Monday, October 30, 2006

In Hand

Earlier this month, the New York Times did a piece about holding hands...

"We found that holding the hand of really anyone, it made your brain work a little less hard in coping," Dr. Coan said, adding that any sort of hand-holding relaxes the body.

On Saturday, toward the end of the second costume party Roommate Rachel and I attended, I met a man dressed as an ancient Roman. I was well and tipsy at this point. We sat together on a couch, next to my roommate and the boy flirting with her.

"I'm psychic," Roman said.

"Me too, especially when I drink," I replied.

"You're going to be married within 18 months...but not to me," he prophesized.

"You hate your job, but have an opportunity through a friend that will pan out in the six months. You're scared to take the risk, but you should go for it," I replied.

He nodded.

"You're going to have two kids, a girl and a boy."

"Wrong, they're both going to be boys," I corrected him. "I don't see any girls in my future."

He told me he's bisexual and Leo. I rolled my eyes.

"Not another Leo."

"We're not a good match for each other," he said.

"Nope."

He held my hand anyway. It felt so good, like something being released, a little bit of darkness dissipating.

"It's a lonely time right now."

"It is, very. But a little less so, at least for now," I said.

He kissed me. It wasn't a good kiss. Awkward. The handholding was better.

I stood up. "I need a cigarette."

"I wish I had a joint."

"I'm going downstairs for a cigarette." I got my coat, said my goodbyes to the hosts.

He followed me outside. As we reached the bottom steps, he said,

"I thought it was going to be men for a while."

"Then you should go be with men."

It was cold outside, and he couldn't stand the wind in his thin toga. I waited for Roommate Rachel to come down, and we hurried home in the frosty air.

The kissing didn't faze me, but the holding hands was a glimpse and reminder of what it's like not to be alone. It was intense, too much so. I don't think I'll be ready for a while.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Plexiglas

So last week, Ex David emailed three of my blogger friends. One of them tipped me off and forwarded the message:

Hello everyone!

This is Dolly's Ex-BF David, just dropping a line to say hello. I've been thinking about all three of you lately, and wondering how you all are. I know this may sound strange, since we don't know each other very well, but I miss hanging out with you guys. Staying current with you through your blogs (yes, I read them - those of you who still have one) is just not the same, entertaining as they all may be.

So, even though I'm not dating Dolly any longer, I'd still like to be friends with all of you. I know this may sound random and strange, especially since you're all friends with Dolly, but I really enjoyed meeting all three of you and would like to hang out with you all again. Or, at least stay in touch. I certainly understand if you feel weird about this prospect, but I thought I would at least put it out there.

I hope you're all doing well and having a great start to the week. And, hopefully, I'll be hearing back from you all soon. Until then, have a happy Monday!

Sincerely,
Ex David
xxx-xxx-xxxx


This is where I need point out that he met these people only a couple of times. Also, what I really have a problem with (other than the fact that he used an n- instead of m-dash in the above email) is that when Ex David and I were dating, he repeatedly complained that the longer hours of his new job made it difficult to keep in touch with friends. Sometimes I'd feel a little guilty, knowing I saw him three or four times a week while he had dozens of unanswered emails from friends sitting in his inbox. Now I feel foolish for ever having that guilt.

If a person is so pressed for time they can barely maintain their own friendships, why would they go out of their way to email three friends of an ex? I mean, I know I have cool friends, so part of me can't blame the guy for wanting to spend time with them, but I socialized plenty with Ex David's mother and sister and you don't see me calling them up and inviting them to tea. As a friend pointed out (whose verdict on the situation was, "so not okay"), the friends you have entering a relationship are the friends you keep when it ends. It's socially awkward to pursue friendships with an ex's pals. It would be one thing if Ex David spent time with these people on his own, but he met them through me and only saw them because of group gatherings I attended/organized. He wrote it "may sound random and strange"; no, it is random and strange. And a little bit inappropriate. I know the gesture didn't come from a bad place, but I'm not cool with it. There will be no shared custody of the friends, with the exception of Polly, who knew Ex David before I did.

