Every year is getting shorter

Time is ticking out

I hung up a clock today. A real, old-school, two-hands one. I can’t remember the last time I had a clock in my house that made that noise—tick, tick, tick—and it’s a bit disconcerting.

Tick—time is passing.
Tick—you’re getting older.
Tick—time is running out.

It’s easy to waste seconds when we can’t hear them being spent.

Tick, tick, tick. Three more gone. Tick, tick, tick. You better do something, the clock taunts me. Tick, tick, tick. What will you have to show for your time when it’s up?

A farewell letter to our house

You were our first.

You were the house we bought after dating for only four months, prompting some people to say we were doing it wrong, and that according to Dave Ramsey we were going to fail. Nine years later, you were the house that helped prove them wrong. (Also, fuck Dave Ramsey.)

Your walls housed us through five collective jobs, and saw three different cars parked out front. We had to fight our neighbors often to be able to park in front of you, but most of the time we won.

For the first several years of your existence, while the neighborhood was still being completed, you saw a steady stream of stray cats on your back porch. Among them were Big Head Todd, Thundercat, Nutz, a little silver and black striped guy, Chamberlain, and two sets of “King Boo’s kittens.” One time we let BK out on the back porch by herself and found her kicking the shit out of Big Head Todd, who had recently peed on our front window screen. It was at this moment that we realized our delicate, purebred flower was in fact a raging badass.

Eventually one of the strays stuck around a bit longer than the rest, and after discovering he had diabetes we moved him inside to live out the remainder of his years in comfort. We scattered his ashes around your perimeter when he died earlier this year, so I guess he’s staying with you. (RIP, Evil Twin.)

Star

You were the only place I lived in Murfreesboro that really felt like home. You were really ours. You saw us change your wall colors after months of painstakingly applying test coats. You watched us slowly replace our college furniture with high-quality, “adult” pieces. You allowed us to become thrifty, DIY homeowners as we upgraded your fixtures and learned how to fix parts of you that broke. One New Year’s, we spent three days on our hands and knees installing a beautiful laminate floor. I loved that floor.

Project 365 | Jan. 12

Almost every October we hosted a Halloween party, and we’d spend hours cleaning and decorating your downstairs in anticipation. We’d then spend the entire next day lounging in your living room, recuperating and eating the leftovers our friends had generously brought with them to the party. We amassed quite a Rock Band and Guitar Hero collection for these parties over the years (a collection that I’ve since sold to a co-worker), and we spent many late nights drunkenly singing and playing guitar with friends.

Justin Bieber plays guitar

Each December, Ian stood precariously atop a folding chair and strung white icicle lights along the front porch to welcome in the Christmas season. One year, we left those lights up a day past New Year’s and got a warning letter from the homeowners’ association. But that was back when the neighborhood was new. It’s since become routine to see the sidewalks littered with trash and children’s bicycles deposited haphazardly throughout the shared grassy areas, forgotten for weeks at a time.

In the spring, every time the wind blew a bit too hard I would worry painfully as we drove home that you wouldn’t be standing when we arrived. But each time we rounded the corner at Lansdan Drive there you would be, peeking through those gigantic, old trees like a sentinel.

I loved those trees, and the way the path they lined led right up to you. One year, one of the trees was struck by lightning and had to be removed. It was a spectacular storm, but I wondered how long that path had remained unmarred before then.

Me in my trees

You felt every single one of our growing pains. For nine years you listened to us cry, fight, love and laugh—the latter two more frequently than the former, luckily.

You were a great house, and we’ll miss you.

Between

The movers came and packed up the house today. I sat downstairs on the couch, playing on my phone and answering questions when they had them.

The guy who packed upstairs was a one-day helper who listened to music loudly on his headphones or talked on the phone. That’s probably why he packed the box and painting I had in the “do not pack” area in the office. I just hope he didn’t steal anything. I can’t imagine how he would, but still. “They always steal something,” is what I’ve been told.

It’s weird sitting in the house now. It was weird last night, too. I am nostalgic for something I haven’t moved past yet. All my stuff is here, though it’s in boxes. My couch is still here. I’m sitting on it.

It’s like that scene in Labyrinth where Sarah wakes up in what appears to be her childhood bedroom, but after a few minutes she realizes something feels off. She digs and digs and pulls at layers of magic until she realizes that she is still, in fact, in the labyrinth.

I’m excited about moving on, but it’s a little bittersweet. This was a great house. It was our first family home.

Morbidity

Death and religion have been on my mind a lot lately, which I suppose is what happens when you experience a death in the family. Last night, back at home after eating dinner out, I got into a discussion about death and religion with Ian and his dad as I made my way through a bottle of wine.

