I love my friends. I love who they are and I don’t want to offend them in this writing. Especially because this writing really has nothing to do with my friends. In fact, this writing has as much to do with my friends as Thoreau’s writing had to do with the woods. Meaning, that just because the writer finds themselves in a place, any writings that may pass from the author in reaction to said place really means more about the author than the subject. What Sally says about Suzie says more about Sally than of Suzie. And this Sally ain’t perfect, let me tell ya. The art featured for this piece is a snapshot of the author’s kitchen at the time of this writing. And now that I have over-explained that I am an unorganized nobody who is not really writing about anonymous people instead of paying a therapist, I cordially invite you to keep reading my story.
It began with a Facebook post of my friend’s ultrasound. I was somewhere in the middle of hour three or hour four of the thirteen hour shift I was working in a location I had to GPS because I had never worked there before. The evening before I had returned home around 10PM after driving five hours south on Interstate 95 from a temporary gig I had in another state covering a colleague’s vacation. While unwinding from driving 75 mph through February darkness after a full work day, I was approached while sipping my lager at the watering hole ‘cross the street from my house by a pot-bellied Dom looking for his next Sub. I was flirted with via insults that my shoe attire was “twenty years too late” as I sat and determined how many hours before my flight to Louisville I’d have to arrive at the airport that from me was five hours away. To this day I have a hard time differentiating this type of “courtship” with the boys who used to hold dead spiders two centimeters from my nose only to learn upon my screams of disgust that this was all happening to me because that boy “liked me.” Oh! How lucky am I that the heavens have smiled down…Anyways, squirrel. I had a lot of shit to do and didn’t appreciate the distraction.
Needless to say, I was driving my life faster than my Subaru could take me so covering a thirteen hour shift that was scheduled on top of my 4 day/48 hour base schedule in between out-of-state trips made me about as restless as a toddler in a car seat. It was in this state of mind that I saw the post. The announcement. The ultrasound picture. The black. The grey. The kidney bean inside the bigger kidney bean which you can make out as clearly as the baseball team logo on the hat of the thief you are watching on security camera footage. The “tag” of the sperm donor, err, husband. The witty, under-stated text above said photo. And of course, the Likes. The triple digit likes and the double-digit comments. It’s staggering to think of how much of our present day reward system and social urges are controlled purely by numbers embossed in grey or red flags.
Was I happy for my friend? Absolutely. Was I in shock, awe and anticipation of meeting her child and the fact that the beautiful union between my friend and another amazing person would be producing a third amazing person? You betcha. I had all of these feelings. You could say, millennially, that I had ALL THE FEELS. But I mean that. My emotions ran the gambit of the feels. My emotions varied a wide range. And from this particular post, after feeling all the preceding Warm, and the succeeding Fuzzy, I felt finally and most overwhelmingly, the Pull.
I can’t describe this feeling any other way so I call it the Pull. I call it the Pull because it feels like the feeling you get when you’ve swam out farther than you should. When you play past the boundaries of the school yard. When you stray off the trail at summer camp. When you’ve gone off road. When you’ve gone off the grid. When Microsoft Word tells you via green squiggle that your grammar is bad. It’s a feeling of “shouldn’t.” It’s almost a feeling of “shame” but nevertheless it’s a feeling that you have to STOP whatever it is you are doing and GO in a direction you weren’t previously heading. Or care about. THAT is the fucking Pull.
I know the feelings of shame for not yet finding someone who wanted to start a family with me and the anxiety that I must be wasting my time are not my pregnant friend’s fault. I know this because I have felt this way every time a major life event happens in this group of my school friends. Nobody is telling me to have a baby so I can be like my friends, except me. Nobody is telling me I have been wasting my time, except me. My friend does not want me to feel these negative feelings, because she is my friend who cares about me. None of this, by the way, makes a SINGLE difference to the anxiety and shame who invited themselves into my already busy mind. One because these feelings don’t care. Two because these feelings don’t listen. And three, because these feelings are stubborn. And smart.
There they lurk. In my brain. Right behind the dopamine. After every sufficient satisfaction comes an inefficient dissatisfaction with how I’ve been spending my time. It is a war in my head that does not want to be won. It wants to keep me behind the ice. Behind a glass barrier that allows me to WATCH life happen but not let me PARTICIPATE in it. It wants to punish me. It wants me to think I deserve to be punished. It wants me to LOVE IT for punishing me. It wants me to wish to stay behind the glass barrier, even if it were ever to be removed. It is a virus (Mr. Anderson) that waits for a host. It’s a chain that aches for a weight. That’s why I call it the Pull.
Before my friend’s pregnancy announcement I couldn’t even articulate to you that the Pull was even a FEELING. Which is sad, because it absolutely is a feeling that has steered me to start believing that I NEED to heavily hunt for the One who will Impregnate Me. And there just ain’t nothing sexy about that shit. Of course I blamed only myself for being a Stage 5 clinger. I failed to recognize where exactly the triggers to this type of mindset were coming from. It was not until my friend posted her ultrasound photo that I was able to identify the exact source of all the inadequacy and panic with my place on my life’s journey. That. My friends hitting their personal life milestones. My friends beginning to settle down. My friends, growing up. It was the pressure I was putting on myself to run to that next base, to hit that next mile marker in life, right at the same time as my friends. Just like we hit all the same markers on the path towards our degree, at the same time.