Then there's Mr. Grey. After Saturday's outing, I've been doing somewhat of a fade again. I copied him on a group email the other day and he replied, telling me all about this "stunning" girl he met at a party last week (the night before we went out, actually, which could be another reason he didn't make a move). I would have been fine if he mentioned it briefly, but he went on and on about how great she was and attached her picture for me to look at. Maybe he felt like I was brushing him off and wanted to show how much he didn't care that I didn't come home with him on Saturday. Maybe he wanted to cement our status as friends-with-no-benefits (after all, I did try to set him up with my roommate). Once again, I'm fairly sure it wasn't coming from a place of wanting to hurt me, and I'm still glad nothing physical happened last weekend, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit it didn't sting a teeny tiny bit. I really didn't need to be sent a photo (and yes, she's pretty, but no, not stunning).

I think seeing Mr. Grey was my way of dipping a toe into the dating pool; I've realized I need to stay out of the water for a while yet. Actually, who am I kidding, there's barely and inch of water in the pool, anyway.

There are times when I'm single (especially after a break-up) where I start to think, I'll never meet anyone special again. Not in a woe-is-me kind of way, but more in a realistic way. I know how rarely I meet men who I have a mutual spark with, and how much more my idea for what I want in the long term gets honed and refined with each man I date (which means more waiting). I don't feel sorry for myself, I just know I'm going to have to tackle some unpleasant loneliness once in a while. What's worse is that right now I don't feel the least bit emotionally available, but I still feel twinges of that loneliness.

I know I sound all down and broody, but I am trying so hard to pull myself out of this. My cold is actually getting better and I should be fine for all the Halloween parties this weekend (three in two days!), which I am now genuinely excited about. Roommate Rachel and I have had lots of fun getting take out and watching DVDs at home nearly every night this week (her company and compassion have helped immeasurably). I bought myself a new iPod and having portable music again has perked me up considerably.

Even so...

A frustrating thing about this depression is that no matter how much effort I put into cheering myself up and connecting with people, there is still this gap, this distance that I can't cross. It's like I have some kind of fence or fog around me. The first boy I ever loved with called it Plexiglas. You can see out and others can see in, but there's an impenetrable layer blocking you from the rest of the world. He said I was one of the few with whom that layer didn't exist. This was over a decade ago, but I don't think I really and truly understood what he meant about the Plexiglas until now.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

cold and cold

There is no heat in my room. What was a bearably chilly space has quickly taken on ice box proportions. Dealing with my landlord is as pleasant and productive as you can imagine.

Well at least I've still got my health. Oh, wait a minute, I don't. I'm being taken over by a cold, and just in time for the Halloween weekend festivities.

The suckage continues. What next? Maybe a piano will fall on my head.

Monday, October 23, 2006

all cats are grey

After spending five straight days home with Mom, away from the rest of the world and in an joyless state of limbo, it was nice to get out Saturday night and have a few drinks in the West Village.

I met up with Mr. Grey, who I hadn't seen in nearly a year. Who I also once had great sex with.

Time to backtrack.

Last summer, Mr. Grey and I had a brief fling. He was on the rebound, I was in some kind of special ambivalent emotional state, but we met and hit it off. We had similar music taste, and a common creative and intellectual streak, and bonded over bondage (and spanking). We spent so much time talking on our first date that I didn't think there'd be any room left for kissing. Instead, we ended up making out in Times Square, with passersby hooting at us. On our second date, we went to a movie and spent most of the feature in liplock. I ended up at his place that night. Most of our other dates became very bed-centric.

Mr. Grey was often late, took forever to order at a restaurant and took his sweet time doing everything involving nudity. He's one of the few men who I can honestly say was possibly a little too big and took a little too long. Even so, I was always satiated, and it was one of the few times where I was able to separate the physical from the emotional.

Don't get me wrong, Mr. Grey is a great guy: thoughtful, funny, smart... just not the guy for me. He's more slow lane, I'm more fast lane (much as I've slowed down in recent times). Even though he's great at being dominant when it comes to sex, his personality is still a bit too passive for my tastes. Also, he's a bit lost career-wise and not the most financially stable person. All of which add up to not-so-great relationship material for me.

