the red brita pitcher

just beneath SOMNovember was a busy month, so much so I wasn’t paying to my normal routines. I was just going on automatic.

Wake up. Eat food. Make coffee. Write, write, write. Sleep. Rinse, repeat.

Last month, with its major boon of work, was a blessing and a curse. I needed the work, but so much of it was tedious. It took me away from NaNoWriMo — and I had to even finish that in a flurry last week.

I was busy for three weeks straight, just writing writing writing.

Then there was a bit of a break and things got back to normal i.e., not so busy I don’t pay attention to the world around me.

One morning a week or so ago, I went to the refrigerator and pulled out my red Brita pitcher of water to make some coffee. I noticed it was full and coated with white, hard water stains.

It suddenly dawned me that I hadn’t been filling this pitcher much at all.

I had a rhythm of filling it probably every other day, and I hadn’t for weeks.

Not by choice, but I live in the same house as a rather mentally unstable old man and another old man that I never see, whom I call the shut-in.

The unstable old man is a chronic smoker and has a horrible sense of boundaries, physical but mostly energetic and emotional.

He is a walking sack of bones and leathery skin. He doesn’t take good care of himself. He’s always having stomach issues, and I assume most of it is self-inflicted. One time, he randomly told me that he was fine. He had had some bad chicken that smelled bad.

Maybe I shouldn’t’ve have cooked it, he said.

Apparently, he must have gotten sick, but between noise-canceling headphones and earplugs at night, I didn’t hear anything. I have heard him get sick since.

These owners brought this man while I was away helping a friend move. Oh well, they get their money.

Meanwhile, I’ve had to be like a den mother without much mothering, because the kitchen was always a wreck. So many conversations about cleanliness. Even now, the kitchen has weird gnats (not fruit flies) that I can’t seem to get rid of.

Months ago, closer to when this unfortunate man arrived in May, the other old man and I had talked him about about getting his own Brita pitcher.

Oh yeah, I’ll go to Walmart and get one for myself, he says.

No pitcher showed up. Of course.

Instead, old plastic half-gallon bottles of milk have been used. Our water has a sulfurous smell. Brita is the minimum to have decent-tasting water. Getting fountain drinks around here can mean great soda soured by tap-water ice.

We had Hurricane Irma roll through in September. I left for Chicago because at this point, after 4 months of living with this man, with his chronic smoker’s cough, and an episode of him smoking in his room and in the house, the horrendous smells that come from his “cooking”–I just needed to get away.

I knew the power was going to go out (shitty power grid), and I didn’t want to be stuck with someone who was a bag of inconsideration and instability.

I told the two old men that they could use my pitcher, just in case that water wasn’t potable.

That must have opened a door in this man’s little crackpot mind…

Even though Hurricane Irma threatened to be devastating, by the time it got to our side of town, it was never that bad besides our home losing power for a week.

I was so glad to not be here for almost two weeks, hanging out with friends and working in Chicago. The ole bag o’ bones was like, and is like, this haunting spirit who drains people of their energy.

The shut-in brought me back from the airport where I learned that this energy vamp had been living in the woods near our neighborhood for twelve years.

12 years.

Maybe a couple of weeks before I noticed my stained pitcher, I had to have yet another conversation about taking the trash out more often–which is why the gnats are there in the first place.

I cleaned the trash can thoroughly. Doesn’t matter, though. The gnats are going to be around for a while until I ask for fumigation, which I will this month.

The other old man has given up on his cleaning duties–OK, he never does, because shut-in. But he doesn’t take out the trash either, because technically it was his time to do it.

Maybe these dudes switch months, I don’t know.

Whatever. Anyway. This conversation about taking the trash in a timely manner turned into a conversation about the nosy neighbor across the street because the woman living in the mother-in-law suite next door had been taken to the hospital via ambulance. Again. And again, we didn’t know about it.

The daughter of this woman had become friends with the nosy  neighbor, so somehow Energy Vamp had talked to her.

He told her, “You’re nosy, aren’t you?”

So yeah, it was actually a sane conversation. It was also revelatory, because he talked about his experiences of social rejection.

  • Apparently, the cops were called on him for allegedly saying the n-word at a local restaurant.
  • When he was riding his bike, someone called the cops, accusing him of theft.
  • Someone else accused him of theft and he spent six months in jail for it.

He went on to talk about how he knows he can get chatty but how people are basically repelled by it.

I could break here and talk about how his mental illness is preventing him from picking up on obvious social cues.

I could also talk about his feelings of oppression may be pointing to psychosis. He’s not working for a reason.

I could also talk about how this reminds me of living with my father during my last year at home–a forced gap year due to my dad’s own unwinding, unquiet mind.