And I couldn’t help but feel like maybe I was letting his dad down as I let him in on an ill-kept secret about myself, admitting out loud that his son married someone with such dire prospects for her soul. But it’s the truth: As much as I’d like to believe that one day I can go float around on a cloud or be reincarnated as a housecat, the most I can hope for is to become worm food.

The truth is that no matter how much I try, I can’t make myself believe that anything awaits me beyond death except for disintegration and silence. And although it scares the shit out of me, I haven’t seen anything in my almost 32 years that tell me otherwise. Believing in The Great Beyond, whether or not it’s mutually exclusive of religion, is not something I have been able to do. No matter how hard I try.

And I’m not saying that those who do believe in God™ are burying their heads in the sand. But boy, there sure are times late at night when the world is still and lonely that I wish I could.

Moving on



Last Thursday, I helped move our office from the 7th floor down to a new space on the 1st floor. Our company had occupied the previous space for 15 years, I believe, so there was a lot to organize, sort through, pack and then move. Luckily we had movers to take care of the really heavy stuff, but as with any move, there was still a ton left to be done. I was mainly in charge of moving computers, monitors, phones and peripherals, and then setting up everyone’s phones and computers. Well, and any other random things that needed setting up, moving, or throwing away.

But as for the picture above: For the last five years, this is the view I saw when I looked out the window in the kitchen. At some point during my first week here, I looked out the window while I was microwaving my lunch and noticed what I thought was a paint can left on the roof of the apartment building below. Soon I came to realize that it was a can of tar.

And almost every day since, over the past five years, I have looked out that kitchen window down onto the top of this apartment building. Onto that can of tar. Or whatever it is. And it’s probably really silly and weird, but it’s been a constant in my work life, something I can count on being there every day. And now I’m not going to see it anymore.

I guess that sounds melodramatic. I’m not really upset; just nostalgic a bit, I guess. I’ve been at this job a long time, and although it’s changed a lot since the first day I started, it’s helped define a big part of who I am. In a good way.

So goodbye, tar can. Goodbye views of 440E that allowed me to see just how shitty my commute home was going to be. Goodbye 7th story view of the sky that scared the shit out of me when storms were coming, or that inspired me on clear days when I could see for miles out over treetops.

And hello new beginning.

A suburban tragedy in my head

Last night on our way home, Ian and I stopped at a beer & tobacco store near our house that sits in a small strip mall. The strip mall contains two buildings: One larger one in the back occupied by Olympus Gym, and a smaller one up front that houses a Whitt’s Barbecue, the beer & tobacco shop, and a room for Olympus’ group exercise classes.

As I waited in the car for Ian to grab his beer and tobacco, I watched about 20 women, all in their late 20s or early 30s, doing some sort of rhythmic exercise I can only assume was zumba. And despite all being dressed in impeccably chosen exercise outfits, I felt a tinge of embarrassment for them as they stumbled through their routine, trying desperately to keep up with the perky, even better-dressed instructor with bleach-blonde hair without betraying their feelings of insecurity to the other women around them.

I imagined their lives, and saw them as bogged-down suburban housewives grateful for one night away from the kids, trying not to think about whether their husbands would remember their instructions for the bedtime routine or know how to help with homework. And then I felt sad for them. Wasting their one night of freedom in some stupid class, feeling like they would never be as skinny or pretty as they used to be.

And suddenly I wanted to burst through the doors, hug them all and tell them they are great just the way that they are. And that maybe they should get a babysitter more often.

But then Ian got back in the car, and I realized that I had seriously just spent like 5 minutes making up a fake backstory for a bunch of women in an exercise class held next to a Whitt’s Barbecue that started with me deriding them but ended with me wanting to hug and empower them.

So, yeah.

Greetings from the Great Subconscious Club

Two days in a row I have had dreams that involved both my father (who I haven’t spoken to in almost a year, and really never spoke to much before that anyway) and some sort of violence or harm to my body.

In Saturday night’s dream, I was in the hospital coming out of the recovery room from surgery. Except I was still bleeding. There was blood everywhere. There was more to the dream, but the part I remember now is when I was taken back into my hospital room, I realized I had a roommate who had already claimed the one hospital bed in the room. So I was going to have to use the pull-out couch as my bed. I got out of my wheelchair and started to pull out the couch when my dad walked in and set an overnight bag down, saying he was going to be staying over and using the couch as his bed. There were other people in the room but I’m not sure who they were, and no one else protested.

I got upset, naturally, and walked across the room and got behind a table that looked like a coffee table you’d find in someone’s house. Once I was behind the table, I turned back to face him and saw he was sitting on the couch, unpacking his bag. He was mad because I had already told him I didn’t want him staying over, and he started to yell at me for not being grateful, not considering his feelings, and for not hugging him.

You know, while I was in the hospital, bloody and trying to recover from just getting out of surgery.