Even so, we had some good times. We played Scrabble in a tiny garden in Hell's Kitchen. He made me pies and fed me fresh pineapple while massaging my bare legs. We sat at a picnic table eating italian ices, both dressed in black jeans and t-shirts for the same post-punk band we liked. Mr. Grey is one of those guys I almost wish I was more compatible with outside the bedroom, because I think he'd be a great boyfriend. Alas, we were somehow out of synch; after a few balmy weeks, I did the fade. We saw each other a couple of times after that, once for a brief lunch and once at a concert, and then nothing.

Until early last month. Mr. Grey emailed me, letting me know he had a new job in my neighborhood, asking how I've been doing. I was still with Ex David at the time, so I suggested meeting for lunch, but was hesitant about following through. Instead, I decided to set him up with Roommate Rachel. She's his type physically, and I thought his patient nature might gel with her laid back attitude. They exchanged a few emails, but nothing came of it.

After Ex David and I broke up, Mr. Grey and I resumed a light correspondence and made plans to meet. Roommate Rachel said she ultimately wasn't interested in him romantically, and gave her blessing for me to pursue any possible outcome with Mr. Grey.

Back to drinks on Saturday. The bar was dim and cosy, the atmosphere initially awkward. There was a lot of discussion of our previous relationships and crushes (some of his online obsessions made me feel better about my own irrational fixation on Film Felix), a lot of drinking, and some light flirtation and reminiscing. I was open to the idea of making out and, prior to seeing him, thought it might happen. After the hell of the last few weeks, I figured sex or even kissing would perk me up. It felt good to dress up, look pretty, and to be out on what could have been a date. Except that we did nothing but talk, so it was more like old friends catching up.

Mr. Grey and I closed the bar and stood talking some more on a street corner at 4:00am. Had he made a move in the bar, I probably would have reciprocated. There was still a vague spark and kissing could have happened. Could have, but didn't. We spent too much damn time talking. And then it was too late at night and I was too sleepy and tipsy to think of anything but taking my (painful) high heeled boots off and sleeping in own bed for the first time in nearly a week.

He invited me back to his place, but I declined. He helped me find a taxi and we shared a rushed and supremely awkward hug and chaste kiss goodnight. I spent the next day nursing my hangover and feeling relieved that we didn't hook up. I thought something might be better than nothing, but I don't think that something should be Mr. Grey.

Considering this depression that will just not leave me alone, I'm glad Mr. Grey and I stuck to conversation. I don't think I want to resume a physical relationship with him, though it's nice to know it's a possibility. Even though he and I have already slept together, I don't think I could handle being intimate with anyone at the moment. I can barely handle getting dressed and leaving the house.

Mom is home alone today and I feel awful that I can't be with her. She swears that she can make it through today by herself, but I'm still worried. I've already cried at work twice, once in front of my boss. I'm overwhelmed at everything that needs doing. I dread going to work, I dread coming home, I dread having trouble falling asleep again, I even dread the good things, like upcoming parties.

I know this will pass, that the pendulum will swing the other way and I'll get through it, I just don't know how or when. I feel like life is giving me a hell of a beating right now.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

death in the family

This is hard.

The funeral is tomorrow, halfway across the world. We did not have enough time or the resources to fly out there, and mom ultimately decided she didn't want to be there. She felt it would be too traumatizing, especially if there was an open casket. She got to say her goodbyes a few days prior, when her mother told her she was ready to go.

My grandmother had been battling leukemia for a number of years. I didn't know her, but she had a close relationship with my mother, despite the thousands of miles separating them. I didn't know her, but I'm still mourning the loss. I have a small family and she was my last living grandparent. I spoke with her on the phone a few times and Mom talked about me to her a lot. Losing a parent must be one of the hardest things to endure, so it hurts just to imagine my mother's agony. If it was me in her place, I would need a straightjacket by now. Needless to say, Mom is overwhelmed in her sadness. All I can do is offer hugs, cups of tea, consoling words, and love.

Dad doesn't know how to deal with it. Tonight he told me not to leave her side, that she'll need a hospital if she gets too hysterical. She doesn't need a hospital, she needs support. That's all I can give her. She's the strongest person I know, but also the most sensitive.

