friend who was my former partner). An old friend posted to Facebook- “Do you hang on to connections that don’t serve you? Do you know why?” My shortened answer, for here, loyalty to the past. To a place we all worked in, to another friend who passed from cancer, and now for our friend we laid to rest last week. A lot of these friends moved away, and to be honest, I don’t keep in touch with because it’s tough to admit that we shared time and place and memories, but not a close friendship. Some moved and I do keep close. I’ve been questioning friendship and what that means to me, and what I actually need from people. Being in my 40’s is the hardest part, so many have kids and spouses that take up 95% of their time. I like kids, but they are adult-friendship killers. Unless, of course, you also have kids.
So, as a childless, unmarried woman of a certain age, I’m learning to seek out those who better serve my emotional and intellectual needs, as well as my interests. Regardless of your situation, I gently suggest you do too.
“It’s troubling to continue addressing this, but as I live in the DC metro area, besieged by election and Supreme Court atrocities, the feeling is climaxing. I’ve long dealt with anxiety and depression, and have managed to curtail the worst of its ugliness, until now. I’m seven months into being “unemployed” or as I’m starting to call it, again, under-employed. Working part-time delivering food and alcohol for my company, and also making drinks for the outside of our restaurant, the only spot to enjoy food and drinks anymore. It’s fine, it’s “fine”. It’s hourly, not tips, I doubt many know the tips they are leaving don’t go to us, but to pay salaries and keep the lights on. I shouldn’t even be mentioning that here, but I’m getting fed up when I see the generosity people are offering, thinking it’s helping us keep our lights on, our bank accounts full. It’s not. I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me, as this payment in cash every week for my hours leaves me to collect unemployment. I don’t want to be on unemployment, I want to be a functioning member to society, to my life, my future. And I’m sorry, but I can’t do that on 30-40% less salary. Not in the DC area, where depending on where you live, rents have not eased up. I have never wanted to pack up and run screaming in the other direction more in my life. I live in a very-well-to-do neighborhood that up and ran away with being affordable long ago, but I kept hanging on because I made a good living, most of my friends are here, and it’s safe.
So back to that anxiety, see, it’s always been there, but kept hidden. Hidden by the “safety” and “comfort” of my job in a profession that has been decimated by this pandemic. Never did I think bartending would go out of style, but here we are folks. People are ordering cases of wine and beer to be dropped at their doors, learning how to make old fashions just like the bar down the street, and building bars in their basements.”
So it’s been a while, yeah? Well, life has absolutely gutted me this past year. I just lost one of my closest friends to cancer, someone I also shared my life with for five years. Losing a “former lover” as a friend put it, is unfathomable. That we salvaged a great friendship is more unheard of (something many don’t understand). As he got sicker over the last year, I started collecting art supplies again, but hadn’t really put many to use. I’ve stared at my old sketchbooks, did a few small painting projects and felt my creative side waking up, very, very slowly. I think it’s called healing. Tiny bites of myself repairing its frayed edges I let get charred, mangled, and ignored. I’d like to do therapy again, but this feels more me- an outlet to pour my feelings into. Actual therapy *sigh*, I know is a necessary must, as unpacking my trauma past and present isn’t going to happen in a clearance watercolor set and graphite pencils. Painting and drawing won’t bring my friend back, just dreams and photos will. But, for now, tiny pieces of me can blend colors, and grab pens, and recreate something I see, or create something I’ve imagined. Emotional and psychological trauma are very real wounds we must attend to, and I hope to work through mine again in this creative, and safer, way. So enjoy my terrible first sketches of celebrities I saw on my phone!
The river’s fairly calm, I see cars but no one’s around. The clouds are silvery blue and the wind occasionally threatens something more sinister is coming my way.
Really mother nature? Bring it. Life has already shown just how injurious real people can be. One can be unknowingly malicious, inflict unimaginable harm, offering emotional cruelty of the highest order. Those people need to be more kind to themselves. If you can’t be kind to yourself, to pick up your pieces, how do you stop yourself from harming someone else?