Once I recognized the source of all this inadequacy, I felt very free. I did some pretty awesome things with my newfound freedom. Within three days of realizing what announcements such as this did to my psyche, I had searched for, found and wrote a $750 dollar check for a security deposit on an apartment in the Old Louisville, Kentucky. Incidentally such actions have set forth a very interesting combination of events that have led to meeting Hunter’s son, Juan Thompson and hosting him at said apartment. Already I have met and spent time with some fantastic artists and musicians, people whose lives and goals resemble my own, which makes me feel comfortable with myself. This is not to say, however, that all radical lifestyle mindsets make me feel comfortable.
Recently, I was presented with an invitation to attend said friend’s baby shower the same weekend I would be sleep deprived from an overnight shift at work, and the same weekend I had old, high school friends visiting our local, Rhode Island home beaches from their home city across the country. I chose to send a gift in my absence to the baby shower, deciding that the two hour plus drive, the lack of sleep and the inadequacy I couldn’t help but feel at such occasions, made it more sensible to my self-care that I stay home and visit with older, less frequently seen friends. At 6:30 pm on Saturday afternoon, I awoke from my vampire rest and rolled down the hour drive to my friends’ guest house. I arrived in style with a quarter of ganj for my airplane-bound friends and an open twelve-pack of Harpoon IPA, of which half had been consumed in my solitude at home. While friends showered the sand and salt off from the beach, I made myself comfortable with some of their leftover pizza, my own beer and some chicken salad sandwiches. I quickly discovered we would not be allowed to combust plants in the house and therefore my two smoking hobbies were restricted to the porch—which I thought meant I would be joined at some point.
After twenty minutes (or what seemed) of sitting in the darkness alone, I re-entered the dining room where most of the slowly attending gathering sat, around a bunch of white plates.
I failed to notice the powder on the plates. Honestly. I think I would as soon as put a chicken salad sandwich on the plate that had the cocaine on it, before I even noticed there was cocaine on it. I do not feel comfortable around cocaine. I do not feel comfortable around synthetic narcotics that hold absolutely no medicinal, natural benefit in their consumption in a party setting. After hearing something about ketamine, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I didn’t want to be here.
The stress of the situation just made me want to eat more. Unluckily for my size 8-10 wardrobe and some pride of my self-control and body-image, overeating has returned as a coping mechanism for me. And that’s the point I’m making in all of this. I am not above any of my friends or their choices, as my own choices tend to be the most self-destructive of all.
The theme of this writing is of displacement. And I’m not talking the kind where you measure the volume difference in milliliters when you add thirty marbles to a large beaker of water. I’m not talking the kind of displacement where you’re kicked out of your parents’ house and have nowhere to go. But I AM talking about the kind of displacement where it feels the only place I can really be myself anymore is in my living room, surrounded by my books, with my battery-fried laptop plugged in, in front of me. Or sitting at a local watering hole, a pint in front of me, a notebook (and pen!) sitting open in front of me. Preferably if it’s a bar on a corner. I seem to have this thing frequenting bars located on corners. Incidentally, my Mother has always lived in houses located on street corners. “Ash, what’s with all the fricking cornah’s??”
The kind of displacement where I can’t possibly navigate my ship based on the longitude and latitude of my fleet of peers. I am alone. In uncharted waters. And I am done wondering how far I am going to take this metaphor. Because i had bigger questions to answer when I woke up with on Sunday morning. In fact, after having raddled my head with frustration in deciding with which polar extreme of adult life I would spend that Saturday, the amount of time I dedicated to over-thinking each outcome and inevitable Catholic guilt I had in the decision I ultimately executed, I found myself in quite a state on Sunday morning.
On Sunday morning I found myself naked in bed, with a slight hangover, with my car not in my driveway. I remember I chose to support my truest-friend-ever’s karaoke DJ hosting which re-occurred every Saturday night but hadn’t attended in months due to my work and Louisville travel schedule. I knew the minute I saw my friend’s face light up that I had made the best decision in how to spend my time. Sleeping in recovery from my overnight shift, self care, and supporting the goals and livelihoods of a woman who has been there for me through everything. I remember I chose to get a ride home with a brand spanking new friend. Like seriously, six months old. Who gave me a ride thirty minutes away after we absorbed our respective gin and vodka at Denny’s.
After he dropped me off at my car that was now the only remaining vehicle in a previously packed lot, we grabbed a coffee and a high fiber, low fat muffin at the nearby snob hill’s local coffee grind. (Incidentally, if you’re in the market for a Porsche Carrera, there’s a 2001, indigo blue model for sale in the parking lot.) With my mind wiping off the sweat that alcohol smeared on the looking glass of my memory, I was able to recall the previous night’s social and existential frustration with my very patient, very astute listening and very apt advice-giving new friend. I talked with my hands a lot, slamming the sides of each palm on either sides of my muffin onto the table in a manner that was controlled enough so I would not get the treatment my Easy Rider-looking bandanna was already asking for.
“I don’t know where I belong! I hate baby showers and I hate hard drugs. Somewhere in between these two extremes is my life!!! Can that be ok? Is it ok?!?!”
And here I find myself again. Back on the couch. With the books. The notebook. And the keyboard
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