Yesterday when I got the call and came home, Mom, Dad and I got intensely drunk, cried a lot, and somehow muddled through the day. Today was calmer, but still tough. Her tears come in waves. I don't want to leave her alone, so I won't be coming into work the rest of the week.

It's a strange, gray, hazy time. It's impossible to concentrate on anything. I feel lost and useless and restless, and the only thing that comforts me is knowing that my presence is making this more bearable for my mother. We've spent the last two days house-bound, but tomorrow we'll try to take a walk, maybe go to my apartment, so I can pick up a few extra things. It looks like I'll be here for at least another couple of days. All plans for the week have been canceled, including a concert tonight and a trip out of town this weekend. It's hard to think of life returning to its usual routines, to say nothing of life being happy. Anything I was feeling depressed about during the last few weeks is nothing compared to my mother's grief now.

I don't know what to do with myself. Which is fine, because it's not about me.

Thank you for all the condolences and messages of sympathy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

mad world

My grandmother died. Mom needs me now, so it's my turn to be there for her...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Invitation to the Blues

Following Thursday's meltdown, I spent the next few days recovering. Hell, I'm still recovering. However, it does look like the fog has lifted a bit.

Seeing one of my favorite bands live over the weekend helped a lot. It took every bit of my energy and will to get it together, leave Mom's place, and trek into the city--after some serious consideration about skipping the show altogether. It's silly when you have to force yourself to go out and have a good time, but that's what it was like. I was perfectly content to stay on the couch in my pajamas for... well, forever. Except that I needed to stop moping and return to the outside world for a while. Also, I had a feeling the concert would lift my spirits.

I was right. Sometimes there's nothing more therapeutic than good music. The concert was one of those shows a fan dreams about: great set list, perfect sound, fun sets and lighting, incredible performances. I felt happier during those few hours than I did in the last month.

It was a strange kind of happiness, though. I'd feel these moments of elation, but they were edged with darkness. An inner voice whispered that this good feeling, it wouldn't last long; the depression would still be there once the show was over, tapping a foot impatiently, waiting to pull me under. I pushed those thoughts aside, refused to let them affect my enjoyment of the music. I was grateful for the respite, however temporary.

The dread started building in the taxi home. That familiar exhaustion, the black anesthesia that seeps in and blurs the edges but doesn't allow for proper oblivion. I tried to hold on to the good mood as long as I could.

Being depressed is like having walking pneumonia. You're healthy enough to get around and go about your daily tasks, but you know you're not functioning at optimal performance. Everything takes so much effort. Every minor accomplishment feels like a big deal.

I woke up yesterday and forced myself to sleep another hour. I still didn't want to get up, so I read in bed for yet another hour. I could have spent all day in the cocoon of my blanket-- especially since the heat hasn't turned on in my building and the apartment was frigid--but I would have hated myself for it. Miraculously, I put on some workout clothes and took a long walk in the park. It was warmer outside than in my room, and sunny. A beautiful, crisp day, and I wouldn't take it for granted.

It's funny, the little pep talks and goofy random phrases that float through your head when you try to cheer yourself up. "Just keep swimming." One foot in front of the other. Through the park and beyond, after a couple of miles it got easier and the momentum took me around the neighborhood. I rented a video, purchased a book, bought a few groceries. Such small tasks, but they helped make me feel more... capable. I can do this. All this work just to function, though it gets rewarded in the form of a tasty dinner, a good read, an entertaining DVD, a dose of endorphins coursing through my body.

A quiet evening. Finished editing my sample chapter while listening to Tom Waits. Better than any medicine.

I still feel like somebody has turned the dimmer switch on the world. Nothing is bright, nothing glows. It's less dark now, though. I can start to make out some outlines and shapes.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dolly goes down.

Yesterday:

Bad news at work, end of the day, just enough to send me over. Five days of poor sleep, rattled nerves, and percolating depression, and this latest disappointment is one I cannot handle with grace.

I'm supposed to meet Pooka in the evening, but I have to cancel. The last call I make before leaving the office.

"Are you okay?" she asks.