Oh! There’s the sun, peaking through to protest with warmth on top of my head as I sit alone by the river. And then there’s the river, so soft, so placating, in it’s gentle march south. Why does no one come out on the best days like this? The rain will come, but I’ve stolen the best time and the best spot. My little sliver of peace near the mass of disappoint and pain.
I imagine the days when people rode through here on horseback, how quiet life was, without the din of car traffic, incoming flights, the occasional military helicopter. One had to be more aware, senses more heightened. I’m under no illusion that life was easier, it wasn’t, but there was quiet.
Mad Girl’s Love Song
By Sylvia Plath
“I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)
I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)”
This was a leftover draft/picture from November I believe. The days of whiling away hours at the coffee shop, reading, writing, learning. Life is returning to the inside environs but feels barely more safe than a vacation to Chernobyl. The threat is there, you just can’t see it. The ‘threat’ is also so much more than just the virus. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” keeps spinning in my head, and it pertains to all of us. We have a lot of new tricks to learn, but are we willing to let go of the old ones in order to move forward, to move on with a new way of living?
For someone who loves nature and being outdoors, who finds it as essential to her wellbeing as air, I don’t come to the river nearly enough. Right now I’m sharing a little stretch of parkland along the Potomac with a few guys fishing. The nearest are speaking Spanish, and it feels a little more like home. I hear cars blowing by, the lapping of water a few feet from my chair, the hum of conversation. I’m typing this post on my cellphone while my laptop leans against my leg; I’d feel like such an ass if I took it out. This is what happens when your “office”, aka, the coffee shop, is still closed indoors and your apartment is about as productive an environment as a crowded bar.
You become the girl with the laptop down by the river.
I’m down here hoping to make sense of my life getting back on track when it seems utterly impossible, especially as life around me tries to inch closer to the before time. Life before the virus. Also now, and rightfully so and a long time overdo, an uprising against racism and abhorrent brutality against black people. Our President is a bigot, million’s have no job, the virus is still a clear and present danger, and this was supposed to be my year?
I’m not asking for a redo, even as my near past was so bright and hopeful and wanted. No, I’m asking for us to get a fair shot at fixing and mending all this before everyone’s lives are completely destroyed. Our personal lives, our work lives, our our personal freedoms, our neighbors freedoms and rights. I ask myself every day if I have any fight left in me. I’ve been fighting for myself for a good 30 years now- fighting abuse, depression, sexism, unavoidable sickness and death, heartbreak, professional woes, and on. I am no one special; you’re probably seeing some of your own demons here.
So how does one keep pushing on in a time when leaning on others isn’t as easy as it once was? Every person is dealing with one or multiple crisis that are exponentially larger than three months ago. I’m experiencing a level of gratitude I’ve never had for seemingly little things- my best friend in Chicago doing a (failed) juice cleanse with me while she begins her last internship post-law school, another friend reaching out no matter how late or busy (or not) their lives are, the friends that still invite you over for dinner (safely and distantly!) For not letting that voice that keeps saying “You’ve still failed to amount to anything” win another morning.
That last one is the hardest. It’s heavy to keep a brave face and positive attitude when I have survived five of the roughest years of my adult life. Forgiving myself for making horrendous personal mistakes, for not pushing harder after seven years of nonstop job searching and coming up empty handed. There’s more, but the gist is, forgiveness. No one forgives themselves enough when life falls apart, when you feel unimportant or forgotten about or unloved. If you can’t forgive yourself, you’ll never move forward.
Pieces, small and large, of life have been chipped away and fallen apart. There’s new and old struggles to contend with, but likely not a lot of old ways to fix them. Find your new way. You are not defective, you just need to do more, try harder, ignore that terrible voice that wakes you up and goes “WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED?”
I might not find my way forward down by the river, but I will give it a fighting chance.
At this time last week, I was still in “day off” mode since my usual off time from my job-that-pays are Mondays and Tuesdays. Now I’m struggling to fill those extra eight to ten hours in my day that are reserved for bartending. Think it’s easy? We all have those long-forgotten projects of painting, rearranging the bedroom, purging closets and such. The problem is when even that gets tedious, we don’t HAVE to be doing any of it. I have hundreds of books in my apartment, many unread. That’s a lot of sitting down for a person regularly on their feet 40+ hours a week. My home is long, but not conducive to pacing. So, what to do? List making, how I love lists. More like, a daily “to-do” calendar that turns all of this free time at home into workable, productive hours. My short-term goal of becoming a full-time freelance writer could come to fruition out of this.