I could talk about how all of this has been clearly triggering me and that I’m repeating some similar behaviors of survival. And hell, those behaviors worked the first time, and they seem to be working again.

But honestly–I’ve worked through most of that. It doesn’t matter to me why this is happening anymore. It is happening. It is draining. And I don’t need it to happen to me anymore.

I had a brief moment of compassion–it might have lasted days–about that, because we all deserve compassion and connection. It helped me heal some things with my father that I didn’t even think needed healing.

Those are big things. I don’t sneeze or sneer at them, at all. One day I may even be grateful for them.

But at the same time, even though in the past as a social worker, I worked with clients just like him, it’s much different living with someone who has a history of homelessness and is on SSDI.

To have my only interactions be about ADLs (activities of daily living) is a fucking drain–and if I even wanted to consider his feelings, then yes, it’s a drain on him, too. This guy is old enough to be my father, and yet, once again, I’m in the parent role.

It’s a fucking drain. It’s infuriating. I deserve better.

It’s a drain to live with someone who cannot have a presence of mind, period. He is not my relative and, even if he was, it is not my job to be his social worker.

So, I avoid him like the emotional plague that he chooses to be.

I’ve lived here going on three years. Although this address has been the most stable address I’ve had while living in Florida, it’s been the most unstable place I’ve lived in.

Somewhat batty owner. A/C outage in August that could have been fixed sooner. Stubborn pestilences. Change of ownership. Lazy owners. Flooding. Coughing roomie #1 (aka bag o’ mucus). Coughing roomie #2 (fka Mr. Cancer Sticks, now known as Energy Vamp). Smoke filling my room from Energy Vamp.

But somehow this red Brita pitcher, plus the weird gnat that keeps going back and forth in my room as I type this, was what woke me up.

And it’s not just waking up from my crazy November of work. And it’s not even that this guy decided to use my water pitcher without asking. I’ve had to talk to him about that, too, repeatedly. It’s not the white dude entitlement that this loser has.

It’s everything. It’s been years of everything, and as I approach the big 4-0, I’ve had enough of “everything.” And I think the Universe has had enough of everything, too.

This chapter of my life is rapidly closing…

But for now, the red Brita pitcher is in my room, and I’m happy about it, even if having to keep stuff in my room so fucked up.

But this is, as an old friend would say, a flea on a flea. It’s already pretty fucked up. It’s almost imperceptible to add on more to this situation, this chronically bad borne out of poverty nightmare situation.

But hey: the less time I have to interact with him, the more I can focus on me.

For now, though–I live in a land of abject absurdity, but I have been entirely too dour to laugh about it–until recently. The laughter has been starting its return which lets me know that I’m strong enough to leave, even if my history has been stained loss, even if that history seems like wildfires trapping me inside of this house.

To mix metaphors, these stains of instability are not permanent, just like those white water stains. They are starting to be wiped away, and my original, impregnable self is being unearthed again.

Work is improving, enough for me to possibly leave here, giving me the foundations of stability that I need so I can be a better adult for myself.

But now the question is, where to? I don’t know. Yet.

I know that Florida is rapidly filling my rearview mirror, but I’m just not sure where I’m headed to next.

And yeah, it’s a little weird, watching the ending credits of the horror movie I’ve been in for years–but also living in the cliffhanger of what happens to this plucky heroine.

But that’s OK, for now…

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Gimme 5/Winds of Change

On fire

In the mountains of New Hampshire

I haven’t been here since May. Five months ago. Lots of stuff has changed…

  1. I’m not teaching anymore. At $1755 for one class/semester, those were poverty wages. I did this online gig for a while which was a good bridge to my full-time job as a technical writer. Very grateful about that.
  2. I’m kinda done with church (again). Living with yet another crazy, abusive person + being without a car = kinda done. I could write a whole blog post on that. I’d like to write about it dispassionately, but church was my life for so long. It’d be hard to be solely rational about a major chunk of my spiritual journey.
  3. Speaking of, I was concerned, but not too worried I wasn’t going to be spiritual much anymore. I went through a lull of sorts. But since we’re all spiritual, even the atheists (ooooh, controversial statement), there really is no not being spiritual. So the lull was in manifestations, I guess. I don’t mean that in the woo woo manifest The Secret Abraham Hicks way. Just more like phenomena, like the angel numbers that followed me all the time. Also, I was so disinterested.
  4. But then the phenomena, and that old feeling, returned. And like most things in my life, Twitter was a big influence on me. I had a tarot reading from a friend, and after she read me, a lot of the job stuff started to actually move that week. You could see that she blew my shit up. My friend had RTed her into my timeline on a Saturday night, and now I consider her and others of my woo woo tribe on Twitter.