"No." I can't really talk. I'm about to unravel (such a melodramatic way of putting it, but that's what it's like, parts of me coming loose and slipping away).

Outside, I walk just far enough away, and sob into the metal fa├žade of a building. I try to hide from passersby, crying into the phone, telling Mom I need to come home; I need to call in sick tomorrow. I call my father and he tells me to calm down in a severe tone of voice, which makes me cry harder, which makes him more hostile.

"You can't miss work tomorrow. You're being unprofessional," he says.

"You don't want to help me, don't help me," I hang up on him.

I am sick, I wanted to explain. This is worse than sick.

I walk to the subway station, hating all the people everywhere. You can't find an empty corner in Manhattan. Maudlin song lyrics cross my brain like ticker tape. They all contain the word "never."

On the train I'm lucky enough to get a seat during rush hour. Small mercies. I put my head back, close my eyes, try not to think, but I can't. I cry slow tears, through shut eyes, try to control them, but they keep coming. I don't have the energy to be embarrassed, if anyone even notices.

I want to feel some kind of minor accomplishment, so I pick up my dry cleaning on the way home, pack a small suitcase, and take out the trash. I call a car service and a few minutes later I'm being driven to my mother's place. More tears. I can stop them, but only for a few minutes. My head is pounding.

"I'm not well," I tell Mom.

She leaves work early. Makes me dinner. Opens a bottle of wine. Sits with me until I mellow out some. Reminds me that's how things usually go for me: all the bad things, all at once, then something better appears and it all turns around. When she says it, I believe her.

I appreciate everyone's concern. One of the things I hate about depression is its self-indulgent nature. Being this low doesn't leave room for anything or anyone else. I hate it, but there's nothing I can do. I tried to keep it at bay, but I couldn't. Sometimes it needs to run its course.
I'm not okay, but I'm somewhere safe.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

precipice

I want to write about the good things. I started a post about Fuchsia's wedding, which was beyond lovely and great fun and exactly how I would want my own wedding to be (if I wasn't still enchanted by the idea of eloping). I'd like to write a post about how Roommate Rachel and I have become fast friends and true sources of comfort and support for each other. Or even something fluffy, like my plans for Halloween this year.

I'd like to sit down and write something long and thoughtful, or even put in some work on the last 15 pages of my sample chapter. I have been trying, but it's no good. I can't do any of the above because I am at the very edge of falling into a very dark, very deep depression, and it has been taking all my energy just to get myself to work every day and maintain minor social contact with a couple of friends.

What's wrong?

I'm waiting on an important decision at work, which will affect my career and is keeping me on tenterhooks. I have a relative that is gravely ill and might possibly die soon. I have been having a lot of trouble getting to sleep, and what sleep I have been getting has been restless and shallow, so I've been glazed over and exhausted during the day. I've been fighting off anxiety attacks, little ones and big ones, and keeping them mostly at bay, for a week now.

I'm exhausted.

I really don't want any advice on how to make myself feel better. I'm doing everything I can. I'm exercising. I'm doing nice things for others. I'm surrounding myself with good people. I'm pursuing every source of minor comfort I can, whether it's losing myself in a book or movie or website or television show or throwing myself into my work. I'm really, really trying to hold it together. I'll keep trying.

That's about all I can write at the moment.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Good Riddance List

He had a video and CD of mine. I had a book of his. It's an age old ritual and one that Ex David and I were about to partake in: the exchanging of the stuff.

I wasn't having a good day yesterday. Depression was looming and I felt like I had nothing on the horizon that I could get excited about. I just wanted to hide away, be invisible. I didn't want to be around people, yet I was uneasy being alone. Everything looked gray to me.

A few hours later, I got a package from Ex David in the mail. Perfect timing. I thought this would push me over into heavy sadness and felt a tickle of anxiety. No good putting off the inevitable: I tore open the padded envelope, inside of which was my CD and video. And a note. I didn't want there to be a note. Maybe there could be notes later, but right now it felt better to have correspondence completely severed. I took a breath, unfolded the paper and... nothing. A friendly, neutral note, a few sentences which triggered only one thought: "he's nice." Then a flood of relief that, even though there were once true feelings between us, we were better off apart. I mailed his book back right away, including a neutral note of my own.