I exploded in anger. I told him I hadn’t hugged him for years because I never knew if he was going to hug me back or hit me. I yelled all of the things I told him last year in real life about how the abuse—mental and physical—had to stop, and how he needed to get the hell out of my hospital room because he was the last person who deserved to be there.

And then I woke up. Later that day, as Ian and I were vacuuming the stairs, out of nowhere I felt a pang of sadness for my father. I immediately flashed back to the dream and thought, “In a way, I really pity him.” And then the feeling vanished and I went about my business.

Sunday night the dream was much shorter, or maybe I just remember less of it. I was standing in the backyard of a shitty apartment building, and I think it was supposed to be my dad’s cousin’s house in Chicago, at least the place she lived when I was still living at home. It was one of those places where there are small apartment buildings side-by-side and all of the backyards are right next to each other and back up to an alley, and they all have clothes lines and rusted pieces of cars and random shit littered about. I was standing at the edge of the yard, right outside of the back door of the building, and my dad was standing near two sawhorses he had set up. On the sawhorses were neatly arranged stacks of pieces of my body, which he had methodically chopped up and arranged for easy packing.

The thing is, I wasn’t upset that he had chopped up my body, or that he was probably the one who killed me. Those things didn’t matter. In the dream, I was upset because even after committing these horrible acts against me, he was planning on using my car to transport my chopped up body to wherever he was going to take it.

I don’t know how I was witnessing this, if I was a ghost or if it was one of those dream-realities where being dead and alive at the same time is perfectly logical, but like the night before I began to yell at him for being so selfish and completely insensitive, even right there in the presence of his own violence. And then I woke up in the middle of the night.

I’m not much of a dream analyst, and I’ll be honest that most of my dreams don’t seem to make any sense or relate to anything or anyone obviously pertinent to my life. And while it’s a bit odd that I would dream of my father now, when I haven’t had any interaction with him or really thought about him in quite some time, I guess in some way my brain is still kind of pissed off at how utterly ridiculous he could be—continues to be—to the point where the physical harm wasn’t even what made me incredulous.

Because in real life, that’s what always messed me up the most. I could process getting hit or slapped or kicked down the stairs. I just never understood the reasons behind it, because there never was a reason. At least not anything that ever made sense to anyone else but him.

The man is just batshit crazy, and I am sure today more than ever that my life is better for cutting him out of it.

Who says cats aren’t like kids?

Ian’s in New Orleans for a few days on business, and BK isn’t too happy about him being gone. This morning I woke up to her stomping around on his pillow, wondering why his head wasn’t there for her to lay on.

But she broke my heart this afternoon when, upon hearing a car door shut outside, she jumped up from a nap and ran to the door expecting him to walk through it. When the seconds passed and the door didn’t open, she looked at me with sad and confused eyes. I had to pick her up and let her watch out the window for a few minutes before she believed me that the sound she heard, despite her insistence, wasn’t her dad getting home.

I realize how melodramatic this sounds, but she really misses him.

She’s not the only one.

The summer

I looked at a calendar today and realized that it’s July 15. Summer is halfway over, but you could have fooled me.

When did I stop being one of those people who has summer adventures? One of those who knows inherently when the season begins and ends, and ticks off the weekends covered in sweat and smelling like the trees? Who throws and attends parties and drives down Memorial Blvd. with the windows open, screaming the lyrics to whatever dumb pop song is in the top 10 that week?

Oh, right. Sometimes I forget that I’m a grownup, with real responsibilities outside finishing up homework and rolling into work with just enough sleep to get me through the day without passing out in the cinderblocked breakroom.

I wouldn’t trade my life now for my life 10 years ago for anything. I love my husband, my job, my house and the self-assurance and satisfaction that comes with it all. It’s a different kind of happy now, one that I’ve worked hard for.

But it sure would be nice to feel the summer again.

Summer is here

The thing I miss most about college is how when summer would arrive you could just feel the collective sigh in the city. Murfreesboro is a college town, and while campus is deserted by its suitcase-toting student body almost immediately following finals, the rest of the town seems to come alive as though it’s just broken free from a stifling shroud of fraternity and sorority douchebaggery and can finally be itself again.

That came out meaner than I meant it. I like MTSU students. I like them more than most college students, I guess, because I was one for six years. And they’re a pretty eclectic bunch—you have to be if you’re the largest student body of any public institution in the state. It just happens by default.

But there is a freedom in Murfreesboro summers, and while I love my job, it’s in the summers more than any other time that I find myself wishing I could spend more time in my town, with its goofy people and growing borders. I’ve worked in Nashville for almost five years now, and I feel like I’m losing touch with an old friend. One that I rarely see because despite sleeping on its couch, I get up early and come home late and never take the time anymore to just see how it’s been.

I should do that sometime.