So, at least, that’s the explanation of the spiritual hiatus from here. Other things have changed, like the ownership of this house that I live in. No more OG Landlady, and her constant, long visits. I won’t miss her that much. The lesson I learned from her was that I needed to carry peace within myself…and to wait for storms to pass. Patience.

Work was a little rocky, heading into the office every day vs. heading in for just an hour weekly meeting. The politics. The pressure. The energies flying about. I saged my office once (with a spray, but still). But after I came back from my writing conference last week, work really seemed to gel for me. The past week, I’ve gone out to lunch with three colleagues, something I have been longing to do. Then I had a good convo with an assistant director. It’s like I changed when I went away, like I opened up. I was forced to, networking all the time. Grad school was so traumatic–and I still want to go back to therapy for that, plus for editing my thesis–but by meeting new peers, I was able to be myself again (seeing friends, new and old, didn’t hurt either).

Not sure if I wrote about how the number 5 was following me, and it still does, and it denotes major changes, that are to be in my favor, will be coming. But they are major changes. I had a friendship come into focus (more of a downgrade on my part, more of a reckoning with reality on my part, more of trying salvage decades of friendship on my part (which, yes, is a big part of the problem)) and two that I knew were pretty much dead fall away (note: if you come to my town and don’t say anything, consider yourself out of my life, especially when we were neighbors, fellow churchgoers, sang together, did life together…). Lots of unfriending on Facebook happened in the past couple of months.

Yesterday, as if the Universe knew I was hurting as I put myself first, I came across this great article in The Atlantic about how friendships change as we get older. Even though I’m post-op–I did the necessary amputations–I still feel the blood ooze out. There’s not enough pain meds yet to get rid of the sting, to fill the emptiness. As that article stated, I was one of those who invests a lot in a few friendships, so when they end, it’s pretty devastating. But these have all been slow deaths, and they will all hurt me more. Hell, even soulmates have their season, and I’m so grateful to this family that I’ve said goodbye to, in my heart. Thanks for everything, and I bless you guys as you leave my life.

With that one friendship shifting into proper focus, where I had learned that this person was properly adulting, putting their spouse (and their family) and their career first, today I gave up a dream of moving out to Cali. It seems so far from here–geographically, emotionally, spiritually. Going out there for grad school may be was my last shot. I wanted to leave because I didn’t really have any friendships here, and then I came back and it seems like everything is opening up. (OK, I should blame @mzamywhite, with whom I started working this week, and even before we started working together, I felt a shift, like light was shining through. Anytime I did tarot with her online, just like Atomic Queen, it was on point.)

  • A friend here that disappeared may be hanging out with me this weekend.
  • Another friend from Chicago has wanted me to come visit her and her family, and I haven’t seen them in many years. I may go see them for Thanksgiving.
  • The lunches with colleagues that I mentioned earlier.
  • All the meaningful conversations with people at work.
  • And then there was this guy…

I had just returned to office from my trip. I was nuking my lunch and I was still in ambivert/extrovert roll. He was standing behind me, patiently waiting to get to the hot water spout for whatever was in his mug (it smelled like instant coffee, like the Starbucks kind?). I spin around and introduce myself to this man with the kind eyes and the soft hands (like soft in a caring way, too?). Ugh, he’s my type. Softness with a bit of edge, like that makes me wonder why are either of us in this stuffy office. I don’t know if I caught his name, though. I had a cold from my trip that I had been desperately pushing through. It was a pleasant enough chat, talking about what we do. He knew which office I worked in, but not where I sat. I still don’t know if I heard him right when he said, “I hope to see you more often,” but I did gleefully reply “yeah, that would be awesome.” I watched him walk away. Honestly, I was just so happy to have some human interaction. I could feel my bent over soul stand up straight back in Florida, for the first time.

It didn’t really hit me that something really was said. Thank you, friends, for confirming that it, indeed, was on. The dude is fucking hot, OK? Like, back in the day, I had a variety of men, but this guy would not even be one I’d talk to. Out of my league. If I say he’s hot, then it is so because I’m also fucking picky, so picky that I am sure I founded the #foreveralone in another life.

So that was last Thursday. I saw him the following day, leaving the kitchen area after having washed my barely unwashable coffee tumbler. I am briskly walking back to my desk, and it’s about 4pm in the afternoon. I hear this BOING! I stop walking because this is one of the many blind corners in our office. It was him. He had dropped his coffee tumbler. We exchanged hi’s and I studied his face in that really obnoxious intense way that I study people’s faces: his left eyebrow was raised in that wry Kevin Arnold from The Wonder Years way, but he was smiling big. Embarrassment. I watched him leave the floor.