A few years ago I read a novel about this fairly young woman whose husband dies. To help her cope, she makes a Good Riddance List, of all his negative qualities that she no longer has to deal with.

I don't want to rip into Ex David ruthlessly, because on the whole he's a good person and was a good boyfriend. Even so, it's easier to deal with the break-up by focusing on the bad than the good. I feel better remembering the things that gave me pause (I don't know if Ex David still checks my blog, but I'll warn that this would be a good time for him to stop reading). Here goes...

I remember the time he only tipped ten percent on check, at a nice restaurant with perfectly decent service (this makes me cringe; I can't tip less than fifteen percent, ever, and usually tip twenty).

I remember how our bodies didn't properly fit when we went to sleep, how his arm would go numb so he couldn't keep it around me for long.

I remember his love for sports (which I find boring) and proclivity to wear baseball caps (which I really don't like) and sneakers quite often.

I remember how he complained about the cost of the rental car and said that's why he doesn't travel much: it's too expensive.

I remember feeling uncomfortable that he's eight years older than me, yet I make more money in my not-very-well-paying media job, and have far less debt than he does.

I remember how compliant he was, sometimes too compliant, agreeing to do things my way with a slight edge of resignation (or even resentment?).

I remember how he only refrained from spitting in public because of how much I hated it, except for that time he spit into the subway tracks while we were arguing. Ew.

I remember how he'd repeat our in-jokes, a lot, to a point of predictability, to the point where I was bored of hearing them.

I remember tiring of all his theater talk, and being concerned about our different conversational paces in general (his is slower and more measured, mine is brisk and snappy).

I remember wishing that his palate was a bit more refined, that he would give sushi and other exotic cuisine more of a chance.

I remember wishing he wore cologne (I even offered to help him pick some out and buy a bottle he liked).

I remember wishing he was a little closer to the physical type I usually go for (tall, light-eyed, etc.).

I remember wishing he was a bit more dominant.

I remember wishing he made me laugh more.

I remember the first night we met, how I told him I used to be really shy and he said he couldn't believe it. I remember how he reiterated that statement months later, how part of me knew then that he would never properly understand me.

Remembering these things, I know some of them were reasonable concerns and others weren't. I also know it's a good thing that I'm single again, that I need to hold out for a better fit.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

quiet life

I'm sure everybody has been dying to hear what kind of crazy and glamorous adventures I've been having. Well, I've been working on revising my book proposal for Agent Alice. I've been reading this month's selection for the book club I belong to (so far, so-so). I've been watching DVDs with Roommate Rachel. I went to one concert next week and have another two coming up soon that I'm looking forward to. I've been having more dinners with my parents. Oh, and on Sunday, I watched not one, but two biopics about drug-addled, philandering musicians (that's right, Ray and Walk the Line).

Exciting stuff, right?

I've been social, but have preferred to keep the interactions small and laid back. I haven't had the energy to keep up correspondence with all my friends. I've been a semi-hermit.

Overall, I feel fine. A little blah recently, but I think that has more to do with hormones and work stress than anything else. I still haven't cried over the split and still don't regret that it happened. I haven't heard from Ex David and prefer to keep it that way.

I think what has kept me from falling into a depression is not dating. I was tempted for a split-second to return to the online personals, which is what I did after my last break-up. It's good for a distraction, but the emptiness and bad feelings that follow aren't worth it. Something tells me I'm going to be single for a while. Which is fine, because I don't want to put myself out there. I don't need male attention to boost my ego or fulfill my physical needs, and can't see the appeal in a fling or brief hook-up at the moment. I guess I'm going into a sexual hibernation of sorts.

If it sounds like I'm giving up men, I'm not. I'm still hopeful and excited about the next man I'll kiss, the next relationship I'll have down the road. Since I have a clearer and more specific idea of what I want for my romantic life, I know I'm going to have to be patient. If I'm not looking for it and expecting it after every turn, I'll be able to live my life more fully and enjoy the surprise when it does happen.

This means I'll have to find things to write about other than my love life, since I no longer have one. I'm certainly up for the challenge.