I’ve been thinking of ways to prioritize things I already do with things I want to do. There’s the morning ritual of reading the terrible news of the world, coffee, and making the bed. Check. Had a little dance party, check. I completed some social media shout outs. Now I’m unhappily sitting on the couch, thinking if I should workout or let my very sore body heal from the Barre video I attempted. I say this regrettably from longingly staring out the window as I type. The cats are birdwatching and enjoying the fresh air. Visions of running away to a cabin in the mountains have been constant—a fireplace, beautiful deck with jacuzzi and excellent hiking trails. Take a deep breath (I have to tell myself this often). It will come, though I hope it is during a lovely Spring of firsthand enjoyment of birds singing and leaves budding. It’s nice to dream, to have hopes, and expectations of when life returns to “normal,” whatever that may be in the coming months.
I’ll leave it there for now. What are some of your “new normal” habits? Hobbies? How are you filling your days if you are a writer or other artist? Not being a parent to human children, I don’t have the responsibility of teaching and entertaining others. I assume my parent-friends are up to their ears in education and the art of distraction.
I just got emotional turning off my brunch alarm for tomorrow morning. I never thought I’d be upset by that. But here I am, crying and scared. Day 7 is setting up to be the emotional rollercoaster I don’t need.
To follow up, I’m fine; I’ll be “fine.” I have been alone and independent a lot since I turned, oh let’s say, 12 years old. Benefits of being a latchkey kid, being snarky and self-sustainable, Generation X. You could put “self” in front of just about any word, and that sums up my generation. Many articles and blogs proclaim we’re poised for this type of scenario, encouraged by an adolescence of busy parents, empty houses, and MTV. We made our own after school snacks, did our homework without (much) help, and sought it on our own if needed. Hell, I did my college applications and my college tours with friends. I was dropped off at my snowed in university and was alone within half an hour.
I don’t enjoy being alone; I’m just really good at it. Being alone when warranted, such as after a busy night or week of bartending, is a gift. It’s the most socially demanding job I know of, where you’re “on” for 8-10 hours, or more, a shift. Multiply that by 3-5 days a week, and you’re mentally toasted, you’re raw, spent. Small talk is our forte, a lot of necessary shouting, and repeating ourselves dozens upon dozens of times. There’s much more I could divulge on what drives me bananas about my job, but that’s not why I’m here.
I don’t miss the bartending; I miss the connection with people. I will never have a job this fun again. No matter how much I love writing, and books, and being a smarty pants- all that can take a hike. Fun at work seems like the antithesis of what I learned growing up, and current trends don’t seem to have changed. This pandemic could very well destroy the life I’ve known for 25 years in the course of a few months, or weeks. I am not overreacting, and it will not be the same. Nothing about our conventional way of life will be the same after this virus finally subsides, we get it under control, a vaccine, and a lot of people die. I hope I’m wrong, but drastic measures are frequently taken after catastrophes.
If it seems I’m overreacting after such a short period, here’s some perspective. I’m not on vacation, but laid off, and filed for unemployment. I’ve applied for every bartender grant I’ve seen. That is emergency, disaster relief for people who pour martinis (I’m condensing). There are “Virtual Tip Jars,” regional spreadsheets being created throughout the country for people to donate money directly to their favorite server or bartender in place of the gratuities we are no longer receiving. It’s remarkable the care and thought being poured into our community to help save Us.
But I am still scared.
I’m confident, if completely contradictory with my rambling that we will get through this. We will be stronger, if more cautious, on the other side, but emotionally battered and bruised. We will be tired, and not just us restaurant industry folks—parents co-working, co-parenting, and homeschooling. If you weren’t tired enough before, wait until we all take our first collective breather when safe again. That is when the real exhaustion begins; when we go back to our old lives and realize they are not there.