My arrogant self wants me to think that I caused that tumbler to drop, that my very presence caused it. Ha.

Then I saw him, I believe, yesterday, and he had a beard. Besides that, unfortunately, he bore too much of a resemblance to my best friend in college (which, when I look again, it’s not that true), that beard basically put him out of my field of vision. Easy fix.

All of this–colleagues and I warming up to each other, some random work crush–could be a fluke. It’s hard to tell someone who has been through it for years that things would be changing, for the better. A year ago, I was flopping around town in Airbnb rentals. And it’s been a while since a guy’s shown interest in me, but it did seem more than friendly…

But at least with that, as I am almost 38, he really rattled me. I used to give two shits about weight until now. I’m at my heaviest yet. And then there’s not going to the doctor and the (lack of) clarity of my complexion. I never cared about my physical stuff. I always cared about what was falling out of my mouth. But that part was fine. I have been running the gauntlet of self-doubt since I formally met him, which, by the way, was my idea.

I needed the rattling. I was drawing tarot and oracle cards like nuts and they were all so pleasant sounding. My mind is coming up with ludicrous reasons why this isn’t true. I’m sure I misheard. I’m sure he’s only doing this to get something out of me. It couldn’t be the opposite–why couldn’t it be someone had a crush on me for months? Why would I be the only torchbearer on Earth? It’s totally possible and plausible.

Hey, I don’t actually want to be #foreveralone. Even if we never spoke again, I needed to wake up to how I have been seeing myself. Did I know that I didn’t think I was worth some hot guy saying that he’d hope to see me more often? When did I get to that desperate, simpering point? How can I see me the way that this perfect stranger does?

And back to the weightier matters…so Adele’s song and video, “Hello” is all the rage today, as it will be until her album drops in a month. I was looking at her and I’m like, um, even if she gives a fuck about her weight, she sure as hell as embraced her body and looks damn good. And then I saw some inspirational poster:

all you have to offer

There was another thought running through my mind today as I walked to work, and I forgot the exact wording, but essentially: this guy “talked” to you as you were, not at your alleged best. Are you not enough as you are?

Do I have a bigger and bigger sense of all I have to offer? I thought all this therapy and hard work on myself since I fell down the black hole of clinical depression was to get a sense of that (I’ve been healthy for years, probably for over a decade). Would it be fun to watch it grow in someone else as I see it grow in myself–all I have to offer?

I will say that right now, I’m hella awake; and it’s the first true time I’ve thought that I could stay in my job for a while and make it into something bigger than I could ever imagine. And there’s other work stuff that I can’t talk about right now, but as I left work this week, the warm yet not too warm winds swirled around, picking up the sycamore leaves strewn along the parking lot. All this week, I feel those winds of change blowing through me, and scaring me. My Cancer Moon likes things to stay pretty chill. I mean, my Capricorn Sun and Capricorn Ascendant isn’t really about the drama either. Like I said–a year ago I was moving every few days. I long for stability.

To bring it back to the woo woo some more: this guy was an answer to mumbled prayers and burned candles and a myriad of readings and unuttered hopes and buried dreams. So maybe things are finally coming to fruition (and why not?). At the same time, he feels like a test that I am unprepared to take, but I feel like winging it, or Ray Bradbury said, building wings on the way down. Even though I’m scared, I’m in that kitchen area a lot more often. I’m out of my office a lot more often. I’m trying to be available, instead of running…

Astrologically, we just entered Scorpio season, leaving Libra season, with its focus on balance and relationships. It was a tough one, but it’s over. I’ll be frank: I want all the good stuff that Scorpio is known for. *wink wink*

I do know that I’ve changed, and somehow, going away on a business trip brought me back, period. I was really scared that I’d be stooped over in humiliation and pain and poverty as long as I stayed in Florida.

Sometimes, it may seem like things changed overnight, but really, I must remind myself that this has been a slow, incremental change. My life has been slowly coming together. Coalescing. Crystallizing.

And, even still, there’s still more (people) to let go and say goodbye to, from my past. It’s all a part of life’s cycle, of holding on and letting go. I’m hoping to get better at knowing when I hold on for longer and when to let go sooner.

Overall, though, I want to end this with immense gratitude. I’m grateful for all of those friends who have now left my life, for those who stuck around, for those who came back around, and for those who are new. I’m grateful that this hard proving ground is softening up, so that I can maybe put roots down and stop hovering in the trees. Nowhere else is calling me right now. So maybe I belong in this strange paradise after all…

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